Thursday, February 28, 2013

Spring Storytime: Black History Month

It's that time again! Time for Spring Storytime! Now, here's the thing that happened. We're back at full staff now (yay!), so we started out offering 5 different sessions for the next four weeks. And as of late last week, I only had one child signed up for my session (Monday mornings). So I made the decision to cancel that session and, as a result, I don't have a storytime class this go-round. I am bummed, but we're rethinking how we'll do storytimes in the fall and I think we're going to try some new things.

I didn't want to miss sharing our storytime plans on this blog, but please do note that I have not actually done this storytime with kids. I hope you'll still get some good ideas!

Opening Song: My Hands Say Hello

Book:  This Jazz Man by Karen Ehrhardt, illustrated by R.G. Roth. This is a play on the song "This Old Man" and it has a nice rhythm for you to sign or read.

Felt: "America's Greatest Farmer". Miss Teresa found this poem about George Washington Carver and Miss T made some felt pieces to go along with it.

Book: Kente Colors by Debbi Chocolate, illustrated by John Ward. This book takes kids through the colors used in African kente cloth and explains the meaning behind each one.

Song:  "Old MacDonald Had a Farm" by Ella Fitzgerald from the CD Jazz for Kids: Sing, Wiggle, Clap, and Shake. You could sing this one with puppets or ring bells to the beat.

Activity: Red Light, Green Light. Did you know that Garrett Morgan, son of former slaves, invented the 3-light stop light (traffic signal) in 1923? Miss Teresa made some stop light signals to play a stop and go game with our bells.

Book: This Little Light of Mine, illustrated by Earl B. Lewis. Sing this song with the book or with hand motions. The song is an African-American spiritual which may already be familiar to many of your families.

Poem/Activity: Read the poem "Drums" by Langston Hughes (found in the book Poetry for Young People: Langston Hughes) and pass out rhythm sticks for the kids to drum every time they hear the word "drum" or "drums" in the poem.

Mystery Bag: We have retired the Memory Box in favor of the Mystery Bag! I saw the Mystery Bag from the Hedburg Public Library at the ALSC Institute this past fall and we decided we wanted to give it a try. Each week, we'll have a different letter in the Mystery Bag and several objects that start with that letter. As you can see, this week the letter was P and we have a polar bear, a pig (a PINK pig!), and a parrot (and puppet!). We've tried the Mystery Bag with a couple of our preschool classes that have come in or that we've visited and both kids and teachers have LOVED IT. It's definitely a big hit! Miss T made our mystery bag out of a nylon laundry bag turned inside out (it has a skull design on it). She sewed some colorful triangles on it to make it look more fun!

Ending Song:  Do You Know What Time It Is?

Take-Home Craft: Quilt squares. Okay, so the idea of the "freedom quilt" is controversial and possibly made up, but quilt squares are a great way for children to practice manipulating shapes. We provided a sheet of shapes for them to color and cut out and then a sheet showing several different patterns for quilt squares. Kids can match the patterns or make up their own! We also included a list of books to celebrate Black History Month.

Alternate Books: If you don't like or don't have any of these books, here are some other choices. And you may also consider the possibility of focusing on African-American authors and illustrators instead of strictly including books that talk about Black history.

Let It Shine: Three Favorite Spirituals by Ashley Bryan
Rap a Tap Tap by Leo and Diane Dillon
We March by Shane Evans
Please Baby Please by Spike Lee
He's Got the Whole World in His Hands by Kadir Nelson
Martin's Big Words by Doreen Rappaport
Before John Was a Jazz Giant by Carole Boston Weatherford

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

A couple of sci-fi series

For our March Reading Wildly meeting, we're reading science fiction books, so I picked up books from a couple of series that I'd never read before. Both are older series, so I'm reviewing them here together.

Franny K. Stein, Mad Scientist by Jim Benton. Grades 2-4. Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2003-2008.

Books in the series:
#1 Lunch Walks Among Us
#2 Attack of the 50-Ft. Cupid
#3 The Invisible Fran
#4 The Fran That Time Forgot
#5 Frantastic Voyage
#6 The Fran With Four Brains
#7 The Frandidate

Franny K. Stein is a little bit different from the other kids in her class. She likes them fine, but none among them can program a robot like she can... or splice genes or create perfectly putrid concoctions... Her family doesn't get it either. But whether it's saving the town from a giant pumpkin-lobster monster, creating (and subduing) a 50-foot Cupid on Valentine's Day, or bringing in a home-built robot for hobby day, Franny K. Stein loves being a mad scientist.

