Saturday, March 17, 2018

This week at the library; or Things Happen

What's Happening
This was an exhausting and frustrating week. I did not get much done because of all the incidents and other things going on. Next week will be even busier. Then I can have a break. I need it.

Friday, March 16, 2018

Princess Pulverizer: Grilled cheese and dragons by Nancy Krulik, illustrated by Ben Balistrieri

Princess Serena is bored in princess school - and she hates her name! Call her Princess Pulverizer, because she's going to be a knight! Her father objects, but Pulverizer knows just how to get her way... at least she thinks she does!

This story starts out as a typical anti-princess tale, with wild Pulverizer wreaking havoc and demanding to be a knight. Things start to shift a little when her father, the king, points out that being a knight isn't all fun and games either. If Princess Pulverizer wants to be a knight, she's going to have to learn just as much as she would if she was going to be a proper lady. She'll also have to learn to be a nicer person, less selfish, demanding, and greedy. In fact, before she can even start learning to be a knight she must do eight Good Deeds!

Doing good deeds isn't as easy as it seems, and Pulverizer is soon in trouble. But with the help of an always-scared knight-in-training, his pet dragon (he's really gassy but he makes great grilled cheese) and Pulverizer's own determination, she just might manage to get started on her good deeds.

Balistrieri's cheerful cartoons show a red-headed wild child with plenty of pep and vim, but also a fair helping of ego. Pulverizer smashes her way through life, landing in puddings, getting trapped by stinky giants, and attacking dragons with little thought for the mayhem that surrounds her. Asides from a couple villagers in the background, all the characters are white. There's lots of gruesome and icky detail, with warty giants, disgusting slop, and plenty of farting and belching jokes.

Verdict: This is a little different from the average "tomboy princess wants to be a knight" beginning chapter. It's clear that Pulverizer doesn't think about anyone but herself, even if she's starting to learn that she might need friends by the end of the book. It's funny, but much more gross than Princess in Black. Hand this one to fans of Dragonslayers Academy or Time Warp Trio.

ISBN: 9780515158328; Published 2018 by Penguin Workshop; Review copy provided by publisher

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Framed by James Ponti

I was a little skeptical of this mystery, despite Ms. Yingling's recommendation. The cover just didn't really grab me and I wasn't sure we needed another art heist book. But it turns out, we do need this one! It's not only a great middle grade read, it's just a great read in general and I enjoyed it myself.

The book starts abruptly with middle schooler Florian's abduction of Romanian gangsters. Fade to black and the real story begins... Florian has moved (again). His parents, both involved in art and security, move frequently. Florian has developed T.O.A.S.T. to pass the time and amuse himself more than anything else. The Theory Of All Small Things has helped Florian figure out an art heist in the past and, to his surprise, garners him a new friend in the form of soccer-playing, African-American Margaret. The two are surprised (and somewhat thrilled) to get swept up in an art heist, as well as the search for Margaret's unknown birth parents.

Along the way we find out why Florian has been kidnapped, solve several individual mysteries, go along on some exciting adventures, especially when Florian gets picked to be a consultant to the FBI, and even see Florian starting to enjoy typical school-kid life, for the first time.

The mystery is really well done, with lots of clues and twists, but not so many that you spend half the book trying to break codes (not a pastime I personally enjoy). There are unresolved issues left (what will Florian tell Margaret about her parents?) that leave room for a sequel. Florian isn't stuck-up or obnoxious; he makes mistakes, uses his theory incorrectly, does stupid stuff and gets in trouble, but also respects Margaret's intelligence and skills and treats her as a full partner.

Verdict: This is a great mystery series I can't wait to introduce to my middle grade readers. It's definitely going on the list for our mystery month for book club!

ISBN: 9781481436304; Published 2016 by Aladdin; Borrowed from another library in my consortium; Purchased for the library

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Read, Read, Read, said the Baby: Hickory, Dickory, Dock and other favorite nursery rhymes illustrated by Genine Delahaye

This British collection of nursery rhymes has cute illustrations, but doesn't quite make the grade.

