Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

The epic tale of Ronan the Librarian

Ronan the Librarian, by Tara Luebbe & Becky Cattie/Illustrated by Victoria Maderna, (Apr. 2020, Roaring Brook Press), $17.99, ISBN: 9781250189219

Ages 3-7

To truly enjoy this writeup, please click here to enjoy The Anvil of Crom from the Conan the Barbarian soundtrack, courtesy of Spotify and CimmercianRecords.com.

The mighty Ronan was a barbarian invader, raider, and trader. He led his people and pillaged the best jewelry, precious metals, weapons, you name it. If you wanted to trade for it, Ronan had it. But when one of Ronan’s raids turned up a chest  of books, he was baffled. Barbarians don’t read, right? What was he supposed to do with these things? No one else wanted them either! Until… well, one night he figured reading a sentence won’t hurt. Maybe a paragraph. A page? Every reader worth their salt knows what happens next: a true disregard of bedtime; Ronan becomes a Reader and seeks out books on all of his pillages from then on. And again, like any true book fan… his collection threatens to overwhelm him. After all, no one else wants the books: Barbarians don’t read! So Ronan builds a library, and decides to entice his fellow barbarians into reading. Like any bookworm knows, one of the best parts about loving books is sharing them with friends! This hilarious, wonderful story about barbarians and books is perfect storytime reading (I’ve got one coming up myself): it’s got adventure, barbarians, and books! Tara Luebbe and Becky Cattie create a story that book lovers will relate to, and give a wink, nudge, come to the Book Side for those kids who don’t think they’re readers… yet.

Victoria Maderna’s artwork is cartoony fun, with so many little moments to love: the Viking ship toppling over with books (I feel seen); Ronan riding into battle, axe held high in one hand, book wide open in his other hand; Ronan curled up with a cup of tea amidst his towering pile of books (so precarious!), the swirling, dreamlike story of Odin coming to life as it leaps from a book Ronan reads out loud to his fellow barbarians, and – one of my favorite pieces in the whole story – the bulletin board Ronan puts up in his library, with notes like “Keep Out: This Goat” (sharp-eyed viewers will notice the goat snacking on some books, a few spreads earlier), “Closed During Raids”, and a cautionary “Swords Make Terrible Bookmarks”. Clearly, library signage hasn’t seen the need to evolve much.

I’m gushing with love for Ronan the Librarian because it’s just too much fun and it’s all about discovering the joy of books and reading. Insta-buy for your collections if you don’t already have it. Consider it an investment in your class visits for life. Make sure to visit the authors’ website, and find activities, guides, and more information about their books!

Posted in ALA Midwinter, Conferences & Events, picture books

Bloomsbury Book Buzz and the Free Library of Philadelphia at #ALAMW20

The first day of ALA Midwinter tends to be a little slow, so I was thrilled when my friend invited me to be her +1 at Bloomsbury’s Book Buzz, held at the Free Library of Philadelphia. I was planning on visiting the library during my Midwinter visit, so this was perfect! We got to enjoy the Our Five Senses exhibit, which included some beautiful picture book framed artwork and thought-provoking questions about the senses various art invoked in the kids.

Still one of my favorite storytime books: artwork from Aliki’s My Five Senses (1962).

 

A friendly, giant eyeball welcomes us to the exhibit.

Artwork from Angela Dominguez’s Maria Had a Little Llama (2013).

 

Sketches from Zachariah OHora’s Stop Snoring, Bernard! (2011), which is storytime GOLD.

 

Artwork from Lizi Boyd’s Flashlight (2014).

 

Ezra Jack Keats’s artwork for Ann McGovern’s Zoo, Where Are You? (1964)

 

Finally, it was time to go to the Book Buzz, where there were snacks! There were fun tattoos and swag bags for all, and we got to enjoy author Isaac Fitzgerald’s presentation about his book, How To Be a Pirate, and the four additional books being fêted.

