Wednesday, July 16, 2014

This Is Not My Hat - an audiobook review

Below is my review of This Is Not My Hat, as it appears in the July 2014, edition of School Library Journal.

This book offers a wonderful opportunity for cross-curricular instruction - adding music knowledge and appreciation to language arts.  Think of it as "Peter and the Wolf lite" for young listeners!

Listen to an excerpt from This is Not My Hat on Audible's website.

KLASSEN, JON. This Is Not My Hat. 1 CD w/tr book. 34 min.
Scholastic Audio. 2014. $29.95. ISBN
9780545675512.
PreS-Gr 3— Opening with "This hat is not mine. I just stole it," a small fish takes the listener into his confidence as he makes his getaway toward a place where he thinks that no one will ever find him. This unapologetic thief, his annoyed (and very large) victim, and a stool pigeon crab tell this wryly humorous and cautionary fish story. The outcome contains enough ambiguity that sensitive listeners can believe that the robber has more options than becoming a fish dinner. Irish narrator John Keating does a great job with a title that relies heavily on sight gags. Appropriately, his impudent robber is not particularly likable. Nevertheless, the listener empathizes with the brash little chap. A string ensemble, in a manner similar to Peter and the Wolf, accompanies the narration. A cello represents the larger fish, who never speaks, while a violin characterizes the smaller fish. The music ebbs and flows to match the story. Two versions are included on the CD. A gentle marimba riff signals page turns on the first version. The accompanying hardcover book is a "must" to truly enjoy this Caldecott Medal winner. Humor fans will love it.

Copyright © 2014Library Journals, LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. Reprinted with permission.

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Monday, July 14, 2014

Finish this sentence ...

"Finish this sentence: I'm a librarian.  I ..."

 Mrs. Joan Fertig, Hungarian-born librarian at the Westinghouse plant
Mrs. Joan Fertig, Hungarian-born librarian at the Westinghouse plant
Collins, Marjory, 1912-1985, photographer

Consider these rather simplistic statements that people might make about various degreed professions:

  • I'm a doctor. I care for people's health.
  • I'm an educator.  I teach people new skills.
  • I'm a lawyer.  I assist people with important legal matters.
  • I'm an accountant. I advise and assist people in the management of financial matters.

Now, finish this sentence:  I'm a librarian. I ...

...and therein lies a problem.  Although we are regulated in many states and hold master's degrees in our field, many (most?) people have no idea what librarians do. Even we can't distill it into a single sentence! As a whole, I feel that we're doing a poor job of promoting a greater understanding and appreciation of our profession in today's high tech era.

Here are some conversations I've had recently:

  • The other day I had some uncomfortable dental work (no one asks dentists what they do all day!).  My face was numb, my jaw hurt, and I was complaining about going to work.  "Don't worry about it," said my mother-in-law, "just find a nice corner where you can sit and read all day." (I wish!)
  • At a previous dental appointment, I was speaking with the hygienist and the conversation turned to various state regulations.  When I mentioned that NJ librarians must have state-issued certificates, she said, "Whatever for?  Why would a librarian need to be regulated?" (Among other reasons, because we are degreed professionals entrusted with the privacy and confidentiality of our patrons, the lifelong education of people of all ages, the proctoring of college level examinations, and the proffering of important and often sensitive information.)
  • Out with friends the other night, the topic of my job came up in conversation; someone said, "Oh, right ... Dewey Decimal System and all that." (It's the "all that" that takes up my time)


So - if you're not a librarian, what do you think we do all day?  If you are a librarian, can you finish my sentence for me so I'm ready the next time.  Please?


Note:
Want to know what the American Library Association has agreed that all librarians should know? The list is here, known by its official title of "ALA's Core Compentences of Librarianship." 

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Lowriders in Space - a review

The #WeNeedDiverseBooks campaign points out many reasons why it's important to have diversity in books. One of the reasons is that people like/want/need to see themselves reflected in the books that they read. Another is that people like/want/need to see the world through the eyes of people other than themselves. Whatever your reason for seeking diversity in books, I hope you find it in Lowriders in Space.