The nursery rhymes included are a mixed bag, from "Old MacDonald had a farm", "Five little monkeys", and "Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary" to rhymes that aren't well-known in the states or have fallen out of use, like "Three blind mice", "Goosey Goosey Gander", and "See-Saw, Margery Daw".

There are slight change to some, but not all, of the rhymes. Only the first verse of "Mary had a little lamb" is included, and in "Goosey Goosey Gander" the narrator leads the old man down the stairs, instead of throwing him. But the blind mice still get their tails cut off, the baby falls from its cradle, and the old man in "It's raining, it's pouring" bumps his head.

Delahaye is a print and clothing designer, and it certainly shows in the gentle pastels used throughout the book. Smiling animals, some anthropomorphic, some not, adorn the pages in soft blues, greens, browns, and grays. The farmer's wife, a grey kitten, appears to have dropped a plastic knife and given up on the idea of cutting off the blind mice's tails, and most of the rhymes show the animals playing together, rather than actually illustrated the actions described.

The book is a tall rectangle, about 9x6 inches. Like most of Tiger Tales' board books it's heavy on the cute illustrations, but light on the sturdy binding. The pages have a good, thick, cardboard feel but the binding doesn't feel like it will stand up to multiple uses.

Verdict: If you are looking to add more nursery rhyme board books this is an acceptable purchase, but it doesn't particularly stand out from the crowd.

ISBN: 9781680105254; Published 9-1-17 by Tiger Tales; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

I want that nut! by Madeline Valentine

A fuzzy mouse and chipmunk are best friends. Until an interloper comes along. A nut! After a little negotiating, Chipmunk takes the Nut and soon they are best friends. But…. after all…. Mouse really, really wants that nut. So she comes up with a clever plan to take the Nut. Now Mouse and Nut do everything together and are best friends. But then a mysterious figure shows up to take the Nut…. Chipmunk and Mouse squabble over the Nut until a third player shows up on the scene - a squirrel! And Squirrel has something to say…. It’s actually HER nut! After some quiet reflection Chipmunk and Mouse apologize and are best friends again… along with their new friend, Log!

Valentine’s earth-hued illustrations show a fuzzy mouse and chipmunk that are more alike than they are different, even if they may not realize it. Nut is truly magnificent, a shiny acorn with a firmly attached cap. Listeners will giggle along with the characters’ antics as they get caught up in the excitement of a new (and shiny) friend.

Verdict: A great read-aloud, this story is sure to make your storytime listeners giggle and maybe even think twice about sharing a new toy (or friend). A fun addition to your storytime repertoire.

ISBN: 9781101940372; Published 2017 by Alfred A. Knopf; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Monday, March 12, 2018

They lost their heads! Washington’s teeth, Einstein’s brain, and other famous body parts by Carlyn Beccia

I was super excited when I saw Beccia was doing another wacky foray into history and this book fully met and exceeded my expectations. Also, my colleagues will think twice about asking me what I’m reading during lunch in the future. Mwa ha ha ha.

Beccia focuses on seventeen stories of famous remains, how they came to be saved, and where they are now. Between these sections, she includes lots of ghoulish science and history about vampires, zombies, organ transplants, clones, and more. The main stories range from the legendary (Ines de Castro) to the conspiratorial (John Wilkes Booth) as well as the scientific (Thomas Alva Edison). Readers will learn about how bodies decompose, exactly how many medieval medicines contained human body parts, and the perambulations and final fates and many famous heads, skulls, legs, fingers, hearts, and more!

Want to know the scientific truth behind vampires? The real story of George Washington’s teeth? Whether it’s really possible to clone Elvis from his wart? You’ll find all the answers here.

Told with humor and plenty of ghoulish delight in the stories of rotten flesh and wandering body parts, this is sure to appeal to kids who love weird history and gross-out factors. Humorous footnotes add to the experience. There is a bibliography, source notes, and index (to be included).