I love this picture so much, but the actual photo it’s based on was underneath, and it is stunning.

The work that went into this book is incredible: look at the Google Image search, and look at how illustrator Laura Freeman used it to create this spread.

I love this series! Connie Schofield-Morrison and Frank Morrison are back with their upbeat young protagonist from I Got Rhythm and I Got the Christmas Spirit. Now, she’s showing readers her school spirit, and the artwork is just PERFECT.

I can’t even do this justice with photos. The artwork is gorgeous, with warm colors and the full run of facial expressions, from “Whoa, this school is big” to “I am not having this”. I love this relentlessly cheerful little girl and wish I could channel her positive energy every day.

A Way With Wild Things has the sweetest story of an introvert named Poppy, who will do anything to not stand out at family gatherings, including dressing like household fabrics… until she spies a gorgeous dragonfly at one backyard party. Sara Palacios’ artwork is just beautiful, and I love spotting Poppy in each spread. Didn’t get a photo of this spread, because I just couldn’t capture the textures in a way that made me happy with the photo.

This book is WAY too much fun. It’s a story about girls being pirates, about tattoos and their meanings, and love. The author and illustator are both tattooed and fantastic, and Isaac Fitzgerald’s one of the nicest people I’ve ever met. How To Be a Pirate reminds me a bit of 2016’s Tell Me a Tattoo Story, by Alison McGhee and Eliza Wheeler; I love the way each book illustrates the meanings we have behind our tattoos. Adorable, fun, and with gorgeous illustration with a definite tattoo flair.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

The Book Without a Story will make you want to hug a book

The Book Without a Story, by Carolina Rabei, (Sept. 2019, Kane Miller), $12.99, ISBN: 9781610678797

Ages 4-7

The library is full of stories – including the stories that the books tell about us people! When the library in The Book Without a Story closes for the evening, the books sit around and share stories: who borrowed them last, where they went with their person, what they did. Poor Dusty has no story to tell, though: high up on a shelf, no kid is able to see Dusty to borrow him! The other books come up with a plan to get Dusty in front of a little girl named Sophie, that they just know will love Dusty. But the next day, when Dusty lands – PLOP! – in front of Sophie, she’s distracted and leaves Dusty on a table… where her little brother, Jake, starts turning pages. It turns out that Dusty is a dinosaur book, and Jake just LOVES dinosaurs! Jake borrows Dusty, and comes back to the library with his own adventures to tell, and it turns out that Jake’s been talking about his adventures too: Dusty is book of the month!

This is the sweetest story about book lovers, and one of the first things I learned in library school: there’s a reader for every book. This is a great library visit read-aloud, and a wonderful storytime read-aloud. The library is filled with warm colors and sunlight streaming in through the windows; even the closed library looks inviting and welcoming in the evening, when the books gather to relate their adventures. The books demonstrate teamwork and empathy to reach Dusty and get him a reader, and when Jake and Dusty come together, it’s just adorable; we see how a good book can transform a reader: Jake tells everyone within earshot about Dusty, conducts his own storytime, reading the book and using dinosaur action figures as props; and reads the book “in the car, at the kitchen table, in the bath… and secretly at night”. I love the nod to the kindly librarian who explains to Jake that he can take borrow Dusty, when the end of the day arrives and he’s still reading – some of the best moments I have here at my library are when I tell kids that they can take the books home “to visit” for three whole weeks! Endpapers show a gathering of books on the opening endpapers, and Jake and the library kids (and pets) reading and playing dinosaur dress-up.

An adorable pick for readers and book lovers, and one that will send your readers running to the library. (But please, don’t run when you get here.)

Posted in Animal Fiction, Fantasy, Fiction, Middle Grade, mythology, Tween Reads

Middle Grade Quick Takes: Thundercluck! and The Tiny Hero of Ferny Creek Library

I did some more TBR-diving over the last few weeks, and have some more middle grade quick takes!