This transitional chapter book series is packed with wacky humor. It's highly illustrated and each volume clocks in at just about 100 pages, making this a good choice for kids just moving up to chapter books or kids who need to build confidence in reading. The tone of the humor is similar to the humor in Captain Underpants, but it's toned down quite a bit. There's occasional light potty humor, but I'd consider this series for parents who are uncomfortable with the Captain Underpants series.

The science fiction element starts with a light hand in the first book and becomes more prevalent in later books, so this might also be a good choice for kids who don't think they like sci-fi.


For the humor, I'd recommend any of Dav Pilkey's series: Captain Underpants, Ricky Riccota, or The Adventures of Ook and Gluk. You might also try some of the cartoon-illustrated funny books in the Diary of a Wimpy Kid ilk that have sprouted over the past several years.

For kids who like the crazy gadgets and things that Franny K. Stein develops in her lab (and the highly illustrated format), I might try the Lunch Lady graphic novel series.


Animorphs by K.A. Applegate. Grades 3-6. Scholastic, 1996-2001.

There are 54 books in the series - click the title above to get a full listing.

Jake and his friends were just minding their own business, cutting through the construction site on the way home, when they had a chance encounter with a dying alien that changed their lives forever. The Andalite prince tells them about a war between alien species that's being fought right under everyone's noses on earth as the evil Yeerks take human hosts and control their actions. And the alien gives them a gift - the power to morph into any animal they choose. It's the only weapon they have against the Yeerks and they have to keep up the fight until the Andalites return to restore peace to their planet.

I missed this series by several years when I was a kid and now that makes me so sad because I would have been SO INTO IT. As it is, I read the first book in the series and I liked it quite a bit. The book is action-packed and written in a simple style that gets the action across without too many frills. There are a few dated pop culture references, but really not enough that I think they'll be any issue with newcomers to the series. It's a fun page-turner of an adventure story and the concept of kids turning into animals at will is one that packs wide kid appeal.


For the fast pace and adventurous storyline, I'd recommend Gordan Korman's thrillers like his On the Run series (starting with Chasing the Falconers) or the Kidnapped series (starting with The Abduction). Readers also might like the 39 Clues series, particularly if they enjoy mystery stories. And readers who are ready to tackle thicker books might try Margaret Peterson Haddix's The Missing series (starting with Found).

For readers who dig the alien storyline, you might try Bruce Coville's My Teacher is an Alien series (originally published around the same time that Animorphs was originally published). Or possibly Aliens on Vacation by Clete Barrett Smith, although the tone is more humorous than in the Animorphs series).


Both series are on shelves now!

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Afterschool: February

Here's what I shared with my afterschool groups this month!

Egg Drop by Mini Grey. Red Fox Books, 2003. The egg was young. If only it had waited. This is the story of an egg who wanted to fly. This book was a hit with both groups this month. It's pretty short and has great pictures (in a large trim size, which is great when sharing with a group). It's also hilarious. The kids particularly liked the pictures of how they tried to put the egg back together again after its drop (sticky tape, string, chewing gum, nails and screws, etc...) and I made sure to read them each caption for those pictures because one of the things they try is tomato soup which looks like blood dripping off the egg (as my first group delightfully noted). 

The Little, Little House by Jessica Souhami. Frances Lincoln Children's Books, 2005. This is a retelling of the folktale of a family living in a house that feels too small. The local wise-woman (or, in this case, Aunty Bella) instructs the father to move the chickens into the house, then more the rooster into the house, then move the cow into the house, etc. And finally, when the family turns all the animals out of the house they realize that it's not too small after all. I love this story, but the younger kids in my audience didn't really understand what had happened. I'd probably stick to older elementary kids with this one. That said, everyone delighted in the illustrations showing all the crazy things the animals do inside the house! 

The Yuckiest, Stinkiest, Best Valentine Ever by Brenda Ferber, illustrated by Tedd Arnold. Dial, 2012. As soon as I saw this book come over on our new book cart, I grabbed it for use with the afterschool groups. It's snarky while still showing that Valentine's Day is really about love. It's good for the kids who think V-Day is yucky and for those who enjoy it. And the cartoony illustrations by Tedd Arnold have a ton of kid appeal. Definitely add this one to your school-age rotation! 

