Monday, November 30, 2009

Nonfiction Monday and Christmas Suggestions

We are adamant the Christmas should not start until after Thanksgiving, but once the turkey leftovers are packed away - bring it on! For the next few weeks, we will be reviewing some old (and new) favorites that we think would make great gifts. Today we will start it off with some great nonfiction reads.

Check these previous posts first for new series we loved:
Fantasy Chronicles series from Lerner - for tweens or teens, or anyone into fantasy

Gross Body Science from Lerner - upper elementary on up, good for reluctant readers.

Rosen's Library of Intergenerational Learning - Native Americans - lower elementary

An 'older' series that is still adding new titles is the "You Wouldn't Want to Be" collection by Children's Press

Okay, it's not as if we need a book to tell us we wouldn't want to be an Aztec sacrifice...or an Inca mummy...or in a medieval prison...but these books sure make it fun to read about the horrors we are missing out on. Cartoony drawings and short bits of text make the gruesome palatable, while keeping that 'boy appeal'. Yes, we know, that's stereotyping - but we also know exactly what those moms and grandmas mean when they want a "boy book" for their reluctant reader.

We like the "Questions Children Ask" series because it gives simple, straightforward answers directly from scripture, with little to no denominational bias.

Lots of great activities for different ages. This one might be good for the moms on your list!

Not specific locales per se, but things like "a working farm", or "Mom or Dad's workplace". Sometimes we take for granted that our kids have the same background knowledge we do, but that certainly isn't always the case. The more experiences they have, the better able they are to comprehend what they are reading, and the more they can enjoy themselves. A good one ofr kids or for parents (or grandparents...or daycare providers...)

The Maze Runner, by James Dashner, reviewed by Miss Ami

Publisher's description: "When Thomas wakes up in the lift, the only thing he can remember is his first name. His memory is blank. But he’s not alone. When the lift’s doors open, Thomas finds himself surrounded by kids who welcome him to the Glade—a large, open expanse surrounded by stone walls.

Just like Thomas, the Gladers don’t know why or how they got to the Glade. All they know is that every morning the stone doors to the maze that surrounds them have opened. Every night they’ve closed tight. And every 30 days a new boy has been delivered in the lift.

Thomas was expected. But the next day, a girl is sent up—the first girl to ever arrive in the Glade. And more surprising yet is the message she delivers.

Thomas might be more important than he could ever guess. If only he could unlock the dark secrets buried within his mind."

I wasn't sure I'd like this one, although I knew it had been receiving great reviews. It looks/sounds like a "boy book", and as I commented on another blog, I just hate not knowing what is going on!

Definitely wrong on both counts - as soon as I had finished and recovered from shock enough to speak and move, I handed it over to my 15-year-old daughter. I needed to talk to someone who had read it! She started it in the afternoon, and ended up staying up to the wee hours to finish it (that's my girl!) We met in the hall the next morning, groggy and disheveled, to exclaim "OMG! What the...and then...and when are they...but how can...!!!" (much to my husband's annoyance - he prefers Louis Lamour). The entire book is gripping and fast-paced, and the ending makes every season finale of "Lost" look humdrum ad predictable. I would love to say more, but definitely don't want to spoil it. Anyone who hasn't read this one yet needs to hurry up and do so, so that we can all converse freely (it kind of feels like getting that advance library copy of the last "Harry Potter", but having to keep your mouth shut.)

We will be giving book recommendations soon for Christmas gift giving, and strongly suggest this one for any tween or teen. If you click on the book cover to purchase this or any other book, we receive a small percentage to be used for new materials at our library.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

NOT a Contest, Just Some Thanksgiving Fun

So, we have the turkey, the mashed potatoes, the sweet potatoes, the corn, the stuffing, many kinds of pie, green bean cassserole, the rolls you forget about until the last minute, the cranberry sauce that nobody eats, ditto with the green salad, fruit salad, Jell-O salad, and dumfkraut (you probably need to be from my family - just go with it.) If you're lucky, maybe even a cake like one of these: Cake Wrecks Thanksgiving (yes, we will use any excuse to link to our favorite blog).

But what happens next week? When you have force fed leftovers in every possible combination to your kiddos, and the freezer is still full? Time to get creative! Here we will post suggestions from some of our young patrons (and a few older ones), and we challenge you to post some of your own.

Leftover Turkey:

* Carve dark and light sections into chess pieces.
* Use thinner strips as bookmarks.
* For instant popularity, tuck small pieces in your socks and go visit the Bark Park.
* Place a chunk on the car manifold of a problem patron (not that we would ever DO that).

