Thursday, October 24, 2019

Book Case, written by Dave Shelton, reviewed by Kalie Mehaffy

Summary: The Book Case by Dave Shelton follows Daphnie, a young girl who is sent to a boarding school called St. Rita's, all set up with a scholarship and a job as the Assistant Librarian. When Daphnie arrives, she quickly learns that St. Rita's is not at all what she expected. There are holes in the driveway from chemistry experiments, a hole in the floor from a cannonball, a Latin teacher who drives a motorcycle, a library with no library books, and the Assistant Librarian position that is already filled. Daphnie learns to navigate this crazy boarding school with the help of a clumsy boy named George and the grumpy Assistant Librarian named Emily all while solving the mystery of a bank robbery and school break-in and while trying to fill the empty library with books.

Straight Talk for Librarians: I think that The Book Case by Dave Shelton is very fun, but I absolutely wish it had a little bit more world-building explanations. There were so many world questions I had while reading this book that were not answered. It was a great fun mystery and adventure, but I love being immersed in the world when I read, and unfortunately, I struggled with that immersion in this book. Overall, however, it was a fun mystery story. I do not think I would use this as part of the curriculum, but I would have it on my middle school classroom bookshelf for my lower readers, and if I taught fifth grade I would absolutely have it on my bookshelf. I think students can use The Book Case as an independent reading book and complete notes sheets on plot, action, climax, and dialogue, but I do not think there is enough to justify this novel being a class book. All in all, this is a very fun book to have on the classroom library bookshelf, but not one I would use in a lesson.

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Kill the Boy Band, written by Goldy Moldvasky, reviewed by Stephanie Wilson

Summary: Kill the Boy Band is by turns uproariously funny and tragically pathetic. The unnamed (almost certainly unreliable) narrator unravels the true story of the time she and three of her friends kidnapped the least popular member of The Ruperts. The Ruperts are the most popular boy band in the world. Ironically or tragically depending on your perspective, the band is comprised solely of chaps named Rupert. The four fangirl friends will do anything to meet their favorite band. All the girls really wanted were tickets to The Ruperts sold out show. Apple scores a room in the hotel where the band is staying. Isabel seems to have an inside track on the band's every move. Erin is plotting something and even her best friend, the unnamed narrator cannot figure out what. Apple kidnaps Rupert P. and drags him back into their room. She unwittingly sets in motion events that quickly spiral out of control Kill the Boy Band is an ode to the extreme behavior of super fans who will stop at nothing to get close to their idols. Moldavsky expertly pokes fun at the carefully crafted images of celebrities and celebrity culture offered up for public consumption. The girls are broken into subgroups based on the band member they love best. Rupert X is the pretty boy/rebel. Rupert L is the dumb one. Rupert K is the good-looking looking and too good to be true one. Rupert P. is the one that cannot sing. Apple loves Rupert P. Isabel loves Rupert L. Erin loves Rupert X and the narrator is smitten with Rupert K. She refers to him as a “life ruiner.”

Straight Talk for Librarians: Kill the Boy Band is irreverent and funny and amazing. The writing is clever and littered with references to 80's pop culture movies. The unnamed narrator gives various names throughout the book, none of which is her own. At one point, she says her name is Sloane Peterson (the lead female character in Ferris Bueller's Day Off). The references will probably not register with teen readers. However, curious teens might question their parents or Google to understand the connections. Due to the nature of some of the scenes in the book, I cannot recommend it for younger teen readers. There are references to drinking, taking drugs and teenage sex. Readers with an interest in music will enjoy this novel. I highly recommend it for current and recovering fangirls and fanboys.

Clark in the Deep Sea, written by R.W. Alley, reviewed by Klaudia Janek

Student Reviewer: Zuhaib S. 
Summary: In the book, Clark in the DEEP SEA by: R.W. Alley, he starts off by explaining what is going on in the book, with the youngest sister who is named Gretchen, and drops her teddy bear. After it falls, Clark who is the older brother as well as the protagonist, has to go on a journey to save it. The journey involves imagination of the main character and he has to deal with a few objects that are stopping him from obtaining the bear. The type of conflicts that the protagonist faces are those that are related to the protagonist’s pets like his dog and fish. Since it is raining outside, Clark relates it to the sea and his pet dog is a shark which has hold of the bear. At the end everything gets happy because Clark is able to retrieve the bear and end up giving it back to his little sister and everything was happily ever after.

Straight Talk for Librarians: This book could be used in the classroom because there is a lot of imagery present as well as descriptive words that could be useful to learn about in a literature class. This book could be used in the classroom is because the medium is watercolor which would also be used in an art class. This book is interesting because the author connects things in the real world to the imagination in the main character’s head. A good choice for a school library.