I reviewed this from a galley, so I assume the couple typos I saw will be corrected, as well as a couple minor errors (the common mistake of thinking Frankenstein is the name of the monster, for example). I did think there wasn’t a really clear line between some of the legends and actual historical events, but as a jumping off point for further research this is a great start. Plus, it’s an awesome, fun read (as long as you don’t mind a little cannibalism). For the most part, the author sticks with Western history and medicine and, because of the many stereotypes around “primitive” people, cannibalism, and funeral customs, I am actually ok with the chosen scope of this book. Beccia cautiously skirts some of the more inappropriate situations with “you probably know what that means but it’s beyond the scope of this book” type of notes and I think it’s fine for upper elementary and middle school readers. That’s who I’m going to recommend it to, anyways (after all my staff have read it...)

Verdict: I finally have a book for that 5th grade girl who wanted to research cryogenics. Also, this was an awesome read and my colleagues are going to be giving me weird looks for a long time. I love Carlyn Beccia! You MUST have this one in your collection, especially if you serve 5th-6th graders. Really, absolute must.

9780802737458; Published April 2018 by Bloomsbury; ARC provided by publisher; Purchased for the library

Sunday, March 11, 2018

RA RA Read: I survived...reading all the books!

I first heard about I Survived from the kids years ago when it was added to our school's Battle of the Books list. It's grown in popularity until it's now nearly as popular as Wimpy Kid and other perennial favorites, at least in my library. Thanks to some suggestions from Storytime Underground and my own mental files, I've compiled a list of titles to suggest when kids survive their initial bout of reading and clamor for more.

New I Survived books are published approximately every six months. Fans will also want to check out the accompanying I Survived: True Stories series, the true stories behind the stories, if you know what I mean. I shelve these with the fictional stories.

Top Secret Files series by Stephanie Bearce from Prufrock Press is a higher reading level, but will definitely attract kids who like the historical and short story aspect. Each book contains short anecdotes, historical facts, and other information. There are titles ranging from wars to the wild west and gangsters of the 1920s.

Nathan Hale's Hazardous Tales are awesome. That being said, you will have to do some booktalking as they're a different format than I Survived. They are graphic novels with dense text and illustrations, highlighting different historical moments. The series starts with One Dead Spy, but my personal favorite is Big Bad Ironclad. There are also more contemporary stories, like Treaties, Trenches, Blood and Muda powerful, but grim retelling of World War I. Get kids hooked, and they'll be fans, but they'll need to be fairly strong readers.

Capstone has a great series that are not only good read-alikes for kids who are into Choose Your Own Adventures-style books, but also will grab the I Survived fan crowd. Can You Survive....? takes different historical events (like the Titanic) and general disasters (like being lost in the jungle or shipwrecked) and walks kids through choices to see if they can survive. They include nonfiction information as well. There are also numerous history-related titles and series in the You Choose... collections from Capstone.

A new series that has kids pretty excited is Lost! by Todd Olson. So far there is a title on Apollo 13 and one on World War II with more to come. These are an excellent read-alike for I survived, with blow-by-blow descriptions of the action and I was really impressed with the first title's inclusion of multiple perspectives, including the teen daughter of one of the astronauts.

For straight-up survival, a new series from Terry Lynn Johnson, Survivor Diaries is awesome. I reviewed the first title, Overboard!, and it flies off the shelf. The mix of real-life settings and survival tips, plus the easier reading level and diverse characters are what will make this series a standby for the genre, in my opinion.

Back to the straight-up adventures with historical aspects, Gordon Korman has several adventure series. There's one about the Titanic, Island, etc. What I love about these is that they're split into 3-4 volumes so kids don't feel intimidated by a huge book or by a lengthy series. Korman is a great writer and kids love his fast-paced adventures.

More series

Saturday, March 10, 2018

This week at the library; or, and NOW it snows?