Leftover Corn:

* Let kernels dry out and pair with a soda straw for study hall entertainment.
* Think of the craft possibilities - use to fill a paper plate shaker, glue in mosaic patterns along with the leftover peas.

Leftover Cranberry Sauce:

* Freeze and save for Halloween, makes excellent fake blood.

Leftover Pie:

* Are you kidding? Who has leftover pie? Just send it our way. Don't forget the whipped cream.

Now, we KNOW you can come up with more ideas than that! Take some time out today to give us your ideas, or come up with a list while everyone is lying around, comatose tomorrow. Enjoy!

And the Winner is...

Squirt! Lots of great names suggested, but most of the staff liked this one. Kayleigh, we're sure we will see you next week, and you can pick out your free books then. Squirt is very THANKFUL to have an actual name now, instead of being referred to as "the new guy", or "the baby" (he especially doesn't like being called the baby.)

Thanks for all the participation, and have a great Thanksgiving weekend!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Contest Reminder

Don't forget, today is the last day to submit your name suggestion for our newest turtle! Head to this post: Changes and a Contest and leave your idea. The winning name will be chosen at tomorrow morning's staff meeting, and announced on the blog by afternoon.

Graphic Universe Myths and Legends from Lerner

These links will take you to hardcover editions, but both are also available in slim paperbacks. We always try to get hardcovers of graphic novels for our library, and often they aren't available, so it was nice to see these offered! If you are just buying for your favorite tenn or tween, however, we suggest the much cheaper paperbacks.

This series includes more than a dozenmyths and legends, some familiar old favorites like Ali baba, others less so, like Sunjata: Warrior King of Mali. There is quite a wide variety of cultures and time periods represented, making this a good starter set for your library. It would even make a good book-of-the-month series (do they still have those?) It isn't offered that way as far as I know, but you could certainly purchase and dole them out one at a time, maybe as a fun part of a home school curriculum. Use them as a springboard for different social studies units.

Marwe, for example, would be a much more interesting introduction to East Africa than a map of principal exports! In this legend, a young woman with a good heart makes a mistake, and ends up in the land of the dead. Because she is so kind and hard-working (two themes hit hard through the short story), she earns favor with everyone there, and eventually returns home years later, beautiful and wealthy.

Her hope that "I will be able to find a suitable husband, then everything will be perfect" may make us cringe at first, but it is a great discussion starter. She ends up marrying a man who is not as handsome as the others, but who is also a hard worker with a kind heart (told you that was hit hard!)

In addition to moral and cultural lessons that would be easy to expand on, there are references to languages, Mount Kilimanjaro, wildlife, and agriculture. It almost makes us want to grab a random teen and start planning activities! Pigling, a Korean version of the Cinderella story, is much the same. Both have notes at the front detailing some of the research and fact checking that went into creating that particular book. We will probably be recommending this series to those parents who come in trailing bored-looking middle schoolers, saying "I've decided to home school - now what do I do???"

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Guest Review - Ash, by Malinda Lo, reviewed by Sissy

Ash is a wonderfully written story about a girl who loses her mother at a young age. She dreams of fairies and wishes them to take her away from her life, even if it's only in her dreams. When her father passes away, her step-mother takes her away to live with herself and her two daughters. Ash finds hope and love in places she never would imagine. Ash is a new twist on the Cinderella tale.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

New Moon Party Wrap-Up

Wow, are Twilight fans dedicated! How dedicated? When the fire alarm went off, most of our guests were working on their answers to the trivia contest, and no one so much as stood up. Who cares if the building is burning down around our ears, you said we had to turn this in before we left if we wanted to win the life-sized movie characters, and we know where our priorities lie!

There were 35 questions on the quiz (mostly stolen from various internet sites), but they were worth a total of 50 possible points. We wanted to give credit for partial answers, while still rewarding those who were more specific. The questions, their answers, scoring, and page numbers they were on (letters tell which book) are as follows:

