Thursday, December 30, 2010

Chicken Scratches: Poultry Poetry and Rooster Rhymes by George Shannon and Lynn Brunelle

Ok, so this one is just for fun. This is a picture book length collection of silly and sometimes irreverent poems about chickens. There are jokes about laying eggs of various sizes and shapes and references to other quirky chicken folklore that is specific to our culture, like "You think a wishbone is luck?/ Just make a wish and snap it?/My wishbone's lucky tucked inside,/ where nobody can crack it." The poetry is funny, but on it's own it would not have been worth much mention. The thing that makes this book a success is the combination of text, illustration and book design. Scott Menchin's color cartoon illustrations are a great match for the text. His chickens are simple, but have a lot a personality. He does a good job capturing the punch line of each poem. In addition, the book designer (maybe it was the illustrator) chose fun fonts and type setting for each poem. There are even little embossed chicken footprints on the cover. It is a great choice for the reluctant poetry reader, or for anyone who wants to have a little fun.

Family Literacy Symposium Titles

On January 22 our library will be holding a Family Literacy Symposium. The Keynote speaker is Leif Enger, author of Peace Like a River. As part of the symposium the Children's Department is offering a presentation of "The Best Books of 2010." Each of the Children's staff were asked to choose a few books from the section for which they order to showcase in the presentation. Since I order the 800's (poetry and joke books, mostly) I chose 5 poetry books as my picks. You, oh faithful readers of my blog, get to have a sneak peak at them. I won't blog them all today, or I would be up to late, but I will get to them over the next day or so.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Diary of a Wimpy Kid : Greg Heffley's Journal by Jeff Kinney

I know this series is immensely popular, but I put off reading it for a long time. I think both the title and the cover put me off. I don't like books where the main characters act stupid. However, I am doing a library program on this book in February, so I thought I better read it. Actually, I was pleasantly surprized. The author really captured the utter social ineptitude that plagues a lot of 11 and 12 year old boys. It was interesting to read this right after reading the Sisters Club books. The girls in that book are so much more emotionally complex. I think that is pretty true to life. Greg does some pretty insensitive things, and is totally and blissfully oblivious. It wasn't really funny to me, but it was interestinging and amusing. I could see how boys of the same age of the main character might think it was hilarious. (I know several boys who do)

Thursday, December 23, 2010

The Rule of Three by Megan McDonald

Here is the sequel to The Sisters Club. In this one the two older sisters decide to try out for the same part in the school musical. Alex is the better actress, but Stevie has a better singing voice. What is Alex willing to do to make sure she gets the part? Meanwhile, Joey is obsessed with the book Little Women and her sisters are worried about how she will react when she finds out that Beth dies.

This book wasn't quite as much fun as the first book. The girls spend too much of the time either fighting or feeling guilty for fighting. Everything resolves nicely in the end, but it lacks the some of the funny interludes that made the first book such a delight. This book deals with some good questions about sister relations. When one sister is good at something, should another sister try to be good at it, too? How do you forgive a sibling that has done something really mean? (234 p)

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Sister's Club by Megan McDonald

A lot of publishers offer books that are High/Low, meaning high interest, low reading level. It is a challenge to find books that are Low/High, or in other words, books that are of a high reading level but would appeal to a young audience--books for kids that are already reading novels in 1st grade. This book is such an one. It features three sisters, Alex, Stevie, and Joey, who are 12, 10 and (I think) 8. The sisters form a club and have lots of fun giggling together. At one point the oldest sister gets angry at the others for teasing her about a boy. She threatens to leave the club. But then her younger sisters help her in an emergency and all is forgiven. It is so cute and sweet and innocent. I think my daughter would have loved it in first or second grade. This is one I downloaded from Netlibrary and listened to on my MP3 player. I am glad I did, because I don't think I would have picked it up off of the shelf if I had seen the cover. The recording was made with a full cast and was well done. It would be a fun one to listen to in the car if your children were the right ages and gender. (196 pages)

Dinosaurs?! by Lila Prap

A chicken has found an amazing book that claims that birds are the descendants of creatures called Dinosaurs. The chicken gathers the others from the hen house around and tell them about their incredible heritage. The book features one dinosaur per spread, with all the chicken's funny remarks around the outside. It is a very cute book and a new way to introduce the most common dinosaur names and facts. It is illustrated with bright colors in a cartoon style. Everything is fun and child friendly. Although all the facts mentioned are correct, the illustrations are stylized, and not intended to be biologically accurate. This is a great book for 4-6 year olds who are going through their paleao-crazy stage.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

The Night Before Christmas in Africa by Jesse, Hannah, and Carroll Foster

Ok, so this was in interesting idea, and valiant effort. A little boy in Africa is longing for rain. A man dressed in red and driving a cart pulled by six kudu and a rhinoceros arrives, bringing gifts for the family. Then as he departs, the sound of thunder is heard in the distance. It could have worked but there were two problems. One is the authors used a variety of African words, and instead of defining them in footnotes, they he make the reader turn to the back of the book and look them up in a glossary. The second is that the authors are not exact in their rhyme and meter. Anyone can make a poem that sounds like The Night Before Christmas most of the time. The magic happens when the words fit into the rhyme and meter exactly. Whenever it misses it feels like a stumble. The illustration is done in rich, warm colors with underlying textures. They do a good job looking hot and African. Here again, though, there is a problem. The people in the book look like cappuccino-colored American blacks rather than the ebony colored true Africans. Oh well.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The Strange Case of Origami Yoda by Tom Angleberger

Gr. 3-6 This is about the cutest book I have read this year. Dwight is one of the strangest boys at Tommy's junior high. He picks his nose, says and does completely random things, and everyone thinks he is a loser. One day he creates a figure of the Star Wars character, Yoda out of paper. When people ask the Yoda questions, they get amazingly insightful answers. Could the Origami Yoda be channeling the Force? Lots of kids at Tommy's school think so, and Tommy is determined to find out if it is really true.

This is one of the cutest books that has come out this year. It is full of junior high anecdotes and personalities that are as funny as they are familiar. Behind the fun, though, are some interesting questions. Angleberger is really good at suggesting ideas to think about, without being heavy handed about it. This would be a great book for a young book club either or both genders. (160 pages)

Welcome to my new Reading Log Blog

I am a children's librarian by profession. As such, I believe it is important to stay up on the new children's literature that is coming out. My boss believes so, too, and has us set reading goals in our annual interview. I have a reading goal to read one novel and two picture books each week. I have had this same goal for some time, but I have never tried to keep track of everything I read. After my last year end interview, I decided it was time to start keeping track. But making a list on my computer just for my own use seemed like a lot of work for nothing. So I decided to start my own reading log blog. Then if anyone is interested in what I think about the recent books I have been reading, they can check my blog. It will also be convenient for me because I can access it at home or at work. So here goes.

I have one more little matter I must mention. I write book reviews for a nationally recognized journal. Because of my reviewer's agreement, I will not, on this blog, review or even mention the books I am reviewing for the journal. These are all non-official, private opinion reviews.