Thundercluck!, by Paul Tillery IV & Meg Wittwer, (Oct. 2018, Roaring Brook Press), $14.99, ISBN: 978-1-250-15228-3

Ages 8-12

How do you not check out a book that has the tagline, “Half moral. Half god. All natural chicken”? Thundercluck is about the valiant chicken of Thor. The story begins when Thor and the evil Under-Cook Gorman Bones fight as Thor defends his hen, Hennda, from the cooking pan. Thor hits Bones with lightning, but Hennda gets a jolt, causing her to lay a giant egg, which hatches and reveals a tiny chick with a horned helmet and little vest, and who shoots lightning from his beak. Behold, the birth of Thundercluck! Raised by Brunhilda, a young Valkyrie in Odin’s court, Thundercluck and Hennda are sent to Midgard (that’s Earth), to be kept safely hidden from vengeful Gorman Bones, but like every epic tale, the heroes return to do battle; it’s the Under-Cook versus the Valkyrie and her faithful chicken for the win!

Thundercluck! is the first in a new series – the next book is due out in September – and is a win for your middle grade readers. There’s a lot of hilarious moments, some good Norse mythology, epic battles, and, at the heart of the book, is the story of an enduring friendship. Black and white illustrations throughout are adorable and will keep readers turning pages. There’s a Thundercluck! website that includes an award-winning short on Thundercluck!, which was author Paul Tillery IV’s MFA thesis. Give this one to your younger mythology fans – if they like Joan Holub & Suzanne Williams’s Thunder Girls series, they’ll love this one!

 

The Tiny Hero of Ferny Creek Library, by Linda Bailey/Illustrated by Victoria Jamieson, (June 2017, Greenwillow Books), $16.99, ISBN: 978-0-06-244093-8

Ages 8-12

Ferny Creek School Library has a beloved librarian who goes on maternity leave, and her awful replacement wants to get rid of the library and make way for a testing space! Meanwhile, Eddie, a tiny green bug with a passion for books, finds himself in the library as he searches for his Aunt Min, who was injured and can’t get out of the library. Together, the two bookworms – bookbugs? – cook up a Charlotte’s Web-type strategy to plead for the library to stay as is.

The Tiny Hero of Ferny Creek Library is just adorable. The story, loaded with great book references, includes Eddie & Min’s “Bugliography” at the end; a nice listing of all the books mentioned, in one spot, and serves as a good readers’ advisory guide (and display guide). This is a love letter to libraries, particularly school libraries, which have had a really rough time of it these last few years. The heart of the story is the love for a school library, and its librarian, who makes the library a home for the kids at school, versus the mean Mrs. Visch, sister of the school’s superintendent, and testing enthusiast who sees books and reading as frivolous at best. Roller Girl’s Victoria Jamieson created adorable black and white illustrations, featured throughout the book, and really makes readers fall in love with Eddie, Min, and their quest to save the library. It’s a feel good story that book lovers will come to again and again, and reminded me of all the great memories I have from my first library and Mrs. Reale, my first school librarian, who always seemed to know what book to hand me when I needed it.

Posted in Early Reader, Non-Fiction, picture books, Preschool Reads

Kane Miller’s Shine-a-Light series goes to the library!

At the Library (Shine-a-Light), by Heather Alexander/Illustrated Ipek Konak, (Jan. 2019, Kane Miller), $12.99, ISBN: 9781610678230

Ages 4-8

The Shine-a-Light series from Kane Miller adds a fun dimension to nonfiction reading: hold each right-hand page to the light to see a hidden image. At the Library is a nice introduction to libraries for younger readers who are new to what libraries can do and offer. Each page asks questions that can be answered by shining a light on the pages: find a mother reading to her baby; learn some of the rules of the library (we don’t really enforce that “no loud talking or making noise” business, but it is nice if you’re relatively quiet and respectful); and take in a puppet show or a storytime. The artwork within the body of the book has soft colors and black and white pages to allow for the “hidden” pictures to shine through and the questions allow for interaction between a reader and the storytime audience. The book even covers bookmobiles and little free libraries, plus a quick trip to the Library of Congress. A back section features some of the more unique items in collections around the world, including the original Winnie the Pooh stuffed bear that inspired A.A. Milne’s tales; a snow globe collection, and the contents of Abraham Lincoln’s pockets on the day he died.

