Saturday, September 23, 2017

This week at the library; or, is September over yet?

What's happening
  • Monday
    • Read with Pearl
  • Tuesday
  • Wednesday
    • Garden to Kitchen with Kids
    • 1st grade field trip
  • Thursday
  • Friday - no programs. YS summer wrap-up meeting
I had a good turnout on Tuesday - about 30 people (even counting some teens who didn't stay long). I borrowed our teen ipad to show some of the instructional videos, which was helpful. The weather has gotten hot so I'm getting some field trips popping over. The first Book Explosion went pretty well - I expect more kids to come and add to the core group, although starting with all girls may make it difficult to get some boys into the mix. I didn't use my regular 1st grade field trip - it was too last-minute. I took one out in the garden with Ms. Pattie and they all got to pick vegetables and the other got a tour of the backroom. I read some funny books to both classes. Friday I hosted our consortium's summer wrap-up meeting (not everyone can make it because we have a lot of small libraries, but we had about 10 people which was pretty good) and I worked the info desk for the afternoon and closing for a colleague. It has been an exhausting week, so I'm thinking about some positive things that have happened:
  • I helped a patron with a difficult reader's advisory question for their struggling reader and got warm and heartfelt thanks.
  • When our computers went down I typed up a document for a patron. It's not something we'd normally do, but it was what they really needed and a service I could provide.
  • I heard a storytime dad raving over Ernest and Celestine and showed them my movie list of unusual and "different" family movies. They were thrilled and thanked me repeatedly.
  • I signed up several new kids for all three book clubs and most picked out books.
  • A storytime grandma said how much she loved all our new books - there were so many things they hadn't seen yet! (yay for weeding! there actually aren't that many new books lol)
Book choices for Book Explosion

Friday, September 22, 2017

Fergus and Zeke by Kate Messner, illustrated by Heather Ross

Fergus the mouse is the best class pet ever - and he loves it! He follows all the rules and does exactly what all the other kids do - so he's very upset when he finds out he won't be going on the school field trip!

Fergus decides this just isn't fair, so he dons his cap, his backpack, and slips aboard! The museum is amazing, but he runs into problems right away - like not having a field trip buddy. Fortunately, he meets museum mouse Zeke and the two have a marvelous time, exploring the museum exhibits of dinosaurs, a whale, a butterfly house, and more. When it's time to go home, Fergus and Zeke are fast friends and it looks like Miss Maxwell's classroom will have two class pets from now on!

Heather Ross' art is cute and colorful. Her mice are an adorable pair, with big ears and some different touches to tell them apart - Fergus has a hat and is more purple, Zeke has a scarf and is gray. The classroom and surroundings appear to be upper class urban - the class is diverse but very small, no more than 9 kids are ever pictured. Everyone is clean and happy and the classroom is bright and cheerful. There's nothing wrong with this, I just get frustrated sometimes at the absurdly small classroom sizes in children's books.

The book is an illustrated beginning chapter book with art on every page, ranging from spot art to full pages. The book has an easy reader layout, although the length and vocabulary put it firmly in beginning chapter territory. A fun side note - the artist, Heather Ross, designs fabric. I was just going to look but of course I had to buy some...

Verdict: If you're looking for cute animal stories to fill out your beginning chapter section this is a fun addition. I think I'll definitely use it in my book clubs if I can get enough copies together. A sweet story.

ISBN: 9780763678463; Published 2017 by Candlewick; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Thursday, September 21, 2017

A Babysitter's Guide to Monster Hunting by Joe Ballarini

Kelly's biggest problem has always been being invisible at school and not having the guts to speak up to her crush. Until now.

Now she's gotten stuck babysitting her mom's boss's kid Jacob...and he's just been kidnapped by a genuine, real MONSTER. Turns out, monsters are real, deadly, and the only thing standing between them and the kids are....the babysitters. Kelly sets off with experienced babysitter Liz to get Jacob back and defeat the Grand Guignol once and for all. But it's not that easy. Along the way they'll encounter monsters, deadly danger, and even *gasp* an after hours party and Kelly's crush!

