Tag Archive for: bsnow

Scaredy Squirrel series by Melanie Watt

A good friend of mine and I have been mailing each other squirrel-themed items cross country for a while now. Why? Just because we can! It started with a little light-hearted teasing and quickly progressed to mayhem.

Squirrels are polarizing which is great fodder for ongoing, long-distance, smack gifting. On one hand, they are adorable, resourceful creatures of great cunning–symbols of Mother Nature’s whimsy (think Beatrix Potter’s Squirrel Nutkin). On the other hand, they are evil incarnate–finding ways to destroy gardens and auto electrical systems, vandalizing bird feeders, and taunting neighborhood dogs.

Like opinions about squirrels, the surprises my friend and I have shipped each other have varied widely. They’ve ranged from cute, little earrings perfect for celebrating a gorgeous autumn day to an abomination of a lawn ornament in the form of a plastic stump cradling a cherub with an evil grin feeding an equally evil-looking, bushy-tailed beast. (Guess who found that on her porch!) I wish, though, that before things had gotten out of hand I had found the delightful Scaredy Squirrel picture book series written and illustrated by Melanie Watt.

Watt, a Canadian author and illustrator of children’s books, has created a fun book series with a message. Spanning from 2006 to 2022, her Scaredy Squirrel books have helped kids acknowledge their fears and grow in confidence. In each title, the main character Scaredy is seemingly paralyzed by a fear which grows as he dwells on it. As prepares to face his fear, Scaredy ratchets up the anxiety by creating equally elaborate and ridiculous safety kits and escape plans only to discover that life is full of surprises. Although the surprises interrupt his carefully crafted plans, they demonstrate that obstacles can be overcome, self-confidence can blossom, and a good time can be had by all.

Scaredy truly comes to life in Watt’s delightful illustrations. He practically visibly quivers on the page, adding to the tension of the stories. An anxiety-ridden, germophobic rodent, Scaredy radiates his nervousness to the audience every time he flashes his trademark ear-to-ear grin with tightly gritted teeth. He is fun to watch on the page as he navigates Watt’s elaborate maps and plans and charts; the fitness plans and campground map in Scaredy Squirrel Goes Camping display Scaredy’s paranoid preparations at their finest. Watt’s comic-book style–engaging and familiar–introduces the story without overwhelming readers and offers an accessible means of interacting with the book.

The series lends itself to preschool and early elementary audiences through the topics presented and the vocabulary level. The books are great for reading aloud with an adult as they are rich in opportunities to interact with the art and the text. Scaredy’s elaborate maps and escape plans are a hoot, and it’s fun to trace their pathways across the pages together. His antics and his journeys through anxiety-inducing situations offer so many points for kids and adults to talk through tough situations.

However you may feel about squirrels in real life, try one of the Scaredy Squirrel series titles for an amusing, feel-good read. Happy reading!

Congratulations to JPL Staff!

Joplin Public Library (JPL) was recently announced as the winner of multiple Missouri Library Association’s Awards and a Grant at the 2023 Awards Gala held in Columbia, Missouri.  The Missouri Library Association is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit educational organization operating to promote library service, the profession of librarianship, and cooperation among all types of libraries and organizations concerned with library service in the State of Missouri.

Beth Snow, JPL Teen Services Librarian, was awarded the Community Partnership Award, alongside Lisa Nelson from Landmark Builds, for their Iconic Joplin collaboration. This award recognizes a Missouri library and one or more community organizations for developing a partnership that benefits members of their shared community. As part of Joplin’s 150 year birthday celebration, Iconic Joplin engaged youth ages 12 to 16 in local history by building landmarks out of LEGO elements.

Snow was also awarded the Show Me Youth Services Award, which recognizes a library employee, Friend, or Trustee who serves as and/or advocates for children or young adults and who demonstrates notable and outstanding performance in planning, developing, and promoting programs, services, collections, reading activities or advocating for children and/or teenagers in their libraries and communities.  Snow has worked as the Teen Services Librarian at the Library since 2015. In addition to being an advocate for the teens in her community, she works to foster a space where all teens can be who they are.

Carolyn Trout, retired JPL Director, received the Meritorious Achievement Award, which recognizes an individual who has made a significant contribution to

Beth Snow (Teen Librarian), Lisa Nelson (Landmark Builds), Carolyn Trout (former JPL Director), Jeana Gockley (JPL Director, on behalf of Justin Kelly)

libraries in Missouri. A recipient must be either an individual outside of the library profession or a retired librarian. Nominees must reside in Missouri and should have made either a contribution to libraries that gained recognition beyond the local level or have made an innovative contribution in the decisive factors in library development. During her time as JPL Director, from 1988 until 2006, Trout was a part of some very important projects for Missouri libraries. She served on a committee that created the first standards Missouri ever had for public libraries; she was instrumental in her work with the Missouri State Library on a program created to train non-library degreed public library staff; she was a connector of information and people using her passion for reference and history to introduce many to libraries; and library advocacy was important to Trout, and it is still something she is doing in retirement.

