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

She’s Grace, not “Kyle’s Little Sister”!

Kyle’s Little Sister, by BonHyung Jeong, (June 2021, Yen Press), $13.00, ISBN: 9781975316549

Ages 8-12

Grace is excited to start middle school with her best friends, Amy and Jay, but there’s one thing she’s not thrilled about… her older brother, Kyle, is an 8th grader in the same school. Her extroverted, handsome, older brother who loves to tease her whenever he gets the chance. She’s in Kyle’s shadow whether she’s at school or at home, forever being referred to as “Kyle’s little sister”, but she’s so much more than that! Grace and her best friends have a falling out, but she falls in with a school mean girl, Cam, who decides to “help” Grace out by bullying Amy. Grace looks the other way, not realizing that Cam has her own reasons for wanting to be friendly with Grace – and Amy and Jay can see that a mile away, but have to figure out how to help Grace from a distance. Maybe Kyle isn’t the awful big brother that Grace thinks he is after all? Kyle’s Little Sister is, at its heart, a story of friendship and those inevitable middle school conflicts, and it’s a relatable story about defining oneself. Manga illustrations make for expressive characters and playful storytelling. A good realistic fiction story to add to your graphic novel shelves, and a good way to introduce younger readers to manga outside of Pokemon.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads, Toddler Reads

Grow Love, Share Love: Oscar’s Tower of Flowers

Oscar’s Tower of Flowers, by Lauren Tobia, (May 2021, Candlewick Press), $17.99, ISBN: 9781536217773

Ages 2-6

In this wordless book, a little boy named Oscar stays with his Nana when his mother goes away. He finds joy in planting with his grandmother, who takes him to the store to buy some seeds. Oscar’s green thumb proves to be pretty impressive, and Nana’s home quickly becomes covered in green! Oscar has an idea: share his love with others in Nana’s building! He loads up a red wagon with plants, and shares them with his grandmother’s neighbors throughout the building, spreading the joy he experienced while growing them all. When Mom returns, he happily sits on her lap, sharing some together time with Mom and Nana. Mixed media artwork beautifully tells this story, beginning with the endpapers: an apartment building bustles with people as Nana seems to wave to someone off in the distance; the back endpapers show a happier bunch of neighbors, with all of Oscar’s greenery decorating homes and the building’s roof, which appears to have added an apiary, too! The artwork is gentle, soft, loving.

As a mom of a certain age, I was relieved to see Nana looking so young! But don’t relegate yourself to the woman being Nana. There’s nowhere in the book that says so, and to be honest, until I read other reviews and the blurb text online, I thought the other woman was Mom’s partner. Flap copy says, “When someone Oscar loves has to go away on a trip, he tries to find ways to stay busy. With some grown-up help, a red wagon, and his favorite toy, Oscar plants all kinds of flowers and waits for them to grow”. You want Oscar to have two mommies? Oscar can have two mommies. The heart of the story is Oscar’s kind heart and his joy in cultivating plants to share. Keep a copy of this in your daycare/after school collections for littles who miss their parents when they go to work.

Oscar’s Tower of Flowers has a starred review from Kirkus. Visit Lauren Tobia’s website to see more of her work on Oscar’s Tower of Flowers and her work on one of my favorite chapter book series, Anna Hibiscus.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads, Toddler Reads

Oddbird: Vive la difference!

Oddbird, by Derek Desierto, (May 2021, Feiwel and Friends), $18.99, ISBN: 9781250765314

Ages 3-6

It’s a really hot day in the jungle, but all the birds at the pool wouldn’t dream of going into the water and messing up their feathers! It’s a place to see and be seen, until a little gray bird shows up and dips their toes in the water, attracting everyone’s attention. Those rude birds tease Oddbird for being different and bullying him until they flies away, crying… but they’ve got a plan! Oddbird is a smart story for young readers about fitting in… and standing out. It’s a great readaloud and provides a lot of food for thought, whether you’re approaching from a social-emotional learning perspective or a diversity, equity, and inclusion frame of mind. Oddbird celebrates individuality and acceptance, and it’s a hat tip to perseverance. Oddbird is gendered as male in the flap text and in the story, but if you prefer, can easily be nonbinary during a readaloud; I’d read the story using they/them pronouns, myself; it flows nicely either way. The bright illustrations are cheery and pop right off the white background; readers will love seeing these colorful birds. Have feathers in your craft storage? Make Oddbird grab and go kits by putting some feathers, some gray construction paper (cut into a vaguely Oddbird shape if you’d like), and some googly eyes and link it to a virtual (or in-person) storytime!

