Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Review: The Fog Diver, by Joel Ross


Once the Fog started rising, the earth was covered with a deadly white mist until nothing remained but the mountaintops. Now humanity clings to its highest peaks, called the Rooftop, where the wealthy Five Families rule over the lower slopes and floating junkyards.
Thirteen-year-old Chess and his friends Hazel, Bea, and Swedish sail their rickety air raft over the deadly Fog, scavenging the ruins for anything they can sell to survive. But now survival isn't enough. They must risk everything to get to the miraculous city of Port Oro, the only place where their beloved Mrs. E can be cured of fogsickness. Yet the ruthless Lord Kodoc is hot on their trail, for Chess has a precious secret, one that Kodoc is desperate to use against him. Now Chess will face any danger to protect his friends, even if it means confronting what he fears the most.

Two series debuts in a row with a lot of potential! This one is definitely a bit more...er...nuanced than "The Fart Squad". The world building is excellent, and vivid enough that I think I am going to stay home the next time fog covers the mountain. Plenty of showing-not-telling, strongly defined characters, exciting action and adventure, mystery and intrigue. Readers will find humor in the scraps of history this future society has recovered in somewhat muddled fashion - like the "red-caped hero named Superbowl, who leaped mountains in a single bound and threw pigskins."

Pirates! Friendship! Machinery! Special powers! Kids defeating adults! The only thing this book doesn't have is a great deal of romance, and as a solidly middle grade book, that's just another plus. Grab it for your library now, and keep an eye out for the sequel!

Review: Fart Squad by Seamus Pilger

Fart Squad

It was an average day at Harry Buttz Elementary until . . . KABLAM! The five-bean burritos churning in Darren Stonkadopolis's stomach exploded in a fart so volcanic it melted his desk seat, knocked out his whole class, and got him sent to the nurse—and he's not alone.
Something fishy is going on in Buttzville. And it's up to Darren and his three farting friends to combine their potty powers to get to the bottom of this evil plot—before it's too late. With their scent-sei, Janitor Stan, at their side, the Fart Squad has to learn to harness the powers between their butt cheeks. And then let it RIIIP.

Like most librarians, I am always on the look-out for series that will interest preteen boys...and with a premise like this, the target audience is pretty obvious! Fortunately, it's not just bathroom humor - the writing is good enough that I can pass it along without qualms, and entertaining enough that even this old lady enjoyed the read. A good investment for any school or public library - and, either spring for the hardcover, or get several copies, because this one is going to get passed around and hidden under blankets for nighttime reading!

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Renaming a Fire Station

We live in an absolutely fantastic little mountain community, with absolutely fantastic people.

Who we never see unless we run into them for three seconds at the post office.

To help remedy that, the Fire Department decided to host a community pot luck. We provided the meat, and invited people to bring sides or desserts (or just themselves!) It's hard to get the word out in a place like this. We put flyers up at the post office, and at the only two stores in town, let the local hairdresser know, and created an event on Facebook.

According to Facebook, 16 people were coming.

But, as the time drew near, people started trickling in...

Cody (who had been there since noon) started flipping burgers...

Kids started defacing the carefully scrubbed cement...

More people started trickling in....neighbors started visiting...

And the food started piling up!

Oh my word, the food!

Never, ever, EVER pass up a chance to go to a mountain community pot luck. I did not eat a single thing that wasn't fantastic, and I tried my best to sample everything!

 And then Mike called everyone together for 'a few words'.

See the guy in the HRVFD shirt? Keep an eye on him.

Mike talked about what a great crew we have, and all the people who helped him out when he was first starting out at the FD.

 And then he called one of those people to the front - Emmett Savage.

Emmett gives Mike this look a lot. It keeps him in check. 
Mike told the crowd that Emmett has put 39 years into this fire department, serving this community in every position the department has (except female fire fighter, he was quick to point out).

So, what's your point, Mike?

Well, the point is, we want you to know how much you are appreciated, Emmett, so if you'll take a good look at this plaque...

...you'll see that you are now standing in the bay of the Emmett Savage Fire Station.

Oh, and by the way, your kids (one of whom lives way out of town) would like to congratulate you.

"What are you doing here?!"
 (He literally jumped back when he saw them! Please somebody tell me they got that on tape!)

I think the surprise was a success. And Mr. E can never say that we can't keep a secret.

Now...time to eat!

Junior firefighters first!

 And to visit! 

 Ooh, did I mention desserts?

This fabulous cake was made by Rene (the humidity was not helping things stay together, but I think it looked fabulous!)

Yes, that would be my daughter on her 16th trip to the table.
 More visiting! Tommy and Leon, there, were part of the department from early on, also.

