Posted in Uncategorized

Picture book series help kids Dealing with Feelings

I’m in a pandemic state of mind these days. Call it the post-holiday surge, added to the fact that I’ve been quarantining at home because what I thought was just a cold wasn’t exactly just a cold, and throw in a dash of watching the numbers and panic rise again. As kids go in and out of remote learning, and as schools go back and forth on whether to stay open or shift to remote learnintg this year, I know there are a lot of stressful feelings. Poet and children’s author Deborah Fannie Miller has been writing books in a new series, “Dealing with Feelings”, to help kids and families navigate these emotions.

Grappling with the Grumblies, by Deborah Fannie Miller/Illustrated by Diane Jacobs, (Sept. 2013, Frontenac House), $12.95, ISBN:  978-1927823002

Ages 4-7

A girl’s mom wakes her up too early, setting off a grumpy mood – and a Grumblie appears! It’s a spiky little purple monster who says one word: “Grump!” The Grumblie follows the girl around, feeding off of her bad mood and growing larger and larger, pushing the girl out of her own room! Mom recognizes the sign of a Grumblie, and deflects the situation by inviting her daughter to wiggle, dance, and laugh that Grumblie back to size. Kids will recognize how a Grumblie can just show up and take over their whole day, feeding off a bad mood, and it’s important for parents to see how they can recognize a Grumblie at work, and help de-escalate a situation by acknowledging that something’s going on, and helping their kids get their attention away from the bad mood. Illustrations are subdued and colorful, and the Grumblie is a creature kids can easily draw; invite them to create their own Grumblies to help them talk about what they’re feeling.

 

Juggling the Jitters, by Deborah Fannie Miller/Illustrated by Danielle Bazinet, (Sept. 2013, Frontenac House), $10.10, ISBN: 978-1927823026

Ages 4-7

A boy named Jacob goes to bed, excited for a birthday party he’s attending the next day. But just when he tries to sleep, the Jitters creep in: what if his friend doesn’t like her present? Will he make new friends? Will he get a balloon? There’s so much to worry about, and the Jitters multiply and cause a ruckus, jumping on Jacob’s bed and turning the lights on. Papa comes in to find out what’s going on, and realizes what’s going on; he takes Jacob into his arms and consoles him, and teaches him some deep breathing to relax him. Those spiky, mean-spirited Jitters keep trying to get Jacob’s attention, but as he and Papa do a little dance together to shake them away, the Jitters head out the window, where they turn into Glitters: bright yellow stars. Another good story about how nerves and anxiety can disrupt one’s sleep and peace of mind, Juggling the Jitters is also important in illustrating to parents how to react; not with anger, but with comfort and a touch of whimsy. The breathing practices are a great idea for putting kids in a calming headspace, and the dancing is light and playful, putting kids at ease.

If you have additional funding for social-emotional books, these are a good additional purchase.

 

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Life in the Extraordinary Pause

The Extraordinary Pause, by Sara Sadik/Illustrated by Karine Jaber, (Sept. 2021, Eifrig Publishing), $16.99, ISBN: 9781632333070

Ages 4-8

As we finish up Year 2 of… *sweeping gesture* all of this, it’s comforting to have a book remind you of things we’ve gained. The Extraordinary Pause is one of those books. Beginning with a recap of where we were before: our nonstop society, consumed by devices, had stopped noticing our surroundings; even each other. And at that point, the virus – depicted as a spiky orange monster – creeped in, and we all stayed home, where we discovered each other – and our surroundings – once again, on a more personal level. We cooked together, played together, learned together, and slowly, that “extraordinary pause” brought everything back. Sure, things are different now, but we’re figuring out how to live with things the way they are now. Illustrator Karine Jaber brings Sara Sadik’s quiet storytelling to life, touching on things kids will remember most from the pause that went for almost two years: empty classrooms, shuttered stores, isolated parks and playgrounds. Together, they also mention the things kids will remember with fondness, like learning at home, parents at their sides; sharing family time; and most important of all, those hugs we missed when reunited with family and friends. Karine Jensen uses color with great thought, giving weight to the things we “forgot” before the pause, like green spaces, as we rush around in our monochromatic lives. Home spaces and interactions are warmly colored. Back matter includes questions to think about with readers, inviting them to think and talk about how their lives changed during the pause. A QR code lets readers scan for more resources.

A good addition to social-emotional learning collections, and a strong testament to what we’ve come through.

