Saturday, November 18, 2017

This week at the library; or, Meetings and more meetings

What's happening
Another crazy week! Our last visit from Pearl - she takes the winter off, so we'll see her sweet fluffiness back in the spring. Our big holiday craft extravaganza was a huge hit - but there were some unexpected snags. Some we couldn't do anything about (mix-ups with the room booking, staff getting sick) and others I plan to alleviate next year - better marketing and signage, more staff, especially for the transition. Everything was covered in glitter. I spent most of Wednesday working on stuff for life-size candyland. My Thursday book club readers are a small but enthusiastic group. 5 is actually a perfect number, as they all fit around the table. They want to help make an unboxing video and I have promised we will do so as soon as I get new books next year. I interviewed some potential interns (for working with the teens) and attended a community meeting set up by the adult services staff to discuss our plans for a new service/program venture, a sort of social/activities group for older teens and adults in group homes and with developmental disabilities. I think it's going to be a pretty cool thing.

Book Explosion Picks (adventure)

Friday, November 17, 2017

Wedgie and Gizmo by Suzanne Selfors, illustrated by Barbara Fisinger

This book features a corgi and a guinea pig. It was clearly written FOR ME. Pause for dying over the cuteness.

So. The book is told in two voices. The first is Gizmo, the evil-genius guinea pig whose loyal human servant, Elliot, has abandoned him to a terrifying creature - the human girl Jasmine! Who dresses him up and carries him in her pocket! The second narrator is Wedgie, superhero corgi and all-around nice guy whose most exciting thing to do is find things to eat, go on walks, and play with his humans. Wedgie is thrilled that there are new humans to play with! Gizmo is Not Pleased. Neither is Elliot, who wanted it to stay just him, his dad, and Gizmo. Instead, he's gotten a new little sister and brother, a stepmother, annoying dog, lost his pet guinea pig (Jasmine is taking care of Gizmo while they get him a new cage) and Jasmine's Abuela is from Peru - will she, possibly, EAT GIZMO??!!

Gizmo's humorous and villainous voice is matched by Wedgie's raucous enthusiasm and both are interspersed with dialogue between the family members. By the end of the story, readers will have laughed themselves silly and also gotten to grow alongside Jasmine and Elliot who both learn to compromise a little as they blend their families. Not Gizmo though. Gizmo never compromises! Well, maybe for a few new Loyal Human Servants, as long as The Elderly One is not planning to cook him!

The glimpses of the family, seen both in humorous black and white art and through the eyes of their pets, show a mixed-race family with a variety of skin tones as well as their own unique personalities. The parents are loving but a little distracted and kids will thoroughly enjoy being the ones "in the know" as they follow along with the silly story.

Verdict: Be prepared for kids to threaten each other with "the dreaded Biju Ting Ting Scalp Massager", laugh hilariously at the "pool of a thousand pees" and name all future guinea pigs furry potatoes. Also, beware the sequel when Gizmo returns with a new, villainous plan!

ISBN: 9780062447630; Published 2017 by Katherine Tegen Books/HarperCollins; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Pickle: The (formerly) anonymous prank club of Fountain Point Middle School by Kim Baker

I read this for my new book club, Book Explosion. I'd never read it and only booktalked it rarely, but it popped up on my radar when I was looking for funny books and my teen aides said they'd seen a lot of kids reading it back in grade school and middle school. So, I thought I'd try it out!

Ben thinks it's amazing when he acquires a whole room's worth of ballpit balls. His parents aren't so pleased and he has to get rid of them - fast. In a sudden burst of inspiration, he fills his homeroom with them and The League of Pickle Makers is born. He teams up with some other kids to have some fun and play pranks (and make pickles, since they do need a good cover). But of course things just can't be that easy. Sometimes it feels like aggressive Bean and new girl Sienna are trying to take over his club. He feels guilty for leaving out his former best friend Hector, but Hector tattled to his grandmother, the principal, one too many times - and about something Ben didn't even do! Then there all the hours Ben's parents are making him put in at their restaurant and you just know something is going to go wrong.