1. Who is Elizabeth Masen? (NM pg. 39)
Edward’s mother (1 point)
2. What did Edward take when he left Forks? (NM pg. 83 and pg. 525)
She THOUGHT he took her CD and photos, but he just hid them under her floorboards. We awarded 1 point for “nothing”, “her heart”, or “his family”.
3. Who found Bella in the forest? (NM pg. 75)
Sam Uley (1 point)
4. When is Bella's birthday? (NM pg. 6)
September 13 (1 point)
5. What did Emmett, Rosalie and Jasper give Bella for her 18th birthday? (NM pg. 27)
New stereo for her truck (1 point)
6. To whom does Bella give the second set of photos that she took with her new camera? (NM pg. 66)
Renee, or her mother (1 point)
7. What did Bella's father give her for her 18th birthday? (NM pg. 9)
A camera (1 point). Many people put “scrapbook”; that is what her mother gave her.
8. Where does Bella get the pictures she took with her new camera developed? (NM pg. 64)
1 point for “drug store”, 2 points for “Thriftway”
9. What reason did the Cullens give for moving away from Forks? (NM pg. 82)
They said Carlisle was offered a job at a big hospital in LA (1 point)
10. How long has Bella's grandmother been dead? (NM pg. 3)
6 years (1 point)
11. What is Bella's grandmother's name? (NM pg. 3)
Marie (1 point)
12. What is the original source of the epigraph at the beginning of New Moon? (An epigraph is a quote at the beginning of a novel. The epigraph in New Moon is:
These violent delights have violent ends
And in their triumph die, like fire and powder,
Which, as they kiss, comsume.)

1 point for “Romeo and Juliet”, 2 points if you also named Act II, Scene VI
13. Which of the Cullens was the fastest runner? (T pg. 370)
Edward (1 point)
14. How many humans has Rosalie killed? (E pg. 163)
1 point if you said 7, 2 points if you listed them (her fiance, his four friends, and the two guards)
15. What injuries does Bella have from James' attack? (T pg. 460)
1 point for each: broken leg, 4 broken ribs, cracked skull, bruises and blood loss, bite on wrist.
16. Where do the vampires meet with the werewolves to train for the upcoming battle with the newborn vampire army? (E pg. 387)
At the baseball clearing (1 point)
17. In Twilight, on the page before the Preface, there is a quote from the Bible. What is the reference for that quote? (T)
Genesis 2:17
18. Who was Sam Uley's high school sweetheart? (E pg. 117)
Leah Clearwater
19. What color is Bella's prom dress? (T pg. 482)
1 point for “blue”, 2 points for “deep blue” or “dark blue”
20. What music does Bella hear in Edward's car the first time he gives her a ride home? (T pg. 104-5)
Clair de Lune by Debussey
21. Who are the elders of the Quileute council that are at the bonfire? (E pg. 240, 244)
1 point for each: Billy Black, Old Quil, Sue Clearwater, Sam Uley
22. What animal does Billy Black compare Leah Clearwater to? (E pg. 626)
A wolverine (1 point)
23. In how many bites did Bella swallow her granola bar the morning after she discovered Edward was a vampire? (T pg. 196)
Three (1 point)
24. Who first discovered that Sam was a werewolf? (E pg. 117-118)
Old Quil Ateara, or Quil’s grandfather (1 point)
25. Why was Alice put into a mental asylum? (T, chapter 22)
Because she was having visions of the future
26. What does Jacob threaten to do so that Bella will ask him to kiss her? (E pg. 523)
To take himself out of the picture, to die in the vampire fight (1 point)
27. What does blood smell like to Bella? (T pg. 100)
Rust and salt (1 point – must have both)
28. How are Emily and Leah related? (E pg. 122)
1 point for “cousins”, 2 points for “second cousins”
29. What caused Emmet to cross the boundary line between the vampires and werewolves? (E pg. 86)
He was chasing Victoria (1 point)
30. When Carlisle first discovered he was a vampire, he tried to kill himself. How? (T ch 15 and 16)
1 point for each: jumping from cliffs, starvation, drowning
31. What is Charlie's favorite hobby? (T many places)
Fishing (1 point)
32. When Charlie grounded Bella, when were Edward's visiting hours? (E pg. 7)
7:00-9:30PM (1 point)
33. What type of car does Edward drive? (T)
1 point for “Volvo”, 2 points if you also said it was silver.
34. Who did the heart-shaped crystal charm originally belong to? (E pg. 438)
Edward’s mother (1 point)
35. How does Edward pay off Alice to get her to kidnap Bella for a sleepover while he's gone hunting? (E pg 145)
Buys her a Porsche (1 point)

Congratulations to the winners: Felicia with 43 points, Melinda with 36 1/2, and Haley with 35. Now to pry the figures out of the clutches of the female staff members (and to rescue Bella from the recycling bin, which is where the clerks relegated her).

Anyone who wants to see their score can pick their quiz up at the Children's Desk. Anyone else is welcome to use these for their party (as mentioned, we stole them ourselves). Word of warning - we didn't even print the questions out until an hour before the party, and didn't print the answers until the next day - everyone was trying to get an advance look at them!

