Posted in Adventure, Middle Grade, Middle School, Non-Fiction, Non-fiction, Tween Reads

Reading Takes You Everywhere: Into the Clouds!

Into the Clouds, by Tod Olson, (April 2020, Scholastic Focus), $18.99, ISBN: 9781338207361

Ages 8-12

For my latest Reading Takes You Everywhere Summer Reading post, I’m taking you to the Himalayas, where we can – from a safe, much warmer distance – scale the heights of K2, a mountain “more treacherous” than Mount Everest. Fewer than 400 people have been able to successfully climb K2: “four every four mountaineers who have stood on its summit, one has died trying to get there”. Although Everest stands higher, K2 has unpredictable weather and gale-force winds that have swept climbers off its face entirely. Into the Clouds is the story of two parties that attempted K2: the first American Karakoram Expedition in 1938, and the 1953 Third American Expedition, which makes up a greater part of the book. Into the Clouds follows Charlie Houston’s team as they attempt to summit the mountain in the midst of vicious storms, risks of avalanche, frostbite, illness, and rivalry, turning the expedition into a rescue mission.

Tod Olson can write narrative non-fiction like the most exciting adventure/survival novel: if you haven’t read his Lost series, you need to check in with your I Survived readers, who likely have. Here, he puts together an exhaustively researched work filled with photos to set the reader at base camp along with Houston’s team. The biting winds, the constant fear of freezing and the aggravation each team member felt clearly comes through here. Adventure and survival readers who have moved on from I Survived and are ready to read middle grade and middle school narrative non-fiction like Trapped by Marc Aronson and Jennifer Armstrong’s Shipwreck at the Bottom of the World.

Read the book, and tell your readers to visit Tod Olson’s webpage where they can find an Into the Clouds scavenger hunt. Into the Clouds has a starred review from School Library Journal.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

See what’s growing at Amara’s Farm!

Amara’s Farm, by JaNay Brown-Wood/Illustrated by Samara Hardy, (Sept. 2021, Peachtree Publishing), $16.99, ISBN: 9781682631652

Ages 3-6

The first in a new series from Peachtree, Amara’s Farm introduces readers to a little girl and invites them to help her find pumpkins for her get-together. Amara is hosting a potluck for her friends, and needs pumpkins. First, we take a moment to consider what we know about pumpkins. Using that knowledge, we set off on a series of spreads, guiding readers through different crops that share some properties with pumpkins, but not all. Will Amara find her pumpkins in time? Using a question-and-answer format and descriptive explanations, this is an excellent introduction to properties, concepts, and farm food for kids that may recognize different foods they’ve seen on their own tables, at a farmer’s market, or in a grocery store, while introducing others to new foods like persimmons, figs, and eggplant, and showing kids how they grow: on trees, on vines, even underground. Cheery illustrations are colorful and have beautiful texture, giving readers a real feel for their food’s origins and appearance. Amara is an adorable young girl of color, with a friendly, expressive face and beautifully textured hair and clothing. Back matter includes a molasses pumpkin bread recipe to make with a grownup helper.

I really like this first entry into the new Where in the Garden? series! Being in an urban library system, this is a great way to communicate to my kids about food and how it grows, what they look like, where they can be found. You can explain concepts like shape, color, and textures as you go, and – since I’m fortunate enough to have several fruit markets and a weekend farmer’s market in my library’s community – invite the kids to visit these places with their grownups and describe what they see there. I can’t wait to see more from this series!

Posted in picture books

“If only humans were as easy to understand!”: Leo and the Octopus

Leo and the Octopus, by Isabelle Marinov/Illustrated by Chris Nixon, (Sept. 2021, Kane Miller), $12.99, ISBN: 9781684642779

Ages 4-8

“The world was too bright for Leo. And too loud.” Leo is a boy who feels like he’s on the wrong planet. Other kids don’t understand him; he doesn’t understand them. Stressed and lonely, everything changes the day he meets Maya, an octopus who looks like an alien! And Leo feels like an alien, so this should be great! Once he reads up on octopuses, he discovers how interesting they are, and decides that maybe Maya could be his first friend. The octopus and the boy form a friendly bond, which helps him understand a day when Maya is overwhelmed by all the attention she’s getting at her aquarium tank.

