Saturday, August 30, 2008

Fractured Fairy Tales: Leah Wilcox

I don't know how these slipped under my radar before, but I've recently discovered the joy of Leah Wilcox's fractured fairy tales. First up is Falling for Rapunzel, which is one of the books we're using in our storytime sessions this fall.

The story starts out in the typical way... Rapunzel is up in the tower and a handsome prince comes to her rescue. Or, well, he tries to come to her rescue:

"Rapunzel, Rapunzel, throw down your hair!"
She thought he said "Your underwear."

"No, Rapunzel. Your curly locks!"

Rapunzel threw down dirty socks.

The prince tries and tries to make Rapunzel understand, but every time he yells to her, she mishears him until finally he cries "Rapunzel, Rapunzel, let down your BRAID!" and the mistaken girl throws down her maid. Once the prince and the maid spy each other, a true love connection is made and the two ride off into the sunset.

Silly rhymes and even sillier pictures (by the incomparable Lydia Monks who also did my favorite spider picture book: Aaaarrgghh! Spider!) will have the kids laughing throughout.

So, I had just read Falling for Rapunzel and what should show up on our new cart but Waking Beauty written and illustrated by the same pair! Serendipity doo dah! In this twist on Sleeping Beauty, a handsome prince stumbles across Sleeping Beauty, sound asleep, and three fairies guarding her. Although the fairies TRY to TELL HIM what will wake the princess, the prince keeps interrupting and trying his own solutions. None of which work.

They shook their head. "No, not like this,
you have to wake her with a -"

"Hey! I know!" He tapped his head
and started jumping on the bed

Kids will be chiming in to finish the rhyming instructions, even as the prince tries shouting at her, throwing water in her face, and even shooting her out of a cannon. Again, the silly verses and pictures make this a surefire hit for storytime. I'd try 'em with older preschoolers on up through lower elementary.

Thursday, August 28, 2008


As of Friday around noon-ish, I'm taking a little trip to visit some friends, watch some fireworks, eat Skyline chili dip, and generally relax. I'll have some posts a-posting, but I'll be AWOL until the middle of next week for email, comments, reading blogs etc.

Have a safe and happy Labor Day Weekend!

Book Review: Moxy Maxwell Does Not Love Writing Thank-You Notes

Moxy Maxwell Does Not Love Writing Thank-You Notes by Peggy Gifford. (Grades 3-5.)

Moxy Maxwell had a great Christmas. She got lots of nice gifts and soon she and her brother Mark are going to Hollywood to spend a whole week with their dad! Moxy and Mark haven't seen him in three years, so Moxy is understandably looking forward to it. Not to mention her plans for being "discovered" and catapulting into superstardom while she's there.

There's only one problem with this plan. Mrs. Maxwell says that Moxy has to get her thank-you notes written before she leaves for California. Moxy has twelve thank-you notes to write. And it's not that she's not grateful. She is. It's just that it's so much work. Moxy has some ideas to make it easier. They include enlisting the help of her younger sister, using her step-dad's brand new copier (that no one is supposed to touch), and getting her hands on some gold spray paint (there are five reasons that Moxy is not allowed to touch a can of spray paint until she is twenty-one).

Will Moxy get her thank-you notes written?

This sequel to Moxy Maxwell Does Not Love Stuart Little goes a little deeper than the first book. We see more of Moxy and her family, including her unreliable father. As the book progresses we see that Moxy's dad has canceled on her Christmas visits the past two years. Mark is a little more realistic and tries to prepare himself for the disappointment that might come. But Moxy is totally counting on this visit, looking forward to it with all her might. And in the end we'll find that Moxy does have someone she can count on... but it might not be who she thinks.

A little longer than the first one and a little bit heavier in terms of content, Thank-You Notes really makes me want to see more of Moxy Maxwell. She's got an interesting family dynamic and a unique way of looking at the world. It's illustrated with photos purportedly taken by Moxy's twin brother Mark, just like the first book was, which is effective and makes the series a little different. (Can you call it a series with just two books? I suppose I am hoping for more...!)

(Ooh and it looks like there's going to be a third according to Peggy Gifford's website. Hooray!)

Also reviewed by Mary Lee over at A Year of Reading.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Back to School Crafts

Last week I hosted a Back to School Crafts program for our middle schoolers and a good time was had by all. First of all, I have to give props to The YA YA YAs because I totally got these ideas from them.

