Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Review: Paper Princess by Erin Watt -or- What Happens When Ami Hates a Book

Paper Princess (Royals Series #1)

From strip clubs and truck stops to southern coast mansions and prep schools, one girl tries to stay true to herself.
These Royals will ruin you…
Ella Harper is a survivor—a pragmatic optimist. She’s spent her whole life moving from town to town with her flighty mother, struggling to make ends meet and believing that someday she’ll climb out of the gutter. After her mother’s death, Ella is truly alone.
Until Callum Royal appears, plucking Ella out of poverty and tossing her into his posh mansion among his five sons who all hate her. Each Royal boy is more magnetic than the last, but none as captivating as Reed Royal, the boy who is determined to send her back to the slums she came from.
Reed doesn’t want her. He says she doesn’t belong with the Royals.
He might be right.
Wealth. Excess. Deception. It’s like nothing Ella has ever experienced, and if she’s going to survive her time in the Royal palace, she’ll need to learn to issue her own Royal decrees.

I can't believe I read the whole thing.

Things I Learned from This Book:

- The more badly a guy treats you, the more attractive that makes him.
- Men can not control their physical desires, and that is not their fault.
- Men also cannot help beating each other up when they are upset, and that just makes them more manly/attractive.
- The only real power a woman has is sex.
- Adults can never be trusted to help you. They will cover up crimes and blame the victim (goes without saying that your peers will do the same.)
- Adults are also ridiculously oblivious at all times.
- The more money and power someone has, the fewer morals they have. That's okay, because
- The more money and power someone has, the less the rules apply to them.
- Men who threaten to sexually assault you should be forgiven and trusted again quickly.

I'm sure there's more, but as you can see this is the PERFECT little book to hand teens if you are motivated to perpetuate rape culture and turn them into little sado/masochists! We'll ignore the whole badly written/ridiculously predictable hang-ups.

Enjoy! (or...not.)

Monday, December 26, 2016

Cybils Round Up #3 - Arr, Matey!

A few more Cybils nominations that I personally liked, all with a piratical slant:

How to Find Gold

"Let's find gold," said Anna.
"That would be dangerous and difficult," said Crocodile.
"Good!" said Anna. "Let's go!"

Well, how can you not instantly like Anna? And Crocodile while occasionally the voice of reason, is never a wet blanket. This story is delightfully silly and full of adventure. The logic in it almost makes me feel like one of my kids wrote it - not a bad thing, they come up with some pretty wild stories! Visually appealing, an a perfect read-aloud to entertain both kids and their parents.

Speaking of visually appealing...


The illustrations are definitely the star of this show. The pirates, big and small, are instantly likable. They and their finds are in color, with almost everything else in black and white. Poring over details can keep little ones occupied for hours (where's that monkey this time?) Sparingly written text starts us off with "an old ship" and "a sad friend", then carries us off on a swapping adventure. Future rummage sale aficionados will be tantalized by the deal-making, as one loose button is traded for two teacups...which become three coils of rope...which due time, a new ship, and two happy friends!

Pirate's Perfect Pet

In addition to a ship, every pirate needs the perfect pet. Of course, anyone who knows anything about pirates knows just what that should be, but it takes Captain Crave a bit longer to figure that out. He and his crew search the beach (an octopus is too clingy), the farm (geese are too bossy), and the zoo ( he has his peg leg, at least!) Children will giggle all the way through, and cheer when he finally meets his soul-mate (in a perfectly appropriate way). Another sure hit for story time.

Remember, the Cybils Fiction Picture Books finalists will be announced January 1 at! There are seven first-round panelists including myself, and we had over 200 books to choose from, so a good or bad review from me does not necessarily indicate placement on the final list. 

Friday, December 23, 2016

Cybils Round-up #2

A few more Cybils nominees that have caught my attention:

Albert's Almost Amazing Adventure

Albert had an AMAZING vacation in Maine, and he can't wait to tell his friends about it! One day, he went to the beach and saw a man eating -

SHARK?!, a man eating a huge hot dog.