Author Isabelle Marinov was inspired to write Leo and the Octopus by her own son and turns in a sensitive and accurate portrayal of a child on the autism spectrum. The storytelling is gentle, respectful to both Leo and Maya and their growing friendship. The two characters develop a very sweet relationship that helps Leo grow: he recognizes when Maya is distressed and takes action to relieve her stress, and he learns to reach out and discover another friend in the course of the story. Soothing colors make this an easy read that all kids will love. Endpapers spotlight Maya and Leo interacting across the spread. A must-read, must-have to teach empathy and understanding to others as well as to provide kids on the spectrum with a child they recognize on the page.

Leo and the Octopus has a starred review from Kirkus.

Posted in Early Reader, Preschool Reads

What’s YOUR favorite color?

What’s your favorite color? Chances are, Macmillan has an activity book for you!

Loaded with activities about your favorite color, these activity books are great for summer days when kids “have nothing to doooooo” (says my Kiddo, as the dog tries to play with him and I’m stepping on his LEGOs, scattered around the room). I’ll be posting activities to my Instagram (@roesolo) starting this week, so tune in and see what my favorite color is! I’ll also be posting activity sheets Macmillan and Odd Dot have provided for free, for you to print and play with – check ’em out here, too!

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Summertime Rumble! Beach Toys vs. School Supplies

Beach Toys vs. School Supplies, by Mike Ciccotello, (June 2021, Farrar Straus and Giroux), $17.99, ISBN: 9780374314040

Ages 3-6

It’s beach toys versus school supplies in a sandcastle contest to beat all sandcastle contests! Shovel is relaxing at the beach when Ruler shows up to start working. Shovel doesn’t want to think about school just yet! The two decide to find out who’s better – beach toys or school supplies – with a sandcastle building contest, and the two teams set to work. Just as the winner is determined, a big wave threatens to wipe out one of the castles: will the two groups work together to save the castle and enjoy the summer?

An adorable look at the balance between work and play, Beach Toys vs. Sand Castles is filled with fun and wry observations about both sides: the school supplies naturally only want to work and appear pompous, while the beach toys are all about fun. Messages about teamwork and respecting the need for a work and play balance come across playfully and with equal weight to both sides. Cartoon artwork is colorful, with anthropomorphic supplies bearing fun, exaggerated expressions. Endpapers show the toys and supplies standing off against one another; look for my favorite, the backpack, pocket unzippered to reveal a menacing box of colored pencils shaking a fist.

Absolute fun, with a free, downloadable activity kit, to boot! Find it here. Read this to your preschoolers and kindergarteners who may be annoyed by already seeing school supplies creeping back into stores and assure them that there’s room for both.

Posted in Graphic Novels, Middle Grade, Tween Reads

Bad Sister touches on sibling relationships

Bad Sister, by Charise Mericle Harper/Illustrated Rory Lucey, (Aug. 2021, First Second), $12.99, ISBN: 9781250219053

Ages 8-12

Award-winning author/artist Charise Mericle Harper writes a middle-grade memoir about her relationship with her younger brother in Bad Sister, and it will resonate with so many siblings who may feel conflicted about their own siblings. Charise is older, and therefore, better… right? Her younger brother, Daniel, is just such an attention-suck. He gets attention from her parents from the very beginning, he wants to play with her toys, he even monopolizes the family cat’s affection. Daniel gets hurt time and again, causing Charise to wonder: is she a bad sister? Try as she might, it’s hard being the eldest, and sometimes, she gets exasperated. But slowly, surely, as the two get a little older and a little more mature, they find themselves able to enjoy one another’s company more. Charise’s frustration is palpable, and the changing color palette alerts readers, with changes in her facial expressions and body language, plus cooler colors, particularly blues, calling the reader’s attention. Readers will see both sides of the equation – Daniel isn’t always guilt-free – and empathize with the injustices on either side. A good book for navigating sibling relationships, even close friend and classmate relationships, Charise Mericle Harper gets to the heart of family dynamics and doesn’t hide the highs and lows of these complicated relationships, going from antagonism, to guilt, to love and understanding with honesty and respect to the reader. Charise’s frustration is palpable, and the changing color palette alerts readers, with changes in her facial expressions and body language, plus cooler colors, particularly blues, calling the reader’s attention. Colors warm up as the two become closer.

