Sunday, March 27, 2016

What they're (really) reading: March 2016

photo by Toby Neal

By keeping a pulse on what my kiddos are checking out and keeping a close eye on which books are circulating heavily, I feel that I can spend the small budget I have more wisely by choosing books I know will have a greater likelihood of circulating widely.

Each month I'll feature a few fiction and a few nonfiction books that are on the "heavy rotation" list at our elementary library. They're not necessarily new, shiny, or covered with awards -- they're simply what the kids want.

This Month's Selections:

Why Are There Stripes on the American Flag?
by Martha Rustad
Nonfiction Picture Book

Do you know why the US flag has stars and stripes on it? Join Mr. Gomez's class as they learn when the first American flag was made, what the Pledge of Allegiance means, and why we honor the flag. Actual Size
by Steve Jenkins
Nonfiction Picture Book

What is it like to come face-to-face with the ten-foot-tall terror bird? Or stare into the mouth of the largest meat eater ever to walk the earth? Can you imagine a millipede that is more than six feet long, or a dinosaur smaller than a chicken? In this "actual size" look at the prehistoric world, which includes two dramatic gatefolds, you'll meet these awe-inspiring creatures, as well as many others.

by Samantha Berger
Picture Book

A boy who looks ordinary transforms into grumbling Crankenstein when faced with a rainy day, a melting popsicle, or bedtime, but everything changes when he meets a fellow Crankenstein. Butt!
by Erica Perl
Picture Book

The classic schoolyard joke has been recast as an irreverent picture book, with call-and-response parts for parent and child. The word repetition in Erica S. Perl's text, and wonderfully comic illustrations by beloved artist Henry Cole, make this a particularly inviting book for new readers, as does the opportunity to "trick" a parent or other adult into participating in a very silly joke. Warning: Kids will want to read this one over and over and over again!

Starring Jules (As Herself)
by Beth Ain
Chapter Book

Jules is an ordinary seven-year-old girl, concerned with school and friends and other ordinary things--until a chance meeting with a casting director leads to an audition for a television commercial. of the Living Dummy
by R.L. Stine
Chapter Book

Kris, jealous of her sister Lindy's success as a ventriloquist, convinces her father to buy her a dummy of her own, but weird things start to happen after she reads the words inscribed on a piece of paper found in the dummy's shirt pocket. 

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

This Librarian's Quick Picks: Big Nate Blasts Off

Big Nate Blasts Off by Lincoln Peirce book coverBig Nate Blasts Off
by Lincoln Peirce
Balzer + Bray (Feb. 16, 2016)
Chapter Book


Nate has a crush on Ruby. But after his scrap with Randy Betancourt makes headlines in the Weekly Bugle, he's got a problem WAY worse than detention! Can Nate bounce back? And will the annual Mud Bowl be a blast . . . or a bust?

Why You'll Love It:
  • It's an entertaining addition to the popular Big Nate series and a sure-fire circulator.
  • Quick pacing, frequent jokes, and an appealing graphic-novel format make this a crowd pleaser. The plentiful illustrations include several comics penned by Nate. His believable middle-school perspective covers topics such as his dream job (Cheez Doodles taste consultant), and the horrors of running into Principal Nichols (in “casual” clothes) on the weekend.
  • Lincoln Pierce is adept at including humor without diminishing serious situations. For instance, when Nate is worrying in school that bully Randy has it in for him, Nate’s art teacher is pictured scratching his head over Nate’s latest painting—an angry-looking portrait of Randy.
  • Randy, who has appeared in other Big Nate books, is further developed here. While Randy’s bullying behavior hasn’t earned him any friends, Nate’s insensitive treatment of him in a published comic may have readers feeling sympathetic. As the story progresses, Nate’s growing compassion toward Randy is heartwarming.

Who Should Read It:

 Great for 3rd-6th grades.

Big Nate humorous chapter book spread

What Else You Should Read:

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

This Librarian's Quick Picks: Wet Cement

Wet Cement A Mix of Concrete Poems by Bab Raczka book coverWet Cement: A Mix of Concrete Poems
by Bob Raczka
Roaring Brook (Mar. 8, 2016)


Who says words need to be concrete? This collection shapes poems in surprising and delightful ways. Concrete poetry is a perennially popular poetic form because they are fun to look at. But by using the arrangement of the words on the page to convey the meaning of the poem, concrete or shape poems are also easy to write!

Why You'll Love It:
  •  While short, the poems are by turns amusing and thoughtful and make excellent use of figurative language devices. Plus, it makes an excellent mentor text for poetry units!
  • A few layouts may test some readers, such as one about a home run in which one whole line is printed backward, but most students will enjoy the challenge.
  • Readers will enjoy turning the volume upside down and every which way to catch every word and nuance and won't miss illustrations a bit. 
Who Should Read It:

Great for 2nd-6th grades...and here's a resource to use as you write!

concrete poems children book

What Else You Should Read:

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

What I'm Reading: The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving

Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving book cover by Jonathan EvisonThe Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving
by Jonathan Evison
Algonquin Books (August 2012)
Adult Fiction


After losing virtually everything meaningful in his life, Benjamin trains to be a caregiver, but his first client, a fiercely independent teen with muscular dystrophy, gives him more than he bargained for and soon the two embark on a road trip to visit the boy's ailing father. 

Why You'll Love It:
  • Has all the trappings of the movie Little Miss Sunshine, including embarrassingly funny surprises, side-splitting laughter, and the ability to steal your heart.
  • It's a big-hearted novel that tackles the joys and heartbreak of caring for others, told with great wit and deep perception.
  • Evison injects some levity with Trev's horny commentary and Ben's wry retorts, blending humor, sharp dialogue, and a rich and detailed backstory.

What Else You Should Read:

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

What I'm Reading: The Muralist

historical fiction Muralist by B. A. Shapiro book coverThe Muralist
by B. A. Shapiro
Algonquin (Nov. 3, 2015)
Historical Fiction

What It's About:

When Alizee Benoit, a young American painter working for the Works Progress Administration (WPA), vanishes in New York City in 1940, no one knows what happened to her. Not her Jewish family living in German-occupied France. Not her arts patron and political compatriot, Eleanor Roosevelt. Not her close-knit group of friends and fellow WPA painters ... And, some seventy years later, not her great-niece, Danielle Abrams, who, while working at Christie's auction house, uncovers enigmatic paintings hidden behind works by those now famous Abstract Expressionist artists.

Why You'll Love It:
  • Shapiro's storytelling craftsmanship is amplified by her ability to use history as a backdrop, adding depth and perspective to her narrative.  
  • The life of AlizĂ©e Benoit, a determined young painter, intersects with the lives of historical figures, including Eleanor Roosevelt and Breckinridge Long, and legendary artists, including Mark Rothko, Jackson Pollock, and Lee Krasner.
  • Shapiro explores what happens when talent collides with inexorable historical forces, and how great art can change the world.

What Else You Should Read:
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