Albert has the admirable ability to appreciate the beauty in the ordinary. His friends are not so impressed, however, and his exciting account of his trip falls flat. This one made me immediately think of my middle guy, Logan who notices the cool tiny big in the big wide playground. Which made me immediately love Albert.

A Year of Borrowed Men

A very sweet story with lovely illustrations, covering one of those bits of history that I think I knew about and then forgot.

"When World War II 'borrows' the men in seven-year-old Gerda's family, the German government gives them in return three French prisoners of war who must sleep in an outbuilding and work the farm. Gerda knows they are under orders to treat the men as enemies, but it doesn't seem fair."

While there are some tense moments when the family is caught being 'too friendly' to the prisoners, this is mainly a story of friendship and humanity, told through the eyes of a child, and gleaned from memories of the author's mother.  Absolutely beautiful.

The Snurtch

Ruthie has a problem at school. She keeps getting in trouble for being not-very-nice. But it's not her, it's the Snurtch! That darn Snurtch follows her everywhere, throwing tantrums, being noisy, and generally being rude. When she finally faces the Snurtch and starts talking about him, he doesn't disappear, but he does become a little more manageable. And, as we discover, everyone else has some sort of Snurtch following them around too! A fun way to tackle some bad behavior with very young children, and isn't that a satisfying name to call it? (Try it - say it out loud - nobody is listening!)

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Cybils Round-Up #1

So many books, so little time left! Out of more than 200 picture books, the seven first round panelists for the Cybils award have to choose and come to agreement on the seven best titles, within the next few days. All I can tell you is that the list has been in a constant state of flux! Here are just a few that have caught my eye, although that does not necessarily mean they have made any shortlists - you'll just have to wait until January 1 to find that out 😉

Leave Me Alone!

I have shown this one to people here at the library and discussed it with others online, and it is definitely a love it or hate it book. Personally, I loved it - a little odd, a little warped, and a lot to identify with.

"There was once an old lady who lived in a small house...with a very, very big family."

Poor woman just wants a FEW minutes of peace and quiet so that she can finish ONE task without being interrupted - do I hear an "amen", moms? That premise may be more for adults to identify with than kids, but the increasingly drastic measures she has to take will tickle any child's funny bone. The illustrations are absolutely perfect, with a slight Russian/Ukrainian leaning that made me smile.

How to Be a Hero

Coincidentally, the kids were in the middle of watching (for the millionth time) "The Incredibles" as I was reading this. Gideon wants to be a hero and have his picture in the paper, but he isn't sure how to go about being a hero - especially once he realizes that being a hero mostly seems to be a matter of being in the right place at the right time.

Sly, somewhat sarcastic humor, with a twist at the end (just right for my smarty-pants daughter who always thinks she knows what is going to happen next.) Looking for a moral lesson? Move along. And that's fine with me, because I have seen enough of those to last a lifetime. Lots to look at in the illustrations, too.


My kids connected with this one much more than I thought they would, which made me go back and take another look. The illustrations are obviously sweet, and the story line is as well: Dennis prefers to show rather than tell (the word mime is never mentioned, but this is an excellent introduction). In a world where most people seem to prefer the opposite, that made it hard for him to make friends. Once the right person comes along, however, that whole world can change! For a week after reading this, during play time I would hear my kids say, "I'm being a...what's that thing called from the book where they don't say things?" (Pretty impressive when my constant talkers want to be the mime!)

Look for more round-ups in the next few days, as I try to put my thoughts down before the final cuts!

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Picture Book Reviews: New Babies in the House!

I'm putting these two picture books together, because they both deal (quite humorously) with having a new baby in the house.

Ninja Baby

When Nina was born, the doctor gently thumped her bottom to make sure she was breathing. Nina karate chopped her right back. "Congratulations," said the doctor, backing away. "You have a ninja baby."

