Thursday, September 26, 2019

How to Knit a Monster, written by Annemarie van Haeringen, reviewed by Klaudia Janek

Student Reviewer: Lauren K.
Summary: The book “How to Knit a Monster” by Annamarie van Haeringen is a joyful tale about a small white goat, Greta, who loves to knit. Greta often finds herself getting so lost in both her work and in daydreaming that she conjures up elaborate creations make of yarn. Many of these beautiful creations take the form of animals. When Greta is challenged by fellow goat Mrs. Goat, she accidentally creates a dangerous monster who gobbles Mrs. Goat up! When Greta is faced with vicious animal will she be able to use her incredible knitting abilities to overcome this stressful situation? Will she be able to save Mrs. Goat from doom?

Straight Talk for Librarians: This would be a great picture book to read to children for fun. Greta also shows great courage in the face of danger, which is always a great theme to introduce to children at any age. She also displays great maturity when after she is challenged by Mrs. Goat. Even though she was criticized that she was not a good nor fast knitter, Greta was a bigger person and stayed true to herself and her passion by believing in herself when someone else did not. This is an important lesson for younger readers because it is vital in life to be able to be confident in yourself. This picture book also introduces a literary device of onomatopoeia through the sound that Greta’s knitting needles clicking together. I think that this would be a great way to introduce the different aspects of Literature in an easy and fun way. The pictures within the book are also very interesting and the simplistic yet beautiful illustrations not overwhelming to look at. They were created through the use of watercolour and india ink which creates beautiful colours and textures that are very fun to look at.

Unstinky, written by Andy Rash, reviewed by Klaudia Janek

Student Reviewer: Muna S.
Summary: This is a story about a stink bug that doesn’t fit in. The protagonist, Bud, is self conscious about his smell because he can’t make stinky smells like all the other stink bugs. Instead, Bud can only make nice smells like candy and flowers. As Bud was trying to work on creating stinky smells, he attracted April the Bee’s attention. She invited him to her hive for a dance party. The other bees were quite disgruntled at their guest because they did not want their hive to stink. Fortunately for them, their hive began to smell like flowers as Bud danced the night away. The bees loved Bud so much, their queen invited him back whenever he wanted. Bud tried to share his love of dancing with the other stink bugs, but they were not very good at it. They were only good at being stinky. Bud realized that dancing was way more fun to him then trying to be stinky.

Straight Talk for Librarians: This book is filled with humor as the author describes what kinds of stink the bugs emit. There is arm pit, dog doo, burning wig, limburger cheese and lots more. Bud emits pine tree, gardenia, petunia and other wonderful smells. Bud’s turning point is when he decides that he’s focusing on the wrong things in his life. The stink contests were making him sad and the dancing was making him happy. He chose to be happy. It’s a good way to teach children self esteem in a subtle way. The art in this book is also beautiful and vibrant. Rash utilizes dull colors to portray the stinky smells perfectly, while balancing it with the refreshingly colorful tones of the good smells and the natural setting. The visuals are clear and crisp, perfect for young children to enjoy. This book would be a good addition to a school library. It’s funny, it’s entertaining. It would make for a good read aloud book, or for independent reading. It would be a good choice to put on a spring or insect book display. I think it will draw reluctant readers because there is just enough potty humor in this story.

The Undefeated, written by Kwame Alexander, reviewed by Klaudia Janek

Student Reviewer: Shruti M.
Summary: Kwame Alexander will take your breath away with this stunning picture book. The text is a poem Alexander wrote when his daughter was born and Obama took office. He calls it his love letter to America and highlights many different African Americans who “survived America by any means necessary.” From athletes, slaves, political figures and just the average person that goes unnoticed. Readers are left with a positive message that their stories are waiting to be written. Those who came before them and those who will come after will gather strength, perseverance and grit from their collective history.

Straight Talk for Librarians: The beautiful prose of this story is a wonderful introduction for young readers to poetry. The illustrations and the words flow seamlessly throughout the story. The power of the words in this book are highlighted by the strength, beauty and grace of the historical figures featured within the pages of this book. The artist captured the variety and shades of all the different skin tones in his realistic illustrations. Each reader has the opportunity to take from the poem what speaks to them. For some readers, it might be the blank page that remembers those who did not make it. For other readers, it might be a sense of patriotism from the Civil War soldier who fought to save an imperfect union. There are paper cranes featured throughout the book, reminding readers to “keep rising.” This would be a good read aloud to a history class beginning to study aspects of the Black American experience. It would work for elementary students and it would also be appropriate for high school students. The poem was originally read a part of an ESPN documentary and has now been turned into a picture book. The author’s notes are also worth reading. This book would be perfect on a display for Black History Month, Civil Rights or a Biography book display. Alexander has written a book that will begin conversations about racism and discrimination. It’s a book that will help improve communities around us.

Hats are not for Cats!, written by Jacqueline K Rayner, reviewed by Klaudia Janek

Student Reviewer: Alexandra F.
Summary: A cat wearing a hat gets told off by a dog for wearing a hat as only dogs may wear hats. The cat goes through a multitude of hats before finally proving that hats are for everyone, convincing the dog that cats can wear hats. It is decided that “Hats are for everyone!” with a splash of bright colors to end the story.

