Friday, August 29, 2014

Book review - The Ghost and Max Monroe

Title: The Ghost and Max Monroe: Case #1 The Magic Box
Author: L.M. Falcone
Genre: Mystery
Similar books: Cam Jansen series by David Adler
                     A to Z Mysteries series by Ron Roy
Super sleuthy

Summary: Max is looking forward to spending the summer with his Grandpa. He expects to spend a great deal of time lying around reading mystery stories. He is startled to discover a run-down detective agency in Grandpa Harry's back yard - a detective agency still inhabited by the ghost of Great Uncle Larry. When Larry gets a case, it is up to to Max to solve it.
My opinion: This looks like it is going to be a really nice beginning detective series. It has simple, easy to understand text supported by a handful of drawings. As a mystery, it follows basic logic and simple deductive reasoning. Max identifies who might have had motive, what clues are relevant, etc. Plus there is the addition of a ghost who is perhaps overly emotional and not a very good detective. Larry is certainly entertaining. Falcone even provides a logical explanation for why only certain people can see Larry. This will be a good series for most kids just starting to read chapter books independently, not to mention budding detectives.
More information: The Magic Box releases September 1st.
Advanced Reader Copy provided by NetGalley

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Pick 6: Historical fiction

I'm a fan of historical fiction for all ages, but especially for middle grade readers. I've always found historical fiction to be a good way to make a personal connection with a history lesson. It personalizes dry facts. Here are six historical fiction books, mostly for middle grade readers, published in the last six months.

6 New Historical novels
1. Fleabrain Loves Franny by Joanne Rocklin (the polio epidemic)

2. Revolution by Deborah Wiles (1960's)

3. Stay Where You are and Then Leave by John Boyne (World War One)

4. The Children of the King by Sonja Harnett (World War Two)

5. Faces of the Dead by Suzanne Weyn (the French Revolution)

6. A Death Struck Year by Makiia Lucier (the Spanish flu epidemic)  

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

WWW Wednesdays

What are you currently reading?
Beetle Boy by Margaret Willey
When he was seven, Charlie told his father a story. A story meant only to soothe his unstable father. But then the story took on a life of it's own and before he knew it, Charlie was a best selling author. Now eighteen, Charlie is doing his best to put his fame behind him.
I'm fascinated by stories that chronicle the damaging effects of fame on kids and this could be a really good one. I've only finished a few chapters but I like the way Charlie narrates his story, parceling out small amounts of information. Those few chapters have left me with a lot of questions and I look forward to discovering the answers.
What did you recently finish reading?
Half My Facebook Friends are Ferrets by J. A. Buckle
Josh is 16. He dreams of being in a metal band. That and getting a girlfriend. Both seem impossibly hard to achieve. The world is stacked against him and the only one who seems to understand him is his pet ferret Ozzie. 
Josh is a sort of everyman, oblivious and self-centered but in a way that is more endearing than annoying. This isn't a very deep book but it is entertaining and touches on some serious subjects. 
What do you think you will read next?
Mary: the Summoning by Hillary Monahan
Most of us have heard some version of the Bloody Mary story and the dangers of chanting her name, usually three times in front of a mirror. I'll be interested to see what approach this book takes.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Book review - The Wednesday Wars

Title: The Wednesday Wars
Author: Gary D. Schmidt
Genre: historical fiction
Similar books: Drums, Girls, and Dangerous Pie by Jordan Sonnenblick
                     The Watsons Go to Burmingham - 1963 by Christopher Paul Curtis
One of my all time favorites

Summary: When he starts seventh grade, Holling Hoodhood wants nothing more than to play baseball with his friends and avoid his older sister. The problem with seventh grade: Wednesday afternoons half his class goes to Hebrew school and the other half goes to Catechism leaving Holling, the sole Presbyterian, in class with Mrs. Baker who seems to hate him. She makes him read Shakespeare, the last thing any self-respecting boy wants to do with his time. Meanwhile, the Vietnam war is raging and Holling's father is putting increasing pressure on him to behave well and represent the family business.
My opinion: Gary D. Schmidt is probably my favorite youth author and this is the book that introduced me to him. His characters have real problems and behave in a believable way. Holling's voice is distinct. He struggles with forming his own identity in a politically turbulent time with a father who wants to control his future. He struggles to understand his family and the world around him. It's a book about war, yes, and about a strict teacher. But it's also about learning what it means to truly be a man. It doesn't give any easy answers but encourages the reader to think.
More information: There is a sequel to this book entitled Okay for Now which is a fantastic read in it's own right.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Detective puppet: a collaborative project

One of my nephews in very enthusiastic about puppetry. He's been a part of our library puppet group the last two years and intends to participate again this year, taking a little bit more of a leadership role. He doesn't just think about puppets at the library, though. He plans puppets at home as well. In fact, last fall he and I roughed out plans for a puppet show that we have been working on here and there ever since. This weekend he was over at my house and we created the first puppet for the show.