We started by making pencil holders out of CD jewel cases. I was supremely lucky in that one of our tech guys happened to have a whole HUGE box of jewel cases that he was looking to get rid of. Instructions for the craft are on Craft Chi. I made a couple on my own before I started and I've got a couple of recommendations.

When taping the bottom piece and the inside dividers, I found it easier to put strips of tape on first and then place the pieces where I wanted them and fold the tape over to tape in place. So, say for the bottom piece, I flipped it over and put tape on each side. Then I placed it on the square piece and folded the tape over (as opposed to holding it in place and putting each piece of tape on). Also, (maybe this is common sense) I found it much easier to cut strips of tape in advance rather than putting one piece on and holding it in place while I tried to cut more tape.

The kids completed this craft in about 20 minutes and what I liked best was that everyone's was different (different colors, different placement of the dividers, etc.).

When everyone was finished with their pencil holder, we moved on to creating locker magnets. These are super easy, super fun, and look super cool. I bought flat craft marbles at Hobby Lobby (after looking ALL OVER the store for them, I found them with the floral/wedding stuff). You can use any old magazines you want... we actually used a bunch of our old Midwest Tapes catalogs because they had tiny pictures of DVD covers that turned out really well. Just lay the marble down on the paper and trace around it. Cut out the picture and glue it to the flat side of the marble so that you can see the picture through the rounded side. It's much easier to put the glue on the marble than to put it on the paper. Then glue a magnet on the back.

The kids had a blast making magnets and they didn't want to stop. (We totally could have done that for the whole 45 minutes and they would have been fine with that.) I let them take some of the leftover supplies home and emphasized that they could get all this stuff at any craft store for cheap and the magnets would make great gifts!

Yay for a fun, CHEAP, easy craft program!

Monday, August 25, 2008


The Cybils! The Cybils! Things are starting to gear up, so head over there and check it out! The call for volunteers has been... called... and nominations for books will start October 1, so be thinking about your favorite books of 2008 (published between Jan. 1 and Oct. 15).

Also, today is Non-Fiction Monday, so be sure and check out the round-up over at Picture Book of the Day. I, again, have nothing to contribute, but I just checked out a stack of awesome-looking NF books, so I have high hopes for next week. ;)

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Two from Lane Smith

With the presidential election coming closer and closer, one topic on this librarian's mind is presidential picture books. So I'm happy to point out that Lane Smith has a great, very timely, new picture book out: Madam President.

A little girl, freckles all across her nose, hair pulled back in a no-nonsense ponytail, imagines what it would be like to be president. Giving executive orders ("More waffles, please."), kissing babies, negotiating treaties (between a feuding dog and cat), and much more. Smith's signature illustrations are hilarious. I love that everywhere she goes, Madam President hands out tiny American flags. She's appointed her cabinet, including Secretary of State, Secretary of Defense, Secretary of Pizza, and Secretary of Secretaries. Every time I look through this book, I find new details that make me love it even more. I was laughing the whole way through.

And speaking of books that make me laugh, I've also had the pleasure of reading Bob Shea's new book (also illustrated by Lane Smith): Big Plans. As a little boy sits in the corner of his classroom, he warns that "soon the entire world will know of my big plans". Because although he might be in a spot of trouble at the moment, this boy has BIG PLANS. BIG PLANS, I SAY!

Half the fun of this book is yelling out those words. The other half is laughing at the fantastic plans this boy is making and the silly illustrations that depict them. If you look carefully in the first spread, you can see the boy's inspiration for everything that will come. This is something to pay attention to because it will make all that is to follow significantly less weird. (I did not notice this until I'd read the book a few times and it makes sooo much more sense now.)

What are the big plans, you ask? Dressing for success and taking over a major corporation. Dropping in on the local sports team and saving them from certain defeat. Taking over the president's job (he's only too happy to bow out after learning that this boy has BIG PLANS!). And much more. The details in the illustration add so much to the story, right from the first page where we see a chalkboard filled with sentences the boy has purportedly written as punishment. One of the sentences is "I will not scheme in class." And the fun continues from there.

If you like Madam President, be sure to pick up Lane Smith's John, Paul, George, and Ben about our founding fathers. And if you like Big Plans, you'll certainly want to find Bob Shea's New Socks.

More reviews of Madam President are here, here, and here. Another review of Big Plans here. I'd recommend both of these for lower elementary kids (K-2 or so) and you'll want to make sure they have the opportunity to pore over the pictures and find all the details in the illustrations.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Book Review: Living Dead Girl

Living Dead Girl by Elizabeth Scott. (Grades 10+)

Whoa. This one is intense.