Kelly's obsession with popularity, friends, and her crush even in the midst of monsters and deadly danger is realistic albeit a little frustrating. Throughout the story she grows as a friend, realizing that the other babysitters are good friends, even if they are weird, and overcoming her fear both of monsters and of the popular kids. At the end, Kelly isn't perfect - but neither are her new friends. She has found something she cares about though and she's willing to fight for the kids and through her own fears both big and small.

The story includes pages from the Babysitter's guide to monster hunting as well as descriptions of events happening outside of Kelly's narrative. The story has an open ending that's not quite a cliffhanger but leaves the possibility of future adventures of the babysitters.

This is a brisk action/adventure fantasy with just enough creepy/gross monsters to interest readers who like a little creepy without turning off more sensitive audiences. It's firmly in the middle school range - it hints at middle school crushes, frustrations and angst, has several moments of genuine scariness as well as missing children, deadly weapons, and killing monsters, but doesn't include more mature relationship issues and language.

Verdict: Strong female characters who are flawed but work through their flaws, nerdy kids who don't overcome their outcast status but accept it and move on, and lots of adventure and action make this a book that's sure to fly off your shelves, especially around Halloween. Recommended.

ISBN: 9780062437839; Published 2017 by Katherine Tegen Books/HarperCollins; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Read, Read, Read, said the Baby: Allie's Garden by Sabra Chebby, illustrated by Marla Osborn

This sweet little board book reminded me of Juana Medina's 1 Big Salad which mixes photographs of vegetables with pen and ink drawings. Osborn and Chebby, however, have created a cute story that is all their own.

Allie, a sweet little girl in pigtails and jumper, goes out to the garden to collect vegetables. But this is no ordinary garden! The corn towers over Allie, a tomato is bigger than her head, and she barely see over a lettuce. Not only that, there are creatures in the garden; a carrot fox, zucchini snake, and pink potato rabbit all want their share. Allie shoes them away, and returns home with her basket full of vegetables, just right for her mom to make her a salad.

I thought the illustrations were super cute, but they also really confused me. Allie is miniature, the creatures are all made out of vegetables but are also eating them? Somehow when Allie picks the vegetables they miniaturize into her basket. The rhyming text is fine, but not particularly outstanding, "I was pulling up lettuce/and happened to see/a floppy eared bunny/sniff, sniffing at me."

Verdict: I would have been interested in this as a picture book. The dimensions of the art will confuse babies and toddlers and older children will be just as confused by the lack of explanation for the changes in size and why the vegetable animals are...eating themselves? A cute idea and will probably circulate, but most of interest to places that have a lot of gardeners.

ISBN: 9781936669530; Published 2017 by blue manatee press; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Lily's cat mask by Julie Fortenberry

This story is a warm homage to every child who's ever had a beloved toy or piece of clothing that gave them confidence.

Lily is feeling a bit nervous about school and isn't really happy about shopping with her dad for new school things, but when she sees the cat mask she absolutely knows she must have it. It becomes her constant companion as she plays, imagines, hides, and stands out. But one's gone. Her dad tries to make her a replacement, but it just isn't the same. Luckily, she finds her mask a few days later!

When Lily starts school her mask is there...but she's only allowed to wear it as recess. Lily has trouble adjusting to life without her mask but gradually adapts to her classroom. Best of all, her teacher has a costume party and she finally meets a friend who understands just how much her mask means to her!

The story is light and will be familiar to plenty of readers. What really stands out are the illustrations. Lily is not only one of the few brown-skinned characters who is the star of her own book, but her father and most of the adults in her world are also pictured with brown skin. The diversity shifts in her classroom - her teacher is Asian and the other pupils show what I've come to think of as the typical "diverse classroom" (a couple brown-skinned kids, at least one red-head, but still mostly white) - but the scenes of her family and her relationship with her father are powerful.

Verdict: A sweet story, made all the stronger by its depiction of the bond between father and daughter. Perfect for sharing with children going through transitions to school or other new experiences.