Good Night, Mr. Panda, written by Steve Antony, reviewed by Klaudia Janek

Student Reviewer: Ajit R. 
Summary: Good Night Mr. Panda, by Steve Antony, discusses a topic that everyone is familiar with, the daily routine when going to bed at night. Mr. Panda and his friends are all getting ready to go to bed, however his friends are forgetting essential parts of the routine before the go to sleep. First, Hippo tells Mr. Panda that he is going to bed, however, Mr. Panda informs him that he forgot to brush his teeth. Since Hippo is tired, he tells Mr. Panda that he will brush his teeth twice in the morning to make up for not brushing his teeth right now. Lemur, another one of Mr. Panda’s friends represents a person who follows the perfect routine and remembers to complete it all before bed. Next, Skunk informs Mr. Panda that he is going to bed, however like Hippo, Skunk forgot to complete a step in his routine, taking a bath. Once again Skunk goes around taking a bath by saying that he takes a bath once a month. Mr. Panda’s other friends, Sloth and the Sheep also inform him that they are going to sleep, however, they also forget to complete their routine, because Sloth is too tired to move, and the Sheep forgot pajamas. Mr. Panda is the responsible animal that is helping his friends get ready for bed until Mr. Panda goes to bed himself. The dialogue in this story either all involves Mr. Panda, and are either between an animal and Mr. Panda or between Lemur and Mr. Panda. The dialogue is kept short and between two individuals to represent the connection that the characters have with each other, especially with Mr. Panda. Mr. Panda is the balance between him and his friends, and he keeps the routine before going to bed until he goes to bed himself. The irony in the novel is that when Mr. Panda goes to bed, he does everything correctly but accidentally sleeps in Lemur’s bed instead of his own. Mr. Panda is helping his friends do everything correctly and complete their routine, however he ends up sleeping in the wrong bed due to how tired he is. The color used for the background represents a dark blue to resemble a dark night to complement the theme of going to bed.

Straight Talk for Librarians: This story is perfect for readers of all ages, and is perfect for parents who have readers that are not as excited or enthusiastic about going to bed. The fun story, colorful clothes and dark blue night background all keep the readers engaged and may even help them to think that bedtime is not so bad. A great choice for any school library.

Cicada, written by Shaun Tan, reviewed by Klaudia Janek

Student Reviewer: Riccardo S.
Summary: The story begins with a green cicada. He is working at an office and seems to be bullied by his many co-workers. Throughout the entire story, he complains about the harsh working conditions and how he works harder but gets less than the rest of the workers. He is the target of prejudice as his colleagues do not understand him because he is not like them. Towards the end, the reader will see cicada start the climb the stairs to the top of his office building. Before jumping off the building, he instead gets his wings, flies away and escapes the business. The book looks to analyze the situation of the common person in the workforce. Many people work hard and do not get what they deserve. It seems as though cicada does not have much to live for and readers might jump to the conclusion that he is about to commit suicide. Instead, cicada goes through metamorphosis and it seems as though he is liberated from his drab existence and his next step in life is joyful. He flies to a place where he is most happy: the forest. He gets the last laugh on the human race.

Straight Talk for Librarians: The art showed a grey hue throughout the entire book except for the end when redness erupts from the cicada depicting growth.The art seems deceptively simple, but at the same time, when you take the time to study it, it is very detailed. There are many layers of meaning throughout this book. Although, each page only holds about 10 words, they all bring a great amount of emotion. Many of the phrases seem sad. This book seems to be a commentary on how we let our lives become caught up in society's expectations and we just live with it. If we have the courage to change, then we may change the direction of our happiness. This is definitely a picture book aimed at older teens and adults as it is a bit dark, but it will make the reader ponder their existence and what is being accomplished.

Rabbit Magic, written by Meg McLaren, reviewed by Klaudia Janek

Student Reviewer: Emily M.
Summary: Rabbit Magic is about a magician and his star assistant Houdini, who is a rabbit that is excellent as a performer and a manager. One day during a show, the magician makes a mistake and in trying to help, Houdini turns him into a rabbit. While this was popular with the crowd, it seemed as if the magician’s new role as a rabbit was permanent. Therefore, Houdini takes over the show, and although he was not very popular with his team during rehearsals, Houdini became very popular with audiences. More and more, audiences grew to love Houdini’s show, but unfortunately Houdini himself became less excited and realized that others needed the spotlight more. So, Houdini gathered his team and they figured out how to turn the magician back into a person for his last show. In the end, the magician, Houdini, and his team are all happy together. Indeed, the book concludes that life is better when it is shared with other people.

Straight Talk for Librarians: This would be a great book to use to help kids learn to read; there are not too many words to a page and the illustrations are engaging because they are used to help develop the plot. Furthermore, this book is a nice way to help kids learn that not every job is just for one person, it is not always good for people to try to take over someone else’s job, and life can be better when they share it. For instance, even though Houdini becomes successful as a performer, he learns that he does not enjoy being the only one in the spotlight; a somewhat lonely tone is used here that emphasizes that this is a low point for Houdini even though the crowds love him. Therefore, he rallies his team to help the magician, who is sad because he had to give up performing, which makes him happy. The last page has a very celebratory and welcoming tone, which is made by everyone standing together and smiling. This brings home the idea that life is more special when people share it.

