Tuesday, May 24, 2011

My Boyfriend is a Monster - Graphic Novel series from Lerner

I Love Him to Pieces by Evonne Tsang: Book Cover
by Evanne Tsang and Janina Gorrisen
Graphic Universe (Lerner Publishing)
978- 0-7613-6004-9

Made for Each Other by Paul D. Storrie: Book Cover
by Paul Storrie and Eldon Cowgur
Graphic Universe (Lerner Publishing)
You may have noticed that we don't review many graphic novels. As in, we never review graphic novels. There's a reason for that: we don't generally read graphic novels. But who can resist a title like My Boyfriend is a Monster: I Love Him to Pieces, featuring a story line with a zombie apocalypse? And lines like: "There's a difference between a zombie and a high school boy? Well, when you get a zombie's attention, you know that it'll stick with you, at least until it can eat your brains. Regular guys are more fickle."

Definitely one for guys or girls, nerds or jocks (or turtles). It's campy, of course, and moves too quickly to flesh out the plotline much, but - it's a graphic novel! The dialogue and the artwork are the key elements of a book like this, and both work very well in this case. We will be handing this to the first reluctant reader we spot. We would also love to see Tsang try his hand at some non-graphic YA fiction.

The second in the series, Made for Each Other, follows a Frankenstein theme. Not quite as funny as the first, it still has enough of the same characteristics to hold a reader's attention - although it does seem a little more girl-oriented. At any rate, the entire series has promise of being a big hit among middle and high schoolers. We give both books a

4 out of 5.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Nonfiction Monday: The Best Dogs Ever series by Elaine Landau

Pit Bulls Are the Best! by Elaine Landau: Book Cover
Mastiffs Are the Best! by Elaine Landau: Book Cover
Great Danes Are the Best! by Elaine Landau: Book Cover
all from Lerner, who provided review copies
Have we mentioned how much we absolutely love this series? Yes? Can we say it one more time, then?

There are tons of dog books out there for kids, and plenty of series with breed-specific volumes, but most of those tend to be a little fuzzy on the specific characteristics and needs of each breed. Definitely not so with these! In addition to the individual history of a dog breed, we find out about energy level, personality, and pros and cons of owning each type (mastiffs=slobber). We even read about things like legislation issues, for example in the case of Pit Bulls.

Ah, pitties. We are definitely big dog lovers, and the three featured above are among our favorites. Mastiffs have such sweet big lugs, and the Great Dane on the cover of his book looks just like Miss Ami's "Dude" - who considers himself the mother of every orphaned kitten that comes along. We have a special soft spot for pits, though. Yes, we know, many pits make the news in bad ways, and we don't necessarily want to debate that whole issue. We do want to point out two things:
When Miss Ami was little, German Shepherds were the 'evil' dogs. No responsible parent would let one near their child. Then it was Dobermans, then Dalmatians, etc., etc. In a couple years, we'll be seeing news stories about those dangerous Malteses.
Two patrons JUST had a conversation in front of us (really, as we were typing!) about a problem pit that turned out not to even be a pit. Check out this web site and see if you can do better than us (we never get it right on the first try).
Okay, off the soap box. All dogs, particularly big and strong dogs, do need plenty of exercise and training, and these books are very clear about that. They also give other books and web sites to check out if your readers want more information, as well as basic advice about selecting a new puppy and welcoming it into your home. Be warned about previewing these, though - once you hit the pages of puppy pictures, you are going to want every single one of these dogs! Same great Lerner quality with binding and illustration, they get a

5 out of 5.

More more reviews of nonfiction books for children, check out today's post on Simply Science

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Picture Book Mini-Reviews

Believe it or not, there are some books we like that other people (or turtles) don't, and vice versa. Something every library employee needs to keep in the forefront of their mind is that libraries are for everyone, and just because something doesn't suit our taste/opinions/politics/beliefs, that doesn't make it any less worth putting in the collection.

The same applies to reviewers. The following books were some we just couldn't get behind ourselves, but we can see that they are of good quality, and could be appealing to a different audience. In fact, they have both received good reviews elsewhere. As the selectors of books for the library, however, we like to see a mix of reviews before we make ordering decisions. So:

The Sunflower Sword by Mark Sperring: Book Cover
by Mark Sperring
Andersen Press
Review copy from publisher.
The pictures were very cute, but the message was a bit heavy-handed. A little knight wants a sword "to whoosh and swoosh in the air" and to fight dragons with, but his mother gives him a sunflower instead. Of course, he ends up making friends with a dragon because of it, and soon all the grown-up knights follow suit. Some parents will be thrilled with the pacifist theme, while others will roll their eyes at the lack of subtlety.

