Friday, August 1, 2014

If you happen to have a dinosaur by Linda Bailey, illustrated by Colin Jack

You know, just looking at the cover, that this book is going to be a hilarious romp - and it totally is.

"If you happen to have a dinosaur, lying around your living room, and you don't know what to do with it..." this book will absolutely fix that problem. A series of hilarious pictures and suggestions follow, from a horde of dinosaurs doing yard work, to a determined dinosaur working as a snowplow - with mittens on all his horns. But what if you don't have a dinosaur? Well...the book ends on a cliffhanger, leaving it up to the reader to decide what they could do with, say, a kangaroo?

The art is very colorful and quirky and will have kids giggling in no time flat. The dinosaurs' expressions are one of the best parts with big, goofy grins, tongues sticking out in concentration, and a general air of good-humor pervading the story. The book is a little longer than the average 32-page picture book, but kids won't want the silly suggestions to end and will be begging for another reading when you come to the end. This would also make a great story starter or project for older kids to exercise their imagination and art skills on - what kind of animal would they like to have and what would they do with it?

Verdict: Fun, delightful illustrations, an always popular topic, and just a generally amusing book. Definite must for your library collection.

ISBN: 9781770495685; Published 2014 by Tundra; Review copy provided by publisher through LibraryThing Early Reviewers; Donated to the library

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Perfectly Poppy: Party Pooper by Michele Jakubowski, illustrated by Erica-Jane Waters

I don't normally review this type of "lesson" book, but I've liked some of the other things Jakubowski has done and this is actually quite good, although I do have some reservations.

Each of these books features Poppy learning some kind of life lesson. In this one, she attends a party with her best friend Millie. Millie's favorite part of the party is games, Poppy's is the food. Poppy can't wait to try a s'more for the first time, but when her mom is busy and not watching she eats a lot of junk food, against Millie's better judgment. She starts to realize her error when she tries to play games and feels sick, and eventually admits that she shouldn't have eaten all the junk food. She decides not to have a s'more in the end, but she has had a good day and learned a lesson.

There are three chapters in the book and it ends with a list of vocabulary "Poppy's new words" and questions for further reflection "Poppy's Ponders". There's also instructions for playing kick the can.

The pictures are cute and colorful. Poppy's best friend, Millie, is black and the children in the background seem to be fairly diverse, although they're not clear enough to really tell. The text isn't quite at the level of a beginning chapter book, but more complex than a beginning easy reader. It's one I'd put in my intermediate easy readers and recommend to the average 1st grade reader. There is a typo on page 26, where Millie's name is used instead of Poppy. The writing is quite good for this type of easy reader and it manages to get quite a bit of story in around the lesson and some little jokes. Parents and teachers will eat up the themed/lesson aspect and the pink aspect will attract a lot of little girls to read this series.

Verdict: The main drawback of this book is the price - either paperback or library bound at $17. That's way more than I'm generally willing to pay for an easy reader. If you have the budget and want some additional titles for your easy reader section, I'd recommend this, but even though I'm always looking for easy readers I just can't swallow the price so I'll probably pass on this one.

ISBN: 9781479522828; Published 2014 by Picture Window Books/Capstone; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Read, Read, Read, said the Baby: My Little World: Roar a big-mouthed book of sounds! and Zoom a fast-paced book of colors by Jonathan Litton, illustrated by Fhiona Galloway

Two books today! These delightful board books are bright, colorful, and appealing to babies and toddlers. They combine a whole slew of different things - concepts, animal sounds, rhyming text, and tactile interest - to make the uses for these books limitless.

In Roar, each page features a different animal, a rhyme, and a clue to the next animal. For example, "Frog croaks a worried CROAK! and hops into the air./Which tiny animal has given him a scare?" shows a surprised looking frog on the page facing the text. Follow the direction of his eyes (developing eye movement!) and at the bottom corner under the text you see a curly tail and a bit of cheese. Turn the page and there's a mouse. All the animals' mouths are thick, die-cut holes starting out with the biggest for the lion and ending with the smallest for the frog. The mouse ends the story by yelling into a megaphone and showing that he was the animal all the others were scared of. The font emphasizes the name and sound of each animal and there are vivid colors and shapes incorporated into the book as well as the sounds, holes to trace, and seek-and-find activities.