Posted in Graphic Novels, Science Fiction, Teen, Young Adult/New Adult

Pixels of You considers friendships between AI and human

Pixels of You, by Ananth Hirsh & Yuko Ota/Illustrated by J.R. Doyle, (Feb. 2022, Amulet Paperbacks), $16.99, ISBN: 9781419749575

Ages 14+

The team behind 2016’s graphic novel, Lucky Penny, are back with a story about AI, humans, and the relationship that forms between one pair. Indira is a human artist, a photographer, who’s been cybernetically augmented after a car accident took one of her eyes at the age of 10. Fawn is the first human-presenting AI, also a photographic artist, who interns at the same gallery as Indira. The gallery owner puts them together on a project after the two have a very public disagreement over their work, the gallery owner – their mentor – puts them to the ultimate test: work on a project together, or leave the gallery. Period. At first, the collaboration is forced, grudging, but slowly, as the two artists get to know one another, a friendship forms, allowing each to see the world through the other’s eyes. Largely illustrated in shades of rose and violet, black pages with white text that record key moments in AI/Human history capture the reader’s attention and act as chapter heads, giving readers an idea of what may lie ahead. The characters are hard to get to know in the first pass – the story is interesting, but hard to connect to at first; I felt like I “got” them better as I went on in the story. I re-read the book, and the knowledge I’d gained from the first pass definitely helped me feel more for the characters from the outset, so you may want to give a solid booktalk on what’s going on in human history – touch on the paranoia that exists between humans and AI, for starters – at the time the story is set, to give tweens and teens more context to build on. There’s a slow-burn sapphic romance subplot that’s so subtle, some readers may not pick up on it for a while, but it is a satisfying close. Fawn’s robot parents are a surprise hit in the story. Give this one a shot. Talk about perspective, and how photography factors into the story of “seeing” others. I think it’ll find a dedicated audience.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

The Age-Old Question: What is Love?

What is Love?, by Mac Barnett/Illustrated by Carson Ellis, (Dec. 2021, Chronicle Books), $17.99, ISBN: 9781452176406

Ages 3-6

A young boy asks his grandmother that question we all hear at some point: “What is love?” Grandmother can’t answer that, so the boy goes out into the world and asks everyone he comes into contact with, receiving hundreds of different answers: it’s a fish; it’s a horse; it’s the night; it’s a blade, it’s any number of things, but one thing we know for sure, there’s no one answer. The boy returns, years later, to his grandmother, and as he cuddles her, he realizes that he has his answer. A gentle story about the subjectivity of love and the journey to learn what defines it, only to discover that it’s in one’s heart all along, What is Love? is uncomplicated and profound all at once; it’s the easiest thing in the world to some, yet to explain or define it can confound others. Playful, colorful gouache artwork and the repetition of the question, “What is love?” and the oft-repeated response, “You do not understand”, makes for moments of introspection as readers consider what each of these things mean to others: the blade to a soldier; applause to an actor. Ask little ones what love feels like to them, and give them some paper and crayons.

Marc Barnett is an award-winning author, including two Caldecott Honor books. Find more about his books at his website, where you can sign up for his newsletter. Carson Ellis is an award-winning illustrator with a Caldecott Honor book to her credit. See more about of her illustration at her website.

What is Love? has starred reviews from BookPage and School Library Journal.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Environmentally savvy storytelling: Moles Present The Natural Tolls of Digging Holes

Moles Present The Natural Tolls of Digging Holes, by Springer Badger, (Nov. 2021, Page Street Kids), $17.99, ISBN: 9781645672876

Ages 4-8

Already updating your Earth Day collections? Take a look at this rhyming tale about the holes we dig, as a group of moles illustrate the different reasons we dig: some are for fun, like to create sandboxes; some are helpful, to use as bathrooms; some are to explore and discover, like archaeologists do. But some are to put stinky or poisonous things, and sometimes, we dig too deeply, which can cause other problems. A smart, humorous rhyme pairs with amusing artwork that lets us look at what’s going on underground, from zombie moles to a school of fish panicking as one of their own nips onto a fishing pole; signage like “Brutish Petroleum” and “Exxoff” are wink to adults who will recognize gas and oil companies. An environmental call to action that younger readers will love. Make sure to have copies of the activity kit available to hand out (print on the other side of scrap paper!)

