Saturday, January 20, 2018

This week at the library; or, My head hurts

What's Happening
  • Monday
  • Tuesday
  • Wednesday
    • Winter Wigglers: Interactive Storytime
  • Thursday
    • Books 'n' Babies
    • Book Explosion
  • Friday
    • Early literacy outreach visits (4 sessions)
    • Anime Club
    • Outreach event: Come alive with books
New week, new projects! Also, headaches. I blame the weather. Big project this week - getting the teen pop-up maker space back in order. When I get it updated it will be on the Read 'n' Play blog. Also baked a ridiculous amount of cookies for the bake sale, reorganized the play area, and got started on the school-age maker space. Big group at Winter Wigglers - will post later. My headache went away on Thursday, just in time for the leg of my office chair to snap.... now I have bruises. Ow. Our big activity for Book Explosion was unboxing and the kids went wild about the new books! Only one kid at Anime Club - but I belatedly realized it coincided with the "Snowball Dance" at the high school, plus various other craziness. It was really crazy, that's all I'm saying.

Friday, January 19, 2018

Beatrice Zinker upside down thinker by Shelley Johannes

Beatrice does things a little differently. She likes to hang upside down, think upside down, and follow her own path! This was fine in second grade - she even got a certificate for her creative thinking. But now it's third grade. Her best friend, Lenny, has been visiting family in the Philippinnes all summer and when she comes back to school she doesn't follow their agreement to wear ninja suits! She seems to want to be best friends with a new girl, Chloe, who likes things just so. Beatrice's new teacher doesn't like her upside-down thinking either and Beatrice is wondering if there's anywhere for her to fit in anymore.

After many difficulties and misunderstandings, Beatrice comes to realize that she hasn't necessarily lost a friend, but she has to be willing to be accepting of differences, just as she expects others to accept her unique outlook on life. Although a friendly adult neighbor gently reminds her that friendships change and may not last, Beatrice knows she has successfully negotiated this change, at least, in her friendship.

Although this tackles the familiar story of changing friendship, it adds in a Dahlesque flavor of humor, with over-the-top characters, including Beatrice's family who, although disapproving of her odd ways are certainly weird enough in their own right. Orange and black cartoons sprinkle the pages and Beatrice's quirky behavior, while understandably annoying to adults, is sure to make readers giggle. At over 140 pages this is long for a beginning chapter book and will appeal most to readers who are fans of Ramona, Clementine, Junie B. Jones, and other slice-of-life stories. The additional illustrations and humor may also add a little more interest and I think my fans of Bea Garcia might be interested in trying this title.

Verdict: If you're looking for more books in this vein, this is an acceptable addition. However, it doesn't particularly stand out from the many, many beginning chapter books featuring spunky girls with friendship troubles and the diversity - centered solely in Beatrice's best friend (i.e. sidekick) is minimal.

ISBN: 9781484767382; Published 2017 by Disney-Hyperion; Galley provided by publisher at ALA 2017; Borrowed finished copy from another library in my consortium

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Spy on History: Victor Dowd and the World War II Ghost Army by Enigma Elberti and Scott Wegener

I reviewed the first book in this series, Mary Bowser and the Civil War Spy Ring, last year. I've since bought multiple copies (for use with classes and book clubs and not because the pieces have gone missing!) and I've had, to be honest, mixed responses from the kids. In general, the more reluctant and lower level readers enjoy it the most. As I'd suspected, fans of Magic Treehouse are a big audience. The more fluent readers I've offered it to haven't been as interested - the brief story seems to not be of much interest to them (I also had one complain that the different-sized fonts made it confusing, but I put that down to an episode of extreme sassiness at book club that night).

So, the next title is out now (or will be in about five days - I've ordered it so that counts as out to me!). I had a galley and a finished copy from the publisher and have already preordered two more copies.

This book focuses on Victor Dowd, a member of the Ghost Army of World War II. This was a tactical deception unit, which focused on misleading the German army. Their history was only partially declassified in the 1990s and there's been a recent surge of interest, especially in children's literature.

The story focuses mainly on the movements and tactics of the unit, only using Dowd as a generic framing device. Having never seen combat, like most of his unit, they are moved into the aftermath of D-Day and spend several exciting, dangerous, and miserable months using all their artistic ability and imagination to mislead the German army. Confused orders, mistakes, and unexpected dangers befall the unit, but they finally triumph in the final invasion into Germany, their tactics saving the lives of thousands of American troops.