ISBN: 9780425287996; Published 2017 by Viking; Review copy provided by publisher; Donated to the library

Monday, September 18, 2017

Crazy about cats by Owen Davey

Having explored sharks and monkeys, Davey turns his attention - and graphic art skills - to cats.

The book opens with a general explanation of some of the terms used like habitat, obligate carnivore, and a few simple notes on the general nature of cats. It shows the evolution of felids, including domesticated cats and sabre-toothed tigers. There are diagrams of cats showing how they are adapted to be hunters and to survive in their various harsh environments. Many of the illustrations have a seek-and-find aspect, none more so than the spread on camouflage where kids can search for five cats hidden in the images. The book then features interesting facts about a wide variety of cats from margays to tigers. There are comparisons of the biggest, smallest, and fastest, spreads of some rare and wonderful cats, some information on kittens, and cats in mythology. Back matter consists of a detailed index.

Owen Davey's stylized art is perfectly suited to this exploration of the world of big cats. The rich hues of orange, brown, and red are blended to create not only stunning portraits of cats and their unique patterned coats but also of their backgrounds, making every page a fun exercise in hide-and-seek. The text is really secondary to the illustrations, which will both charm and enthrall cat-lovers of all ages.

There are a few drawbacks to the text - some of it is light and placed against dark backgrounds does not show up well, making it easy to skip some of the words. The book is clearly British in origin, with metric measurements throughout and an odd use of the word "wee" for urine. The evolutionary tree is laid out a little oddly, making it look like all cats evolved from the modern tiger. There are no sources for the information included.

Verdict: While I wouldn't suggest this title for research purposes, it's a superb book for browsing and poring over with friends or alone, which is what it is designed for. I catalog this series in my picture book animal neighborhoods, where kids looking for cat books to read on their own or with an adult are sure to discover and enjoy it. Recommended.

ISBN: 9781911171164; Published 2017 by Flying Eye Books; Review copy provided by the publisher; Donated to the library

Saturday, September 16, 2017

This week at the library; or, I am feeling a little frantic

have a dahlia. the pictures of the epic battle of my window
spider vs. an ant are elsewhere.
What's happening
I'm still working on streamlining and making detailed instructions for the marketing, specifically flyers, in-house marketing, and school marketing. I had a small but enthusiastic group at Messy Art Club - but of course this is sparking off all my program anxieties. Realistically, I know that school has just started, that there was not much marketing going into September, that the change from Thursday to Tuesday was not heavily marketed, and that people pack as much outdoor sports into the beginning of the semester, before winter hits, as they can. But I still freak out. I only had 1 child at We Explore (I reopened the room about an hour and a half later and repeated the storytime with 2 families) and our circ is down as well. I don't expect this to improve; I'm not doing my regular outreach this fall and so will have lost those connections as well. At least book club started off well - several kids who couldn't make it came to get books (or were given books. same difference) and we had our first teen maker kit checkout on Friday.

Rock 'n' Read Choices

Friday, September 15, 2017

Ick and Crud: Ick's Bleh Day by Wiley Blevins, illustrated by Jim Paillot

This is a new beginning chapter series from Red Chair Press, a new acquisition by Lerner.

Ick is a small dog. Crud is a big dog. Together they have adventures. In this story, Ick is feeling "bleh." and Crud takes him to get ice cream to cheer him up. Along the way they have three adventures; a muddy adventure, a soggy adventure, and finally an ice cream adventure! Will Ick feel more like himself? Or will he still feel bleh?

The art is bright and cartoonish. Paillot uses the eyes of the characters to great effect, although Miss Puffy (the cat) has a more static face. Bob, their owner, is only pictured in the character sketches and is black (presumably he shows up more in later adventures). The children and other humans in the background show a range of diverse genders and skin colors.

This is a beginning chapter book divided into 3 chapters. I was working from an ARC, but assuming the final format is similar it's a slightly oversize easy reader size - about 8x6. They are available in both paperback and library binding. The text is large and bold and the titles have around 1,000-1,500 words and 32 pages.