Justin Kelly, JPL Systems Administrator, was awarded a $3,000 Access and Innovation Grant, which aims to enhance, support, and develop library technologies and innovation that improve patrons’ access to library services.  The grant will be used to upgrade internal wireless access points to offer WiFi6e protocol to accommodate more users at higher internet speeds.  This is part of an ongoing effort to keep in step with national “broadband” standards. It will also bring a higher level of wireless security, along with new network monitoring tools.

“We are honored to be recognized by the Missouri Library Association for our efforts in patron services, community collaboration, and a commitment to ongoing improvement,” said Joplin Public Library Director Jeana Gockley. “Our staff is our greatest resource and these awards shine a light on the talent, dedication, and excellence present in this community’s local library.”

Tolkien Companion Books


Titles reviewed:
The Atlas of Middle Earth (revised edition) by Karen Wynn Fonstad
J.R.R. Tolkien, Artist & Illustrator by Wayne G. Hammond and Christina Scull
Tolkien: The Illustrated Encyclopedia by David Day

Hello, book fans! It’s fandom week here at the book review, so buckle up as we travel through one of my favorites, the world of J.R.R. Tolkien!

Whether based on authors, individual books, or a series, literary fandoms generate a lot of material to pore over and to dissect. There can be a lot to enjoy and a lot to ponder beyond a book’s basic plot. When world building is involved, that amount of material can increase dramatically. When the world is as detailed as Tolkien’s Middle-Earth, it’s an exponential jump.

What to do with all of this information? Organize it, of course! One of my favorite fandom creations is the companion book–a title created specifically to aid the reader in exploring the fictional world that sparked the fandom. Companion books can take a variety of approaches to the original work–atlas of the fictional world, dictionary of terms or characters, encyclopedia, character genealogy, etc. They are generally very helpful books aiding in enjoyment of the original work and often entertaining in their own right.

The first time I binge-read the Lord of the Rings trilogy I had just seen the Peter Jackson films and had that visual reference vividly with me. Years later when I read the series again, I had a companion book nearby with a detailed map of Middle-Earth, character genealogies, a glossary, and other tools that added so much more to the experience..

Every journey needs a map, and a trip with Tolkien is no exception. (One does not simply stop in Mordor to ask directions.) The Atlas of Middle-Earth (Revised Edition) by Karen Wynn Fonstad is a great resource for the casual and hardcore Tolkien reader alike. Fonstad was an American cartographer whose methodical, thorough approach offers an opportunity for casual readers to dip in and out of the sections they want without being overwhelmed.

The atlas begins with chronological divisions showing the history of Middle-Earth then follows with a chapter of regional maps (including the Shire) and maps covering The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings topped off by thematic maps such as climate, vegetation, and languages. Each map is accompanied by explanatory text that may prove helpful for casual fans navigating the books and movies and interesting throughout (particularly the history section) for superfans. The sepia-toned maps with their minimalist precision lend an old-school feel resembling Tolkien’s original drawings.

J.R.R. Tolkien, Artist & Illustrator by Wayne G. Hammond and Christina Scull delves into the body of pictorial works across Tolkien’s lifetime from childhood paintings to final sketches. A deeeeeeep dive into Tolkien’s art, this title is great for readers intensely interested in the history of book illustration or all things Tolkien. The book is laid out chronologically, generously filled with 200 reproductions of his designs–the majority of them in full color–and just over 200 pages of thoughtful, in-depth text. It’s the academic tone of the highly detailed text that moves the book to the realm of die-hard fans although absolutely worth a flip-through for the mid-level enthusiast.

Tolkien: The Illustrated Encyclopedia by David Day welcomes a range of Tolkien fans by pulling together a variety of details about the fictional world and its inhabitants. Arranged like a traditional encyclopedia, Day’s work provides detailed-yet-easily-digestible information on Tolkien himself and the history, geography, sociology, natural history, and biography of Middle-Earth. Each entry offers background and description of its subject matter in clear, concise terms and provides context within Tolkien’s writings. The encyclopedia is heavily illustrated throughout using a wide assortment of art styles, most in full color. Its design is accessible and engaging, making it easy for a casual user to find what they need. The varied art produces a welcoming, slightly groovy vibe that meshes well with the text, creating a delightful companion on the journey through Tolkien’s imagination.

Speaking of Tolkien’s imagination, Hobbit Day refers to the shared birthday of characters Bilbo and Frodo Baggins and is observed on September 22 by many Tolkien fans. This year, the Joplin Public Library and the Empire Market have teamed up to bring a piece of Middle-Earth to Joplin for Hobbit Day! Kick off the free, all-ages fun at the Library on Friday, September 22, 11am-6pm, with a scavenger hunt, crafts, and more, then visit the Empire Market on Saturday, September 23, 10am-2pm, for awesome activities plus special food and merchandise from market vendors. Costumes are always welcome. See you there!

Cryptid Club by Sarah Andersen


It’s that time of year again–the 2023 Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards (better known as the Eisner Awards) will be held on July 21, 2023, in conjunction with Comic-Con International: San Diego. The pinnacle of comics accolades, they are named for Will Eisner who was a cartoonist, as well as a pioneer of the comic book industry and of graphic novels. Eisner valued high-quality work within his field and championed both works and creators to the public at large. The annual awards honor excellence in more than two dozen categories over the previous year. 

