Thursday, February 28, 2019

Review: Dinosaurs Rule Series from Lerner



Take a peek beneath the canopy of prehistoric forests to discover the world of dinosaurs. Spread-by-spread battles pit species against one another in scientifically accurate battles, while fact files give report writers the info they need at a glance.

Dinosaur books are abundant and popular, so it can take some doing to set your series apart. Mason does this effectively by putting together accurate pairings of dinosaurs - those who actually lived in the same area and time period - in a dinnertime battle, each followed up with two pages of easy to read facts and pictures giving a quick rundown of each prehistoric animal. I especially liked the scale outlines showing how each would compare to an average human being.

End pages include a section called "Believe It or Not" (Allosaurus may have eaten its prey live!) and a couple pages on subjects such as the death of the dinosaurs or dinosaur mysteries (sorry, I still say the Loch Ness monster is real). This series balances the line carefully of drawing in readers looking for excitement without sensationalizing to the point of losing accuracy. A nice addition to your elementary or middle school library.

Monday, February 25, 2019

Review: Last of the Name by Rosanne Parry


Twelve-year-old Danny O'Carolan and his sister, Kathleen, arrive in New York City in 1863. Kathleen refuses to be parted from her only remaining relative, so she finds a job in domestic service for herself and her younger...sister. Danny reluctantly pretends to be a girl to avoid being sent to the children's workhouse or recruited as a drummer boy for the Union army. When he occasionally sneaks off to spend a few hours as a boy and share his rich talent for Irish dancing, he discovers the vast variety of New York's neighborhoods. But the Civil War draft is stoking tensions between the Irish and free black populations. With dangers escalating, how can Danny find a safe place to call home?

While Civil War novels abound, this is not a perspective often seen: that of Irish immigrants, who escaped terrible persecution and danger in one country, only to find it again here. We learn about the sources of tensions gradually through Danny and Kathleen's eyes, as they learn to navigate their new home. A variety of characters, many as interesting as the main characters, help readers understand that there are usually multiple sides to any conflict - and that violent, emotional responses have unintended consequences. There is even a bit about gender, race, and class privilege. While some may tend to put all early immigrants into the same frame of mind, details help readers understand how very different each group could be - in history, in faith, in prejudice, and in While the final solution stretches plausibility, it is rewarding to see things come together for many of the characters.

This book will be available in April, and may help fill in a gap in your historical fiction that you didn't know you had!

Monday, February 11, 2019

Toddler STEAM - Be My Valentine!

Our first Toddler STEAM of the year was all about the pink and red!

Fizzing Hearts

Miss Cheryl cut out 80 million white paper hearts for us. Kids were instructed to sprinkle some baking soda on the with the spoon, then add a drop of colored vinegar with a pipette. What kid doesn't enjoy that combination?! 

What happens if you add another color and let it mix? I had another newspaper-covered table available for drying, so kids could take their creations home.

Sweet Sorting

In which Miss Ami gets to show off her chopsticks skills! 

I really need to start video taping. Right after I snapped this, she got it! She picked one up with the chopsticks and dropped it in the right bowl!

We do this program twice in a week, so I used a different bag for each day. Kids will inevitable eat a few, and this way I knew they had at least not been handled prior to that session. In a couple weeks they will be used by the teens and tweens for a craft project, so no waste!

Patterns in Pink

And purple, red, and white. 

Heart Homes

Engineering, talking about what types of homes animals need, and of course fine motor skills. 

The kangaroo looks confused.

Crowns are cool, too!

I like how we are all pretending we don't see that lion staring at us.

Again, a new bag of marshmallows for each session.

Cup Stacking

I love these tiny cups I grabbed at Walmart - perfect for portioning out craft materials as well as STEAM projects!

The grown-ups liked this one, too!


This was a last-minute addition, after I found the sets of cookie cutters for just 98 cents at Walmart. At first I thought about clay, but this was much faster to throw together. Centered on a couple big rugs to hopefully eliminate slippery floors. You can use the straws to blow bubbles inside the hearts, or pick the hearts up and blow bubbles through them (why doesn't the bubble come out in a heart shape? Hmm...)

Pink Pool

Sliced up pool noodles to string or stack

or sit in!

