Friday, September 28, 2018

Book Review: Can You Hear a Coo Coo? by Jamie Kiffel-Alcheh and Marc Lumer


My two main pet peeves with board books are: 1) Too much text, and 2) Too detailed pictures.

This, in short, is perfect! Young children can be introduced to the story of Noah's Ark with text that is:
and interactive.
The sinful people, angry God, and devastating flood are not mentioned - this is for babies! Books for babies are meant to introduce concepts and vocabulary and make reading fun, not impart deep theological messages.

Illustrations are:
yet adorable
3 or 4 colors on a plain background.

It's almost as was really made for babies! We don't add too many board books each year for lack of space, but this one will definitely make the cut.

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Review: Peek-a-Who? by Elsa Mroziewicz


Who could be hiding behind the lift-the-flaps in this uniquely-shaped board book? Brimming with colorful art that children will want to pore over, this clever book is full of hidden animals, each making a different sound. Can you figure out who each one is? Lift the triangular flaps to see who peeks out!

Normally when patrons ask me where the "lift the flap books" are, I answer with some variation of: in the trash. That is just not a format that stands up well to library usage. I may have to make an exception for this one!

This sturdy, triangular-shaped board book has flaps that fold down or up on each page, becoming a dog's paws or a cat's giant ears.

They appear to be pretty sturdy, made as a part of the whole page rather than a pasted-on piece, so I think I am going to take the chance. I know the kids will love it!

The text is pretty straightforward:

(and what kid doesn't love making animal noises?!), but it is the illustrations that really stand out:

Such gorgeous colors and patterns! You should really see the wolf - but I am not going to show him here, you will have to come in and check out our copy, or go buy one of your own!

And if you like it too, remember that Cybils nominations will be starting in just one week!

Monday, September 24, 2018

Review: Dig In! by Kari Cornell and Jennifer S. Larson

Logan (age 7) has turned into quite the gardener. We were finally able to plant a vegetable garden this year, and he wakes up every morning to go out with Daddy to water it. He carefully picks out all the snails and roly-polies that want to eat the pumpkin leaves and green bean stalks.

For his birthday, we decided to get him an indoor garden and grow light so he can keep gardening all year long. We have found starting from seeds a bit tricky, but with this book I think I have the solution!


Grow your own fruits and vegetables from nothing but kitchen scraps! Rather than throwing away leftovers from food in your kitchen, you can use them to grow more. Learn how to turn a single sweet potato into a pot full of them. Grow a salad from the end bit of lettuce and a lemon tree from a single seed. Several of these projects require nothing more than a jar, a windowsill, and a few pieces of food that would otherwise end up in the trash or compost. Step-by-step drawings and photographs make it easy to follow along, and fun recipes will help you enjoy the fruits of your labor.

We definitely have kitchen scraps, and the kids have already noticed things sprouting from the compost heap.

I have re-grown green onions and potatoes among other things, but I have never tried romaine lettuce from stubs or pineapples from the crown. Simple step-by-step directions with LOTS of photo illustrations will soon have you digging through your trash! The instructions are written in a conversational style, and are easily accessible to anyone old enough to read them.

Beyond giving new life to your kitchen scraps, this is just a great introduction for new gardeners. The opening chapter discusses planting zones, pH and pollination along with a plant's general needs of sunlight and water. Towards the end we learn things like making seedling pots out of newspapers. Lots of recycling going on here! Each section also includes a recipe to use when you have finished (re)growing your plants (lemongrass ice cream, anyone?) All these added details really help set this book apart from other kitchen gardening books I have seen.

Want to know what I like best about this book, though? While the instructions do say to ask for adult help, the pictures show the kids wielding the knives. THANK-YOU!!! I am a firm believer in teaching kids to use tools of all sorts at an early age, so they grow up knowing how to handle them responsibly. If your 8-year-old can't cut a lemon, you are probably going to be cooking for him when he is 20. Or, visiting him in the ER when he cuts his fingertip off the first time he tries it himself.

Mini soapbox aside, I am very excited to be adding this to our collection at the library, and then bringing it home to explore!

***For a seasonal approach to gardening, check out Cornell and Larson's earlier title, The Nitty Gritty Gardening Book.

Friday, September 21, 2018

Book Review: Little Pets Series from Lerner

Baby animals are so cuuuuute! When my mother adopted an orphaned baby pygmy goat, she got to come to story time, much to the children's delight.

No automatic alt text available.

Of course, she got bigger (and more obnoxious), as babies will do, but there is still no denying the attraction of tiny pets! Hence my assumption that this new series from Lerner will be very popular:


Don't you just want to squish it up (gently) and rub it against your cheek?