Everyone seemed to have a good time, and we saw people we haven't seen at previous programs, always a good sign.

Miss Ami is not a huge Edward fan - that would be an "L" shape she is making with her hand.. Sara agrees!

The gang attends morning staff meeting. this was also the morning the fire department was coming to give a training. There were a few odd looks, but the firemen wisely didn't say anything.

More pictures coming as they get to us!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Nonfiction Monday - Slobodan Milosevic

(From Lerner's "Dictatorships" series.)

Once you hit about third grade, it seems, teachers start assigning book reports on a variety of subjects, usually including biographies. Many kids get stuck in the rut of reading yet another book about Harriet Tubman or Andrew Jackson. No offense to either of the aforementioned, but - yawn! Yes, they were incredible people who led interesting lives and contributed to mankind, but don't you already hear about them in class each year? Give us a good bad guy any day!

This series hits on a few familiar names, such as Saddam Hussein, as well as several villains kids may not know of - Pol Pot, Than Shwe, Mao Zedong. There is a definite bias in the books - no "history will judge" here - but, what would you expect from the series title? Kind of hard to defend a dictatorship (except, of course, the benevolent dictatorship run by Mom. That one goes unquestioned.)

The cover is attractive, and shows Milosevic's trademark arrogant stare (okay, we're not exactly unbiased ourselves). It is actually hard to critique the book without critiquing the man it is about, which I suppose is good, as it attests to how well the writing draws you in. While written at a middle/high school level, it is very readable - even the historical background at the beginning doesn't get as bogged down as in some books - and the personality of the subject becomes very 3-dimensional. We think teens or adults who read this one will come away from it feeling they are familiar with a person they perhaps didn't know anything about to begin with. definitely a series to add to your middle or high school library. Rather than that 16th book on Abraham Lincoln.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Picture books by Idries Shah


I...don't get it.

Nope, still lost.

Okay, I normally don't read other reviews of a book until after I have written mine, to make sure my review is all mine. This time, though, I had to wonder if maybe there was some sort of cultural barrier, so I googled. Oh, my! What a spate of controversy surrounding Mr. Shah and eastern religion and whether anyone was really directly descended from anyone else and a whole lot of other things I am not interested in getting into for a picture book review!

So, I'll just concentrate on the books themselves, and go back to my first comment: huh? I mean, I understood the stories - they are very simple. I understood the morals - they are often literally spelled out for you. I just didn't see how the moral matched the story. Or how the story was actually supposed to teach anything. It's like hearing someone say, "Yesterday, it rained, and I splashed in puddles," to which you are supposed to nod sagely and say something like, "yes, water makes wetness," and this will somehow cause you to be a more enlightened person.

Let's take "The Boy Without a Name", for example. When the young man is born, a wise man tells his parents he is very important, and they must not give him a name, they must wait for him to do it at a later date. They agree without question, calling him "Nameless" (which to me would be a name, but, whatever.) One day he asks a friend for his name, but the friend doesn't want to give it up for nothing. Nameless (see? He capitalizes it - it's a name!) says he has a dream he can give away, and they run to the wise man, who lets Nameless pick a name from a box, and both of them pick a dream from another box and then everybody is happy. The end.

I just have to say one more time...HUH??? So, what was so important about the kid? What is so special about the name? Why make him and his parents wait if he's just going to pick one from a box? What's up with the friend and the dreams, which we never learn anything about? The jacket cover says it teaches kids about patience and tenacity, but I just don't see that happening. We received this whole set free from Hoopoe Press, and I hate to criticize the entire collection, but - I just can't recommend these to anyone. Since we have them, we will go ahead and put them out for circulation, in the hopes that maybe it is just me and my western brain not 'getting it'. If anyone has a different experience or take on the books, we would love to hear it!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

New Moon Party!

No, we are not going to be the 8 billionth blog to review anything in the Twilight series. We do want to share our plans, however, for the upcoming movie release, and see what ideas we can steal from the rest of you!

Our library is partnering with our Friends organization and a local astronomy club to host an evening event for teens and adults on Tuesday, November 17th. Did anyone realize there actually is a new moon that week? Hopefully, the clouds will stay away, because the astronomy group has some very cool telescopes they are going to set up on our lawn, giving everyone a chance to check out the night sky. From there, they can head inside (through a walkway hung with silver moons and stars), to check out some different activities centered around the main events of the book.