Everything from getting baby Nina fed to putting her down for a nap proves to be quite a challenge for her parents. She WILL do everything on her own terms, and by herself if you please. And then...her parents bring home...

the Kung Fu master (a.k.a. new baby brother). And Nina begins to realize that doing everything by herself may not be everything it's cracked up to be. She and the Master join forces, and soon their parents don't stand a chance...or so they think.

Wonderfully expressive pictures, with a cute twist at the end. Kids who enjoy movies like Kung Fu Panda will get plenty of giggles out of this one. But parents, beware - I can easily see mine getting some sneaky ideas in their heads!

King Baby

"Now. Bring me the thing. Not this thing! The other thing! Bring me the other thing! These subjects are fools!"

Nothing ninja about this baby's methods, he is the King and all must know it! It's a lot of hard work to get those subjects trained just right, and along the way King Baby finds himself becoming...a Big Boy! But, without the King, who will rule the subjects? 

"We've got big news!"

Of the two, I preferred the humor and illustrations of Ninja baby, but both were a hoot. Gift these to any child expecting a new sibling - or to first-time parents-to-be! 

***These books have both been nominated for the Cybils Awards, and I am a first-round panelist in this category. There are many other panelists, and many MANY other great nominees, so a good or bad review here does not necessarily predict placement on the shortlist. 

Monday, December 19, 2016

Happy Birthday to the Catnip Kid!

A couple weeks ago, my youngest caused a domestic disturbance in the Walmart parking lot. His grandmother reports the conversation as follows:

Lady Passenger in passing truck ~ "OMG!!!!!"
Man Driving slams on brakes. "WHAT???!!!!"
Lady Passenger ~ "Look at him, isn't he cute?"
Man Driving ~ "Yes, he's f***ing ADORABLE. Don't you EVER scream like that when I'm driving again!!!!"
He was still yelling at her as they turned up the parking aisle...

That's my boy. Complete strangers walk up and say he's so cute, could they please buy him a toy?

And oh, yes, he knows he's cute!

But never more so than when he is a cowboy, with "mine hat and mine boots!"

Happy Birthday to my heart, my Catnip Kid!

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Review: The Messy Book by Maudie Powell-Tuck

The Messy Book

Oh look, another book about my children.

When we walk through Walmart, my eagle-eyed children spot every errant canned good that has rolled under the shelves, and they absolutely MUST crawl under, retrieve it, and find the exact spot on the shelf where it goes - no matter how much impatient Mommy just wants to get the shopping DONE and go home.

But, will they pick up the mess in their own house? All parents know the answer to that is a resounding NO. For some reason stalling and distractions are considered infinitely more productive than actually sweeping everything into the toy drawer.

Cat certainly thinks so! Why go to all that trouble of picking up a toy and dropping it into the box right next to you, when you could maybe shove it all into the nearby jungle. Or blow it up. Or just jump on it.

Once everything is FINALLY picked up and put in its rightful place, the animals have a party to celebrate.

Which causes a mess.

Children will thoroughly enjoy the humor, and this is loads of fun to read aloud, pausing to raise your eyebrows or give a particular child that look that says, "I'm sure you know nothing about THAT, now do you?"

I may have to gift this one to Shane (3 years old tomorrow) along with the Christmas present I already purchased:

Image result for hand vacuum

Yes, I'm serious. He'll be thrilled! Think about it, Moms and Dads - you can easily rescue Legos and hair clips (or choose not to), it will keep them busy for hours, and cleaning up will seem like fun for at least a day or two!

After that - well, it is still a fun book, highly recommended for preschool and early elementary.

***This book has been nominated for the Cybils Awards, and I am a first-round panelist in this category. There are many other panelists, and many MANY other great nominees, so a good or bad review here does not necessarily predict placement on the shortlist. 

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Review: Hungry Bird by Jeremy Tankard

Hungry Bird

Oh my goodness. Any child who has ever been ridiculously picky and/or melodramatic, and any parent of said child, will be sure to get a chuckle out of this one. 

