26 February 2010

Adventures of Captain Underpants

Adventures of Captain Underpants: An Epic Novel
Dav Pilkey
children's fiction
ages 5-10

Dav Pilkey is an Ohio author born in Cleveland and raised in Lorain. He went to Kent State University. This book is set at Jerome Horwitz Elementary School, Piqua, Ohio, 45356, as we find out on page 46 when George and Harold, the main characters, receive a package in the mail. If you search for Jerome Horwitz, you will find that he is best known as Curly of Larry, Curly, and Moe fame.

I had read "Halloweiner" and a few "Dumb Bunnies" books before, but for some reason I had not read Captain Underpants until this week. Years ago I had tried out the website that tells readers what their secret identity names would be in Captain Underpants' world, but didn't read the book.
By the way, my villain nom de guerre is Snotty Chucklenose, but years ago it was Snotty Lizardbrain.
This week I read this book with a 5 and 6 year old. The 5 year old laughed out loud over and over again and jumped up and down. Pilkey uses well established pranks, information that every American kid knows about superheroes, and his own experiences in grade school to established the Captain Underpants world of fun.
George and Harold are every teacher's nightmare. They pull pranks. They misbehave. They constantly interrupt in class. The principal thinks he has figured out a way to end all these shenanigans, but George and Harold have the last word. Everything in this book series is over the top - bigger, higher, faster, more absurd.
Captain Underpants has become a well established presence in school and public libraries - be that for good or evil purposes. Some teachers love it because it gets reluctant readers to read. Other teachers loath it because it shows students behaving badly and gives them ideas. Librarians as well are divided on loving or hating these books for their crass presentation. Either way, these beginner chapter books in the Captain Underpants series are very funny (in a poopy- farty, third grade, Bart Simpson kind of way).

Captain Underpants trivia

20 February 2010

TV Guide Book of Lists

TV Guide Book of Lists
The Editors of TV Guide Magazine
Adult nonfiction

Don't buy this book. At first glance it is a harmless list of all kinds of television trivia, but on further examination the trivia is WRONG! I found a number of names of television characters listed wrong, grammatical errors, sentence fragments that didn't make sense, and photographs with no captions. They seemed to even get the different versions of Star Trek mixed up.
If these are the editors of TV Guide, then where are the proofreaders?

16 February 2010

Adventures of Max and Pinky: Best Buds

Adventures of Max and Pinky: Best Buds
Maxwell Eaton, III
children's fiction
ages 3-7
This is a cartoon book about a boy (Max) and his best friend, a pig (Pinky). I think that Pinky is supposed to be Max's stuffed animal that he uses for pretending (like Christopher Robin and Pooh) but I am not certain. Max is a bald round-headed kid that looks a bit like Charlie Brown. Whatever the author's intentions, this book exhibits light-hearted slapstick little-kid humor.
In the front of the book it says "the illustrations in this book were created using black pen-and-ink with digital coloring". I have seen other books illustrated this way, but none explained it like this one did.
This is not necessarily an educational book, but the author does do things like use color words (red barn, deep blue pond) and repetition (here, there, up, down). English teachers out there should note that he uses the time-honored device of using the same phrase at the beginning and end of the book for opening and closure.
I will definitely be reading more Max and Pinky books because they were fun for me and my 5 and 6 year old audience. I would not be surprised if Nickelodeon, PBS, Dic, or another company picked this up for a children's television series.

15 February 2010

Little Island

Little Island
Margaret Wise Brown and Leonard Weisgard
first published under the pseudonym Golden McDonald
Children's Fiction, ages 4-6.
Caldecott Winner. Published in 1946.

