Tag Archive: library


Book Reviews Dec 2014

I can’t believe this year is nearly at an end. It has definitely been an interesting one, especially in regards books and my professional life. I finally got a library job after 4 years of searching, and it’s in the area I want to be in, i.e. Youth Services. I get to do storytimes and help kids and parents find the books and other material that they need. I have beat my reading goal for the year with 345 out 321 books read. I have, unfortunately, gotten really far behind in writing reviews. But I am working to catch up on that for the new year and get back on a good schedule of writing and posting them. I am definitely going to try and write more blog posts in 2015. I already have a few ideas rolling around in my head. My son has been growing like a weed and though he is a handful, he is becoming more independent. He’s getting better with the alphabet, though we’re going to have to over the numbers again as he seems to have forgotten them in the meantime. I’m hoping he’ll be able to read soon and we can read more together.

As usual I rate books on a scale of 1 – 5 stars, with one being the lowest and five the highest. I will add pictures from books I like (and there was a lot this time around).

Children

Wow! Said the Owl written and illustrated by Tim Hopgood

Wow said the Owl

This was a very cute story about a young owl discovering all the colors that occur during the day. Added bonus about this book is that I can use it for ToddlerTime on owls and a Discoverytime (Preschool storytime + science) on rainbows. I am very happy about the last part. Recommended for ages 2-6, 4 stars.

I Love to Dance written and illustrated by Anna Walker

I was looking for another book about dancing for my Toddler Storytime, when I found this book. I liked the soft but simple ink on watercolor illustrations about Ollie, who I think is some kind of dog sock monster or maybe stuffed animal, who loves to dance. I liked the descriptions of his dancing, especially “I love to dance like jelly and shake my wobbly belly.” Recommended for ages 2-6, 3 stars.

I’m Not Cute! written and illustrated by Jonathan Allen

This was another adorable owl book that I plan to use for a Toddler storytime on owls (not trying to be pun-y but it was). Baby Owl insists he’s not cute even though everyone he meets say he is. He insists that he is instead “a huge and scary hunting machine with great big soft and silent wings.” In actuality, both statements are true, as it is later confirmed by his mother. Recommended for ages 2-6, 3 stars.

except if written and illustrated by Jim Averbeck

except if

I really enjoyed this book and the concept of it, and planned to use it at my Egg Preschool DiscoveryTime (though it would also be great for a Toddler storytime; didn’t arrive in time unfortunately). It’s all about an egg hatching and the possibilities about what could be hatching from it. For example, it could be a bird except if it is a baby snake, etc etc. My son loved this book. Recommended for ages 2-6, 4 stars.

Cats Night Out written by Caroline Stutson, illustrated by Jon Klassen

Cats Night Out

This was another book I chose for my dancing Toddler Storytime. The book featured dancing cats at night with all kinds of amusing costumes and dance styles/positions. Plus Jon Klassen’s illustrations are just so detailed but the cats all seem to remind me of the Jets and Sharks (ala West Side Story) as they just look so cool and relaxed dancing. Recommended for ages 2-7, 4 stars.

Rap a Tap Tap written and illustrated by Leo and Diane Dillon

RapATapTap

I was looking for a book for my Toddler Storytime on dance when I came across this gem from Leo & Diane Dillon. It’s a book about Bill “Bojangles” Robinson, one of the world’s most famous tap dancers and has a rhyming repeating text. I had heard of him before this book, but this was the first time I’d seen a children’s book based on the his life and dancing skills. Recommended for ages 2-7, 3 stars.

Waiting is Not Easy! written and illustrated by Mo Willems

Waiting is Not Easy

I borrowed a copy of this book because A. I love Elephant and Piggie and this was one of the newest ones and B. I hoped it would explain patience better to my 3 yr old son who is quite possibly the most impatient person in the world. He does kind of get it now, though he’s still pretty impatient, but is a good book for explaining the concept. Gerald is having a hard time waiting for the surprise promised by Piggie. He waits all day and is getting really tired of it, when his surprise finally comes and he realizes it was worth waiting for. This book can definitely be appreciated by kids and parents alike. Recommended for ages 3+, 4 stars.

The Littlest Owl written by Caroline Pitcher, illustrations by Tina Macnaughton

I have been looking for books to use with my owl Toddler storytime and this book was a bit too much for them. But a cute book nonetheless. I just feel like quoting Despicable Me and say that that little baby “is so fluffy I’m gonna die!”. A mommy barn owl has laid four eggs and three have already hatched. The fourth takes a bit longer and is smaller than the rest. When a storm hits, the four babies and their mother must fly away from the willow tree that is their home. The first three go with no problem, but the fourth hasn’t flown before and is hesitant. Eventually he gathers up his courage and flies for the first time. Recommended for ages 3-6, 3 stars.

I’m Going to Catch My Tail! written and illustrated by Jimbo Matison

I'm Going to Catch My Tail!

 I saw this book while browsing for storytime books and just had to get it. The illustrations are so adorable and a bit cartoony. The book is about a silly cat who decides to catch his tail, who speaks with a separate voice, as he goes about his crazy everyday life, you know messing with the laundry, tearing up toilet paper and generally causing mischief. I was more enthused than my son was, but he still thought it was funny. Recommended for ages 3-6, 3 stars.

Snippet the Early Riser written and illustrated by Bethanie Deeney Marguia

Snippet the Early Riser

I picked this one up because I love books about snails. Honestly I liked the illustrations more than the story. Snippet is a very energetic snail, pretty much like a normal under 7 year old and likes to play soccer, draw, and get piggyback rides. Like small children, he wakes up way earlier than his parents and sister and does everything in his power to wake them up so they can all play together. Recommended for ages 3-6, 3 stars.

Harold and the Purple Crayon: Race Car written by Liza Baker, illustrated by Kevin Murawski

My son loved this book, but he loves cars (especially racing ones), so I’m not surprised. Harold is playing with his toy car in his room when he decides to he wants to drive a real one. So he draws one with his magic purple crayon and a second car and has a car race, along with his dog Lilac. They face fog, snow, the desert, and still manage to save the second car and finish the race. Recommended for ages 3-6, 4 stars.

