Saturday, October 25, 2014

This week at the library; or, Outreach it's ON

What's going on at the library and in my head
  • Sometimes all you can do on Monday is resign yourself to your fate and hope you don't throw up on any small children. I passed the BLAs in the picture books to neighborhood projects. Now I'm on to the BUTs. I'm beginning to have a sneaking suspicion that this project will not be done by the end of the year...
  • This week was crazy with outreach, staffing issues, and trying to think about big picture goals when all I really want to do is survive until November.
  • Bright spots - someone found me a toilet seat so I didn't have to make one for the Wimpy Kid party and a parent told me how much they loved the Neighborhoods. Also, one of the parent chaperones on the second grade tour came back to donate stuff!
  • Several new families came to the Welty center program and everyone had a great time, although it was a smaller group (although a good size for a no school day - 35)
What the kids are reading:
  • Kid wanting nonfiction that he could read and chapter books. He was carrying some magic tree house and I threw out some subjects - history? adventure? sports? SPORTS. I have him Jake Maddox and showed him the Bearport sports bios that I have - very excited with Jake Maddox.
  • Adult looking for books for an 8 year old who's gone through all the Wimpy Kid and is finishing Big Nate and wants him to "move on". She seemed receptive so I cautiously gave my tactful speech about how books are more than levels and he wouldn't want to miss out on the books kids his age are reading just because they're a little easier. She agreed and took Shredderman,
  • Books about moving to a "big boy bed" - I have Eve Bunting's Your own big bed and also Ed Braun's Back to bed, Ed!
  • Holiday books - Halloween and Thanksgiving.
  • Kids on tour were VERY excited about the minecraft books I showed them. I told our cataloger to make sure the records were in so they could place holds.
  • Wimpy Kid
  • Cupcake Crusader - this turned out to be Horace Splattley, which I don't own
  • I Spy books
  • More suggestions for 900+ lexile reader I talked to a few weeks ago - he loved Nurk and the Komodo Dragons book and didn't really get into Ranger's Apprentice, so I gave him the Face to Face series for nonfiction, Doc Wilde and the Frogs of Doom, and How to train your dragon

Friday, October 24, 2014

Stranded by Jeff Probst and Chris Tebbetts

I had no idea who Jeff Probst was, I just saw this and thought "survival adventure!" and "it's short!" and grabbed it at an ALA conference. Um....several years ago. Yes, I am just now digging into my backlog of middle grade fiction.

Four kids are sailing in the middle of nowhere with their uncle and his friend. Vanessa is the oldest, her younger brother Buzz would rather be anywhere else (preferably somewhere with a tv and no seasickness) and they can't imagine ever being a family with their new siblings, arrogant, athletic Carter and his super-smart little sister Jane.

Then their boat wrecks, the adults are swept away on their only lifeboat, and the four kids are stranded on a tiny island. Will they learn to work together to survive, or will risky decisions, arguments, and the natural dangers that surround them take them down one by one?

This isn't great literature. The characters are one-dimensional, identified mostly by a single characteristic (Vanessa - bossy; Buzz - tv/games obsessed; Carter - athletic; Jane - child prodigy) and there are several info dumps and passages about mechanics of things (fixing a solar panel) that I found boring. The writing is rather bland.

It will check out like crazy. Is the writing as good as, say, Gordon Korman's adventure stories? No. But it's exciting, kids like the informational spots, and it's got enough family drama to keep those not interested in survival stories reading.

Verdict: Great literature? Nope. A fun, fast-paced story that will appeal to a wide range of readers? Yes. Bonus, it's less than 200 pages (you can purchase the first three volumes in one book, but I think that kind of defeats the purpose). If you have all Gordon Korman's adventure series and need more - and who doesn't? I recommend this series.

ISBN: 9780142424247; Published 2013 by Penguin; ARC provided by publisher at ALA; Added to the library's order list

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

The Farmer and the Clown by Marla Frazee

The accompanying publicist's letter says "and you thought you hated clowns" so just to test it I showed this to our staff member with a morbid fear of clowns. She did consent to flip through it and said it was cute...but she still hates clowns.

So, it's a wordless book with Frazee's trademark cheerfully round faces. A grim farmer in the blank gray prairie (I'm guessing this is Kansas) is completely taken aback when a small clown tumbles off a circus train. When the little clown loses his painted smile, the farmer tries to cheer him up and eventually both of them relax together in friendly smiles - just in time for the circus train to return and the little clown to give one last hug and leave behind something special.