Even though I never quite make it through the entire list of nominees, I enjoy delving into the current nominee list and reflecting on some old favorites. This year, I find myself loving the 2023 “Best Humor Publication” nominee Cryptid Club by Sarah Andersen.  

Andersen is the author and illustrator of the popular “Sarah’s Scribbles” comic strip which uncovers the life of “an adulting introvert” which is full of delightful, awkward weirdness.  In Cryptid Club, she turns her lens to an imaginary social club composed of creatures whose existence is unproven.  Bigfoot, Slenderman, the Loch Ness Monster, Mothman, ghosts, space aliens, and a host of other characters gather to share stories of human encounters, to hassle each other and humans, and to carve out a place for themselves in the world.

Arranged primarily in single-page spreads, Cryptid Club offers a full-color mini-story on each page.  The text is tight and concise as are the jokes.  A four-panel page shows two space aliens complimenting their art skills, “Omg, you DREW that?…You are so talented…I can’t even draw a stick figure” then pulls back to a long shot of mysterious shapes carved into a hillside of chalk.  One of my favorite pages offers two vertical panels–the top a closeup shot of a famous creature of the deep shouting in a scary font, “RELEASE THE KRAKEN!” and the bottom one a wide shot showing a fenced-in baby kraken next to its mother who is reading a newspaper while deadpanning, “You’re staying in time-out, Benjamin.”  In the two-panel page “The Call of Cthulhu”, the title character stares down at a cell phone while steeling itself to answer, “Come on, Cthulhu. Pick up the phone. Your anxiety does not control you. You can do it.”  Andersen’s quirky humor shines in a spread introducing Mothman to the audience. Bigfoot describes Mothman to a ghost saying, “Have you heard the legend of Mothman? He only appears to humans before a disaster.” Then, we see a woman preparing to cut her hair exclaim, “These bangs are gonna be so cute!”

Sarah Andersen offers a delightful, funny take on the anxious moments of adulthood in a title that’s fantastic for adults and many teens.  Whether you’re into comic strips or the weird unknown, Cryptid Club is a hoot and well worth investigating.  You can find it through our e-resources Hoopla and ComicsPlus. Happy reading!

Star Wars Fun

Titles Reviewed:

LEGO Star Wars in 100 Scenes by Daniel Lipkowitz

The Padawan Cookbook: Kid-Friendly Recipes From A Galaxy Far, Far Away by Jenn Fujikawa and Liz Lee Heinecke

Star Wars: The Complete Visual Dictionary–The Ultimate Guide to Characters and Creatures from the Entire Star Wars Saga by David West Reynolds and James Luceno

Star Wars Everyday: A Year of Activities, Recipes & Crafts From A Galaxy Far, Far Away by Ashley Eckstein

Officially, Star Wars Day is observed on May 4, as in “May the Fourth be with you.” In my family, however, it’s Star Wars Day everyday–mostly because my brother is a superfan who can tie just about any day and any thing back to the world of Star Wars. Why limit yourself to one day when there is an epic space saga to explore!

While searching for resources to celebrate the ongoing holiday, I ran across several titles that go beyond the usual fiction and graphic novel rehashing of the movies. Here is a quartet of nonfiction books tied to the Star Wars universe.

I’m a big fan of the heavily illustrated, informational books published by Dorling Kindersley (DK). Known for their clean layout with a focus on bright, engaging illustrations accompanied by easily digested, explanatory text, DK books offer an accessible entry to a multitude of topics. Star Wars: The Complete Visual Dictionary–The Ultimate Guide to Characters and Creatures from the Entire Star Wars Saga by David West Reynolds and James Luceno is a prime example. It offers the standard DK presentation of a 1-2 page spread on each entry consisting of full-color photos on white background, accompanied by informative summary paragraphs along with detailed captions and sidebars. The book provides comprehensive coverage of characters, creatures, and concepts from the films accompanied by a short glossary. What I like about the DK layout is that it accommodates whatever I have time or am in the mood for which can be anything from a targeted search to random browsing to a deep dive. I can treat it like a reference book or enjoy it as light reading. This title is great for both the casual and hard core Star Wars fan.

LEGO Star Wars in 100 Scenes by Daniel Lipkowitz, also a Dorling Kindersley publication, employs the same helpful visual focus. It is exactly what it claims–100 key scenes from Star Wars films (original and prequel trilogies) enacted in LEGOs. The book’s tagline is “six movies…a lot of LEGO bricks” for a reason. Full-color photos of LEGO sets and minifigures include speech bubbles of dialogue or self-referential text. Brick icons offer insight into LEGO sets related to the scene at hand. Sidebars offer commentary from C-3PO as an ongoing comedic bit. LEGO Star Wars in 100 Scenes is a fun title for elementary ages and up. There’s something here for everyone–LEGO builds, plenty of minifigs, and humorous, sarcastic asides (think family-friendly Mystery Science Theater 3000 commentary). Lots of fun for LEGO or Star Wars buffs!