Alice was kidnapped at the age of 10 when she was on a class field trip to the aquarium. She's now lived with Ray for five years, enduring unspeakable things. Ray starves her in an attempt to keep her small and young-looking. He promises her that if she ever tries to run, he will kill her parents. And then he tells her to find him a new girl, a girl that Alice can teach to please him.

This book is not for everyone. The faint of heart should turn away now. But man did Elizabeth Scott have me on the edge of my seat.

I read this book in one sitting because I just couldn't put it down. It's disturbing, yes. Haunting... check. And also, it's beautifully written. Scott puts you there. I felt like I was watching it all happen (which was doubly disturbing, considering the subject matter).

And here's the thing... I had no idea what was going to happen. Right from the beginning, I knew that this was a no-holds-barred kind of book. Alice could be saved or save herself or she could die or (worse) she could not die. She has very little hope, tiny smidgens of opportunity, and I found myself rooting for her vehemently (out loud, alone in my apartment... I'm sure my cats judge me for that).

Although the writing is beautiful, the story is not beautiful. It is harsh and ugly and because of that it is utterly real.

I'm curious to know what teens will think of this book. Coming to it as an adult (and especially an adult who works with children), I found it profoundly disturbing. Will teens, who are much closer to the protagonist's age, find it as disturbing as I did? I'm thinking that those teens who gobble up those intense, issues books (like, say, maybe Boy Toy or Lucky) will devour this one, too.

Be sure and read Becky's review, check out Pam B. Cole's interview with Elizabeth Scott, and visit for more info about the author.

Many thanks to Elizabeth and to Simon & Schuster for sending me an ARC of this title!

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Book Review: Anatomy of a Boyfriend

Anatomy of a Boyfriend by Daria Snadowsky. (Grades 9+)

Dominique is a senior in high school and has never had a boyfriend when she meets Wes at a school sports event. It's pretty much lust at first sight and the two start emailing and IMing, eventually growing closer and falling in love. The reader accompanies Dom as she experiences her first love and everything that goes along with that. Think Forever but updated. We get all the gritty details as things heat up pretty quickly and before the end of senior year, they've lost their virginities to each other. Dom approaches sexuality with a scientific (as well as emotional) curiosity. Her dream is to be a doctor and Gray's Anatomy is a favorite book of hers.

The book has a very frank tone and Snadowsky doesn't leave anything out. I felt just like I was reading Dominique's diary and more than once I felt like I was reading about my own first relationship. I actually didn't read Forever until I was in grad school (how I missed it, I have no idea), but I wish I had had Anatomy of a Boyfriend when I was in high school.

Dom's experience felt really real to me. After she falls in love with Wes, her life starts to center around him. Her friends and family all start to take a backseat, which is especially problematic once Dom and Wes leave Florida to go to different colleges. I have to say that I didn't always believe Dom's voice... especially in the IM conversations with her best friend and Wes, it didn't sound natural to me. But that's a small problem and I found the plot very believable.

Anatomy of a Boyfriend is coming out in paperback on Sept. 23, so run out to your favorite bookstore and buy a copy. Thanks much to Daria Snadowsky for sending me a (signed!!) copy. Do be sure to check out her website and also stop over at Random House and build your own boyfriend!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Book Review: Alvin Ho

Alvin Ho: Allergic to Girls, School, and Other Scary Things by Lenore Look. (Grades 2-4.)

Alvin Ho is scared of many things. Thunder. Elevators. Shots. School. In fact, Alvin Ho is so afraid of school that he can't even talk at school. And therefore, he has no friends. Oh, his brother gives him advice on how to make friends. Alvin tries to win his classmates over at Show and Tell (but it doesn't work out for him because Alvin is all Show and no Tell). Alvin's parents even send him to therapy, which might not be particularly effective:

"A therapist is a smart person who wears glasses and can help you with your problems by asking a lot of questions instead of giving you shots, which is amazing. But a psycho, as everyone knows, is a crazy person in the movies that you never want to run into in real life. So a psychotherapist is a very smart crazy person that you should stay away from for your own good." (pp. 111-112)

Alvin Ho has many adventures including getting stuck in a tree, facing a substitute teacher, and getting the chicken pox. Through it all, he strives to be a gentleman and continues to try and make friends. After a brief dalliance with the class bully, he'll figure out how to make a true friend.