Thumb Love by Elise Primavera: Book Cover
by Elise Primavera
Random House
Review copy from publisher
A cute book, but we weren't sure if this was for children, or for thumb-sucking adults. The whole format would be familiar to any six-year-old...who has attended a few AA meetings. From the beginning confession in front of a group ("Hello. My name is Lulu and I'm a thumb sucker,") through the twelve step program she develops, and even the manipulations of the thumb ("I don't even know who you are anymore,") the audience seems a bit beyond the preschool crowd.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Charlie the Ranch Dog by Ree Drummond, Illustrated by Diane deGroat

Charlie the Ranch Dog by Ree Drummond: Book Cover
by Ree Drummond
Review copy from publisher
There's a reason most dogs have big brown eyes. Brown eyes just look sadder, more soulful than any other color, and dogs (kinda like toddlers) often have need of an especially soulful look to either a) get themselves out of trouble, or b) get what they want. Members of the hound dog family have the added advantage of that little droop, and when you add long, floppy ears - well, just look at this cover and tell us who could resist that face!

This is the first of what is expected to be a series of stories about Charlie, a real dog living on a real ranch in Oklahoma. Like everyone else on a ranch, Charlie works very hard from sunup to sundown (with an occasional assist from his friend Suzie). Kids of all ages will enjoy following Charlie through his day, spending extra time looking at all the detail in Diane DeGroat's illustrations. Miss Ami's 5-year-old had fun finding the smiling chipmunk on every page, and pointed out things Miss Ami had missed - like Drummond's sillhouette in the upstairs window.

This book comes with lots of extras, including a lasagna recipe (Drummond is also known as the author of The Pioneer Woman Cooks, The Pioneer Woman: Black Heels to Tractor Wheels, and her blog, The Pioneer Woman).

On her blog, you can read about the process she went through to get the book published - kids (and adults) may be fascinated by the many steps the illustrations go through, as well as the back-and-forth betweeen author/illustrator/editor. A great tool to use with those reluctant to edit their first drafts!

Finally, Barnes and Noble has a video of Drummond reading the story, so you can either preview it that way or let your kids follow along with their own copy. While some of the extras, particularly the latter, are obviously ways for the publisher to promote the book and attract a wide audience, they work to complement it rather than seeming gimmicky. This is a series sure to have many fans, and we are looking forward to the next installment. We give it a

5 out of 5.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Nonfiction Monday: On the Move with Trains, Motorcycles and Ambulances!

Trains on the Move by Lee Sullivan Hill: Book Cover
by Lee Sullivan Hill
Lerner Publications
Ambulances on the Move by Laura Hamilton Waxman: Book Cover
by Laura Hamilton Waxman
Lerner Publications
Motorcycles on the Move by Lee Sullivan Hill: Book Cover
by Lee Sullivan Hill
Lerner Publications

Review copies from publisher
We reviewed Big Rigs and Fire Trucks On the Move back in November, and loved them - as have our patrons. We were happy to receive review copies of these three books in the series, and plan to fill in the ones we are missing as soon as the cumbersome end-of-fiscal-year-budget-process will allow us to order things again!

We don't really have a lot to add to our previous review of this series (we shouldn't say that, because now they won't send us any more). Same quality binding and great format, with exciting fonts, easy text, and big attractive pictures.

Ah, but Lerner, beware the eagle eye and sharp memory of a four-year-old! Miss Ami was test-driving Ambulances on the Move with her young son, and he suddenly jumped up and ran to his bookshelf. He returned with this book from Scholastic:

Ambulance by Chris Oxlade: Book Cover

and showed her that the photo on page 9 of that book was the exact same photo as that on page 19 of Waxman's. Nothing wrong with two books using the same stock photos, but THEY WILL KNOW. It's all good, though - he was still excited about the book, and he is, of course, and exceptionally perceptive child.

Another 5 out of 5 for this series, perfect for preschool/beginning readers. For more reviews of great nonfiction books for kids, check out today's post at Shelf-Employed (love that blog name!)

Saturday, May 7, 2011

True (...Sort of) by Katherine Hannigan

Every once in a while there is a character that you, as the reader, 'get' immediately. Unfortunately, nobody else in the boko seems to. Other characters see the outward actions, put their own assumptions on what was behind them, and judge accordingly. And usually wrongly. You want to reach in and grab up that character and wrap your arms around her, comforting her and protecting her from all those condemning adults (and kids) in her fictional world.*

*Note from the turtles: Miss Ami, our typist, is 97 months pregnant and feeling hormonal and maternal, and that may be rubbing off on us just a bit.

At any rate, Hannigan has deftly created just such a character in Delly. Her problems are summed up in this exchange with her younger brother:
Then RB was shouting, "Just quit getting in trouble. Just quit it!"
"I'm not trying to get in trouble!" she shouted back.
RB knew that was true. "What ARE you trying to do?" he asked.
She thought about it. "Have fun. Do something good. Except when I fight."
He said it quiety, so she wouldn't slug him too hard: "Maybe you should try something different."
She didn't smack him. Instead, she rasped, "I don't know how to be...not me."
(pg. 73 HC)
Sometimes it seems the harder you try to improve your character, the more the world seems to conspire against you. Delly wants to "be good", she wants to make her mother proud, she wants to stay out of trouble, but...