Introducing: Burt the cow, private eye.
Burt's head is made out of the toe of a sock, heavily stuffed and carefully shaped, then painted with acrylic paint. His body is cardboard. His trench coat is made from a canvas end left over from a tote bag project. We made his hat out of craft foam.

We're pretty pleased with how Burt turned out and look forward to making more characters.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

I want to tell you a story

With summer reading at an end we had just two programs this week. The first was a special guest at my Tuesday storytime. Two members of our library puppet group (ages 11 and 12) who had to miss our annual puppet show performed their story at storytime. They adapted the picture book Wait! I Want to Tell You a Story by Tom Willans. After the show they answered some questions, played with the kids a little, then helped them to make simple puppets of their own.

They laughed like this the entire time
The snake and the lizard

Hard at work on our puppets
Trying out the puppet stage with one of the puppeteers

Yesterday was the last planned day of the Story Laboratory. We've enjoyed this program so much and it is so easy to do that we may schedule it again in the future. Here are a few shots from yesterday.

I love this back cover
If I remember correctly, the right-hand pages reads "Don't step in poo"
I'm quite fond of the dolphins and manatee jumping out of pink and red water.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Book review - Rocky & Bullwinkle

Title: Rocky & Bullwinkle: Volume 1
Author:Mark Evanier
Genre: graphic novel
Similar books: Meet the Muppets by Roger Langridge
                     Darkwing Duck: The Duck Knight Returns by Ian Brill
                     Chickenhare by Chris Grine
Awfully funny
Summary: This book contains 8 stories: 4 Rocky and Bullwinkle and 4 short Dudley Do-Right. Rocky and Bullwinkle get involved in psychic predictions, try to help out a struggling magician, journey to the moon, and start selling burgers while Dudley is contaminated with a wicked perfume, tries to get his man, gets tricked into buying a useless item, and runs a suspicious errand.

My opinion: Both illustrations and plot wise this new graphic novel follows the format of the original cartoon. The plots are punctuated by cultural references and terrible puns. Many of our favorite characters are present: Captain Peachfuzz, Gidney and Cloy, and of course Boris, Natasha, and their Fearless Leader. It is laugh out loud funny in it's ridiculousness and has some awesome visual elements (the fellow who looks awfully like the Doctor in The Burger Monster/Bullwinkle's Swap Meat for instance). Great for old and new fans.
More information: Rocky & Bullwinkle releases September 23rd.
Advanced Reader Copy provided by NetGalley.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Picture books for everyone

Today's multi-age picture book is the perfect example of what I had in mind when I first came up with this feature.

If You Happen to Have a Dinosaur by Linda Bailey and Colin Jack

Firstly, dinosaur books are pretty much always a win. Plus, this book is very quirky and has absolutely fantastic illustrations. There's tons to look at on each page. Apart from the sheer entertainment factor, this is a great book for encouraging creative thinking. I read this to my 4s and 5s storytime and we all had a grand time speculating about uses for various dinosaurs. I imagine this would go even better with older children. It would also make a great starting point for a creative writing assignment for homeschoolers.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

WWW Wednesdays

What are you currently reading?
Somebody on This Bus is Going to be Famous by J.B. Cheaney
The nine middle schoolers on Mrs. B's bus route are all very different. They have different concerns and different goals. The mysterious bus stop on their route draws them together. Why do they always stop there when no one gets on? The mystery will change lives and at the end of it, someone is going to be famous.
The first couple of chapters set up these characters nicely, giving just enough information about each kid to make their story compelling. The description on Amazon promises mystery, self-discovery and comedy so this should be a good one.

What did you recently finish reading?
Rocky and Bullwinkle: volume 1  by Mark Evanier
Four stories of Rocky the Flying Squirrel and Bullwinkle the Moose butting heads with villains Boris Badenov and Natasha Fatale. As in the classic cartoons, each story is broken up with a brief adventure starring Dudley Do-right.  
I've been a Bullwinkle fan since the first time I saw the show on LaserDisc, so I was pretty excited to read this new graphic novel. The stories maintain the sensibility of the show while also using modern references to better appeal to a younger audience. An absolute riot.
What do you think you will read next?
The Opposite of Love by Sarah Lynn Scheerger
A tale of two "disappointments" who find each other and then are torn apart by circumstance. Teen romance is not typically my favorite but I'm trying to stretch my reading life a little bit more out of my comfort zone. 


