Sunday, September 30, 2012

Program: Adventure Club

Let me introduce you to the newest regular program in my Tween Queen oeuvre: Adventure Club! This is something I've been thinking about for a while. The library I did my internship at ran a program called "Boys Advenure Club" and another one called "American Girl Club" (or possibly "American Girls Club," I can't remember if there was an "S" or not). Both were insanely popular and seemed like easy and fun programs to run. So, once we finally got a new part-time staff member, I approached her about collaborating and starting up similar programs. They will alternate months (September was Adventure Club, October will be American Girl Club) and are geared toward kids ages 7 and up. Both genders are welcome at either club. Since we decided to start with Adventure Club in September, we embraced International Talk Like a Pirate Day and focused on pirates!

We had the program set up in stations, letting kids pick and choose what they wanted to do and in what order. Every kid received a new pirate name and name tag when they arrived (for atmosphere as well as a raffle at the end of the program). Our stations included:

Pirate hats: these were leftovers from a previous pirate program, so we decided to throw them in. The hats were all pre-cut and the kids had a variety of cutouts and stickers to decorate them with.

Pirate flags: we put out examples of real pirate flags and gave the kids sheets of black construction paper and pirate-y cutouts to create their own intimidating pirate flags. I saw a really cool one that had crossbones and cutlasses - that kid obviously wasn't messing around.

Hook hands: listen, when you're a pirate, you expect to succumb to some injury. And what is more glamorous than the loss of a hand? Glamorous because you can replace it with a hook! Kids made their own hooks out of plastic cups and aluminum foil. A number of enterprising pirates also used the aluminum to make their own swords and daggers - a truly piratical bunch we had!

Mad libs: we (well, actually my colleague did the heavy lifting on this part) created some pirate-themed mad libs for the kids to fill out. I was stationed across the room from them, but my colleague seemed disappointed with the number of kids that tried them out. We ended up setting the extras out on our general information table in the children's department for anyone to pick up.

Cannonball bowling: we painted a couple of tennis balls black to act as cannonballs and then taped some photos of ships to plastic bottles for the pins. We set up three different levels of play so kids could try to get better. This was very popular.

Scavenger hunt and tattoo parlor: scavenger hunts have been very popular in our library, so we decided to incorporate one in our program. Plus, aren't pirates always searching for treasure? Surprisingly, not a lot of kids wanted to participate in the hunt and it ended up being too difficult for most of them. This is where I spent all of the program, helping kids who were having trouble and administering tattoos to those who finished the hunt.

Obstacle course: this was another station that we knew would be very popular, though the kids were not good at following the rules. They had to put on an eyepatch, walk a plank, hop from turtle to turtle while avoiding the sharks and then throw a gold coin into a treasure chest. We tried to discourage running, but not to much success. Additionally, the eyepatch didn't impede their abilities as much as we anticipated. But, the kids loved racing each other through the obstacle course.

We drew two names at the end of the program as prize winners - one won a poster, a pencil and sticker set and a grow your own pirate, while the other won a book about pirates. Though the program was advertised as ages 7-12, we definitely had more of the younger end of that range. Also, they really embraced the pirate idea and were a pretty rowdy group, so it felt like we had a lot more than we actually did. Next time, I'd probably do the scavenger hunt differently and try to find a way to keep them abiding by the obstacle course rules. Overall, though, we had a good number for a Wednesday afternoon program and everyone had a good time!

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Picture Book Saturday (35)

 Bedtime for Monsters
By Ed Vere
Published 2012 by Henry Holt and Co.
Did you ever think there might be monsters? And that maybe their tummies are rumbling for a late-night snack? And maybe that snack might be....YOU?? This is a cute interactive sort of story that would work well in a Halloween/monster storytime. The illustrations make it a little less scary than the text alone might be otherwise. I personally love monsters, so this was a great read for me.

Dog Loves Drawing
By Louise Yates
Published 2012 by Knopf Books for Young Readers
Dog loves books but he is surprised when his aunt sends him a blank one in the mail. With a little imagination, though, soon Dog finds a new love - drawing! This is a great book about imagination and trying something new. The illustrations are gentle and really fit the story. A lovely little book.

Monster Mash
by David Catrow
Published 2012 by Orchard Books
Well, this isn't really BY David Catrow - he's taken the classic and slightly cheesy Halloween song and added his lively and signature illustrations. This is a great book for Halloween storytime and you could even get the kids dancing afterwards by playing the song. The illustrations are the right mix of spooky and silly, so this should be a hit.

Yes Yes Yaul
By Jef Czekaj
Published 2012 by Hyperion
Yaul the porcupine likes to say "no" - in fact, it's pretty much the only thing he says. But Hip and Hop, a rapping duo, set out to do something about that. Can they get Yaul to say "yes"? While I found this book amusing, I also found a bit ridiculous and I'm not sure that kids will get the humor very well - are there a lot of preschoolers listening to hip hop? That being said, the rhymes are good for phonological awareness and the pictures are in an entertaining style, so maybe it will find its audience.

Even Aliens Need Snacks
By Matthew McElligot
Published 2012 by Walker Childrens
When a little boy is told by his sister that no one in the universe would eat the bizarre concoctions he's created, he intends to prove her wrong. His efforts are disappointing at first, but then, in the middle of the night...I thought this book was funny and cute and I think kids will really like the variety of aliens, as well as the snack that each craves.

It's a Tiger!
By David LaRochelle, illustrated by Jeremy Tankard
Published 2012 by Chronicle Books
Let's hear a story. It starts in the jungle, with vines hanging all around but wait! What is that stripy, fluffy vine? IT'S A TIGER! And so begins this simple yet fun romp through the jungle. With vivid illustrations by Tankard and an opportunity for kids to spot the tiger hiding in each scene, this is sure to be a hit with the younger crowd. A delightful book, I think this would work well in a storytime. And there may just be a surprise ending...

Vampirina Ballerina
By Anne Marie Pace, illustrated by LeUyen Pham
Published 2012 by Hyperion
Being a ballerina is hard work. It takes a lot of patience and practice. You may make some mistakes along the way, but if you really want to be a ballerina, you won't give up. I probably would have loved this as a child - combining my love of dancing with my love of scary things (though this vampire is on the not-so-scary side). I think this is a really cute new ballerina story for kids who have seen all the others. The illustrations are lovely. I'm becoming quite a fan of Pham's style.

I Like Old Clothes
By Mary Ann Hoberman, illustrated by Patrice Barton
Published 2012 by Knopf Books for Young Readers
Apparently, this is a new version of a 1976 volume by Hoberman. A love song to hand-me-downs, I wasn't all that excited about this book when I first picked it up. However, the rhyming text has a certain charm and it didn't take long for the book to grow on me. This would work wonderfully in a clothing/getting dressed storytime. The illustrations have the perfect softness that one associates with old clothes. This book snuck up on me and I quite enjoyed it.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Review: Finnikin of the Rock

Finnikin of the Rock
By Melina Marchetta
Published 2010 by Candlewick Press

When Finnikin is nine, he stands on the rock of the three wonders with his two best friends. They mix their blood in an oath to protect their kingdom, Lumatere. But then the five days of the unspeakable happen. Ten years later, Finnikin stands atop another rock, claiming a young girl called Evanjalin who claims an astonishing thing: heir of Lumatere, Balthazar (who bled on the rock with Finnikin) is alive and ready to lead his people back to their kingdom.