I loved Lenore Look's Ruby Lu books and I enjoyed this one as well. I was chuckling the whole way through and I love the illustrations done by LeUyen Pham. Alvin's a charming young man, despite his faults. He's not perfect. He messes up. He doesn't always make the right choices. But when he makes mistakes, he fesses up (with the appropriate amount of tears to soften the blow, of course).

And when he does mess up, his dad is there to support him. That's one of the things I loved about this book was the presence of a smart and involved father. When the Ho kids have chicken pox, Mr. Ho spends a couple of days at home so his wife can go in to work. He brings out his own beloved childhood toy and plays with Alvin. Alvin looks up to his dad, respects him, and strives to be like him.

I'd hand this one to fans of Clementine because of its humorous tone and slightly-mischievous-but-warm-hearted main character. I'd also hand it to fans of Donuthead by Sue Stauffacher, another chapter book about a paranoid grade-schooler.

Also reviewed by A Fuse #8 Production and appearing on the ACPL Mock Newbery list and the Anokaberry.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Book Review: Nick of Time

Nick of Time by Ted Bell. (Grades 4-7.)

Nick McIver is a resourceful 12-year-old boy living on the island of Greybeard in the English Channel which was "famous for having more cows than people". The year is 1939, the summer is stretching out before him and Nick has no greater concerns than sailing his boat around the island (without crashing!) and watching out for his little sister.

That is, until Nick finds out that his father's newly blossoming "bird watching" hobby is actually a spying mission for Winston Churchill. And pirates show up on the island. And Nick finds a strange sea chest with his name carved on it. And the more Nick learns about this sea chest, the wilder his adventures will become.

If you're looking for a rollicking adventure story, this will certainly fit the bill. It's written in an almost old-fashioned tone, reminiscent of classic adventure novels like The Swiss Family Robinson. The action starts from the first page and doesn't let up. There are daring near-wrecks at sea, pirates, spying, storms, a treasure chest, an eclectic recluse, submarines, underground armories, a kidnapping, sea battles... and, of course the time travel.

I have to say that I didn't fully buy into Nick's voice. To me, he sounded more like a modern-day American teen than a British boy from the 1930s. And I have to wonder if it wouldn't have been a beautiful, interesting historical fiction novel if Bell had left all the time travel out of it and concentrated on the political tensions of the coming war. However, I think it'll keep adventure fans turning the pages and looking for more. As follow-ups, I'd recommend Peter and the Starcatchers and Vampirates (if they don't mind the slightly scary).

Nick of Time is listed on both ACPL's Mock Newbery and the Anokaberry. And, of course, there was a bit of a kerfluffle about an interview with Ted Bell by Glenn Beck. It sparked a very interesting discussion over at Guys Lit Wire: "Do teenage boys need books with weak female characters?" At the very least, the post offers a bunch of great books with strong guys who save something other than wimpy girls.

Many thanks to St. Martin's Press for sending me a copy!

Monday, August 18, 2008

Book Review: Manfish

Manfish: A Story of Jacques Cousteau by Jennifer Berne, illustrated by Eric Puybaret. (Grades 1-3.)

Growing up in France, Jacques Cousteau always loved the water. He loved knowing how things worked and he dreamed of flying through the air. As Cousteau grew up, he discovered a love of movies, too. He bought a movie camera and began to film the world around him. When a friend gave Jacques some goggles and he saw the underwater world clearly for the first time, Jacques's life was changed forever. He dedicated his life to exploring the sea and bringing this beautiful, silent world to others with his films.

Really gorgeous paintings illustrate this picture book biography of Jacques Cousteau. As Jacques discovers the sea, the reader sees all the wonderful plants and animals, too. As he dives deeper and deeper, we're treated to vertical spreads and unfolding pages that really capture the underwater wonderland that he explored. One page near the end of the book depicts the pollution that horrified Cousteau and lead him to speak out in favor of protecting the ocean and its creatures. The last page is a call to future generations to explore new worlds and help protect them.

A short author's note gives a little information about the author's inspiration and some ideas for further exploring the world of Jacques Cousteau.

Hand this one to aspiring marine biologists and fans of picture book biographies like Surfer of the Century by Ellie Crow and Richard Waldrep.

Also check out reviews at Shelf Elf and The Well-Read Child! And, of course, make sure you check out the Non-Fiction Monday roundup at Picture Book of the Day.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Day in the Life of a Children's Librarian

8:30a - Arrive at work, put stuff away, check email, greet coworkers.