Straight Talk for Librarians: This book is very good for teaching young readers about the concept of sharing and accepting others. At the end of the book, the story also touches on making up with someone after an argument, demonstrated by the cat when it returns to the dog and invites him to join the cat and other animals. The rhyme would make it more engaging for the younger readers, whether they are being read to or are reading the book themselves. Young readers with a basic vocabulary should be able to read the book by themselves with some assistance for unfamiliar words. The pictures are also very attractive to younger children, while the animals may be gray, there is a lot of colour added by the hats which, along with the animals funny antics, makes the pictures cheerful. Rayner used mostly watercolor for her illustrations and charcoal for some outlines. Readers might get upset right along with the dog as he tries to convince the cat to stop wearing hats. He has a poster and is very emphatic in the delivery of his convictions. Young readers will love the relationship between the cat and the dog, which in some ways mirrors real life. This book is a good addition to a school library.

Moon, written by Alison Oliver, reviewed by Klaudia Janek

Student Reviewer: Savannah H.
Summary: This book is about a 12-year-old girl, named Moon. Moon talks about how her life is filled with so much to do and so little time to do it. This includes activities such as math tutoring, trumpet lessons, cleaning her room, etc. All things that a lot of kids her age partake in. However, Moon wonders what it would be like to be free. She wonders what it would be like to not do all of the things she has to do. To just let go, and relax. One night, Moon hears a howling noise coming from the woods, so Moon goes out to investigate. What she discovers is a friendly wolf and wolf pack. They teach her all sorts of wolfy things throughout the night. Moon loves this, and holds on to her experiences with the wolves.

Straight Talk for Librarians: This book is extremely captivating, even for me, a 15 year old! It teaches younger kids about the importance of letting go, and being wild every once in a while. However, I do fear that they might take this as a reason to avoid responsibility or work. At the same time, I think this book would be useful for both parents and teachers alike. This would be a great bedtime story or classroom read, as the story is very light-hearted and engaging, and the artwork is mesmerizing. As I said before, the book teaches kids that it’s okay to take a break and be wild now and then. I think this would be especially important for teachers, as the school setting can sometimes be draining on kids. It conveys the message that they deserve a break from daily activities in life. Furthermore, this is also an important message for parents to enforce with their children as well. Now, back to the art. The medium for the art looks somewhat collage-like, but is most likely simple drawing electronically. It uses mostly deeper colors- for example, there are strong themes of purple, deep blues, and gray. This choice creates a mysterious-like tone, without any menacing after tones to it. I truly think the artwork makes this book perfect and totally matches the message. Overall, I would most definitely recommend this book to anyone looking for an amazing children's book, with perfect artwork to match. :)

Perfect, written by Max Amato, reviewed by Klaudia Janek

Student Reviewer: Carley H.
Summary: This book is about a stubborn eraser who just wants the page to be clean and free of pencil lines and smudges. A troublesome pencil keeps adding more and more lines to the page for the eraser to erase and all of a sudden the pencil draws so much that the eraser feels defeated and doesn't know how to erase all the pencil marks that were made. Then the eraser figures out how to escape all of the pencil lines and smudges and makes the page clean again. Once he is alone without the pencil making any lines and nothing to erase, he realizes he would rather be together with the pencil.

Straight Talk for Librarians: The book has big font with little words on the pages with big pictures covering the entire page which would attract young readers. I think the characters in the book are funny. The eraser learns that everything does not always have to be perfect. That sometimes messy is fun. The illustrator used pencil and eraser to make a lot of the pages, along with photos of a pencil and eraser. Readers will laugh out loud when the eraser erasing some of the pencil’s drawings. The pencil is a little sassy. This book is a good choice for independent reading. The book could be a good choice to feature on a back to school display. Some of the pages don’t have words so it could be a good choice for reluctant and emerging readers. The images tell a lot of the story. The expression on the characters faces convey a lot of emotion so it could set the stage for a good discussion on feelings. This book would be a good choice for an elementary school library.

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Look at Me!: How to Attract Attention in the Animal World, written by Steve Jenkins and Robin Page, reviewed by Klaudia Janek

Student Reviewer: Leah R.
Summary: This book outlines several species of reptiles, amphibians, birds, fish, and mammals and how they interact with the world around them. The authors tell of the reasons behind why different animals make themselves look a little different, and why they do it. For example, when describing a pufferfish, the text says, “when it inflates itself with water, the pufferfish isn’t easy to swallow. Swelling up also causes its sharp spines to point outward, making the puffer an unappealing meal for a bigger fish.” There is a lot of scientific information for readers to take away. The illustrations are incredibly detailed and use mixed media. At the end of the book, there is a page detailing each of the animals mentioned in the text, where they live, their diet, and their size.

Straight Talk for Librarians: This book is a wonderful option for experienced readers, due to some of the more advanced language. The details regarding the highlighted animals are factual even though they are presented with younger readers in mind. This book would go wonderfully with both science classes and art classes; especially science classes on the topic of camouflage, adaptations, etc. The illustrations in this book are some of the best I have seen in picture books. Each image obviously had much thought put into it, and the detail is extraordinary. The cover is eye-catching, colorful, and incredibly organized, and the pages are likewise. Each set of pages has its own theme, such as “All dressed up,” “A brilliant warning,” and “Got a light?” and mentions one or two animals that relate to the theme. The last few pages have a more in-depth commentary on each of the animals presented earlier in the text, providing more information such as their habitat, diet, and size. This area is especially helpful if readers would like to know more about any of the animals. Finally, there is a section at the end of the book suggesting external books and websites to visit for more information. A great choice for animal lovers, non-fiction enthusiasts and curious children. A good purchase for a school library. Published Review #1: Kirkus: Many animals have creative and often startling ways.