Rust by Royden Lepp
I've wanted to read this graphic novel about a young man trying to keep his farm going after war and the mysterious kid he finds in the barn since I first spied it at a conference last year. At last I've gotten my hands on a copy. Hopefully it lives up to my anticipation.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Book review - Sisters

Title: Sisters
Author: Raina Telgemeir
Genre: Graphic novel/memoir
Similar books: Amelia Rules series by Jimmy Gownley
                     to dance by Siena Cherson Siegel
Telgemeier really gets it

Summary: While on a road trip with her mom, brother, and sister, Raina reflects on her relationship with her sister and why they don't get along very well. The situation isn't helped by outside influences: a missing pet snake, older cousins, parental tensions, and a flat tire in the middle of nowhere. Will Raina and Amara figure out what it really means to be sisters?
My opinion: Telegemeier really understands what it is like to have a sister, someone you both love and despise. Anyone with a sister will agree, while our details may be different the general attitudes are the same and she relates them really well. The illustrations are awesome, clearly understood and entertaining. Apart from the sister situation, anyone who's ever gone on a family road trip will relate to this book. This makes a nice companion to her first book, Smile (a perennial favorite at my library), but one need not read that one to understand this one.
More Information: Sisters releases August 26th.
Advanced Reader Copy provided by NetGalley.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Hippos and dishes

With all the prep I've been doing for the Monster Tea Party, I didn't have time to work on any big crafts this week. I did manage to get two small projects done though.

Hippo magnets
I was given this kit a year or two ago and it's been just sitting in a drawer since then, waiting for me to get around to painting them. I'm pretty pleased with how they turned out. They now grace my refrigerator.

Sculpey dishes

This was an experiment. I wanted some shallow dishes that I could attach magnets to the bottoms of in order to make magnetic pin holders. They didn't turn out quite as well as I'd hoped. The foil I used to create the domed shape left depressions in the clay. I was also playing with using rubber stamps to make a pattern in the dish. On the plus side, the magnet does hold pins through the clay so I'll be trying this one again.


Saturday, August 16, 2014

Music and Monsters

This week marked the end of our kid's summer reading program. So, Wednesday was our End of Summer Reading party, hosted this year by Judy Pancoast. This was the first time we had a presenter for the party and it went pretty well. The kids enjoyed singing and dancing with Judy. As is our custom for the party, each kid went home with two free books.

Today was our Monster Tea Party. Each kid got a monster hat to wear. Then, after hearing a story (Don't Play With Your Food), we made some monster tea. This involved scooping baking soda into cups filled with vinegar, food coloring, and (in one case) dish soap. We also added gummy worm pieces that had been soaking in baking soda water. Mostly, I just let the kids experiment freely. This actually lead to a brief discussion with one child about what causes baking soda and vinegar to foam (yay for impromptu science lessons). Once all the baking soda was gone and they'd had enough of mixing the cups of foam each kid got a small stuffed monster to take home. These were made out of t-shirt sleeves and a little fiber-fill.


Friday, August 15, 2014

Book review - The Book of Bad Things

Title: The Book of Bad Things
Author: Dan Poblocki
Genre: Horror
Similar books: The Seer of Shadows by Avi
                     Frenzy by Robert Lettrick
Pretty darn creepy

Summary: Cassidy is excited to spend her last summer in Whitechapel, even if things did end badly last year. When she gets off the bus, though, she can tell immediately that something is wrong. Her friends are not there to pick her up. And they they get home, she learns that the neighborhood hermit has died, revealing that she was secretly a hoarder. People from all over the neighborhood are picking through her trashing, hunting for treasures. And now those people are starting to die.
My opinion: Poblocki writes the perfect level of eerie. Every moment in Whitechapel has an underlying sense of unease. Once you add in zombies, haunted belongings, and grizzly murder it becomes terrifying. What makes this book more than just a creep-fest is Cassidy's fears and her book. I loved the way she relied on her notebook, using it as a sort of touchstone. Her friendships with the neighborhood kids happened a little bit easily but that is only a minor complaint. This is a great read for when you want a scare.
More information: The Book of Bad Things releases August 26th.
Advanced Reader Copy provided by NetGalley