Camper, Cathy. 2014. Lowriders in Space. New York: Chronicle.
Illustrated by Raul the Third.
(Advance Reader Copy)

Quirky and unique, Lowriders in Space is a graphic, sci-fi novel that extols the virtues of working hard, working together for a common goal, and striving for success despite the odds of achieving it. It's also funny and stylish, and peppered with Mexican-American slang as it shines a rare spotlight on "lowrider" culture.

The cast of characters includes an impala, an octopus, and a mosquito:


  • "Lupe Impala was the finest mechanic south of Vacaville.  She could rescue a dropped gasket, notch a belt, or electrocharge a sparkplug, swish a swashplate or wrangle a manifold with a twist of her wrench a flick of her wrist."
  • El Chavo "Flapjack Octopus wielded the wettest washcloth North of the Salton Sea. When he polished a car, he spun over the paint job like an eight-pointed ninja star flying through the night."
  • "Elirio was the best detail artist around. People were a little afraid of Elirio Malaria."

They're best friends. They work together. They can count on each other.  But can they build a lowrider to win the Universal Car Competition?  They can when they accidentally use rocket parts and get a truly cosmic makeover!

Besides its truly unique and fun characters, I like that Lowriders in Space features adults. The general rule is that books for kids will be about kids. That's fine as a general rule, but a quality children's book about adults is a breath of fresh air.  When I was a very young kid, my favorite things to read were Archie and Veronica comic books and Nancy Drew mysteries.  They had cars and boyfriends and nary a parent in sight (unless you count Nancy's father, who was more like an early version of an ATM than a parent).

Humor?  Lowriders has that, too. My favorite panels?

El Chavo (the octopus) sitting in his new bucket seat (a bucket!). "¡Que suave!"
Elario rescuing the group from a black hole with ... Wite Out!

What else do I like about Lowriders in Space?  The subtitle is "Book 1." I sure had fun reviewing this one. I look forward to seeing more of this unconventional trio.

Back matter includes a dictionary of the Mexican-American slang and scientific terms used throughout the book (it is a sci-fi novel, after all).

Note: 
My advance copy was in black and white, with only a small sampling in color. See full color pages on the book's FB page. [https://www.facebook.com/pages/Low-Riders-in-Space/487615068027769?sk=photos_stream] 

Though I'm a Jersey Girl now, I lived for many years in Southern California. If you've never been stopped at a red light next to one of these bouncing babies, you're really missing something!  Want to see some lowrider action?  Check out this YouTube video, "60 Seconds of Low Riders."

Monday, July 7, 2014

Above the Dreamless Dead - a review


Duffy, Chris, ed. 2014. Above the Dreamless Dead: World War I in Poetry and Comics. New York: First Second.
(Advance Reader Copy)

Above the Dreamless Dead is an illustrated anthology of poetry by English soldier-poets, who served in WWI.  They are known collectively as the "Trench Poets."

Poems by famous writers such as Wilfred Owen and Rudyard Kipling are illustrated by equally talented comic artists, including Hannah Berry and George Pratt. The comic-style renderings (most spanning many pages), offer complementary interpretations of these century-old poems. The benefit of hindsight and perspective give the artists a broader angle in which to work.  The result is a very personal, haunting, and moving look at The Great War.

This is the "case" for Above the Dreamless Dead.
This, and many other interior photos at 00:01 First Second.

Look for Above the Dreamless Dead in September, 2014. Thanks to First Second, who provided this review copy at my request.

French soldiers of the 87th Regiment, 6th Division,
at Côte 304, (Hill 304), northwest of Verdun, 1916.
Public Domain image.
Note: Although this is not an anthology for children, it should be of interest to teens and teachers.  It could be particularly useful in meeting Common Core State Standards by combining art, poetry, history, and nonfiction.
Today is Nonfiction Monday.
See all of today's nonfiction posts at the Nonfiction Monday blog.