Nobody has dropped a thing yet! What's up with that?!
 Shane wasn't feeling very good towards the end,

but he perked up for the desserts.

Mr. E is still trying to figure out how we pulled this off!

I have never seen Hunter without a smile on her face. I think Shane is slightly enamored!
Hunter's big brother, Oliver, may have something to say about that, though!

It took some time to convince Emmett that the pot luck came about because of the renaming, and not the other way around - I'm still not sure he believes us - but we do want to repeat the pot luck part! Chili cook-off in the fall, maybe? We'll be having a station work day on July 11, and an auxiliary meeting the next afternoon, so anybody interested in lending a hand is very much invited!

In the meantime, huge thanks to everyone who cleaned the station and trucks, went shopping, cooked,  set up, got the word out, and stayed to clean up. A special thank-you to the High Rolls Lions Club for the loan of the tables and chairs, and to The Spaghetti Western for donating a gift card to Sally, Emmett's wife, in appreciation for 39 years of missed meals and interrupted sleep!

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Every Superhero Needs a Cape!

This may prove to be our most popular craft of the summer. Messiest, and most expensive, too, but still a lot of fun!

We started off each story time with these three books, and I asked the kids to tell me what all three superheroes had in common:

Do Super Heroes Have Teddy Bears?

The Woods

The Astonishing Secret of Awesome Man

The answer, of course, is that not only are all three heroes actually kids, but they all have capes! We are all kids, and we are all heroes, so obviously we are missing one thing.

We did this with all ages, and it was neat seeing their different approaches.

The picture below doesn't do the colors justice, but this artist blended different shades together beautifully:

Most kids chose to use the puff paints (and leave them here to dry), but a few used markers so they could take them right away.

model pose!

Love the artistry!

Basically, if you can't tell, we just cut the fronts and sleeves off of a bunch of adult t-shirts. A couple thrift shops saved them for us, and we had more than enough - we may give plain ones out at our closing ceremony. I did advise the parents to cut the neckline and add snaps or Velcro, because I KNOW my kids will grab each other's capes while they are playing! I just didn't have time to do that to 300 capes.

Great work, kids, can't wait to hear how you have been fighting villainy!

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Reviews: More New Picture Books!

Freddy & Frito and the Clubhouse Rules

Freddy and Frito play together every day—sometimes at Frito's and sometimes at Freddy's. But there are rules. Rules aren't fun! So what do these best buddies do? They build their own clubhouse in a tree in the park! With no rules, there's plenty of fun—until all of their friends come by for a party, and suddenly Freddy and Frito wish for a way to make them all leave!

A word to publicists: if you are going to compare a new duo to "Mo Willems' Elephant and Piggie and the classic Frog and Toad," they had better really deliver. These guys don't quite come close. All on its own, this can be a nice little story about the need for some rules, but it's not quite rock-star-Mo-Willems caliber.

The Big Ideas of Buster Bickles

Buster Bickles's big ideas are always getting him into trouble. But when Buster gets to test the newly invented What-if Machine, anything Buster imagines becomes reality. Packed with rivers of chocolate, robot dinosaurs, and eggs-ray vision, the world becomes Buster's creation in this fantastically creative picture book by debut author-illustrator Dave Wasson.

Well, anything with rivers of chocolate can't be all bad - unfortunately, it was actually a river of caramel (read the book, blurb-people!), which is still pretty cool - salted caramel being all the rage now.

It is an understatement to say that my kiddos have pretty wild imaginations at times, and their "what-if"s have made for some interesting car combinations. This silly tale should go over well with them and with every other imaginative kid!

Chu's Day at the Beach

Chu and his family are going to the beach! Chu is excited. He will get to play in the sand and wade in the water. But what will happen if Chu sneezes at the beach? And what will happen if he doesn't?

We love Chu! He is just cuter than cute, and the oops-sorry-but-i'm-still-cute expression after he sneezes makes him even cuter. The beach is such a wide-open place, though...a sneeze couldn't possibly cause THAT much trouble, could it?

These books are all available in stores now, and on our shelves soon!

Monday, June 22, 2015

New Picture Books

Thank goodness for my TBR pile this time of year - that dead zone called "end of fiscal year", when purchase orders disappear, and nothing new would otherwise appear on shelves! Today I pulled out a few cute new picture books that should give a fresh look to the New Books shelf.


Sophie loves to dress up and play with her dolls, but she wishes she had a friend to join her. Then one day Sophie meets Goose. Honk! The two become fast friends. But when it's time for Goose to fly away, can Sophie find a way for him to stay?

and then

Goose Goes to School

Goose is back in an all-new school adventure! Everyone knows geese don’t go to school. So when Sophie hears flappy footsteps in class, it can’t be Goose, can it? HONK! It is Goose! There’s nothing better than a surprise visit from a friend, especially at school. Reading this heartwarming follow-up to Goose, readers will delight in Sophie and Goose’s next fun-filled adventure.