Julia’s House for Lost Creatures written and illustrated by Ben Hatke

julias house for lost creatures 2

I picked this up originally while I was looking up storytime books and thought the cover looked cool. When I found out First Second books was the publisher, I knew it was gonna be awesome (they just always seem to do cooler than normal books and graphic novels). The book starts off with Julia’s house being on a giant tortoise, which delighted my son to no end. She comes to a new area but is bored, so she puts a sign outside for welcoming in lost creatures. In no time at all, some start to show up, like a patchwork kitty, a bridge troll, and mermaids. The illustrations are super cute and really help to tell the story. Like Kirkus Reviews has mentioned in their review, the creatures do start up a bit of a Wild Rumpus, ala Where the Wild Things Are, and Julia quickly tires of it. She establishes some ground rules and things quickly settle down again and become more like a family. Recommended for ages 3-7, 5 stars.

By the Light of the Harvest Moon by Harriet Ziefert

Another book I picked up for Autumn Preschool Storytime, I liked this one for its great illustrations. It is a story about the Autumnal Equinox on Sept 22 or 23. A farmer and his crew have been busy harvesting and go to bed exhausted. After he goes home for the night, the leaf people come out to celebrate the Harvest Moon/the Autumnal Equinox with their families. They play games like bobbing for apples and making popcorn necklaces. The leaf kids try to see who can stack pumpkins the highest. The best part was the dessert party, where the kids proudly announce that they get to eat pie. The only thing that was off-putting about this book was the fact that the leaf people (whose heads were pumpkins) ate pumpkin pie and played with pumpkins, but I guess you have to extend your imagination to not look at their head and remember that they are made up of leaves. Recommended for ages 4-7, 3 stars.

When Blue Met Egg written and illustrated by Lindsay Ward

I thought I might use this book when I did a Preschool DiscoveryTime on eggs, but it didn’t quite work. But I thought it was cute and so brought it home to read with my son. He liked the story, though it was a bit long. Blue is a bird who lives in New York City and one day she meets the lonely Egg, who she sort of adopts as she takes him around the city trying to find his mom. They are together winter to spring when he hatches into something special. I had to explain the ending to my son as he didn’t pick up on it. Recommended for ages 4-7, 3 stars.

In November written by Cynthia Rylant, illustrated by Jill Kastner

I am doing a Preschool Storytime on Autumn and I found this book. I think it is a more winter book than autumn but I will probably use it as a backup book. It tells about all the different things that go on during November. There are no leaves on the trees, animals and insects are hibernating or getting ready to do so. Snow is coming down, people are baking and getting together for Thanksgiving. I loved this line from the text “In November, the smell of food is different. It is an orange smell. A squash and pumpkin smell. It tastes like cinnamon and can fill up a house in the morning…” I loved the oil painted illustrations, which just made everything seem more homey and snuggly. Recommended for ages 4-7, 3 stars.

Max’s Castle written and illustrated by Kate Banks

I have not read the first two books in this series, but found this while browsing for storytime books and thought it looked fun. Max finds some forgotten wooden alphabet blocks in his room and he and his brothers uses their imagination to create a castle with the blocks forming words that make up the features of the castle. I loved the illustrations of this fun and creative book, though it was a bit too long for my son. Recommended for ages 4-8, 3 stars.

Pele and the Rivers of Fire adapted and illustrated by Michael Nordenstrom

Pele and the Rivers of Fire

I was looking for a book to do with Preschool DiscoveryTime storytime and found this book. Thankfully there is a pronunciation guide in the back of the book as some of the Hawaiian names are rather hard to pronounce. This book tells the story of the volcanic fire goddess Pele and how she came to the Hawaiian islands. I loved the beautiful acrylic/watercolor on paper collage illustrations. It’s really cool that this book was written by a librarian and you can definitely see his passion for the subject in the book. Recommended for ages 4-9, 4 stars.

Maybelle the Cable Car by Virginia Lee Burton

I love Virginia Lee Burton’s books, so I immediately picked this one up while looking for car books for my son. It is based off the true story of how the city of San Francisco banded together to save the cable cars, despite the city fathers wanting to get rid of them in the name of progress. Maybelle, as the title suggests, is one of the old cable cars that is thankfully spared the chopping block and her and her fellow cable cars are allowed to run up and down the hilly city. She eventually becomes friends with Big Bill, one of the new modern buses, who originally thought of her as old-fashioned and as competition. The book also tells in detail how the cable cars work, so I’m sure kids will be pretending to drive one of these while reading or listening to the story. Recommended for ages 5-9, 3 stars.

Young Adult

City of Heavenly Fire (The Mortal Instruments #6) by Cassandra Clare

This is the final showdown between the Shadowhunters and Sebastian (aka Jonathan Morgenstern). Sebastian is trying to turn as many Shadowhunters and Downworlders as possible into Endarkened (mindless zombies) by using the Infernal Cup and wants a final all-out battle to establish his dominance. Everyone must decide what side they will fight on. Clary, Jace, Isabelle, Simon, and Alec travel to a demon world to find and defeat Sebastian on his own turf. Will they be able to in time? To find out, read the exciting conclusion to the Mortal Instrument series. Recommended for ages 15+, 4 stars.

Holy Moly! What a crazy book and an intriguing end to the series! I mean killing off characters in the prologue was pretty ballsy, but it definitely gets your attention. This book was long at 725 pages, but I managed to get through it in a week because it kept me on the edge of my seat trying to figure out what insane thing the author was going to do next. And she has brilliantly set the stage for her next series, entitled “The Dark Artifices”, though I will admit I’m kinda like “Geez, what else can she talk about for an entire series” as I already think this series went on for a book or two too long. However, I will probably check out at least the first book to see what she’s done. I will admit that I couldn’t for the life of me, despite having read all of the “The Infernal Devices” books, remember who Brother Zechariah actually was before he became a silent brother. I was really happy with the way the romances in the series ended, though I am curious about more Magnus stories in her e-books that I’ve yet to read (that will have to be remedied).