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

“Everyone makes mistakes”: How to Apologize

How to Apologize, by David LaRochelle/Illustrated by Mike Wohnoutka, (May 2021, Candlewick Press), $16.99, ISBN: 9781536209440

Ages 3-7

A gentle and straightforward book about accountability and responsibility, How to Apologize starts off with a reassuring statement: “Everyone makes mistakes”. It’s a strong statement that’s meant to relax readers: it’s okay, no one’s perfect! But the important thing is, once we make a mistake that hurts someone or makes them feel bad, the kind thing to do is apologize. With woodland animals as our guides, David LaRochelle and Mike Wohnoutka lay out the differences between sincere apologies an insincere apologies; whether we like the person or not; apologizing is the right thing to do. And you can do it all sorts of ways! You can write a note, or you can say it in person. You can fix the mistake if it’s possible, but even if you can’t, apologizing will make you – and the person you hurt – feel better. And that’s the most important thing. Gouache artwork is subdued, letting readers readers take in the words and allowing the illustrations to show them how it’s done. Absolutely perfect for preschoolers who are still navigating social-emotional situations (and, let’s be honest, some adults, too).

Candlewick has a Teacher Tips card with some ideas for incorporating this book into the classroom, and coloring sheets that help emphasize some moments when an apology is helpful.

How to Apologize has a starred review from Kirkus.

Posted in Graphic Novels, Uncategorized

Tor Nightfire announces graphic novel

It’s a news day! Just read that Nightfire, the horror imprint for Tor Books, is releasing their first graphic novel – eldritch horror! – in August 2022.

Eldritch horror set in modern-day Brooklyn? Reimagined Robert W. Chambers? GIVE IT ALL TO ME (and my library teens).

 

Posted in awards, Graphic Novels

Eisner Nominees Announced!

The 2021 Eisner Nominees were announced! Diamond Book Distributors has a great graphic showing them off, with links to the Eisner catalog on Edelweiss.

 

Get a breakdown of the titles at Diamond’s website. Get a full list of Eisner nominees at the Comic Con website.

What am I excited about? Glad you asked!

Best Publication for Early Readers (up to age 8)
  • Bear, by Ben Queen and Joe Todd-Stanton (Archaia/BOOM!)
  • Cat Kid Comic Club, by Dav Pilkey (Scholastic Graphix)
  • Donut Feed the Squirrels, by Mika Song (RH Graphic/RH Children’s Books)
  • Kodi, by Jared Cullum (Top Shelf)
  • Lift, by Minh Lê and Dan Santat (Little, Brown Young Readers)
  • Our Little Kitchen, by Jillian Tamaki (Abrams Books for Young Readers)

I’ve read all but Lift and Our Little Kitchen, which I’m requesting from my library as we speak. Cat Kid is adorable and hilarious, but I live in a Dog Man household, so I may be biased. I loved every one of these, but for early calls, I have to lean toward either Bear or Kodi for now: but talk to me after I read the last two I need to get.

Best Publication for Kids (ages 9-12)
  • Doodleville, by Chad Sell (Knopf/BFYR/RH Children’s Books)
  • Go with the Flow, by Lily Williams and Karen Schneemann (First Second/Macmillan)
  • Mister Invincible: Local Hero, by Pascal Jousselin (Magnetic Press)
  • Snapdragon, by Kat Leyh (First Second/Macmillan)
  • Superman Smashes the Klan, by Gene Luen Yang and Gurihiru (DC)
  • Twins, by Varian Johnson and Shannon Wright (Scholastic Graphix)

Okay, have to read Mister Invincible to finish this category. What do I think has a lock on the win? Snapdragon. What am I leaning toward voting for? It’s a hard toss-up between Go With the Flow, Superman Smashes the Klan, and Twins.

Best Publication for Teens (ages 13-17)
  • Check, Please! Book 2: Sticks & Scones, by Ngozi Ukazu (First Second/Macmillan)
  • Displacement, by Kiku Hughes (First Second/Macmillan)
  • Dragon Hoops, by Gene Luen Yang (First Second/Macmillan)
  • Fights: One Boy’s Triumph Over Violence, by Joel Christian Gill (Oni Press)
  • A Map to the Sun, by Sloane Leong (First Second/Macmillan)
  • When Stars are Scattered, by Victoria Jamieson and Omar Mohamed (Dial Books)

I’ve read all of these! I’m really pushing for When Stars Are Scattered, but Fights, Displacement, and Dragon Hoops are all in the running for my vote.

 

Talk to me! What are you loving? What are you voting for?

Posted in Animal Fiction, Fiction, Middle Grade, Tween Reads

Mr. Penguin and friends are all aboard for a catastrophic cruise!

