Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Library Questing

So, for the past few years I've been slowly reading a book from every shelf of the library. I check out a pile, then return in a few months and check out the next pile. But now things need to speed up a bit -- We have our official notice that the library is getting renovated this summer, so I'm trying to hurry up and finish the Juvenile books before everything is completely reshuffled. Then I just have to figure out what are the new sections of the library and continue my Every Shelf Quest.

Anyway, I hit the Fairy Tale shelves:

E398.20941 A Home In the Sky, Olivia Snowe. This retelling of Jack and the Beanstock drags the story into the modern day, which leaves a lot of moral ambiguity. Jack's mother is poor and rather abusive, demanding that Jack sell his bike and exchange his paper route for an elusive better job, and she swerves from blindly accepting the bag of gold he brings home to foolishly insisting they turn themselves into the tyrant Jack has been stealing from.  It's a sprightly tale but doesn't hang together in afterthought.

E398.20942 English Fairy Tales & More English Fairy Tales, by Joseph Jacobs, ed. by Donald Haase. Back when the Grimms were big news, other countries also searched out their home tales. These books were written for kids but had scholarly notes at the back detailing where the stories were found, what changes were made, and parallels between other stories here and in other lands. Interesting. I tried reading a few of them to my captive audience and he enjoyed it.

E398.20956 The Wise Fool: Fables From the Islamic World, Shahruhk Husain. A delightful book about a trickster iman who sometimes triumphs and sometimes fails. The illustrations match the mood of the stories perfectly.

E398.8 Other Goose, J.otto Siebold Reminiscent of The Stinky Cheese Man, this has twisted version of nursery rhymes along with bold, almost deviant art. Preschoolers should love it.

The Holiday Shelves:

CHRISTMAS: A Child Is Born: From the Gospel According to St. Luke. Unlike the other Christmas stories, this one is about religious Christmas, not the secular, Santa one. Warm, gentle pictures accompany the text, even occasionally obscuring it a little when the dark print appears in the dark blue sky. Each page has only a few sentences, making this appropriate for smaller children, but the pages are interesting enough to linger over.

CHRISTMAS  Christmas Wombat, Jackie French. Clean white pages show tubby wombat and his quest for carrots as he smuggles himself aboard Santa's sleigh and eats delicacies (carrots) all over on Christmas Eve. Cute.

CHRISTMAS Dinosaur vs. Santa, Bob Shea. Vibrant colors and huge depictions of little dinosaur propel this preschool aimed story along with energy and vim. I would have enjoyed reading this to my sons when they were young (I just handed it to an old one).

EASTER: Piggy Bunny, Rachel Vail. A wonderful story about a piglet who dreams of becoming the Easter Bunny. His family assure him that he's a wonderful piglet who doesn't need to change, but his grandma enables his fantasy. With a little help from the internet in my favorite page spread -- Liam: "You know how to make an Easter Bunny suit?" Grandma: "Absolutely not. We will order one on the internet." I want to grow up to be that Grandma.

HALLOWEEN: Halloween Good Night, Doug Cushman. A cozy little book with a repetitive rhythm following a variety of traditional Halloween monsters getting tucked into bed, from a werewolf through ghosts to an alien, with a nice concluding page summarizing all the good night phrases and adding in a bunch of different languages, helpfully translated on the final page.

JEWISH HOLIDAYS: Talia and the Rude Vegetables, Linda Elovitz Marshall. Preparing for Rosh Hashanah, Talia goes out to pick vegetables. Thinking her grandmother asked particularly for "rude" vegetables, she has to figure out how to tell which potatoes, parsnips, etc are rude vs polite, and then gives the extra to the needy. The pictures and text are fun but classy, and the recipe at the end would be fun to make as a family.

The Easy NonFiction Shelves:

E020.23 Let's Meet a Librarian, Gina Bellisario. Of course I picked this one from the shelf of community workers! It's a fun look at the different roles of librarians, especially school librarians, who track books, share information, and fix computers. Sometimes they even read stories! Yes, this book strengthens my belief that librarians are cool.