Marchetta is one of those authors who I mean to read but never seem to get around to. This is, I understand, a departure from her usual books - here we have high fantasy instead of contemporary realistic. I'm not sure why I started with this one rather than one of her realistic novels, but I'm glad I did. Though it took a bit for me to get into, this book ended up being a wonderful read. Marchetta has created a stunning world that I long to know more about and can't wait to enter again. She's populated this world with incredible characters - they leap off the page and completely grabbed me. I am totally smitten with Finnikin - though I often roll my eyes at rough-around-the-edges boys in teen novels, Finn is, for some reason, my exception. He is vulnerable and heroic, smart and sarcastic - I just adore the way Marchetta makes him sound. And the rest of the characters - I mean, I totally fell for them. This book pulled at my heartstrings and actually made me cry - something that I generally don't do when it comes to fantasy (well, you know, except Harry Potter). But this book - it was just heartbreaking. Marchetta has created a world and characters that are so gripping and believable that I was right there alongside the characters the whole time. I was shocked and appalled when Finnikin slowly learns the truth about the deceptive Evanjalin. I was saddened and distraught with Evanjalin whenever Finnikin refused to speak to her, put off by her misdirections. I was joyful and incredulous with Finn when he reunites with a long-lost relative. Suffice it to say that I was a tiny bit emotionally invested in this book. I don't even have anything more sensible to say because I completely loved this book. The plotting is so excellent - Marchetta manages to cram so much into this book, but it never feels overstuffed or overdone. Instead, the pieces are revealed so excruciatingly beautifully and brilliantly that readers are satisfied throughout the whole book. Enough of the mysteries are revealed to leave readers content in reading the single volume, but there is clearly enough material to continue. I am so thrilled that this is the first in a trilogy and I can't wait to get my hands on the next book. I was not expecting to love this as much as I did. I'm so glad I picked it up. Highly recommended for fantasy fans!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Review: The Year We Were Famous

The Year We Were Famous
By Carole Estby Dagg
Published 2011 by Clarion Books

With their family house and farm facing foreclosure, Clara and her mother need to come up with a lot of money - fast. So, when Clara off-handedly suggests they undergo an adventure like her heroine, Nellie Bly, her mother latches onto the idea. And that's how Clara finds herself walking straight across the United States...

I received a hardcover copy of this at ALA Annual last year and thought it sounded right up my alley - a historical novel about some intrepid women, setting out on adventure and trying to prove themselves. It spoke to the Little House on the Prairie-loving part of myself. When I realized that the book was based on the story of the author's ancestors, I became even more intrigued. Finally, the timing was right and I devoured this book. It's a very quick read - short chapters break down the long journey undertaken by the Estby women. Clara is our narrator and I found her very engaging. While some of her issues and struggles may seem old-fashioned to today's teens, much of what she is going through will still resonate. I found her romantic entanglements amusing and realistic. I enjoyed reading about Helga through Clara's eyes and found her an interesting character, particularly the frank attitude she adopted regarding some of their more dangerous escapades. While I enjoyed the story, I wasn't blown away by the book. It's written well enough, but it's not anything fancy. I'm not surprised to discover the author is a librarian - it's well-researched but not overly showy. At times, I wished Dagg had expanded her narrative a bit, but I still enjoyed reading.

Thanks to the publisher for a hardcover copy.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Review: The Infects

The Infects
By Sean Beaudoin
Expected publication September 25, 2012 by Candlewick

It's the end of the world as we know it and Nick (also known as Nero) is trying to survive in the wilderness. Faced with the sudden appearance of flesh-munching monsters, Nick must figure out how to escape back to civilization before he becomes a zombie himself. But first, he has to make sure that the girl he's been crushing on is okay, too.

The publisher was giving away e-galleys of this title at School Library Journal's SummerTeen event and, since I love zombies, I happily downloaded a copy. I had read one of Beaudoin's novels before and enjoyed it pretty well. In addition, it seemed like this book would be a very different take on the zombie novel, and I'm always looking for innovative things. Unfortunately, I didn't enjoy this book nearly as much as I had hoped. Yes, this book definitely takes zombies in a new direction - it just wasn't one for which I really cared. I also had a hard time with the characters - I found them boring. Actually, for a zombie book, I found the whole thing rather boring. Additionally, I felt like the book was trying too hard - to be clever and funny, to be gross and scary, just trying too hard at everything. In the end, this made it hard for the book to be successful in any aspect. I found myself continuing to read more out of a sense of commitment than enjoyment. And when the book ended, I just felt disappointed. Yes, there is a decent amount of action and, occasionally, the book actually succeeds at the humor it is trying so hard to include. But overall, this book just felt like an experimental pretentious mess. That being said, I can see that this book does actually have quite a bit of appeal to a certain type of teen reader.The tone of the book is very sarcastic and, maybe this is weird to say, but it reminds me of hipsters. There is definitely some violence and gore which I can see as a definite draw for some kids. So, I think this book will definitely have an audience. It just wasn't a book I enjoyed as much as I thought I would.

Thanks to the publisher for a digital advance reader's copy provided via NetGalley.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Review: The Lost Treasure of Tuckernuck

The Lost Treasure of Tuckernuck
By Emily Fairlie
Expected publication September 25, 2012 by Katherine Tegen Books

Laurie is less than thrilled to be attending her parents' alma mater, Tuckernuck Hall, home of the Cluckers. The only thing that makes the idea bearable is that Tuckernuck's founder hid a treasure somewhere in the school, leaving clues for intrepid Cluckers to find. If Laurie could just find the treasure and win the glory, maybe she'd be able to convince her parents to let her transfer...

You know, it's weird because I very rarely read mysteries; I'm just not all that interested in the genre and I have a gut reaction to the word (I'm not sure why - I've certainly read and enjoyed some mysteries before). The exception is for children's or young adult lit - in that case, I'm more than happy to read a mystery. In fact, I think mysteries are making a comeback among middle-grade readers (I've had a lot of tween patrons asking for mystery recommendations) and I fully support this. That was my reasoning for requesting a digital galley of this title - it sounded like a great middle-grade mystery with a bit of an epistolary slant (there are emails, lists and clues included in the narrative). Unfortunately, this book did not live up to the promise of its premise. I loved the notion of a long-lost treasure that would lead students on a hunt through the school, following seemingly random and interesting clues. The problem here is twofold - the whole treasure hunt feels a bit too rushed and at the same time, too cheerful, if that can even be a thing. The whole time I was reading this book I just felt annoyed by the overly upbeat tone that I felt like I was reading. Maybe it's just my own reading of the book, but everything seemed a bit too sunshine-y. The second part of the problem is the main characters. They are not fleshed out or sympathetic enough for me to care about their ambition to discover the treasure and attain fame. I found Laurie completely annoying and frustrating and Bud just flat. I really looked forward to this book as a new mystery I could recommend to my readers, but it just didn't work for me.

Thanks to the publisher for a digital advance reader's copy provided via Edelweiss.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Program: Family Storytime

Another session of family storytime this fall - here's what we did!

Welcome - this is where I say hello to everyone in storytime, introduce myself and provide some gentle reminders (turn off your phones, keep out of our floor-to-ceiling blinds, and have fun!).

Opening rhyme: "My Hands" - I remembered it still! Yay! I like this one much better than Open Shut Them.