Nya´s Long Walk: a Step at a Time (Review #2), written by Linda Sue Park, reviewed by Klaudia Janek

Student Reviewer: Josephine L.
Summary: Taking place in an African village, Nya is given the job of retrieving water for the other people in the village. Given that it is very far away Nya must go through may difficult tasks in order to complete her tasks. For example, Nya had to carry her sister for some of the distance. Due to all of this, Nya dreads getting the water and the journey seems long and impossible. However, by breaking up the task into smaller segments, Nya makes everything more enjoyable. She looks at the trees and bushes on the way as checkpoints, viewing the journey as a bunch of small ones combined.

Straight Talk for Librarians: This story shows how even during tough times there are always positives. Teachers could read this book to students to teach them about other cultures. Elements such as what life is like in Africa and the sense of community is shown. Things that are often taken for granted, such as water, is shown as the valuable resource it is, gaining respect within the readers. Additionally, a positive message is shown taught to younger students. Even though the majority of the readers cannot relate to Nya's task, they can incorporate her ideas into their own lives. Learning early on that tasks are as bad as you make them, teaches students to always have a positive outlook. I would recommend this book because along with the simplistic artwork and interesting plot, a clear message is shown.

Real Cowboys, written by Kate Hoefler, reviewed by Klaudia Janek

Student Reviewer: William R.
Summary: To begin, the visual contrast of the vibrant colors, both dark and light appeal to the contrast of the human persona. The bright colors grasp the attention of anyone who may scan over or through the book. The colors are also very deep which adds to a sense of intrigue and warmth, similar to that of a campfire which begs the attention of readers. Furthermore the use of child-like stencils layered over the background serves to create a comforting mood, helping the reader to connect and become intrigued by the book. These childlike stencils also create a sense of safety, capturing the reader’s attention and emotion. This connection allows the reader to have an emphasized experience while reading Real Cowboys. Within the story each page is plastered with colors relating to the events of the page. For example in the beginning the cowboy starts the day with actions such as herding cattle, riding fast horses through treacherous paths, and dealing with stampedes and storms. This is matched with very bright colors such as reds, yellows and oranges that help add to the action-packed mood. As night seeps into the day and the cowboys begin to settle down, making camps underneath the stars, the colors of the page begin to darken and deepen. The colors migrate from reds to purples, and from oranges to blues, representing a more calm mood. Throughout each day the cowboys work hard to take care of their cattle, friends and family while continuing on their journey.

Straight Talk for Librarians: Within classrooms and libraries, this is a very good story to read aloud with young children due to its visual appeal and positive message. This would also be a great book for a children’s book club due to the sufficient amount of talking points that the story brings up. The main message, or theme of the story is that anyone can be a cowboy. The qualities that define being a cowboy are not limited to the tough, strong, “manly” traits that appear to be necessary, but rather cowboys are people who care for everyone and everything around them. Cowboys are those that take the time out of their day, even when they are busy, to continually care for, show emotion towards, and guide the people and world around them. This is a great message to portray to children at a young age in order to promote acceptance and care in our youth which will help lead to creating a better world in the future. Overall, I would give this book a rating of 5 stars because I feel the message truly hits home and is very important, especially given the state of our world in this day and age. It was a wonderful read with a positive message that all people should hear.

Best friends in the Universe by Hector and Louie (Review #2), written by Stephanie Watson, reviewed by Klaudia Janek

Student Reviewer: Abhinav N.
Summary: Hector and Louie are best friends, the greatest of friends they do everything together. They tell funny jokes and make funny drinks and they even named both their fishes python! Hector and Louie are the best of friends and want to write a book to celebrate it, but when a secret is revealed Louie and Hector had to face a huge dilemma, they must overcome each others mistakes and return back to the greatest of friends.

Straight Talk for Librarians: Overall, this book really spoke to me as the perfect thing to teach young kids valuable life lessons through cute and nicely drawn graphics and short sentences. The book begins with Hector and Louie being best friends and the things that they did together, really going into depth on why they are the best of friends. Many kids could relate to the silly things that these kids both love to do-  one being making new types of food like peanut butter toast milkshakes and both loving hilarious knock knock jokes. The story then flips the plot completely as Hector accidentally spills Louie's secret, combatting back Louie spills a secret about Hector and the both of them insult one another and develop a hate for one another. After a period of boredom and forgiveness the two reunite and become best friends again knowing that no matter if one of them spills another's secrets they still are the best of friends and they always will be. This book would be very useful young kids and their parents as the book teaches two very valuable lessons through the story one being that your best friends will always stay your best friends through all the ups and downs of any friendship, it is shown through nice and cute graphics that any kid finds amusing. The next lesson shown is one of forgiving and forgetting, the kids in the story fight and make up soon after realizing they are best friends, this situation will be remembered by kids and thus can then choose to exercise the forgiving and forgetting that brought Hector and Louie back together. To summarize, the art makes the book a very attractive read to young kids who love color and pictures, the sentences are short and simple which will also encourage small kids to read as well and overall will teach them valuable life lessons through such a simple medium.