I would like to give a shoutout to Thomas from the blog “the quiet voice” for his excellent review of the book.

The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender by Leslye Walton

Ok yes, I totally judged this book by its cover. The story sounded intriguing as well, so I figured I would give it a try. This ended up being one of my favorite books of the year and I was pretty bummed when it ended because it was so good. If you don’t like totally bizarre stories, you are not gonna like this book. That being said, I think the weirdness really works in this case. This is the author’s first book, which is kind of crazy because the language is so gorgeous and quotable and really makes her seem like she’s been doing this all her life. The story kind of reminded me of elements from the movie “Amelie” and “Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children”. To check out a more thorough review, check out this one.

The book starts off with a letter from the main character and tells the reader that to understand her story, she has to go back to the beginning and tell her grandmother and mother’s stories first. They feature nearly unbelievable tales of love and loss, which once told, make it is easier to understand the winged Ava and her silent brother Henry and how the story unfolds the way that it does. I don’t want to tell too much and give the story away, but I highly recommend this book. Recommended for ages 14+, 5 stars.

Adult

Perdita by Hilary Scharper

Finding Rebecca by Eoin Dempsey

Judy: A Dog in a Million by Damien Lewis

Tipping the Velvet by Sarah Waters, narrated by Juanita McMahon

Tipping the Velvet is about a young teenage oyster girl named Nancy Astley living in Whitstable, an English seaside town, in the 1890s. She falls in love with a male impersonator, at her local music hall, named Kitty Butler. She agrees to become her personal dresser and embarks on a totally different life than she ever had before. Eventually the two of them become lovers and have a male impersonator act together, before she is cruelly betrayed by Kitty and has her heart broken. The story that follows is Nancy’s journey in growing up and becoming her own person, separate from Kitty. 4 stars.

Wow this was a crazy book! I finally had a chance to listen to it after watching part of the BBC miniseries version years ago and enjoying it. Seventeen discs though, geez! I’m not sure what it is about almost all the books I’ve picked recently but they start off great, get really draggy in the middle and then pick up again at the end (including this one). Ms. McMahon was a great narrator though, and definitely made the book more enjoyable (even in the dragging parts). If you ever wanted to know about British slang for all things sexual, this is definitely the book for you. It’s a good thing I have an English hubby and have always been a bit of Anglophile or I would probably have gotten really lost while listening to this book. I did really enjoy the frank discussions of gender, sexuality, socialism and feminism in the book. I would be interested in reading more of Sarah Waters’ books in the future.

Plenty More: Vibrant Vegetable Cooking from London’s Ottolenghi by Yotam Ottolenghi

Another brilliant vegetarian cookbook from Yotam Ottolenghi, and this one is even better than “Ottolenghi”. I swear this man could make anything taste amazing. Plus there’s the gorgeous food photographs (nearly food porn lets be honest) that makes you just drool and make the recipes immediately, especially for the Taleggio and Spinach Roulade, Fig and Goat Cheese Tart and the Tomato and Pomegranate Salad. I’d like to try to make the Udon Noodles with with Fried Eggplants, Walnut and Miso (and I usually hate eggplants, but again he makes it sound amazing); Quinoa Porridge with Grilled Tomatoes and Garlic; Quinces Poached in Pomegranate Juice, and Walnut and Halvah Cake. 5 stars.

Persuasion by Jane Austen, narrated by Juliet Stevenson

Anne Elliot was betrothed to Captain Frederic Wentworth when she was 19 and was persuaded by friends and family to call it. So she did and has regretted her decision ever since. Anne’s father has managed to nearly bankrupt the family with his extravagant spending, so they have to rent out their manor house and move to Bath, England. Anne does not go immediately there, but instead goes to stay with her sister Mary in the country. She is intrigued and a little bit scared to meet up with Captain Wentworth again at Mary’s in-law’s house. It seems he is there courting Mary’s sister in laws, Louisa and Henrietta Musgrove, and Anne must sit there and watch and sort out how she feels about this. Eventually Louisa, Henrietta, Captain Wentworth, Mary and her husband Charles, and Anne decide to visit the seaside town of Lyme and Louisa has a crazy accident which incapacitates her for awhile. Anne leaves to go visit her friend Lady Russell and eventually move back in with her father. Captain Wentworth later comes to bath which really makes Anne wonder if he does still have feelings for her. 4 stars.

I have tried to read the actual book of Pride and Prejudice a couple times but the story was so slow, I could never get through very much. So I thought it would be better if I tried Jane Austen as an audiobook, but go for another of her books (whose movie version I also loved) and so picked this one. The narrator, Juliet Stevenson, was excellent. The audio version was also really slow in the beginning and I’ll be honest, didn’t pick up for me until about disc 5 of 7. But I kept listening and finally the story got more interesting and I dreaded having to leave the car and being unable to continue it until I got back in again. Anne Elliot is one of my favorite characters so level-headed, intelligent and soft-spoken. It sucks that she had such bad advice from her friend Lady Russell. The letter Frederic gives to Anne at the end of the book is one of the sweetest and most romantic I’ve ever heard, and almost tops Mr. Darcy’s declaration to Elizabeth Bennet.

Autumn

San Francisco Mountains in Autumn

Fall in Flagstaff, AZ with the San Francisco Mtns in the background

It is finally Autumn in Arizona. Now I realize it is late November and winter storms are plaguing most of the Midwest and East coast, but it has only in the last few weeks gotten cool enough here to warrant long sleeves in the morning and evening (with temps in the low 70s – 21C for the rest of the world) and leaves starting to fall. The majority of the trees are still green and still have their leaves. Fall is my favorite time of year. I miss having real seasons in Arizona, we mostly just have a lot of summer with a very small fall/winter/spring. In October, I started craving cozy foods like homemade mac ‘n’ cheese and stews, and more importantly hot tea and cider. And this was when it was still 90 degrees outside. I also started crocheting again, and have made three scarves so far. I have decided to do “Autumn” as my theme for the last DiscoveryTime (DT) of the year. Sadly I can’t do a lot of the experiments I found online because almost no leaves have fallen. I added more songs and fingerplays in though, and an extra book so hopefully that will make up for it. I started doing take-home activity sheets as well, to have the parents and children do something fun related to the storytime.