Additional information about the unit and their tactics is included throughout the book. An envelope pasted in at the beginning includes codebreaking clues; a sheet of red vellum, a coding wheel, and several other clues. Readers can follow clues throughout the book (explained in a sealed section at the back) to find the secret message. I freely admit I skipped that part - I've never had any patience for clues.

On the one hand, I always have a lot of kids wanting WWII information and this is a new and interesting story. On the other hand, I was disappointed - I had hoped to see more minorities in this series, not just another white soldier. Several of the illustrations, including a "photo" of soldiers at the end show what appears to be an African-American man. In the photo he's simply labeled as SG. I want to know more about him! Did he really exist? What was his name? How did an African-American end up as part of a unit when the army wasn't desegregated until 1948?

Verdict: This is a fast-paced and interested work of historical fiction. It will definitely grab the interest of Magic Tree House and World War II fans who aren't ready for more intense fair. I'm a little disappointed by the questions I was left with after the story, but that will just get kids to do a little research on their own, hopefully. (I still want to know who SG is though!). I've had no problem with the pieces disappearing - you can still enjoy the story without them and if you circulate the -Ology books these have fewer pieces and less issues in my experience so far.

ISBN: 9780761193265; Published January 23, 2018; Review copy provided by publisher; Donated to the library; Two copies purchased for the library

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Read, Read, Read, said the Baby: Dogs by Dr. John Hutton, illustrated by Doug Cenko

This quirky little book was an unexpected hit for me and I look forward to introducing it to my patrons, especially in baby storytime.

Each page in this little board book encourages dialogue about dogs. In bold, colorful panels, the dogs bark, lick, and run across the pages. One spread, showing the smiling yellow dog from the cover, asks "What color is this dog?" and answers "It's yellow. Yellow and furry. Let's say yellow, furry dog!" A dalmatian pops up in the corner to add "I have spots!"

I've seen a couple different board books that encourage dialogic reading with children, but this one does an excellent job of creating a book that babies and toddlers will love, pointing to dogs and parroting the words, while encouraging parents to dialogue with their children in a simple, non-patronizing way.

The back cover adds some simple early literacy tips from the author, a pediatrician. I'm definitely going to be looking up more "Dr. Books" to add to our collection and use in storytime. The only slight drawback with this title is the small format, about 4x4 inches. I'd love to throw this up large on a projector or slideshow to use with a group, as I don't have the funds to purchase multiple individual copies for each attendee. I'll have to suggest it to my colleague though, she sometimes has more funds.

Verdict: A great addition to your board book collections and, if you have the funds, would make a perfect bulk purchase for storytime.

ISBN: 9781936669457; Published 2017 by blue manatee press; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Mouse by Zebo Ludvicek

An adorable little gray mouse, with big ears and a shy, charming smile, generously shares her cherry with a mischievous letter M. Who promptly eats the whole thing! What can M share with mouse? Only himself....which transforms him into an N with a Nod, and a Nibble. As mouse and M play together, M changes to a Z, L, C and more.

The art is simple, just the black letter with white eyes and mouth, and gray mouse with her pink ears and checked bowtie. M is often part of the words of his half of the story, and sometimes those words are shown in a light gray font. The mouse has cheerful red dialogue and gradually the two share their words until they end with the sweet sentiment that there can't be a mouse with an M.

The art is clever and the story ingenious. It doesn't quite have the appeal of the other alphabet books I've used in storytime or recently reviewed - Trasler's Caveman, McDonnell's Little Red Cat who ran away, or silly favorites like Kelly Bingham's Z is for Moose - but it's quite a good debut effort. It's not quite an alphabet book, with the consonants moving in random order as the M transforms and there are some mildly creepy moments, when the mouse first starts eating the M for example.

Verdict: If you need more quirky alphabet books, consider this a good addition to your collection. Otherwise, stick with the staples.

ISBN: 9781101996362; Published 2017 by G. P. Putnam's Sons; Review copy provided by the publisher; Donated to the library

Monday, January 15, 2018

Finding the Titanic: How images from the ocean depths fueled interest in the doomed ship by Michael Burgan

Interest in the Titanic is never-ending, but it wasn't always that way. Interest in the major disaster was quickly eclipsed at the time by the events of World War I and only briefly revived by the 1958 movie, A Night to Remember. Not until Robert Ballard's discovery of the wreckage in 1985 did it become a subject of fascination to the general public. This fascination was largely fueled by the images brought up by Ballard and later excavators and creates the focus of this book.