They're more wordy than some other beginning chapters like the lower level Branches, but they have a good mix of art and words which should attract readers and their vocabulary is not too advanced. My only caveat is that some of my more sensitive parents won't like the one dog being named "Crud." However, that's always something you have to take into account when recommending titles, the individual needs and wants of families.

Verdict: If you have lots of fans of the Branches series and a need for more beginning chapters that are funny and cartoonish, this looks like a great series to invest in. I'm definitely interested in adding some to my collection and getting the kids' reactions at book club.

ISBN: 9781634401852; Published 2017 by Red Chair Press/Lerner; ARC provided at ALA 2017

Thursday, September 14, 2017

The fearless travelers’ guide to wicked places by Pete Begler

Nell is used to being the odd one out; she sometimes has “episodes” where she sees animals instead of people and her only friend is in the hospital in a coma. When she sees a strange and horrible cloud drop a bloody shoe, she’s sure it would be better not to speak up, even though the village is getting more and more worried about the disappearances of mothers. But when her own mother, Rose, is transformed into a bird and stolen she will have to travel to dangerous and fantastical places she never imagined existed and find an inner strength she never knew she had to not only save her family but also to survive.

Accompanied by her younger brothers, George and Speedy, and the surly and mysterious Duke Badger, the small group ventures into The Dreamlands. There are dreamers who can create entire worlds in themselves, terrifying monsters, and undiscovered dangers. Even Badger and his cat Pinch are hiding some dramatic secrets. Will Nell find the courage and strength to not only save her mother but all of Dreamlands from the horrible witches of the Wicked Places?

At nearly 400 pages, this hefty fantasy is not for the faint of heart reader - especially once they encounter the terrible nightmares that haunt its pages. Yes, there are killer clowns. Literally. It’s an imaginative, fantastic trip into a strange world but I did think the trip was a little long. Some of the lengthy musings on inner strength and complicated descriptions of the weird dream world could have been edited down while some things like the origin and purpose of the Fearless Travelers isn’t really explained (or possibly I missed it - I kept getting interrupted while I was reading).

Verdict: Not for every reader, but kids who appreciate a complicated fantasy, like creepy/scary vibes, and don't require series will appreciate this. Fans of Books of Elsewhere and Diana Wynne Jones will enjoy this.

ISBN: 9781623707996; Published 2017 by Capstone; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Small Readers: Charlie and Mouse by Laurel Snyder, illustrated by Emily Hughes

I've been looking forward to this new easy reader series, as much for Hughes' adorable illustrations as for my interest in seeing what the ever-creative Laurel Snyder comes up with next. We read several Snyder chapter books in book club last year (Bigger than a breadbox was a big favorite).

Charlie & Mouse combines both the classic feel of an easy reader, harkening back to the age of Arnold Lobel, and the modern sensitivity of a contemporary family.

In a green room, Charlie wakes up. There is a lump in his bed and he pokes it. The lump is Mouse! Together they wake up their parents and set out for the day's adventures - a neighborhood party! Dressed and ready for the day, Mouse in a tutu and bobbly headband, Charlie with a cape, party hat, and sparkly wand, the family sets out for the park. Along the way they collect friends and when they arrive at the park it's party time!

Further adventures include the complexities of money and rocks, and a silly bedtime ritual. The text is an intermediate level, difficult for a true emergent or beginning reader, but great for a 1st or 2nd grader who can read and focus on the more subtle humor at the same time.

I love Hughes' illustrations. While there are a lot of earth tones, the silly, happy family shines through with reds and purples, greens and blues in their clothes, quilts, and and the mysterious plants in the yards. Their neighbors encompass an array of diversity, both in skin color as well as a gay couple.

Verdict: This won't have the instant popularity of an Elephant & Piggie title, but its gentle humor will attract readers and make this a favorite choice of families.

ISBN: 9781452131535; Published 2017 by Chronicle; Borrowed from another library in my consortium