8:45a - Go through board books, pulling ABC books for a preschool loan bag.

9:10a - Back in the office, look up additional books and other items to add to bag.

10a-12p - On desk. We have a few more Summer Reading Club finishers and in between those I peruse a couple of audiobook catalogs and finish reading Helping Homeschoolers in the Library by Adrienne Furness (which was excellent, by the way).

12:15p - Time for lunch and reading The Hunger Games (I can't put it down!).

1:15 - Back from lunch, I straighten up my desk, check email, and get some stuff together to work on while I cover the Adult Services desk.

2p-4p - Cover one of the Adult Service's desks while they have their monthly meeting. When we have meetings, one of them covers our desk and when they have meetings we take turns covering their desk. Here's a sampling of questions I was asked:

Can you help me with the copier?
I'm looking for CDs by certain artists. Can you help me find them? How are your CDs arranged?
Where are these non-fiction DVDs?
Can you find a phone number for me?
Where are books by this author?
Do you have this book on tape or CD? Can I put it on hold?

In between questions, I work on organizing some preschool loan requests I've received and get a little reading done in my next professional development book (The Teen-Centered Book Club). a

4:00p - Adult Services librarians come back from their meeting and relieve me from the desk. I talk with our graphic artist about the bulletin board in our Teen Zone. I order a couple of posters and fill out the graphic request.

4:45p - Make copies of our school loan order forms in preparation for the start of school and influx of orders we can expect, file received requests in my preschool loan folder.

5:00p - Time to go home!

Friday, August 15, 2008

Book Review: The Hunger Games

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. (Grades 7+)

Holy cats, I loved this book.


It's the future. The area once known as North America is now the country of Panem, divided into 12 districts with the Capitol controlling them all. There used to be 13 districts, but years ago the districts rebelled against the Capitol and they were crushed. District 13 was utterly destroyed and as penance, each of the 12 remaining districts must send two tributes, a boy and a girl between the ages of 12 and 18, to the Hunger Games.

The Hunger Games is a fight to the death, televised for the entire country and put on for the entertainment of the Capitol. There is only one victor and that teen will be rich beyond his or her wildest dreams. Some teens spend their whole lives training in the hopes of being randomly selected as a tribute for the Games. Teens in the poorer districts, with barely enough food to keep them alive, see the Hunger Games as a death sentence.

This is the story of one of those tributes.

I seriously, absolutely could not put this book down. It's hands-down my favorite book of 2008. And I can't wait for the next one.

The world that Collins builds here is so real. Each time I picked up this book, I was immediately immersed in this totally scary dystopian world. There is a history here, politics galore, but never in a dry way. In fact, the whole book is action-packed. Twists and turns abound. One minute I would be laughing at something one of the characters did. The next minute I'd be tearing up.

Riveting, riveting stuff. Do not miss this one. It's due out October 1.

Thank you, thank you to Scholastic for providing this ARC through TeensReadToo. I literally squealed when I saw it in the mail.

Need more convincing? Read reviews at Fuse #8, The Reading Zone, and Librarilly Blonde. Oh, and it got a starred review at The Horn Book.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Book Review: Rapunzel's Revenge

Rapunzel's Revenge by Shannon and Dean Hale, illustrated by Nathan Hale. (Grade 5+)

Loved it. LOVED IT.

Shannon and Dean Hale take Rapunzel's story, make Rapunzel totally kick-butt, plunk it down in a magical version of the American Old West, and add a little Jack (and the Beanstalk). It's fantastic.

Mother Gothel is an evil witch who has taken control of all the land. She has the power to make things grow or to stop things from growing. And now she sucks the life out of the land unless the people pay her exorbitant taxes. Rapunzel has lived with her in her walled-in palace, but when she makes her way over the wall she discovers that her real mother is one of Mother Gothel's slaves, forced to work in the mines. Rapunzel is determined to save her mother, so Gothel puts her in a tower.

But this Rapunzel doesn't sit around in her tower waiting for some prince to come save her. This Rapunzel is busy saving herself. And then she goes around saving everybody else. Once she escapes from the tower and flees Mother Gothel's goon, she runs into Jack, a fellow outlaw, who accompanies her in her mission to free her mother from Gothel's mines. On the way, they have incredible adventures and Rapunzel vows to defeat Gothel and free all the people from her evil influence.