Mr. Penguin and the Catastrophic Cruise, by Alex T. Smith, (Sept. 2021, Peachtree Publishing), $9.99, ISBN: 9781682633304

Ages 8-12

The third Mr. Penguin adventure is coming to paperback this Fall, and it’s a doozy! Mr. Penguin and his Adventurers – his friend, Edith her pet pigeon, Gordon, and his partner, the unibrowed, karate-kicking spider, Colin, are off on a posh cruise aboard the Saucy Sandra where Colin’s been invited to sing with the Seven Sisters Choir, and Mr. Penguin and Edith are excited to mix with movie stars and millionaire Herbert Chuckle, accompanied by his girlfriend, Honey Chrystelle. But just as Mr. Penguin is about to relax and enjoy a cruise filled with fish finger sandwiches, he discovers that there’s a pirate plot afoot! A young stowaway named Marina is on board to save her grandfather, who’s been kidnapped. There’s trouble brewing above and below the water and it’s up to Mr. Penguin to get to the bottom of things before they get too out of hand! The bumbling Mr. Penguin is charming and relies heavily on his friends to get himself out of trouble, and the adventure and plot twists are fun and will keep readers guessing. You don’t need to be familiar with the characters to enjoy this book, so make sure readers know they can join Mr. Penguin on any of his adventures. The orange, black and white artwork is visually interesting, with pages being splashed in orange or gray with drawings of underwater and seaboard spreads framing the story’s prose. There’s humor, adventure, fun dialogue, and a good story to keep readers entertained. Perfect for Tails and Tales AND Reading Takes You Everywhere Summer Reading themes.

The hardcover Mr. Penguin and the Catastrophic Cruise is already available, so make sure you’ve got it handy for your displays!

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Atticus Caticus… what a fun story-cus!

Atticus Caticus, by Sarah Maizes/Illustrated by Kara Kramer, (April 2021, Candlewick Press), $16.99, ISBN: 9781536208405

Ages 3-7

A fun story that encourages readers to play with language, Atticus Caticus is the story of a young boy following his cat’s antics throughout the day, making up a fun rhyme as Atticus eats, naps, and gets up to all sorts of shenanigans, like scratching up mom’s chair and lying in wait to playfully attack our narrator’s toes. The repetitive “Atticus Caticus” phrase pairs with other fun rhymes, allowing readers to chime in and pantomime catlike movements like stretching, kneading, and scratching. Digital artwork is bright and cheery, with an expressive cartoon character cat and bold, black fonts that make for easy reading. There’s movement throughout the story as Atticus dashes from bed to food bowl, chairs to bathroom, to snuggling next to the boy at night, ready for another day of mischief tomorrow. A perfect read-aloud.

Atticus Caticus has a starred review from Kirkus.

Posted in Fiction, Fiction, Graphic Novels, Intermediate, Middle Grade

Kid-Friendly graphic novels for younger readers

I told you, this is a graphic novel summer! I’m so happy to see graphic novels coming out with younger and newer readers in mind: they helped develop a love of reading in my own kiddo, and I know the littles in my library love them as much as my middle graders do. Let’s take a look at what’s good.

Magic Tree House: Dinosaurs Before Dark Graphic Novel, by Mary Pope Osborne, Adapted by Jenny Laird, Illustrated by Kelly Matthews and Nicole Matthews, (June 2021, Random House Books for Young Readers), $9.99, ISBN: 9780593174715

Ages 6-9

Jack and Annie are headed to graphic novels! The Magic Tree House books have been a staple in libraries for decades; now they’re transitioning to more visual storytelling mediums with graphic novels, starting with the first Magic Tree House adventure, Dinosaurs Before Dark. Jack and Annie discover a treehouse loaded with stacks of books, make a wish to see dinosaurs, and discover that they’re been transported back in time to the prehistoric era! Annie befriends a couple of plant-eaters, they run from a T-Rex, and try to figure out how to get home again. The story translates wonderfully to a graphic novel medium, and the artwork has a manga influence, which makes for big facial expressions; the artwork is colorful and eye-catching. Less dense text relies on visual storytelling, making this even more appealing to emerging and struggling readers. This series is going to be a hit.

Be sure to check out the Magic Tree House Classroom Adventures website, where you can find lesson plans and more resources. The Magic Tree House website has resources for kids and parents, including a Mission Game and Kids Adventure Club.