Second Grade Holdout (Review #2), written by Audrey Vernick, reviewed by Klaudia Janek

Student Reviewer: Naveen N.
Summary: Second Grade Holdout is about a child who is afraid of moving on. He was very successful in the first grade and experienced many new and exciting events. In addition, he was with his best friend Tyler. But as the second grade began, he was told to take school more seriously and he was separated from his best friend. Sad and confused, he went back to the first grade. Going back to the first grade meant he could experience all those amazing feelings he had, and he did not have to move on and become more responsible and mature. Although his parents didn’t approve, he didn’t care. The child had heard that second grade is difficult and liked his first grade experiences better. Then, he figures out that second grade is amazing and that he wants to move on and have new experiences, when is ultimately the reason why he changed his mind.

Straight Talk for Librarians: This children’s book can be used in the classroom and libraries in many ways. The point of the book is to demonstrate a child who does not want to move on but ends up becoming more mature and responsible as the story progresses. It is a great way to teach a child these lessons. Every child experiences moments where they want to stay at a certain place and do not want to move on if it means leaving behind good experiences and friends. Teachers and librarians can use that to demonstrate how children should want to have new experiences, as this book portrays the child as a person who wants to stay the same instead of exploring new things. The story also shows how people shouldn’t believe everything they hear from other people. This message is conveyed when Tyler’s sisters talk to the child, as they make second grade out to be a negative place, even though it’s not. The story also uses tone, character analysis and dialogue between the characters to convey those two main themes.

Daddy-Sitting, written by Eve Coy, reviewed by Klaudia Janek

Student Reviewer: Saleh M.
Summary: A children’s picture book in which the roles between a daddy and daughter are reversed, but through the eyes of the child. The daughter describes how she “babysits” her daddy and the special things she needs to do to take care of her father. She says daddy likes to get up early (we all know that the kids are the first ones up!). She makes him breakfast, they go for a walk, swimming, do errands around the house and go grocery shopping. Throughout the book, she writes that sometimes she can’t be there for her daddy and cannot be watching him every minute (because the daughter fell asleep from a long day), and in those moments daddy needs to take care of himself.

Straight Talk for Librarians: This is a beautiful book with illustrations painted in watercolor. There is a modern Scandavian vibe going on in some of the clothing and colors chosen for the illustrations. They are earthy and soft. Parents will enjoy this story of role reversal and it allows the reader to see the day through a child’s eyes. The story is filled with love and you can tell the little girls loves to spend her days with her dad. It’s so adorable. The daughter has a very vivid imagination and thinks that maybe her dad can be an astronaut, lion tamer or famous chocolate maker. This is a great purchase for any school library and will leave readers with the warm fuzzies.

Seven Rules You Absolutely Must Not Break if You Want to Survive the Cafeteria (Review #2), written by John Grandits, reviewed by Klaudia Janek

Student Reviewer: Jacob L.
Summary: In Seven Rules You Absolutely Must Not Break if You Want to Survive the Cafeteria, Kyle has to buy lunch from the cafeteria for the first time. When Ginny hears this on the school bus, she gives him a list of seven rules he has to follow when he buys lunch, which makes Kyle nervous. Once Kyle tries to buy lunch, he accidentally breaks all of the rules, making him have a run in with a bully, a scary lunch lady, and scary 6th graders. When the lunch lady makes him sit with the 6th graders, including the bully, the bully turns out to be nice, and Kyle tells the 6th graders facts about bugs. He has a fun time at lunch, and when he goes on the bus home, he tells Ginny that the 8th rule is to never follow Ginny’s list of 7 rules.

Straight Talk for Librarians: Emerging readers will enjoy the over the top acrylic, colored pencil, and digital illustrations. This book could be read by teachers on the first day of school to try and ease younger students’ fears about the cafeteria and older students. The bully’s redemption arc shows readers that they don’t have to be afraid of the “older kids”, and Kyle’s overall enjoyment of lunch despite breaking the rules tells them they shouldn’t be nervous about buying lunch. Readers will also enjoy the funny ending when Kyle says the 8th rule. Students who are interested in bugs will especially enjoy this story, as bugs are often used to represent the other students in the class. Kyle even shares bug facts towards the end of the story, which will further interest these readers. If not read out loud to class, students could read the book on their own. Due to the somewhat high word count, it may be challenging for some emerging readers. It will help them practice their reading skills.

Back to School with Bigfoot (review #2), written by Samantha Berger and Martha Brockenbrough

Student Reviewer: Marti L-S.
Summary: This picture book teaches readers to check their privilege in the face of diversity. It provides an excellent window through which to mend the minds of developing readers and place a mirror up to their faces and display ignorance in their life whilst using Bigfoot as a motif for those at the bottom of the socio-economic ladder. The book is also designed to also be approached from the perspective of someone in as similar position of Bigfoot and offers so many examples that the character becomes almost universally related to anyone’s situation. Bigfoot is introduced as a character that struggles with the aspects of the education system and battles between the direct benefits school may provide him and the issues he may face as a result of attending school. It is astonishing that a picture book could be tailored to developing students and yet teach such complex ideals that are ever more important in today’s political climate. As for the art design, the vibrant colors contrast perfectly to keep the viewers attention throughout the picture book and does wonders for the understanding of each page as it works with the text to help the reader build an understanding.