Book: Lots of Dots by Craig Frazier - our theme this week was spots and stripes, so I thought this book was a perfect introduction to seeing all the different things that are made of spots or dots. The kids enjoyed naming the different things the dots made, though not as enthusiastically as they usually do. I think we were having a quiet week this time around.

Flipbook: Little Blue and Little Yellow by Leo Lionni - I actually find this book kind of creepy and made my colleagues laugh by providing an alternate narration while I was flipping through it to decide if I wanted to use it in storytime. I ended up including it because any alternate format to a traditional book is usually a big hit with the kids, so I thought they'd really enjoy this. Like I said, I think we were having a quiet week, so it wasn't as much of a thrill as it might have been normally.

Book: It's a Tiger! by David LaRochelle, illustrated by Jeremy Tankard - I have a review of this book coming up on the blog, but I chose it for storytime today because tigers have stripes. Plus, that striped tail is the clue to finding the tiger on every spread. This was probably the biggest hit of the day.

Song: "List of Dances" by Jim Gill - as you can probably tell by now, I get sick of music and rhymes much more quickly than I get sick of books. The Hap Palmer CD is still MIA and I didn't really want to have a "Silly Dance Contest" this week, so I went with this one. The kids seem to do better with the dancing part if they have specific kinds of dancing to do rather than just free dancing. This would have worked better if I actually made a list of the dances in the song so we would know what was coming next.

Book: The Very Lazy Ladybug by Isobel Finn, illustrated by Jack Tickle - I wanted to use this one because it's just so darn cute and has lots of opportunity for interaction. Plus, our first book showed a ladybug as an example of small dots, so I didn't expect the kids to make the connection, but it was still there. This is a really cute story about a ladybug who is too lazy to learn how to fly so she hitches a ride on a bunch of different animals. But none of the rides suit her very well...until she hops on the elephant. Could this be the answer? The kids liked the end of this one.

Flannel: Dog's Colorful Day by Emma Dodd - my aversion to flannels notwithstanding, this is a cute little book in any format. It is a fantastic concept book, which wasn't as important for my family storytime, but is essential for toddlers. This flannel tells of Dog's colorful day, as she gets many different colored spots on her. Kids can practice colors and counting, plus Dog is adorable.

Closing: "Wave Goodbye" by Rob Reid - okay, after my brief brush with full memorization, I had to look at my paper this time. SIGH. Will I ever get it all?

And that was our spots and stripes storytime! What books would you share?

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Picture Book Saturday (34)

The Monster Who Lost His Mean
By Tiffany Strelitz Haber, illustrated by Kirstie Edmunds
Published 2012 by MacMillan
This book starts off by telling readers just what exactly each letter of the word "monster" stands for. Of course, the "M" stands for "mean" - but what happens when one monster loses him "M"? This delightful story of an Onster and his optimism in the face of adversity (yes, heady words for a picture book, I know) was absolutely fun to read. The pictures are perfectly suited to the story and I think kids will really cheer for this one.

1 2 3 Peas
By Keith Baker
Published 2012 by Beach Lane Books
To accompany his LMNO Peas, Baker now introduces readers to a group of peas that love counting. The illustrations are bright and fun and kids will love counting along with these crazy peas. This is sure to be a popular new concept book.

Rocket Writes a Story
By Tad Hills
Published 2012 by Scwartz & Wade
The lovable and curious Rocket is back! After learning to read with his patient teacher, the little yellow bird, Rocket now has the courage to decide he wants to write a story of his own. But what will his story be about? With a little help from a new friend, Rocket finds his perfect story. This is such a feel-good book - I definitely felt all warm and fuzzy inside after finishing it! Rocket is a great character, sure to have huge appeal to kids. My only complaint is that these stories are too long for storytime - otherwise I would be sharing them whenever I could!

Bear in Love
By Daniel Pinkwater, illustrated by Will Hillenbrand
Published 2012 by Candlewick Press
This is a sweet story of Bear, who awakes one morning to find a delicious surprise waiting for him. From that day on, the surprises get sweeter and sweeter until Bear thinks he just might be in love with whoever is leaving these treats for him. So Bear leaves a present of his own. Will friendship blossom? I think we all know the answer to this, but the story is a delight to read. The illustrations are soft and beautiful, perfectly evoking the feeling of this story. I adored this book.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Review: October Mourning

October Mourning: A Song for Matthew Shepard
By Leslea Newman
Expected publication September 25, 2012 by Candlewick

The night that Matthew Shepard died, Leslea Newman was on her way to his campus for Gay Awareness Week. Scheduled to give a speech, she went on as planned, shaken and overwhelmed by what was occurring. This book is her response to what happened in Wyoming, told in verse and through a variety of viewpoints.

Matthew Shepard's death is, to me, an unforgettable moment in our nation's history. It's now been almost 15 years and the impact is still felt across the nation and among all different types of people. An e-galley of this title was being offered as part of School Library Journal's SummerTeen celebration and I was quick to grab a copy. I'm a big fan of verse novels, and I also think we can always use more books for GLBT youth. This is a beautiful book. It's short but it's powerful and I think the verse format works exceedingly well for telling this tragic story. It didn't take me very long to read but I was completely absorbed while I was reading. I couldn't help but think back over the events of my life that have been occurred because of homophobia. This book will bring out those memories for anyone whose life has been impacted but it will also keep the focus on Matthew Shepard's death. Newman does a wonderful job telling the story through many different voices and in many different poetic forms. I think this helps to bring readers into the complete experience of this crime. The author's note at the end gives some background information on Newman and what she was hoping to accomplish with this book. I think she has succeeded. This is a lyrical and moving tribute to not just Matthew Shepard, but to the countless gay youth who have been harmed through the years. But it is also a tribute to Matthew Shepard, a man whose life was cut drastically short by someone else's hatred. This book will find its way to the teens who need it - get extra copies.

Thanks to the publisher for a digital advance reader's copy provided via NetGalley.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Review: The Raven Boys

The Raven Boys (Raven Cycle, book 1)
By Maggie Stiefvater
Published 2012 by Scholastic Press

Being the daughter of a psychic has been mostly pleasant for Blue Sargent - except for that pesky bit about knowing that if she kisses her true love, he'll die. When Blue finally sees a boy she knows will die this year (she doesn't share the psychic ability), she's pretty sure he must be important. And when that boy shows up at her mother's house, Blue feels like she has to do something to help. Little does she know that the boy, Gansey, is on an impossible quest and he will become more important than she could have imagined.

I've had mostly good experiences with Stiefvater's novels before and this one started getting buzz a while back. The first two chapters were available on Entertainment Weekly's website a few months ago, so I happily read them. Needless to say, those two chapters had me instantly hooked and impatiently awaiting the book. I received a digital review copy from the publisher but, despite my best efforts, didn't finish the book pre-publication. However, I finished the book as fast as I could. Because - dare I say it? - this is Stiefvater's best novel. I am about halfway through The Scorpio Races and I haven't read Ballad yet, but I think it's safe to say that she really outdoes herself here. I've said before that her greatest strength is building an interesting world full of fascinating characters and she has definitely done that here. There seem to be more characters that share the focus in Raven Boys, but they are all beautifully executed. I wanted to know more about every single one of them. And Blue - oh, she is a delight. And the Raven Boys themselves - so many possibilities! On top of the wonderful characters and the interesting world they live in, Stiefvater has come up with one of the most innovative plots I can recall - a search for an ancient Welsh king, believed to be buried on a ley line (an energy line of sorts) and waiting to be woken. Legend has it that he will grant the favor of the person to awake him. I mean - it's all sorts of crazy, but it's also believable at the same time. I think Stiefvater is absolutely amazing at blending the magical and the real - there is so much magic in her books, but, especially in this one, it's portrayed in a way that makes me want to believe it could be true. Whenever I wasn't actively reading the book, I wanted to be. I was completely immersed in the novel because, once again, Stiefvater has created the perfect blend of action, mystery, romance, magic, and realism. I devoured the book every opportunity I got. This is one of the most imaginative and well-crafted novels I've read and easily one of my favorite books of the year. I cannot wait to see where the series goes from here and I am definitely a Stiefvater fangirl now. I think this book will definitely be making some appearances on award lists come January.