And it does, at the worst possible moment. Ben has just successfully gotten the principal to pass his club's dish of escabeche as authentic pioneer fare (and a pickling entry) pointing out that even though all the textbooks and history books only show white people, people like him and a lot of his classmates were there too. Then Sienna, angry that her father has fallen through on his promise to come visit, ruins everything with a mean prank that backfires spectacularly. Next thing they know, Ben throws up on their fair entry, the principal has canceled ALL extracurricular activities, including sports, and everyone is angry at, well, everyone. Can Ben fix things? Is The League of Pickle Makers gone forever? And can he ever trust Hector again?

I have to admit I'm really not a fan of pranks in general. This comes from growing up cleaning things - while the students are laughing about a ketchup battle, I'm thinking about how long it's going to take me to scrub all the ketchup off the dining hall floor and tables and refill the bottles. However, this book wasn't so bad. While it's never blatantly in your face about it, there are several pointed remarks about how much work the club's hijinks make for the janitor and Ben is constantly anxious that all the pranks be funny, not mean or hurt anyone. Diversity is also a theme that runs through the book, pitting the out-of-touch principal against her more diverse students who don't see a reflection of themselves in the school's beloved Pioneer Fair. And it was quite funny.

Verdict: I can see why this has been a popular book for many years in our library; I recently weeded it due to condition and definitely will be replacing it with a new copy. I didn't get any of my book club kids to check it out, but they weren't quite the right audience for it - it definitely has kid appeal and some talking points too that make it a good choice.

ISBN: 9781596437654; Published 2012 by Roaring Brook Press; Purchased (a long time ago) for the library; Replacement copy to be ordered

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Small Readers: What is chasing duck? and There's a pest in the garden by Jan Thomas

Jan Thomas' silly picture books have been staples of storytime and recommendations for beginning readers for a long time; now she's branching out to write specific easy readers in a new series called "The Giggle Gang." I approve. My readers approve.

The hapless duck reappears in There's a pest in the gardenSomething is eating everything in the garden! There go the beans, what will he eat next? Corn! Poor sheep. The pest has eaten all the corn, her favorite! What will he eat next? Peas! Luckily, donkey does not like peas. What's this? Duck has an idea? But why is duck diving into the ground and what is his plan? Uh-oh. Maybe there's more than one pest in this garden!

Duck is up for more adventures in What is chasing duck? All Duck can say is "quack!" but his friends know it means something big, hairy, and with giant teeth is after them! Will they all run or will Dog convince them to stand and face up to what's after them? Phew, luckily it's just a squirrel - and he's brought a turnip that Duck dropped! Uh-oh. Squirrel has dropped her acorn. Now, what's chasing squirrel??

The text is bold and simple, but would fit for a beginning, rather than emergent, reader as they will need to decode various punctuation and some more complex words. However, all ages can enjoy this ridiculous stories that are good for lots of giggles. Thomas' trademark illustrations offer plenty of humor to accompany the deadpan text and fans are sure to snap these off the shelf along with Elephant and Piggie and Salina Yoon's Duck, Duck, Porcupine.

Verdict: I'm buying these as fast as they come out and they're flying off the shelves. A great addition to the popular toon genre for easy readers and sure to delight young fans of Jan Thomas.

What is chasing duck?
ISBN: 9780544939073

There's a pest in the garden!
ISBN: 9780544941656

Published 2017 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; Purchased for the library

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Pick a pine tree by Patricia Toht, illustrated by Jarvis

I rarely review holiday books - they circulate only once a year and for Christmas books especially I have a superfluity. However, I will make an exception for an illustrator I really like - like Jarvis!

The cover has splashes of pine tree green against the white snow, and a sparkling red ribbon making the book look like a gift. The end papers are decorated with sparkling white snowflakes against a blue background. Simple, brisk rhymes tell the story of a biracial family choosing and decorating a pine tree. After a joyful meeting of friends and family and an explosion of decor, the tree shines forth in all its glory as a Christmas tree.

Jarvis' bright splashes of color really make this festive book. One page shows the glowing yellow light of an open door and lights against the cold blue of a winter night. Purple and silver tinsel sparks against the warm yellow walls, glowing against many different skin colors as the children and their friends happily deck the tree. A final spread is flipped vertically to make room for the glory of the decorated tree and the admiring decorates, including a dog and cat, sitting around it.

