Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Review: Malamander by Thomas Taylor and Tom Booth


It’s winter in the town of Eerie-on-Sea, where the mist is thick and the salt spray is rattling the windows of the Grand Nautilus Hotel. Inside, young Herbert Lemon, Lost and Founder for the hotel, has an unexpected visitor. It seems that Violet Parma, a fearless girl around his age, lost her parents at the hotel when she was a baby, and she’s sure that the nervous Herbert is the only person who can help her find them. The trouble is, Violet is being pursued at that moment by a strange hook-handed man. And the town legend of the Malamander — a part-fish, part-human monster whose egg is said to make dreams come true — is rearing its scaly head. As various townspeople, some good-hearted, some nefarious, reveal themselves to be monster hunters on the sly, can Herbert and Violet elude them and discover what happened to Violet’s kin? This lighthearted, fantastical mystery, featuring black-and-white spot illustrations, kicks off a trilogy of fantasies set in the seaside town.

I read this a couple months ago but it took me a while to review it, because my 9yo daughter stole it from me.

I have it (the ARC) back, and I can tell you Sheridan and I both give it a thumbs-up! Herbert and Violet are refreshingly unique characters who are at the same time easy to relate to. Savvy readers may figure out parts of the mystery, but the secondary characters (equally intriguing) will still keep them guessing. While some, such as the blustering hotel manager, lean towards stereotypes, others have more three-dimensional characteristics that will hopefully be expanded upon in future books. Even the Malamander is not quite evil, yet doesn't turn out to be cute and fuzzy either.

My ARC only had a few illustrations ready, but they were vividly drawn and enhanced the writing perfectly.

A promising beginning to a funny and clever trilogy!

Monday, October 14, 2019

Review: Love and the Rocking Chair by Leo and Diane Dillon

Book Birthday tomorrow!


Simple words and colorful paintings tell the warm, engaging story of new parents who buy a rocking chair when they are expecting a baby. Bright, sunny illustrations show the precious intimacy between parents and their children; the new mother glows with affection, and the new father reads aloud to their young son. 

Time passes, and the boy grows up; the beloved rocker is moved to the attic and gathers dust. But when the boy becomes a man, the cycle begins anew. He and his wife have a baby girl, and the rocking chair is needed again. 

Can your students/children something that was passed on through generations in their family? Start with a conversation about those items before reading, then see if they would like to write or illustrate something about their special family item. If they can't think of one, is there something their family has now that they would like to share with their children some day? For homes without many tangible items, it could be an experience - a certain park they like to play at, for example. Connecting the past and future can be a powerful tool for children whose present holds some challenges.

**Side note: I almost hate to mention it, because I would love to see it so commonplace that it isn't worth mentioning, but...can I just say I am loving all the multi-racial families I am seeing in illustrations lately? Not as a trope of the book, just as the way things happen to be. Bravo to all the authors and illustrators making sure all kids can see themselves and their own families, whether in skin color or in experiences.

Saturday, October 12, 2019

Dewey Needs a Home!

This absolutely gorgeous little guy and his black sibling were first spotted on the roof of our library which, for those who are not local, is smack in the middle of town on one of the busiest streets. We set a trap and Dewey here took the bait. 

He started off scared and spitting mad (literally),

but has discovered people aren't all that bad - in fact, getting petted is kind of nice! He is still a bit scared, though, so he will hide behind the sofa and cry until you pick him up and plop him in your lap. Then he starts purring like crazy and leaning into your hand as you rub his chin and scratch his ears. He wants to be a loved house cat, he just isn't sure how this all works!

We have named him Dewey because he was caught at the library, and because, well:

We can't keep him as a mascot, though, so he needs a home! He can be adopted through Kitty City here in Alamogordo. The cost of $75 includes neutering, which is a pretty good deal if you have priced that lately. I will give him his first set of shots before he goes anywhere.

Let me know if you are interested in giving Dewey a loving, inside, forever home!

Friday, October 11, 2019

Review: Now You Know What You Eat - Pictures and Answers for the Curious Mind by Valorie Fisher


Valorie Fisher dives deep into the science of what we eat and where ingredients come from by exploring what happens behind the scenes of favorite, everyday foods like pizza, honey, milk, maple syrup, vegetable soup, and more! With the help of bold, eye-catching yet simple graphics, inquisitive minds will love discovering what makes popcorn pop, why bread rises, and how bees make honeycomb. With this book peppered with facts like how many eggs a hen lays in a year and how many gallons of sap it takes to make one gallon of syrup, readers will be fascinated by all the amazing things they never knew about the food they eat! Now You Know What You Eat also includes a glossary, and a graphic about the food groups, as well as an introduction to vitamins and minerals. With a growing focus on STEM for this early age group, this book encourages readers to ask their own questions about the world around them, and to fall in love with discovering the answers!