While I was researching for the DT, I found a couple of poems, one of which I decided to add because it was from an award-winning children’s book called A Child’s Calendar by John Updike, illustrated by Tricia Schart Hyman. I also decided that if it was possible, I would like to include more poetry in my storytimes, as I enjoy it and it would be nice to expose the children to it as well. One that I could not add, not because it wasn’t a great poem (it is gorgeously vivid and lovely) but because it is a bit long and too complicated for 1-4 yr olds to sit through, was the following Keats poem. I’m sure most people have heard of it or heard it quoted before.

To Autumn

Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness,
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eves run;
To bend with apples the moss’d cottage-trees,
And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core;
To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells
With a sweet kernel; to set budding more,
And still more, later flowers for the bees,
Until they think warm days will never cease,
For summer has o’er-brimm’d their clammy cells.

Who hath not seen thee oft amid thy store?
Sometimes whoever seeks abroad may find
Thee sitting careless on a granary floor,
Thy hair soft-lifted by the winnowing wind;
Or on a half-reap’d furrow sound asleep,
Drowsed with the fume of poppies, while thy hook
Spares the next swath and all its twined flowers:
And sometimes like a gleaner thou dost keep
Steady thy laden head across a brook;
Or by a cider-press, with patient look,
Thou watchest the last oozings, hours by hours.

Where are the songs of Spring? Ay, where are they?
Think not of them, thou hast thy music too,–
While barred clouds bloom the soft-dying day,
And touch the stubble-plains with rosy hue;
Then in a wailful choir the small gnats mourn
Among the river sallows, borne aloft
Or sinking as the light wind lives or dies;
And full-grown lambs loud bleat from hilly bourn;
Hedge-crickets sing; and now with treble soft
The redbreast whistles from a garden-croft,
And gathering swallows twitter in the skies.

Book Reviews Oct 2014

Wow, I’ve had this blog for three years and I have published over 200 posts on it. I have been pretty proud of myself for reading more adult books in the last couple of months. I’ve been on a bit of a reading lull after I finished one really good nonfiction, but it looks like it is starting to pick up again. I am finally (after months of waiting) listening to The Blood of Olympus (Heroes of Olympus, #5) by Rick Riordan, the last book in the series. His books are just so fun to listen to, and I can’t wait to read/listen to his newest series on Norse gods. I am currently reading  an advanced reader’s copy of Damien Lewis’s Judy: A Dog in a Million, an English Pointer who was most likely the only canine prisoner of war and helped comfort POWs in Japanese Internment Camps during World War II. Ooh my other great piece of book news is that I had recently entered a contest to win some Gail Carriger (one of my favorite writers, does steampunk books for YA and adults) signed books, of her first series The Parasol Protectorate and some other swag and I am one of the winners! So hope to be getting that in the mail in the next month or so.

I’ve finally started the Nobel Prize Challenge that I mentioned last month. I am currently looking up book recommendations from other people to decide what to read from the list of prize winners. I’m just hoping my library has most of these or I’m gonna have to use Interlibrary Loan (ILL) again or maybe buy some of them. Ah well, at least it will be good literature (at least in theory).  My yearly reading total is up to 290 out of 321, so not bad. Granted most of those are picture books but can’t be helped when you’re a children’s librarian who does storytimes plus has a 3 year old.  As usual I rate books on a scale of 1 – 5 stars, with one being the lowest and five the highest. I will add pictures from books I like.

Children

Bear’s New Friend written by Karma Wilson, illustrated by Jane Chapman

I love the Bear books! This book was super cute as well. Bear hears a noise in the trees and then on the ground while heading to the swimming hole to meet his friends. He thinks it is one of his friends. Just Whoo is it? Eventually they discover that it is a little burrowing owl who is too shy to come out of his hole until convinced to do so by Bear and his friends. Then they all go off to play together and swim. Recommended for ages 3-6, 4 stars.

Hug Me written and illustrated by Simona Ciraolo

Hug Me

My son and I loved this book! Even describing this book to others made them think it was adorable. Felipe is a young cactus who is part of a very traditional cactus family. They must remain respectable and are firm believers of personal space. Felipe only wants a hug, especially after he accidently puts his friend Balloon in the hospital and is shunned by his family. He decides he must leave, but is not welcome anywhere (for obvious reasons). He is living all by himself until one day when he hears someone crying and knows just what to do to make her feel better. After that, Felipe and Camilla (the rock) are the best of friends! My son loved looking at the end pages and telling me exactly what they were doing in all the pictures. Recommended for ages 3-6, 5 stars.

Little Owl’s Orange Scarf written and illustrated by Tatyana Feeney

Little Owl's mother

My son loved this book and I did too. Little Owl’s mom knits him an orange scarf but he really doesn’t like it and tries his best to lose it at every turn. When he manages to get rid of it at the zoo, his mother is determined to make him another, but this time he is to help. He picks a better color and falls in love with it. I would love to use this for a Toddler Storytime on Owls. Recommended for ages 3-6, 5 stars.

Penguin written and illustrated by Polly Dunbar

I rather enjoyed this book though I didn’t think it was right for the storytime I had originally selected it for. My son enjoyed it as well. A young boy named Ben is given a penguin for a present and he does everything with it. He tickles it, sings and dances with it, stands on his head, and even sticks out his tongue at it, but no response from the penguin. He tries to offer it to a passing lion in his frustration, but the lion won’t take it. He eats the boy instead. Only then does the penguin respond by biting the lion’s nose. Once rescued and unharmed, the penguin explains in pictures all the things the boy and him did together and how much he enjoyed them. They are friends from then on. Recommended for ages 3-6, 3-1/2 stars.