My 6-year-old really enjoys this series, and my storytime group at my last library loved seeing what went on in outer space. I’ve got a class visit that I’m going to introduce to At the Library this week – let’s see how it goes! The Shine-a-Light series is a fun addition to nonfiction collections, and punches up a nonfiction storytime, and there’s a bunch to choose from.

 

Posted in Graphic Novels, Teen, Young Adult/New Adult

Archival Quality is SO GOOD, and not just because I’m a librarian.

Archival Quality, by Ivy Noelle Weir/Illustrated by Steenz, (March 2018, Oni Press), $19.99, ISBN: 9781620104705

Recommended for readers 14+

First, the scoop: Cel Walden is a young woman who loves working with books. But she loses her library job, because she’s also dealing with crippling anxiety and depression. She finds another job, this time as an archivist, at the Logan Museum, where she’s responsible for putting records in order and digitizing them. Sounds pretty cool, right? (You know it does.) She meets Abayomi, also called Aba, the secretive curator, and the fabulous Holly, librarian extraordinaire. Cel starts scanning and archiving, but notices strange things afoot at the library and the archivist’s apartment on library property; she also starts having some strange dreams about a young woman who needs Cel’s help. Cel becomes consumed with finding out this woman’s identity and what happened to her, which puts her job, relationship, and possibly, her mental health, at risk.

Now, the raving: Archival Quality is a great story on so many levels. It’s a ghost story; it’s got secrets; it takes place in a library – where better to have a ghost story?!; and it takes a strong and sensitive look at mental health and takes an hard look at mental health treatment in the past. Cel is on a mission to find out what happened to the ghostly girl who shares her initials and her mental health challenges. The ghost’s story gets under Cel’s skin because she empathizes; she understands, and she wants to help put an uneasy, persecuted spirit to rest: and that certainly has a double meaning, as we see the toll this takes on Cel through the story.

The characters are wonderful. Cel stands on her own as a fully realized character, and her friends: the mysterious Aba has his own fears and frustrations to work with, and Holly is strong and witty. Holly and Aba are characters of color and Holly’s got a girlfriend whose family has its own ties to the Logan Museum, giving us a tertiary character that has a realistic connection to the story and isn’t just there to be window dressing for Holly. Archival Quality is a solid story that works to bash away at the stigma of depression and anxiety. I love it, and I can’t wait to get it into the hands of the readers at my library. I’d hand this off to my upper-level middle schoolers and high schoolers, and keep copies handy for the college kids.

Ivy Noelle Weir and Steenz also happen to be former librarians. See? LIBRARIES ROCK. Check out Ivy Weir’s webpage for more webcomics (with Steenz) and general awesomeness. Check out Steenz’s Tumblr for more art.

 

Posted in Non-Fiction

Write to Me: Letters from Japanese American Children to the Librarian They left Behind

Write to Me: Letters from Japanese American Children to the Librarian They left Behind, by Cynthia Grady/Illustrated by Amiko Hirao, (Jan. 2018, Charlesbridge), $16.99, ISBN: 9781580896887