Bad Sister has starred reviews from Kirkus and Publisher’s Weekly, and is a Junior Library Guild selection. Visit Charise Mericle Harper’s website for printables, crafts, and comics!

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Even Bogeymen get scared: El Cucuy is Scared, Too!

El Cucuy is Scared, Too!, by Donna Barba Higuera/Illustrated by Juliana Perdomo, (July 2021, Harry Abrams), $17.99, ISBN: 9781419744457

Ages 4-8

A little boy named Ramón and his cucuy – a bogeyman of sorts in Mexican folklore – are restless and can’t sleep the night before Ramón starts at a new school. They’ve moved to a new town and both are nervous, talking about how they miss their old home. Gradually, Ramón begins to comfort El Cucuy, reassuring him that things will be better. By reassuring El Cucuy, Ramón learns to comfort himself and find his inner strength to embrace his new beginning. With Spanish words sprinkled throughout, and colorful cultural touches throughout the artwork, this is an adorable look into Latinx culture via a gentle story about overcoming fears. El Cucuy is a cute, wide-eyed grey monster with a little black cloak; Ramón is a boy with light-brown skin. Details in the spreads infuse the story with a Latinx cultural background, from the vibrant colors in his bedding, to the artwork on his walls, to the visions of his former home. A definite add to your collections.

Posted in Fantasy, Fiction, Middle Grade, Tween Reads, Uncategorized

Great middle grade fantasy in two giant graphic novels: Scales & Scoundrels!

Fantasy fans have so much to read this year, but make space on your shelves for a graphic novel duo: Scales and Scoundrels is a fantasy series that will resonate with fantasy role-playing gamers and fantasy fans alike. Publisher TKO Studios released definitive versions of Volumes 1 and 2, which include the collected issues plus incredible, new material. I wasn’t familiar with the story until I saw these on Edelweiss, but I am so glad I rectified that.

Scales & Scoundrels Definitive Edition Book 1: Where Dragons Wander , by Sebastian Girner/Illustrated by Galaad, (July 2021, TKO Studios), $14.99, ISBN: 9781952203220,
Ages 8-13
Luvander is a female treasure hunter who sets off for the fabled “Dragon’s Maw”, where she hopes to find riches beyond comprehension. (Naturally, that whole “Dragon’s Maw” business also suggests that maybe there’s a dragon who will protect their hoard, but she’s not going to let that stop her!) She teams up with a group of adventurers, including a prince, his bodyguard, and a dwarf, and together, the group sticks together while fighting monsters and braving dungeons, but Luvander has a secret she’s not sharing just yet… is this her epic journey, or just a simple treasure looting operation? A heroine’s journey filled with excitement, adventure, great dialogue and an inclusive cast of characters, the writing and the fantastic artwork make this aces for your middle grade and middle school readers. Display and booktalk with Nimona by Noelle Stevenson, Kazu Kazubuishi’s Amulet series, James Parks and Ben Costa’s Rickety Stitch and the Gelatinous Goo series, Faith Erin Hicks’s The Nameless City series, and Robin Robinson’s No One Returns From the Enchanted Forest.

Scales and Scoundrels Definitive Edition Book 2: The Festival of Life, by Sebastian Girner/Illustrated by Galaad, (July 2021, TKO Studios), $14.99, ISBN: 9781952203237

Ages 8-13

The second Scales and Scoundrels volume, like the first, contains a wealth of new material, and picks up the adventure from where we left off in Book One. Luvander continues on her journey to break her curse; it’s a quest that will bring her to a monastery that guards a secret entrance to The Dragon Dream, where few have dared to enter. She and her group of friends face dark trials ahead, including demons and their own deepest fears. An introspective adventure that prompts conversations, this is an excellent companion to Book One. The artwork is gorgeous, with bright and vibrant colors, movement, and beautiful fantasy artwork. There’s great world-building – seriously, you can create a Dungeons and Dragons adventure based on the information contained in these two books – that readers will return to time and again.