I figured since I don't have much time right now for reading, I would try to do some quality reading of children's picture books like Caldecott winners or maybe read some books for older readers that have won the Newbery award.
This is quiet, thoughtful book good for bedtime or other calm reading times. An island experiences chances during the four seasons. The tide rolls in. The tide rolls out. The drawings use only a few colors but very effectively convey the ebb and flow of life and time on an island.
If you grew up on an island this might remind you of home. If you have vacationed on an island you can reminisce. If neither, then that is what books are for - dreaming!
I don't remember the exact words to this book, but I find myself reciting Henry Wadsworth Longfellow -
The tide rises,
The tide falls,
The twilight darkens,
The curlew calls...

Oh, yes. Twelfth grade American Literature class.

Busy Chickens

Busy Chickens
John Schindel and Steven Holt
Children's fiction, ages infant -3.
Board book.

I say this is fiction, but it is really photographs of chickens with some witty text added in, so I guess it is nonfiction. My library has it in with fiction, probably because there are not too many nonfiction board books in the collection and it was easier to shelve it this way.
This book is simply presented. Attractive chickens that would be strong contenders in any county fair are featured doing what they do best. They eat. They walk around. They flap. I found a smile forming on my face as I looked at some impressive combs and feathers. Many young children and their parents can enjoy this book. It certainly can go on display at fair time.
I can imagine a parent or preschool teacher reading this to children and saying things like "what color is THIS chicken?" and "look at THAT one!".
Now that I think of it, county fairs have photography categories as well, so give a blue ribbon to the photographer, too!

I see that there are other books in this series including:
Busy Kitties
Busy Penguins
Busy Barnyard
Busy Horsies
Busy Monkeys
Busy Pandas
Busy Bunnies
and more

Catching Genius

Catching Genius
Kristy Kiernan
Adult Fiction

The first thing I noticed about this book was the Adirondack chairs on the cover. I remember that my coworker who was always in charge of the Adult Summer Reading program used to look for books with Adirondack chairs on the covers to use in the display. It is a quintessential image of summer contentment to sit facing the water, catching rays, reading a paperback, and as far as library displays go, it will not offend our more delicate patrons by showing a scantily clad swimmer.

As to the plot, it is not necessarily light summer reading, but it could serve that need. Sisters Connie and Estella are reunited when their mother decides to get rid of the summer home that no one is using any more. They have to face their memories - good and bad - as they pack up the home. They had some happy times there until one of the sisters was diagnosed with an exceptionally high I.Q. and ended up spending too much time with her math mentor, eventually leaving home because of her gift. The sisters see this as the end of their normal, fairly well-off childhood. Is high I. Q. a blessing or a curse? They have seen it both ways. Now a nephew is identified as being gifted in music. Will it be a blessing or curse for him? How can they protect him from those who might exploit his talent? There is some romance and heartbreak thrown in, but it is not really a romance book.
This book could be used in a discussion by gifted students or their teachers or parents. A reader's guide is included in the paperback version.

08 February 2010

Bats at the Library

Bats at the Library
Brian Lies
children's fiction, ages 4-6.
Sequel to Bats at the Beach.
This one has "Halloween Storytime at the Library" written all over it.
Bats come to visit a spooky, stately-looking library at night.
The illustrations are realistic and it looks like a contemporary library. That is, they are realistic except for bats reading books, etc.
I want a poster of these bats to hang in my cubicle. I will pass on the real bats, however.
Here is a line to warm a librarian's heart:
"everyone - old bat or pup -
has been completely swallowed up
and lives inside a book instead
of simply hearing something read".
Lies pays homage to classic library books like "Goodnight Moon". Of course, if bats are reading it, the title would be "Goodnight Sun". I also see "Dreer Chiroptera" is on the shelf.
The bats are respectful and follow library rules (except for the one about sneaking in the library at night). I think that most librarians will find this to be a welcome book at their library, although real bats are not welcome.
A portion of the proceeds from this book is being donated to Bat Conservation International.