This month's craft was making Valentines, of course, and we kept it simple. We brought white paper and die-cut hearts in pink, purple, and blue. The sites had crayons, scissors, and glue sticks. Three of the sites we visit had visits after Valentine's Day was over, and I spun it with my group by saying I know that Valentine's Day was last week but maybe there was someone they forgot to make a Valentine's Day card for. Or maybe they don't want to make a Valentine's Day card but just a card to show someone they care. The kids were a little disappointed not to have scratch art this month, but I am so sick of scratch art! 

Monday, February 25, 2013

Millions, Billions, & Trillions

Millions, Billions, & Trillions: Understanding Big Numbers by David A. Adler, illustrated by Edward Miller. Grades 2-4. Holiday House, January 2013. Unpaged. Review copy provided by my local library.

We tend to throw around large numbers like millions and billions and trillions and we hear about them in the news quite often. But such big numbers can be really hard to conceptualize. What do they really mean? If you had a million dollars, how much is that really?

In Millions, Billions, & Trillions, David A. Adler puts his inimitable skills to work in supplying kids with concrete examples to help them figure out just what such big numbers really mean. Want to see a million? Get a quarter cup of sugar and dump it out onto a dark-colored sheet of construction paper. You have about a million grains of sugar there.

Adler gives a couple of concrete examples of each number (explaining at each step how he's coming up with his figures and estimates) and then some examples of how kids are likely to hear these numbers used. Populations of large cities are often in the millions. The earth's population is in the billions. And when people on the news talk about the country's debts and budgets, the numbers are often in the trillions.

Adler includes an author's note that talks about even larger numbers and he notes that the names for large numbers differ in different countries. The computer generated cartoony illustrations pop with color, adding kid appeal to this kid-friendly math book. They feature a diverse cast of characters and such fun images as giant ice cream sundaes and stacks of pizzas we might order with our million dollars.

Add this book to your repertoire for STEM programming! Pair it with David Schwartz's How Much is a Million? for a discussion about large numbers and challenge the kids to come up with some estimates of their own. This would be a fun way to get to the M (math) in STEM.

Millions, Billions, & Trillions is on shelves now!

Happy Nonfiction Monday! Lisa has this week's roundup at Shelf-employed.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Storytime: Fairy Tales

We recently had a preschool class visit the library and request a storytime on fairy tales and fables. I find fairy tales a difficult subject for preschool storytime because so many of the books are so very wordy. My staff member Miss K and I put together a storytime with lots of inspiration from Storytime Katie's fairy tale storytime. Here's what we did:

Opening Song: My Hands Say Hello

Book: The Three Little Pigs by Heather Amery, illustrated by Stephen Cartwright. This is part of the Usborne First Stories series. Usborne has published several fairy tales that are pretty succinct. Since the kids are so familiar with this story, we asked for their help as we read it.

Flannel Rhyme: Five Knights in Shining Armor from Storytime Katie. When Miss T made our flannel knights, I asked her to make one of them pink so it could be a girl knight (or a boy knight who likes pink!).

Book: Over at the Castle by Boni Ashburn, illustrated by Kelly Murphy. This is a play on the song "Over in the Meadow", so I sung it. As we count up through the song, we explore different parts of the castle and the people working or playing within it.

Action Rhyme: The Grand Old Duke of York:

The Grand Old Duke of York,
He had ten thousand men. 

He marched them to the top of the hill
And he marched them down again.
And when they were UP, they were UP!
And when they were DOWN, they were DOWN!
And when they were only halfway up, 
They were neither UP nor DOWN!

We marched for the first part of the rhyme and then stretch our arms up for the word "up" and we bend down for the word "down". We tried it and then did it fast, super fast, and then I had a request to do it super slow, so we tried it that way, too.

Felt Story: Goldilocks and the Three Bears. This was from a felt set we had purchased from somewhere, many moons ago. Again, this is a very familiar story, so we asked for the kids' help in telling it.

Felt Activity: Color bears. I passed out the color bears and invited the kids to come up and put their bear on the board when we said their color. For this activity, I sang the following rhyme:

(To the tune of "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star")

Color bears, color bears, what do I see?
I see a red bear smiling at me!

And, of course, you repeat with different colors.

Ending Song: Do You Know What Time It Is?