Red, White and Pink Rice Bin

In the pool to keep it from scattering (who am I kidding?!). We were using it for a craft project last week, and all my buddy Ian wanted to do was sift through it, so I promised him we would play with it this week! Somehow I did not get any pictures of kids playing with this center, but believe me, everyone hit it at least once. Of course some scattered, but a quick pass with the vacuum got it up.

Thanks for coming and playing with us, everyone!

Friday, February 8, 2019

Review: Voice of Power by Melanie Cellier


In Elena's world words have power over life and death--but none more so than hers.

As the daughter of shopkeepers, Elena has always known that the mysteries of reading and writing were closed to her. Only the mageborn can risk harnessing the power unleashed from putting pen to paper. Until Elena discovers an impossible new ability and joins the elite ranks of the mages.

But with the kingdom at war, the authorities can't agree if Elena is an asset, or a threat they need to eliminate. Thrust into the unknown world of the Royal Academy without friends or experience, Elena will need all of her wits, strength, and new power to carve a place for herself.

Except as the attacks become more personal, wits and strength won't be enough. Elena will have to turn to new friends and an enigmatic prince to unlock the mysterious potential of her words and survive her first year as a trainee mage.

Melanie Cellier first came onto my radar with her Four Kingdoms and then her Beyond the Four Kingdoms series. I can't for the life of me remember how I first spotted them, because they aren't quite in the mainstream markets here. They need to be! My coworker and I devoured them, as did every teen or preteen I handed them off to, until I literally could not keep them on the shelves. Wonderfully entwined fairy tales, satisfying (but very 'clean') romances, character development, fairy godmothers, action, strong female characters - the perfect escape novels!

So of course I was excited to see Cellier had started a new series, but I have to say this first title blew me away. I'm not sure that I would have immediately recognized it as her work, and I mean that in all the good ways.

Cellier's writing has definitely grown and tightened up with practice (not that it was shabby to begin with!) This series, while there is still a teasing of romance to come, is much more firmly focused on character and world building, and is not as predictable as the earlier series. It reminded me for all the world of Sharon Shinn's books at times, and if you know anything of my tastes, you know that is a high compliment!

I read Voice of Power in stolen moments before I even got it cataloged (and it is already on hold for another Cellier fan). As I neared the end I simultaneously thought, "Oh good, I am almost finished," and "Oh no, I'm almost finished!" I was sucked into Elena's worries and triumphs, and was not at all willing to leave that world so soon. Unfortunately, while the second book is out, it is only on Kindle so far - which means I have to decide between my huge distaste for reading on a device, and the torture of having to wait for Voice of Command to come out in print!

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Review: Discover Planets Series from Lerner



Just in time for the 2019 Summer Reading theme of space! Half of the eight books in this series (no, they don't include Pluto - hmph!) are written by Georgia Beth, the other half by Margaret Goldstein. Both authors are familiar names among Lerner's publications, from collections of jokes to books about Native American civil rights.

Basic facts about each planet are included, along with simple explanations (what does it mean when we say Saturn is the least dense planet?) Fun "STEM Highlights" help give those facts more meaning (Saturn's lack of density means it gets squished as it spins! Each season is seven years long! That is WAY too much winter for anyone.) Text doesn't simply detail what we know, but also how we know it (Did you know Mercury is shrinking? The core is still hot, but the outer layers are cooler, so it is wrinkling up like a cookie when it bakes and cools!)

Illustrations, both drawings and photographs, are crisp and bright. I appreciated notes telling where color had been added, and why. A section in each called "Looking Ahead" details future planned explorations, or things scientists still want to learn about each planet.

If I were an elementary grade student needing to create a poster board for an assigned planet, this would be my go-to series. As a librarian/teacher, I may be pulling some display and experiment ideas from these myself! A solid addition to the classroom or school library.

Friday, February 1, 2019

Review: Seek and Count by Yusuke Yonezu


Lift-the-flap books are not generally a favorite of librarians, but this one is nice and sturdy. One egg opens to reveal one chick, which is pretty simple and unsurprising. The next page, with the expected number two, however, has one tulip...but that tulip opens to show two butterflies!

This can quickly turn into a fun guessing game. What three things might be under the blanket? What four things could be on the road? My favorite was the six fresh potatoes, clinging to the roots of the plant!

Colors are bright, and pictures are simple and clear, happily avoiding all my board book pet peeves - and making it perfectly appropriate for your little ones!