Zoom has a similar format, but features two die-cut holes, forming the tires of various vehicles being driven by animals. Each rhyme emphasizes an animal and a color and each animal boasts of being the fastest as they whizz by in vehicles with smaller and smaller wheels until turtle finally wins the race in his rainbow car. There are some numbers incorporated into the text as the animals talk about who will be first or second, but not in any organized fashion. Many of the vehicles make some kind of noise as well.

The books are solid, chunky 7.5 squares. The black spine on the back lists the different developmental skills that the book promotes.

Verdict: I think these will be a hit not only in baby storytime but also on our shelves. Highly recommended.

Zoom
ISBN: 9781589255944; Published 2014 by Little Tiger Press/Tiger Tales; Purchased for the library

Roar
ISBN: 9781589255937; Published 2014 by Little Tiger Press/Tiger Tales; Purchased for the library

Monday, July 28, 2014

Nonfiction Monday: Andre the Giant: Life and Legend by Box Brown

It is, probably, not quite fair of me to review this - I'm pushing it to call this teen anyways and anyone who knows me knows that graphic memoirs and biographies are not to my taste at all. I also have extremely limited interest in celebrities of any kind. However, after I'd read this, it really stuck with me, enough so that I want to talk about it some more.

Andre the Giant, probably best-known now for his role in Princess Bride (at least, that's what most people of my acquaintance know him for) was also a popular figure on the pro wrestling circuit for years. The story opens with some thoughts from the author on comics and professional wrestling - is it fake? What's true and what's entertainment? The graphic novel itself begins with an interview with Hulk Hogan in 2010, talking about the complex life and uncomplicated personality of Andre. It then follows his life chronologically from brief vignettes of his childhood in rural France to the French wrestling circuit, to the international scene where he visited a doctor for the first time and was diagnosed with acromegaly and told he wouldn't live past 40. He went on to wrestle as a pro for many years, acted in Princess Bride despite a recent back operation and growing pain, and in one of his final appearances as a wrestler set up Hulk Hogan as the next pro wrestling star. He died at the age of 47.

Box Brown tells the story of Andre Roussimoff in a series of vignettes, remembrances, and interviews. The story is interspersed with frequent discussions of pro wrestling and several bouts are described play-by-play with explanations of how the industry works and what the participants are doing. As he explains in his introduction, pro wrestling is a kind of storytelling - it's hard to find the truth, especially in stories about someone as legendary as Andre the Giant. He had to make a decision how to present the stories, how much to believe of what he was told, and where to use artistic license. In the end, I think he does a good job presenting Andre as both legendary and human, with a larger-than-life presence but everyday flaws and problems.

The black and white art is bold and striking, with sharply outlined panels and distinctive characters. I did feel that it didn't give a lot of space for emotion in characters and since there isn't a lot of action, other than in the wrestling scenes, this bothered me. In several places the author adds in commentary on Andre's emotions and feelings at the time. That felt really off to me - in my opinion, the art should be conveying the emotions, but Andre's face rarely changes expression.

Who is the audience for this? I have a lot of pro wrestling fans, but, of course, they're all kids. There are teen wrestling fans, but I'm not sure how I'd feel about putting this in the teen area. There are several crude sexual jokes, some off-screen sex, and some language. I'm not really sure those elements were integral to the story. I feel like the readers could have gotten just as good a picture of Andre without them and it would have made the book appropriate for a wider audience. The library I borrowed it from has in teen, but my teen section mainly caters to middle schoolers. On the other hand, since this seems to be assuming an audience who doesn't know anything about back-scenes wrestling, a fan is probably not the audience they're going for here anyways. Someone interested in graphic biographies and memoirs, who's willing to learn about the pro wrestling industry and might have some pop culture interest in Andre the Giant, seems the best person to promote this too. Unfortunately, I can't think of any adults in my small town that fit that mold. Notably, there are many blurbs from well-known and award-winning comic artists on the back; we do have most of their classic works and they...don't circulate.

Verdict: Despite my own personal bias against graphic biographies and memoirs, I did find this intriguing but like most artistic or literary graphic novels it just doesn't have the appeal in a small library like mine. It's most likely to be picked up by young kids who see the title and want to read about wrestling and Andre the Giant, and the potential issues with this happening aren't worth the few adults and older teens likely to read this. A large library serving a more diverse range of reading interests seems the best place for this.