Delly is not the only vivid character in the book. With just a few words, we feel we know many of the other characters as if we'd been watching them for years. Hannigan is adept at showing us rather than telling us about someone, whether by their actions, their thoughts, or their conversations. We would love to share an exchange between Delly and her mother as an example, but it might be too much of a spoiler - just nod and agree with us when you get to page 237 of the hardcover!

We loved Ida B (Hannigan's first, bestselling work), and think this one is ten times better. No pressure on the author, but we can't wait to see what comes next!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

I Want to Do It Myself! by Tony Ross

I Want to Do It Myself! by Tony Ross: Book Cover
by Tony Ross
Andersen Press USA
Review copy from publisher
This is a familiar refrain to any parent, and will resonate with every child. The second children are born, they seem to be trying to grow up faster than we are ready for them to, and the Little Princess is no exception. She is a big girl, and she can go camping without any help from the big people in her life!

She packs her bags and sets off, never noticing the scores of grown-ups following her along the way. Young readers, of course, will easily spot the maid in the tree and the chef in the bushes, long before they pop out in turns to rescue the blissfully unaware young princess. A gentle acknowledgement of the quest for independence, with the security of knowing someone is there to fall back on.

The illustrations as always are charming and fun - and can we say one more time how much we appreciate her not having golden ringlets and perfect gowns? Pick up a copy soon for your classroom, or for your own little princess.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

A Short Note (Becoming a Long Note) from Miss Ami


The Pioneer Woman by Ree Drummond: Book Cover
by Ree Drummond
William Morrow
Copy borrowed from Library after those pesky patrons FINALLY checked it back in.
...may be one of the funniest things I have ever read. And I haven't even finished reading it.

It is also a great romance (and I don't particularly like romances), a wonderful illustration of personal development, a candid look at what happens when you mesh two very different lives, and - oh, heck, it's just a fantastic read!

It doesn't hurt that I am married to my own denim-wearing, shotgun-toting, Sam Elliot look-alike. And there just MIGHT have been some parking in a diesel-powered pick-up truck involved in our courtship as well. And a grass fire. But I never had to stick anything up a cow's...

Anyways. You don't have to be married to or lusting after a cowboy to enjoy this one (although female readers may find that Old Spice guy starting to look awfully effeminate.) My husband wants to read it next (yes, that's right ladies, equally comfortable with a chainsaw OR a good book in his hands - those guys do exist!), then my mother, then half a dozen people at the park who heard me giggling and stopped to hear a paragraph or two.

But they'll have to wait for me to finish. Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to go take a very extended lunch break. If you need me, I will be in the staff room, laughing uncontrollably.

Later: This is becoming too bizarre. There are a million similarities between this story and mine that I just can't share without spoilers - if you know us personally, you will recognize them. That was 'bad' enough.

This afternoon I finished the book and finally allowed myself to visit her blog, where I saw more. Then I saw posts about a picture book she has out, through Harper Collins. I was JUST ABOUT to e-mail my contact there to request a review copy - and was posting my intention to do so on Drummond's comments section - when the mail came, with - you guessed it! Feeling a bit spooked now! But happy I won't have to wait to read it!

Monday, May 2, 2011

Nonfiction Monday: Built for Cold Arctic Animals series from Bearport Publishing

Walrus by Stephen Person: Book Cover
by Stephen Person
Bearport Publishing
Review copy from publisher.
Sled Dog by Stephen Person: Book Cover
by Stephen Person
Bearport Publishing
Review copy from publisher.
This is another animal series that will probably NOT be including a turtle or tortoise of any kind - and we're okay with that! We do not do cold (have we mentioned our heat lamp? At least a hundred times?), but that doesn't mean we aren't interested in reading about places like the Arctic.

Any place that runs to extremes of one sort or another is bound to fascinate. For those of us living in a place like southern New Mexico, it is hard to imagine living somewhere with sub-zero temperatures and ice and snow as far as the eye can see. Animals such as Polar Bears and Arctic Wolves, however, are right at home!

This series is written for the upper-elementary range, and has immediate appeal for students with its attractive covers and bright, vivid pictures. The text is age-appropriate, and dramatic in places without damaging its usefulness for report writing. (Loved the story of Isobel, the blind sled dog! We were also happy to see Balto wasn't given credit for the entire race to bring medicine to Nome, as has happened in some children's books.) A note for teachers/parents, though: some of the material and images, while accurate and important, may be disturbing for younger children (walrus calves crushed in a stampede, sled dogs killed by elk, etc.)

As we have come to expect from Bearport's nonfiction, each book includes an index, glossary, extra facts, and a web link for more information. We appreciate the way Bearport puts up a page for each book or series, keeping the web sites up to date. Based on what we have seen, we give the series a

5 out of 5.

For more reviews of nonfiction for children, check out the other Nonfiction Monday posts at Jean Little Library