Straight Talk for Librarians: This picture book should be tailored more to an individualistic approach instead of being presented in a classroom environment as the illustrations are extremely important to the full understanding of the picture book and every child might have a different approach. The interpretation is also a reason that an individual approach to the material should be used as the picture book heavily changes meaning depending on what the situation of the reader is and therefore would benefit from individual interpretation instead of a single, class enforced point of view. The book should still be part of a class as its message about individuality and struggle is extremely important to teach readers as it plays a large role in our society today.

Best Friends in the Universe, written by Stephanie Watson, reviewed by Klaudia Janek

Student Reviewer: Nataliah J.  
Summary: Hector and Louie are writing a book to explain the many reasons that they are the best friends in the universe. However, their friendship and their book begin to spiral downhill as they start revealing each other's secrets.

Straight Talk for Librarians: Watson takes on a unique approach on this fiction story of Louie and Hector, who are full of uncontrollable energy and humor. The illustrator, Le Uyen Pham, uses refined, clean-lined drawings to depict the real boys, while messy crayon illustrations indicate the pictures that the boys have drawn of themselves. In their book, the two friends list the reasons they are so compatible, including their mutual love of pythons, knock-knock jokes, and dancing. However, when it comes to keeping secrets, neither of them are successful in doing so. Soon after, a few accidental slips start a war of name-calling and insults. The illustrations show their real hands drawing kissy hearts and crying babies in mockery, while mustaches and devil horns embellish each other’s likenesses. Soon, their friendship ends, as does their book, and each boy begins to write his own book. The inevitable and unsurprising happy ending resolves rather quickly, but I believe this book is not about plot. It’s about the visual delight of seeing both the real and crayon versions of the characters use their joyful, and later angry, energy to celebrate creativity and friendship. Best Friends in the Universe was a tried-and-true friendship story executed with creativity and verve. This book can be used in classrooms with readers of young age who are still learning about the concept of friendship.

Nya’s Long Walk: A Step At A Time, written by Linda Sue Park, reviewed by Klaudia Janek

Student Reviewer: Dhara J.
Summary: The book is about a girl named Nya who lives in a village in South Sudan. One day when Nya and her sister Akeer walk to get water from the remote water hole far away from their village, Akeer becomes too weak to continue to walk back home. Nya must carry Akeer and the water home, one step at a time. This book teaches children about perseverance, strength, commitment, and bravery. It also teaches them about global issues, specifically the issue of access to clean water in South Sudan.

Straight Talk for Librarians: I enjoyed this book and its illustrations. I believe this book can teach children valuable life lessons as well as give them knowledge on global issues. It is simple to read, at the same time has a decent variety of vocabulary, which can better children’s reading and speaking skills. Important elements are used. For example, foreshadow is used with the truck which was mistaken for an antelope, this truck coming back at the end of the story. The tone conveys emotions of strength, worry, and happiness. The character Nya may be relatable to many children with younger siblings who have a responsibility to their parents and their siblings to look after them. It also relates in terms of hardships that children face in life, all over the world. The illustrations are beautiful, they’re abstract, stylized, and simply understood by children. Loose paint brush strokes are used to create the background. The book is very colorful, which helps convey the themes. Strokes of green conveys sickness and fatigue, while pink conveys family, home, strength and love. Overall, I highly recommend this book because of its beautiful illustrations, messages, and global issue awareness for children around the world. It would be beneficial in classrooms and libraries because of its messages and potential for children to learn.

Sun, written by Alison Oliver, reviewed by Klaudia Janek

Student Reviewer: Usman H.
Summary: Sun, by Alison Oliver, is a book describing the experience of a young boy named Sun, who is especially skilled at soccer, as he learns to reunite with his creative self by finding a fox on the beach. The book describes Sun as a “soccer star”, with a younger brother Pablo that loves to create art. As the book progresses, readers will be enthralled with the less-detailed yet colorful art style that portrays Sun’s rediscovery in a wide range of bright color. While Sun enjoys soccer, he feels as if something is missing, and goes to the beach, where he finds a small cave decorated with art and trinkets. Inside the cave lives a fox, which teaches Sun how to do things like trot, dive, find things, and most of all create. Sun and the fox make things together, and Sun finds his creative side with the fox.

Straight Talk for Librarians: Overall, the book pushes a clear message of exploring one’s creative side with their siblings, and being unafraid to discover that part of one’s self. Throughout the book, the artwork begins to grow in excessiveness, as the watercolors become more and more expressive. This can be seen as the growth of Sun’s creativity as the book progresses, and as the story progresses the message grows clearer with time. Furthermore, the book emphasizes being connected with others, as Sun and the fox are “connected” in the sunset, while Pablo and Sun spend more time together later in the book. The name “Sun” can be seen as inspirational, as it pushes readers to grow and rise with their creativity. The book can be seen as relatable to younger readers; as they grow, they may tend to focus on one hobby or sport, and forget their creativity. This is the situation that Sun is in at the beginning of the book, and readers will find the book to be relatable to their lives. The short sentence structure and colorful illustrations make this perfect for a read-out-loud book. Readers will also find this easy to read by themselves or with a parent, and the illustrations will keep them enticed.