This is a story with lots of hints of underlying thoughts about family, friendship, and laughter. It's also just plain fun! Frazee's art captures how out of place the little clown is in the gray, serious prairie and how things gradually brighten up with his presence.

It will work best for one-on-one sharing, as some of the panels are small and it will take close attention to pick up all the details of the book.

Verdict: There aren't a lot of circus books out there, and this one is both sweet and funny. However, I limit the number of wordless picture books I buy since they tend to have a more limited audience. I wouldn't say this is a must-have purchase, but if you have the budget and space it's certainly a recommended addition.

ISBN: 9781442497443; Published 2014 by Beach Lane Books/Simon and Schuster; Review copy provided by the publisher; Donated to the library

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Read Scary: Read, Read, Read, said the Baby: Duck and Goose Find a Pumpkin by Tad Hills

This review was previously published. I have edited it.

This title was originally released as a small format board book in July 2009, but to my delight Random House has re-released it in a large, picture-book size board book, perfect for storytime! It's about 10 by 10 inches.

It's hard to believe there is anyone out there who hasn't met Duck and Goose yet, but if you haven't...

Duck and Goose are best friends, sometimes joined by another duckling, Thistle. While they most often explore concepts in their board books, in this particular title they're on a hunt - a hunt for a pumpkin! Duck and Goose are so enamoured of Thistle's pumpkin that they go searching for one of their own, but in all the wrong places. With a little help from Thistle, they finally find their own pumpkin.

The text is short, sweet and simple, perfect for toddlers. It's framed as a series of questions, "Is our pumpkin in the log, Goose? No." and makes not only a good straight read-aloud, but a nice structure for creating your own questions and story, especially if you're reading this with older kids.

Hills' oil paint illustrations are so rich I just want to keep stroking this book. Duck and Goose's brilliant white and yellow plumage stands out sharply against a glowing orange and green background of leaves, grass, and pumpkins. The illustrations are simple and easy for little ones to follow, without overdoing the detail, but they're not abstract and don't make you guess what the painting is supposed to be.

Verdict: I'm delighted that Random has published this board book in a large enough format that I can use this title in storytime. Great for toddlers and young preschoolers and perfect for fall storytimes. Even if you have the original, I strongly recommend purchasing this new edition as well!

ISBN: 9780307981554; This edition published July 2012 by Random House/Schwartz & Wade; Review copy provided by the publisher; Donated to the library

Monday, October 20, 2014

Nonfiction Monday: Tracks Count: A guide to Counting Animal Prints by Steve Engel, illustrated by Alexander Petersen

Small press Craigmore Creations focuses on geology and other nature-themed titles. This is part of their "Little Naturalists" series.

An introduction "for the grown-ups" by David R. Shapiro opens the book with an explanation of how to read tracks and how they are arranged for the book.

Each spread introduces a number and corresponding tracks with a little interactive counting. For example, on the page for three, there is a large numeral 3, then "Rhinoceros" then a rhinoceros footprint. Under that, the text reads "On the hot savannah, three rhinoceros rest under a tree. Count the toes on the track - one, two, three! The page of text and the illustration of the track is paired with a picture on the right in brown hues featuring the animals in their habitat.

A final spread shows the numbers from 1-10 with tracks for each (three rhino tracks under the three, etc.). Another spread lists the animals' scientific names and a short paragraph of information about each.

The art is not the usual colorful, bright pictures of a children's book, but there is something attractive about the simple, natural sketches and soft charcoal shading. The tracks are clearly drawn and make it easy to count the toes, which make up the counting exercises.

The big problem I usually have with this type of unique concept book is that it's developmentally way above the age of children who need concept books. This one works pretty well though. Very young children can count the toes on the tracks and identify the animals, and older kids who are beyond the counting part can enjoy identifying the tracks.

Verdict: There are a lot of animal track books out there, but this is a fun combination of animals tracks and counting. If you have fans of either, this would make a good addition to your library.