It's sassy. It's funny. And one of my favorite things is that Rapunzel gets her revenge without killing people. She uses her powers (20 feet of hair!) to disarm and she prefers not to use violence if possible. And even though she doesn't kill anyone, she is still kick-butt.

And the illustrations are gorgeous and funny, too. I loved all the landscapes, the deserts that have been drained of their life by Mother Gothel and then Gothel's lush villa in comparison. I love that Rapunzel looks like a real person and that she's a hero but she doesn't need to wear cleavage-bearing, skin-tight clothing. Shannon and Dean and Nathan make an unstoppable team and I'm really happy that they're working on a sequel.

PS: How cool is this? From the author/illustrator blurbs on the jacket:

"Nathan Hale (no relation to Dean or Shannon) spent over a year on the artwork for Rapunzel's Revenge. During that time, he listened to sixty-eight unabridged audiobooks. He'd like to thank the men and women of the book recording industry and his local public library."

Aww, that makes me smile. :)

Who else has reviewed this? Oh, everybody.

The Reading Zone
A Fuse #8 Production
Welcome to my Tweendom
A Year of Reading
Miss Erin
Shelf Elf
Reading Rants!

Plus, Rapunzel's Revenge is Al Roker's new pick for his book club and Shannon Hale was, of course, thrilled (thanks to Jen and Sarah for the links). And you won't want to miss Erin's interview with Hale times 3.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Picture Book Grab Bag

First Dog Fala by Elizabeth Van Steenwyk, illustrated by Michael G. Montgomery. (Grades 1-3.)

With grown children and a wife who was often out of the house on speaking tours, President Franklin Roosevelt needed a companion. Enter Fala (full name: Murray the Outlaw of Fala Hill). A rambunctious pup who craved attention and sometimes took himself for walks around the city, Fala quickly became FDR's best friend. With endearing illustrations and an adorable story, this sweet picture book will find a place with dog lovers (and take a look at that cover... who could NOT love this dog?!).

Kiss! Kiss! Yuck! Yuck! by Kyle Mewburn, illustrated by Ali Teo and John O'Reilly. (Grades K-3.)

Andy loves his Auntie Elsie. Sure he does. But WHY OH WHY does she always have to smother him with sloppy kisses whenever she sees him?? Andy has no choice but to try and avoid her. He tries hiding under his bed... in the hen house... up a tree... to no avail. But when Auntie Elsie suddenly stops showing up, Andy just might find that he misses her kiss kiss. This funny picture book comes to us from New Zealand and I imagine it will appeal to fans of the Charlie and Lola books with its mixed media illustrations. Kids will definitely want to pore over these pictures and find all the details.

The Story Blanket by Ferida Wolff and Harriet May Savitz, illustrated by Elena Oriozola. (Grades K-2.)

All the children love to hear Babba Zarrah tell stories. They spread out on her story blanket to listen. When Babba Zarrah notices one of the boys needs new socks, she sets out to make him some... but where is she to get the wool? As mysterious gifts show up all over the village, the story blanket gets smaller and smaller until at last the villagers figure out what's going on and come together to help Babba Zarrah make a new story blanket. I'm often asked for books tying into units on building character and this is a great one about sharing. Bright pictures and interesting patterns make the illustrations pop. I love the funny faces and rosy cheeks of all the characters.

I received these gems from the lovely people at Peachtree Press and from the looks of it, they are all available now. Do check out Peachtree's site and peruse the other titles they have!

Monday, August 11, 2008

Nonfiction for Preschoolers

One of my duties in my department is to fill book bags for our Preschool Loan program and one challenge I face is picking out nonfiction books for preschoolers. Just as with fiction picture books, my library has a wide selection of nonfiction for all ages. Which ones will appeal to preschoolers? I'd like to share some of my favorites.

The Pebble Plus series from Capstone is one of my favorites. A simple text designed for beginning readers makes the text easy to share with preschoolers and the big format and bright photos in each book make them very visually appealing. More sets are coming out all the time and they cover high-interest topics like sea creatures, vehicles, dinosaurs, and many more.

The About... series by Cathryn Sill and illustrated by John Sill is another great series with simple text and really beautiful illustrations. Each spread has text on the left page and a full-page painted illustration on the right. The text is great for a general overview and additional information is included in the back of the book. Books in this series cover many different types of animals and habitats.

The Let's Read and Find Out Science books are a great choice for science topics. For preschoolers, look for Stage 1. Many areas of science are covered including the human body, weather, animals, plants, and more!