Misunderstood Shark: Starring SHARK!, written by Ame Dyckman, reviewed by Klaudia Janek

Student Reviewer: Maia M.
Summary: This book is a short story book in which three squid characters are doing an informational broadcast about sharks. The shark character continues to display his sharklike nature by ‘threatening’ to eat fish, seals, and even humans, and when the squid interviewer tells him to stop eating these animals and people while they’re on the air, the shark says that he’s been misunderstood. At the end of the storybook, the shark consumes the squid interviewer, and when he is reprimanded for it, he attempts to excuse it by saying that he was just ‘playing hide and seek’. This book is a great way to introduce emerging readers to facts about sharks, along with a good message about excusing your actions and why it isn’t always the best thing to do. Parents may be interested in this book to teach children about marine biology, while also educating them on the importance of taking responsibility for your actions and the consequences of using excuses. The illustrations in Misunderstood Shark are very colorful and stylized to be cartoon-like. Magoon illustrates with rougher linework that conveys a fun tone, especially to emerging readers who enjoy crayon illustrations and their colors.

Straight Talk for Librarians: The font in which the text is written is very easy to read, and the language used is appropriate for children, while still capable of being humorous and appealing to them. This book can be used in kindergarten to first-grade classes and would work especially well with science classes while learning about animals other than mammals. In addition to several facts about sharks, there are also some facts about squid included to fit the story. Overall, Misunderstood Shark is an easy-to-read resource for science teachers and parents alike, to educate emerging readers on the lesser-known facts about sharks. There are also some reassuring facts about sharks for anxious readers, like the fact that you’re thousands of times more likely to be bitten by a person than by a shark.

Stewart's Best Pen, written by Stephen W. Martin, reviewed by Klaudia Janek

Student Reviewer: Emily L.
Summary: The book Stewart's Best Pen is a story about the life of a boy named Stewart who went on a camping trip over the summer and found a pen. The pen’s name was Craig and he is a blue ballpoint pen. Stewart and Craig did everything together and were best friends. One day Strewart lost Craig and looked everywhere but could not find him. It turns out, Craig fell out of Stewarts bag and another kid picked him up! Then the kid went to Japan and took Craig with him. Craig and Sterwart then became pen pals and wrote each other often.

Straight Talk for Librarians: This book is very cute in its design style. Its cartoonish and the medium is water color, as well as some elements of what looks to be digital art and collage. The cartoons are hilarious and will make readers laugh aloud at the shenanigans going on in the story. Readers will love this adorable story about the unbreakable bonds of friendship. This book would be a perfect recommendation for a student who has a friend moving away. It illustrates that you can stay in touch through letters. This would be a great book for an IB PYP school library because it has global connections and it would be a perfect read aloud before engaging in a pen pal program. I also think it would be a good choice for a budding writer or artist. There really are some special pens out there that lead to inspiration and make the creativity flow.

Zelda's Big Adventure, written by Marie Alafaci, reviewed by Klaudia Janek

Student Reviewer: Reilly J.
Summary: This book is about one chicken’s struggle to success story as she attempts to build a rocket and go to space. Zelda awakens one day with the thought of going to space, so she gets to work right away. Though she struggles to do it on her own so she attempts to enlist the help of her friends, but not all goes to plan. Her friends don’t have the time to help her out, so in the end she has to make her rocket all on her own. She’s so proud of what she can create, and that she is able to make it to space all on her own. As she travels through the cosmos, she realizes that she is lonely up there all on her own, so she comes home. Zelda did in fact, become the first chicken in space. News of the spaceship was the most exciting thing that had happened in that area, so it was the talk of the yard. Zelda’s friends tried to take credit for the work they didn’t do, but were asked to help with. However, Zelda was a forgiving chicken and decided it was more important to have friends with her on the next trip instead of holding a grudge against her friends.

Straight Talk for Librarians: This book handles some difficult topics, although still manages to portray it in a bright and positive manner. While speaking on terms of struggling through loneliness, it also speaks of the well known term of “work hard, play hard”. Zelda built an entire rocketship on her own and managed to have an amazing time while doing it. She was proud of herself, and that's a topic that’s quite important for early readers to do in their younger years. People should be proud of the work they’ve done and this book portrays it very well. Secondly, the art of the book is quite vivid, with bright and flowing colors, and multiple different styles to really give it that child-like innocence look. This book teaches the significance of perseverance, that even when times are hard and you think about giving up, there's always an emotional payoff in the end. This book is a fantastic choice for early readers and advanced readers alike. It would be a good fit for a school library looking to by STEM books. The story covers the scientific method. It would also be a good choice for young science fiction fans. Space travel is always fun.

The Bear, the Piano, the Dog, and the Fiddle, written by David Litchfield, reviewed by Klaudia Janek

Student Reviewer: Evan S.
Summary: An emotional story that shares the musical journey of best friends, Hector and Hugo. Hector was a human fiddle player and Hugo was his loyal dog and biggest fan. Hector felt that he was getting too old and was not drawing the crowds anymore. He never made it into the big time and felt that it was time to give up. Instead of playing his fiddle, Hector slept and watched TV a lot. One night, Hector woke up to find Hugo making beautiful music on their city rooftop. Hugo was really good! Hector was going to make Hugo successful. The crowds Hugo drew were huge and he even caught the eye of the world famous piano playing bear. Hugo was invited to tour with Bear and his band. Unfortunately, Hector became a big jealous of his best friends success and they parted on bad terms. Hugo toured the world with his new band, playing to sold out crowds. Hector missed Hugo and his fiddle. When the band was slated to play in their hometown, Hector bought a ticket. He would go support his friend, even if he wasn’t welcome there. What Hector didn’t realize, was that Hugo was waiting for him. Hector was brought on stage as the guest of honor and his dream came true. Not only was he playing in front of a sold out crowd, but he got his best friend back. “Because good friendship, just like good music, lasts a lifetime.”