Pirasaurs!, written by Josh Funk, reviewed by Klaudia Janek

Student Reviewer: Marc B.
Summary: Pirasaurs! is a great book about dinosaurs who travel the open seas as pirates. They are out searching for gold and other treasures. There is a new little orange dinosaur who is hoping he can adjust. The ship's captain is a fierce T-Rex who “points her fabled sword.” The crew finds land but falls into a trap with another shipful of scallywags. The Pirasaurs realize that if they unite they might have an easier time finding the buried treasure. One that will bring them many riches and an opportunity to celebrate.

Straight Talk for Librarians: The rhymes in this book make it a perfect read-aloud. Young readers will fall in love with the little orange dinosaur as he tries to fit in with the other buccaneers. This little guy teaches kids to do their best and to be a part of the team. Fans of dinosaurs and pirates will instantly love this book. With dinosaur brawls and a treasure map, the book is a classic rush to find the treasure against other crews. The book's tone is fun but becomes thoughtful when two dinosaur crews learn that they have to work together teaching kids an important lesson about working together. It is the little dinosaur who suggests this idea which is why he is thanked by the other dinosaurs and they all learn the importance of teamwork. The bright colors and jungle island themes, as well as the great shapes of the dinosaurs, give the book a rough pirate feeling. The artistic dino puns are funny and would make any young reader laugh. A good addition to the school library.

This is MY Fort!, written by Drew Daywalt, reviewed by Klaudia Janek

Student Reviewer: Hamzah B. 
Summary: This book is about a cake who builds a fort and does not let monkeys in. When a monkey asks to enter, the cake says that no monkeys are allowed. Then, when the monkey gets sad, the monkey goes on to build his own fort. And since his fort is much bigger than the cake’s fort, the cake wants to enter the monkeys fort. However, because the monkey was not allowed to enter the cake’s fort, the monkey denies the cake entry into his fort. Now the cake is sad because the cake does not want to just stay in the fort that he made and the cake feels like it is being trapped in his own fort and no one else's. In the end, the monkey allows the cake to enter the fort after seeing how sad the cake became. Essentially, this is a book which teaches the values about sharing. It shows what happens when somebody does not share and how it makes them feel when somebody else does the same thing to them.

Straight Talk for Librarians: This book has a really important message of sharing. There also seems to be a deeper meaning in it that came out after I finished reading the book. There is the idea of perception. Monkey learns to think out of the box and manipulates his use of language a little bit. There could also be some political undertones as there is a lot of talk in the news about “walls.” When you get down to the idea of what walls really keep in or out, there is not much point to closing yourself off. It’s a pretty complicated concept to introduce to younger readers, but this book does a really nice job of it. Definitely a good addition to any library.

J.P. and the Bossy Dinosaur (review #3), written by Ana Crespo, reviewed by Klaudia Janek

Student Reviewer: Cameron J.
Summary: This book is about a little boy named J.P. who goes to a waterpark with his family. Him and his sister see a giant waterslide and become very excited to ride it. However, a giant bossy dinosaur stops him from riding it and he becomes very sad. In reality, the “bossy dinosaur” is just a sign that tells riders how tall they have to be to enter the slide. J.P. is not tall enough. After he finds out he is not tall enough, J.P. becomes devastated and very sad. In the end, J.P. realizes that he is truly a happy person and shouldn’t let a small setback put him down too much. He then celebrates with his friends and lives happily ever after.

Straight Talk for Librarians: This book actually exposes young readers to real life problems. Instead of having the reader read about fairy tales where everything is happy, the reader actually experiences a setback. But the book teaches the reader how to rebound from this setback. I like this book because it shows kids that not everything in their life is going to go their way. However, life is not about setbacks, it is about how we handle these setbacks. This book can be very helpful to children in a classroom because when something doesn't go their way, teachers can give this book to them and it will teach them how to handle their emotions and will cheer them up. The tone is sad from the beginning, which is good because a sad kid can relate with this. But then the character in the book cheers up and I think sad kids will really feel better if they read this. Additionally, the illustrations are very vibrant and nicely drawn. The bright colors will really capture a kid’s attention and the nice drawings will keep them interested. Overall, this book was a great read and will be perfect for kids in a classroom.

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

Student Reviewer: Madeleine S. 
Summary: The Bear and the Piano by David Litchfield sends the message of chasing your dreams through the adventures of a bear who discovers a piano. The bear first discovers the piano not knowing what it is or how it works, but by returning and practicing every day, the bear learns to play the piano beautifully. He performs for the other bears in his forest and is soon discovered by humans, becomes famous, and achieves his dreams to play in front of large crowds on broadway. However, while the bear is away chasing his dreams, he misses his friends, and the book finishes with him going back to the forest to visit his friends. He is scared that they had forgotten about him, but when he returns, he realizes that his friends did not forget about him. The illustrations are beautiful and very detailed in that the colors and the softness or sharpness of the illustration helps capture the tone of the message.