Right from the start, looking at the cover illustration, you can tell that Bird is in extremely dire straits. He has gone hiking with his friends, and forgot to bring a snack. Of course, that is somehow their fault, and not his. He is STARVING, and certain to perish horribly if they do not provide him with sustenance IMMEDIATELY!

But not that, he doesn't like that! Ew, no, he doesn't like that either! Hurry up and find something he LIKES, before it is too late!

Why, no, this does not at all bring to mind last night's dinner of tacos (tacos! Who doesn't like tacos!) during which a certain 3-year-old whined that his taco was falling apart and he couldn't pick it up and he wasn't hungry anyways and could he have some ice cream?

Bird is already a huge favorite here, both in circulations and in story time read-alouds. I am looking forward to using this one in our spring programs!

Want to give this as a gift? Consider including a gift certificate allowing the reader to plan one entire meal of whatever they want - and then prepare that meal together! Here's hoping your reader won't want nice, juicy worms...

***This book has been nominated for the Cybils Awards, and I am a first-round panelist in this category. There are many other panelists, and many MANY other great nominees, so a good or bad review here does not necessarily predict placement on the shortlist.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Review: Armstrong, the Adventurous Journey of a Mouse to the Moon by Torben Kuhlmann


The first thing you notice here are the wonderful illustrations. Armstrong looks so soft and sweet I want to reach out and stroke his fur on every page. The sepia tones really invoke the 1960's to me, and the detail is just incredible.

Armstrong is a mouse with a dream, and a pretty lofty (pardon the pun) one at that: he wants to travel to the moon. The other mice scoff at his ideas - everyone knows that the moon is made of cheese, not rock! One other mouse gives him the encouragement he needs, however, and Armstrong begins a journey of trial and error, failures and success, danger and excitement. The basic science behind getting into space (and surviving while you are there) is explained in such a way that a child (or a science dunce like myself) can easily comprehend. It is a bit long for a picture book - more of a picture/chapter book hybrid - but the mother of one of my 6-year-old patrons reports that he has made his parents read it to him over and over. Their home is now full of home-made rocket ships, and he has requested an entire home schooling unit on the subject. What more could you ask for to determine the success of a book?!

***This book has been nominated for the Cybils Awards, and I am a first-round panelist in this category. There are many other panelists, and many MANY other great nominees, so a good or bad review here does not necessarily predict placement on the shortlist.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Review: Look, Look Again by Agnese Baruzzi

Look Look

Books with moving parts can be the bane of librarians, yet it seems like every board book I have enjoyed lately is just that type! Fortunately, this one appears to be sturdily constructed, and will hopefully enjoy a long life on our shelves.

Each set of pages shows a simple shape - a donut, and apple, a flower. Or, does it? Unfold the page, and you find one cat...or two crocodiles...or three roosters! The counting part of it is almost an extra. The real fun comes in learning to look at each shape differently, and in guessing what else it might be. Adults may remember similar photo games in magazines like National Geographic for Kids, or in the back pages of Reader's Digest. The hands-on manipulation takes this a step further (hey, anyone else remember folding the pages of Mad Magazine?) Littler ones will be amazed at the transformation, while older children can be led in games of, "what else could a circle be?"

A fun gift for a little one's stocking, or for your classroom/library shelves!

***This book has been nominated for the Cybils Awards, and I am a first-round panelist in this category. There are many other panelists, and many MANY other great nominees, so a good or bad review here does not necessarily predict placement on the shortlist.  

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Winter Holiday Program

We decided to revamp our annual program this year for several reasons. Doing things the same old way can make them a bit stale to begin with, so I am always looking for a balance of tradition and freshness. The huge turnout at our Family Fright Night told us our old format of stories then Santa then crafts just might not work any more. At the same time, those were all elements people enjoy.