The Tiny King written and illustrated by Taro Miura

The Tiny King

My son adored this book and asked me to read it over and over again. I loved the big bright illustrations and the simple story. The Tiny King has a huge castle, lots of food, a giant army and a giant bed. But he is lonely. One day he meets a Big Princess, falls in love and they are married. They have 10 children and soon his large castle and bed are full, he can eat all the food on his table, and he dismisses his army. He is so happy. I can’t wait to read the book about the Big Princess! Recommended for ages 3-6, 5 stars.

The Really, Really, Really Big Dinosaur written and illustrated by Richard Byrne

My son adored this book! Jackson is a small dinosaur who is counting out jelly beans for himself and his friend. Suddenly a bigger and much ruder dinosaur barges over and demands the candy because he is bigger and stronger. Jackson politely refuses and says that he has a really really really big dinosaur friend. They go back and forth until Jackson dares him to go into a cave, which the bigger dinosaur does only to be trapped in a much larger dinosaur’s mouth. He is let go though as the really really really big dinosaur is nice, and the bigger dinosaur is humbled. It is a great book for kids that might be dealing with bullies. Recommended for ages 3-6, 4 stars.

Quest written and illustrated by Aaron Becker

Quest

The two children from the Caldecott Honor winning book “Journey” are back on another adventure. Waiting under a bridge, the boy and girl are surprised by a king who pops out of a hidden door and hands them two keys. They open the door he’s come from and start gathering up all the colors and manage to save the king at the end. It is amazing that so much storytelling can be done with a gorgeous wordless picture book. I liked this one even better than the last one. Recommended for ages 4-7, 5 stars.

Neo Leo: The Ageless Ideas of Leonardo da Vinci written and illustrated by Gene Barretta

This book is all about how Leonardo da Vinci came up for the idea for many modern inventions back in the 15th and 16th centuries, 400 years before they were invented properly in the 19th and 20th centuries. The book discusses his plans and drawings for the first man-powered aircraft, a glider, contact lenses, a projector, a single-span bridge, tanks whose designs were based off of turtles and other war paraphenalia (such as grenades, machine guns and a giant catapult called a trebuchet) , the helicopter, and he improved upon the designs of scuba gear. Leonardo also figured out how blood travels through the heart, steam power and air pressure, and robots and automobiles. The book talks about modern inventors who uses his notes to create prototypes of his inventions. It’s pretty crazy to think that we still haven’t found 2/3 of his notes and just think about all the things we discovered about him already! Recommended for ages 5-10, 4 stars.

I find Leonardo da Vinci to be an amazing artist and inventor. I’ve been to Leonardo’s museum in Vinci and was fortunate to see a lot of his inventions as they were revealed in his copious notes. So when I found out about his involvement in the development of robots, the topic for my latest DiscoveryTime (Preschool Storytime + STEM), I had to add a page from the book to the storytime. Leonardo was the first person to create robots in the late 15th or early 16th century in the form of a robot knight and the drawings for a mechanical lion. There is actually a full adult book on Leonardo’s robots, but it is pretty technicial, so couldn’t use that volume.

The Sandman and the War of Dreams (The Guardians of Childhood, #4) written and illustrated by William Joyce

The Sandman the War of Dreams

I recently watched Rise of the Guardians, the movie based on Joyce’s books, which I loved. This re-peaked my interest in the Guardian series and I remembered that I hadn’t yet read this book. This version of Sandman was a lot quieter but a bit more in the front view as compared to the movie. Joyce is such an excellent storyteller, I sometimes forget that this book is intended for children, it is that good.

Lord Pitch, the Nightmare King, has abducted Katherine and the Guardians don’t know how to proceed until the intervention of the mysterious Sandman. We learn the entire back story of Pitch and his family (yes he had a wife and daughter), even more about Nightlight, and of course Sandy (who is more formally known as Sanderson Mansnoozie – great name right?). Will Sandy be able the free Katherine from Pitch’s clutches? To find out, read this fantastic fourth book in the “Guardians of Childhood” series. Recommended for ages 7-11, 5 stars.

Young Adult

Waistcoats & Weaponry (Finishing School Book the Third) by Gail Carriger

Code Name Verity (Code Name Verity #1) by Elizabeth Wein, narrated by Morven Christie and Lucy Gaskell

The book is about a young Scottish woman called Queenie (not her real name) who is part of the British Special Intelligence, aka a spy for the Allies during World War II. After she is captured by the Germans in a small French town, her story comes from having to retell it in “a confession” to the commanding officer of the Gestapo headquarters. She is tortured by the Gestapo and the other prisoners see her as a snitch for talking to the Germans. So the first half of the book we get to know Queenie’s family, find out how she gets into spy work, and how she meets her friend Maddie and how she is involved with her coming to France. The second half of the story is narrated by Maddie, an English pilot for the Air Transport Auxiliary, which is essentially the civilian branch of the Royal Air Force. Recommended for ages 16+, 5 stars.

I think this may be one of my favorite books read this year. The topic was so fascinating and unlike any teen World War II book I’d ever read. The torture scenes, which I honestly wasn’t expecting, were pretty graphic and somewhat hard to read. The narrators were fantastic, especially Morven Christie. I had never heard of the Air Transport Auxiliary before and it was cool to know that so many British and European women helped with the Allied War effort by flying planes. I also found the whole part of the story about the French Resistance intriguing and it’s kind of crazy what they managed to get away with right under the noses of the Germans.

Rose Under Fire (Code Name Verity #2) by Elizabeth Wein, narrated by Sasha Pick

The book picks up about 6 months after the events of “Code Name Verity”. Rose Justice is an American female pilot who comes to England to be part of the Air Transport Auxiliary during World War II. She knows Maddie, the English Pilot we met in the first book of the series. She ends up flying a plane to the Front and gets picked up by the Germans on her flight back to England. They put her in Ravensbruck Concentration Camp in Germany for six months. It is here where she discovers women she would never dream about meeting including medical experiment victims, a Soviet female pilot, and a documentary filmmaker. These women change her life and become her family through the course of her ordeal, as they must work together to survive. Recommended for ages 16+, 4 stars.