Straight Talk for Librarians: The first message of the source is very age appropriate in which it teaches younger audiences that it takes time, practice, and dedication to achieve something you wish to achieve, and it will be a rough start. I also feel that the second message, where friends and family will always be there to support you and your journey is very important. There is also the idea of following your passions. Exploring the world outside of what is familiar to you. Many adventures await us in life and we should be prepared to embrace it, but also remember where we came from. In terms of the illustrations, they are detailed, but have a softer look with added depth that is not too harsh, and a dreamy-like texture to the illustrations to demonstrate curiosity. When the plot turns to the bear’s fame and adventures on Broadway, the illustrations become more intricate to represent the vibrant chaos, bringing about excitement from the reader. I feel that this book would catch the attention of younger readers from the illustrations, the way the text is written with emphasis on important words, and the messages being conveyed are significant to the growth and maturation of young readers. The story is a bit of a tear-jerker, so be prepared if you use this book for a whole class read aloud. Every library should have this beautiful book. It is especially perfect for the budding musician.

Little Libraries, Big Heroes, written by Miranda Paul, reviewed by Klaudia Janek

Student Reviewer: Elliott G.
Summary: The story, Little Libraries, Big Heroes, explores the idea that a single person has the ability to change the world as long as they put their mind to it. It encourages kids to follow their dreams and do what they enjoy, not what others want them to do. The book begins by exploring the way Todd, a student, felt in school. In school, “Todd did not feel heroic”. Often times, Todd struggled basic concepts in school like reading, he was looked down upon for asking questions. As the story progresses Todd grows and creates a free library for people give and take books. His mother was a reading teacher and her love of books inspired his idea. As this idea expanded it was spread to other parts of the world where people began to volunteer at schools and donate materials. Readers will learn about the impact Little Free Libraries have had on our society.

Straight Talk for Librarians: This is a non-fiction history picture book. It would be perfect for a history teacher to share in class and have on display. This book addresses literacy and social justice. Every library should have this book because of the impact Little Free Libraries have had on the world. There are currently thousands of stewards of Little Free Libraries all over the world. Children and adults can work to have a Little Free Library installed in a highly visible place. This book can spark ideas for kids to help and make a change in the world, it can be something small scale like Todd’s and then grow or just stay local. Students can be inspired to make a change and volunteer for certain groups that focus on making the world a better place. This book would be perfect for an IB student starting on their Personal Project journey. This book illustrates how a small act of kindness turned into something on a global scale. This book is a good choice for independent reading. It would be a “must have” for any organization looking to begin a Little Free Library. There is a lot of information in the Author’s Note section for those who may be inspired by this book. “You can be the story of change.” Todd H. Bol

This & That (Review #3), written my Mem Fox, reviewed by Klaudia Janek

Student Reviewer: Raphael R.
Summary: Written by Mem Fox and illustrated by Judy Horacek, “This & That” is a story which seeks to introduce kids to different aspects of the natural/historical world. The story begins with the mama mouse taking the baby mouse out of the bed box. Mama mouse then proceeds to lead the story through seas, caves, beaches, trees, kingdoms, circuses and carriages before finally tucking baby mouse in for bed. The story itself serves as a sort of analogy for the bedtime story, a hallmark of many homes.
The text itself is consists of basic, relatively short compound sentences which can be easily understood by an emerging reader while providing a moderate challenge. The story has an extremely lighthearted tone which is in line with its bedtime story style. It also includes several ellipses designed to keep the emerging reader always awaiting the next line. The story is a literal pageturner.
As for the illustrations, they are extremely large and simplistic, yet with a certain sophistication to them. The illustrations were drawn using watercolour on paper. In particular, Horacek chose to utilise a watercolour on water paper which limited the amount of line use and allowed for extensive shading, keeping the used shapes large and basic whilst adding an enormous amount of detail to the artwork. This benefits the emerging reader by serving as an example of and as an introduction to basic art and by challenging the emerging reader to interpret basic 2D images.

Straight Talk for Librarians: In terms of utility, “This & That” can best be described as the ideal bedtime story because of its emphasis on the love of a parent. In the context of a classroom or a library, the story serves as a wonderful introduction to the natural/historical world. Above all, the story serves as a tale meant to inspire the adventurous spirit and to initiate emerging readers as lifelong seekers of knowledge. “This & That” is a story which would make a wondrous addition to any personal or library bookshelf.

Monday, October 21, 2019

The Ugly Five, written by Julia Donaldson, reviewed by Klaudia Janek

Student Reviewer: Thu-Anh T.
Summary: “We’re the ugly five, we’re the ugly five.” After the introduction of some more well-known beasts of the savannah, the first of the ugly five steps in--a wildebeest who boasts about her ugly qualities, loving her position as the “ugliest.” Then, she stumbles into a hyena, who describes their own qualities one by one, taking pride in their position as ugliest. The two pair up, ambling along to meet the others, singing about their ugliness and collecting the other animals one by one--the vulture, then the warthog, and finally marabou stork--flaunting the same pride and combining forces. Still, they mention qualities that others may find painful or unlikeable. After collecting all five, the five beasts stumble into a surprise: infantile versions of the ugly five! “We’re your babies.” They appreciate their actions, showering the Ugly Five in love and compliments, turning their title around to “the Lovely Five.”