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Books on Screen

The Borrowers/The Secret World of Arrietty

As a kid, I adored the Borrowers and their world. I loved imagining how they might use various items. The Borrowers has been made into 4 separate movies, but The Secret World of Arrietty is the one that has captured the most attention. Produced by Studio Ghibli (which brought us My Neighbor Totoro, Kiki's Delivery Service, Spirited Away, and the like) Arrietty captures both the adventurous spirit of the original novel as well as the sensibility of anime. While this movie is a far cry from what I pictured, its a lovely tale that adds new elements to the story, specifically Shawn and his heart condition providing a parallel to the Borrowers' struggles and teaching a gentle lesson about change and fear. It's a beautiful movie with even more beautiful music. Talk about a fantastic soundtrack. While this may be different from the movies we are used to as an American audience, it's truly lovely and worth a watch. 

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

WWW Wednesdays

What are you currently reading?
The Zero Degree Zombie Zone by Patrik Henry Bass
Bakari Katari Johnson has problems at school. He's shy and has a hard time making things happen. So when his best friend Wardell signs him up to run for Hall Monitor against the most popular boy in the fourth grade, Bakari doesn't think things could get much worse. Then ice zombies show up at his school. They've lost a magical ring. Bakari has until the end of the day to return it to them. Or else.
At 3/4 finished I've got to say this has not been my favorite book. It just hasn't really captured my attention very well. I'm reserving full judgement until I reach the end (who knows -that ending might just be amazing) but I'm thinking this isn't likely to make my list of favorites.
What did you recently finish reading?
Leroy Ninker Saddles Up by Kate DiCamillo
Leroy wants nothing more than to be a real cowboy. He has the hat. He has the boots. He has practiced his cowboy dialogue. All he needs is a horse. When he goes to look at a horse he found in a newspaper ad, Leroy knows almost instantly that Maybelline is the horse for him. Maybelline loves compliments and spaghetti. When Leroy forgets the most important rule, that Maybelline hates to be alone, he begins a desperate search to get the horse of his heart back.
I've not read the Mercy Watson books but after reading and enjoying this little book I think I ought to give them a try. Easy to understand with a great sense of humor, this book will be great for kids just starting to read chapter books (as well as working as a read aloud for younger siblings).
What do you think you will read next?
One Death, Nine Stories edited by Marc Aronson and Charles R. Smith Jr.
Short story collections are always fun and this one has some big names attached. I'm particularly intrigued by the link between the stories, they way one person's death will affect different people's lives.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Book review - Greenglass House

Title: Greenglass House
Author: Kate Milford
Genre: Mystery/Adventure
Similar Books: The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin
                     The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart
Surprising, clever
Summary: When mysterious guests begin to arrive at Greenglass House, Milo is initially annoyed to have his normally quite Christmas with his parents interrupted. He can't help but notice, though, how strangely these guests are behaving, all of them keeping secrets and asking odd questions about the house itself. With the help of Meddy, the cook's daughter, Milo sets out to discover what is really going on at Greenglass House.

My opinion: The beginning of this book reminds me of Treasure Island, I think because the house is kind of like the Admiral Benbow Inn. In execution it is probably closer to The Westing Game, what with the wide variety of characters, their secrets and motivations. The use of LARPing (Live Action Role Playing) was unique. You don't really get role-playing games in much fiction. I loved the way the plot unfolded in this book, especially the way Milford uses the storytelling scenes to reveal character motivation. There are some great secrets that come to light throughout the story. And most of all, I liked how solving the mysteries taught Milo some things about himself. This was a book that I enjoyed far more than I had anticipated and I look forward to recommending it to patrons.
More Information: Greenglass House releases August 26th.
Advanced Reader Copy provided by NetGalley

Monday, August 11, 2014

They are a hoot

Last week I showed you a sketch of a redesign for a shoe I had bought. This week, I have the finished product.

A pair of happy owls
I did all of the decoration with acrylic paint. Now I can't wait to wear them.

I've been working on some other craft projects as well, all of them for my Monster Tea Party program which takes place this weekend, so I'll have more photos for you on Saturday.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

It's magic!

We had a pretty busy week, program-wise, so I have plenty of photos to share with you today.

We had a special guest reader at my storytime on Tuesday. Miss Judy is a volunteer storyteller with a national program. She read the kids a story about loons. They were really interested in the facts and photos she shared as well.

Our Wednesday night performer was one of our favorites, magician Peter Boie. Peter puts on a really funny, engaging show.

And lastly, yesterday was our second installment of the Story Laboratory, now with the slogan "we provide the materials, you provide the awesome." Here are a few books that the kids made.
This one is probably my favorite