We don't do crafts for our group visits, so after the storytime the class explored the Children's Room, selected books to check out, and played with the toys and computers we have in our room.

Alternate Books:

If you don't like or don't have any of the books we used, here are some others you might want to check out:

The Three Bears by Byron Barton
Yummy: Eight Favorite Fairy Tales by Lucy Cousins
The Little Red Hen by Paul Galdone (and others by Paul Galdone)
The Foggy Foggy Forest by Nick Sharratt
Falling for Rapunzel by Leah Wilcox
King Bidgood's in the Bathtub by Audrey and Don Wood

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

The Look

The Look by Sophia Bennett. Grades 7+. Chicken House, March 2013. 336 pages. Reviewed from ARC provided by publisher.

Sisters Ava and Ted (short for Edwina) could hardly be more different. Seventeen-year-old Ava is gorgeous and confident with a gorgeous boyfriend and a gaggle of admirers at school. Fifteen-year-old Ted's nickname at school is "Friday", short for "Freaky Friday". She's too tall and gangly with hair resembling a bird's nest and the bullies at school won't let her forget it. When Ted is accosted on the street by a supposed "model scout", she's skeptical at first, and when he turns out to be legit, Ted has no interest. But Ava's been diagnosed with cancer and their dad has recently been laid off from his job, forcing them to move from their beloved home to a tiny apartment. Ted's modeling career just might be the ticket to cheering up her sister and providing some much-needed income to her family.

This story hit just the right blend of fluffy and serious, of fashion-y fun and cancer drama, and it's all told in a beliveable narrative voice. Ted works quite nicely as the Everygirl, a plain teenager who's astonished to be swept up in the modeling world. Her progression through that world was handled well. At first Ted knows nothing about fashion, but as she starts to learn more she gets more interested in it, ultimately coveting new makeup and clothes in a way she never would have before. And although Ted enters the modeling industry so her sister can live vicariously, there are moments that Ted likes getting the spotlight.

There's just a tinge of romance, which I didn't feel was really necessary to the story, but it's done with such a light hand that it didn't detract from the story, either. And although there were a couple of poignant moments that brought tears to my eyes (the sisters getting their heads shaved together, being one), the overall tone of the book is upbeat and hopeful. The story's about older teens, but the content is very tween-appropriate.

This is a story to get lost in and I had the happy occasion of a day off from work so I could devour the whole thing!

Originally published in England, The Look will be on American shelves in March 2013.


For the tone - a mix of funny and serious, fluffy and dramatic, I'd recommend Drums, Girls, and Dangerous Pie by Jordan Sonnenblick.

For more fashion-related fiction, I'd recommend Sophia Bennett's other novel Sequins, Secrets, and Silver Linings or Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins or Violet on the Runway by Melissa Walker.

For more cancer fiction, try Before I Die by Jenny Downham (also British!) or The Fault in Our Stars by John Green.

Monday, February 18, 2013

The Beatles Were Fab (and They Were Funny)

The Beatles Were Fab (and They Were Funny) by Kathleen Krull & Paul Brewer, illustrated by Stacy Innerst. Grades 2-5. Harcourt Children's Books, March 2013. Unpaged. Review copy provided by the publisher.

John, Paul, George, and Ringo - names known all over the world for their iconic music. But the Fab Four didn't just love music. In addition to being gifted musicians and pop stars, the Beatles were four friends who loved to laugh and be silly. This picture book gives a brief overview of the Beatles from the band's formation through its meteoric rise in popularity, always emphasizing the funny side of the Beatles.

The Beatles used humor to keep their spirits up as they performed show after show as they were gaining their foothold. And they laughed and joked their way to the very top. The book includes specific examples and quotes, including specific jokes cracked in various interviews with each of the four.

This is a jolly celebration that would make a perfect gift for the children of Beatles fans and for kids who have grown up listening to their music. It's not a book that kids will use for their reports, but I can see it becoming a beloved favorite in a family of Beatles fans. The text follows the Beatles chronologically from naming the band (1960) to their last major concert in Candlestick Park (1966). Fun facts are sprinkled throughout the book, like the fact that the Beatles let fans know that their favorite candy was English jelly babies, but American fans, unable to procure the British sweet, pelted them with much harder jellybeans instead.

The illustrations pair nicely with the upbeat, humorous text, depicting bobble-headed (and quite recognizable) Beatles and incorporating quotes, jokes, and song titles in a way that really works to support the text and the entire feel of the book. Back matter includes a basic timeline and a list of sources.