Dramatic presentation of art
Happening this week:
Monday - I forgot my dentist appointment, rescheduled, was late to work, realized after I got there my shirt had stains on it. Then the internet and the whole system went down for all libraries from mid-morning until 2:30pm. Then we suddenly had a snow storm and the roads were awful - took me almost an hour to get the ten miles home. Fun times.

Tuesday - I overslept (probably due to all the stress from yesterday), then sent a lot of orders (sorry to the Ls in Tech Services, but I needed retail therapy), very productive board meeting - I'm going to take Library on the Go out to OPtions (local charter/home school group affiliated with the public school), then a small group at Messy Art Club but they were very enthusiastic and had a great time.

Wednesday. Three outreach visits, my associate did We're going on a bear hunt yoga, working my way through a to-do list. I've lined up several new outreach venues and made phone calls. Blech. To the phone calls I mean.

Thursday. Ugh. I think too many kids have hugged me. I have the crud. The construction has begun and rerouted all the traffic in front of my apartment building. Yay. I arrived at work with a miserable headache, started cleaning off my desk and trying to catch up on various things. I started Library on the Go outreach at OPtions, one of the things I set up at the board meeting earlier this week, then directly out the other end of town for outreach storytime, then across town for another outreach program. I never did figure out a way to make the schedule take into account that sometimes I need 10-15 minutes to get across town for the different schools! Fortunately, the teachers are very flexible. Full, enthusiastic, and noisy book club. I threatened to breathe on them if they did not calm down. Everyone loved 26 Story Treehouse by Andy Griffiths, one person loved and one person hated Christian Slade's Korgi, and I am still working on getting my two reluctant readers to pick up books. Once they start reading them they're fine, but they are currently banned from comics and very grouchy about it. I left 15 minutes early, to go to Walmart and buy vast quantities of marshmallows for next week's program.

Friday. Emails, to do lists, cleaning off desk. Worked at the ys desk while my associate/intern did anime club (20 kids!). Various emergencies, including one toilet plunging, then I got set up to go out to 4K swim. I left late, having been asked a gazillion last-minute questions! However, there was a smaller group than usual and not much happening until around 7:30. Basically 4K families get to go and swim at the high school pool (which is, apparently, unheated). I only checked about about 20 books. My school colleague said they usually get around 100 people, but I think it was a LOT less than that - I think everyone was at one of the other schools' art night. Anyways, the main reason I went was to meet with my school colleague and the other 4K center directors to plan the big upcoming party in April and we not only got that done, we also ironed out a bunch of other details. Then I hauled everything back to the library (got in and out without meeting - and freaking out - the cleaning guy) and thence home.

And the week is, at last, done!

Friday, March 9, 2018

Stinkbomb and Ketchup-Face and the Badness of Badgers; and the Quest for the Magic Porcupine by John Dougherty, illustrated by Sam Ricks

Stinkbomb and his little sister, Ketchup-Face, are in for a prime kerfuffle in this extremely British (and even more extremely silly) new series.

In their first kerfuffle, Stinkbomb and Ketchup-Face discover a Horrible Crime: Stinkbomb's twenty-dollar bill has been stolen! They visit King Toothbrush Weasel to find out what's going on and discover that Evil and Wicked badgers are responsible for, well, everything. So they take off on an adventure to stop the evil badgers. Along the way they'll meet a shopping cart, Stinkbomb will sing her new song many, many times, and they will have to deal with the Army of Great Kerfuffle, Malcolm the Cat.

In their second kerfuffle, the two siblings discover that the Bad Badgers have escaped from jail! With the wise guidance of Miss Butterworth, ninja librarian, they go on a quest to find the Magic Porcupine. Along they way they meet some suspicious racoons, Ketchup-Face makes up a new song, and they take a very long (and boring) bus ride. There is also a mysterious rain of black goo, smelling of bananas. Which leads to the question, do hammerhead sharks eat bananas?