Fitz and Cleo, by Jonathan Stutzman and Heather Fox, (May 2021, Henry Holt), $12.99, ISBN: 9781250239440

Ages 6-9

The dynamic duo behind the Llama Destroys the World series is doing graphic novels now!! Fitz and Cleo are sheet-wearing ghost siblings who find and adopt a cat they name Mr. Boo. There are 11 bite-sized stories in this first volume; perfect for newly confident readers to pick up and spend time with. Fitz sports a baseball cap and glasses and is more interested in science than cats; Cleo wears a head bow, is cheery and fun, and is always there to support her brother. The two are best friends, with Mr. Boo adding comic relief with his antics, usually aimed at Fitz. Adorable, fun, Fitz and Cleo is a great early graphic novel to add to your younger reader shelves. Download a Fitz and Cleo activity kit right here!

 

Blue, Barry & Pancakes: Escape from Balloonia, by Dan & Jason, (June 2021, First Second), $12.99, ISBN: 9781250255563
Ages 4-8
The second Blue, Barry, and Pancakes adventure is just as wacky and fun as the first. Blue and Barry want a day just for themselves, but Pancakes has other plans: she’s made a rocket, and a planet made of balloons, and before Blue or Barry can say a word, they’re zooming off into space, where they’ll find themselves facing a giant Balloonian – a resident of Balloonia, naturally – named Balloon Kong. Will the trio ever get home? Will Blue and Barry ever get their quiet day? You have to read it to find out! This is such a fun series that you can easily start reading with preschoolers. The humor is light, laugh-out-loud funny, and the characters are endearing and adorable.
Scaredy Squirrel in a Nutshell, by Melanie Watt, (June 2021, Random House Books for Young Readers), $12.99, ISBN: 9780593307557
Ages 6-9
Popular picture book friend, Scaredy Squirrel, makes his graphic novel debut in Scaredy Squirrel in a Nutshell. Scaredy has successfully secured his tree from wooly mammoths, woodpeckers, lumberjacks, and aliens, but now he’s faced with a seemingly insurmountable foe: his new neighbor, a friendly bunny named Ivy. Scaredy has to weigh all the potential risks and plan for every scenario before deciding whether or not to invite Ivy to share his takeout pizza, and he discovers that having a friend can be pretty fun, after all. If you’re familiar with the Scaredy books, you’ll give a hearty chuckle at seeing Scaredy’s familiar lists for everything. If you’re new to Scaredy, you will be quickly enchanted by how funny and sweet he is. The artwork is adorable, expressive, bold, and eyecatching; there are three easy-to-navigate chapters that advance the story and give readers easy spots to put the book down for a break if they need to. Scaredy Squirrel is a great choice to bring to graphic novels!
Shark and Bot #2: Sleepaway Champs, by Brian Yanish, (June 2021, Random House Books for Young Readers, $9.99, ISBN: 9780593173381
Ages 5-8
The two besties are back in their new adventure, where they head off to sleepaway camp (much to Bot’s chagrin: he wanted to go to Space Camp). Camp Sweet Sunshine is not what the friends expect: Bot is put in a giant bubble because “everyone swims at Camp Sweet Sunshine”; they’re glitter-bombed by another camper, and the bathroom may be haunted. But they have a talent show to practice for, and it’s the one place that has enough privacy! Sleepaway Champs is a funny, cheerful story about summer, friends, and trying new things, sure to make readers smile. The book is organized into 8 chapters, making for easily paced reading with breaks. Author Brian Yanish’s website has loads of resources for caregivers and educators, including a video on how to draw Shark and Bot. Back matter includes instruction on how to draw Batty, Shark’s stuffed wombat, and amusing and interesting facts about wombats.
Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Best Friend in the Whole World brings friends together

Best Friend in the Whole World, by Sandra Salsbury, (March 2021, Peachtree Publishing), $17.99, ISBN: 9781682632505

Ages 4-8

This gentle story is all about connection, friendship, and how your best friend may be waiting just around the corner to meet you. Roland is a rabbit who leads a quiet life of drawing, music, and drinking tea, but it’s a lonely life until he happens upon a pine cone in the woods one day! He names the pine cone Milton, and takes joy in doing all of the things he loves with his new friend: until signs in the forest show up, giving Roland the feeling that his best friend may be someone else’s lost best friend. Reuniting Milton – whose name is Popkin – with their best friend, Lucy, leaves Roland temporarily feeling the loss, but he discovers that there’s always room for new friends, as Lucy and Popkin invite him to join their group! Moving storytelling comes together with soft watercolor artwork to create a touching story.

Great for a storytime, you can also invite readers to make their own pine cone friends: get some craft pine cones, pipe cleaners, and googly eyes from craft bulk wholesalers and make them a grab-and-go craft that readers can come pick up, if you’re not doing in-person programming; hold a virtual storytime where you can walk them through the craft.