Another entertaining title for elementary age and up is The Padawan Cookbook: Kid-Friendly Recipes From A Galaxy Far, Far Away by Jenn Fujikawa and Liz Lee Heinecke. It’s full of do-able recipes for a variety of ages with differing levels of kitchen experience and adult assistance. Both the content and presentation are enticing with colorful borders and line illustrations throughout along with jauntily displayed color photos for nearly every recipe. The book is divided into eight sections labeled to mimic Jedi Trials with a helpful glossary in the back. Each recipe lists prep time, cooking time, yield, and dietary consideration codes plus sidebars imparting a range of information about ingredients, techniques, culinary terms, food science, and tidbits from the Star Wars Universe. A handy measurement conversion chart and kitchen tools list round out the helps. The recipes themselves are colorful and entertaining whether it’s the frothy blue of the Bantha Milk Slushie (butterfly pea flower powder for the win) or the adorable Butter Chewies (butter mochi topped with toasted coconut and icing to resemble Chewbacca) or the bright Ahsoka’s Jelly Cubes (orange, blue, and white gelatin bound together and sliced) or the Sarlaac Shake (chocolate milkshake with a mouth and tentacles of pie dough rising from the top). The Padawan Cookbook has a positive, can-do vibe about it that encourages fun in the kitchen.

The Star Wars Universe has its share of hard core fans, and Ashley Eckstein, author of Star Wars Everyday: A Year of Activities, Recipes & Crafts From A Galaxy Far, Far Away, is no exception. A self-proclaimed superfan from childhood, Eckstein grew up to be the voice of Ahsoka Tano in the Star Wars: The Clone Wars animated series. When she says, “Star Wars is truly a lifestyle,” she means it. Arranged by month over the course of a year, the book offers crafts, recipes, party ideas, and mindfulness activities in each chapter. Each entry includes a brief description tying it to the Star Wars Universe. Many of the entries seem conventional approaches such as Hoth Chocolate Snowballs (white chocolate hot chocolate bombs), Bantha Suprise Burger Bites (tempura meatballs), Carbonite Clay Masks (home spa facial masks), Ewok House (decorated bird house), Cardboard Box Podracer (for kids to drive and adults to make), Planet Paper Lanterns, and a felt Boba Fett helmet stuffie. However, some activities appear to be a bit out of the ordinary including the Cloud City Dinner Party featuring the recipe Betrayal With A Side of Rice. (This is why I love nonfiction–some things you just can’t make up.) This, along with the incorporation of lifestyle activities, is certainly a new take on the Star Wars Universe for many fans although it is likely to attract the attention of a new audience. While some entries may seem a reach–budgetary or otherwise–there are also neat possibilities. Like the movies themselves, this title is interesting fun that can take itself a tad too seriously on occasion. Star Wars Everyday lends itself to an adult audience due to its approach, presentation appeal, and difficulty level of several activities.

Whether Star Wars is your jam or it’s another fandom, the Library has you covered! May the Force be with you!

How to Be A T. Rex by Ryan North and Armadillo Antics by Bill Martin, Jr., and Michael Sampson

How to Be A T. Rex by Ryan North, illustrated by Mike Lowery

Armadillo Antics by Bill Martin, Jr. and Michael Sampson, illustrated by Nathalie Beauvois

As grateful as I am for the magic of finding titles in the Library’s electronic catalog and as helpful as it can be when searching, I still think nothing beats leisurely browsing the shelves for something new (or new-to-me). There’s nothing like strolling through the stacks looking for a title that strikes my fancy. I found a pair of picture books hanging out together, just waiting for someone to pick them. They just so happen to be about animals (of one sort or another) and sources of eye-catching art. Both titles are fun, engaging, and great for reading aloud to little ones.

How to Be A T. Rex, written by Ryan North and illustrated by Mike Lowery, is a great place to start! Its bold art matches well with its brash main character. Sal is a little girl with a BIG agenda–she wants to be a Tyrannosaurus Rex when she grows up. (Or maybe even before then!)  A dinosaur super fan, she loves that T. Rexes get to roar and stomp around and swat things (and people) with their tails. By sheer force of will and to spite her older brother, Sal turns herself into one and immediately initiates a mission of stomping, roaring intimidation. That is, until she’s sent to her room. There she learns the downside of living the dino life–she can’t wear her nifty shoes, her dog doesn’t like her as much, and it’s hard to be anything other than grumpy when all you can do is roar. Fortunately for Sal, she realizes the best of both worlds (human and dino) and invites her friends to be pretend dinosaurs with her.

Sal’s independent spirit comes through in Mike Lowery’s art. Vibrant orange and green and blue saturate the book cover to cover, emphasizing Sal’s energy and determination to live her best dinosaur life. Drawn in comic book style with bold black outlining and lettering (but minus the panel structure), most of the illustrations are full page with boisterous scenes and spirited, exclamatory text. Lowery’s technique is very effective at grabbing the reader’s attention, especially when it comes to showing all the amazing things a T. Rex can do. His illustrations also have a sense of humor and are great for exploring with a little one; Sal’s dinosaur-saturated bedroom is packed with details and worth a second or third look. Find a young person (or T. Rex) to delve into the book with or give it to a young reader to explore. How to Be A T. Rex is silly, rollicking good fun either way.