Thanks to the publisher for a digital advance reader's copy provided via NetGalley.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Review: Burned

By Ellen Hopkins
Published 2006 by Margaret K. McElderry Books

Pattyn's life begins to spin out of control after her first sex dream. Raised in a strict religious family, Pattyn has been taught not to sin. But that dream raises the first of many questions for Pattyn and sets her down a wildly different course than she ever could have imagined for herself.

When I went to ALA Annual last year, one the authors I definitely wanted to meet was Ellen Hopkins. She was there, doing a signing in her publisher's booth, and giving away advance reader's copies of her upcoming titles. Her older titles were also available for purchase at the signing. This was the only one of hers that I hadn't yet read, so I bought this one for her to sign. Of course, it took me over a year to get around to reading it, but that's not surprising to anyone who knows me. Anyway...

I really enjoyed this one. It is very much a typical Hopkins novel: gritty, with gripping realistic characters, dealing with incredibly tough and relevant issues. I can see this one being even more touchy than her others because it deals with religion - an incredibly tough subject for many people. I think Hopkins handles it wonderfully - she explains and allows readers to explore as her characters asks questions. I was definitely sucked into the story Hopkins was telling and really felt like Pattyn's was a story that would really resonate with teens. Religion is one of the things that teenagers are most struggling with in terms of understanding and evaluating their own feelings and thoughts. Novels with characters who are questioning their beliefs and ideas about religion provide a safe place for teenagers to think of their own questions. Of course, novels are still fiction, but they can provide a good starting point for teens who don't know where to begin. I especially enjoyed the ending of this one and am actually a bit disappointed to hear that there's going to be a sequel. I thought the ambiguous ending that Hopkins provided made the book more powerful and interesting. I wouldn't normally complain about a new Hopkins' novel but I think this one definitely could stand on its own.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Bulk Review: Junior Graphic Novels

Since I find it much more difficult to have a lot to say about graphic novels than I do with picture books, I decided to post my short reviews of my recent graphic reads all together.

Binky the Space Cat and Binky to the Rescue
By Ashley Spires
Published 2009 and 2010 by Kids Can Press
I've been wanting to pick this up for a while because I have really loved Spires' picture books and this graphic novel series looked adorable. Binky is no ordinary house cat; he has just completed his space cat training and now much do his duties to keep his humans safe from alien invaders. Binky is charming and delightful and kids are sure to appreciate Spires' sense of humor.

Korgi (Book 1)
By Christian Slade
Published 2007 by Top Shelf Productions
I picked this up on a whim when I was pulling a different graphic novel off the shelf and decided to give it a try. This wordless story is easy to read but compelling and almost immediately after finishing the first, I wanted to read the rest of them. The illustrations are beautiful and tell the story very effectively. Plus, CORGIS!

Gabby and Gator
By James Burks
Published 2010 by Yen Press
I could not resist this cover - a little girl with a gator in her wagon. And I could not resist falling in love with this story once I started. A misunderstood girl and a misunderstood (and hungry) gator find true companionship and understanding, with Burks' characteristic humor. I absolutely adored this and think kids would love it too.

Giants Beware!
By Jorge Aguirre and Rafael Rosado
Published 2012 by First Second
This is actually one of the rare graphic novels that I had heard buzz about and was eagerly anticipating, so when I spotted it on our shelves one day, I grabbed it and read immediately! Claudette is our spirited heroine, who wants nothing more than to be the greatest giant slayer in the kingdom, just like her father. But her village is safe - not a giant in sight. Will that stop intrepid young Claudette? Of course not! With the help of her pastry chef brother and princess-in-training friend, Claudette will find her adventure if it's the last thing she does! This book was so much fun; I absolutely loved all the characters and the humor is spot on. Highly recommended!

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Program + Review: beTWEEN the lines

Well, it's that time again. September has arrived and, with it, programming is back in gear. My first program for the new school year was my book club for tween readers, beTWEEN the lines. This book club - sigh. You guys, I want so badly for this to be successful but so far, not really hitting it out of the park or anything. Part of the problem is that I probably don't do enough advertising/promotion for the club. I know I should be going to schools and booktalking and telling kids about the club. However, only one of our librarians ever does outreach and she only goes to a couple of schools, and mostly only visits the younger classes at those schools. So, it doesn't really seem like we have a fab relationship with the schools in the area. I'm sure I could ask and my supervisor would probably let me go, but I also don't live in the area and have never done outreach before, so I don't really know where to start. And, even if I did go, would I even get more kids to come? Right now, the only regular attendee I have (as in, she's the only one who has come to every meeting) is a homeschooler. So, would I even be reaching the right audience? My boss and I have talked some about programming aimed specifically at homeschoolers, but that's not what I want either. So, how do I get the word out about my beloved book club? The thing is, I really like doing it and the kids who do show up always seem to enjoy themselves. I'm not looking for huge numbers, but a consistent group of 5-10 kids would be nice. Does anyone have any tips for me? I'd be happy to hear them!

Anyway, our first meeting after taking the summer off was almost a bust. Only two girls showed up and both arrived 10 minutes late, so for a little while, I thought I was going to have a big fat zero. But, they came and we discussed this month's pick. In honor of Roald Dahl month, I had chosen Matilda. The girls both loved the book and were delighted to discover there was a movie version (side note: it made me feel very old when I realized that they had never heard of the movie). We had a good discussion about who the real villain was in the book and what we would do with Matilda's powers. I provided a bag full of Wonka candy (different book, I know, but same author) as well as apples and bottled water. We also did a short activity where we discovered how many words could be made out of the phrase "Matilda loves reading." At the very end of our meeting, I introduced our next book and then provided two options for November's title for them to vote on. Since there were only two of them, it wasn't much of a vote, but they agreed easily on which title to read. And that was it until October! Here's my short review of our September pick!

By Roald Dahl
Published 2007 by Puffin (originally published 1988)

Some parents believe their children are amazing, astounding, and brilliant, even when presented with evidence to the contrary. The Wormwoods are not those types of parents. You see, the Wormwoods believe that their child is useless, annoying, and stupid. Matilda - their youngest child - is anything but these things. Will Matilda find a way to prove her genius, even when faced with the additional bullying of Mrs. Trunchbull?