Hmm. Pixie was cuter, but you're sweet too I guess.

Cute tiny things make for impulse buys/adoptions sometimes, so it is important for kids (and adults) to understand it's not all Shopkins. The pygmy goat book reminds us that the adults can still be 50-85 pounds - heavier than many large breed dogs. They are master escape artists, climbers, and jumpers, and with or without horns they can knock you over with a good head-butt!

Dwarf rabbits may stay small, but the odor in their cage if you don't clean it regularly will not. Basic needs for housing, feeding, handling and exercise, as well as veterinary care, are given for each animal, to help potential young owners decide if this is really the pet for them. We get to see how each animal is born, and how its mother takes care of it as well.

As always with Lerner's early nonfiction, the illustrations (chiefly photographs) are large, bright and colorful. End pages include index, glossary, chart, and links for further information. Most important for librarians with a limited budget, I have never had a hardcover book from Lerner need its binding repaired. We will definitely be ordering the next two titles, Mini Horses and Mini Pigs!

Thursday, September 20, 2018

International Talk Like a Pirate Day

Arr! Ahoy! And Avast, ye land lubbers!*

I've said many times that, while spring is my favorite season in most regards, fall begins my favorite series of holidays - beginning with September 19, International Talk Like a Pirate Day!

Yesterday we celebrated all day long at the library, beginning with our preschool Playdate Picnic in the morning.

Ye could walk the plank,

or jump it!

Dress up in pirate garb,

Dig fer buried treasure,

Or try a number of crafts.

Of course, we had our pirate books on display,

along with some pirate trivia cards,

and some banned/challenged books - treasure indeed!

A hearty good time was had by all. And the corn cob from the treasure dig will eventually come out of the carpet. A great start to ye holidays!

*yes, we know: Pirates didn't really talk like that. Pirates were not good guys to emulate. There are still pirates today and they are Very Bad People. 
It's a fun day, guys: stop overthinking it.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Review: Meet My Family! Animal Babies and Their Families by Laura Purdie Salas and Stephanie Fizer Coleman


What kind of families do animal babies have? All different kinds! Charming text and sweet illustrations introduce a wolf pup cared for by the pack, a young orangutan snuggling with its mother high in a tree, a poison dart frog tadpole riding piggyback on its dad, and more. Featuring rhyming verse and informational text, this book lets you discover just how diverse the animal kingdom really is!

We have seen (and reviewed) books by Salas about rocks and water so far, time to branch out to living creatures!

At first glance, this is a simple picture book about the way different animals raise (or don't raise) their babies. Some keep their babies at home and both parents care for them. Others move around frequently. Some babies have multiple siblings, while others have none. Some live with their mother, while their father is absent. Some have two parents of the same gender. Some help take care of their younger siblings. Some...

...wait a minute, are we talking about animal babies, or about the kids in our classroom? It is easy to see the comparison between the many ways animals form families, and the many ways humans do. Just as it isn't 'wrong' when a doe raises her baby away from the buck, as the last pages say, "Every family's different - each family is just right!"

Salas does an excellent job of making the animal relationships familiar, without over-anthropomorphising them. As if that were not enough, she also throws in some vocabulary from cultures around the world, using the words for "mother" and "father" that might be used in the animals' native lands (with a handy chart at the end!) And THEN, she includes a map and list of habitats for each of them! And a list of additional books to read! And a note from the author! Whew! You could spend a whole week on lessons in the classroom with this slim volume!

Coleman's soft but colorful illustrations are the perfect accompaniment, striking the same balance of inviting but not trying to humanize. An excellent addition to any library shelf.

If you enjoy it as well, consider nominating it for the Cybils Award - nominations open October 1!

Monday, September 17, 2018

Review: A Heart Just Like My Mother's by Lela Nargi and Valeria Cis


Shy Anna doesn't think she is anything like her outgoing, funny, clever mother. One day Anna sees a hungry man on the street and decides to find a way to help. When she uses her tzedakah money for an act of kindness, she realizes she and her mother have something special in common after all.

Doncha' just love picture books that make you tear up and sniffle a bit?

Anna loves hearing stories about her mother when she was little, and it is obvious the two share a special bond. When we admire someone, we tend to want to be like them, but Anna can only see their differences - until an act of kindness she comes up with all on her own demonstrates how much alike they really are.

So much to explore here - parent-child relationships, different ways of showing love, concrete ways to help people, family memories, the beauty of community...and the illustrations! At once warm and cozy yet vibrant and exciting. Gorgeous!