Despite its name, Armadillo Antics is less a madcap romp and more a relaxed opportunity to revel in rhyme and art. The book is an unhurried journey of the nocturnal mammal as it moves through its “day”. Each two-page spread features a rhyme and illustration depicting a different activity during the animal’s waking hours. For example, antics begin with “Armadillo, Armadillo, Armadillo, run. Romp and play till the night is done.” The rhyme is spread across two pages interspersed with frolicking cut-paper armadillos, cacti, and moon. “Armadillo” is a funny word to say no matter what, and this is no exception. The short rhymes and repetition of the text make this a great book for reading aloud to little ones. Reading aloud, observation, and language exploration are important components of early literacy and are put to good use here. Definitely share this one with toddlers, preschoolers, and early readers.

If Armadillo Antics seem vaguely familiar, it’s because the title is a collaboration of veteran picture book authors who have partnered with a contemporary illustrator who works in similar media as their earlier collaborators. Bill Martin, Jr. had a long career as a picture book author, including the well-known Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? with legendary illustrator Eric Carle and Chicka Chicka Boom Boom with the equally legendary Lois Ehlert. All of the word repetition and rhyme and charming story of those classics are evident in Armadillo Antics. Although Martin died in 2004, he left an unpublished manuscript of this book, a collaboration with teacher and literacy advocate Micheal Sampson with whom he worked regularly.

Argentinian illustrator Nathalie Beauvois has a style that meshes well with that of Carle and Ehlert. Her collages of cut paper and paint create texture and motion on every page. The armadillo on the front cover wears armor in a tapestry of gold, rust, and brown triangles that are vibrant against the velvety blue background. Most of her palette is more subdued than those of Carle and Ehlert–less vibrant primary colors and more an exploration of natural, earthy tones–yet still full of nuance. This is a great title for practicing observation skills and starting conversations with pre- and early-readers. As a bonus, an armadillo fact sheet is included at the end of the book.

These two picture books proved delightful and fun to read. You can find them and a lot more stories about animals in the Children’s Department. I hope you enjoy them as much as I did. Happy reading!

Review written by: Beth Snow, Teen Services Librarian

The Art of Bob Mackie by Frank Vlastnik and Laura Ross

I’m a firm believer in the power of sparkle and shine to brighten up the short, dark, chilly  days of winter, especially those after the holidays. It doesn’t have to be much–just a little something to perk up the doldrums before spring appears on the horizon. Today’s book meets those criteria for me, presenting an amusing diversion to the post-holiday “blahs”. 

The Art of Bob Mackie by Frank Vlastnik and Laura Ross absolutely brings the bling to the realm of coffee table books. Its deep blue front cover is framed by shimmery, turquoise flames and sprinkled with tiny silver bubbles. Title and authors are printed front and center in shiny silver Art Deco font. The effect resembles so many Mackie creations–cut outs wreathed by wavy strips of opulent fabric suspended in crystal-sprinkled illusion. Just looking at the sumptuous cover injects a little shot of fabulous into my day.

Known to some today as a clothing merchant on QVC, Bob Mackie is a veteran costume and fashion designer with a career spanning six decades. He made his mark in television with stints designing for film, Broadway, pop stars, and Las Vegas shows. His signature style blends daring and humor and sparkle for looks that range from campy to dazzling.

A native of southern California, Mackie briefly attended college then art school before leaving to work in Hollywood. He started his career in 1961 as a freelance sketch artist at Paramount Studios under the famous costume designer, Edith Head. The next year he moved to 20th Century Fox, sketching for its costumer, Jean Louis. While there, Mackie created sketches for the designer’s dress worn by Marilyn Monroe at President John F. Kennedy’s birthday party (the same dress worn by Kim Kardashian to the 2022 Met Gala). In 1963, Mackie began working as an assistant under costume designer Ray Aghayan on The Judy Garland Show. From there the TV work grew to a full partnership with Aghayan focusing on variety shows and musicals and setting up Mackie for his solo career and best-known successes, weekly variety shows for Carol Burnett and Sonny & Cher.

Mackie’s career exploded while working with Carol Burnett and Sonny & Cher in the late 1960s and 1970s. He created everything from spangled, feathered, over-the-top concoctions for Cher’s musical numbers to the infamous “curtain rod dress” (now in the Smithsonian) for Burnett’s parody sketch of Gone With the Wind. For Carol Burnett’s variety show alone, he designed 60-70 costumes each week for 11 years roughly totaling 17,000 outfits–an amazing feat of imagination and stamina. His weekly television work expanded to include other media and performers. Mackie’s work has been nominated for over 30 Emmys (winning 9), 3 Oscars, and has won a Tony. In 2019, he received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Council of Fashion Designers of America. He continues to work today.

The Art of Bob Mackie is a chronological journey of Mackie’s career loosely divided by sections for each performance type he designed for–film, TV, stage, music. The book claims to be “the first ever comprehensive and authorized showcase of the legendary designer’s life and work, featuring more than 1,560 photos and sketches–many from Mackie’s personal collection.” It’s large although not overwhelmingly thick, and every inch is packed with drawings and photographs (often of the same costume, showing its evolution) in an eye-catching layout. Both types of illustrations, large and small, are tucked around the text or arranged in larger spreads. While Mackie’s more well-known works, such as his creations for TV variety shows and for pop icons Cher, Diana Ross, and Elton John, receive more space there is good coverage of interesting (and sometimes surprising) work throughout his career. 