The story begins with the story of the Titanic and then moves into Ballard's expedition and later discoveries. However, while there is a thorough exposition of Ballard's methods, feelings, and work, there is an extra focus on the technology used to capture images and the subsequent improvements made in the undersea robots used to film the wreckage.

Burgan covers the controversy over how the wreck should be handled and the discussion around the collection and use of artifacts. There's also new evidence about the causes of the sinking and additional discoveries made about the wreckage. Burgan goes into additional discoveries and scientific advances made by Ballard, including the real reason he was able to discover the Titanic - he was searching for Navy submarines that had wrecked in the area.

Back matter includes a timeline, glossary, and resources as well as sources, bibliography, and index.

Verdict: A worthy addition to your Titanic resources for young fanatics, add this to get the latest information and a unique perspective. Recommended.

ISBN: 9780756556402; Published 2017 by Capstone; Review copy provided by publisher; Donated to the library

Sunday, January 14, 2018

RA RA Read: Cozy Mouse Stories

This is adapted from a list I made for several specific families at our library. They like cozy, old-fashioned stories, the readers are young but very fluent and eager readers, and the parents are looking for stories with limited or no fantasy elements, no frightening adventures, and an emphasis on family.


  • Heartwood Hotel by Kallie George
    • This new series is already a firm favorite. It's the story of Mona the mouse, who, having been orphaned and lost in the woods, finds a new home and family at the Heartwood Hotel. I love that she works as a maid and her life doesn't magically become easy and comfortable. The descriptions of tiny details and food are lovely too.
  • Tumtum and Nutmeg by Emily Bearn
    • This British series features a mouse couple and their adventures in the woods and in various houses. The one drawback is that the individual titles aren't available in the US, you have to purchase big collections of 3 stories at a time. However, for eager readers this is not a hardship!
  • Cricket in Times Square by George Selden
    • Most people are at least vaguely familiar with this classic, but fewer realize there's actually seven books in the series! Availability can be an issue here and my library only owns the first title, but we have a lot of small libraries in our consortium and I've been able to find all of them.
  • Poppy and Friends by Avi
    • There's a little more peril in this series, with a tyrannical owl who is eventually killed, but kids who are ready for some more adventure will enjoy it.
  • Miss Bianca by Margery Sharp
    • If you're only familiar with the Disney movies, these are very different! Miss Bianca is an elegant mouse who belongs to a diplomat's son and writes 18th century verse. She, Bernard, and a third mouse venture to the Black Castle in their first adventure to rescue a Norwegian poet. Her adventures are sometimes macabre and one, involving evil dolls, is rather frightening. The villains are also quite Dickensian. However, they are beautifully written and exquisite gems. The first title, The Rescuers, has been reprinted but you'll have to hunt for the others.


  • Henry Cole
    • Although better known as an illustrator, he has written several chapter books featuring small animals. These tend to be cozy stories with a philosophical bent. They don't fly off the shelves, due to a combination of the quieter plots and length, but they're perfect for this specific reader's advisory request.
  • Robert Lawson
    • This is an older author and many of his books are out of print. There are also several instances of troubling racist depictions in some of his more famous titles. However, I prefer to mention these and let parents discuss them with their children. He had a series of historical fiction featuring animals around the time of the American Revolution and some of them are still in print. He has many other titles that are out of print.
      • Rabbit Hill; Tough Winter
      • Ben and Me; Mr. Revere and I


  • Song of the Christmas Mouse by Shirley Murphy
    • Out of print. A library in our consortium still owns it though.
  • Christopher mouse by William Wise
  • Mousewife by Rumer Godden
  • Abel's Island by William Steig
  • Mrs. Frisby and the rats of NIMH by Robert C. O'Brien
  • Evergreen Wood by Alan Perry
    • This is a retelling of Pilgrim's Progress with mice. It's out of print and not very easy to find, although it is inexpensive online.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

This week at the library; or, Jumping in(to the melted ice)

What's happening
This is my desk area.
As you can see, I have started outreach again. I spent most of Monday and Tuesday selecting materials, placing holds, and packing boxes for several large remote collections. Almost 300 books checked out and 200 holds still to come in! The hamster died. I spent over three hours at Walmart, I'm repackaging and organizing our teen pop-up maker space and adding a second, school-age, set of materials as well. Ms. Pattie did Winter Wigglers this week. I gave her my dance sets and some dance party books and she made streamers with the kids and employed hula hoops in some way. I was mostly gone so I didn't get to see! Thursday I was up to 400 books and counting on this one remote collection request. Despite a very noisy book club, we still had something of a discussion about Girls Who Code and Women Who Broke the Rules. I got several kids to check out Stranger at Green Knowe by comparing it to One and Only Ivan. By Friday I had hit 500 books checked out to one school! More outreach. My intern did her first teen program.