Verdict: The text is short and brisk enough to appeal to small children and Jarvis' bright, cheerful illustrations will make this a cozy book for the whole family to enjoy while preparing for decorating a Christmas tree. Sure to be a hit in my Christmas-themed town!

ISBN: 9780763695712; Published 2017 by Candlewick; Review copy provided by publisher; Donated to the the library


Monday, November 13, 2017

Girls who code: Learn to code and change the world by Reshma Saujani, Sarah Hutt, and Jeff Stern; illustrated by Andrea Tsurumi

Coding is a big buzzword in library circles right now. Week of code, coding programs for kids, etc. I've not much interest in the subject personally - I enjoyed logic courses long ago in my own high school studies and I'm willing to fiddle around with software until it does what it wants, but my general attitude towards technology is that I ignore it until I actually need something. Which is why I have a very, very old-style phone and two e-readers. Priorities!

I have a similar attitude towards my library programming. I've never been in favor of simply doing programs because they're the "in" thing. I look at our community, what's already offered by the schools, what resources people have and what they lack, and what the kids are interested in. In this case, I don't do much with coding or technology, especially not anything "educational." Our schools have extensive technology and maker lab equipment, far superior to anything I can put together, and with more qualified educators. Our middle school and high school also have robotics clubs, coding clubs, and there are nearby Girls Who Code clubs as well. A large number of members of the clubs, especially in middle school, are girls. So, I don't feel a need to recreate what another group is already doing well. What I DO want to do, is support the schools and their students in their interests. Which is why I bought this book!

Saujani beings by some of her own story, about how she got interested in coding, and some statistics about the barriers faced by girls going into coding. She explains why she wanted to found Girls Who Code and some of the cool things members have done. Then the book moves into the actual coding. The interesting thing is that this is not, per say, a "how to" book, although it does include activities and projects. It's more an explanation of how coding works, the logic and reasoning behind it, and how to get your mind into the right mindset to not be scared or unwilling to try coding. Saujani also talks a lot about working through problems and figuring out how to deal with bugs and roadblocks when coding as well as working with friends and choosing projects.

The book includes lots of interviews with real-life girls talking about the projects they've coded and brief biographies of famous women involved with coding and computers. There are also comic sections sprinkled throughout the book. Back matter includes a glossary and index. The book itself includes extensive references to websites and resources for young students to explore.

Verdict: This is a great introduction to coding as well as an encouragement to girls who feel daunted or scared of trying something new. It's explanations are simple and the narrative aspect of it will attract readers who think they "don't like math" or science. I've purchased one copy and it's checked out quite regularly, both to my girls who already code and those interested in starting, and I strongly recommend that all libraries have a copy for reference, whether or not you offer coding programs.

ISBN: 9780425287538; Published 2017 by Viking; Purchased for the library; Review copy provided by publisher; Donated to the library

Saturday, November 11, 2017

This week at the library; or I am busy

What's happening
  • Monday
    • Manager's meeting
  • Tuesday
    • Toddlers 'n' Books (2 sessions)
    • Lego Club
  • Wednesday
    • 5th grade field trips (2 sessions)
  • Thursday
    • Books 'n' Babies
    • Rock 'n' Read
  • Friday
    • Middle School Madness
Busy. Took Friday off to catch up on reviews and such. Busy.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Adventures of Caveboy by Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen, illustrated by Eric Wight

This is another series in Bloomsbury's Read and Bloom imprint, similar to Scholastic's Branches. This title is humorous with colorful pictures by Eric Wight (creator of Frankie Pickle) and simple language (with lots of ooga booga!s). But the casual dismissal of the female characters just annoyed me so much I won't consider adding this one.

Caveboy is the main protagonist. His skin isn't white per say, but one strongly suspects it is dirt and not natural pigment that makes him a little darker, especially since his younger sister is a redhead. He finds his little sister annoying. This is meant to make him relatable, I suspect, but it's a tired trope and doesn't fit in to the rest of the story. Caveboy loves to play baseskull, but he does not love to practice, even though his family keeps reminding him that it's important. Finally, when playing with his little sister (who he neither thanks for playing with him nor acknowledges her pitching skill) he breaks his club.