Of course, this is perfect reading for Beatles fans, but it's a great book to introduce the Fab Four and give a brief introduction to Beatlemania as part of a classroom unit on the 1960s.

As a Beatles fan, I have to say that this is a must-buy for your library shelves. And I've already got at least one child in mind for whom I'll be buying this book!

The Beatles Were Fab (and They Were Funny) will be on shelves March 19.

Happy Nonfiction Monday! This week's roundup is hosted by Roberta at Wrapped in Foil, so make sure you check it out!

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Reading Wildly: Mystery

We had the first meeting of our Reading Wildly staff book club on Monday and we discussed mysteries. I have to say, I am really, really happy with how it went. Almost everyone read multiple books in our chosen genre and we had a great diversity of titles that were shared. The booktalks and readalikes that my staff came up with were outstanding, especially considering that some of them had never been asked to do that formally before.

Everyone brought their book review forms to the meeting and we took turns sharing our booktalks and talking about readalikes. Choosing readalikes and figuring out grade/age levels are going to come more easily the more we practice and talk about books.

We also talked about mysteries and readers' advisory in general a bit. My staff noted the great diversity in tone, length, and reading level of the books that we shared. We talked about genre-benders and the variety of different books that fit into the mystery genre. We often have children coming in needing to read a particular genre for school and by exploring a variety of books, we're more likely to be able to find something that's going to appeal to them.

Here are the books my staff booktalked at our meeting (links go to my review if it's a book I've reviewed or GoodReads if it's not one I've reviewed):

I also invited our teen librarian to play along (of course she's not required to participate every month or fill out the book review forms or anything) and she read The Dead and Buried by Kim Harrington. 

Staff had little guidance in choosing books. I did provide a list of possibilities, but I also encouraged them to look outside the list and pick something different if they wanted to. I think there was maybe only one title that was read by more than one person. It's fine if that happens, but I'm also glad that we had such a variety. Everyone (including myself) walked away with a bigger list of mystery titles in our readers' advisory arsenal than we'd had before. Which is exactly the point!

The genre for our next meeting is Science Fiction! Any recommendations for great middle-grade sci-fi?

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Three Times Lucky

Three Times Lucky by Sheila Turnage. Grades 4-7. Dial, 2012. 312 pages. Review copy provided by my local library.

Rising sixth grader Mo LoBeau is looking forward to a nice, relaxing summer: fishing with her best friend Dale, setting bottled messages afloat on the North Carolina creeks in hope of finding her long-lost birth mother, and hanging around Dale's older brother Lavender as much as possible (she is, after all, going to marry him someday). But when Detective Joe Starr shows up in their tiny town of Tupelo Landing, Mo knows that there's trouble brewing. When miserly recluse Mr. Jesse is found dead, Mo knows she has to take up the case herself and soon it's hitting all too close to home.

You'd be hard-pressed to find someone who can resist the spirited Mo LoBeau's charms. She's a spunky narrator, tough as nails and brave as they come. She always has to be the center of attention, whether it's running her adoptive parents' cafe (serving up PB& J with a bottle of Mountain Dew cooling in the back) or investigating a murder.

I also got caught up in the language of this book. It's smart and funny, each word carefully chosen to great effect. Sheila Turnage's descriptions of Tupelo Landing and the kooky characters who live there bring the setting to life.

I'm not a huge mystery fan and the plot dragged a little bit occasionally, but that could have more to do with my personal taste than any errors in pacing.

Check out more reviews at Book Nut, A Fuse #8 Production, and Welcome to My Tweendom.

And hey, this book won a 2013 Newbery Honor! Hooray!


For kids who like the writing style, I would try Savvy and Scumble by Ingrid Law.

For kids who like the writing style or the spunky orphan searching for her birth mother, I'd hand them Keeper by Kathi Appelt, another book set in a quirky town in the South.

For kids who like the high-stakes murder mystery, I might try The Case of the Deadly Desperadoes by Caroline Lawrence or the 39 Clues series. (This is really not my strong suit! Any recommendations? Leave 'em in comments, please!)