Of course I've read Matilda before now - I think I read every Roald Dahl book by the time I reached sixth grade. But I thoroughly enjoyed picking this one up for a re-read. I don't often actually get the chance to re-read books, despite my best intentions of doing just that. It's been a long time since I read a Roald Dahl (well, a couple years since I listened to James and the Giant Peach). Re-reading this book reminded me of why I loved it so much in the first place. Dahl just gets kids. This book is brimming with everything that kids will love - ridiculous humor, a plucky heroine, some really terrible bad guys, and a little magic. I had forgotten so much about this book that it was delightful to rediscover it now. Matilda's first place of escape from her horrible parents is the library - how did I not remember this? I laughed out loud a number of times and this book made me want to pick up all of Dahl's books again. They are just simply a joy.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Picture Book Saturday (33)

Good News, Bad News
By Jeff Mack
Published 2012 by Chronicle Books
This book is so absolutely wonderful! With minimal text, Mack creates a really clever and fun story that is sure to be a hit with young readers. This book is excellent for dialogic reading, as parents can have the children practice their narrative skills and fill in the story. This is a sweet tale of friendship and also teaches the concept of good news/bad news in a fun and easy to understand way. I will definitely be using this in a storytime!

Time Out for Monsters!
By Jean Reidy, illustrated by Robert Neubecker
Published 2012 by Hyperion
I'm starting to think Neubecker might be an illustrator to add to my cache of "children's illustrators whose books I'll always read." I spotted this one on our new book cart and couldn't resist reading through it. This is a cute story that will definitely appeal to children. Using monsters, this book makes it very easy for parents to talk about the idea of "time-out" and illustrate why we have it. I think parents should give this one more than just a glance for teaching this idea to their young ones.

I Have Two Homes
By Marian de Smet, illustrated by Nynke Mare Talsma
Published 2011 by Clavis Publishing
Generally, I don't read picture books that deal with social issues (divorce, parents in jail, etc.) but the illustrations in this one caught my eye. I was pleasantly surprised by how this book deals with the difficult issue of divorce and having two different homes. The young girl's feelings about her two homes are related simply and kids going through this experience will readily identify with the things she feels. This is a great one for kids adjusting to life after divorce.

Tushes and Tails!
By Stephane Frattini
Published 2012 by Sterling Children's Books
This book is a bit difficult to categorize for me - it's a board book, but the content is more advanced than the typical board book audience. Don't get me wrong - this book is basically just lift-the-flap pictures of different animal butts, but once you lift the flap, readers are greeted with information about the animal represented. Now, it's not taxonomic, biological information - just basic stuff, really - but it still seems lightly more advanced than what toddlers can understand. But perhaps I'm wrong. Still, this is a book sure to appeal to kids who find it.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Review: The Impossible Rescue

The Impossible Rescue: The True Story of an Amazing Arctic Adventure
By Martin W. Sandler
Expected publication September 11, 2012 by Candlewick

In 1897, whaling was a money-making career. It was also incredibly dangerous. Winter came early that year and a number of whaling ships became trapped in the ice, leaving the men aboard desperate for rescue. Seeing this perilous situation, President McKinley dispatched three men on a harrowing rescue mission, over 1500 miles of rough Alaskan terrain.

I received a review copy of this book from the publisher while attending School Library Journal's SummerTeen event and figured I'd give it a shot. I don't read a ton of non-fiction, but I always want to, and this sounded like it had potential to be a gripping read. Unfortunately, it wasn't exactly as thrilling as I expected. The story of the rescue is well-told, and there are a number of moments when it really hit me how dangerous this mission was and how difficult an undertaking this would have been over a hundred years ago. But the action of the rescue sometimes gets bogged down in details - all of it relevant, but it does take away from the mission a bit. It just made me wonder if kids would wade through all the details to get to the meat of the story - which is actually really amazing. I think kids who gravitate toward non-fiction and those looking for an adventure story could certainly do worse than picking up this book. It is, overall, a fascinating and kind of scary story about the amazing lengths undergone to rescue the whalers. The pictures are well-chosen, highlighting the people involved in the rescue and providing stark images of the ruggedness of the country that the men were traveling through. I really enjoyed the "what happened next" section at the end, providing information on what became of the key players after the rescue mission. My advance copy did not have photograph sources or an index, but did provide bibliographic info and the space was left to include the other bits of back matter before publication. All in all, I think this is a well-written account of a daring historical rescue that kids looking for an adventure story will be amazed to discover actually happened.

Thanks to the publisher for a digital advance reader's copy provided via NetGalley.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Review: Almost Home

Almost Home
By Joan Bauer
Expected publication September 13, 2012 by Viking Juvenile

Sugar's life isn't perfect: her father is mostly absent and her mother clings to the idea that he's a good man deep down. But she loves her mother and she is really excited about her sixth-grade teacher. Unfortunately, things are about to get worse - they are so far behind on their mortgage payments that Sugar and her mom are being evicted. Now, Sugar feels like she's wearing a sign that says "HOMELESS GIRL." Can she stay sweet in the face of an awful turn of events?

I'm almost embarrassed to admit that I don't think I've ever read Bauer before. Her books have always looked and sounded appealing; she's just one of those authors I've never gotten around to. I received a digital galley of her newest book recently and eagerly started my first Bauer experience. I'm pleased to say it went well. Bauer has crafted a truly lovely narrator - Sugar Mae Cole. Sugar is sweet (as her name would suggest, but she really is) and optimistic, a gifted poet and a girl old before her time. She sounds authentic as she deals with the tragedy that has become her reality - a shifty, good-for-nothing father, a depressed mother who puts her faith in the wrong man, and the loss of her family's home. Though she struggles, she sees the positive and the surprise arrival of a puppy named Shush help Sugar find some comfort as the life she knows crumbles. This is a book about so many things: homelessness, troubled parents, children who must grow up too fast, the bond between pets and their owners, and finding the sweetness in life. Bauer puts all these things together beautifully in a novel that is appealing, easy to relate to, and incredibly powerful and relevant in today's society. Homeless families make up an increasing percentage of the homeless population in America and kids need to be aware that some of their classmates might be living Sugar's situation. Similarly, the experiences of homeless kids are just as valid and should be reflected in youth literature. I know I've never read another book featuring a young homeless protagonist, but I am glad I have now. One of the things I really liked about this is that Sugar's mother isn't a terrible parent - she has that same sunny optimism that makes her believe Sugar's father will, in fact, be different this time around. And every time he disappoints her, he chips away just a bit of her shine. But otherwise, Sugar's mom is crazy about her daughter and trying her best to make a good life for them. I thought it was great that Bauer didn't just make Sugar the victim of two terrible parents - it adds depth to the story as Sugar tries to understand her mother's unwavering faith in her father. Bauer's novel is heartbreaking but also spirit-lifting and I think kids will appreciate and enjoy reading Sugar's story.

Thanks to the publisher for a digital advance reader's copy provided via NetGalley.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Review: Personal Effects

Personal Effects
By E.M. Kokie
Expected publication September 11, 2012 by Candlewick Press

Matt's life just isn't the same since his brother, T.J., died in Iraq. His father basically acts like he never existed, taking down all the photos and other evidence of T.J.'s life. Add to that some jerk at school, constantly expressing his political opinions in a way that just gets on Matt's nerve and you've got a volatile situation. So, when things come to a head, Matt finds himself in serious trouble. It only gets more complicated when T.J.'s personal effects show up and Matt finds among them letters. Letters from what can only be T.J.'s girlfriend. Matt soon realizes that he needs to meet this person and learn more about his brother in the process.