An addition to the fun, a couple patrons responded to my remarks that I would like to include other holiday celebrations. While I fully realize Hanukkah is not "The Jewish Christmas" and wouldn't normally put them together, they happen to start on the same day this year, and Hanukkah is a lot easier to celebrate with kids than, say, Yom Kippur.

We started off by scheduling two story times, on the hour and half-hour. And then I lost my voice! Lots of tea with honey, and I was able to croak through okay. Fortunately, everyone came to the first reading, so I didn't have to repeat after all!

I started by talking about how many holidays there are throughout the year - some serious, some just for fun. Yesterday, for example, was National Hot Cocoa day, which is a most excellent holiday to celebrate.

A more 'major' holiday coming up is Winter Solstice, December 21. As with each holiday, I asked who in the room might celebrate it, and how. We talked about Yule logs, incorporating nature, and making goals for the coming year. One of mine is to be more regular with my blog, so you guys can hold me to it!

Next up was Hanukkah. We have a great wood Hanukkah kit that checks out, so we looked at and talked about each of the pieces, then read:

This Is the Dreidel

(Another one I like to use is Latke, the Lucky Dog)

Next up was Christmas, with, of course:

Mary Engelbreit's The Night Before Christmas

By this time my voice was cutting out, so I didn't read through the Kwanzaa book, just mentioned each of the seven principals from it:

The Sound Of Kwanzaa

I have noticed almost all my Kwanzaa books have checked out this year, where they normally just sit there on the display, which is great!

During the whole hour, we had Santa set up near the fireplace for chats and photo ops.

Of course he had little goody bags to hand out, to make sure everyone was getting properly sugared up.

Our Santa is so awesome! He really takes his time with each child, and makes them all feel at ease. Puppies, too!

Here, he is explaining what these children have to agree to if they are sure they want a slingshot for Christmas ;)

We also had several games and crafts in different parts of the library:

Melissa set up this cute little letter station a couple weeks ago:

She even made that mailbox!

Easy station to set up: guess how many in the jar.

(It was around 640 - a lot more than I would have guessed!)

Of course, you have to have the dreidel game! Chocolate gelt was crazy expensive, so I toyed with different ideas and finally realized pennies are...well, only a penny each! 

Bowling for snowmen:

Pin the heart on the Grinch:

Yarn wrapped ornaments:

Fishing for candy canes:

It's harder than it looks! 

And puzzle making with old holiday cards and popsicle sticks:

I think everyone had a good time...I know I did! Now, back to the tea with honey...

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Review: Shy by Deborah Freedman


Shy loves birds. He'd love to watch them fly and hear them sing, but he's only ever read about them in books. . .until a real bird comes along.  He's dying to meet her, but there's just one problem:  Shy is, well, shy--so shy, in fact, that he's afraid to leave the gutter of the book.  Can Shy overcome his fears and venture out onto the page?  

The more I read this book, the more enchanting I found it. The kids were intrigued by the fact that we aren't even sure what kind of animal Shy is until almost the end of the story. They had fun guessing (and several got it right), and while none of my kids can be described as particularly shy, they felt a great deal of sympathy and tenderness towards him. A great book both for shy kids - such an amazing world out there to discover, and some wonderful friends to make! - and for the rowdy ones like mine. 

The illustrations are soft and magical, lending themselves perfectly to the story. In some places, an entire two-page spread is simply footprints through a desert, while the very next shows a majestic mountain range stretching on forever. The muted colors make the reader feel as if they are ensconced in a warm cocoon. A lovely book for any age. Gift with a sweet little stuffed giraffe and bird, or books about birds or exotic places!

***This book has been nominated for the Cybils Awards, and I am a first-round panelist in this category. There are many other panelists, and many MANY other great nominees, so a good or bad review here does not necessarily predict placement on the shortlist.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Review: The Secret of Goldenrod by Jane O'Reilly

The Secret of Goldenrod

When Trina and her father move into an abandoned wreck of a mansion called Goldenrod, Trina thinks her life is finally coming together. She can put down roots at last. Maybe she'll even have a best friend! But the kids at school make fun of her, and it seems like Goldenrod itself is haunted.