Last, but certainly not least, I want to point you to a great list compiled by preschool math resource teacher Judy Ballweg at the Madison Metropolitan School District. Her list of Books to Nurture Mathematical Thinking (link opens a pdf!) is a great resource when you're looking for math books for little ones. Her list is one of many good ones over at MMSD's site. It's certainly been helpful to me this summer!

These are some of my favorites nonfiction series and resources for preschoolers. Be sure and check out the Non-Fiction Monday roundup over at Anastasia's blog!

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Book Review: Dream Girl

Dream Girl by Lauren Mechling. (Grades 7-10.)

Claire has always had visions. Usually they turn out to be meaningless, but on her fifteenth birthday, Claire's grandmother gives her a mystical cameo necklace that heightens her powers. Claire's just started at a new school and befriended Becca Shuttleworth, heir to a huge fortune from her family's ketchup business. When Claire learns that the Shuttleworths have some enemies, she starts to put the dream clues together and gets caught up in a dangerous mystery.

What I really liked about this story was the great characters. Claire has a really funny, sarcastic voice and a quirky French family. Becca is sassy and a little Goth, not your typical rich girl. Claire's grandmother Kiki is a former socialite who passes her designer dresses down to her granddaughter and throws parties for her at the Waldorf. These are interesting characters that I enjoyed getting to know.

Also, once the mystery gets going, I started getting really hooked. Mechling builds some great tension as she reveals the truth behind the Shuttleworth fortune and some of the enemies the family has made. I'm not generally a fan of kids/teenagers as detectives, but I really believed in Claire's story, that she could find the clues and solve the mystery.

Here's the thing, though... the book starts slowly. Now, I'm reviewing from an ARC so it's possible it might have changed by the publication date. But the first 100 pages or so dragged for me. Claire's coming back from a summer in France, starting at a new school, explaining how she was betrayed by her old friend Sheila... There are a few important elements to the story here, like getting the cameo from her grandmother, but I think the book would have been much tighter if it had been about 100 pages shorter. Those who persevere will find an intriguing mystery story, but I'm afraid some readers won't get through the rambling beginning.

I would hand this one to middle-school mystery fans who like a splash of the paranormal. Make sure you check out Lauren Mechling's website (where we learn she went through a Harriet the Spy phase... I did, too! In the sixth grade I kept a spy notebook and wrote down mean things about everyone). Also, take a gander at an interview with Lauren on YA New York: Part I and Part II.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Storytime Inspiration

Yesterday Saroj Ghoting wrote to the PUBYAC listserv about a new feature on her website ( This feature is called Storytime Share and its purpose is to collect and share ideas for books and activities that promote early literacy in storytime. You can find craft ideas, storytime activities, and (of course) great ideas for readalouds. Anyone may submit an idea and Saroj will post it on the blog. Tags make it easy to search for what you're looking for and there's a feed you can subscribe to.

Speaking of sites to help with your storytime, I stumbled across the Storytime Source Page a few weeks ago when I was stumped and it really gave me some inspiration! It's not updated very frequently, but the entries contain very extensive lists of books (separated into different age groups - very helpful!), songs, rhymes, and other alternate formats.

I'm gonna put in another plug for the Early Literacy Storytime Ideas Exchange (ELSIE) at the Hennepin County Library in Minneapolis. You can search for books, songs, rhymes, and fingerplays by entering keywords or searching for a certain early literacy skill. It's a great resource for storytime materials!

So, the next time you're feeling uninspired for storytime, check out one of these great sites and you're sure to find some great suggestions! What other sites are great for storytime ideas?

Monday, August 4, 2008

Two links on a Monday

1. I've been slacking on non-fiction reviews (and reviews in general) the past couple of weeks. Rest assured, I'm getting back on the ball and all will be well shortly. In the meantime, do check out Anastasia's roundup for Non-Fiction Monday!

2. I got an email about a very intriguing new blog: The Picnic Basket. From the blog:

"Welcome to The Picnic Basket where school and library professionals taste new and forthcoming children's books with first-come, first-serve sample copies of books for kids of all ages. Read the books, then post your reviews here for your colleagues to read."

It looks like each week new books will be posted and potential reviewers can request copies. I will definitely be keeping my eyes on this one!


As you can probably see from my new thingie in the sidebar, I'm giving Twitter a try. It's actually remarkably addictive, especially once I installed TwitterFox (a Firefox plugin that lets you update your Twitter and receive updates from the people you follow).