Bella's Birthday - This will be our refreshment area. Since we did 'spooky' for Halloween, we are going with pink and twinkly for this area. Lights, rose petals, pink cupcakes, pink lemonade, those pink globey things that hang from the ceiling - but nothing made of glass, just in case!:)

Edward Leaving - Well, how on earth do you celebrate THAT - sit around and look depressed? We made this the spot for our trivis contest, stolen - er- borrowed from various web sites. It's a HARD one, hopefully forestalling too many perfect scores, since we have a limited number of prizes:)

Jacob's Transformation - We really wanted some sort of craft to take home, so even though they aren't actually from this book, we bought a bunch of crystal heart and werewolf charms (Ebay!) to represent our two guys. Guests can either make bracelets or keychains. It will be interesting to see how many use both charms, and how many choose just one (Miss Ami is firmly in Team Jacob).

Bella's Reckless Streak - after briefly toying with the idea of crossing the street to the pool and going cliff diving, we decided virtual thrills would be safer. Guests can race cars or motorcycles on our big TV, using a borrowed game system. Something for the guys still reeling from all that pink!

Meeting the Volturi - Again, how would you celebrate this one? Eat some tourists? We decided dressing like them might be more acceptable than adopting their dining habits. We hit the after-Halloween sales and bought up all the body glitter, plastic fangs, and body paint we could find. Plenty of mirrors to do yourself up, and - the piece de resistance - life-sized cardboard figures of Edward, Jacob and Bella, plus a volunteer with a digital camera to snap your picture. Those figures will then be the prizes for the top three scorers on the trivia contest (pleasepleaseplease no ties!)

We will also have miscellaneous door prizes, quotes from the books posted throughout, etc. We are already getting calls, and it hasn't even been advertised in the paper yet! We'd love to hear more ideas, so we can make sure we have something for everybody! Our goal is to have all the activities in a come-and-go style, so we will just have to monitor and replenish supplies as needed. I've seen some great ideas for games like pass-the-apple, and vampires vs. werewolves, that you could use if you are having a more structured event. Please share if you have something planned yourself!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

When You Reach Me, by Rebecca Stead, reviewed by Freaky


Just, wow.

Publisher's description:

Four mysterious letters change Miranda’s world forever.

By sixth grade, Miranda and her best friend, Sal, know how to navigate their New York City neighborhood. They know where it’s safe to go, like the local grocery store, and they know whom to avoid, like the crazy guy on the corner.

But things start to unravel. Sal gets punched by a new kid for what seems like no reason, and he shuts Miranda out of his life. The apartment key that Miranda’s mom keeps hidden for emergencies is stolen. And then Miranda finds a mysterious note scrawled on a tiny slip of paper:

I am coming to save your friend’s life, and my own.
I must ask two favors. First, you must write me a letter.

The notes keep coming, and Miranda slowly realizes that whoever is leaving them knows all about her, including things that have not even happened yet. Each message brings her closer to believing that only she can prevent a tragic death. Until the final note makes her think she’s too late.

I so absolutely loved First Light, I waited anxiously for the next novel from Stead - and then I took forever to read it! I don't know why. Maybe I was afraid her second book couldn't be as good as the first.

Did I say "wow" yet?

This book is nothing like First Light, in theme or in tone, but it is just as gripping. The descriptions are great - from page 151,

"I glanced at Sal, who was concentrating on his basketball like the whole concept of bouncing had just been invented and was really very amazing and deserving of attention."

And just after that;

"There are days when everything changes, and this was one of those days."

The characters are all three-dimensional, but mostly we get to know Miranda. I knew I would love her as soon as I read that her favorite book - the only one she reads, in fact - is A Wrinkle in Time. (If you haven't read A Wrinkle in Time - and I really cannot conceive of a reader who has not read A Wrinkle in Time - go read that first, or this book will not make as much sense). The only thing about the characters - and it's a little thing - is that I didn't get that Julia was black. It was mentioned in the beginning almost in passing, and wouldn't have mattered at all, except that later in the book it DOES matter, but when it is mentioned at the beginning you aren't quite aware yet how much you need to pay attention to things that are mentioned almost in passing.

And if that sentence just made your head swim, you are now prepared for parts of this book. Not that the book is confusing, but you do need to pay attention. The thing is, there are so many other absorbing stories going on, it doesn't feel like a mystery novel where you want to get out a pad of paper and jot down clues.

It's just a fantastic book, and I feel like I am not doing it any justice in trying to explain why. The only beef I had with it besides Julia's character is that this is supposed to be set in 1979, and I didn't get a sense of that at all. No, I certainly did not want to see any stereotypical "black" speech or behavior from Julia, but if Stead wanted the time period to be important some cultural or historical references (besides a certain TV show) might have been helpful.