Then Trina finds Augustine, a tiny porcelain doll left behind when the house was boarded up a century ago. Augustine isn't like other dolls: she talks and talks and talks. Augustine helps Trina realize that Goldenrod is trying to tell her an important secret . . . one that may just change her life.

I started the book out insanely jealous of Trina and her father. Just LOOK at that house! I love fixing things up, and you are looking at my dream home right there.

While Trina's father is of the same mind, Trina herself is not. That isn't too surprising, and fits well into this particular theme. There is a bit of thinking you want one thing, and finding another thing is better. Forming an impression of someone that changes as you get to know them. Stretching out of your comfort zone, remembering to think of others, deciding what kind of person you want to be seen as...all the traditional tropes of the coming of age novel, with the addition of a little mystery and fantasy.

The familiar topics make the plot 'twists' somewhat easy to predict, and a healthy suspension of disbelief is required - especially at the end. Upper elementary, wistful girls will devour it, however, and will want to see more by this author. As O'Reilly's debut novel, there is definite promise. 

Passage of note: 

"There was nothing wrong in letting Augustine believe whatever she needed to believe to make her happy."

Ironic because Trina later becomes angry with her father for doing the same thing, and a great question for discussion!

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Review: This is Not a Book by Jean Jullien

This Is Not a Book

This is (not) a board book, and those are generally aimed towards babies and toddlers. My kids, though (ages 2, 3, 5, 6 and 10), are all obsessed with it!

This clever not-book is a toy, an imagination station, a tool for interactive play. Each oversized, two-page spread is something different: a computer screen and keyboard just right for typing, a refrigerator to pretend to take food out of, a man on a tightrope to wobble back and forth as you walk a straight line, a boy inside a tent to prop up, and a set of butt cheeks to...well, I'm sure your kids will figure something out as well. There are no instructions, and none are needed - leave kids to their own imaginations, and they will take it from there. 

Of the 200 or so books I have brought home for Cybils, this is the one that has walked away from my desk the most often. I have the feeling I will have to buy a new copy for the library, because I'm not going to be allowed to take this one out of the house!

***This book has been nominated for the Cybils Awards, and I am a first-round panelist in this category. There are many other panelists, and many MANY other great nominees, so a good or bad review here does not necessarily predict placement on the shortlist.  

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Review: All Aboard for the Bobo Road by Stephen Davies and Christopher Corr

All Aboard for the Bobo Road

All aboard for the Bobo Road! Fatima and Galo load the luggage while their dad Big Ali drives the bus. Help count bikes, sacks of rice, melons and even goats and chickens as the bus travels past Gurunsi houses, the hippo lake, waterfalls and jungle, all the way to Bobo. With the authentic setting in Burkina Faso drawn from the author's own experience, this is a wonderfully fun introduction for small children to an amazing culture.

Even the title of this book trips off the tongue in a fun way. Cheerful characters are painted in equally cheerful colors. Readers get a small taste of daily life and culture in Burkina Faso - not a place about which we have a plethora of children's books - as well as counting practice, place names, and some wonderfully descriptive vocabulary ("They judder by fruit stalls...") Once kids get past the idea that the kids are riding on the ROOF of the minibus, they can marvel at just how much goes into and on that minibus.

A fun introduction to a place the author clearly loves to call home. Gift with a nonfiction book about Burkina Faso, or a toy bus with people and animals to pick up on the way through the living room.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Review: Chicken Soup, Chicken Soup by Pamela Mayer and Deborah Melmon

Chicken Soup, Chicken Soup

Two grandmas. Two delicious recipes. Sophie loves Bubbe's Jewish chicken soup, made with kreplach. She also loves Nai Nai's Chinese chicken soup, with wonton. But don't tell Bubbe and Nai Nai that their soups are the same!