Straight Talk for Librarians: The illustrations in this book are soft and incredibly detailed. The emotions portrayed by the characters in the book complements the story in a touching way. This book is for music loving children and might possible inspire learning a new instrument. Readers will learn how value friendships and be happy with who you have in your life. It’s a heartwarming story that might teach readers to accept different types of successes in life. Readers may be inspired by the kindness shown in this book. It may also teach children how to deal with jealous feelings. Overall, it’s just a lovely story and would make a good addition to a school library.

Charlotte the Scientist Finds a Cure, written by Camille Andros, reviewed by Klaudia Janek

Student Reviewer: Will M.
Summary: Charlotte is a serious scientist. Charlotte’s family is a typical bunny family that grew a little bit when her grandfather moved in. Charlotte and her grandfather were very much alike because they both liked research, experiments and solving problems. Charlotte was learning a lot about science. One day, Charlotte’s grandfather and many other forest animals became ill with some “mysterious malady.” Charlotte employed the scientific method and tried to figure out the cause of the problem and hopefully, a cure. Her results were inconclusive. Things were getting worse with the infection, so Charlotte became even more determined to figure out what was going on. The adults/experts were not willing to listen to her ideas, so Charlotte was on her own. Charlotte formed a hypothesis, researched, tested it and figured out the problem! The illustrator utilizes a variety of mediums in order to create a warm feeling in the book that creates a sense of joy. The animals are cartoon-like and the artist managed to capture emotion that complements the story. The book ends with a glossary of scientific terms that budding young scientists will enjoy learning.

Straight Talk for Librarians: This is a great STEM book for young readers. The story focuses on a female scientist and convinces readers that science is important and exciting. It can also be fun. What a great message to share with young children who are still excited to learn about the world around them. Readers will be left with a sense of empowerment and determination. This is a great addition to a STEM center, can be paired with a non-fiction book on the scientific method and would also appeal to readers who like animal books. Finding the cure is a mystery, so it would also be a good recommendation for readers who enjoy mystery books.

Penguinaut!, written by Marcie Colleen, reviewed by Klaudia Janek

Student Reviewer: Claire T.
Summary: Orville is a penguin who lives in a zoo with many other animals. He is much smaller than all of his friends, and is sad because they go on exciting adventures without him. Orville decides to go on the biggest adventure he can think of - a journey to the moon! He does it all by himself, and has to try a lot of different things, but eventually he succeeds. He makes a rocketship out of cardboard, and gets to the moon. When he’s there, though, he realizes that he misses his friends. Fortunately, he finds a note from them in his spacesuit and it gives him encouragement. At the end of the book, he flies back to the zoo and makes a spaceship big enough for all of his friends.

Straight Talk for Librarians: This book conveys several important messages, while being sweet and adorably illustrated at the same time. The major theme in the book is that you can do whatever you set your mind to as long as you persevere, as Orville has to try many different ways to get to the moon before he is successful. His friends doubt him at first, but he believes in himself, further showing the importance of perseverance. Additionally, there is the message that appearance shouldn’t inhibit opportunities. As the book begins, “Orville was small. His friends were big.” Despite this difference, the penguin is successful. One final message is that friends are important, and that you don’t need to succeed alone. At the end of the book, Orville goes back to earth to get his friends, after realizing that being on the moon isn’t fun when he’s the only one there. These themes are all important for emerging readers, and are presented in a fun way. As for the art, it is bright and colorful, creating an overall joyful mood for most of the book. The pages contain many details which emerging readers would be excited to look at. While on the moon, however, there are fewer colors, which helps convey Orville’s loneliness. And of course, the penguin and all of his friends are extremely cute. This book would be great for reading aloud to a younger audience, or as part of a display on space travel.

The Sun Is Kind Of A Big Deal, written by Nick Seluk, reviewed by Klaudia Janek

Student Reviewer: Sevak T.
Summary: "The Sun never stops working to keep things on Earth running smoothly.” Michigan author, Nick Seluk explains every part of the Sun's big job: keeping our solar system together, giving Earth day and night, keeping us warm. Selak gives background information of the sun to improve the the message of the rest of the book. He also shows the science of rain and how long light from the Sun takes to reach Earth and how seasons change. The comic art made by Seluk was made to create an enjoyable and fun reading experience for young children. The contrast in each page asserts the author’s message of the importance of the sun by making it the brightest picture on each page.

Straight Talk for Librarians: This book is a great addition to a non-fiction STEM collection. Readers will be drawn into learning all sort of facts and figures about our solar system. There are facts, there is comedy - young readers will fill their heads with all sorts of scientific information. This book can be used to show readers the importance of the Sun and various vocabulary words to describe its jobs. Readers will definitely learn that The Sun is Kind of a Big Deal. The comic style of this book may be appealing to reluctant readers and those who insist they do not like non-fiction books. The sun is usually the brightest illustration on each page conveying the importance of the sun. This book can be used by teachers to supplement a solar system lesson. It would be a good non-fiction purchase for a school library and used for a display with other sun/solar system books. It would also be good for a display with other graphic novels or comic books.

