Posted in picture books

Blog Tour and Giveaway: A Dream of Birds by Shenaz Patel and Emmanuelle Tchoukriel

The hazy days of summer call for a good giveaway, and I’ve got one. Sit back, enjoy a nice, cool lemonade or iced tea, and look up in the sky (with sunglasses on, please). Do you see a sky full of birds? Or do you hear them in the trees around you? Good, now you’re in the mood for A Dream of Birds, by Shenaz Patel and Emmanuelle Tchoukriel.

A Dream of Birds, by Shenaz Patel/Illustrated by Emmanuelle Tchoukriel and Translated by Edwige-Renée Dro,
(Aug. 2022, Amazon Crossing Kids), $17.99, ISBN: 9781662500930

Ages 5-8

Set on the African island nation of Mauritius, the story centers on Sara, a young girl who loves birds. They remind her of time spent with her grandfather, who had dozens of brightly colored birds flock to his yard every day, to put on “an incredible show” with their colorful feathers and personalities. As Sara is on her way to school, she sees a tiny house in a neighbor’s yard, and realizes that it’s a birdhouse, home to a flock of parakeets. The neighbor chases her away, but Sara is undaunted: she wants her neighbor’s birds to be as free as the birds that entertained her and her grandfather. Lyrical storytelling and bright digital artwork bring this story to life. The skies and water are deep blue, setting the stage for the brightly colored birds to showcase against. Loopy script calls reader’s attention to the names of different types of birds and their songs, from peeping and chirping to crooning and cooing. People and birds are rendered realistically; Sara and her grandfather are brown-skinned and the only human we see; other humans are in shadow or silhouette. Sara’s story is filled with longing: longing for freedom, longing for her grandfather; the artwork shows a loving relationship between the two, and she gazes wistfully at the birds in the cage, remembering him. Edwige-Renée Dro’s translation from the original French reads beautifully in English, and makes A Dream of Birds a good readaloud choice. A nice purchase for collections.

A Dream of Birds was originally published in Mauritius Island and France in 2020.

Shenaz Patel was born and lives on Mauritius Island. She has several jobs: journalist, playwright, novelist, and translator, and she is also a comics and children’s book author. She has written nine books for children, including A Dream of Birds, which was first published in French and English in Mauritius and France. She was named Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres in 2013, a high honor given by the French minister of culture.

Emmanuelle Tchoukriel was born and lives in France. Passionate about nature, she studied visual communication before entering the Estienne School in Paris. She specialized in scientific drawing, and she excels in illustrating flora and fauna. On Instagram: @emanuelle_tchoukriel

Edwige-Renée Dro is a writer, translator, and literary activist from the Ivory Coast, in Africa. Her writings have been published in anthologies such as New Daughters of Africa and Africa39, among others. She has judged many literary prizes, including the PEN International New Voices Award and the Etisalat Prize for Literature. She was awarded the Miles Morland Writing Scholarship in 2018 and is a 2021 resident of the International Writing Program at the University of Iowa. Learn more at edwigedro.wordpress.com.

Twitter: @DroEdwige

Facebook: Renée Edwige Dro

 


Want a chance at winning your own copy of A Dream of Birds? Enter the Rafflecopter giveaway! U.S. and Canadian addresses only, please

!

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads, Toddler Reads

Good advice for daily living: Don’t Forget

Don’t Forget, by Jane Godwin/Illustrated by Anna Walker, (Aug. 2022, Kane Miller), $14.99, ISBN: 9781684644360

Ages 3-7

A diverse group of children move through the day together as the overall narrative gently reminds readers of important things, both practical and esoteric, to remember in order to live a happy, fulfilling life: “Don’t forget to make your bed, / and wear socks that fit your feet”; “Don’t forget to try new things, / to smell the flowers, / watch the ocean, / and listen to the music / of the trees”. The story is a reminder of the important things in life: taking time to play; to be mindful; to reflect. Soft watercolors add to this gently profound meditation on living a meaningful life. Soothing endpapers show a nature scene. Don’t Forget will soothe readers with its upbeat look at the day-to-day. A nice additional purchase for storytime collections.

 

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

A Penny’s Worth is just good cents (see what I did there?)