Straight Talk for Librarians: The book is a cheerful, endearing work on being happy with yourself, making a community, family, and love past appearances. The author writes in rhymes and repetition in order to create a flowing rhythm, which appeals to a reader. The formatting also develops a pattern to look forward to, keeping the book positive. The animals’ loudness and energy when talking about their ugly qualities also maintains the cheerful energy in the book. In addition, the illustrations paired with each section maintains mainly bright colors but keeping to the warmer, earthy tones. The animals also all smile when they unify, demonstrating the positivity in the community. It can be used as a funny, charming story of self-love and found family.

Next to You: a Book of Adorableness, written by Lori Haskins Houran, reviewed by Klaudia Janek

Student Reviewer: Dania Z.
Summary: In the book, the narrator is comparing several animals, such as baby ducks and giraffes to the reader. Essentially, no matter how cute the animal is, the narrator still thinks the reader (who he addresses as you) is the cutest. The narrator is trying to convey that no matter what options he or she has, the narrator would rather be with the reader because the reader is adorable. The entire book is the narrator making comparisons to emphasize how much he admires and cares for the reader. For example, the narrator says “ Next to you, the softest puppy in the world is only kind of cute”. This quote for example, though portraying the puppies to be adorable, is used to emphasize how the reader is adorable. This book is a cute way to compliment the readers by referencing them to be even cuter than the animals mentioned. At the end of the book, the last quote is “I’m happy to to you”. This is an uplifting tone at the end that makes the reader feel content as well as being an effective way to have full closure of the book.

Straight Talk for Librarians: I could see this book being used in the classroom to teach kids about animals, as lots of examples such as baby pigs and elephants, were addressed. The kids would get a good, positive outlook on animals and have a better understanding of how they look like. Furthermore, this could be used to have a fun read in class that could help the students gain more confidence as the personal pronoun usage of “you” makes it very personal. I feel this overall is great for getting the children familiar with more animals along with leaving them in a happier and more appreciative mood. The colors of the book have very pastel, light colors that are calming and satisfying to see. The drawings of the animals are very cute and simple, thus not being overwhelming. This book would make for a good read-aloud in a one-on-one setting. It would also make a perfect addition to an animal picture book display. It is definitely adorable!

Beyoncé: Shine Your Light, written by Sarah Warren, reviewed by Klaudia Janek

Student Reviewer: Dia C.
Summary: Through a dazzling and vibrant colors in 30 pages worth of gorgeous illustrations, Beyoncé: Shine your Light aims to inspire children to relentlessly drive torwars their passions, even in the face of decades worth of losses and setbacks. Delicately written by author Sarah Warren and soulfully illustrated by artist Geneva Bowers, Beyoncé’s decades worth of music and fame as a genre-defining R&B artist is compacted into a literary format truly befitting of a book painting the ever-present flair of the music icon Beyoncé. The book shows the idol’s ascension to fame starting from her childhood ambitions and uses her successes from a toddler to a top-charting artist with Destiny’s Child and then on her own. Words such as “grateful, independent, bright, angry, forgiving and fierce are used to describe Beyoncé. This biography ends with a reflection on a career as a pop-artist to topics that Beyoncé is working on now. Things like women’s rights, social justice, her hometown in trouble and the beauty of her people.

Straight Talk for Librarians: This book is a biography for the youngest Beyoncé fan. With positive words and images, this is a perfect introduction to Beyoncé in a picture book biography. The characters in the book are diverse to reflect all of her fans. Some of her iconic tour outfits are pictured throughout the book. There is a message of working hard and not giving up that will resonate with young readers. The bibliography at the end shows how much research went into the particular book. Readers may notice that a donation from all book sales will go to Beyoncé’s #beygood initiative. The author’s dedication at the beginning of the book is something that should be read before starting the book. “Shine Forward.” Beyoncé fans!

Second Grade Holdout, written by Audrey Vernick, reviewed by Klaudia Janek

Student Reviewer: Akila A.
Summary: This book serves to provide emotional support to children who are going to/will have to go through unfamiliar situations. The storyline starts with a little boy who talks about how much he loves and misses first grade. He tries to convince his parents to stay in first grade for another year because he is so scared of second grade and so happy with first grade. The tone and emotion switches several times as it starts with a sad tone and moves towards a joyful tone in the middle of the story. Then it shifts towards a confused tone and then enters a joyful, proud tone at the end of the book. The illustrations are very simple and sketchy yet they use a variety of hues and values to create realism. There is also a great ratio of pictures to text which keeps the book interesting and vivid. The element of sarcasm at the end of the book fits into the overall theme as the boy is beginning to be more mature as he feels confident entering the second grade.

Straight Talk for Librarians: This is a perfect book for readers who loved 1st grade and are a bit worried about the school year ending and having to start over with a new teacher in a new classroom. Tyler’s sisters were telling the main character all sorts of lies about second grade. Things like the new teacher will only allow black licorice on Halloween or that every student has to be able to speak Russian perfectly by Thanksgiving! Fortunately, the main character and Tyler soon realize that the older sisters are not being entirely truthful. They were just giving the up-and-coming second graders a hard time. This story has a fluid plot with a clear beginning, middle and end that a young reader can understand. This would also make for a good back to school read aloud. It will have a new class laughing out loud and could be a great ice breaker.