Caveboy then sets out to find a new club. His parents' clubs are too big. His sister's club is too pretty. Heavens forbid he should have a club with a bow on it! When he sees the perfect club, even though it belongs to Mags, a dark-skinned cavegirl, he takes it. After some argument, he gives back the stolen club and Mags helps him search for a new club that is right for him. When he finds one with flowers on it, he thinks it's "too fancy" but it's just right for Mags, who willingly trades her club to him.

The two friends decide to race. Mags puts her club down on the ground so she can go faster, but Caveboy refuses to relinquish his club. When Mags gets lost during one of their races, and cries for help, Caveboy makes a difficult decision to go help his friend. He gets a hug for scaring away the scary spider and is embarrassed, but "because Mags is his friend, he hugs back."

Verdict: It's a cute story. The illustrations are fun. Kids will probably enjoy it. But it in no way stands out from the crowd of beginning chapter book series and the continued emphasis and subtle enforcement of gender stereotypes - girls like pretty/fancy things, boys don't, girls are scared of spiders and boys aren't, girls are more emotional, giving hugs, while boys only tolerate affection, etc. takes this off my list. Not recommended.

ISBN: 9781619639867; Published 2017 by Bloomsbury; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Slacker by Gordon Korman

It took me a while to get around to reading this one, but I've been recommending it since it came out as hilarious, knowing I could trust Gordon Korman. SPOILERS.

Cameron Boxer is a slacker. He's proud of it; he's worked hard to get where he is. Completely uninvolved in anything except video games, the height of his ambition is to win big $$ at an upcoming video game competition. But when he accidentally almost gets the house burned down, his parents give him an ultimatum: Get involved in something or his gaming will be cut off. Cameron panics - he doesn't have time in his busy schedule to actually DO stuff! Fortunately, one of his friends can hack into the school website and set up a fake club for them. The Positive Action Group, that sounds good. Now Cameron can get back to gaming and his life will go on as usual.

There's just one problem - kids want to get involved with the PAG. And Cameron is supposed to be the president! Wild hijinks ensue as fellow students, teachers, and even his own friends decide they want to do good deeds. Before Cam knows it, things are out of control, he's being threatened by the high school Fuzzies (a competing good deeds club) and then there's the whole Elvis-the-beaver thing... Will Cam be forced to give up his gamer lifestyle and actually, you know, get involved?

Korman's trademark humor abounds, from the football player who refers to himself in the third person to the extracurricular-obsessed high school Fuzzy president. Cam himself is a typical Korman anti-hero - he just doesn't want to get involved and can't understand why people won't leave him alone. The events are a little over the top, but along with a big dose of humor there's a subtle suggestion that maybe making a difference isn't as hard as you think - and kids can definitely make that difference.

Plus Cam's younger sister turns out to be his gaming arch-nemesis (and much better than him) which was hilarious also.

Verdict: A must-have in your collection - give it to your slacker gamers, kids who want to get involved, beaver fans, and anyone who likes a funny book.

ISBN: 9780545823159; Published April 2016 by Scholastic; Purchased for the library

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Read, Read, Read, said the Baby: Floppers & Loppers by Stan Tekiela

Adventure Publications is a new publisher I looked at when I was at ALA in summer 2017. I've been looking at a few different books from them and I found one of their board books to review today.

Although it's not quite clear from the title, this is a book about animal ears. Each spread shows a photograph of an animal. There is a small white caption that labels the animal, an inset photograph showing a close up of their ear with a pop-out quote, and an additional fact about them in a brightly colored inset. So for a cricket there's a photograph of a cricket, an inset of their ear on their leg, and the text reads "This white spot on my leg is my ear!" and "Crickets' ears are on their front legs, below their knees."

The photo of an owl doesn't show its ears, which are hidden by feathers, but its feather tufts which are not ears (the text explains this). The book is a traditional square, sturdy cardboard, and the layout is fairly simple and uncluttered.

I like photographs for board books and simple illustrations. The concept of different creatures having different ears is probably best for at least a toddler age but even younger babies will enjoy looking at the animals. This is a good example of nonfiction in board books, as opposed to some other things which I will not mention here.

Verdict: A good addition to your board book collection.

ISBN: 9781591934240; Published 2013 by Adventure Publications; Borrowed from another library in my consortium