A Penny’s Worth, by Kimberly Wilson/Illustrated by Mark Hoffman, (April 2022, Page Street Kids), $17.99, ISBN: 9781645674689

Ages 4-8

A penny emerges hot off the minting press and ready to take on the world… until she sees other coins and bills getting all the attention, while she sits alone. Penny candy? It’s a dime these days. Arcade game? No way, that’s for quarters. Penny is determined to find her purpose, and when all hope seems lost, she finds it in this sweetly comical story about money and worth. Loaded with money puns, A Penny’s Worth is a great way to start a discussion about money, the rising cost of living, and finding your way when everyone around you says “no”. Mixed media artwork is lively and colorful; the currency all have large, expressive eyes and little limbs, making them eye-catching to young readers. Kids will feel for the poor penny as she’s rejected from a video game and sits sadly in the return slot and receives a lesson in inflation from a dime, who sports a graduate-like mortarboard and black robe, and cheer when she finds her purposes in a child’s smile. Endpapers bookend the story. Back matter includes information about pennies and a bibliography. A nice addition to collections and a fun storytime readaloud.

Pair with books like Rosemary Well’s Bunny Money and Nancy Shaw’s Sheep in a Shop for a money-themed storytime. Print out some Crayola printable money for a fun post-storytime activity.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Listen Up, Louella is all about being a good friend

Listen Up, Louella, by Ashley Belote, (June 2022, Feiwel & Friends), $18.99, ISBN: 9781250812797

Ages 4-7

Louella is so excited about camp, but she doesn’t always listen very well. She charges into the cabin and barges her way through camp activities, never listening to her friends or noticing that they may not have the great time she’s having. But when Louella thinks she’s been left out of a group party, she learns that it’s important to take time and listen to others, and to play together so that everyone has a great time. Playful digital illustrations are loaded with fun little details that will clue sharp-eyed readers in to the very important message Louella’s missing. Animal characters are cartoony, with exaggerated expressions and body language that help deliver the point of the story; Louella, an elephant, uses her size to overpower the smaller campers and take over the show, from painting, to toilet paper forts, canoeing, and a talent show. Word bubbles add character reactions to the overall narration, and Belote uses fun animal turns-of-phrase like “tug-of-roar” and “slam trunk”. Endpapers lead into and out of the story, with Louella dragging her loaded red wagon into camp, and pulling her friends on a ride after shenanigans are done. A fun summertime story for sure, and a good reminder to remember how to be a good friend, as kids are getting ready to head back to school. A good purchase for picture book collections.

Posted in Graphic Novels, Teen

SPECS is looking like good ’80s YA horror!

Most of you know I’m a comic book fan(atic). I’m also stuck in the ’80s – my beloved formative years – and the teen horror that defined so much of that decade. Stranger Things? Give it right here.  Grady Hendrix’s books like My Best Friend’s Exorcism and Paperbacks from Hell? Yup, all on my bookshelf. What’s up next? According to an email in my inbox from BOOM! Studios, it’s SPECS:

From the press release:

LOS ANGELES, CA (August 10, 2022) – BOOM! Studios announced today SPECS, a mysterious new series from highly acclaimed writer David M. Booher (Canto, All-New Firefly), artist Chris Shehan (House of Slaughter) and colorist Roman Stevens, about a group of misfit teens who mail-order a pair of novelty glasses, and realize they’ve received much more than they bargained for, in stores November 2022.

All that high school students Kenny and Ted want is to not feel like outcasts in their small town in Ohio. But their world is turned upside down when the Magic Specs they ordered unlock a world of unforeseen possibilities. . . and consequences. Their fun starts out innocent enough, but when they wish that their bully would disappear, things take a cursed turn, with far darker results than they thought possible…

Channeling his love of 80’s sci-fi, fantasy, and horror, David M. Booher writes for TV, film, and comics. He co-created and wrote fan-favorite fantasy Canto from IDW, now in development as a motion picture with Will Smith’s Westbrook Studios and with David adapting the screenplay. David’s credits also include All-New Firefly for BOOM! Studios, Killer Queens from Dark Horse Comics, the comic adaptation of Joe Hill’s novella Rain for Image Comics, and Alien Bounty Hunter and Powerless from Vault Comics. An attorney by training, David lives in Los Angeles with his husband and the true brains behind their operation—their adopted greyhounds.

SPECS is my most personal story so far. As a gay kid who grew up in the Midwest, I know how it feels not to fit it. Kenny and Ted’s story as outsiders, filtered through the lenses of wish-granting novelty glasses, is my way of reminding that little kid that he’ll find his place in the world,” said Booher.