I received a digital galley of this book while attending School Library Journal's SummerTeen event. I don't usually read books about war, or the consequences of war, but I wanted to give this one a try. I do tend to read books about kids and teens dealing with grief, especially the death of a sibling, whenever possible, so that aspect of the story definitely appealed to me. I'm a bit of two minds about this book. I want to preface this by saying that this is a really good book. It's well-written with a compelling storyline and I definitely felt an emotional connection (I teared up a few times). I think this is an important book (though sometimes it pains me to say that) and one that teens and young adults today can certainly relate to. Its release on the 11th anniversary of the terrorist attacks is fitting. Let me try to explain where my two minds regarding this book come from without spoilers.

On the one hand, I think this is a fantastic book with something important and relevant to say. I've said it before and I'll say it again - there is not nearly enough literature dealing with the experience of losing a sibling out there. This is something that happens and, just like any other situations, kids and teens need to see their own experiences reflected back to them in some of the literature they read. On that note, this is a great book about this particular experience. Though my personal experience is not an exact mirror of Matt's, I certainly related to much of what Matt went through after the death of his brother - the anger, the hurt and pain, the confusion, and even the silence surrounding the deceased. Matt's reactions and actions strike me as "normal" for someone going through his experience. I felt a lot of the same feelings and wanted to do a lot of the same things during the first year after my own loss (and, if I'm honest, still sometimes these days, some six years later). As a novel about a teen dealing with the exceptional emotions related to the loss of a sibling, I think this book is fantastic.

On the other hand, Matt discovers something about his brother, a secret he'd been keeping. While this adds another layer to the book (and is very interesting and also realistic), I found it a bit unnecessary. This is not the first book I've read dealing with sibling loss where the narrator uncovers a bit of previously unknown information about the deceased sibling. While this certainly happens in real life, I feel it might be overrepresented in fiction (though my sample is admittedly quite small). Not everyone who dies was leading some secret life or keeping some life-changing information from their family. Sometimes you find out the person who died was exactly the person you knew them to be when they were living. I think, in this book, the secrets are especially moving and really do add to the story; I just wish I knew of more books where there wasn't some hidden truth to be discovered after one's death.

All in all, I think this is an incredibly strong novel with a powerful message (actually a number of powerful messages) that is relevant to today's teens.

Thanks to the publisher for a digital advance reader's copy provided via NetGalley.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Review: Silhouette of a Sparrow

Silhouette of a Sparrow
By Molly Beth Griffin
Expected publication September 11, 2012 by Milkweed Editions

To escape the polio epidemic and to give her mother some alone time with her war-ravaged father, sixteen-year-old Garnet Richardson is sent to a lake resort with distant relations. But that summer will be about much more than escape for Garnet - it will be about self-discovery and finding the confidence to live her own life. With the help of a beautiful flapper, Garnet will learn things about herself that she never could have imagined.

I'm a sucker for historical fiction and the GLBT aspect was also appealing to me, as I'm always looking for more good books for this audience. I received an e-galley of this from the publisher after attending School Library Journal's SummerTeen virtual conference and was really looking forward to reading it. This was a really quick and engaging read. Garnet is a bit of an amateur ornithologist and the chapters are framed by different birds. It's a really interesting way to tell the story and I thought it worked really well for this story in particular. Garnet is a well-developed character - she is hopeful and optimistic, but confused about the changing world and her place in it. Should she marry the nice boy back home? That question becomes more difficult to answer after she meets Isabella, a beautiful flapper. The struggle that Garnet goes through is easy to relate to and I thought it was interesting that Garnet and Isabella's relationship was made more complicated by the fact that they are members of different classes (or at least are perceived that way). The descriptions of time and place are very evocative and really gave me a sense of being immersed in that era and in that locale. Though I did find it a bit unbelievable that the first girl Garnet shows interest in just happened to actually be interested as well, I don't think their relationship is any more implausible than its heterosexual counterparts. All in all, I think this is a very strong debut novel and a nice addition to GLBT YA lit.

Thanks to the publisher for a digital advance reader's copy provided via Edelweiss.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Review: Masque of the Red Death

Masque of the Red Death (Masque of the Red Death, book 1)
By Bethany Griffin
Published 2012 by Greenwillow

Araby passes her days in the Debauchery Club, engaging in behaviors that couldn't have been imagined before the plague. But Araby needs them to escape the torment of her life, the guilt she feels about being a survivor. Little does she know that she's about to find something worth living for...

This was a much buzzed-about book at Midwinter and I was disappointed that I didn't manage to get my hands on an ARC. However, one magically appeared at work one day and I took it home to read. I must first admit that I don't remember ever reading the Edgar Allen Poe story on which this novel is based (or maybe it just shares a name). I did make sure to read the short story after I finished the novel and the connection is, to me, tenuous. But I digress. This book initially appealed to me because it was described as steampunky, with brothels, and a deadly plague. It's hard for me to resist such an awkwardly awesome-sounding combination. After finishing the book, I think it might be a bit misrepresented. This book is not really steampunk. Yes, some of the costume/dress is described in a way that might evoke a steampunk aesthetic, but that's about it. Well, I suppose there is the flying balloon at the end. I don't know; I just didn't get the steampunkiness of it. The premise of the book is quite interesting and I liked reading about how the world came to be so devastated. Additionally, I liked that our narrator is the daughter of a scientist - it makes for an interesting perspective on the plague. However, aside from that, I found it very difficult to connect with Araby. First, I can't get past her name - I'm not even sure how to pronounce it and that is a problem. Second, I found her moroseness and guilt-ridden personality incredibly off-putting and difficult to sympathize with. But, surprisingly enough, I found the romantic elements of this to be well-done - I was intrigued enough by the options to want to see what path Araby would choose. I like that the Red Death doesn't actually appear in the book for quite some time - this is clearly to help set up the sequel. Though I may have mixed-feelings about the book overall, I can see myself picking up the second to find out what's in store for this world.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Review: The Drowned Vault

The Drowned Vault (Ashtown Burials, book 2)
By N.D. Wilson
Expected publication September 11, 2012 by Random House Books for Young Readers

WARNING: There will likely be spoilers for the first book. To read my review of that book, click here.

It's been almost a year since Cyrus and Antigone earned their places at Ashtown, and that year has not been easy on them. After losing the Dragon's Tooth in a battle with Phoenix, let's just say that the Smiths are not the most popular kids in town. And they are about to get a whole lot more unpopular. The transmortals - who are being hunted and killed by Phoenix - descend on Ashtown with a bone to pick. Soon, the Smiths in a situation where the only hope for assistance will come from bringing back a guy even more unpopular than themselves - their ancestor, Captain John Smith.

After reading the first book more than a year ago, I had been eagerly awaiting this title. Wilson got this series off to a great start, leaving readers at a point where they were definitely invested and wanted to know what happened next. The pace only picks up and the action gets more involved and exhilarating in this second entry. More of the complicated history of the Order is revealed, and even greater villains make themselves known. I don't know if it was revealed in the first book (I can't remember, anyway) but I thought it was awesome that Cyrus and Antigone were related to John Smith. I loved finding out the story with him and why the Smiths have been disliked long before Cyrus and Antigone showed up. I loved that we had parallel story lines with various characters throughout the book. And, I'm happy to report that a lot of my issues with the first book seem to resolve themselves in this title. More information is revealed in this book and holding back some relevant information is just part of what makes a series work well. Additionally, I found Cyrus to be better developed and easier to relate to in this book. He is going through a lot and I think some of the struggles with proving himself will be familiar to readers. This book creates an even greater world with ever more excitement and suspense. The characters are all richly developed, but still, in my opinion, this series greatest strength is its world-building and mythology. Any kid looking for an exciting new fantasy series should get started on these.