ISBN: 9781940052076; Published 2014 by Craigmore Creations; Review copy provided by the publisher; Donated to the library

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Saturday, October 18, 2014

This week at the library; or, clinging to calm with the tips of my fingers

What's Happening: At the library and in my head
  • Crazy week! Luckily a bunch of outreach got pushed forward to next week, so I had a week to try and catch up on things. I am trying to maintain my zen and not get stressed out. Sort of working.
  • Outside projects - my class with Marge, Cybils, getting the garden ready for the fall, catching up on reviewing
  • Library projects - Neighborhoods, putting together a tentative departmental mission/goals/objectives. I figure it doesn't have to be perfect, just enough to get us started and I'll refine it as we test it out. Also found out that RFID is definitely happening - I had mixed feelings about this until I realized it would mean security gates (coming in December) which would mean....I can have an anime collection in the teen area!!!
  • Monday - Meetings! First with some other consortium youth librarians, then an insurance meeting with the city, then a staff meeting, then it was time to go on the information desk for the evening.
  • Tuesday - dealing with incidents from last Friday evening, tackling program planning and catching up to everything that didn't get done, like filling displays and putting out a new Take Home Storytime: We are the dinosaurs!
  • And then I was just busy.
What the kids are reading
  • Yes, the Minecraft books are coming.
  • More Lexiles woe - we made up the points needed at a very high lexile for a 4th grader with Nurk, Mysteries of the Komodo Dragon, and also took Ruins of Gorlan for later.
  • Read-alikes for Cupcake Diaries for a ten year old. What she really, really wants is more surfing books but neither her mom nor I can find anything. I suggested Sew Zoey, My life in pink and green, and Cupcake Cousins (should have suggested Cupcake Club, but I don't have it here and didn't think of it until after they had gone)
  • Fred 3. This is why we have a consortium, so we can get movies from other libraries.
  • Family who absolutely loves Lindgren's Skinnyjack - I am the only library who has it! I helped her find a used version online.
  • Easy readers for the very beginner - Biscuit and Elephant and Piggie
  • Goosebumps - should put some on display with the Halloween books
  • Bubble Guppies - couldn't find anywhere
  • Press Here - one copy should have been in but couldn't find it. I put Press Here and Mix it up on hold for them and then remembered I had just gotten Tap to Play so gave her that and she was very excited to be the first to check it out. Press Here seems to be one of those picture books that grabs a wide range of ages - this girl was probably 7.
  • Small child very sad that the tub of Lego books was empty. I pulled some easy readers for him.
  • Lengthy discussion starting with read-alikes for My Louisiana Sky and Penny from Heaven and ending with Adventure Time and Doodlebug.
  • Teacher wanting books on "kindness" for kindergarten to 1st grade - gave her Trudy Ludwig's oevre.
  • Parent wanting books to read with a reluctant 10 year old reader (this is the "reluctant reader b/c he only reads Big Nate" variety). I tactfully suggested that Where the Red Fern Grows was maybe not going to really interest him and gave her Hatchet, Gregor the Overlander, and Nerds instead.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Read Scary: My Boyfriend is a Monster: I love him to pieces by Evonne Tsang, illustrated by Janina Gorrissen

This is the book that started it all...back when it came out, Twilight was in full swing and it was a hilarious anti-romantic paranormal romance (at least, I thought it was). Graphic Universe went on to produce a whole series of these books, of varying quality both in art and plot, but this remains both my personal favorite and what most people seem to agree is the best story.

Dicey Bell is a stereotypical jock - if jocks were star baseball players, blond and bouncy and enthusiastic. Jack Chen is the stereotypical science nerd with a side of RPG, his parents are scientists and he pretty much has free run of the school labs. Nobody would have expected them to get together, but when they're assigned as lab partners they find they actually get along pretty well and are just started a little romance when ZOMBIE ATTACK. From there on out it's beating off zombies with baseball bats (Dicey) analyzing what the heck is going on (Jack) and trying their best to find a happy ending together.

Gorrissen's black and white art is serviceable, if not particularly unique. The characters are easily distinguishable (yes, this is a think I look for in art) the story is easy to follow, and there's lots of humorous details and gross zombies.

The real draw for this is the story. It's both a really funny, romantic, sweet story but also flips stereotypes. Dicey is a jock - she lives for baseball and is an enthusiastic extrovert. Jack is a nerd - he doesn't do anything but science and he's a complete introvert. They're both wary of each other at first, and Jack is especially prejudiced against what he thinks of as stupid jocks, but then Jack realizes that not only is Dicey really fun to be around - she's also in the honor society and super smart. Dicey, at first thinks Jack is a prejudiced geek, but is surprised when he apologizes after their initial tiff and realizes that he's, well, pretty cute! Once she breaks him out of his shell (heh, pun if you read the story) she finds out he's really fun to talk to and he takes the time to share her interests and respects her skills both on and off the baseball field. Also, although it's never pointed out, Jack is one of the very few (I think possibly the only, but I haven't read enough YA to be sure) male love interests who's actually Asian. Girls yes, boys not so much.