E323.119607 Rosa's Bus: The Ride to Civil Rights, Jo. S. Kittinger. I have to disagree with the first page of this book -- I don't think bus #2857 is actually famous. I think "famous" implies that people know the name, and I certainly don't know that number. But the story is a good hook for the history of the bus boycott inspired by Rosa Parks.

E428.1 Thumbtacks, Earwax, Lipstick, Dipstick: What Is a Compound Word, Brian P. Cleary. Fun pictures and amusing words fill the pages of this amusing book, but I'm not sure who the audience is. Do kids really pick up grammar books on their own? I think this would work as a picture book, though.

E495.182421 My First Book of Chinese Words: An ABC Rhyming Book, Faye-Lynn Wu. The introduction for parents gives a sense of the purpose of the book and helps with pronunciation, and the pictures and chosen words look like they'd work well with preschoolers. However, the English verses are stilted. I think the rhymes were a mistake. I liked how the book gives both the Chinese characters and the pronunciation of the chosen words.

E513.211 Mice Mischief: Math Facts in Action, Caroline Stills. I have no idea how someone decides what's a picture book versus a Easy Reader nonfiction.  This book actually shows the equations (9+1=10, 8+2=10...) so maybe that sends this book of cute mice cleaning their house over to the serious stuff section?

E536.50287 Measuring Mania: Measuring Temperature, Darice Bailer. Cute, crisp pages explain the science behind temperature. Meanwhile, I'm distracted by the photo of a soup above text discussing getting fudge to the right temperature, a craft to create a fake thermometer (why?), and advice to get adult help to turn on the oven -- my new pet peeve is learned helplessness for children.

E567.918 Pterosaur Trouble, Daniel Loxton.  This cute story of a pterosaur's brush with danger dances very close to the fiction/nonfiction line. It obviously never happened, and it takes a lot of guesses to say it could have happened. Not sure I would have put it on this side of the line.

E591.43 Over and Under the Snow, Kate Messner. Another picture book that could just as easily be shelved outside the nonfiction area. The crisp, white-filled pictures do illustrate a beautiful scene, but the facts appear almost secondary.

E595.789 Grow With Me: Butterfly, Kate Riggs. A denser description of the butterfly life cycle, form, and habits, with highlighted vocabulary and large photos with eye-catching inserts. I do think that elaborate Dewey numbers are worthless for most school and public libraries -- 595 is the insect shelf, and the longer numbers just teach kids that Dewey numbers don't mean much, which is horribly untrue.

E599.67 Queenie: One Elephants Story,  Corienne Fenton. In 1896 or so, a baby elephant, was born, and by 1905 she was old enough to start giving rides to children at the Melbourne zoo. In 1944 she squashed a keeper and banned from giving passenger rides, and since she was no longer a cash cow for the zoo, she was put to sleep. Thus the history of the zoo movement and elephants is distilled into a tragic picture book.

E618.9297 I Think I Am Going to Sneeze: A First Look at Allergies, Pat Thomas. This transparent mission book wants to reassure children that their allergies won't kill them or doom them to a life of social leprosy before they are old enough to understand what loneliness is. If it also transmits some information, BONUS. Still, didactic is not a flaw in the nonfiction section. I will try it on my allergy-lad.

E625.1 Trains, Amy Shields. I had a child who lived and breathed trains, so this shelf is very familiar to me. It's hard to go wrong with pictures of trains, and any text you throw down works. This one was not memorable, so not great but not terrible. I did find the engineer annoying -- I suspect my kid would have wanted him to step out of the way so he could see the trains better.

E636.7376 My Favorite Dogs: German Shepherd, Jinny Johnson. This book is an obvious excuse for lots of cute dog pictures, along with some text giving the history and best features of the breed. It's clearly a nonfiction, and can I use this entry to complain again about huge Dewey numbers on skinny kids books? It's foolish.