My biggest gripe about this book was that it moved so slow in the beginning, which almost made me give up on it. I never expected the second main character to be an American. I wasn’t too sure about the narrator when the book first started, but she did a good job on all the different accents and there were many. This book was almost as graphic as the first, in covering difficult topics, this time about the medical experiments done by the Nazis. I had heard about the experimentations on twins by Dr. Mengele, but the ones they did in this book, to illustrate the science of death/dying – said to be helping soldiers, but really just finding a better way to kill people. I was a little disappointed there wasn’t more storyline on Maddie, as the first book really just touches on her story. I loved hearing about the Soviet “night witch” pilot. I had no idea that women were even allowed to fly planes in the Soviet Union. I’m hoping the author continues the series beyond this book as it is nice to see strong female characters, especially portrayed in an era where women by and large didn’t work.

Adult

City of Lies: Love, Sex, Death and the Search for Truth in Tehran by Ramita Navai

I’ve been fascinated with Iran/Persia for awhile now, so when I saw this book in the new Nonfiction section, it definitely caught my attention. The author is a British-Iranian foreign affairs journalist, so she definitely knows what she is talking about. The book follows eight very different individuals who live in Tehran, the capital city of Iran. There is a Iranian-American extremist who is part of the MEK group (the Mojahedin-e-Khalq, the Warriors of the People) who has come to the city for an assassination , a teenage girl from a very traditional family who has no problems wearing the hejab/hijab and marrying her cousin (it is considered very auspicious to do so in Iranian culture), and a young man confronted by the Revolutionary judge responsible for having his parents killed because of their according to the government “un-Islamic” leanings. There is also a member of the local gun-selling ring and small time crook, a prostitute/porn actress, a gay member of the local basij – groups of young men who regulate vice, get rid of protesters and enforce virtue, an elderly retired gangster with his reformed showgirl wife, and a female widowed member of the upper aristocracy. All in all a very interesting group of characters. I think my favorite and the most interesting stories were the teenage girl from a traditional family and the gay member of the  basij. 4 stars.

The Silmarillion: Volume 1 by J.R.R. Tolkein, narrated by Martin West

Review of Volume 1 (4 discs unabridged):

I have tried reading this book 3 times but could never get more than about 50 pages into it before I thought my head would explode. It is one of those really dense books that requires absolute quiet to read in, but I could never get that to properly concentrate on it. The book reads like an Icelandic Creation story with so many names thrown at you that you need a character list to keep them all straight. I could see elements of Christianity, along with Norse mythology and what sounded like maybe some Pre-Columbian names thrown in for good measure. Once it got through the introductory part of the story (the creation of the earth and the Ainur) and the races of elves and men started establishing themselves, the story was starting to get really fascinating. Of course, that was about the time that Volume 1 ended. I know there’s a second volume but of course my library doesn’t have it. Thankfully, I have a paper copy of the book so assuming I can figure out where I left off, I can read the rest. For a more detailed description of this book, check out this website: http://lotr.wikia.com/wiki/The_Silmarillion 3 stars.

Sula by Toni Morrison, narrated by the author

The story starts off in 1919 and finishes up in 1965 in an Ohio town called Medallion, more specifically in the African-American section called the Bottom. We first learn about Shadrack, a shell-shocked Veteran of WWI, who is returning to his hometown. The main part of the book focuses on two families, the Peace family and the Wrights. Helene Sabat marries Wiley Wright and they have a daughter named Nel. Respectability and a high position in the community are of utmost importance to Helene, something she tries to pass on to her daughter. Eva Peace is the one-legged head of the other family. She is abandoned by her husband BoyBoy early in their marriage and must raise her two children Plum and Hannah, along with adopted children The Deweys (three boys) on her own. Hannah is considered a bit of a harlot by the community, and they think even less of her daughter Sula. Sex is very loose at their house, a complete opposite to that of the Wright’s home. Despite all this, Sula and Nel become fast friends. Their relationship makes up the bulk of the story, or rather the consequences of their friendship.

I picked this story out of Toni Morrison’s bibliography because it sounded the most interesting, and it definitely didn’t disappoint in that regard. I would be curious to read some more of her work in the future for comparison. The author won the 1993 Nobel Prize. The book is narrated by the author and she has a very quiet voice, so much so that I had to crank the volume way up to even be able to understand what she was saying (and even had to re-listen to some parts). I will admit that I’ve been putting this review off for awhile because it was such a bizarre story, at least in my opinion, and I wasn’t 100% sure I knew exactly what it was really about. I will also admit that my exposure to African-American writers has been limited to poetry, The Color Purple, and some Children/YA books. Overall, I enjoyed the story but there were points that I was pretty shocked at and not at all sure what the author actually meant by them (especially the episodes concerning Sula’s mother and uncle). 3 stars.

Graduates in Wonderland: The International Misadventures of Two (Almost) Adults by Jessica Pan and Rachel Kapelke-Dale

Jessica and Rachel went to college together at Brown University. After graduation, Jessica decided to move to China without much of a plan and Rachel went to New York City to work in a gallery. The book chronicles journal-like emails between the two as they decide what they want to do with their lives, one ultimately getting married and studying journalism, while the other pursues a Masters and then Ph.D in film history. This book reminded me a lot of me and my best friend because we have been friends for what seems like forever (17 years) and as I was living in different countries and at different points in our life, similar to the main characters. 4 stars.

 Serving Grandfamilies in Libraries: A Handbook and Programming Guide by Sarah Gough, Pat Feehan and Denise R. Lyons

I picked up this book in particular because it was completely written by graduates and a faculty member of my masters’ alma mater, University of South Carolina. Not to mention I did an independent study with Denise, so I was curious to see what they had to say about the subject. I knew Denise had done work with grandparents in Houston, which is well-documented in the book, before she came to the SC State Library. Here are some interesting factoids taken from the book. According to page 5, “One in ten children lives in a household that includes at least one grandparent. Of that number, four in ten, were being raised primarily by their grandparents.” I have of course noticed the increase in children being raised by or assisted-in-raising by grandparents in these so-called “grandfamilies”, especially after moving to Arizona. About fifteen pages later, the book mentions how beneficial it is to have intergenerational programming and I believe that to be true. The book specifically points out grants that can be obtained by the library, resources to locate statistics (in order to gain support for such grandparent-related programming), Community Partners that are available, and how you can build your collection. The book sites specific examples in South Carolina and how individual libraries set aside space or special chairs/couches for grandparents’ uses. 3 stars.