Recommended for readers 5-10

Inspired by a true story, Write to Me tells the story of Clara Breed, a children’s librarian who corresponded with her Japanese American patrons when they were sent to internment camps during World War II. She gave them postcards to let her know where they were; she visited them, wrote to them, and sent them books and crafts to help ease their minds during their confinement. She advocated for those children by writing articles and attending rallies, advocating for her kids. When the kids came home, she was waiting for them – and they came to her. She was comfort in a cruel time. Write to me tells the story of Clara Breed through conversations with her library kids; muted pencil art illustrates life in the prison camps, with excerpts from actual letters on each page to show the passage of time. Endpapers display photos from the period, including family arrivals at the camps and evacuation notices for Japanese Americans. An author’s note features a photo of Clara Breed and two of her patrons, taken at a reunion in 1991. There’s a timeline of Clara Breed’s life, including links to her articles on the war, relocation, civil liberties, and human rights, and a selected history of the Japanese People in the United States. Source notes, bibliography, and further reading are available. A touching book about a woman who touched lives, and a nice addition to biography collections.

 

 

Posted in geek, geek culture, Middle Grade, programs, Tween Reads

I had a BookPop! party and it was great!

Quirk Books is a… well, quirky, fun book publisher that has a comic book writer and former YA librarian in their ranks, spreading the good word. It’s pretty awesome, because now, my library gets to do things like have a gallery dedicated to horror paperbacks of the ’70s and ’80s (Paperbacks From Hell), and have a mini pop culture con for my kiddos and tweens.

First up, my Paperbacks From Hell gallery, in my teen section. It’s garnering some looks, some chuckles, and some conversations: “What the hell is that?” “That is a giant gila monster. And watch your mouth.” (The display is in the teen area, but you know, little pitchers, big ears). The teens are pretty baffled, the grownups get a kick out of it, and it just makes me happy.

Next up, BookPop: Quirk’s traveling pop culture fest, happening in libraries and bookstores all over the place. I held mine late, because I thought it would be the perfect program to hold when the kids were out of school; last Thursday – since most of the families in my community don’t observe Rosh Hashanah – was the day. Quirk sent me a box o’swag, including ET: The Extra-Terrestrial tattoos (not in the picture: those babies were GONE); posters of the new kids’ books, X-Files: Children are Weird, and the YA novel My Best Friend’s Exorcism; and a spiffy tote bag to put everything in. I downloaded Quirk’s Geek Guides for putting on a great day of programming, and was ready.

First program of BookPop! Day was Superhero Storytime. I had a handful of kiddos and their parents attend, and we made masks and Geek Family Crests when we were done. The kids loved the masks – I downloaded some blank templates from First Palette, handed out scissors, markers, crayons, and lanyard to tie the masks, and the kids loved it. One little one even wore her mask through the next program…

Nick and Tesla’s Science Workshop. The Nick and Tesla books are tons of fun and loaded with STEM experiments, but I wanted something that even my littler ones could do. Enter, bubbles. I told the kids that Nick and Tesla are a brother-sister team that solve mysteries and get out of trouble by creating great science projects, and that we were going to learn about surface tension, and the difference between bubbling your milk and bubbling water with a little dish soap in it. I had a gallon-sized tub filled with water, gave out droppers, straws, and cups, and we bubbled away. Then, I had one of the kids add a cup of plain old liquid dish soap, and they all took turns stirring it. I spread some water on the table and demonstrate how to blow a table bubble, and that was all the kids needed. Look at these bubbles!

The entire table, at one point, was covered in bubbles. They loved it, I loved it, and they want more fun science programming, so win, all around. Next up was…

The Miss Peregrine Photo Workshop. Originally, I planned this for my teen patrons, but they weren’t interested – I had a group of tweens, though, who were all over it. We talked about the movie, I showed them the books, and brought out the equipment: photos I printed onto card stock from a Miss Peregrine-inspired Pinterest board (search on “vintage weird” and I guarantee you won’t be sorry), lots of paper towel, a spray bottle full of coffee, and two containers of coffee and tea. The kids loved aging their photos, and I was amazed by their creativity: one girl laid a paper towel over her photo to give it more texture as the coffee seeped through, and another tore the borders of her photo to make it look even older.

