Tuesday, May 22, 2018

The tiptoeing tiger by Philippa Leathers

I loved Leathers’ delightfully sly and humorous How to catch a mouse so I was excited to see another story from her. Little Tiger isn’t like the other tigers; nobody gets scared when he’s around! He’s just too small (and rather clumsy too). Little Tiger decides to prove everyone (and his big brother) wrong - he CAN scare someone! So he starts tiptoeing through the jungle, sure that if he just sneaks up quietly, he’ll be scary! He tries and tries, but nothing works until he sneaks up on a frog in a pond… and scares himself!

Leathers’ soft pencil and watercolor illustrations show a peaceful jungle with minimal vegetation and a friendly group of animals. The amused older tiger, elephant, warthog, monkeys, and other animals are neatly drawn in, showing their gentle laughter at the little tiger who wants to be scary. Although this doesn’t have the sly humor of How to catch a mouse, it’s still a delightful storytime pick. Kids will empathize with the little tiger who wants to be big and enjoy practicing their own tiptoeing and roars.

Verdict: A fun addition to your storytime repertoire and a sweet choice for kids who love stories with lots of roaring and a surprise twist at the end.
ISBN: 9780763688431; Published 2018 by Candlewick; Review copy provided by publisher; Donated to the library

Monday, May 21, 2018

Trash vortex: How plastic pollution is choking the world’s oceans by Danielle Smith-Llera

Capstone has made a very interesting new series that focuses on pivotal moments in history as captured by photography. They’ve expanded this from history to scientific events as well. The latest set includes catastrophes like oil spills and nuclear explosions and this particular title addresses the rapid spread of micro plastics.

The story begins with Captain Charles Moore’s discovery of a huge soup of micro plastics in a gyre in the Pacific Ocean. Publicized by Moore and other researchers, it became known as the “Great Pacific Garbage Patch” and most people think of it as a giant, floating raft of garbage. The reality is more more complicated however.

Following the history and creation of plastics, from celluloid and bakelite to modern plastics, the author blends in the science of pollution and study of how plastic is filling the oceans and its affect on ocean and land life, including humans. Readers will learn about sea currents, how plastic is broken down into micro plastics, and how these are eaten by animals and then by humans. The science of recycling is addressed, the historical change from reuse to disposal, and the problem of pollution in Third-World countries is also touched on.

Back matter includes a timeline, glossary, and resources.

This is an interesting take on a complex issue. The author does not simplify the issues or imply that there is an easy fix. She addresses the numerous issues in ocean pollution, the many ways it affects our lives, and the ongoing research to discover the full affect and find solutions to the problem.

Verdict: An excellent choice to introduce readers to this complex scientific problem that affects everyone, whether or not they live near the ocean. It also models some excellent research skills and presentation for readers learning to research their own topics. A must-have title to keep your recycling and ecology sections up to date.

ISBN: 9780756557454; Published 2018 by Capstone; Review copy provided by publisher; Donated to the library

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Summer Reading Reflections

 - I freely admit that I did not put a ton of work into this year's summer reading program. As I focus on expanding outreach and other services, and as I deal with changes in our community, I've been moving away from the traditional model for summer reading which involves a lot of time, money, and staff. My goal for summer reading is a simple, accessible program that encourages frequent library visits. This year, I am making the weekly activity bags an honor system - there's a sign on the top that reminds them to sign up, but they can just take one.
 - As far as reading, well, to be honest I don't personally think summer reading programs make any difference in whether or not kids read during the summer. The kids who would normally read will read anyways and the ones who don't probably aren't coming to the library in the first place. I have separate programs set up to reach non-reading kids and encourage them to maintain and develop reading skills over the summer.
 - This year I made several changes in view of various shifts in the school schedule and from feedback last year. I found participation in my 0-3 age program dropped significantly, while participation in our year-round reading program, Read and Grow (1,000 books before kindergarten) grew. Last year a significant number of kids were enrolled in summer school, which was run in two 3-4 week sessions in June and July and also included afternoon classes and free lunch. This year, due to construction, there will only be two 2-week sessions and all classes except pre-kindergarten will be located at the high school, not the middle school, which is farther from the library. The pre-kindergarteners will be at the closest elementary school. I also had a lot of growth in middle school participation, but it does not look like I'll be visiting that school this year, so I don't know if that will continue.
 - I also had major staff turnover last summer. This year I have one part-time associate (21 hours) who has not gone through a summer at the library yet and a second part-time associate (8 hours) who is primarily handling teen programs and a little desk time at the youth services desk (They've been here in the summer but only as a teen volunteer years ago!). Of my two teen aides, only one has gone through summer and they worked limited hours. The other aide will be leaving at the end of summer, so this will be their first and last summer! I will also be bringing back a very experienced aide for the summer only.