Again, though, just a little thing, and it in no way detracted from my inability to put it down! Give it to anyone who liked the Wrinkle in Time series, or Hannah's Winter or possibly The Mysterious Benedict Society (I don't know why that one comes to mind, it just does. Go with it.)

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Picture Book Catch-Up, reviewed by "the new guy"

I really do need a name, folks! We've had some good suggestions so far, but I'd love to have more to choose from. Go to this post to leave your idea by November 24 - and remember, if we choose yours, you get three free books and bragging rights!

Today I'm reviewing three cool picture books that got lost in the shuffle when everyone moved and changed jobs.

We love Vaunda Nelson, and not just because she is a New Mexico librarian:) She is quite the versatile author, with picture, chapter, and nonfiction books under her belt. This latest offering is a nonfiction picture book about Bass Reeves, a widely respected lawmen in the days following the Civil War, when many people would prefer blacks didn't even have guns.

It is always good to hear about men of integrity, and this book offers a great role model for kids of any race, while offering at the same time plenty of action and excitement. Quite a remarkable man I knew nothing about - kudos to Nelson for making sure he isn't forgotten.

Kitamura is one of my favorite illustrators. His drawings look so simple and so complex at the same time. With sparse lines and simple shapes, he still manages to convey a lot of expression on his characters' faces.

In this story, Millie very much wants a fancy, feathery hat, but doesn't quite have the $500 and change it costs. Fortunately, the salesman has just the thing - a magical hat that can look like whatever you imagine it to be. This has some obvious art connections, as kids draw, or even just describe what their hats would look like - then ask them to tell you what YOUR hat looks like!

New printing of an old favorite. The cover is different from the 1979 version, but the other illustrations aren't the same - and who could not love Quentin Blake? Would Roald Dahl's books be half as much fun with a different illustrator? (And yes, we know there are some, but we choose to ignore their existence.)

Who could not love the wild washerwomen, for that matter? We have all had days, whatever our age, when the work seems to just keep piling up, and we wonder what it would be like to just chuck it all and go have fun. Unfortunately, the wild washerwomen get a little too wild, dunking people in water barrels and making a terrible ruckus with the church bells, until everyone for miles around is quite terrified of them.

Enter seven brave woodcutters, who decide to scare them back, beginning by making themselves as dirty as possible. Well, what do you suppose a wild washerwoman will do when confronted by something matted and grubby? By the time the woodcutters have been soaked and squeezed and pounded against stones, everyone has become quite attached to each other, and the final spread shows a happily ever after in true Quentin Blake style. The scruffy-looking woodsman with the kids piled in his lap reading rather reminds me of someone I know, and would make a super mural for the wall of a children's area.

Any of these books can be purchased through Amazon by clicking on the cover picture. We receive a small portion towards books for our library (which, for all you IRS auditors out there, totals a whopping $1.52 so far this year).

Monday, November 9, 2009

Nonfiction Monday (on Monday this time! Yeah us!) - reviews by Freaky

Nonfiction Monday is a chance for bloggers and readers to see what's new in the world of...well....nonfiction! We are going with some animals books today, all 3 from Lerner Publishing and each part of a series.

Personally, I think Lerner is just asking for angry e-mails with this series. They currently have titles for beagles, German shepherds, labs, Portuguese water dogs, and yorkies. That leaves a WHOLE lot of breed owners who are going to want to know why theirs wasn't first on the list! I mean, golden retrievers, hello?! Great Danes? Mutts???

That said, these are great books, judging from this one on boxers. Their personality is captured immediately:

You hear the doorbell and go to answer it. But your dog gets to the door before you. He's excited and eager to see who's there. When your guest comes in, your dog warmly welcomes him. Your pooch jumps up and plants a wet, sloppy kiss on the visitor.

Your fully grown dog has a puppy's spirit. He's always full of energy and loves being around people. You've fallen for the clown of the dog world. You have a boxer.

Many series on dog breeds turn out to be very general - they give the same advice about exercise, vet care, etc., for every dog of the same size, and just change out the pictures. This one has some very specific boxer traits and needs mentioned, such as the way they become attuned to their owners' feelings, and the fact that they can be "Velcro dogs". I was also pleased to see white boxers mentioned in a side bar - since they can't be shown (genetic predisposition to hearing issues), they make great pets. Many never get that chance, so it was good to see a little plug put in for them.