Verdict: Even if you don't buy the whole series, you should definitely own at least the first few titles. They're funny, sweet, and gently flip stereotypes without being didactic or overshadowing the actual story. They're also mostly appropriate for middle school as well as high school. Hand these to kids who like paranormal romance, and this one in particular to girls who are desperate for books about girls playing sports.

ISBN: 9780761370796; Published 2011 by Lerner/Graphic Universe; Purchased for the library and my personal library

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Read Scary: Bramble and Maggie: Spooky Season by Jessie Haas, illustrated by Alison Friend

I looked at the first Bramble and Maggie waaaaay back in 2012. Many changes have happened - I moved Bramble and Maggie to the chapter books, as I felt they fit better as a beginning chapter book than an easy reader. Several more books have been published.

But their essentially fun, practical friendship remains. This latest book is just perfect for the crisp fall weather (well, if you live in the Midwest). Bramble and Maggie, like an easy reader, is divided into three simple chapters, each a separate story. However, the chapters are all connected, similar to a chapter book. In this spooky fall installment, Bramble is feeling her oats and enjoying the fall weather, so she gets jumpy and pretending to be spooked. But then she sees something really scary - a scarecrow! In the second chapter, the following day, Bramble is still enjoying her pretend-spooks, which makes Maggie nervous. When Bramble gets a real scare, something bad happens - Maggie falls off! Fortunately, Bramble helps her best friend get back in the saddle, even though now Maggie is the one who's spooked. Finally, the two try out trick-or-treating, first choosing a costume and then enjoying the spooky delights of the neighborhood at night. Bramble is scared, but determined to take care of Maggie, who's still feeling a little shaky. There are plenty of treats for everyone and no tricks!

The text and illustrations are smoothly integrated, with Alison Friend's cheerful colors and round-faced people fleshing out the simple story. The pictures not only assist in decoding the text, but add a humorous element to the plot, especially in the last story, where Bramble, pop-eyed with fear but determined to protect Maggie faces off against a "ghost".

The book has a slightly larger format, closer to an easy reader, than a chapter book. Although it has the shorter sentences and simpler language of an easy reader, there are some more advanced vocabulary words and paragraph structure. A great choice for intermediate readers and a step up for fans of Kate and Cocoa, another horse and girl series.

Verdict: This is a fun addition to a great series. If you don't already have the whole series, consider adding it to your beginning chapter books for kids just starting to pick up longer books. If you already have the series, don't miss out on this latest title!

ISBN: 9780763664503; Published 2014 by Candlewick; ARC provided by publicist; Purchased for the library

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Read, Read, Read said the Baby: My Book of Counting by Britta Teckentrup

I previously reviewed My Book of Opposites and now I have the companion, which features counting.

Each spread is divided into two halves. The first page shows an animal with a label in large, bold letters "Four tall giraffes" then the sentence is finished in smaller type "are racing through the town." Still in the smaller type, there is a question "How many yaks are hanging around?" which refers to the facing page. The first page shows the animals in a vehicle with the numeral on the side. The facing page is sprinkled with the number (four in this case) and sets of four animals, each prefaced with the number 4.

The final page of ten shows one of each previously featured animal riding the bus. The back of the book lists uses for the book "Develops numeracy/Aids language development/Encourages active recall" and the book itself is a sturdy cardboard construction, and a nice rectangle shape. It's big enough for an average storytime, but not oversized.

I love Britta Teckentrup's colorful and easily recognizable illustrations. They're a great match for this book which manages to pack a lot of information in without being cluttered. I especially like the way the text (no author for which is given) is organized so you can use it in different ways with different ages. You can use the simple counting and animal identification, read the whole sentence for more story, and interact with the question and various counting opportunities.

Verdict: I highly recommend both this and My book of Opposites and I look forward to more books in this style being published.

ISBN: 9781589255852; Published 2014 by Little Tiger Press/Tiger Tales; Purchased for the library