Besides knowing when my friends are going to work or eating dinner, there are two things I find really interesting about Twitter.

1. Some famous people have Twitter accounts! This makes it so much easier to be all fan!girl. For instance, I know that Barack Obama is doing an event in Titusville, FL. And Sarah Dessen loves her babysitter and is taking a nap. I just find it so interesting to get these little glimpses into people's lives. Much like having a MySpace page or a blog, this is another tool to connect people.

And that brings us to:

2. The possibilities for Twitter in your library. I know some libraries are already embracing Twitter, posting updates about new books, research tools, or programs. Imagine what a difference it might make if you could send a direct message to your teen patrons (for example) about a program you have going on. Or you could announce when you have the new Stephenie Meyer book in your catalog so they could start placing holds. Or you could point out that new health and wellness database your library just subscribed to. People can even set it up to get updates as text messages. "Oh hey, the library's having a pizza taste-off today! Let's swing by!"

I have to admit that I was skeptical of Twitter's appeal before I got started with it. It was the article in School Library Journal that made me really give it a chance. According to the article: "devotees claim that you have to give it an honest go before you can understand Twitter’s appeal". So I embraced it and I'm really seeing its appeal. The article gives some good tips on using Twitter and provides links to lots of sites that can help you understand it and make the most out of your experience.

Is microblogging here to stay or is it a fad that will fade in time? Beats me. But I'm having fun with it while it's here.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

What to do when there's one

So, you've planned an awesome storytime. You're ready and rarin' to go! But maybe some special event is going on. Or lots of people are on vacation. Or it's snowing. Or any number of things happen... and there's only one kid for storytime.

It can be frustrating, sure. But the important thing to remember is that this family made the effort to come to your program, and you might have to adapt some things, but the show must go on!

Just as with any program, you need to be prepared to adapt. And remember that even though it might be frustrating to have a low turnout for a program, the kid doesn't know that. The kid's experience is going to be what you make it.

Generally I start storytimes with Shake Your Sillies Out, but for a very small group I like to use My Hands Say Hello because it's a quieter song and I'm more apt to get participation.

It's to the tune of The Farmer in the Dell and it goes like this:

My hands say hello
My hands say hello
Every time I see my friends
My hands say hello

And then repeat using feet and other body parts. I usually do hands, then feet, then I ask for a suggestion of something else that could say hello.

Although it's not be what you planned, a storytime for one may have some advantages. Instead of having to focus an unruly mob of 30 kids, you can concentrate on getting to know one. It's a great opportunity to sit with child and caregiver and, say, demonstrate dialogic reading. You might be able to bring out some extra goodies, like toy drums or shakers that you might not use with a larger group. If you're doing a felt, let the kids help you put pieces up or take pieces off. You can even spread it out on the floor instead of doing it on a board.

Above all, you just need to be flexible. And remember that if you make this a pleasant experience, this family is likely to come back the next time.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Book Review: Found

Found by Margaret Peterson Haddix. (Grades 5-8.)

It was her first day of work at the airline when Angela saw the plane. This was not just any plane. It seemed to appear out of nowhere. And when Angela investigated, she found no pilot, no flight crew... just 36 babies, each sitting in its own seat.

Cut to thirteen years later. Jonah has always known he was adopted. His parents never kept it a secret from him. But then Jonah starts getting weird letters on plain paper with no return address.

The first reads, "You are one of the missing."

The second reads, "Beware! They're coming back to get you."

From there, Jonah is plunged into a dangerous mystery trying to figure out where he came from and who is looking for him. With the help of his friend Chip and his sister Katherine, he'll need all his courage to find the truth.

I couldn't put this book down. Seriously, I was in the middle of two other books, but this one snuck in and I just couldn't stop reading. The premise is creepy and suspenseful and I just had to know what happened. The first half of the book is compelling thriller, the second half very sci-fi. This is the first book in The Missing trilogy and it looks like Sent is due out next spring. I'm totally intrigued and I think this is a series I'm likely to keep up with.

I'd definitely recommend this one to fans of Haddix's Shadow Children series and especially Running Out of Time. I'd wager it'll be a hit for those kids who have to read a science fiction book but maybe aren't so into aliens and space travel. Be warned that the ending is Quite a cliffhanger and I've already had kids looking for the next book.

Tons of people have reviewed this title and I'm going to be lazy and just point you to Jen's review, which has a nice roundup of posts. You'll also want to check out the cynsations interview with MPH.