ISBN: 9781596438514; Published 2014 by First Second; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Sunday, July 27, 2014

RA RA READ: I Read Dead Girls

This isn't the same list of read-alikes for fans of Ellen Hopkins, or for those into the goth scene (which doesn't really exist in our small town). It's more for teens (and it's usually girls) who like John Green and Lurlene McDaniel (there is a bigger cross-section of this group than you would think). They can just go read Nicholas Sparks' entire output as well of course.
  • John Green
  • Lurlene McDaniel
  • Simone Elkeles (Perfect Chemistry and Leaving Paradise)
  • Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher
  • Before I die by Jenny Downham
  • If I stay by Gayle Forman
  • Love you, hate you, miss you by Elizabeth Scott

Saturday, July 26, 2014

This week at the library; or, Planning Ahead

What's Happening - In my head and at the library
  • Yes, I know everyone keeps saying it's too soon to be planning the fall. I notice that they are also asking me for schedules, calendars and plans though so....Of course, everything I've planned I pulled apart again to try over. I had thought about doing a Mother Goose on the Loose program in November/December, but decided I didn't want to try to fit something in there and will hopefully do that in the winter/spring instead.
  • Other projects I am currently working on, in addition to planning fall and 2015 programming: Writing a long-term plan for teen programming (even if only in my head), weeding the juvenile cds, inventory in preparation for my new plan of doing all my replacement orders in August, finishing the massive neighborhoods project, planning displays and stealth programs through the end of the year, redoing the winter reading program (just a few minor changes), planning summer reading next year (gotta do it while this year is fresh in my mind!) and the last few weeks of summer programming.
  • I also started changing the structure of my programs and including goals etc. an awesome idea that was suggested to me by someone on one of my fb groups. I also separated the take home bags from Preschool Interactive, since I will be discontinuing the program in the fall, but continuing the bags as a stealth program.
Programs
What the kids are reading
  • Shark books - every single title checked out!
  • Lego Ninjago - need more of these next summer
  • Squish - I'm missing the latest
  • Books about New York - I thought I had a travel guide for kids, but apparently not
  • Magic tricks - definitely need more of these next year
  • Like Pegasus (O'Hearn) - Loki's Wolves was checked out, gave her Savage Fortress and also recommended Theodosia
  • Mustache Baby - should I buy another copy of this? seems I've been asked for it a lot
  • "princess books", "barbie books" (everything was checked out) I tried Fancy Nancy and then she asked for pop-up books...
  • Press Here

Friday, July 25, 2014

The Misadventures of Salem Hyde: Big Birthday Bash by Frank Cammuso

I really enjoyed the first Salem Hyde book, enough that I'll break my rule of never reviewing sequels and review this one!

Salem and her cat Whammy (he's a companion, not a pet, thankyouverymuch) sorted out much of the growing pains of their initial meeting and relationship in the first book, so now they can relax into their latest adventure...birthday drama! Salem's first misadventure, on the very first page, is a hint at what's going to happen later on in the story and the lesson she learns; bigger isn't always better.

Salem's best friend is having a birthday party and Salem just has to get him the perfect gift. And what is the perfect gift? Why, the one that will show up snooty Shelly of course! When Shelly makes fun of Edgar and his party, Salem tries to cheer him up by making it the BIGGEST party ever! But bigger isn't always better...or is it?

The art in the first book was black and white with touches of green shades; as you can guess from the cover, this book's second shade is pink. The art is classic cartoon style with exaggerated expressions, Looney Tune eyes, and lots of wild gestures. Cammuso shows just how effect black and white art with just a blush of color can be as he tells a fun story with a light touch.

The plot of the birthday and Salem's "lesson" is sidetracked continually by Salem's misadventures, shopping observations, and finally the surprise twist of Edgar's reaction to the birthday spell, but it's all in good fun. Beginning reader's will have a giggle over this quick read and comic fans will enjoy a little light relief.

Verdict: Fans of Calvin and Hobbes will enjoy the snarky sidekick and skilled comic art; fans of Jill Thompson's Magic Trixie will enjoy the magical mishaps; fans of Babymouse will like the friendship and school trials of Salem, not to mention the suspicious teacher. There's plenty in this quick read to enjoy and it's definitely worth adding to your library collection although it's not a stand-alone and you'll need to purchase the first volume if you haven't already.

ISBN: 9781419710254; Published 2014 by Amulet/Abrams; Purchased for the library

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

The Very Cranky Bear by Nick Bland

I usually need a bit more substance in a picture book than cuteness for a full-length review here, but this book was so funny that I felt it deserved a spotlight.