My Little Pond, written by Katrin Wiehle, reviewed by Klaudia Janek

Student Reviewer: Kate T.
Summary: My Little Pond is a light read that combines adorable pictures with new vocabulary. This book takes the attention of the reader from the beginning with familiar characters, that travel throughout their home captured in pictures. The animals that lead the tour include a duck, frog and fish. After an image that appears with a zoomed out perspective of the pond, readers find themselves coming into closer focus, first exploring the obvious inhabitants that reside atop the pond. The greenery around the water is then presented, along with varieties of fish that could be discovered. After the diverse ecosystem is outlined, the book finishes with a satisfying call to action, urging the readers to explore for themselves.

Straight Talk for Librarians: Overall, this book was quite enjoyable to me and it resembles something I would be intrigued to look at when searching for new art styles. The saturated, earthy colors give it a unique appearance, and I picked it up right away. I also really appreciated the 100% recycleable materials quality that this book represents, because it is a rare quality for books to have due to its lack of durability. However, it really gave the piece extra appeal in my opinion. I enjoyed looking at the pictures and the art style, and I think I learned something too about the creatures that live in the pond. It would be useful to improve the reading of those who are younger and are just beginning to establish their vocabulary. Additionally, it can be used to encourage children to recycle and go outside to explore. Parents will find these ethics to be charming, as well as most teachers and librarians. I would definitely recommend this read to others, and would share it with my younger family members. I’m sure they will enjoy this read as well!

Arrr, Mustache Baby!, written by Bridget Heos, reviewed by Klaudia Janek

Student Reviewer: Adrian V.
Summary: The book is about the adventures Baby Billy and Baby Javier, two babies born with a mustache and a beard, respectively. “Baby Billy was born with a mustache. Baby Javier was born with a beard. Usually, they were fine young gentlemen.” Most of the story is set at a pool, or the “seven seas” as seen through the eyes of our protagonists. Our protagonists are do-gooders, and act as the heroes of the seas doing good deeds such as fighting sea monsters. They served many roles, such as fishermen, navy sailors, and submarine scientists. Eventually, they find out pirates have stolen and hidden treasure, and our heroes set to find it. They find the treasure and give it back to the citizens. However, the pirates find them and start attacking Billy and Javier. In their moment of weakness, they become bad guys! They pillage the loot back from the pirates, but now they want more. They start raiding the people they once saved. They get caught by their parents, and are put in cells (aka playpens). They start regretting their actions and remember when they helped the people. Once they realized what they did wrong, they leave jail. They swabbed the decks and make peace with the other pirates, Captain Kid and Short John Silver. They became good friends, however it is revealed that they occasionally engage in pirate behavior.

Straight Talk for Librarians: This book is really good for both emerging readers and their parents. Adults might have to explain quotes like, “Make that a dual duel! En garde!” The book cover is really appealing to young readers as it shows Billy as a pirate in a confident pose. Readers will really be able to relate to this story. Sometimes, they don’t want to act good. Especially when the circumstances come to it, they will act bad. However, the book teaches them that this is not good, and they learn to feel empathy for others and feel guilt for their actions. There’s also a lesson for parents at the end, with the reveal that sometimes they indulge in “pirate-like” activities. This teaches them that when kids act good most of the time, sometimes it’s okay for them to act out. The illustrations are very bright and vibrant, and gives a playful tone to most of the book, other than the parts where they are in jail, the colors are dulled down. The book is a fun, lighthearted pirate adventure that has a lesson for both emerging readers, and parents. It’s a great book for a pirate display. Perfect for “Talk Like a Pirate Day” and adventure stories. There is humor on every page, especially if you consider the idea of facial hair on babies.

Friday, September 20, 2019

Titanosaur: Discovering the World's Largest Dinosaur, written by Jose Luis Carballdio, reviewed by Klaudia Janek

Student Reviewer: Troy A.

Summary: One day, in Patagonia, Argentina, a gaucho finds a strange object poking out of the ground. Readers will learn that a gaucho is a skilled horseman, sort of like American cowboys. He goes to a museum and asks to see the paleontologists, as he found a bone larger than the skeleton on display. The two paleontologists were more than eager to drive out to the ranch because they knew that other fossils had been found in that area. The bone was, in fact, one of the largest dinosaur bones they had ever seen.  A dig team was assembled to dig up the bones. They were realizing that the bones may have belonged to a Titanosaur, the largest known dinosaur that walked the Earth. The expedition team spent 1000s of hours digging up bones, doing research and getting the bones moved. 

Straight Talk for Librarians: This is the perfect book for dinosaur lovers. The story of a strange rock discovery turning into a 122-foot long behemoth should leave young readers exclaiming “whoaaaaa” when they see the completed skeleton. Although there are some unfamiliar words, they are explained in an understandable way, often with images to provide a visual aid. The unique visuals provide a fascinating view of the work the archeological team had to put in to dig up the bones and construct the skeleton. The book contains illustrations and photos of the actual dig.  This book would be a good book to complement a biology lesson. It also promotes science careers. The book would also be a good choice for Spanish teachers when teaching culture lessons. The dinosaur was unearthed in Argentina, so students would get an introduction to a few Spanish words, names and places. There are a lot of cross-curricular connections in the non-fiction picture book. I think lots of upper elementary and middle school readers would enjoy the dinosaur information found in this book. This would be a good choice for a dinosaur-themed book display.
Author Twitter: @poldiego 
Illustrator Twitter: @flogigena
Home to the world's biggest dinosaur: @mefpatagonia
Reviewer Twitter: @kjanek

Ginny Goblin Cannot Have a Monster for a Pet, written by David Goodner, reviewed by Klaudia Janek

Student Reviewer: CJ A.
Summary: Ginny Goblin Can Not Have a Monster for a Pet is a story about a young goblin who wants a pet, but can’t seem to find a safe pet. The narrator suggests that Ginny get a bunny or a bird. Unfortunately, Ginny would rather have a dragon, alien or basilisk. She travels to the depths of the sea to find a Kraken, but she is told “no”. Ginny is continuously is told that she cannot have the pet that she wants because it is extremely lethal or dangerous. Ginny shows grit and determination because she does not give up. The illustrations add a lot to the story and help convey the context of the words. The illustrator chose a cartoon-like style for the book.