When I told them I wanted to create a photo gallery of their work, they all donated the photos to the library! So today, we have “Queensboro Hill’s Library for Outstanding Children” (forgive the glare, I laminated the photos so they wouldn’t deteriorate further):

I handed swag bags out for most of the day, and everything went except for one tote, two X-Files posters, and a handful of My Best Friend’s Exorcism posters, which will all be prizes for future programs. One kid couldn’t even wait to get home: he gave himself an ET tattoo sleeve, which was pretty fabulous.

I’d call our Queensboro Hill BookPop! a success.

Posted in Preschool Reads, Toddler Reads

Max and Bird: A new friendship is born!

Max and Bird, by Ed Vere, (Sept. 2017, Sourcebooks Jabberwocky), $17.99, ISBN: 9781492635581

Recommended for readers 3-6

My favorite brave kitten is back! In Max’s third adventure, he learns that the rules of nature can conflict with being a good friend. You see, he befriends a bird, but, according to the rules of nature, birds get chased by kittens. But friends don’t eat each other up! The dynamic duo decide to work on their flying skills and head to the library, because “libraries know everything”, and he and Max learn that friendship means helping each other out.

The Max series is such a sweet, kind-hearted series loaded with humor. Max and Bird are a radiant black that stands boldly out against the full-color backgrounds, and they each have giant, trusting eyes that ups their cute factor. Exaggerated fonts and exertion lines show emotion and action. Kids will love learning – and contributing to a discussion – about what goes into being a good friend. Mention Max’s “pros and cons” worksheet and ask them for their ideas on the pros and cons of being a good friend.

Posted in Fiction, Middle Grade, Realistic Fiction

Join the resistance: BAN THIS BOOK

Ban this Book, by Alan Gratz, Sept. 2017, Starscape), $15.99, ISBN: 9780765385567

Recommended for readers 8-12

Fourth grader Amy Anne Ollinger isn’t one to speak up. When her parents tell her to let her sisters get their own way, she listens. All she wants to do is read her books and stay off anyone’s radar, but that all changes when her favorite book, From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, is pulled from the library shelves after a classmate’s mother finds it inappropriate. Amy Anne is shocked when the school board carries the motion, but it gets worse when her classmate’s mom returns to the library with a list of MORE books. And the administration refuses to call it banning! Amy Anne launches into action: she starts her own banned book library, run out of her locker. As the battle of the books escalates, Amy calls some friends in for backup. They’re going to challenge every book in the library. The dictionary? You can find bad words, like “stupid”, in there. Goodnight Moon? That cute little mouse is a health violation! Math textbooks? Imaginary numbers don’t exist!

Ban This Book is wonderful, first and foremost, because it gives kids a voice. Amy Anne finds hers as the novel progresses, and defending her beloved books gives her the power to assert herself in other areas of her life. Alan Gratz gives us a protagonist of color who goes on her own hero’s journey in the course of this novel; from mouse (as drawn by her classmate) to advocate – and assistant librarian! Mr. Gratz also shows a valuable part of librarianship that most people don’t always associate with our little profession: defenders of the right to read. Ms. Jones, Amy’s school librarian, is portrayed as a knowledgable, dedicated professional – and one who notably does not “shush” her library kids – who fights for her books and her readers, challenging the school board over their decision to take her – the professional – out of the review and reconsideration process.

Amy Anne and her friends learn how to assemble as a group and use their strengths to form their own library, to organize their own challenge to the status quo, and to make decisions for themselves. Every character is a winner here, and extra kudos to the author for not making the board and PTA mom classic mustache-twirling villains here: Amy recognizes that they are good people who want to believe they are doing what’s best for their kids.

Every single book that the PTA mom challenges in Ban This Book can be found on the American Library Association’s list of frequently banned and challenged books.

An absolute must-add to reading lists and collections. Make this one the center of your Banned Book Week Display!