"If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales." Albert Einstein

25 August 2016

The Evil Wizard Smallbone

Sherman, Delia. The Evil Wizard Smallbone. Candlewick, 2016.

Nick finally escapes his abusive uncle's home, only to find himself on the doorstep of an evil wizard who makes Nick his apprentice, which makes it impossible for Nick to leave his house. Smallbone has Nick cooking, cleaning, and caring for his animals; meanwhile the town around him is falling apart because they have not taken care of the magical protections the wizard had placed there. It takes the natural magical talents Nick has working together with Smallbone to save the town from someone even more evil than Smallbone himself.

This was an adorably magical middle grade story, and kids who enjoy fantasy worlds like Harry Potter would likely enjoy this one as well. The characterization and world-building are well done without completely hiding the plot, and the action scenes will keep readers turning pages to find out what happens next. This book would make an excellent classroom read-aloud as well. Recommended.

Recommended for: middle grade
Red Flags: fantasy violence; the wizard often threatens Nick and has in fact threatened his previous apprentices as well
Overall Rating: 4/5 stars

I received a complimentary copy of this book through NetGalley for the purposes of review.

23 August 2016

Learning to Swear in America

Kennedy, Katie. Learning to Swear in America. Bloomsbury, 2016.

Yuri is a genius. At 17, he already has a PhD and has unpublished work that will probably win him a Nobel prize. So when scientists discover that an asteroid is headed toward Earth, Yuri is high on their list of people they want on their team. He is flown in from Russia and placed in a group to solve the asteroid issue. Because of his age, few people will take him seriously. He doesn't fit in with the scientists, so he finds some teens and attempts to assimilate American culture through them, meanwhile continuing to try to convince adults that his idea is right.

This book was truly a good read. Yuri is a very sympathetic character, and I love that he simultaneously dresses in suits because he's around adults all day and also sneaks out of his hotel at night because he is a teenager. He is often frustrated by the adults around him who fail to take him seriously. Meanwhile, there is an asteroid heading toward Earth and that tension builds as the reader knows that, one way or the other, by the time the book is over they'll know whether the scientists' plan worked or not. This is a delightful story that would appeal to a wide range of readers.

Recommended for: teens
Red Flags: Yuri does eventually learn to swear in English (there is also a small amount of Russian profanity); he talks about having sex but never actually does, at one point while watching the asteroid, a scientist chooses to urinate in a cup so he doesn't have to leave the room
Overall Rating: 4/5 stars

18 August 2016

It Looks Like This

Mittlefehldt, Rafi. It Looks Like This. Candlewick, 2016.

Mike is the new kid in school. His family has relocated, and Mike's dad is trying his best to make sure Mike doesn't turn out "soft." Mike's friendship with Sean soon turns into something more than friends, though, and Mike's parents have to decide how they want to respond to the person their son is becoming.

After a very slow and stilted start, this book picks up and becomes interesting about halfway through. The characters are not very fleshed out, and the mention of church in the blurb is a bit of a misnomer, as church does not feature prominently in the first two-thirds of the story. The family could not accurately be described as evangelicals or religious or anything of that nature. I continued to read this book mainly out of obligation as I intended to write a review, but not because the pace or characters were interesting enough to keep me going. The story seemed to be told almost without emotion, and the flat, short sentences did not draw me into the story at all. As there are other books on this topic that are better written and more enticing to a reader, this one is not recommended to any but the largest libraries or those with extensive collections of LGBT literature.

Recommended for: teens
Red Flags: bullying, teen alcohol use, teen sexual experiences, drunk driving, a teen is sent to a conversion therapy-style camp, at said camp there is a creepy almost molest-y director, mild language
Overall Rating: 2/5 stars

I received a complimentary copy of this book through NetGalley for the purposes of review.

16 August 2016

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Books Set in Space

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature hosted by the Broke and the Bookish.

Space: the final frontier ... Here are the top ten books set in space:

  1. Pathfinder by Orson Scott Card. The author's personal beliefs aside, I really liked this series.
  2. Steelheart by Brandon Sanderson. This book is set on Earth, but a comet/planet/something from space - they call it Calamity - comes to Earth and sets the whole story in motion.
  3. Illuminae by Amie Kaufman. This was an excellent book to listen to as an audio selection. I don't know that I would have enjoyed the print version as much as I enjoyed the audio, which was excellent.
  4. Of Beast and Beauty by Stacey Jay. Beauty and the Beast set in space on another planet. Shut up and take my money.
  5. Cress by Marissa Meyer. This is book #3 in the Cinder series, and Cress is a Rapunzel-esque hacker trapped in orbit of earth. 
  6. The Long Earth by Terry Pratchett. To be fair, I'm not a big fan of the rest of the series, but this first book in the Long Earth series is really good.
  7. The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell. Love this one. 
  8. Binky the Space Cat by Ashley Spires. Binky doesn't technically go into space, but he does build himself a rocket ship and prepare to leave orbit. In the end, though, he doesn't want to leave his people behind.
  9. The Martian by Andy Weir. I still love this book. I have read it maybe five times already and I haven't gotten bored yet.
  10. Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card. Again, the author's personal beliefs turn my stomach, but this is by far one of my favorite books ever. The movie was on the yucky side of "meh," but the book is excellent.
Have you missed one of these excellent titles? Then add it to your to-read list. Is there one I'm missing? Let me know in the comments.

11 August 2016

Teen Programming: National Night Out

National Night Out is always the first Tuesday in August. Interestingly enough, my Teen Advisory Board (TAB) meetings are also always on the first Tuesday of the month. This year we decided to combine these events and have the teens take care of the library's table at National Night Out.

At the July TAB meeting I asked the teens what type of thing they would like to do at the table. I suggested a craft or something simple, since we would have to transport everything there and there would be lots of other things for people to do. The teens suggested face painting, which is easy enough to manage, so I approved their suggestion and lined up teen volunteers to take care of face painting that night, provided that I brought supplies.

I purchased three Snazaroo face painting kits, three extra packs of brushes, two sets of hand mirrors (from the dollar store), and one package of baby wipes. I was hoping to keep things relatively clean this way and allow the teens to keep face painting as we sent someone to clean brushes. The Snazaroo paint is kid-friendly and cleans off easily. I also made sure to pack the library's table cloth as well as some bookmarks, pens, pencils, and other library paraphernalia so that people would have a takeaway even if they didn't want to have their faces painted.

The set-up was very simple, and once the event started, our table was extremely popular. The teens were kept busy painting faces and hands, and those who were not painting were rotated through brush washing duty and "go look at interesting things happening tonight" duty. Everyone did work and everyone got a break, too, and we had a busy table for most of the night. At the end, we put away the face paint, bundled up the brushes (to be brought home and sanitized in my dishwasher), wrapped up the table cloth and we were good to go. Set up and clean up each took about five minutes, so we got to focus most of our time on what we were doing, and in between customers I was able to chat with the teens and get to know them a bit better.

I will definitely be doing this activity again next year if the teens are still interested, as it was the best combination of simple and successful I've seen so far.