There is plenty to see in this book; the authors don’t skimp on Mackie’s visual contributions. It’s a great title for anyone interested in costume design or fashion illustration as it provides a window into the designer’s process and artistic skill. For example, it’s easy to follow the course of Mackie’s collaboration with Cher and its subsequent effect on her career as she moved from ‘70s-influenced streetwear to his beaded, feathered, and sometimes shocking attire. Regrettably, the brief text’s quality doesn’t match that of the illustrations. The written content is cloying with dated, cheesy, overly chatty asides and descriptors that sound like they come from a mid-twentieth century Hollywood gossip magazine. Read it for the factual basics and ignore the rest. That’s OK–this book ultimately is all about the amazing art. Take a deep dive or come back to it for smaller bits, it works either way.

Whatever you think of his work, The Art of Bob Mackie offers a look at the career of one of America’s influential costume designers. You can find more information on this topic and so many more at the library where there’s something for everyone. Happy reading!

Review written by Beth Snow, Teen Services Librarian

Cool Math: 50 Fantastic Facts for Kids of All Ages by Tracie Young and Katie Hewett

Let’s face it, for some of us, “math” can be a four-letter word. Math anxiety is all too real for folks in and out of school alike. (For example, some frequent results for a recent Google search for the term “math anxiety” were “Why is math making me cry?” and “What is math trauma?”)  I don’t know all the reasons why math generates anxiety, but I can tell you that it does for a whole lot of us and that a lot of us are looking for help in that realm.  Math study guides–especially those covering algebra–are one of the most sought-after subjects in the teen non-fiction collection.  Anything that explains a complicated subject clearly (What–numbers and letters together in an equation?!) or that can help the concept to click is huge.

Cool Math: 50 Fantastic Facts for Kids of All Ages by Tracie Young and Katie Hewett arrived in the teen non-fiction collection this summer and sat with algebra study guides towering over it until, one day, it made its way to a back-to-school display. That’s when I spent some extra time with the small, handy title. It’s a perfect size to pop in a backpack and presents a low-stakes approach to math through 50 appealing mini-lessons.

Right from the cover, Cool Math puts out a casual, engaging vibe to counteract anxiety or stereotypical assumptions of stuffiness about the topic. The book begins with a “Great Moments in Math” section introducing fun facts of math history and a quote from American mathematician, Stan Gudder, “The essence of mathematics is not to make simple things complicated, but to make complicated things simple.”  (A point met with skepticism by plenty of us math anxious folks.)

Yet the book delivers on this premise. Each fact is offered clearly and concisely over a two-page spread. Backgrounds resemble graph paper, chalkboard, etc., and additional material appears in eye-catching, highlighted shapes. The pleasant, orderly layout adds to the laid-back approach. Each spread provides a student-friendly explanation of the topic, walks the reader through the process of approaching the solution, shows how to arrive at the answer, and adds interesting trivia. The spreads start with a title tailored to the concept presented (sometimes clever, sometimes veering into dad-joke territory). Concept illustrations are made to look like notebook doodles which adds to the book’s liveliness without schmearing it in a layer of cheesiness.

The 50 facts offer a range of information despite the book’s size. Concepts covered include binomials, triangles, multiplication, probability, estimation, fractions, averages, calculations (recipe conversions, temperature conversions, tips)–plenty of practical knowledge with real-world applications. Cool Math’s content is great–realistic, applicable, and not overshadowed by the book’s design. The layout reflects the relaxed, encouraging vibe of the book without trying too hard. There’s no outdated photography or completely cringe-worthy text which is all too present in non-fiction written for teens. Give Cool Math to upper elementary and secondary students. It’s full of helpful bits for middle school and high school students in search of understanding of very specific concepts yet appealing to upper elementary and lower middle school students with an interest in math and could even prove a pleasant surprise to those without.  (Where was this when I was about to start algebra?!) 

Give Cool Math a try.  It’s engaging, interesting, appealing, and portable–even fun in places.  It’s math that won’t make you cry.  You can find this title and algebra study guides and so much more at the Joplin Public Library where there’s something for everyone!

A Trio of Oceanic Fun for All Ages

The Brilliant Deep: Rebuilding the World’s Coral Reefs by Kate Messner, illustrated by Matthew Forsythe

Kraken Me Up by Jeffrey Ebbeler

Shark Lady: The True Story of How Eugenie Clark Became the Ocean’s Most Fearless Scientist by Jess Keating, illustrated by Marta Alvarez Miguens

This year’s summer reading theme is “Oceans of Possibilities”, and it is loads of fun! Whether it’s the great activities or whimsical decor or the nifty reading challenges, there’s something for everyone here at the Joplin Public Library!