Chris Shehan is an American comic artist living in Austin, TX. They have been published by Vault Comics, Black Mask Studios, Scout Comics, A Wave Blue World, and Titan Books. Chris is best known as the artist for the bestselling series House of Slaughter from BOOM! Studios. They are also the artist and co-creator of The Autumnal from Vault Comics. They can be found on Twitter and Instagram @ChrisShehanArt.

“A story about a magic item that grants wishes… what could possibly go wrong?” said Shehan.  “David Booher, as usual, poured a lot of heart into SPECS and bringing that to life has been such a joy for me.”

SPECS #1 features main cover art by highly acclaimed artist Skylar Patridge (Trial of the Amazons), and variant covers by fan-favorite illustrators Kevin Wada (Buffy the Vampire Slayer), Chris Shehan (House of Slaughter), David Talaski (Nightwing), and more.

SPECS is ’80s adventure movies, supernatural horror, and small town kids going through some very strange events that will change them and their friendships forever,” said Elizabeth Brei, Editor, BOOM! Studios. “David and Chris have perfectly captured the chaos of teens caught in a trap of their own making and it’ll be up to you, dear readers, to find out if they manage to escape with their lives or sanity intact.”

SPECS is the newest release from BOOM! Studios’ eponymous imprint, home to critically acclaimed original series, including BRZRKR by Keanu Reeves, Matt Kindt, and Ron Garney; Something is Killing the Children by James Tynion IV and Werther Dell’Edera; Once & Future by Kieron Gillen and Dan Mora; We Only Find Them When They’re Dead by Al Ewing and Simone Di Meo; Seven Secrets by Tom Taylor and Daniele Di Nicuolo; The Many Deaths of Laila Starr by Ram V and Filipe Andrade; Basilisk by Cullen Bunn and Jonas Scharf; Grim by Stephanie Phillips and Flaviano; and the upcoming series Briar by Christopher Cantwell and Germán García, Stuff of Nightmares by R.L. Stine and A,L. Kaplan, Damn Them All by Si Spurrier and Charlie Adlard; The Approach by Jeremy Haun, Jason A. Hurley, and Jesus Hervas, and Behold, Behemoth by Tate Brombal and Nick Robles. The imprint also publishes popular licensed properties, including Dune: House Atreides from Brian Herbert, Kevin J. Anderson, and Dev Pramanik; Mighty Morphin and Power Rangers from Ryan Parrott, Mat Groom, Moises Hidalgo, and Marco Renna; and Magic from Jed McKay and Ig Guara.

Coming to comic book stores in November, I’m going to keep an eye out for SPECS #1 and definitely keep it in mind for when the trade paperbacks start coming.

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

New Faith Erin Hicks! Ride On!

Ride On, by Faith Erin Hicks, (Aug. 2022, First Second), $14.99, ISBN: 9781250772824

Ages 10-14

Eisner Award winner Faith Erin Hicks is back with a new graphic novel! Ride On hits on all the things my middle graders love to read about: horses, friendship, and a challenging situation. Twelve-year-old equestrienne Victoria arrives at Edgewood Stables after a break from riding following a fallout with her former best friend, Victoria. She initially brushes off attempts at friendship from Norrie, one of the other students, but finds common ground in a science fiction TV show fandom and eventually lets her guard down and befriends Norrie and her friends, Hazel and Sam (the only boy at the school). When the Edgewood riders are invited to a competition at Waverly, Victoria realizes that she will have to face her former best friend.

Faith Erin Hicks masterfully creates characters and situations that speak to readers. Whether they’re new students at a boarding school (A Year at Ellesmere), a street urchin living in a city overrun by invaders (The Nameless City), or a homeschooled teen confronting a ghost (Friends with Boys), she has the ability to weave the fantastic with the everyday and create special people. Every character in Ride On is someone worth knowing, including Quinn, the newest horse in the Edgewood stable. From Norrie’s hilariously drama queen personality to Victoria’s initially brusque, withdrawn temperament, and Sam’s “bro-dude” older brothers, readers will see themselves and people they know in Ride On. She understands how fandom breaks through walls and unites people – for good! – and deftly uses that understanding to give us a wonderful subplot. Hicks’s illustration is realistic and soft, approachable. An author’s note provides more context for the story. An absolute must-buy for graphic novel collections.