Christmas Sing Along Car-i-oke

Christmas Sing Along Car-i-oke
David Schiller
song CD
main book
auxillary books
ages 3-99
This is a clever idea. Why didn't I think of it?
The idea is that there is one music CD with Christmas carols on it. The chorus sings the first verse and the people in the car sing the rest of the versus.
The navigator in the shotgun seat (presumably Mom or Dad) gets the main book with lyrics and background stories and Christmas trivia.
The three backseat participants (presumably the kids and maybe Grandpa or a cousin or two) get the small books with just lyrics.
And a gay time is had by all. Fa la la la la la la la la!
A few of the recorded versions are nontraditional, but most should be able to be understood and sung by the average listener. There are a whole bunch of "Jingle Bells" verses that many people may be unfamiliar with.
The librarian in me loved the trivia and that it was cleverly and sturdily packaged in a hanging bag kit.
This is probably a set that you will either love or never use.
I listened to this in January and extended the Christmas season by a month.
If there is one Scrooge (maybe a surly teenager) in the car that refuses to sing, that Scrooge might still enjoy the trivia book.
My library has only this one in the series, but I see that there is also at least one more in the series: All American Car-i-oke.

Puss in Boots

Puss in Boots
by Paul Galdone
book plus audiocassette (the narrator is not identified)
classic children's fairy tale
ages 3-6

This is an old, old story that has been told many times. One of the first times was by Charles Perrault in French in the 1600's. Perrault is responsible for the introduction of Mother Goose and many tales.
Paul Galdone's version is pretty good and true to the original. Puss is a clever cat who can talk and he makes his master rich by his machinations.
You can see the clever grin on this Puss and you know he will triumph in the end.
If the only exposure that children have had to Puss is in the Shrek movies, then this is a good version to use to introduce them to the original story.

Zelda and Ivy: The Runaways

Zelda and Ivy: The Runaways
Laura McGee Kvasnosky, read by Jenny Selig
Book plus 2 audiodiscs
children's fiction, ages 5-8.

This set features two fox sisters in short stories that are good for beginning readers. The adventures are simple, funny, and short with not much plot twisting. Add Zelda and Ivy to the list of sibling pairs featured in children's stories (Arthur and D. W., Fudge and his sister, Max and Ruby, etc.). I see that my library has at least 3 Zelda and Ivy adventure books.
Since the adventures are very short, this works well in the car with small children with short attention spans. The audio part can probably be enjoyed by 3-4 year olds as well.
One disc has page turns and narration. One disc has just narration. I would think that they could save money and space by having them on track 1 and 2 of one disc.


Byron Barton
children's fiction, ages 2-5

This is a good book for preparing a child to take an airplane ride. It explains how the passengers get ready and the crew gets ready. Finally they take off.
That's all. It's that simple. It is classified as fiction, but it could be nonfiction as well. The pictures are cartoony and simple. This book would be a good one to round out a basic children's library collection in the Dewey 629 section. This book is 23 years old, but since it is so basic, it is not out of date.

Letter to Amy

Letter to Amy
Ezra Jack Keats
children's fiction,
ages 3-6

Peter is the main character in more than one Keats book. Peter, a little African American boy, lives in NYC and has simple adventures that are age appropriate.
In this book, Peter has a girl friend. He worries that his boy friends will think he is funny to have a girl as a friend. It is an appealing plot and boys and girls should both enjoy this book.
The illustrations are ripped paper and watercolors. Keats' story is tender and universal. I give bonus points for the use of the dachshund in the background and you can see that a number of books that I have reviewed have featured dachshunds.
It is copyright 1968, but is still timely and relevant.