As a longtime fan of seafaring novels and fly fishing nonfiction (L.A. Meyer’s Bloody Jack series, the Master and Commander series by Patrick O’Brian, ocean fishing accounts by Thomas McGuane and Randy Wayne White, to name a few), I’ve loved this summer’s deep dive into books about waterways, sea life, and boat travel. I’m excited to share a trio of gorgeously illustrated children’s books with all-ages appeal that tie into the summer reading theme. I accessed electronic versions of these titles through the Libby app offered by the Library.

First up is the hilarious Kraken Me Up by Jeffrey Ebbeler. A graphic novel for early readers, it employs expanded visual supports to strengthen reading comprehension. With a mix of traditional comics panels and two-page spreads, the layout invites readers into the charming story of a little girl and her pet sea monster. There’s a pet show at the county fair, and you can see where that’s headed…

Kraken Me Up is a story of acceptance and understanding peppered with visual jokes in squid ink. Our mackintosh-clad heroine convinces her fellow contestants that there is more to each of us than assumptions based on outward appearances. The kraken’s huge eyes reflect its equally large emotions, including devotion to its tiny friend and sorrow at being misunderstood. Author/illustrator Ebbeler uses digital art to great effect adding nuance to accessible vocabulary for budding readers. Kraken Me Up is also available at the Library in print format.

Next up is a picture book biography of an unsung zoologist and shark specialist. Shark Lady: The True Story of How Eugenie Clark Became the Ocean’s Most Fearless Scientist, written by Jess Keating and illustrated by Marta Alvarez Miguens, also tells a story of understanding as well as persistence. At a time when few women entered STEM fields, Eugenie Clark followed her lifelong interest in sharks (a misunderstood species in her opinion) to a career as research scientist advocating for them. She was the first to train sharks as well as to study caves of still, resting sharks (debunking the myth that they must keep moving to stay alive). Clark was a prolific author who also developed a shark repellent and explored the ocean through scuba and submersible dives.

Jess Keating conveys the facts of Clark’s life and highlights her tenacity with language that is accessible to young readers while creating vivid imagery, “Eugenie’s notebooks filled with sharks. They swam in her daydreams and on the margins of her pages.” Keating adds engaging, helpful sections after the main story. “Shark Bites” introduces nifty facts about the creatures in a colorful, two-page spread sprinkled with accent illustrations while “Eugenie Clark Timeline” offers a similar treatment of the scientist’s career. Throughout the book, Marta Alvarez Miguens masterfully uses color to create a little girl’s dream come true. From young Eugenie at an aquarium imagining herself to be one of the fish to adult Professor Clark studying sharks in their natural habitat, Alvarez Miguens brings them alive with vibrant hues conveying both motion and emotion as clearly as if readers were inside the pictures. Shark Lady is also available at the Library as an animated story on DVD.

A book that I would love to see as an animated story is The Brilliant Deep: Rebuilding the World’s Coral Reefs, written by Kate Messner and illustrated by Matthew Forsythe. A nonfiction title that looks and reads like a picture book, it packages information about coral reef restoration in absolutely stunning artwork.

Ken Nedimyer’s love of the ocean began as a child watching Jacques Cousteau on TV and snorkeling along the coral reefs of the Florida Keys. He studied biology and, as an adult, worked in aquaculture operating a live rock farm where rocks are placed on the ocean floor to provide habitat for mollusks, algae, sponges, and other invertebrates. While working with the live rocks, he noticed that portions of the coral were bleached and devoid of fish and sea urchins. A coral colony near the live rock farm spawned, leading to a growth of coral on it. Ken attached pieces of the new coral to various rocks producing more coral colonies. He eventually started a volunteer group, the Coral Restoration Foundation, to plant the new colonies on reefs around the Keys. The foundation now has an international scope.

Author Kate Messner’s concise, straightforward language incorporates relatable concepts such as describing attaching coral “with a careful dab of epoxy–just the size of a Hershey’s Kiss” or sea urchins as “the gardeners of the reef, tiny groundskeepers who control the algae”. Messner concludes her book with useful resources about coral reef death and restoration plus an immensely helpful illustrated glossary of coral reef structures. Messner’s text creates mental images that are the foundation for the gorgeous art of Matthew Forsythe who opens The Brilliant Deep with a mind-blowing two-page spread of pink and turquoise sea turtles, fishes, and sea stars swimming toward a tiny coral in the distance, haloed by white, resting underneath the words, “It starts with one.” Each page that follows is a treat of color and composition. Deep green ocean flanked with schools of fish and a crab peeking out in the foreground sparkles with a stream of multicolored gametes floating from a reef. A young Nedimyer glows green in the light of rows of fish tanks so lively you can almost hear their hum. Volunteer divers swirl upward through shifting blue as they hang coral on underwater “trees” of metal bars; Forsythe expertly uses texture to create their motion along with that of the water and fish surrounding them. The closing spread ends with the same words as the first, this time printed out on the bay where an older Ken Nedimyer looks out with hope to a yellow-pink sea and sky. Grab this book now and see the brilliant art for yourself!

I hope you have a chance to find these and other amazing ocean titles at the Joplin Public Library this summer!  Happy reading!