Wherever you live, you probably have pigeons around, making this an easy book for youngsters to identify with. This series, which also includes bats, brown bears, iguanas, prairie dogs and snails, is very simply writen, making it a good source for first reports. The print is huge and often makes use of color change or curved text, with no more than a paragraph or two per page. Great pictures (honestly, I would have thought it would be a challenge to find that many pictures of pigeons without them all looking the same) help make this a very visually appealing book.

As one who is more on the prey end of the animal kingdom, I personally don't see the appeal in reading about predators, but there is no denying kids love them! In addition to the leopard seals (800 pounds? I'm, like, one!) this series takes on crocodiles, eagles, foxes, sharks, grizzly bears, killer whales, mountain lions, owls, polar bears, rattlesnakes, and wolves. Okay, any one of those could eat me and not even notice.

Just look at the cover photo: people think of seals as cute little things, but there is nothing cute about those teeth! Even the one on the title page looks smug, like he just ate your uncle Fred and he's sizing you up for dessert. Yeesh. Those pictures are nothing compared to those to come, however. These are definitely books about predators, so do not expect warm, fuzzy feelings. And definitely do not give this one to a fan of penguins! Kids who like blood and gore will love these, for the pictures and the text, and will learn a lot along the way.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

The True Meaning of Smekday, by Adam Rex, as reviewed by Nula

For my very first review, I have a book I had no intention of reading:

I was actually looking for something I could skim over lunch and then happily put back on the shelf and forget about. This looked mildly interesting, but a little too sci-fi for my taste. As J. Lo (the alien, not the actress/singer/perfume) would say, "Maaaaaaaaa -aa-aa-aa-aa!" That, of course, is Boov laughter. This book is hysterical! Or, wicked funny, as J. Lo wuold also say. After immersing myself in it all afternoon and just now coming up for air, I will be hard-pressed to NOT speak entirely in lines from the book, but I will try.

It's just that there are so many great lines. Some are funny and wise at the same time - "Some were looting, because I guess they thought that with aliens invading they were really going to need new DVD players." Others sound just like Dave barry (we LOVE Dave Barry here), so I shouldn't have been surprised to find he liked the book too.

So, what is it about? Well, about aliens. Invading. They learned our language mostly through moles they implanted on the backs of people like our main character's mom, while forcing her to fold laundry (see, they mean it when they say you should be concerned if your mole changes shape. Or glows purple.) Not-so-subtle references here to the Europeans taking over every other continent in the world on the grounds that they were the more advanced race. Eventually, all the humans are sent to a reservation in Florida. Or maybe not. And those were the NICE aliens. Confused yet? Just keep a cat around, you'll be okay.

Give this to fans of Dave Barry, Daniel Pinkwater, or Douglas Adams - and by all means, read it yourself!

Guest Review: Bright-Sided by Barbara Ehrenreich, reviewed by Steve

Ms. Ehrenreich strikes a decisive blow to the “positive thinking” phenomenon that seems to have supplanted rational thought in our culture. She exposes the pseudo-science that the many motivational speakers and writers present to prove that visualization and positive thinking will get you whatever you want. From positive thinking promoters like the founding fathers, Dale Carnegie (How to Win Friends and Influence People) and Napoleon Hill (Think and Grow Rich), to the breast cancer support groups, the push is on to erase negativity from our lives. Her research exposes a primary use for the motivational positive thinking model as a distraction to the real world problems of job loss and poverty. Ms. Ehrenreich presents a convincing argument for returning to a reasoning, rational approach to improving one’s life and the world, and exposes the intolerance that many of these motivational speakers seem to promote.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Changes and a Contest!

Yoda and Atlas, the two biggest turtles, have outgrown the tank at the library. They have gone to live with our typist for a while, and in Spring will probably go to live at the local zoo. To fill their spots in the tank and on the blog, we have been joined by a Peninsular Cooter named Nulalamba, and a very tiny Mississippi Map Turtle named…er…well, he doesn’t have a name yet!

Do you have a great name idea? Post it here! You have until November 24 to give your suggestion (one per person, please), then Library Staff will vote on their favorite. The winner will get three new books (titles will depend on age of winner), and the honor of saying you named the new guy! Make sure we can either click on your name to link to you, or that we have some other way of reaching you if you win.

Photo coming as soon as our camera stops acting up!

***For those interested in turtle welfare, yes, the new guy is, at about 1 1/2" wide, too small to be sold in a pet store - which is how he ended up here. There are many reasons for this law, protecting both turtles (who are often not cared for properly) and small children (who put EVERYTHING in their mouths!).