The books are illustrated with a plethora of black and white cartoons by the illustrator, Sam Ricks, showing a horde of pointy-nosed badgers, two gangly siblings, the vaguely confused King Toothbrush Weasel, and all the many strange and quirky inhabitants of Great Kerfuffle.

This is extremely silly. It's a genre that really only crops up in British books, or so I've mostly seen. If you like silly, it's very funny; Stinkbomb and Ketchup-Face's parents are never present because they prefer to go away when the children are having a book. The ninja librarian is the only one who can handle the future of the story. Malcom the Cat's idiosyncracies will make anyone who's ever met a temperamental kitty giggle. There's also plenty of gross humor, a la Captain Underpants.

Verdict: If you have early chapter readers who enjoy this type of silliness, this is sure to be a popular choice. It's the kind of off-the-wall series that is sure to find a quick, if brief, following. Readers who like silly and sometimes elaborate language, who want a short, fun read, and who can handle a book so far below the Pilkey line that it's basically stealing Captain Underpants' underwear and running away with it, proclaiming how Extremely Naughty and Badgerish it is being, will enjoy this ridiculous romp.

Stinkbomb and Ketchup-Face and the Badness of Badgers
ISBN: 9781101996621; This edition published 2017 by G. P. Putnam; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Stinkbomb and Ketchup-Face and the Quest for the Magic Porcupine
ISBN: 9781101996652; This edition published 2018 by G. P. Putnam; Review copy provided by publisher and donated to the library

Thursday, March 8, 2018

The Explorers: The door in the alley by Adrienne Kress

Barely have I finished giving up on reading and reviewing all the fantasy picks for my second Book Explosion meeting, when it's time to tackle adventure! Nonfiction I've got covered, no problem. But the fiction... I started with this new title which I've seen promoted in several places.

Sebastian lives a life of order, math, and logic. He does precisely the right thing at the right time all the time. Until one day he has an argument with his not-so-logical cousin and finds something unexpected - a pig in a tiny hat. Sebastian's orderly life is disrupted as he's drawn into the weird and unpredictable Explorers Society. Meanwhile, a lonely girl named Evie is going out for her weekly dinner with the boring Andersons. It's the only time she gets out of the orphans home she lives in, but she's not sure it's any better. Until their boring dinner is interrupted by two terrifying men, one with half his face melted off, the other with horrible wires poking through his jaw. The next thing she knows, Evie is fleeing for her life through a secret tunnel, the Anderson's house is on fire, and her only hope is to contact the Explorers Society and find her missing grandfather, the last family she has.

Once they meet up, the two are off on a wild adventure to find the companions of Evie's grandfather and solve the mystery of his disappearance and last letter. Along the way they will get shot at, climb towers, encounter many animals with hats, and break all the rules.

The tone of this book is definitely in the flavor of Lemony Snicket. There are frequent asides from the narrator, rather rambling digressions into the meaning of words and encounters, and lots of tongue-in-cheek descriptions. There's also rather an overkill of quirkiness, from Sebastian's job of disorganizing things to long, prattling conversations with no meaning, to the adorning of small animals with hats. This is in rather odd juxtaposition to the very real danger the children face, including men with guns, and the tragic backstory of Evie's grandfather's disappearance, involving the entire destruction of an island.

Of course, both Sebastian and Evie are white, as almost all the other characters appear to be. The vocabulary is often advanced and, while Sebastian is supposed to be a genius at math and science only his photographic memory is really called upon. Evie has no especial talents, other than her desperate wish to once again have a family and a place to belong and her recklessness.

Verdict: Fans of Lemony Snicket will devour this, moan in anguish over the abrupt cliffhanger at the end, and wait desperately for another installment. However, it offers little new in the way of middle grade adventure and fantasy, neither in plot nor in characters. An additional purchase where Lemony Snicket is popular.

ISBN: 9781101940051; Published 2017 by Delacorte; Borrowed from another library in my consortium