I can't decide if I am finding this book cluttered and confusing or fascinating and informative. Not helpful? Perhaps I should say it will depend on the reader. My analytical 8yo who loves math and details enjoyed it: my 13yo whole-picture learner not so much. The usage of simple math symbols to show what foods are made up of, and where they come from, was interesting. I had no idea where baking soda came from!

Once readers get the hang of the symbols and structure of the book, all of the information is imparted clearly and with engaging infographics and illustrations. I would definitely hand this off to visual learners and those who, like my 8yo, want to know how things work together. You might also want to look at the first book in the series, "Now You Know How Things Work", also by Fisher. We will be ordering it soon!

Small note on cover design - I missed the "Now You Know" part, and everyone I have handed the book to has done the same. I know the first part is the series name, but it comes up in searches and in OCLC as the beginning of the title, so that could cause some confusion for searching patrons or librarians.

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Book Review: Around the Table That Grandad Built by Melanie Heuiser Hill and Jaime Kim


This is the table that Grandad built.
These are the sunflowers picked by my cousins,
set on the table that Grandad built.

In a unique take on the cumulative classic “This Is the House That Jack Built,” a family gathers with friends and neighbors to share a meal around a table that brims with associations: napkins sewn by Mom, glasses from Mom and Dad’s wedding, silverware gifted to Dad by his grandma long ago. Not to mention the squash from the garden, the bread baked by Gran, and the pies made by the young narrator (with a little help). 

I KNOW we haven't had Halloween yet, but I have to give you time to order things, right? And you will want this book for your Thanksgiving read-alouds!

We steer away from the Indians-and-Pilgrims books here, so I am always on the lookout for something that talks about tradition and gratitude - the original purposes behind the Thanksgiving holiday. And, you know: food! 

All of these things abound in the easy rhythmic lines of this book. I love that so many things are handmade, or have special memories behind them. Our serving dishes are all handed down from my late mother in law, which makes it feel a little bit like she is still with us. I also love the rainbow of skin colors, and the fact that many of the dishes (samosas! yum!) are not the 'traditional' Thanksgiving fare (we always have dumfkraut!)

The illustrations are colorful and expressive. I love (how many times have I used that word so far?) the kids helping to carry and cook, with the expressions of the adults saying they want them to help but FOR THE LOVE OF PETE DON'T DROP THE GLASSES!

In short, this is a joyful, inclusive book you can read in any classroom or library time. Setting it aside right now for ours!

Monday, October 7, 2019

Review: The Wolf in Underpants by Wilfrid Lupano, Mayana Itoiz and Paul Cauuet


In this witty graphic novel, a community of forest animals trades scary rumors about a nearby wolf. Some critters have even gone into business selling wolf traps and anti-wolf fences. But when the wolf appears in a pair of striped underpants, everyone rethinks their fears. This is a heartwarming story about understanding differences, told with an oddball sense of humor.

Umm...that was a little...weird. And...demented.

I like it!

I would call this a cross between picture book and graphic novel. It doesn't read quite like a story, but it also isn't in short panels or strips as kids would expect of a graphic novel. I think I will go ahead and shelve it in graphic novels, more for the target age group than anything else. 

Illustrations are full two-page spreads, with a lot of conversation between animals, funny signs, and action going on all around. The main message is obvious, but delivered with humor. My 9yo loved it, and I think it would be enjoyed by kids younger and older.

Just watch out for the squirrel.

*sequel coming out next year!

Saturday, October 5, 2019

A year ago today...

...I was in Albuquerque meeting some super nice people, getting a psych eval that included a whole lot of laughing (not the maniacal type, promise) and a million medical tests, beginning the process that ended with this:

flying on an airplane all by its lonesome, to go live in a wonderful lady I am happy to now call a friend. Two years from today is the seventh anniversary of by beautiful friend Rachel receiving her new kidney. Just recently a coworker was able to do the same thing for a relative! His decision had nothing to do with me, but I was able to give him a few tips and what-to-expects along the way. Neither of us has any regrets, and we would both do it again. Since we can't (apparently you are only allowed to give up one kidney, go figure), why don't you think about it?   Check out this post from a year ago to get an overview and some links to get you started!