Ride On has starred reviews from Booklist, Publisher’s Weekly, and School Library Journal. Visit Faith Erin Hicks’s website for more about her work and to read her webcomics.

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

Speak Up! channels inner strength and confidence

Speak Up!, by Rebecca Burgess, (Aug. 2022, Quill Tree Press), $13.99, ISBN: 9780063081192

Ages 8-12

Middle schooler Mia is autistic and bullied by other kids at school, but when she and her best friend, Charlie, get together after school, they make musical magic together, posting videos where Mia is singer Elle-Q, accompanied by Charlie’s musical talent. If only Mia’s bullies knew that the singer they’re obsessed with is the same girl they laugh at for being “weird”, maybe they’d be singing a different tune. Mia and Charlie have differences of opinion when he pushes for the duo to appear in the local talent show: Mia is nervous afraid people will laugh at her for “stimming” – the self-stimulating behaviors triggered by stress or anxiety – and Charlie feels that Mia’s reluctance to appear will squash his chance to get notice for his music. Meanwhile, Mia’s mom seems to be completely clueless on how her daughter really feels, pushing her toward ways to “be normal” and “fit in”. Mia learns to advocate for herself in this graphic novel that’s sure to keep tweens and young teens turning pages. Speak Up! is a study in self-advocacy and an inspiring story about being true to onesself, with tween-friendly cartoon-realistic artwork that will draw readers who love Raina Telgemeier, Kayla Miller, and Terri Libenson. An excellent choice for graphic novel collections and a strong addition to the growing canon of books about autistic tweens living and thriving. Mia is white and Charlie is brown-skinned, uses “they/them” pronouns, and presents as nonbinary.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Need a way to Find Your Happy?

Find Your Happy, by Emily Coxhead, (June 2022, Kane Miller), $14.99, ISBN: 9781684644490

Ages 3-6

A sloth offers ways to “find your happy” whenever he’s feeling sad, angry, or scared. He takes deep breaths, he thinks of positive things, like friends and family who love and support him, or imagines himself as a brave superhero, and encourages readers to remember that, while “somedays are incredible, other are just OK, and some feel really bad”, there’s always a way to find your happy. Bright colors and expressive animals make this an eye-catching story about emotions, feelings, and positivity. Written by Emily Coxhead, creator of The Happy News – a newsletter that’s all about good newsFind Your Happy is a cheerfully positive readaloud that will work well with storytimes and with social-emotional collections that focus on working through tough emotions. Find more of Emily Coxhead’s uplifting illustrations at her website.

Want to have a sloth storytime? Add books from the Lento & Fox series by Ben Sanders, Eric Carle’s classic, Slowly, Slowly, Slowly, Said the Sloth, or Sloth at the Zoom by Helaine Becker and Orbie. There is a great list of books with sloth main characters at Bookroo. Don’t forget to print out some sloth coloring sheets for your storytime!

 

Posted in gaming, Librarianing, programs

How my Thursday afternoon Math Club became a Thursday afternoon Gaming Club (and still has math!)

I’ve been having a great time with Math Clubs at my library lately. I know, Math Club, right? Aren’t most kids supposed to run screaming from Math Club? Not the Crazy 8s Math Club. Grab a nice, cold water, have a seat, let’s talk.

Most of the kids in my library community need help with math. Math can be intimidating and frustrating for them – I know it is for me – and it can be difficult to see the fun side of it. I had the idea of running a math club where we could play numbers games and taking some of that fear out of Math, so I started researching, and found Crazy 8s, a Math Club that developed out of the Bedtime Math Foundation. I was already familiar with the Bedtime Math app, having used it to do daily math games with my Kiddo when he was little, so finding out they had a Math Club was great news! The format reminds me of Girls Who Code, in that you get kits mailed to you, with lessons, for 8 weeks worth of math club sessions for Season 1, and there’s a coach login area with extra resources. I had a call with a Crazy 8s representative and about a week later, two boxes showed up!

I run two clubs every week: one for grades K-2, one for grades 3-5, and the sessions have been wonderful. Our first week, we did glow-in-the-dark geometry: Crazy 8s provided the glow-in-the-dark sticks, the kids provided the building knowledge to make the shapes. We counted sides, we talked about shapes and how many sides different shapes have and what we call them, and the kids had a blast.