Friday, January 12, 2018

Isadora Moon goes to school by Harriet Muncaster

Isadora's mother is a fairy and her father is a vampire. She has a great life - she loves her fluttering wings and being awake during the day, she does NOT like red drinks (especially tomatoes) and taking baths in the pond. Then her parents tell her she must go to school. Vampire or fairy school? They decide she must try both. At fairy school Isadora tries to wish for carrot cake - her favorite - but gets a giant carrot. She's not allowed to wear her sparkly black tutu in dance and as a result fails miserably. Finally, she picks unlucky (and poisonous) toadstools for her flower crown! Maybe she really is a vampire and not a fairy at all. At vampire school, she finds out that she can't fly in fast formation like the vampires, she hates the tomatoes and other red food they all eat, and her beloved pink rabbit toy lets everyone's bats escape. Isadora is miserable - where does she belong?

After she talks to some of the human children outside their gate, whom she's never dared approach before, Isadora wonders if she's something unique and special - herself. Perhaps there's a school that will be just right for her?

Isadora and the other fantasy creatures are all white, the human children a diverse group. The illustrations are all in black, white, and gray with pink wash over the fairy scenes and pink accents when Isadora is with the vampire side of her life. The message about diversity and what it's like to come from two different cultures is emphasized, but I have mixed feelings about it. Her parents are, to put it mildly, clueless about Isadora's miserable experiences and both stick strongly to wanting her to go with their side of the family, although in the end they approve of her choice. It's nice to see the humans shown as accepting of differences and a good place for Isabella to celebrate her differences, but the message seems to be that if you're biracial there's no place for you in either heritage and you have to find a new place for yourself.

Verdict: I might be (probably am) overthinking this. It's a cute and funny story with adorable illustrations and a friendly, cheerful message. The vocabulary is a little advanced for a beginning chapter book, but I can definitely see kids enjoying this. So, a nice addition to your library if you want more beginning chapter books but not necessarily a good choice for diversity.

ISBN: 9780399558214; Published 2016 by Stepping Stone/Random House; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Spirit Hunters by Ellen Oh

When I was picking fantasy books for my 5th grade and up book club, I wanted to make sure I had a variety - both in diversity and in type. So, I picked out some scary books as well. As it turns out, I had all 5th graders, none of whom enjoy scary stories. But that didn't stop me from reading them for myself!

I saw a panel with Ellen Oh at ALA and she sounded very funny - so I was curious how she worked out as a writer of scary stories. I don't read a lot of scary stories. This one was definitely chilling; although it didn't bother me as an adult I can see kids being freaked out by it. Which, if you're a kid who likes to be freaked out by scary stories, is perfect!

Harper is miserable. She isn't happy about moving to their new house, she has a vague feeling (egged on by her older sister) that it's all her fault, but she can't remember anything after her stay in a psychiatric hospital where she was severely injured. Now there's something odd about their new house. As Harper slowly regains her memories and watches with increasing worry her younger brother's strange behavior, more and more frightening phenomena begin to happen. Harper must find her inner courage, be honest with old and new friends, and embrace both her heritage and her power if she's going to save her brother - and herself - from a deadly danger.


Harper's hidden memories and dark past are due to being possessed and injured by powerful ghosts - ghosts she was unable to fight back against without the care of her grandmother, who has embraced her Korean heritage of shaman, unlike Harper's mother who refuses to recognize the spirit world. The growing possession of her younger brother by an evil ghost and the support of a new friend enable Harper to overcome her fears, embrace her power as a spirit hunter, reconnect with her grandmother, and help her family.

There are casual references to Harper's Korean-American heritage and the conflict in her mother who has rejected anything she can't personally touch or see. Harper encounters casual rudeness and racism and also encounters similar instances even among ghosts, who fear and dislike her grandmother's ghostly companion because she is African-American.

Verdict: This spinetingler grows its story slowly, piling on the supernatural danger and fear until it all comes to a dramatic climax. Recommend to readers who enjoy stories like The Books of Elsewhere and other creepy stories.

ISBN: 9780062430083; Published 2017 by HarperCollins; Borrowed from another library in my consortium