You may have seen tiny water turtles at flea markets, etc., where the sellers rarely mention anything about UVB lighting, heat lamps, filtration needs, etc. They also don't mention how big turtles can get, assuming they don't die from lack of proper care! Our tank was checked out by a herpetologist after the recent upgrade, and when this new guy came to his attention, he felt confident enough to send it our way.

Picture Book Catch-Up by Freaky

Every once in a while you read a "new" book and think, "People should know about this one!" Then you realize the book has been out for several years, and you are possibly the only person who does NOT know about it already. We are presenting a couple of those books today, on the chance that they may have slipped by you as well:

Donna Rae Hadley is my kind of gal - full of all sorts of fantastic ideas, undaunted when they result in explosions of beverages or icing. (((I wonder what kinds of library programs she would cook up?!))) In this delightful book, Donna Rae is determined to have the winning cake in her town's Fourth of July contest. The cakes are spectacular, and so are the messes that follow.

This is a fun book on its own merits - the pictures are bright and full of great details, worth spending extra time on themselves. I love the gigundy wrench used on the Boston Tea Party cake, and the sense of perspective in the picture where the mayor (who is sweet on Donna Rae) is lighting the Statue of Liberty's torch.

I also loved the book because of the blog it immediately brought to mind. Our evil friend Amanda over at A Patchwork of Books introduced us to the very popular Cake Wrecks blog a while back, and we have been wasting countless hours there ever since! (Go ahead, click on the link - but don't say we didn't warn you! And don't forget to check out Amanda's blog as well!)

"The Great Cake Bake" is the perfect way to introduce youngsters to the fine art of cake wrecking, in a very literal way. If these cakes (and their subsequent disasters) don't fire up their imaginations, nothing will. Have your young readers design their own spectaular cakes around the theme of the season, then imagine what could go wrong once they were put into motion. (Hmm, teaching kids to anticipate and prevent problems before acting, novel concept!)

This is definitely one of Ketteman's best! Matt Collins is certainly an illustrator to watch out for as well.

We saw this one at a storytelling workshop and had to go out and purchase it immediately. Pair it with Daniel Pinkwater's "The Big Orange Splot", then have kids design their own homes. No square box houses with triangle roofs here! Kids who live in apartment houses or project areas - or even neighborhoods with a strict homeowner's association - may identify with the boring sameness of Liberty Street. They will delight in the changes and excitement brought by the Araboolies when they move in, with their multicolored skin, strange pets, and joie de vive.

The neighborhood grumps complain, but the Araboolies, who do not understand the language, carry on unoffended (just imagine the conversations THAT can lead to with your youngsters!) In the end, it is the kids who save the day. Some parents may object to the portrayal of adults and the military in this story (the former being crotchety or passive, the latter being clueless), but the main push of the book is on individuality and fighting (without fighting) for what is right.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Holiday Swap

What a neat idea! I love Secret Santas, and I really do like buying little presents for people more than getting them. This one is just for book bloggers, so if you be one, head over and sign up:

Book Bloggers Holiday Swap

Nonfiction Monday...on Tuesday again!

Today's theme of sorts is geography and history. Each of these books was graciously sent to us for review by Lerner Publishing.

There is not a huge selection of children's books about ancient Babylon, and since many home schoolers do study this time period, this was a pleasant find. Written around a fourth grade reading level, it focuses mainly on the culture and daily life, with a little bit of the history and leaders. While one chapter is entitled "Present-Day Babylon", it just talks about archaeological finds, not modern-day Iraq. While I think they missed an opportunity to include a few related craft projects, making this more attractive to teachers and home schoolers, it does include a nice timeline, glossary, pronunciation guide, index, and reading/web site lists. Looking forward to other books in the series, which include the Aztecs, Egyptians, and Ancient Chinese.


are both new offerings (due out in 2010) in the ever-popular Visual Geography Series. These newer books offer a centralized web site ( with what they promise are continually updated, related internet links.

A book with "in pictures" as part of the title had better have some good photographs. The covers are striking (we loved the frogs on Suriname's), and we liked the way the text was framed by pictures at some of the chapter beginnings. Many of the photographs were a bit dull, however, and except for the sections on people and cultures, were a bit small in relation to the text. On the one hand, this series is written for middle/high school students, and has a great deal of very accessible information for research and report writing. On the other hand, the series name and book titles would make one expect a bit more to look at as well.

Overall, a good quality series, though. To order yours, click on the covers - we will receive a smallpercentage, which will go towards more materials for our public library.

Check out more nonfiction reviews at: Books Together