Thanks to the publisher for a digital advance reader's copy provided via Edelweiss.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Picture Book Saturday (32)

Squid & Octopus: Friends for Always
By Tao Nyeu
Published 2012 by Dial Books for Young Readers
As I've mentioned before, I don't really anticipate picture books the way I anticipate middle-grade or young-adult (or even adult) fiction. However, this book was an exception. I absolutely adore Nyeu's illustration style - I would love to have prints to hang on my walls (as if I could afford such a thing, but I digress). Anyway, this book is of the recent trend in that it's actually a collection of short stories in one picture book. We follow best friends Squid and Octopus through a variety of adventures. They are all fun with lessons to be learned and illustrated gorgeously. Whimsical and delightful, this is a new favorite of mine.

A Home for Bird
By Philip C. Stead
Published 2012 by Roaring Brook Press
Vernon the toad finds Bird while he is out exploring. He is not discouraged by Bird's silence because Bird still turns out to be a pretty great friend. Eventually, Vernon begins to worry that Bird is homesick, so they pair sets out on a quest to find Bird's home. With a delightful ending and sweet illustrations, this is destined to be another new favorite.

Red Knit Cap Girl
By Naoko Stoop
Published 2012 by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
I remember stumbling upon Red Knit Cap Girl on (oh, that site!) and finding her beautiful and charming. I had no idea a picture book was coming. It does not disappoint. This story of Red Knit Cap Girl's dream of meeting the moon is magical and alluring. The illustrations are lovely and the emphasis on persisting with one's dreams is encouraging. Just beautiful.

Wanted: The Perfect Pet
By Fiona Roberton
Published 2012 by Putnam Juvenile
Henry wants a pet dog more than anything in the world, so he puts a want ad in the newspaper. Across town, Duck wants a friend. When he sees Henry's ad, he thinks this could be his chance. All he has to do is dress up like a dog - a surefire plan to a happy ending! Well, not exactly, but everything will work out in the end. This is a very sweet book about friendship and accepting each other for who you truly are. I loved this one!

Friday, September 7, 2012

Review: Anna Dressed in Blood

Anna Dressed in Blood (Anna, book 1)
By Kendare Blake, read by August Ross
Published 2012 by AudioGo

Cas has taken up the family business after the death of his father. That family business just happens to be killing ghosts. But Cas is about to meet a ghost unlike any he's encountered before: Anna Dressed in Blood. You see, Anna has killed every teenager that's crossed her path since 1958. And Cas is about to cross her path in a big way...

Well, when I first heard about this book, I knew I had to read it. I am a horror aficionado (I wrote my Honors thesis on horror films) and often lament the lack of actual horror novels for teens and kids (remember Christopher Pike? R.L. Stine's Fear Street? Those books were actually scary!). I really, really hoped this book would be completely scare-your-pants-off terrifying. Well, I'm pretty hard to scare, so maybe it didn't reach that level, but this book is still pretty darned good.

What I liked: this book reminded me a lot of Supernatural, one of my favorite TV shows. Cas, our hero, is snarky and handsome and just continuing the family business, much like the Winchester brothers. He battles crazy stuff that normal people don't even know exists and he has a secret mission of vengeance on the evil being that felled his father. Right away, this book is hitting a lot of high notes for me. This book is downright gruesome and scary, as Cas battles ghosts with particular calling cards. The atmosphere is creepy and unsettling. The secondary characters provide interesting contrast to Cas, though they may be a bit stereotypical in themselves. Overall, the book is a pretty good blend of dark humor and horror.

I was not so crazy about the romantic elements - they didn't really feel particularly true to me, or inspire me to root for the match-ups. But, it's hard to find a good paranormal/horror that doesn't have some sort of romance, so I guess I should just get used to it. Additionally, on the format front, at times, Ross was a bit too cheerful/chipper for the story, in my opinion. But overall, I thought he did a decent job.

I am very intrigued by this book and am looking forward to picking up the next in the series. This is one I'd definitely recommend to kids looking for a good scare!

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Program: Family Storytime

It's that time again! After an all-too-brief hiatus, storytimes are back in full swing at my library and I had the privilege of hosting the first Saturday morning Family Storytime! Here's what we did!

Welcome - this is where I say hello to everyone in storytime, introduce myself and provide some gentle reminders (turn off your phones, keep out of our floor-to-ceiling blinds, and have fun!).

Opening rhyme: "My Hands" - well, I don't actually know what this is called, but it's my new opening rhyme! After the summer session ended, I knew I couldn't do Open Shut Them again without wanting to scream. So I searched around and found this new rhyme to do.

"Sometimes my hands are at my side.
Sometimes behind my back they hide.
Sometimes I wiggle my fingers so,
Shake them fast, shake them slow.
Sometimes my hands go CLAP CLAP CLAP
Then I lay them in my lap.
Now they're quiet as can be
Because it's storytime you see."

I love it! I think it went over really well, too. I'm so happy to have a new opening - hopefully it's a while before I get sick of this one.

Book: Jack's House by Karen Magnuson Beil, illustrated by Mike Wohnoutka - our theme this week was building and construction. I have to admit that I was less than enthusiastic for this theme - I'm excellent at building things, but I don't really find it that interesting. Plus, as I started trying to find books to fit the theme, they all seemed too redundant for me. So, I started off with this one because it was the most different of the bunch. It's that same old rhyme "The House that Jack Built" but with a new twist - did Jack really build the house? Or did he hire a bunch of people to do it for him? I thought the kids would love the clever little ending, but it seemed to go over most of their heads.

Song: "She'll Be Riding a Bulldozer" - I found this in a Rob Reid book of storytimes and loved it immediately. Apparently, our other branches have a flannel to go along with it, but I didn't find it in time to make that work, so I just sang it. This is "She'll Be Comin' Round the Mountain" with construction vehicles thrown it - lots of fun! It would have been better if the kids knew the words, but they caught on after a while and managed to do all the actions with me.

Book: Builder Goose: It's Construction Rhyme Time! By Boni Ashburn, illustrated by Sergio Di Giorgi - This is basically a collection of Mother Goose rhymes that have been altered to fit the construction theme. I thought they were clever and I thought kids might have fun figuring out which rhymes had been changed, but this did not work well at all in the storytime setting. I'd only read a few before the kids started to get antsy and I ended up skipping a few to get to the end.

Song: "Silly Dance Contest" by Jim Gill - I could not find my Hap Palmer CD with "Bluegrass Jamboree" on it, so I went back to the old favorite for this storytime. We really needed to get our wiggles out today, especially after our last book, so we danced our silliest!

Flannel: Build a House - we had a few different flannel options this week but most of them were geared toward counting. As I am predisposed to not liking flannel stories, I tried to pick something a bit more interesting. This is a simple rhyming story of the steps it takes to build a house. The kids seemed ambivalent about it.

Book: The Construction Crew by Lynn Meltzer, illustrated by Carrie Eko-Burgess - this is a new construction themed book with easy rhyming text. It follows a construction crew as they build a new house for a family. The kids really got into this one, finishing the rhymes with the various vehicles and tools used in the construction. I thought it might be a bit too simple for family storytime, but it seemed to be a big hit.