Straight Talk for Librarians: This book is a good read for putting a child to bed or just storytime, as the main character goes on an epic adventure. There is some word play that more savvy readers will catch on to and enjoy. This book will introduce young readers to mythological creatures. It will also help explain to children why they might not be able to get pets; or why they might have to be selective about having certain pets in the house. This book would be a good fit for a Halloween themed library book display. It would be a good fit for younger readers who are looking for something a little scary, but not too much. Readers will have a good laugh at the pet that Ginny finally gets to bring home.

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

The Hidden Witch, written by Molly Knox Ostertag, reviewed by Caroline Rabideau

Summary: The Hidden Witch is the second book in a series, but could be read as a stand alone. It is about a young boy, Aster, who has recently discovered he would like to be a witch (a title usually reserved for girls). Though he is standing up for his passions, he is still looked down upon by many in his community. By book 2, Aster has a very close knit group of friends with Charlie and Sedge. A new girl, Ariel, moves into town, but she's having problems making friends. Charlie reaches out to her and invites her into their friend circle. But Ariel has secrets no one understands, maybe not even Ariel herself. If she can't learn to control her power, it might turn on her and kill her too. Can Aster's wisdom, Sedge's talent, and Charlie's never-wavering friendship help save their new friend Ariel?

Straight Talk for Librarians: I feel like this book would be a great conversation starter when talking about friendship and accepting people for who they are. I had not previously read book 1, but I can assume that Aster was bullied for being different, and that's how his strong friendships with Charlie and Sedge developed. The three friends are very accepting and encouraging of each other in all that they do. They do not pass judgement, and they do not belittle each other. When Ariel comes along, it might be tempting for Charlie to give up on her, or to treat her negatively because of Ariel's actions, but she decided friendship is worth the risk, and fights for their friendship. It was inspiring to watch four middle school aged kids deal with problems that seem far beyond their age, yet handle them so well.
I feel like this book would also be very good for helping a student cope with being accepted as an LGBTQ member. That topic is never specifically mentioned at all throughout the book. It was almost as if Aster's magic was in place of Aster's identification. He was bullied and not accepted by many because he chose the schooling of a girl. Even his aunt treated him differently than all the other students in the class. But his friends and his mom had accepted him for who he was, and that was all he needed. Aster says "the feelings I get from being a witch... those are usually stronger than the bad feelings I get from what other people think about me." He is strong in his beliefs, and proud of his accomplishments. I feel like my students have such a hard time understanding how to accept people as they are, no matter what orientation they identify with. It's a hard topic to talk about with kids, but I think this book would be a great lead in. It hints at the possibility just enough, but students will sympathize with Aster immediately because, on the surface, they are talking about magic, not sexual orientation.
I think this book would be good for a middle school library. I don't think it would appeal to everyone, but I think it would be a great took to use with the kids that need it.

Dug Out: When Zombie Steals Home, written by Scott Morse, reviewed by Caroline Rabideau

Summary: Stacy and Gina are twins, but they don't look the same. They both love baseball, but they're on different teams. Gina's team is known for winning. Stacy's team believes they are cursed. When Gina tries to help her sister, things go very wrong, and suddenly it seems as if Stacy's team really is cursed - by a zombie baseball player! How do they get rid of the zombie? Are there consequences for Gina's actions?

Straight Talk for Librarians: I really enjoyed this book. The beginning was dry, and I didn't think I was going to like it at first. It is very baseball centered, and uses authentic baseball language, which I know absolutely nothing of. But once the story got going, it was quite the page turner. It is FILLED with jokes my middle schoolers are going to love, like drawing faces on your tummy and naming it, or jokes about boogers. I think, between the baseball and the comic joking, any student could get hooked.
I loved that Stacy an Gina aren't drawn as the "pretty girls." They are very authentic young girls who truly love baseball. They hold their own and are treated like equals with the boys on the team. Stacy's character often takes a leadership role in her team, but also is not afraid to delegate or let someone else take the lead. I think this book would be a great "mighty girl' book, as both Stacy and Gina are very empowered.
Finally, I think this is a great sisterhood book. Like every group of teenage sisters, Stacy and Gina fight, a lot. And when they try to help each other, they end up making things worse. The book doesn't grace over sibling rivalry. it is honest and filled with love. Though sisters may disagree, at the end of the day, they love and believe in each other the most. I think this was a great book and would highly recommend it.

The Unwanted: Stories of the Syrian Refugees, written by Don Brown, reviewed by Bethany Bratney

Summary: The Unwanted is a heartbreaking look at the Syrian refugee crisis through the eyes of the refugees themselves. Don Brown captures the struggle of the Syrian people so thoughtfully, including perspectives of those who have fled recently, those who have been traveling or living in refugee camps for years, and those who have stayed. The book is a beautiful reminder that despite the fact that these people happen to live in a war torn country, their lives disregarded, or worse, used as pawns in political upheaval, they are still parents, workers, entrepreneurs, and craftsmen who fear for their lives and livelihood. This is a work of nonfiction conveyed in a graphic format, interspersing facts and statistics gathered by Brown with the stories of individuals caught up in the strife. The images range from dark, haunting drawing of weapons, war, and drowning to charts and infographic-style illustrations that help to convey statistical information. The color palette tends toward darker, more muted colors, a fitting choice for a work on such a serious topic.