I read this book for my staff genre reading program! We're Reading Wildly in 2013 (and beyond) to improve our readers' advisory.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Nonfiction Monday: Brave Girl

I'm thrilled to host this week's Nonfiction Monday roundup! You can find awesome posts and reviews of nonfiction titles below my review of Brave Girl. Have a post to add to the roundup? Please leave a link in comments and I'll add posts throughout the day (I'm going to be in meetings today, but I'll start adding posts this afternoon, so thanks for bearing with me!).

Brave Girl: Clara and the Shirtwaist Makers' Strike of 1909 by Michelle Markel, illustrated by Melissa Sweet. Grades 2-5. Balzer + Bray, January 2013. Unpaged. Review copy provided by my local library.

Warriors can wear skirts and blouses...

When Clara Lemlich immigrated to the United States, she was hoping her family would find a better life there. But in the early 1900s, life was hard for immigrant families. Clara's father was unable to find work, so Clara got a job as a garment worker. Conditions were terrible. Clara was expected to work long hours with few breaks. If she was a few minutes late, she would be docked half a day's pay. Workers were locked in during the day and 300 girls had to share two filthy toilets. Clara knew something had to change and she began organizing strikes and picket lines. Men didn't think ladies were tough enough to walk the picket line, but even though she was arrested 17 times (!), Clara didn't give up until factory owners granted better working conditions!

This is a fabulous book for talking about women's history and activism or for exploring the lives of immigrants or child workers at the turn of the century. Clara's story is an inspiring one, but instead of a straight biography we here have a succinct and accessible introduction to the issues facing workers at the turn of the century. Clara joins a Union and speaks up for a general strike when the smaller strikes don't result in change. And through it all is the underlying message that girls can do anything.

Melissa Sweet's mixed-media illustrations make a perfect partner for the text. She incorporates many textiles into the paintings, often very subtly, using bits of ribbon or fabric to create background buildings or pieces of clothing the people are wearing. She uses stitching as frames and embellishments throughout. This is Melissa Sweet doing what Melissa Sweet does best - incorporating materials that directly relate to the subject matter and add interest to watercolor paintings. It reminds me of the work she did on her Caldecott-honor-winning A River of Words.

Back matter includes an author's note with additional information about the garment industry, subsequent strikes, and mention of the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire and its results. A selected bibliography is also included (hooray!). This book would be perfect as a ladder for the books Flesh and Blood So Cheap: The Triangle Fire and Its Legacy by Albert Marrin, Uprising by Margaret Peterson Haddix, or Kids at Work: Lewis Hine and the Crusade Against Child Labor by Russell Freedman. (Also, if you are discussing this subject, you might as well watch Newsies. C'mon now.)

I'll leave you with this powerful ending passage (and just see if that doesn't make you want to run right out and pick up this beautiful book!):

And the strike convinced Clara to keep fighting for the rights of workers. Her throat is hoarse, her feet are sore, but she has helped thousands of people. 

Proving that in America,
wrongs can be righted,
warriors can wear skirts and blouses,
and the bravest of hearts
may beat in girls
only five feet tall.

Brave Girl is on shelves now! Don't miss it!

You also won't want to miss these nonfiction posts and reviews from around the blogosphere:

Laura Salas shares a piece of art from her forthcoming book Water Can Be... (Milbrook Press, 2014) and discusses some activities to use with her book A Leaf Can Be.

At Hope is the Word: a review of The Extraordinary Mark Twain (According to Susy) by Barbara Kerley.

Roberta of Wrapped in Foil snuggled up with Shep: Our Most Loyal Dog by Sneed B. Collard III.

Tara of A Teaching Life posted about what she's been reading lately, which includes nonfiction books The Price of Freedom: How One Town Stood Up to Slavery and Emancipation Proclamation: Lincoln and the Dawn of Liberty.

Jennifer of Jean Little Library is ignoring the weather outside and reviewing Grow It, Cook It: Simple Gardening Projects and Delicious Recipes.

Alex of The Children's War posts about His Name Was Raoul Wallenburg: Courage, Rescue, and Mystery During WWII by Louise Borden.

Cindy and Lynn of Bookends "race" to add to Nonfiction Monday with a review of Queen of the Track: Alice Coachman, Olympic High Jump Champion by Heather Lang.

Jeff of NC Teacher Stuff is treating us to a review of Dessert Designer: Creations You Can Make and Eat! by Dara Meachen Rau.

Jennie of Bibliophile joins us with a review of The Amazing Harry Kellar: Great American Magician by Gail Jarrow.