To paraphrase School Library Journal, the Scales and Scoundrels books roll a natural 20 – and that’s pretty awesome.

 

 

Posted in Fantasy, Fiction, Middle Grade, Summer Reading, Tween Reads

Fun Summer Challenge with author Adam Perry!

With Summer Reading in full swing, I thought this may be a fun challenge for middle grade and tween readers!

Adam Perry, author of The Thieving Collectors of Fine Children’s Books, has a summer challenge that just sounds like too much fun. I’ve got his book coming up shortly – I’m finishing a few graphic novels and two more middle grade books at the moment – and it sounds like just the sort of lost-in-a-book-adventure that I adore. Think The Ninja Librarians, the Mr. Lemoncello’s Library series, or Book Scavenger.

The Thieving Collectors of Fine Children’s Books, by Adam Perry,
(March 2021, Little Bee Books), $17.99, ISBN: 9781499811247

Ages 8-12

Hey, how about a readalong? Read The Thieving Collectors of Fine Children’s Books along with me, right here! I’ll aim to start it next week; I’ll post when I start it, and can post every few chapters, to see if we can get a discussion going!

So while you’re waiting for me to get my act together, watch this video where Adam Perry talks about his book and his fun Summer Challenge, with very cool goodiesAnd download your Adam Perry Summer Reading list here: your kids have until September 22nd to read just one of these books!

 

Psst… if any of my library families are reading this? Our library system has the book in 8 of our branches (all requestable!), and an ebook available.

The Thieving Collectors of Fine Children’s Books has a starred review from Shelf Awareness. Read John Schu’s interview with the author here!

Posted in Fantasy, Fiction, Graphic Novels, Middle Grade, Middle School, Tween Reads

And now, the catch-up posts begin! First up: The Okay Witch and the Hungry Shadow

Get ready for graphic novels! I’m working on my massive catch-up, so there will be several round-ups posts as I get all my cats herded and book notes together.

Personal note: Library’s open! We opened today and had a nice, fairly small (for us) group in and out today. It was a relaxing, wonderful way to start reconnecting with our families. I can’t wait to see what tomorrow brings!

Personal note 2: Did we finish weeding and adding the new books yet? To quote Pete the Cat, Goodness No! But we’re rocking and rolling, and I’ve weeded my way through the adult collection 300s; onward and upward. And now… let’s get graphic!

The Okay Witch and the Hungry Shadow, by Emma Steinkellner, (July 2021, Aladdin), $12.99, ISBN: 9781534431485

Ages 8-12

The follow-up to 2019’s The Okay Witch takes on some big issues, and it’s so good. We get a quick recap from Lazlo the Cat (if you don’t remember him, or haven’t read the first book yet, don’t worry: he’ll catch you up nicely). Moth and her mom are still hanging in there, and the racist and creepy jerks at her school are still… racist and creepy. Moth is stressed out, frustrated, and no one can quite understand; even her best friend, Charlie, isn’t able to. The minute Moth pushes back against her tormentors, she’s the one taking the heat and she’s the one who “can’t take a joke”. Issues of race and equity take center stage here in a way that kids can identify with and understand; others will hopefully gain more of an understanding. Adults could do with reading this book, too; there’s a moment when Moth chafes at having to attend a school founded by someone who tried to wipe out witches that really eloquently frames what I like to call “the great statue debate”.

I digress. Moth manages to get hold of a charm that contains a power to make Moth into the popular, funny, confident girl she wants to be – but we all know what happens when you get what you wish for, don’t we? Great story, great artwork, characters you’ll love (and love to rage about), and an altogether great graphic novel for middle graders who love fantasy as much as they love realistic fiction.