Straight Talk for Librarians: This is the nonfiction that students will actually read. It is a slim volume, only 103 pages, and it covers a current topic that teens will have likely heard about. The graphic format is compelling, adding a layer of interest to the topic that students might pass on if they were strictly reading text. The format also allows for a nice blend of information, giving teens not only the basic information of how the crisis in Syria began and the steps that have led to this moment in time, but also giving them a reason to care about the Syrian people who are caught up in this extremely complicated event. There are a myriad of curricular connections that can be made to this text, most heavily in Social Studies, Government, Visual Arts and International Relations. Serious nonfiction is not always accessible or interesting to all students, but Don Brown has managed to make it both in this incredible graphic volume. It also won the YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction and was a Sibert Medal Finalist, so it is as easy to justify as it is to purchase. The Unwanted is a must purchase for middle school and high school libraries.

Monday, September 16, 2019

Cold Calls, written by Charles Benoit, reviewed by Bethany Bratney

Summary: Eric receives the call late one night. A mysterious voice on the other end of the line is
demanding that he bully a student at his school who he does not even know. If Eric doesn’t comply, his most awful secret will be broadcast to the world. That cannot happen. The consequences of Eric’s decision land him in an anti-bullying class with a bunch of other misfits from schools in his area. He only wants to make it through the painful weekend class, but then Shelley approaches him after school. She has guessed that they are there for the same reasons, forced to bully strangers by an unknown source, and she wants them to work together to try to figure out who is targeting them when they seem to have nothing in common. Since the voice on the phone has threatened to take all of their secrets public three days after the class, they will have to work quickly to solve the mystery and confront their blackmailer.

Straight Talk for Librarians: Students will gravitate toward this high-drama, plot heavy mystery. The anticipation of learning why a mystery blackmailer would target such different individuals will keep readers intrigued until the reasoning is revealed late in the book. Eric, Shelley, and Fatima (a third character who is blackmailed and introduced later in the book) all have their own secrets that are slowly revealed to the reader over the course of the book, prolonging and enhancing the suspense. The story is plot-driven and fast-paced, and the characters’ secrets are firmly set in the world of high school drama and discovery, making this a great choice for more reluctant or resistant readers. It also starts off very quickly, without much exposition, which may seem abrupt to an avid reader, but will likely be another plus to infrequent readers. The book includes heavy use of technology, though some of the references are already slightly dated which may turn off a picky teen reader. The three main characters come from different backgrounds and lifestyles, and Fatima is an authentic Muslim girl who wears hijab, representing a frequently marginalized group. There is enough drama, suspense and red herring action to engage an enthusiastic mystery reader and newbie alike. Definitely worth the price of purchase.

Cold Calls Book Trailer

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Misunderstood Shark: Friends Don't Eat Friends, written by Amy Dyckman, reviewed by Caroline Rabideau

Summary: Shark ate his friend Bob, the Jellyfish, but Bob didn't taste so good, so Shark threw him up. Bob is (understandably) offended that his friend Shark ate him. He demands an apology from Shark, but Shark doesn't understand. Yeah, he ate him, but he didn't chew, and he threw him up after. It was more like sending Bob on a tour of his stomach than actually eating him, so why does it matter? As Bob continues to ask for an apology, Shark becomes offended. Bob is harsh. Could this end their friendship? Maybe they both have things they need to apologize for? Do you really have to apologize just for hurting someone's feelings? Filled with fun facts about sharks, this book was adorable and so memorable; a great book to share with your students or family.

Straight Talk for Librarians: Okay, I loved every second of this book. Truth be told, I actually didn't know how it was going to end. I figured in the beginning, that shark would just apologize and the book would be over, but NO! Shark gets offended too! I remember these moments from working in an elementary school so well. When one youngster is angry, its so easy to make the other one feel bad, and then both people owe an apology to the other. I often found that students may not understand why. By making the characters sea creatures and not humans, the child may be able to identify himself as one character or another to better help him understand why he might owe his friend an apology. As if that wasn't enough, the book is packed with these tiny little facts. Did you know, when a shark throws up, it is able to turn it's stomach inside out to do so? Yuck! Or that sharks don't have bones? Their skeletons are made of
cartilage - like the soft stuff in a humans nose - but not the boogers!
I just don't think this book could have made me smile anymore than it did. It definitely has the awwww effect at the ending as well. I think this would be a great book to read in any elementary classroom when you're taking about being respectful of others or how and why you apologize. It would also be great to read at home when siblings or friends aren't getting along so well. At the end of the day, this book was a fun read, and would be great as an anytime read.

Goodbye Brings Hello, written by Dianne White, reviewed by Caroline Rabideau

Summary: Many small children are experiencing their last summers and heading back to school in "Goodbye Brings Hello." Highlighting this time in a child's life as a time of change, this book celebrates milestones of growing up, such as a child's first haircut, outgrowing their favorite shirt and having to buy new clothes, or taking their first plane flight to see grandparents. It all ends with the child's first bus ride to his first day of school.