Jeanna of True Tales & A Cherry on Top is featuring Colorful Dreamer: The Story of Artist Henri Matisse by Marjorie Blain Parker.

Margo of The Fourth Musketeer posts about War Dogs: Churchill and Rufus by Kathryn Selbert, a book about Winston Churchill and his poodle!

Alicia of The LibrariYAn gives us a review of Rescuing the Children: The Story of the Kindertransport by Deborah Hodge.

Andromeda of A Wrung Sponge reviews What Color is My World?: The Lost History of African-American Inventors by Kareem Abdul-Jabar and Raymond Obstfeld.

Anastasia Suen of Booktalking shares her new book Online Privacy and the Law.

Janet of All About the Books posts about Digging for Troy: From Homer to Hisarlik by Jill Rubalcaba and Eric H. Cline.

Sondra of Sonder Books reviews I Have a Dream by Martin Luther King, Jr., illustrated by Kadir Nelson.

Have another post to add to the roundup? Leave the link in comments, please!

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Lego Day @ the @alscblog

Today, I'm over at the ALSC Blog posting about the Lego Day we held over winter break this year! It was a super fun program that has spawned into the beginnings of a monthly Lego Club at our library. Please click through and check it out!

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Afterschool: January

I'm a little late with this post, I know! Our visits got pushed back this month due to winter break and then I had an employee on vacation. Here's what I shared with my afterschool groups in January and how they liked it:

Ugly Fish by Kara LaReau, illustrated by Scott Magoon. Harcourt Children's Books, 2006. So, this is one of my hands-down favorite readalouds. I have read this every year to my afterschool groups and I keep bringing it back because I have an awesome Ugly Fish voice and I just love reading it so much. I figure it's good to let kids know they can reread favorite books. And also they love it, too, because the story's funny and has a bit of a surprising ending.

The Librarian from the Black Lagoon by Mike Thaler, illustrated by Jared Lee. Scholastic Paperbacks, 1997. Confession: I brought this one along because I feel like one of my groups is sometimes The Group from the Black Lagoon. That group loved this book and sat more quietly for this book than any of the others.  My other group liked it, but neither group was a huge fan of the ending (where we find out that the librarian is actually nice and not scary). What can I say? They like the dark endings (me too)!

Let's Go for a Drive! by Mo Willems. Hyperion, 2012. Our afterschool kids are generally HUGE fans of Elephant and Piggie and when I read this one I knew it would be a great readaloud! The structure is similar to I am Invited to a Party, with Elephant thinking of all the things he and Piggie will need for their drive. Of course, they forget one very important thing... a car! A huge hit.

Our craft this month was scratch-art dragons to celebrate Chinese New Year, which is coming up on February 10. (I think I bought them on sale last year after the holiday!) I asked if anyone knew anything about the holiday that they wanted to share and told them a few facts about it.

The kids have gotten into the habit of trying to pull off the plastic coating on their scratch art so that they have a rainbow-colored cardboard shape instead of scratching a design in it. Of course that's fine if that's what they want to do with it, but it's not much of a craft and certainly doesn't inspire any creativity! So, I made a sample dragon and demonstrated some different techniques they might want to use (making scale patterns, dots, stripes, scratching off certain features like spikes or claws, etc.). That helped somewhat. We're going to get out of our scratch art groove next month, though. Miss Abby needs a little something different!

Monday, February 4, 2013

A Splash of Red

A Splash of Red: The Life and Art of Horace Pippin by Jen Bryant, illustrated by Melissa Sweet. Grades 2-5. Alfred A. Knopf, January 2013. Unpaged. Review copy provided by my local library.

The team that brought us the Caldecott-honor-winning A River of Words: The Story of William Carlos Williams is back with a picture book biography of African-American painter Horace Pippin.

Growing up in Pennsylvania, Horace Pippin drew and painted everything around him. No matter what job he was doing, he would always take time to make a picture, using whatever art supplies he had at hand. All that changed when he was injured while fighting overseas during World War I. Shot in the shoulder, Horace wasn't sure he'd ever paint or draw again. With hard work and determination, Horace strengthened his right arm and picked up his art supplies once again, painting the world in natural colors with a splash of red.

