Friday, September 29, 2017

Ultimate Space Atlas - a review

Just in time for World Space Week (October 4-10), 
 here's a review of Nat Geo's Ultimate Space Atlas.

Ultimate Space Atlas
by Carolyn DeCristofano
National Geographic Kids, 2017

Let me begin by saying that a space atlas inspired my eldest daughter to become a rocket scientist by the age of 20 (see note below).  It doesn't matter what your child's age may be.  If you have a space enthusiast (or any kind of enthusiast), nurture and feed that enthusiasm. Follow it wherever it leads.

National Geographic Kids Ultimate Space Atlas is a picture book-sized, softcover atlas.  It's small and light enough to take with you on car trips, vacations, etc.  That's the beauty of an atlas.  The reader can invest as much or as little time as she wants—scan the Cool Facts, enjoy the images, or read more in-depth passages about constellations, lunar phases, favorite planets, or the possibility of life in space.

Immediately following the Table of Contents is the very helpful section "How to Use This Atlas." Despite this being the digital age, using an atlas is a useful exercise in learning how to group, classify, and present information.  The same skills that are used in creating an atlas, are those used in creating research papers, PowerPoint presentations, essays, and more. An atlas helps a child to process the questions:
  • What information do I have?
  • What portion of that information do I want to share?
  • What is my purpose in sharing it?
  • What is the best way for me to present it? 
But enough of librarian geekery, the point is that the atlas is organized into tabbed sections, Sky-High, Observing Space, Inner Solar System, Outer Solar System, Our Galaxy and Beyond, and Mapping Space.  Each section contains similar insets against a background of images - natural photographs, colorized images, and artistic impressions. The lack of glossy pages takes away a bit of space's luster, but space is magnificent even in matte finish. A few pages of fun activities round out the atlas and will suffice to keep a child occupied while waiting for dinner at a restaurant.

Ultimate Space Atlas includes:
  • Table of contents
  • How to Use section
  • Glossary
  • Index
  • Seven tabbed chapters 
  • Credits

You can download a National Geographic Kids fun pack here.

If you'd be interested in learning how an old space atlas inspired my daughter to become a rocket scientist by the age of 20, please jump over to this post I wrote back in 2013. []

My review copy of Ultimate Space Atlas was provided by the publisher's publicity agent.

Sunday, September 24, 2017


Don't forget—Banned Books Week starts today!
"Every year, there are hundreds of known attempts to remove books from bookstores, libraries and schools.  That’s thousands of lost opportunities to explore ideas that fuel understanding. Words have power and access to diverse ideas makes all of us more powerful. Celebrate the freedom to read by reading your favorite banned book during Banned Books Week, September 24 -  30.  Visit your local library for more information."

If you haven't created anything for your library yet, be sure to check out the #BannedBookWeek resources at the American Library Association website. [].

Easy things that you can use right away include:

Finally, I've posted this before, but Dav Pilkey's video contains my favorite words of wisdom on the topic of banned books. I hope you agree. 😊

Friday, September 22, 2017

Nothing Rhymes with Orange - a review

Nothing Rhymes with Orange
by Adam Rex
Chronicle Books, 2017 

It's hard not to like Adam Rex. His take on anything is usually genius, and so it is with fruit. Nothing Rhymes with Orange is funny metafiction that contains an orange who lamentingly inserts himself and his plight into the cheery rhymes,

"Happens every time ...
"The date is on a date and things are going pretty great."
"me and kumquat: always ignored."

"The kumquat and the currant felt left out until they weren't."
As the frontpapers note, "The illustrations in this book were rendered in fruit." Actual fruit images are given wildly expressive ink faces. A particular favorite is the manga-like expression of the starry-eyed orange when he finally receives some attention.

Requisite puns are in the author's bio.

Nothing Rhymes with Orange is simply good, fruity fun! Kids will eat it up.

Want more fun?  Download the Nothing Rhymes with Orange readers theater script from Chronicle Books.

Starred reviews in Kirkus and Publishers Weekly

Monday, September 18, 2017

Freedom in Congo Square - an audiobook review

Freedom in Congo Square
By Carole Boston Weatherford
Illustrated by Gregory Christie
Read by JD Jackson

Although I read the print book earlier, I recently reviewed the audio version of Freedom in Congo Square for AudioFile Magazine.

You can read my review of Freedom in Congo Square at AudioFile Magazine.

The following are some additional thoughts:

Freedom in Congo Square is a multiple award winning book, and the audio production with sound effects and music is flawless. However, the digital audiobook suffers without the accompanying picture book.  For full disclosure, I should mention that I've hosted the illustrator, Gregory Christie at my library and I am a huge fan, but the fact that he's a joyous and interesting person who wows children, is beside my main point. In the picture book version (for which he earned a Caldecott Honor), he captures the moods of each day so perfectly, and his transition from the torture of day-to-day chores to the joy of a music-filled Sunday afternoon at New Orleans' Congo Square captures a joy and resiliency of spirit missing in the audio version.  Although the narrator, JD Perkins, does a stellar reading, the accompanying music for the Sunday afternoon of freedom is rhythmic drumming with no hint of the tambourines, flutes, fiddles, and triangles mentioned in the foreword.

By all means, listen to the audiobook version, but have the picture book on hand as well!

You can still visit Congo Square!  It's located within New Orleans' Louis Armstrong Park. It is on our National Register of Historic Places.

I am slowly getting back up to speed following Hurricane Irma, which impacted almost every part of Florida. If you are a resident of hurricane impacted areas in Texas, Florida, Georgia, or Louisiana, please remember that your libraries may need your support, but they're also there to support you!  Libraries and everyday people are a combination that can weather any storm. 😊

If you want to help libraries in Florida and Texas, here's how:
  • The Florida Library Association has set up a Florida Libraries Disaster Relief Fund at
  • Want to help Texas libraries recover from Hurricane Harvey?  Click Here for more details about the Texas Library Association Disaster Relief Fund.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Hurricane Irma

I am part of the mass exodus of people from vulnerable cities in Florida. No posts from me until I'm safely back home (or whatever is left of my home) on the Florida coast.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Miguel's Brave Knight - a review

Quick! Think of a book that fits the following:
  • long and difficult to read
  • not originally published in English
  • has an adjective specifically to describe it
  • has a popular idiom inspired by it
  • inspired a hit Broadway play
  • a bestseller in countries around the world
  • popular for centuries
  • inspired artwork by a master
(see Note below)

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Some upcoming dates to celebrate at your library

I know that every librarian checks a copy of Chases Calendar of Events, but just in case these have slipped your mind, here are a few dates that are coming soon:

  • September 30—National Public Lands Day Grab your friends and family and head to the park!  Admission is free for all federal lands and many state parks on this day. Follow @NEEFusa on Twitter or

  • October 4-10—World Space Week The U.S. in under-represented in the celebration of this commemorative week, but any excuse to promote space is a good one in my book!

  • October 8-14—Fire Prevention Week Enlist the help of your local fire department to obtain materials or a visit from Sparky, the fire dog to your school or library.  Anything we can do to avoid a preventable tragedy is worth doing. 
Of course, don't forget that it's Library Card Sign-Up Month


This is by no means an exhaustive list - just what happens to be on my radar. 
Feel free to add anything I may have missed.

Beneath the Waves - a review

As we read disturbing news accounts of dying manatees , environmental disasters caused by toxic waste, and ocean pollution on the scale of ...