Story of Ferdinand

Story of Ferdinand
Munro Leaf and Robert Lawson
Children's fiction, ages 3-7

This is an oldie but goodie. I see that it is copyright 1938. It isn't even in color, relying on pen line drawings. My guess is that was to make it affordable during the Great Depression.
I don't remember reading this book as a child, but I know I have seen the Disney short movie more than once. The movie, retitled "Ferdinand the Bull" is bundled with the "Reluctant Dragon", "Disney Rarities", "Timeless Tales", and more Disney compilation DVDs, all of which are widely available in libraries.
Ferdinand is a calm bull who wants to stand in the pasture eating daisies. Bulls are needed to fight in the bullrings in Madrid. They need fierce bulls. Ferdinand is bit by a bee and goes tearing around the pasture in pain. The scouts are sure that they have found a good bull for the ring. Will Ferdinand perform? The lovable Ferdinand is a perpetual children's favorite.
If your library's copies of Munro Leaf books have become worn out, then please consider repurchasing cheap paperback copies so more children can enjoy his books. I see that my library even has this book translated into Latin (Ferdinandus taurus)!

Going Places: Going by Train

Going Places: Going by Train
Weekly Reader Early Learning Library
Susan Ashley
nonfiction, ages 4-7

This factual book with color photography talks about the state of trains in today's world. It shows where trains are used, what kinds of trains there are, and has a glossary, index, and bibliography in the back.
This is a good I-can-read-it-myself book for children who are into vehicles since it is a tidy 24 pages long.
Since Ohio is planning to add a statewide passenger train, this book and other books on trains, should become more popular in the next 4 years.
Others in this series are:
Going by Bus
Going by Car
Going by Plane

Scoop that Snow!

Scoop that Snow!
Jon Scieszka's Trucktown
David Shannon, Loren Long, and David Gordon
Children's Fiction
ages 1-4

What's not to love about a book that has a window with plastic flake snow that a child can shake and sparkly glitter snow on the inside? This book features and enthusiastic tractor snow plow and a dump truck having a ton of fun clearing the streets of snow.
This sturdy book should appeal to many Tonka lovers and should hold up pretty well with heavy library usage until the plastic window is punctured.
This is less sarcastic and with broader appeal than some others in the series.

04 February 2010

llama llama red pajama

llama llama red pajama
Anna Dewdney
children's fiction, ages 3-6

This is an annoying book about a little llama who will not go to sleep.
I have read this before and did not care for it, but somehow it keeps resurfacing on my reading list.
Why did the author not capitalize the title?
Is llama llama red pajama the little llama's name?
Does it make sense that a little llama would sleep on his back with that long neck and long legs?
Mama llama is cranky. Little llama is scared. There is not very good resolution. Everyone behaves badly.
Why do people recommend this book? I don't. There are even some sequels.
Anna Dewdney is a fine illustrator. I see that we have some other books in our catalog where she is the illustrator but not author. In my opinion, she should stick to illustrating.

Picnic Farm

Picnic Farm
Christine Morton and Sarah Barringer
Children's fiction, ages 2-5.

The rhyming scheme in this book is somewhat along the lines of "This is the House that Jack Built". This is a picnic and whence the ingredients came. Eggs are from hens. Honey is from bees, etc. This lighthearted book reminds adults and children that we need farmers and farms for our food. This book was recommended by the local park system and I understand why. This is a good reminder for urban kids, rural kids, and the rest of us to appreciate our farmers.

Disney G-Force Ready Set, Mission!

Disney G-Force Ready Set, Mission!
Based on the new major motion picture
adapted by Nate Cosby
based on the screenplay by The Wibberleys, Ted Elliott, Terry Rossio, and Tim Firth
based on a story by Hoyt Yeatman

Some guinea pigs have to infiltrate a house and seize a computer file. Will they succeed in their mission?
This book must be based on part of the movie G-Force. It uses photographs of the movie to tell the tale. This is no literary classic and this poorly made paperback book fell apart while I was reading it. I was probably only the second person to check it out and now it is bound for recycling. I have not seen the movie, and based on this ridiculous book I am not looking forward to seeing it any time soon. I just don't buy the premise.
I also keep thinking about a different universe that uses the word G-Force. Maybe I pre-judged this book and movie because the name had already been used for Battle of the Planets: G-Force and the Fiery Phoenix.
In 1986, Gatchaman was re-worked in the US as G-Force: Guardians of Space by Turner, with a good deal of the original content that had been edited out of Battle of the Planets put back in to the show. It followed the plot of the original Gatchaman much more faithfully than Battle of the Planets because of this. However, the lack of Hoyt Curtin's original score and inferior voice acting prevented this series from attaining the high praise given to Battle of the Planets.[citation needed]