I just love Melissa Sweet's illustrations and here she pays homage to one of the great American artists by incorporating Horace Pippin's style in some of her spreads. She chooses her colors very carefully in these spreads and depicts scenes that Horace might have chosen to paint: drawing on the floor, students and teacher in a classroom, men packing crates in a warehouse, and other scenes of every day life. Sweet also keeps plenty of spreads in her signature style, creatively and thoughtfully incorporating collage elements and celebrating happy moments with bursts of color.

I adore picture book biographies, particularly when they teach me about people I didn't know about before, and this book absolutely fits the bill. Back matter includes a historical note, an author's note, an illustrator's note, quotation sources, resources for further reading, and a map showing where in the country you can go to view Horace Pippin's artwork.

This is a great title to share with young artists and it'll make an excellent addition to Black History Month units.

A Splash of Red is on shelves now!

Happy Nonfiction Monday! This week's roundup is at Apples With Many Seeds!

Friday, February 1, 2013

AudioSynced: January Roundup!

It's time for your monthly AudioSynced Roundup! If you're looking for your next great listen, look no further! Check out these posts and reviews of audiobooks from around the blogosphere in January. If I've missed your review, please leave me a link in comments and I'll add it to the roundup. Didn't get to an audiobook this month? Don't worry; Kelly will be hosting AudioSynced at STACKED again next month!

Audiobook News and Posts

Well, the biggest news of them all: the American Library Association's Youth Media Awards have been announced!

The winner of the Odyssey Award for excellence in youth audiobooks is The Fault in Our Stars by John Green, read by Kate Rudd, produced by Brilliance Audio.

The Odyssey honors go to:

Artemis Fowl: The Last Guardian by Eoin Colfer, read by Nathaniel Parker, produced by Listening Library.

Ghost Knight by Cornelia Funke, read by Elliot Hill, produced by Listening Library.

Monstrous Beauty by Elizabeth Farma, read by Katherine Kellgren, produced by Macmillan Audio.

Think you don't have time for audiobooks? Janssen of Everyday Reading is writing for Goodlife Books on how to squeeze audiobook listening into your busy schedule. She also recommends five of her favorite audiobooks to get you started.

(I have to insert here that I recently found a great time to put your audiobook on: in the dentist's chair! But hopefully I won't have to utilize that method again for some time.)


Children's/Middle Grade: 

Hard Gold by Avi, read by Alston Brown, reviewed by Lisa at Shelf-employed. Lisa says, "The diary style is well-suited for audio format."

The Spindlers by Lauren Oliver, read by Simon Vance, reviewed by Jen of A Book and a Latte. Jen says, "Fans of Jim Dale (narrator for the Harry Potter series) will really enjoy his [Simon Vance's] voice and style."

Young Adult: 

Crash by Lisa McMann, read by Allyson Ryan, reviewed by Sarah of YA Love. Sarah says, "I chose to read Crash with my ears because reading it traditionally wasn’t holding my attention. I write this first because the audio swayed parts of my enjoyment of this book, but not all of it."

The Diviners by Libba Bray, read by January LaVoy, reviewed by Beth of A Foodie Bibliophile in Wanderlust. Beth says, "I can't imagine anyone being a more perfect narrator for the audiobook of The Diviners than January LaVoy."

The Freedom Maze by Delia Sherman, read by Robin Miles, reviewed by Kimberly of STACKED. Kim says, "The narrator has a perfectly authentic Southern drawl and gives the white and the black characters accents without exaggeration."

The Freedom Maze was also reviewed by Lee at Reading with my ears. Lee says, "Miles is excellent here, managing a large cast of characters from two centuries and races."

Seraphina by Rachel Hartman, read by Mandy Williams and Justine Eyre, reviewed by Lee of Reading with my ears. Lee says, "Mandy Williams... portrays Seraphina with a voice that reflects her prim, analytical nature with that of a girl who is just beginning to spread her wings."

The Silence of Murder by Dandi Daley Mackall, read by Emily Rankin, reviewed by Kimberly of STACKED. Kimberly calls it, "a leisurely-paced story that is narrated well."


Destiny of the Republic: A Tale of Madness, Medicine, and Murder of a President by Candace Miller, read by Paul Michael, reviewed by Carin of Caroline Bookbinder. Carin says, "His [Paul Michael's] deep, sonorous voice was perfect for a presidential bio: very authoritative and respectful."

The Last Werewolf by Glen Duncan, read by Robin Sachs, reviewed by Lee of Reading with my ears. Lee says, "Robin Sachs... takes command of Jake’s story from the get-go and never lets up."