Thursday, April 27, 2017

King of the Bench

y648.png (396×600)Just when you thought that the middle grade lovable loser category was filled along comes Steve Moore with No Fear, the first installment in the King of the Bench series. If you have read all the Timmy Failure, Diary of a Wimpy Kid and The Misadventures of Max Crumbly series then you should make a beeline for this book.

Steve is an average middle schooler with great (if not somewhat overprotective) parents. He desperately wants to be a sports star and baseball is his sport of choice. He has a few problems however: he's not exactly a star athlete, he has a paralyzing phobia and the team already has a few star athletes already, one of whom happens to be a girl he finds attractive.

Steve's weird tryout to get on the team, his daily school routine, his unorthodox pets, his crazy friends and more are all detailed in this laugh-out-loud book (the sporting goods store episode is particularly hilarious as is Carlos' gas issues).

Books like these are formulaic to some extent but I think part of their continuing appeal is that many more athletes than not are average and most kids are average and there's nothing wrong with that.  The fact that the main character is named Steve suggests that there may be some autobiographical details
in the book (or not, maybe I'm trying to read too much into it). This is a fun, quick read for grades 3 and up.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

STEM on a Budget- Things that Move

 Budget cuts affect everyone and the climate since the turn of the year has not been friendly to libraries to say the least what with threats to various funding sources and the like. Conversely however, STEM and STEM-based programs have gained traction in schools and libraries as educators seek to make science fun again.

These programs however cost money and a single magnetic set for example can cost well into the hundreds on Lakeshore and similar sites. This post  is  snapshot of a recent STEM program for babies and toddlers that I put on at my library. I work in a multi branch system and we have a library of materials available for check out so this enabled me to use materials free of charge. I did make some simple ramps using some cheap posterboard I got at the dollar store.

I did not want to forget babies since they often are the furthest ones from our mind when we think of every program except baby storytime. However if we provide simple directions to the parents and caregivers and provide an inviting space, the little ones can indeed have a great time. One thing I would change for next time is to make a few small 3x 5 laminated cards with simple instructions for activities parents can do at home with their little ones.

In the next few months we will do Texture, Size and Shape. That should provide lots of fun learning opportunities for families.

Friday, April 7, 2017

The Harlem Charade by Natasha Tarpley

61lNbRTlzwL._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg (331×499)Is it ever too early to encourage kids to become active in their community? From an early age some parents teach their offspring about volunteering, fundraising, canned food drives and the like. Some kids however become influenced by what their parents and guardians don't do and this is part of the story in this novel for middle grade readers.

Jin's grandparents run a bodega and make kimchi and she is content to help out in the store and journal her observations. Then two weird things occur. One night an older gent buys a goat's head pez dispenser and then later a kid from her school comes in and leaves metro cards on the shelves. Thus begins some new friendships as her world opens up.

Jin along with a reticent classmate named Alex and a newcomer called Elvin are drawn into a decades old mystery that involves history, friendship and art. In the process they learn about each other, about themselves and about the wonderful borough in which they live.  The author Tarpley lived in Harlem and her love for the borough shows in her descriptions of the streets and various sections of the borough.

Gentrification is not something you see covered a lot in middle grade fiction, neither is the Harlem Renaissance but Tarpley manages to do so without being heavy-handed. I recommend this book for ages 8+. Some read alikes to it are The Great Shelby Holmes by Elizabeth Eulberg, Blue Balliett's The Wright 3 and Kate Messner's Capture the Flag.