A Trio of Non-Fiction in Teen

The Chalk Art Handbook: How to Create Masterpieces on Driveways and Sidewalks and in Playgrounds by David Zinn

Everything You Need to Ace…in One Big Fat Notebook series, various authors

The LEGO Castle Book: Build Your Own Mini Medieval World by Jeff Friesen

It’s spring!  Or, at least it finally feels like it.  Flowers and trees and shrubs are blooming around town, and possibility is in the air.  Here in the Library’s Teen Department, the latest crop of books has as much variety and promise as the flowers outside.  Take a look at these non-fiction titles just waiting to be discovered!

For middle school and high school students who are wrapping up the semester and preparing for finals, try a title in the Everything You Need to Ace…in One Big Fat Notebook series from Workman Publishing.  Created by the editors of the popular educational game Brain Quest and written by authors with experience in the given field, each book is like borrowing the notes of the organized, thorough student in class.  

Each title in the series breaks down key concepts into important, easily understood components covering the subject.  The books are laid out like school notebooks with lined pages, handwritten fonts, and color-coded highlighted sections.  Doodles illustrating complex topics are scattered throughout as are mnemonic devices, definitions of key terms, and quizzes for review.  Compact-yet-thick, these titles easily fit into a backpack and are far easier to carry than most textbooks.

Disclaimer: the Big Fat Notebook series, while an amazing resource, is not a substitute for actually paying attention in class!  It is fantastic for review, confidence building, and reinforcement of concepts before exams or in smaller bites during the semester.  The series covers major subjects–computer science/coding, math, science, world history, American history, English language arts for middle school and pre-algebra/algebra 1, chemistry, biology, and geometry for high school.  They are super helpful and accessible, great for middle school and high school students plus adults wanting to catch up on these subjects.  (Where were these when I was in eighth-grade algebra?!)

To let off steam after studying, break out some LEGOs and try The LEGO Castle Book: Build Your Own Mini Medieval World by Jeff Friesen.  Written for LEGO enthusiasts, this straightforward, concise title begins with a history of castles and a tour of their architecture then moves to building different types of castles and landscaping a medieval village from LEGOs, ending with instructions for 6 “master builds” (even a dragon).

The book’s layout is clean and clear, with color photos of completed and in-progress builds throughout.  The brief text provides just the right amount of context for background; text in the builds sections is designed to look like manuals from LEGO sets, showing important phases along the way.  Builds and book are designed for LEGO fans with some experience plus access to the variety of bricks listed (a few specialty ones).  I was pleased to see a quick guide to the variety of bricks used (including color photographs showing individual bricks/plates with their official numbers) and a discussion of economical sources for purchasing the bricks needed.

Also, I was excited that the builds were grounded in history.  Author Jeff Friesen identifies major types of medieval (European) castles with photos of completed LEGO versions and interesting text.  He also depicts the main parts of the castle and the community within its walls and how to construct them, tossing in handy tips along the way such as using minifigure accessories as turret finials.  He reminds readers that castle life was real life a thousand years ago, discussing topics like the role of castle builders, the cost and building process, and how castle architecture is tied to its defense.  The LEGO Castle Book is great for teens, adults, or upper elementary ages with a passion for LEGO; pair this with David Macaulay’s classic Castle for a fantastic dive into the subject.

Looking for a different creative outlet?  Try The Chalk Art Handbook: How to Create Masterpieces on Driveways and Sidewalks and in Playgrounds by David Zinn for some outdoor fun.  Zinn has been creating delightful, amusing chalk drawings around his Michigan hometown for years and shares his enthusiasm and expertise in this guide to accessible outdoor art.

Zinn’s tone is warm and encouraging with a light sprinkling of dad humor.  He offers basic techniques and advice for drawing 2-D and 3-D illustrations on outdoor surfaces such as concrete, asphalt, and brick.  Viewing this art form as both an opportunity to stretch skills and to bring joy to the community, he emphasizes a respectful approach (ask permission, use media that will wash away, etc.).  Color photos of his completed and in-process artwork illustrate his tips and techniques.  His advice is concrete (no pun intended) and accessible although geared toward teens who have some drawing experience and skill.  He assumes a base level of drawing knowledge which could be frustrating for someone trying it for the first time.  

He invites artists to consider basic creative components before starting–what will you draw?  How many?  How will your creature(s) move around?  What is happening in the picture?  Then he moves to more detailed information about dealing with the drawing surface at hand.  Zinn identifies various paved surfaces (concrete, macadam, paving stones, etc.) giving hints about turning their natural, imperfect states into part of the picture–pits and holes in concrete become the eyes and ears and nostrils of a hippo, a manhole cover becomes a cookie about to be eaten by a monster.  As he notes, art tells a story, and depicting emotion is key even if it’s a small component, “Eyebrows are powerful things. Always use them wisely, both in your drawings and on your own face.”

The Chalk Art Handbook is packed with tips for creating whimsical, thoughtful drawings to delight artist and neighborhood alike.  It serves as encouragement and inspiration to teens with drawing experience and/or an interest in sidewalk art, including 3-D illusion pictures.  Everybody can win when public art is shared because “More art in more places brings more people more joy”.

Stop by the Library for these and many more titles blooming this spring!