I looked up both Nargi and Cis to see what else I might need to order, and discovered both have quite diverse offerings. I just added two of Nargi's cookbooks to my Christmas wish list!

Friday, September 14, 2018

Review: My Bible Stories series from Quarto

Bible stories check out here, both for fun and as part of some home schooling curriculae, but some of ours are getting a bit old. I loved the few Jean Marzollo wrote, but she isn't as prolific with those as she is with the "I Spy" collection!

Quarto Publishing has a series that has been out for a bit, but to which they are adding new titles. I was able to review these two:


Have you ever had a party to which nobody came? Even if you haven't, you can probably imagine how that would make you feel. Imagine if the people you thought were your friends made up excuses as to why they couldn't come. So, what do you do, sit home and cry, or find some friends who want to be with you?


Have you ever done something that you feel was too bad to be forgiven? This familiar story illustrates that there is simply no such thing. As the moral at the end states: "Just like the father in the story, God joyfully welcomes anyone who comes back to him."

Judging by these two titles, this series is written in a way that stays true to the original Bible stories, but presents them in a way that is easily accessible to young children. The final pages, in addition to stating the moral in plain language, offer some fun activities and discussion questions. I will be looking forward to seeing more titles in the series!

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Review and Giveaway: If You're Groovy and You Know It, Hug a Friend! by Eric Litwin and Tom Lichtenheld


You are looking at an instant story time hit here! Set to the tune and pattern of "If You're Happy and You Know It," this book will have both kids and parents singing - and moving - along from the first page. 

Song rewrites can get a little stale, but Litwin's changes and Lichtenheld's smiling critters add a freshness and whimsy that are just right. Beginning with, "If you're groovy and you know it, greet the day," the duo then invite us to laugh and play, go explore...and of course read a book!

The natural extension is to ask your audience (as Joe does on the last page), "What makes your day groovy?"

So, that's my question for you! What makes your day groovy? Grabbing coffee with a friend? Playing board games with your kids? Scaling Mt. Everest? I want to hear it! Add your answer in the comments, and you will automatically be entered into a random drawing for a copy of the book, signed by Mr. Eric himself!

Winner will be drawn and announced back here on Friday, September 21. While you are waiting, grab yourself a bunch of kiddos and let them make up their own verses to add to the song. Then get out and see how many of them you can cram into a day!

***The randomly selected winner was post #2, "Watching kids get excited about new books"! I will be e-mailing you for an address! Thank-you everyone!

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Review: Louisiana's Way Home by Kate DiCamillo

Available October 2, 2018

When Louisiana Elefante’s granny wakes her up in the middle of the night to tell her that the day of reckoning has arrived and they have to leave home immediately, Louisiana isn’t overly worried. After all, Granny has many middle-of-the-night ideas. But this time, things are different. This time, Granny intends for them never to return. Separated from her best friends, Raymie and Beverly, Louisiana struggles to oppose the winds of fate (and Granny) and find a way home. But as Louisiana’s life becomes entwined with the lives of the people of a small Georgia town — including a surly motel owner, a walrus-like minister, and a mysterious boy with a crow on his shoulder — she starts to worry that she is destined only for good-byes. (Which could be due to the curse on Louisiana's and Granny’s heads. But that is a story for another time.) 
Well, I made it all the way to page 197 before I was bawling.

I probably don't have to tell you that DiCamillo is a master at getting you inside a character's head almost immediately, and Louisiana is certainly no exception. I wanted to simultaneously grab her up and hug her tight, yet back off and let her discover the things she needed to discover on her own. I would happily attend any church pastored by Reverend Obertask, I want one of Betty Allen's cakes, and of course I want a crow who will come when I whistle and sit on my shoulder.

One of the things I love about DiCamillo's stories is that, while adults are there to help and guide, and all characters offer occasional words of wisdom, they do not flat out rescue. The main character is allowed to grow and fall and feel and figure things out all on his or her own. Because the reader is so immediately entrenched in the character's thoughts and feelings, that growth is shared. While her endings may not find all loose ends perfectly wrapped up, they do include plenty of hope and promise.

While this is a companion to Raymie Nightingale, it is not necessary to have read that book first - which is good, because I have not (hangs head in shame). The logical question now, however, is: When does Beverly's book come out?

Sunday, September 2, 2018

Navigators Games

Ellie and I wanted to do something really fun for the kick-off to our first full year of Navigators, so we came up with The Navigators Games - think The Hunger Games, but with less death. And less romance. And less overthrowing of the government (which, in this case, would be Ellie and me, so: none of that, thank-you).