Another week, we had hacky sack darts: Crazy 8s provided the hacky sacks and a floor-sized dartboard. We added up numbers, we played “darts”, and we had four teams compete with fun challenges, all while they were doing math. We had Beach Ball math another week, where they had to count how many breaths it took for me to blow up a beach ball (and not pass out), and called out math problems as they played catch.

The verdict: Get yourselves in on Crazy 8s Math Club. I am absolutely going for another season come the Fall! The website is super user-friendly and it’s a great program to run.

My Thursday group is the Grades 3-5 Math Club. They enjoy the games, but when time was up, they lingered around, wanting more. I’d been holding onto some games to introduce in September, particularly Dungeons & Dragons, but I figured there was no time like the present. I brought out character sheets and started explaining the idea of “storytelling, but with math” to my Corona Kids, and they were intrigued. I showed them the different kinds of dice – that was pretty great; I forget that a 20-sided die is a new thing to some people! – and explained how to work percentile dice. We started creating a quick adventure where one kid, playing a dwarf, had to roll his Intelligence to see what he could read; another kid, playing a wizard, got to roll Magic Missile to stop an orc bearing down on him. They loved it, I loved it, and we decided that Thursdays would now be Dungeons and Dragons math club. Huzzah!

The joy was increased tenfold when a friend put a link up on my Facebook page with the news that Wizards of the Coast – the company that owns Dungeons and Dragons AND the Magic: The Gathering card game – is providing activity kits to educators and librarians who want to start a Dungeons and Dragons group. I filled my form out, and my kit will arrive in the Fall! Until then, I’ll use the Starter Set I have at home from when my older kids were younger, and some of the freebies available on the Dungeons & Dragons resources area.

I mentioned Magic: The Gathering, which is a great fantasy card game that I played years ago, when my family and I learned it at the Wizards of the Coast pavilion at New York Comic Con. My cards have been dormant for a while, but that changed when I discovered this great nonprofit, MagiKids by Weirdcards. MagiKids is a nonprofit that has an education curriculum built around Magic: The Gathering! You fill out a form on their website, and they may send you a massive bunch of stuff. Look at this!

That’s not even the whole thing. I received this big card box full of donated M:TG cards; unopened booster packs, deck boxes for when the kids put together their decks, and score counters. It is INCREDIBLE. I was holding onto this one until September, too, but when the kids became so excited over Dungeons and Dragons, I had to introduce them to Magic. Sure enough, they couldn’t believe their eyes. We talked a little bit about the game, I let them open the boosters (honestly, it’s just so exciting), and we talked about MagiKids’s Sort, Build, Play curriculum. For the first week, we looked through the cards, talked about the different colors and what powers, what cards, attached to those colors. We talked about the numbers on the cards and what they meant; we talked about how many types of colors they could have in their decks (I suggested two to start, but agreed that yes, you can play all the lands in your deck if you want to). This coming week, we’ll talk about building their first decks. I may take that up to two weeks, because honestly, that’s a lot.

So for now, that’s it: Wednesdays is Crazy 8s for my Kindergarteners, First, and Second graders; Thursday, my bigger kids will have their Crazy 8s club, and then we’ll alternate between D&D and M:TG every week. I think I may be more excited than they are!

 

Image courtesy of DND Sage Advice

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

The familiar refrain: I Can Explain!

I Can Explain, by Shinsuke Yoshitake, (Aug. 2022, Chronicle Kids), $17.99, ISBN: 9781797216904

Ages 5-8

A young boy explains his bad habits in the most hilarious of ways in I Can Explain. His mom may think it’s bad manners, but when the boy picks his nose? It’s actually him pressing a button to release cheerful beams. And biting his nails? It releases a sound that makes crows fly away from the trash bags; adults just can’t hear it. For every behavior, there’s a completely valid reason: he can explain! An absolutely uproarious read-aloud that ends with Mom having to find an explanation of her own, too, I Can Explain is a conversation starter about manners that acknowledges a child’s imagination and doesn’t take itself so seriously. Pen and digital artwork create an unfussy story with bright pinks and yellows and over line art; other colors come into play for emphasis. Endpapers get into the act, with the front endpapers showing our narrator recreating some of his bad habits, and back endpapers showing readers that Mom isn’t always so blameless, either.

I Can Explain was originally published in Japan in 2015. Shinsuke Yoshitake is an award-winning author and illustrator.