Check out this blog post for details on our summer reading programs, with links to materials

Summer reading proper will be running June 9 to August 11, although we will have programs before and after that date. You can see our current master calendar here.

Saturday, May 19, 2018

This week at the library; or, now it's hot and humid. Ugh Summer.

Happening this week at the library
  • Monday
    • Worked 12-8
  • Tuesday
    • Trikathon
    • Worked 9-6
  • Wednesday
    • Worked 10-5
  • Thursday
    • Books 'n' Babies
    • 1st grade field trip
    • 2nd grade field trip
    • Book Explosion
    • Worked 10-6:20
  • Friday
    • Middle School Madness
    • Worked 2-6
  • Saturday
    • Worked 10-2
Last programs and small field trips are this week - next week the big field trips begin. This is a new thing I'm trying this year, getting the kids to visit the library instead of doing short booktalks at school. We'll see if it makes a difference. Last year we had an author visit and I didn't really visit the schools at all. Our numbers did drop a little, but there were other factors in play.

I've finished all the summer reading materials, sent out numerous emails to teachers, worked on setting up the field trips, am almost done putting together all the prizes and activity kits, and am sorting through a huge bounty of donations. Also dealing with the regular detritus - lost and damaged items, maker kits that need refilling, paperwork, budgeting, etc.

I still have to actually plan this summer's programs, like the I Survived party, make sure I have all the supplies for the maker workshops and art storytimes, and I should probably finish my picture book weeding before it gets delayed another year!

Friday, May 18, 2018

A Properly Unhaunted Place by William Alexander

Rosa Diaz is angry, grieving, and confused. She comes from a long line of expert ghost-appeasers, i.e. librarians, and can't understand why her mother, one of the best in the business, has moved them to Ingot the only unhaunted town in the world. When Rosa meets Jasper Chevalier, whose only wish is to disappear in the shadow of his renaissance-fair obsessed father, she at first takes out her anger on him. Gradually, however, the two become friends. It's a good thing they do since Ingot isn't going to be unhaunted for long - and something very dangerous is coming.

Alexander builds a familiar but strange world skillfully, dropping hints and clues along the way without over-explaining, letting readers use their imagination to fill out the story. There are moments of frightening terror, moments of gentle warmth, excitement, magic, and the telling of family secrets.

One thing I did have a hard time believing was that Rosa, who is from cosmopolitan New York, would be surprised that Jasper is biracial, having a white mother and black father. That seemed really odd. However, kids are nothing if not unobservant of life around them I've found so it's possible that she never thought about her biracial friends or classmates. It's gradually revealed that Rosa's father is dead, having been killed in a mistaken attempt to banish rather than appease a ghost, and some readers might be frustrated that Rosa's mom is so withdrawn in her grief, refusing to communicate or explain to her daughter what's happening.

I did appreciate that Alexander packed the whole story into one slim volume, under 200 pages, but it's a complete story with some thoughtful reflection on history, family, and the choices that people make and the way they remember the dead.

Verdict: This was a Cybils finalist in 2017 and it's well-deserved; it's not often I have a book that combines diversity, humor, horror, and fantasy in such well-blended amounts. Hand to readers who like stories with a little shiver but not too much and those who are comfortable reading about ghosts.

ISBN: 9781481469159; Published 2017 by Margaret K. McElderry; Purchased for the library

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Life in the library

Looking out the window at our insect water dish, a shallow bowl with glass marbles...

Kid: "Is that weird dish for the bees?"
Me: "Yep, it's like a birdbath but for bees and other insects. The pebbles are in there so they can get a drink without drowning."
Kid's parent, with interest: "I didn't know that. I told Kid they were a liar."

Well, we all learned something today?

Peter and Ernesto: A tale of two sloths by Graham Annable

I still don't really understand the fascination with sloths; they're interesting creatures, but why not hyenas? Or bongos? Anyways, sloths are IN right now and this simple graphic novel will be enjoyed by sloth fans and others.

Peter, a stay-at-home gray sloth and Ernesto, an adventurous beige sloth, are best friends. But when Ernesto decides to take a trip and see the rest of the sky, Peter is worried and upset. Ernesto doesn't stop to think about his friend at first; he is busy exploring the wonderful world outside his tree. He sees many amazing new pieces of sky, makes new friends, and even travels across the ocean. Meanwhile, Peter slowly overcomes his fears to set off in search of his friend. He runs into the same obstacles as Ernesto, and at first feels he simply can't face them. However, his friendship makes him brave and, in his own fashion, he faces all obstacles to find his friend.