Closing: "Wave Goodbye" by Rob Reid - YOU GUYS! I think I finally have it memorized! It only took me six months but I did it without looking at my paper! YAY!

And that was our construction storytime! What books would you share?

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Review: The Wright 3

The Wright 3
By Blue Balliett, illustrated by Brett Helquist
Published 2006 by Scholastic

A new mystery awaits Petra, Calder and newly-relocated Tommy, this time involving Frank Lloyd Wright's Robie House. When the house is threatened with dismantling, the trio must find out if there's a way to save this architectural masterpiece.

Having read and thoroughly enjoyed Chasing Vermeer, I was eager to pick up the next mystery featuring Petra and Calder. I was a bit more interested in this mystery than the first, simply because I know slightly more about Frank Lloyd Wright than I did about Johannes Vermeer. However, I was slightly disappointed in this one personally. Balliett spends more time in this novel focusing on the difficulties of a pair transitioning to a trio and the interpersonal relationships between the kids than on the mystery itself. What I loved most about the first was the way Balliett wrote the mystery - a lot of it seemed mired in coincidence and circumstance and just a really enjoyable mystery for kids. So I picked up this one expecting more of the same. And, while the mystery does play out in a similar manner (encompassing such wide ranging topics as Fibonacci numbers, The Invisible Man, and the mystery of triangles), it didn't really seem to be the focus of the book. However, for that reason, this book would have made, perhaps, an even better book club title than Chasing Vermeer. The storyline involving the trio getting used to their new configuration is one that numerous children would easily relate to and have opinions on. Additionally, though I wanted the book to focus on the mystery, I like that Balliett chose to take the book in a slightly different direction; it prevents the two titles from feeling too similar. I love the use of codes throughout the book, just as I did for the first. I think these books have great kid appeal and I'm still looking forward to reading the third.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Review: Immortal Lycanthropes

Immortal Lycanthropes
By Hal Johnson, illustrated by Teagan White
Expected publication September 4, 2012 by Clarion Books

Myron Horowitz is ugly - and he knows it. Disfigured in a horrific accident, Myron has seen the cruelty people will inflict just because one looks different than they should. But Myron's world is about to get a whole lot more complicated - he's about to discover that he's an immortal lycanthrope, and possibly the chosen one...

This was one of the titles that publishers were offering to attendees at the School Library Journal SummerTeen virtual conference. I snagged a copy because it just sounded so different - a little weird and funny, something I could definitely get into. Now that I've finished the book, I'm not entirely sure what to say about it. This book is weird and funny - I just don't know if it's a good thing. The unique narrative hooked me almost immediately. Myron's story is being told to readers by Arthur Hong (well, that's the name he's using this time around anyway). However, Hong was not always present for the action, so some of what readers hear is coming from interviews with witnesses and inferences that Hong has made. Hong is a great narrator - he's witty and snarky and pretentious. It just works. Unfortunately, the narrative is not enough to carry the book as a whole. I find Myron, the hero, to be kind of frustrating and annoying. I didn't connect with any of the characters really. Additionally, there is so much crammed into this book that it often felt like a confusing mess rather than a cohesive story. A lot of secret societies get name-dropped here and I still don't really understand to what end. The mystery surrounding Myron is intriguing - he has no knowledge of lycanthropy and doesn't even know what animal he is. Wanting to find out the answer to that question is what propelled me to finish the book. However, the answer literally doesn't come until the last five pages, making it feel a bit hasty and tacked on. All in all, I felt like this book was trying a bit too hard and ends up being a bit too much.

Thanks to the publisher for a digital advance reader's copy provided via NetGalley.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Review: Bog Child

Bog Child
By Siobhan Dowd, read by Sile Birmingham
Published 2009 by Listening Library

Fergus is digging for peat in the mountains of Ireland with his Uncle Tally when he makes a gruesome discovery - the body of a child buried within the peat. As Fergus adds this mystery to the list of things troubling him, multiple storylines unfold and the mystery of the bog child is uncovered.

 I've been fascinated by bog people and the like for a while now - probably a result of my overall fascination with different cultures - so this book has been on my radar for some time. I need to start this review by saying that this book was not at all what I expected. What I expected was an intriguing mystery of a body found in the peat; what I got was so much more. Dowd weaves together multiple storylines to paint a complex and fascinating portrait of Ireland in the 1980s. Perhaps this book resonated a bit more with me, having spent some time in Ireland doing volunteer work, but either way, this is a wonderfully well-done novel. The voice Dowd has created for Fergus is captivatingly real and incredibly easy to sympathize with. Fergus is going through some very tough times in this novel; in fact, the whole of Ireland is going through some tough times. What I really like about this is that Dowd didn't use the Troubles as simply a backdrop for her mystery of the bog child - she actually incorporated the Troubles and their effect on Ireland's families into the storylines of her book. While sometimes balancing multiple storylines can be tricky and often one's interest level does not remain consistent across the various plots, I think Dowd does a wonderful job. Each story in this novel is just as interesting as the last - readers will be drawn into Fergus' personal struggles, the mystery of the bog child, Fergus' family problems, the burgeoning relationship with Cora, and the struggles of Ireland itself. While this book may be a bit heavy for some, readers who persevere will be rewarded by the richness this novel encompasses. Truly a stunning work of young adult fiction.

My only complaint about the audio is that the narrator had a soft voice and was occasionally too quiet to hear clearly. But a lovely Irish accent is always pleasant to listen to.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Picture Book Saturday (31)

Silly Doggy!
By Adam Stower
Published 2012 by Scholastic
Lily finds an adorable lost dog out her window - the problem is that it isn't really a dog; it's a bear! But Lily will not be deterred. She will make this work. Unfortunately, Lily's mommy tells her that someone else is probably missing their lost "doggy," so she makes a found poster. This story is really adorable with sweet illustrations and a surprise ending that will surely please the kids. This would be perfect in a storytime.

Soup for One
By Ethan Long
Published 2012 by Running Press
This is a cute concept book about counting, using flies enjoying some soup. Long's signature illustration style seems particularly well-suited to drawing insects. Kids will enjoy counting the bugs because they are just the right mix of silly and gross. The ending is sure to be a hit as well.

Dog in Charge
By K.L. Going, illustrated by Dan Santat
Published 2012 by Penguin Group USA
Santat has become, for me, an illustrator who I won't miss. I will read every book that's got his name attached to it. How could I resist this one with that lovely cover, promising dog and cat-filled hijinks? Dog loves his owners and tries to be the best dog he can be. But when they leave him in charge of 5 restless cats who can't seem to listen, will Dog's reputation be ruined? Absolutely charming and sure to be enjoyed by kids, this would be a lot of fun in a pet storytime.

Eggs 1 2 3: Who Will the Babies Be?
By Janet Halfmann, illustrated by Betsy Thompson
Published 2012 by Blue Apple Books
I was pleasantly surprised by this book. At first glance, it seems to be a simple counting book for young kids, but it's actually a little science lesson. The eggs counted in the book belong to a variety of animals and we learn a bit about them as we count the eggs. Readers are invited to guess what kind of animal each egg belongs to, which will surely delight kids, and they will learn new words in a context that makes them easy to understand. Lovely illustrations as well.