Bella: The Slave Daughter and the Lord Chief Justice by Paula Byrne

I had seen the trailer for the movie and thought it would be an interesting. So when the book came out, I was intrigued. There was next to no material about Dido Elizabeth Belle, the person about whom the book and movie is based (which was rather sad as her story is so unique), so I was curious to see how they would talk about the book. They put her in the context of the slave trade, in particular the manufacturing of sugar in the Caribbean. I knew how precious sugar was in the 18th century but not the extent to which slavers and slaves were involved with the trade. The book also discusses the Lord Chief Justice, uncle and adopted father of Dido, and his role in legislation that helped outlaw slavery in Great Britain and its Caribbean colonies. I was especially fascinated and a little bit horrified with the ideas of the 18th century in regards to African women and their sexuality, and how white men should act towards them. I had picked up bits and pieces in the past, but it was discussed with much greater detail since the main character was a black female. 4 stars

Inglorious Royal Marriages: A Demi-Millenium of Unholy Mismatrimony by Leslie Carroll

This book was so dense with such tiny writing that even though the subject matter was fascinating – arranged marriages for political reasons: I was especially intrigued by the marriage of Queen Mary Tudor and Philip II of Spain, I could only get through about 40% of it before I gave up. 3 stars.

I have been composing this post for a couple of days, ever since Thursday night when I was gathering music for DiscoveryTime, and afterwards was listening to the songs I had downloaded off of Freegal. For those, who have no idea what I’m talking about, here is the description: “Freegal is a downloadable music service from your library. All you need is your library card number and, if your library requires it, a PIN. Freegal offers access to about 3 million songs, including Sony Music’s catalog of legendary artists.” While this E-library music program is not without its problems, i.e. hard to search and only Sony artists, I am enjoying get free legal music. I was actually listening to Weird Al Yankovic’s song Word Crimes off his most recent album Mandatory Fun, which by the way I think is one of the best and funniest of all his music. The way he rhymes is just incredible and although I’m sure some people will be offended by the song, others like those who appreciate correct words and spelling will enjoy it.

Spike Jones

I have been listening to parody music for ages. When I was little, my dad had Spike Jones albums and those were pretty hilarious. My favorites were the opera parodies of Bizet’s Carmen and Leoncavallo’s Il Pagliacci. Spike Jones influenced other comedians like Dr. Demento, who later influenced Weird Al, so I guess moving to him was a natural progression for me. I started listening to Weird Al probably when I was about ten or eleven. My younger brother, probably courtesy of my dad, was the first one to listen to him. We started watching the music videos and bought a couple of the video tapes. Honestly, for awhile there, if it wasn’t for Weird Al’s parody versions of songs, I probably wouldn’t have listened to the originals. For example, “Eat It” was better than Michael Jackson’s “Beat It”, “I Love Rocky Road” in my opinion is better than Joan Jett’s “I love Rock ‘n Roll” , “Like a Surgeon” was better than Madonna’s “Like a Virgin”, and “Pretty Fly for a Rabbi” instead of The Offsprings’s “Pretty Fly for a White Guy”. If anyone is interested, here’s a full list of his parody songs and polka mash-ups.

amish-paradise

My favorites of his are “Smells Like Nirvana” (parody of Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit”) and “Amish Paradise” (parody of Coolio’s “Gangsta’s Paradise”). Weird Al mentions on his website that he asks permission from the artist before doing all parody versions, and Nirvana commented that they “knew they had made it after hearing about his parody of their song”. In all honestly, I never listened to “Smells Like Teen Spirit” until after lead singer Kurt Cobain killed himself, and really not until my undergraduate years when I had friends that listened to that kind of music. The marble part of the song makes me laugh every time. As for “Amish Paradise”, it’s all about Florence Henderson, Amish guys rapping and butter churning. Need I say more? My new third favorite is “Word Crimes,” a parody of the very controversial “Blurred Lines” by Robin Thicke. I will admit the original song is really catchy, despite its subject matter, which makes the parody version even more awesome. For other great songs on his newest album Mandatory Fun, check out the artist’s homepage and scroll down a bit.

DiscoveryTime

I’m a bad blogger. I’ve been meaning to write forever but keep getting distracted. My new job in Youth Services at my local public library has been challenging, but also very enjoyable and I am learning a lot. I started doing Discoverytime (henceforth abbreviated at DT) on my own three weeks ago, and it is Preschool Storytime with a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) component added in. Basically I read one nonfiction book and one fiction book, and do some activities or explain something scientific to the kids. I was supposed to train for a month and then do one on my own, but the person I was supposed to train with had some health issues so I ended up helping with two of them with a second person before doing it by myself. It is a lot of fun, though sometimes I think I’m having more fun than the parents or kids. It is supposed to be for ages 3-5, but I usually get a lot of younger kids as well, so it makes for an interesting storytime trying to find something that predominantly 2-4 year olds can understand. I usually will pick the books first and then find activities and songs to fit around it. They normally last 30-40 minutes. Prior to starting this 3 weeks ago, I had only done one Preschool storytime in Library Grad School. Aside from reading to my own 3 yr old son and some of his classmates at daycare, I did not have much experience with this age group. My first week by myself I did one on Bats and Echolocation, followed by Frogs, and the one this week on My Body: Exploring the Human Body. I picked bats because I’ve alwasy kind of been fascinated with them, despite their creepy reputation, so I try to convey that to the kids. I’ve loved frogs forever, so that’s why I picked them and I just thought the Human Body DT would be fun, assuming I made it fun and not too gross or complicated. I will say I definitely know a lot more about these three topics, but I have always enjoyed research so I find that part of the organization fun. I’m going to post my outline for what I did for the Bats below. This is my first DT so it was pretty rough, but the kids had a lot of fun with the activities, even if the songs weren’t that successful. I’ve definitely learned that bubble time is essential to a good storytime.