Of course, the only weekend we had available was Labor Day weekend AND the first day of hunting season, so camp sites were a little crowded. Thanks to a certain marvelous husband we had a great spot reserved a few days ahead of time. 

Once everyone had arrived, we split the kids into groups to learn some basic survival skills. I had campfire basics which just happened to be one of our Campcraft badge requirements! We learned how to choose a spot, clear flammables, dig a pit, and line it with rocks (as well as why we needed to do all of that!)

We then talked about they types of fuel we would need (tinder, kindling, fuel), the three things a fire needs to 'live' (food, air, heat), and I showed them three types of campfires (tipi, lean-to and log cabin.) I don't know about you, but three is pretty much all I can remember of anything! Finally, we talked about how to kill a fire, by taking away each of the three things it needs to lives. 

With Miss Tara, the kids learned first aid - everything from snake bites to broken bones.

She's being the snake, maybe?

They even got to use a pocket wire saw to cut wood for splints!

It was super cool and handy. I need one of those for my purse, now.

With Miss Ellie they played a game to practice the points of the compass and following cardinal directions (badge skill!)

Image may contain: one or more people, tree, grass, outdoor and nature

Mr. Mike gave them a crash course in search and rescue - both what to do when you are lost yourself, and what to do when someone in your group is lost (another badge skill!)

Image may contain: 3 people, people sitting, tree, child, outdoor and nature

Last year for our communication badge we made up a secret code, so we spent a rainy bit writing each other messages. Can you tell what Cailan wrote?

I know, but I am not telling :)

We broke for lunch then, and boy was that an adventure - Miss Ellie brought MREs! The kids had an absolute blast poring through the contents and activating the heating elements. Personally, I think I ate cat food with jalapenos in it, but it was a hoot watching the kids swap things around and get so excited about what they found!

Speaking of point in learning all these skills if we can't put them to use, right? Some time after lunch we did a head count, and realized Gracie was missing! (Grandma was also missing, but nobody seemed to notice that right off). 

We reviewed what we had learned about search and rescue, picked buddies, decided on a likely direction (with a little prodding from adults with inside knowledge), and set off in a semi-straight line.

After quite a hike, we finally found our missing camper!

Image may contain: tree, plant, outdoor and nature

Oh dear, she appeared to be injured! Good thing we had all those first aid skills!

No, she wasn't really injured - or lost! Grandma was hiding in the bushes nearby!

Sage fashioned a beautiful splint with some sticks and Christopher's jacket.

Our new puppy, Trouble, gave her lots of puppy kisses, too!

That was a long hike for little legs, whether you had two or four, so we all took a break to explore and play on our own.

Did we mention it was also the first day of elk season?

No, we didn't let her keep it.

The kids quickly found entertainment in passing dirt bikes and ATVs. 

and rating them.

Others occupied themselves with setting up camp and organizing the food.

Once everyone had had a chance to rest, we moved on to our campfire challenge. Each group had to use what they learned in the morning to choose a spot and build a campfire together, with no adult help.

This group had a rough start - somehow they lost members, added a member who had missed the initial instruction (but who has built fires before), and they kept running into problems with soil and equipment. It was very frustrating!

They took a deep breath and regrouped, however, and even took the time to make theirs heart-shaped!

They even opted to go with the log cabin formation, which I have never actually tried myself.

The other group got theirs done quickly, opting for the lean-to formation. Then they kept fiddling with it while they waited, so we had to chase them off until we were ready to test them out - by lighting them, of course!

Group two, success!

We made FIRE!!!

Will the log cabin work, too?


In fact, it didn't take any coaxing, and was quickly up to cooking heat! I may have to use this one from now on.

We did it!! (But good idea, Sage)
I was super proud of them all!! The teamwork and tenacity were superb! They were excited to cook their own supper over fires they built themselves.

Image may contain: 1 person, sitting, child and outdoor

Marshmallows can be tricky.

Lanterns made with battery-powered tea lights made perfect night lights.

Thanks Miss Kathie!

 And then it got too dark for pictures!

Day 2:
Breakfast is always a bit subdued.

We had a hand washing station, but I'm not sure it saw much use.

Definitely a slow, easy start to the day.

We decided to work in two more badge requirements: naming parts of the tent, then pitching one and taking it down again without adult help.

Super start to the year and a great weekend adventure! Huge props to my partner Ellie for all the energy and knowledge she brings to these things, and to all the parents who jumped in wherever they were needed!