In the Jingle Jangle Jungle, Moose, Lion, Zebra and Sheep find a great cave to hang out in on a cold, rainy day. Yes, there's a sheep in the jungle. Also a moose. They're playing cards, possibly a little poker judging by the sly grins on their faces, when they realize they're not alone...the cave actually belongs to a BEAR and he's quite unhappy about this noisy group of card-players. So out they go into the rain, leaving their cards behind. The animals decide that what cheers them up; stripes, antlers, and a mane, will surely cheer up the bear. Nope. But it sure does make him look silly! But with some extra information from Bear, Sheep realizes what's needed - a nice, fluffy pillow. Luckily, she's got just the thing.

If you've never encountered Nick Bland's illustrations before, you should know that he is the king of British cute. His animals are roly-poly, slick and colorful, little bundles of adorableness. Even the cranky bear is adorably cranky.

Verdict: There's a nice bounce to the rhyming text and this will definitely be a hit with toddlers and preschoolers, who will wait with bated breath to find out what's in the cave and roar with laughter when the animals deck bear out in their best attributes. Recommended.

ISBN: 9780545612692; US edition published July 2014 by Orchard; Borrowed from another library in my consortium; Added to the library's order list

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Read, Read, Read, said the Baby: My book of opposites by Britta Teckentrup

I adore Britta Teckentrup's colorful artwork and was delighted to find she had two new board books out with Tiger Tales; My book of opposites and My book of counting. I'm looking at Opposites today.

Each page has a contrasting pair of animals. The first spread is covered by an elephant, twining his truck through the word "Big" while a tiny bee buzzes next to the word "small." Monkeys and a butterfly are loud and quiet, a yak and a snake are hairy and smooth, a giraffe and iguana are tall and short, laid out vertically. A hippo holds the O of "Open" in his mouth, while a crocodile dangles "Closed" from his mouth by the d. Then the pictures get more fanciful with a car full of giraffes zipping "Fast" past a "slow" turtle. The book flips vertically again to show a stack up "High" with birds perched on it and a cat at the very top. Watching the rescue operation from below, is a "low" penguin. White and black feature cats, zebras, a polar bear, an owl and more, all including black, white, both, or gray. A lion who is "out" pensively looks over his shoulder at a car crammed full of cats who are "in". On the final page, a boat of dry animals contrasts with the wet animals in the water with "wet" and "dry" sprinkled all over the page.

Teckentrup's illustrations are as adorable and fresh as ever, with light touches of humor for older readers and parents and brightly colored animals and backgrounds for delighted toddlers to enjoy. The book is a large rectangle, 8.5 x 7 inches, which makes it easy to turn for the vertical pages.

Verdict: Perfect for one-on-one reading or toddler storytime. This is a fun and fresh opposites book that will be sure to be popular. Highly recommended.

ISBN: 9781589255869; Published 2014 by Tiger Tales; Purchased for the library

Monday, July 21, 2014

Nonfiction Monday: Behold the Beautiful Dung Beetle by Cheryl Bardoe, illustrated by Alan Marks

Of course, everyone's first response to this is going to be "ewwwww!" but if you can get past that, it's a beautifully written and illustrated book, just perfect for sharing with preschool and kindergarteners.

The text explains the three different types of dung beetles; dwellers, rollers, and tunnelers. It describes their physical makeup and habitats and how each of the different types uses dung as food, shelter, and to propagate their species. It also briefly references their place in Egyptian mythology and their importance to ecology. Back matter includes additional information and facts about dung beetles, a glossary, and bibliography.

My general preference for easy, read-aloud nonfiction is photographs, but I have to admit these illustrations are pretty good. They're done in watercolor and pencil so you don't get a really close-up, detailed look at the beetles and dung, but a nice overall impression, especially of their colors and habitat.

The book is laid out in my favorite format for read-aloud nonfiction - short, bold sentences, coupled with longer paragraphs of text in a smaller font. This makes the title ideal for reading aloud in storytime or for a beginning reader to tackle, with additional information to discuss and read with older kids.

Verdict: This is a well-written look at a neglected but fascinating beetle and a story that will be of interest in storytime to both children and adults. Get over any squeamish feelings you might have and enjoy reading this aloud as kids learn not only about the dung beetle, but about how every creature has a role to play. Highly recommended.

ISBN: 9781580895545; Published 2014 by Charlesbridge; Purchased for the library