Honduran-white-bats-roost-under-Heliconia-leaf-

DiscoveryTime: Bats and Echolocation

  • Welcome to DiscoveryTime! My name is Miss Rachel. I’m so excited to see you guys and we’re going to have a wonderful time.
  • Welcome Song: Hello Hello
  • Book: Endangered Bats by Bobbie Kalman
    • Summary:
      • Almost 1,000 species (types) of bats in the world
      • ¼ are endangered, which means they might die out in the wild, where there is no people
      • Bats are warm-blooded mammals that have fur and drink milk from their mommies. Bats are the only mammals that can fly. They are nocturnal, which means they sleep during the day and are awake and hunt at night. They sleep upside down hanging from trees, cave walls and other structures.
      • Two groups of Bats: Microbats (small) which are carnivores (they eat meat, such as insects, fish, scorpions, lizards, frogs or birds) and Megabats (large) are herbivores (eat plants such as fruit or drink nectar from flowers or feed on pollen). Microbats help control insect populations, like mosquitoes from biting people. The smallest bat is the size of bumblebee, and the largest has wings that are nearly 6 ft across.
      • Some live alone but most live in colonies with many many other bats
      • Bats are losing their habitats (the places they live) to humans that are clearing forest for lumber, as well as farmers who use pesticides (harmful chemicals to kill insects) and pollution.
  • Fingerplay: Five Little Bats
    • First, make five bats, and tape one to each finger.Five little bats flew out one night (Hold up five fingers.)To have some fun in the bright moonlight. (Move your hand in a circle.)The first one said, “You can’t catch me!” (Move your thumb away to the side.)

      The second one said, “Look out for the tree!” (Shake your first finger in warning.)

      The third one said, “I love to swoop.” (Make your middle finger do a graceful dive.)

      The fourth one did a loop-the-loop. (Move your ring finger in a circle.)

      The fifth one said, “Let’s catch some gnats!” (Wiggle your little finger.)

      Isn’t it fun being five little bats! (Wiggle all five fingers.)

  • Song: I’m a Bat by Mary Flynn (sung to: You are my Sunshine)

I love the nighttime,

The dark, black nighttime,

And that is when I fly around.

I am nocturnal.

I love the nighttime.

‘Cause I’m a bat,

I fly without a sound!

  • Book: Nightsong by Ari Berk
  • Song: Bats are sleeping Bats are sleeping (sung to: Frere Jacques)

Bats are sleeping, Bats are sleeping

Upside down, upside down

Waiting for the night

Waiting for the night

Then fly around, Then fly around

  • Fingerplay: Two Little Bats
    • Two little bats (hold up 2 fingers or thumbs)

hanging in a cave (point fingers upside down)

one named Dan (hold up 1 finger)

and one named Dave (hold up other finger)

Fly away Dan! (1st finger makes flying motions to behind your back)

Fly away Dave! (2nd finger flies behind back)

Come back Dan, (1st finger returns)

Come back Dave. (2nd finger returns)

  • Activity: Echolocation
    • Bats use echolocation, a system of sending out high-pitched sounds that bounce off of objects, to move through the darkness and locate food. Has anyone seen the movie How to Train Your Dragon? The Nightfury Toothless uses echolocation through a plasma blast to do the same thing –so he can find his way in the dark without being able to see.
    • Bat Senses
      Though bats do not see very well, most bats send out sounds that bounce off objects and return to the bat’s ears as echoes. A bat can decide where objects are, how big objects are, even the shape of objects so they know what is food and what they might run into.

      • Vibrations
        • Have one or two children on one side of the room facing the wall with their eyes closed and behind them on the other side, have another child clap or use the bells/tambourine. Ask the child(ren) with their eyes closed to tell which side the noise is coming from.
        • Making paper cup telephones is an easy way to teach preschoolers about how sound travels. Make sure the string is pulled taut. Are the words heard more clearly? When someone talks into the cup, the bottom of the cup vibrates and the string carries the sound to the other cup. Ask them what they think will happen if the string is held loosely and then let the children experiment to find out.
          • Make a couple of examples and have the kids take turns with them
  • Bubble Time Songs: One Little Two Little Bubbles and I’m a Bubble by Jennifer Gasoi
  • Closing Song
    • WE WAVE GOODBYE LIKE THIS (Closing Song)
      To the tune of “Farmer in the Dell”

We wave goodbye like this.
We wave goodbye like this.
We clap our hands for all our friends.
We wave goodbye like this.

painted_bat_orange_0

Informational Sheet I gave the kids to take home

Factoids About Bats

  • In China, bats are symbols of good luck. The Chinese character wu-fu shows five bats with wings touching representing health, wealth, long life, good luck, and happiness.
  • Bat echolocation can detect objects as thin as a human hair, yet researchers can catch bats when they fly into nets. Why? Scientists think bats get used to flying safely along certain paths and sometimes do not notice new obstacles in their way.
  • Bats can purr! Like cats, a bat may vibrate, or purr, when resting or content.
  • People often fear vampire bats, but a protein from vampire saliva can help heal people after they have strokes.

Bat-Watching Area
Did you know Phoenix has a great urban bat-watching opportunity? Each summer several thousand Mexican free-tailed bats and western pipistrelle bats use the Maricopa County Flood Control Tunnel near 40th Street and Camelback Road as a day roost.

Directions to see the bats:
From 40th Street and Camelback Road intersection, head north on 40th Street. (Parking is very limited; please respect private property and restricted areas. You may need to park south of the intersection.) The path (levee) to the tunnel is located on the north side of the Arizona Canal. Head west on the path about 200 yards (past buildings and parking garage). You will see the flood control channel just north of the canal. Head north about 20 feet from the gravel path to the paved path. The paved path will take you to the top of the tunnel (you’ll see bat-watching information signs posted here), and you can look over as the bats fly out of the tunnel.

They exit the tunnel just after sunset each night (total exit time; approximately 45 minutes) throughout the summer months (May through October). If you’re an early bird, you may just want to see them return around sunrise each morning!

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