A sweet combination perfectly suited to little ones who may find it hard to make friends - or who are worried that it will be. Text is sparse, just a sentence or even a word per page, and the pictures are beautifully bright and simple. Of course, young readers will wonder why their mother is not so reasonable as to change her mind about bringing home wild fowl, but we can't have everything.

My guess is that we will be seeing much more of Goose and Sophie, and that our beginning readers will soon be asking for them by name!

Eva and Sadie and the Best Classroom EVER!

Sadie teaches her little sister, Eva, all about kindergarten. Sadie knows it's her duty as Big Sister to prepare Eva for school. But all this preparation makes Eva nervous—there's too much homework and no naptime, and how will she ever be able to buy her own lunch at school?

Did you know that school starts in 56 days, and that Sheridan is already registered for Kindergarten? If not, then you have not been within a mile of her lately, because she would have told you. Repeatedly. She told Andy Mason twice Friday, every third person at the Cherry Festival yesterday, and last week even struck up a conversation with someone she has been a little bit afraid of since she was BORN, just so she could impart that little fact.

She's a teensy bit excited.

But, in between the excitement, there are occasionally nerves, so this will be a good one to bring home. It starts off with Sadie helping Eva get used to no naps by keeping her awake. Sheridan is SO ready to be done with naps, I think this will grab her from the start, and the 'helpful' big sister will give them all a chuckle! Ultimately, though, the reminder that big brother will be right next door - and that she doesn't have to know everything the first day - will hopefully stick the most.

All three of these are available in stores now, and will be on the shelves here soon!

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Jammy Dump Cake

As I have mentioned a time or two before, I am slightly addicted to Bountiful Baskets. All that glorious produce, at such great prices! This weekend is our local cherry festival, and cherries are going for around $4 a pound, $3.59 in the stores when I looked this week, and on BB? Around $2 a pound. 

Sometimes, however, I order a teensy bit more than I can deal with in a week, and I have to make something quickly. There is only so much you can stuff into a freezer, so the fruit often becomes jam.

I have a lot of jam.

You can only eat so many PB and J sandwiches, and laws have made it ridiculously hard to sell things you have made at home, so I am always looking for new ways to use it. Today I got to thinking about dump cakes, and wondered if they would work with jams as well as with pie fillings. I couldn't find anything on line, which left me with one way to find out:

I remember when my old rafting group made dump cake, we used the squirt bottles of butter and put a ribbon on top, but that's one thing I don't generally buy. 

Layer half the cake mix, a pint of jam, the other half of the cake mix, and thinly sliced butter. Into the oven at 350 for about half an hour, and...

then completely forget to take a picture of it before you eat it. Think VERY rich brownies, perfect with cool whip or ice cream! I think next time I might give it one quick stir, as a couple spots stayed dry - or, maybe just use more butter. Otherwise, it was great! 

Now, what cake mix would go with the pina colada jam...

Friday, June 19, 2015

Tweens, Teens, and Andy Mason!

Another fun and busy week has come to a close! Monday evening, the tweens watched the movie "Sky High" while working on the first phase of their papier mache masks.

You could kind of tell who had experienced papier mache before and who hadn't.

You could also tell, after they had been drying for a day, who had listened to the instructions about wiping away excess, and who hadn't:)

But either way, they all seemed to have fun! Can't wait to see the finished products!


Thursday evening, the teens played five games of Minute to Win It, including

transferring marshmallows from one bowl to another using chopsticks,

and eating fruit by the foot without using your hands. We were just going to have one person per team try it, but everyone decided to try this one. One young lady who shall remain nameless slurped down three while her competition was still working on one. We were all rather impressed in a horrified sort of way.

Tossing goldfish from one cup to another.

My favorite, "cookie face" - getting a cookie (or cracker) from your forehead to your mouth, without using hands. I told the kids I wouldn't post anything too embarrassing, which pretty much ruled out all my close-ups.


Finally, Friday we had our perennial favorite, Andy Mason - a.k.a. The Pizza Guy (I wonder if he ever regrets writing that song?)

We started off sitting and listening,

or even reading (I love this kid),

but then we got to giggling,

and he got us up on our feet,

and pretty soon there was a dance party going on!

Sometimes adding our own little twists to the moves...

The kids kept inching closer, and by the end, I thought some were going to crawl up into his lap!

One young man even got to go up front and jam with him at the end, leaving with his very own harmonica.

Sway with me, sis!

Thanks again, Andy, for another great show!

Once again, NOBODY IS LOOKING AT ME! What is the deal, here, people?!