E690 Look at That Building: A First Book of Structures, Scot Ritchie. This book felt like a nonfiction tome -- although it had a window dressing of named characters to lead us to the information, each page clearly laid out the message to be delivered and the concepts and vocabulary conveyed. It would have been a fun read and lead to kids playing around with stud finders.

E791.64 Cheer Skills, Jen Jones. I read this after watching the Buffy episode where she tries out for the cheerleading squad, so I had something to compare the skills with. It gives a decent overview of some of the main skills (jumps, hand motions, ripples) and then reminds everyone to SMILE. I'm still not sure that it's a sport, though.

E796.91 Ice Skating, Bob Temple. A similar style book that covers the different kinds of skates and ice sports, with slightly dated pictures of smiling people skating. It seemed odd to me that so many of them were skating outside, but that's because I always try to live in sane places where the weather doesn't allow that sort of thing.

E821.7 Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star, Jerry Pinkney. Pinkney lavishly illustrates the famous poem (including some less famous verses) with pictures showing a complete story of a questing squirrel. The painting and details are fascinating; I would have enjoyed reading this with my kids. I'm not sure why it's a poetry book rather than a picture book though.

E979.132 Big Outdoors: GRAND CANYON, Valerie Bodden. Big pictures on one side, text with a inset picture on the other, and the Grand Canyon as the subject means this book is fun to page through. The informative text doesn't grate, but of course the pictures of the view dominate. More fun than I expected, and definitely nonfiction.

EB All Star: Honus Wagner and the Most Famous Baseball Card Ever, Jane Yolen. Fun story of one of the first Baseball Hall of Fame honorees. Wagner played baseball in the early 1900s after a hardworking childhood in a Pittsburgh suburb. He canceled his card when he realized they were sold inside packs of cigarettes, which he considered a bad marketing ploy for children. The title was a bit misleading since the card was only mentioned on one page and the target audience may not have a complete understanding of the economics of memorabilia and scarcity.

And the Easy Readers:

Baker, Keith. Fishing: A Mr. and Mrs. Green Adventure. Keith Baker is one of my favorite picture book artists, and I remember reading some of these books with my kids. It's a Level 2 (easy) read but with tons of humor and characterization pack in. The characters are as unselfish as Gossie, but in a believable way.

Dunrea, Olivier. Gossie. Level 1 (super easy) reader about an improbably gosling. I didn't find the boot-wearing improbable, but the conclusion to the story -- Gossie's beloved boots are stolen, and her reaction is to split them with the thief. I don't want friends like that.

Marshall, James. George and Martha, Full of Surprises. This older early reader lures new literates with the welcoming hippo art of the main characters. It's easy to like to read when you see the illustrations of two friends squeezed into a Ferris wheel seat.  The surprise plot is an acceptable mate to the pictures.

McPhail, David. A Bug, a Bear, and a Boy. Although the text is simple and sparse enough to justify the Level 1 rating, it's also fresh and entertaining. I read it with my emergent reader, and he approved of everything except the green bath water, which I have to admit is rather repulsive. The author's name sounds familiar -- is this the guy who wrote the prize winning Amos book?

Rylant, Cynthia & Howard, Arthur. Mr Putter & Tabby Dance the Dance. My second son jumped into independent reading with this series, so it has a special place in my heart. And I hope he'll still read this latest selection even though I doubt his eighth grade teachers would accept it in his reading log.

Rylant, Cynthia. Poppleton and Friends. Wow, I guess Rylant rates two shelves worth of easy books. This book was also fun, although the relationships between the characters aren't that firmly established. The giggles at the idea of a pig wearing the same shirt three days in a row were a joy to hear.

Willems, Mo. I'm a Frog! Somehow I skipped last year's entry in the Elephant & Piggie series, which was a shame because this one is a lot of fun. It has some biggish words (pretending) but also has the fun of Gerald's panic and bewilderment as Piggie explains the imagination to him.

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