Oh, my. Blending two families often comes with a few bumps in the road. Blending two cultures can make it a bit bumpier. And then when you start messing with Grandma's famous traditional recipe? Uh-oh!

Fortunately, Sophie comes up with a great way to settle things before the sparks really start to fly. This light tale offers a great discussion starter about differences and similarities, without being overly pedantic. Melmon's illustrations fit the text by showing differences in facial features and dress without stereotyping.

Aaaaaaand now I'm starving. Fortunately, recipes are included! Gift this with a cookbook or apron and a promise to make something special together soon.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Review: Lola Knows a Lot by Jenna McCarthy and Sara Palacios


Meet Lola! Lola knows a lot. She can cartwheel, she can tie her shoes...she can make her sister crazy. The only thing Lola DOESN’T if she’s really ready to go to school. 

I couldn't quite decide which of my kids Lola reminds me of, but she sure does seem familiar! I think she's an amalgam of the whole gang (and yes, I have been waiting to use that word since I first saw "Parenthood".)

Any time a picture book makes me laugh out loud, it is going on my story time list. This is perfect for kids getting ready to start school, or for any story time where your listeners have siblings! When Lola isn't quite sure she knows enough to start school (thanks to big sister making her nervous), Mom suggests she makes a list of things she does know. Some are practical (she knows how to make lists!) and some are hilarious ("I'm good at driving my sister crazy...I'm not saying you should try it. I'm just saying I happen to be especially good at it.")

In the end, Lola decides that while she doesn't know everything, she knows she is "ready to learn all the things I still don't know," which is an excellent attitude for all of us to have.

Illustrations by Palacios are bright and cheery, and it's worth checking out the kitten's antics and expressions in each scene. 

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Review: Girls and Goddesses by Lari Don

Girls and Goddesses: Stories of Heroines from around the World

Don't you just love it when the very first paragraphs of a book have you chuckling out loud and thinking, "Oh, I am going to LIKE this one!" I picked this title up after a rather disappointingly trite YA, and it was the perfect antidote:

"Dragons can be awkward neighbors, so when the Emperor of China saw a dragon settle into the cave at the top of the mountain behind his palace, he wasn't pleased.
It was the biggest, scariest dragon he'd ever seen. It had seven heads, on seven snaky necks, attached to one thick, green, scaly body, and each individual head had ninety-nine sharp, curved yellow teeth. (I'm sure you can work out how many teeth the dragon had altogether, but the Emperor didn't bother doing the math. He just knew it was far too many teeth."

Of course, the dragon must be fed a steady diet of little girls (peasants' little girls, not the little girls of important people), until one clever little girl comes along to slay the dragon. And she makes the Emperor clean up the mess.

I had actually heard this story before, minus that last bit, and Don's version is infinitely more entertaining!

Each story is approximately 10 pages long, which would make these great for a daily read-aloud in any classroom. Some are familiar tales with a few changes (Red Riding Hood had to pee??). The women generally come out on top, although they aren't always made out to be perfect. Original tales range from Venezuela to Japan to Ancient Sumeria. Endings (and beginnings) are sometimes gruesome, so probably not something for your preschool story time: but definitely a fun diversion (or holiday gift) for upper elementary or older!

Monday, December 5, 2016

Review: Otter Goes to School, by Sam Garton


Oh, Otter (shaking head fondly). In true Otter style, Otter doesn't actually GO to school, he starts his OWN school. Because, as he says, "I knew a lot of people who weren't nearly as clever as they could be." Things are going swimmingly, with lots of gold stars for everyone, until Teacher Otter realizes Teddy is upset. He doesn't have ANY gold stars, because he isn't good at ANYTHING. 

Dramatic self doubt ensues. Parent Teacher conference is called. And all works out just fine in the end, because, of course, it's Otter.