In the end, both Peter and Ernesto have learned something about themselves and about the world around them. Although they covered much of the same ground, their very different perspectives gave them an opportunity to see things in a different way. Annable's art is a good match for the simple but thoughtful text. The colors are mostly greens and earth tones, with simple lines and mild humor in the sketched large eyes. The text is minimal, but a great deal of story is told in the sloths' mobile faces.

While not factually accurate (sloths are actually excellent swimmers) this is nevertheless an amusing tale of exploring the world and following your dreams. The text is simple enough to hold beginning chapter readers but there is enough depth to the story and art to capture the interest of older children as well.

Verdict: This quiet story is amusing and makes an excellent addition to the beginning chapter graphic novel genre. While I'm not as wildly enthusiastic about it as some reviewers, it will certainly find an audience and planned sequels are sure to be popular.

ISBN: 9781626725614; Published 2018 by First Second; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Read, Read, Read, said the Baby: Quiet as a mouse and other animal idioms by Chieu Anh Urban

This guessing-game board book is sweet and clever, but has a few issues.

The first spread of each riddle shows a solid, boldly-colored background with the written clues. The facing page is white or pastel and shows eyes, nose, and a few details like whiskers. The following spread shows the animal in its entirety.

The animals included are a lamb, fox, ox, bat, and a clam. The clam at the end is sporting mirrored sunglasses so the child can see a blurry picture of themselves.

The pictures are brightly colored and have large shapes creating the animals. They also include die cut eyes, smiles, etc. to trace with a finger and add tactile interest.

However, some of the word choices are odd, as are the pictures. "Happy as a clam" is not an expression I hear often and even here in our dairy-rich, quasi-rural area most kids don't know the word "ox", they call them cows or bulls. Bats are called "blind" and given dark glasses and sharp, vampire-like teeth. Most babies and toddlers aren't going to be familiar with the characterization of a fox as "sly."

Verdict: Cute pictures and a nice layout; the text is really not developmentally appropriate, but it will attract the interest of older children and parents. I dislike the factually inaccurate elements though; bats are not blind and their eyes don't glow that I'm aware of. I'd think twice about purchasing it because of this.

ISBN: 9781454925057; Published 2017 by Sterling; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

A couch for llama by Leah Gilbert

As soon as I saw that cover I knew I had to absolutely have this book.

The Lago family loves their old blue couch. Blonde mother, dark-haired and dark-skinned father, and three children with light brown skin and dark hair (or dark fuzz in the case of the baby) have many happy days reading, cuddling, playing, and chasing their cute little black scotty dog. But the couch has seen better days... it's time for a new couch.

Unfortunately, on their way back from the city with a brand new, cheerful red couch tied on top of the car, it slips off! And that's when the fun begins. Discovering this strange object in his field, Llama tries to be friendly. He tries to share. He does a few taste tests. Finally, he figures out what a couch is for - comfy sitting!

When the Lago family returns and finds their couch, Llama has settled in. Is there a way to make everyone happy?

The simple text is delightful, and just the right length for storytime. The real star here are the soft, expressive illustrations and especially that goofy llama! Drawing on familiar plots of stories like The Mitten, where an animal discovers a piece of furniture or clothing and tries to figure out what it is, Llama's efforts to figure out what the couch is for just made me giggle repeatedly. His little friend the blue bird, expressive ears, and stubborn demeanor are just icing on the couch-cake.

Verdict: You must have this for storytime immediately! Buy at once!

ISBN: 9781454925118; Published February 2018 by Sterling; Borrowed from another library in my consortium; Purchased for the library

Monday, May 14, 2018

Wolf Island by Ian McAllister and Nicholas Read

I love bears, especially the bears of the Great Bear Rainforest on the northwest coast, but I was disappointed with this duos' first picture book featuring them - although the photographs were lovely, the text was disjointed. This second title, featuring the wolves of the rainforest, is much better and I'm eager to add it to my library.

The story begins with a wolf, with thick, shaggy fur in a multitude of colors, swimming to a new island. He's ready to begin life on his own and has found his own territory. The wolf is sometimes lonely, but there's plenty of food to find and places to explore. He hunts for salmon, eats fish eggs, and tracks deer. Finally, another wolf arrives and the first wolf has a mate! The two have a litter of cubs and the island has a new pack of wolves.

While there's not an extensive amount of information in the text and the wolf is more anthropomorphic more than I would like, the gorgeous photographs let the reader into a special world. Placid sunsets, roiling seas, and all the rich life of the northwest rainforest is shown in this pictorial journey of one wolf from loneliness to a new pack.

Verdict: If you have wolf fans, this is a book that will introduce them to a unique group and their lives at sea and on land.

ISBN: 9781459812642; Published 2017 by Orca; Borrowed from another library in my consortium