Straight Talk for Librarians: From a readers view, I think this book was a lot of fun to read. The words have a great rhythm to them, and every 2 page spread seems to flow together quite well. The pictures are simple and clearly illustrate what is going on in the text. Also, I really appreciated that the children on each page are very diverse; boys and girls of all different skin colors, family builds, shapes and sizes. I think this will make it easy for children to identify with and help them to realize that they too have accomplishments they can celebrate.
I do think this would be a good book to read to a kindergarten class in the first week of school. I think it could lead to discussions about things they have accomplished and are proud of, such as learning to tie their shoes. A class book could even be created where, like in this book, they draw themselves doing that thing they have accomplished. That would be a great early assignment that makes students feel like they are all included and part of a community. I also think the book could lead into a discussion about things they want to learn in kindergarten, and goal setting for the year.
My only frustration with this book is that I had no idea it was leading up to going back to school until the last 3 pages. Right in the middle of summer, there's a scene where a child is building a snowman. Then, a few pages later, another child is riding their bike or swimming in a pool. I believe that this story was meant to be about how attending your first day of school is an exciting accomplishment, but I wish it had focused on the things you accomplish in the summer and leading up to that day, rather than things you might do at any given point beforehand.

Lyric McKerrigan, Secret Librarian, written by Jacob Sager Weinstein, reviewed by Caroline Rabideau

Summary: When Doctor Glockenspiel, the sweater wearing, moth-controlling evil villain escapes from prison, the first thing he wants to do is eliminate all the worlds books. The only person who can save them is the one girl who loves the books so much she would risk her life for them. Slowly and in costume, she infiltrates Doctor Glockenspiel's secret lair, giving each person she meets their just-right book, teaching them to love to read again. Will they turn on their leader and save the books? Or will the Secret Librarian fail at her task, allowing the books of the world to be consumed by the dreaded moths? The world may never know, unless you read Lyric McKerrigan, Secret Librarian!

Straight Talk for Librarians:
This book was hilarious! I highly suggest, if you read this to your students, that you begin by playing the mission impossible theme and you read in your best comic book action hero voice. This is going to be one of those fun books that librarians love to read to their kiddos. This would be a great way to encourage your students who say they don't like to read to keep trying until they find something they're interested in. I often tell students who say they don't like reading, "it's because you haven't found the right book yet." Lyric McKerrigan teaches the characters to love reading by providing them books at their level on topics that mater most to them. It was no surprise that the illustrator has a history of writing graphic fiction, as the book was illustrated in a comic book style, with text boxes throughout the image. It would be a good way to introduce graphic fiction to your students.

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

Not If I Save You First, written by Ally Carter, reviewed by Stephanie Wilson

Summary: Maddie and Logan thought they would be best friends forever. That was before Russian operatives nearly kidnapped Logan’s mom six years ago. Maddie now lives off the grid in the Alaskan wilderness. Logan is world famous for his good looks and his penchant for breaking the rules. Logan’s dad sends him to Alaska as punishment. Maddie and Logan suddenly find themselves living in close proximity and working through their complicated feelings for each other. Logan and Maddie struggle to get along after six years of separation. When Russian operatives kidnap Logan, Maddie realizes she is the only one who can save him. She just has to survive first. Maddie’s survival skills are first rate. She can build a fire without matches, knows how to layer clothing like a pro and navigate a frozen wilderness without the assistance of GPS. Maddie is in a race against time to save Logan before the kidnappers fly him out of Alaska. Logan is not completely helpless. He has spent the last six years learning the Russian language. Maddie and Logan soon realize they will need to work together if they want to survive. Not if I Save You First is equal parts an adventure tale and a romance.

Straight Talk for Librarians: Not if I Save You First is an entertaining book but not serious literature. Ally Carter spends roughly two chapters on Maddie and Logan’s backstory. She effectively tosses the reader directly into the action of the novel. It moves the plot along but sacrifices character development in the process. The plot pushes the bounds of credibility. The juxtaposition of romance and action never truly coalesces into a cohesive whole. The novel contains numerous scenes of violence: including physical assault, use of guns, knives and attempted murder. The novel is not recommended for sensitive readers or readers under the age of fourteen. The novel works best as entertainment reading. Fans of Ally Carter and romances will love this novel.

Shadowhouse Fall, written by Daniel Jose Older, reviewed by Stephanie Wilson

Summary: Shadowhouse Fall, the sequel to Shadowshaper resumes the story of Sierra and her fellow
shadowshapers. As summer turns into fall, Sierra and her fellow shadowshapers face new dangers from an old foe. The Sorrows have regrouped and surrounded themselves with a more powerful ally. When Sierra receives a strange card from a classmate that features the mysterious Hound of Light, she wonders why. Her quest to discover the meaning of the card reveals her family’s darkest secrets, which puts her and everyone she holds dear in danger. Can Sierra put all the pieces together in time to stop the rising forces that threaten to destroy her? Shadowhouse Fall perfectly balances the realistic setting of Brooklyn, New York with its fantastical magical elements. This balance gives the magical elements the aura of plausibility. The characters are sharply drawn and engaging. Sierra’s voice is the strongest because she is the leader. However, Sierra needs every one of her supporting characters to be successful and she knows it. The novel moves at a lively pace and propels the reader through the pages. Readers should read Shadowshaper prior to reading Shadowhouse Fall. The complexity of the plot and characters make it tough to read the novels out of order. Too many important details and critical background information would be lost.

Straight Talk for Librarians: Shadowhouse Fall is recommended for fans of Shadowshaper. The series is appropriate for striving readers. The characters are multicultural and genuinely reflective of the novel’s urban setting. They have broad appeal for fans of modern fantasy. The novel contains multiple scenes of violent battles, high school level romance and death. Shadowhouse Fall is not recommended for sensitive or younger readers. Adult readers may need to consult Urban Dictionary to decipher some of the slang used by various characters. Shadowshouse Fall would make a welcome addition to any high school or public library.