Otter never fails to remind me of my own kiddos, and this one made me chuckle at the way he gets SO into his own imagination that he upsets himself. (Like a certain child who had a fit because someone dumped all her imaginary candy on the floor and refused to pick it up again.) Garton's pictures are both quirky and realistic - who knew you could make a stuffed bear with no eyes look so morose? A crowd pleaser for both kids and adults!

Giving as a gift? Pair it with a big stack of school supplies, of course! Head over to the dollar store and pick up some fun items from the teacher section - desk labels, wall maps and inspirational posters, reward stickers, workbooks, etc. Then be prepared to find yourself one of the students!

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Review: Bumba Books, I See Ocean Animals by Tessa Kenan



Bumba Books is a newer brand from Lerner, offering nonfiction titles for the younger (PreK-1st) set that goes a bit beyond what we have been seeing. I think my love for Lerner's overall quality has been well established, and that is still here - the binding that stands up to library usage, bright photos, accessible fonts. Even at this level, the books contain a table of contents and index. In fact, I used a stack of them recently to teach younger kids about parts of a nonfiction book, and they mostly weren't listening to me because they were so excited to look at the books and trade them back and forth 😊

In Bumba Books, the glossary is a photo glossary, well suited to the younger readership. Another addition I like is the age-appropriate question bubbles: "How could having a small size be helpful?", or "Why might hunting in a group be better than hunting alone?" For parents beginning to share books with their children and not sure how to go about it, these are a nice way to prompt discussion. 

And, of course, you can't go wrong with the subject matter! Clown fish photos still elicit shouts of "Nemo!!", and who doesn't love a smiling dolphin or a toothy shark? Other animals in this series include the aforementioned sharks, as well as rays, jellyfish and starfish. Additional series currently include Community Helpers, Holidays, Machines That Go, Sports, Seasons and Pets (look for reviews of some of those next month!) If you are looking to bulk up your beginning readers, or address STEM needs in your classroom library, these sets are a pretty safe bet!

Friday, December 2, 2016

Story Time - I Can Do It!

I originally planned this story time because I wanted to read this book:


Very sweet story with a million little lessons and great pictures. When the time came, however, I decided it was too long for the group I have had lately (not bad listeners, just skewing younger, with a lot of new faces). I switched to these titles instead:

(out of print)

This one proved to be a little too long as well, but the kids Monday did like Milli's creations, and they lent themselves well to the craft project. For Wednesday's story time, I switched it with:

Lola Knows a Lot

Review of this one coming up December 7! Even though it mentions going to school, it is great for getting kids talking about all the things they CAN do (which led to some funny conversation with Wednesday's group).

The Perfect Percival Priggs

Cute story about the pursuing your passions (and not giving up) rather than trying to be perfect at everything - and about parents' expectations.

Finally, a favorite of librarians and art teachers:

The Dot

We had already talked about saying you are not good at something yet. This book addresses finding out you may good at something after all - especially when you let go of assumptions about what that means.

For our art project, I gave each child one 'dot' (plain paper plate) to start off with, but encouraged them to use more. I set out watercolors, scrap paper and glue (no markers!) and invited them to use their imaginations to decorate their dots any way they chose. No wrong ways to do it! The little boy who just kept dumping more water on his? Why not!

Practicing your scissors skills on the finished project?

Good for you!
And here is the one she left intact, which I also thought was pretty cool:

I was very happy that they all did indeed do something different:

This one made me think of The Big Orange Splot, one of our favorite books at home:

(Thank-you, Ellie, for the pictures!)

Lots of fine motor skills and creative thinking going on, as well as Print Motivation. Looking for a fun and easy Christmas gift? Package up:

- a ream of copy paper
- a package of construction paper
- old magazines
- a box of brand new crayons (come on, spring for the big box with the sharpener!)
- glue (lots)
- tape (even more)
- scissors

and let them go to town, no instructions. You can even pack it all inside a small trash can, for all the snips and squiggles that end up on the floor! Add things like yarn or popsicle sticks if you want, but try to shy away from already-prepared crafts. Let their imaginations take the lead!