Marrying Anita: A Quest for Love in the New India

Marrying Anita: A Quest for Love in the New India
Anita Jain
Adult nonfiction, autobiography.
Anita grew up in the U. S. to parents who were born in India. She has always felt that she was part of both worlds and neither. As she ages, passing 21, 25, then the dreaded 30 her parents wonder if she will ever settle down with a nice Indian American boy. Anita thinks that she probably wants to get married and have children, but is not willing to settle for just anyone. She needs someone who is her equal. Wanted: modern, well educated, articulate, fun loving Indian or Indian American man, cast no bar (barrier).
Anita has a Harvard education and has worked all over the world. She isn't the most beautiful woman, but she is reasonably attractive. She has plenty of friends and has had a number of boyfriends. She decides to look for a man in India while working as a journalist. She tries classified ads, friends of friends, distant relatives, men off the street, men from bars, straight friends of gay friends. Will one of them be Mister Right?
In some ways, Anita is so liberated, but in so ways her situation is very sad. This is a fascinating study about how courtship has lost its way in the twenty first century. It could certainly be included in a sociology reading list about feminism, marriage, and the immigrant experience. One could compare and contrast this case study published in 2008 with those published 20 years before, 50 years before, etc. Maybe in 2029 someone will compare it to an autobiography written in 2028.
I found myself cheering for Anita to have a happy ending, but at the same time I questioned if she was too picky or not committed in her search.
Matchmaker, matchmaker, make me a match...

Little Lies: All About Math

Little Lies: All About Math
A Beastieville Book
Kirsten Hall and Bev Luedeke
Children's Fiction, ages 3-6.

Slider doesn't want to play, but instead of saying he doesn't want to play, he lies. Then he has to cover up his lies. In the end he is sorry.
This is a perfectly fine book with a moral. The math part, however, is too subtle for me. I would not say that this book is about math, but about lying and how it hurts people.
There is a glossary and a book discussion in the back, along with a math quiz. This must be the math the title references.
School Library Journal reported that this book "lacked focus". If it is supposed to focus on math, then it does lack focus. A better title would have been "Little Lies: Don't Let Them Hurt Your Friendships".
I do like the pictures and dramatis personae.

02 February 2010

Duck, Duck, Goose!

Duck, Duck, Goose!
My First Reader
Kirsten Hall and Laura Rader
children's fiction, ages 2-5

I have been going down the list of Kirsten Hall books at my library. She works with a number of different illustrators. This one is about - you guessed it - kids playing Duck, Duck, Goose! If you have a child who is about to head out to kindergarten or preschool for the first time, this is a good one to show how the game works. I can imagine that it might be a good book to use for an older sibling to explain the game to a younger sibling who has not seen the game. For children's librarians it is obvious that you can use this at storytime, then play the game with little children.
The children in the book play the game and imagine that they are faster than fast: running, flying, passing, winning! This is a joyful book. I can almost hear the children giggling through the pages.

Signs at the Pool

Signs at the Pool
(Welcome Books)
Mary Hill
Children's nonfiction, ages 3-7.

We are going to the pool. Let's review the rules and what signs we might see. This book is good for children learning to read and children who are new to swimming pools. This book uses colorful photography to show a little girl who is safely using the pool. There are vocabulary words in the back and book and website recommendations.
I recommend this book for school and public libraries.
Others in the series are:
Signs at School
Signs at the Airport
Signs at the Park
Signs at the Store
Signs on the Road.
I do not see that "Signs at the Library" is part of this series.