Posted in Fantasy, Teen, Young Adult/New Adult

Kicking off 2022 YA with a bang: The Bone Spindle

The Bone Spindle, by Leslie Vedder, (Jan. 2022, Razorbill), $18.99, ISBN: 9780593325827

Ages 12+

This fantasy YA is heavily inspired by Sleeping Beauty, with a touch of Red Riding Hood, and a lot of adventure. Fi – short for Filore – is a treasure hunter with a curse on her head. Actually, it’s on her hand, but it’s a terrible one. Shane is an exiled female warrior who loves fighting and pretty girls. The two unlikely partners end up working together to free a kingdom when Fi pricks her finger on a bone spindle and discovers Briar Rose, the prince whose kingdom is under a sleeping curse until Love’s first kiss awakens him. Briar’s body is asleep, but his magic allows him to appear to Fi, leading her to his kingdom: if she can make it through the perilous thorns and other dangers that await.

The first in a new YA fantasy duology (or trilogy!), The Bone Spindle is a fantasy adventure that flips traditional fairy tales and gender roles, giving readers strong and smart female protagonists and a gentle hero with a mysterious dark side. Fi is afraid to fall in love after a terrible ex left her in a bad spot, but Briar is so awkward and sweet that she wonders what will happen when she finally gets to his kingdom to deliver his kiss. Shane comes from a warrior kingdom, but she’s chosen exile. She loves the heft of her axe and the smile on a pretty girl, but her partnership with Fi means she’ll put herself at risk for a friend. Fantasy readers, LGBTQ+ readers, romance readers, all will find something to love in The Bone Spindle – enjoy spotting the influences as you read.

Posted in picture books

Blog Tour and Giveaway: My Grandma’s Photos

The latest children’s book to hit American shores, courtesy of Amazon Crossing Kids, is the beautiful and poignant My Grandma’s Photos, originally published in Turkey in 2019.

My Grandma’s Photos, by Özge Bahar Sunar/Illustrated by Senta Urgan,
Translated by Amy Marie Spangler
(Jan. 2022, Amazon Crossing Kids), $17.99, ISBN: 9781542031158

Ages 5-8

Seen through a child’s eyes, My Grandma’s Photos is the story of an aging grandmother, a grandchild, and a group of old photos that transports Grandma from her chair back into her robust, joyful life. She takes Ali, her granddaughter, into this beautiful world with her, and Ali sees her grandmother’s life unfold before her eyes: family picnics, climbing trees, becoming a master seamstress, falling in love and marrying Ali’s grandfather. It’s beautiful and moving; at moments, it brings on the tears, but they’re cleansing, renewing. Grandma lives her life once again and Ali finally sees her grandmother’s vibrant, full life as she’s never done before.

 

Senta Urgan’s artwork captures the essential moments, using pastels and collage to create living photos that exist outside the borders to reach out and draw both Grandma and Ali into their world. The artwork is the heartbeat to this fantastic story; Urgan uses real photos and illustrates a world around them, blending them together with photos and sketches, to create a dreamlike landscape where readers can play along with the characters. An essential story to have on hand to give to readers who may have aging family members.

 

 

“A gentle book about remembering, as well as grieving, a life well lived.” ―Kirkus Reviews

“This depiction of a tender, loving relationship is touched with magic, and Ali’s participation in his grandmother’s experiences brings them both much joy.” ―Booklist

“[A] beautiful, heartfelt story about loss and love.” ―School Library Journal

One lucky winner will receive a copy of My Grandma’s Photos, courtesy of Amazon Crossing Kids (U.S. and Canada addresses). Enter the Rafflecopter giveaway!

Amazon Crossing Kids aims to increase the diversity of children’s books in translation and encourage young reading from a range of cultural perspectives.

Özge Bahar Sunar is a former teacher turned children’s author. She has written multiple picture books, including the bestselling The Hedgehog and the Exhibit, illustrated by Ceyhun Şen, which was translated into seven languages. Sunar lives with her two children in Antalya, Turkey, where she loves to think up new stories while hiking in the wild. Find her on Instagram @ozgebaharsnr.

Senta Urgan is a graduate of Mimar Sinan University, where she studied sculpture. Since 2010 she has been illustrating books for children, including picture books and novels, and also works as a graphic designer. She is the founder of the brand Mala Hermana Handmade, where she exhibits her illustrations and ceramic art. Find her on Instagram @toporulkesindekikes.

Amy Marie Spangler is a cofounder of Istanbul-based AnatoliaLit Agency, and a commercial and literary translator with numerous books and short stories to her credit. Find her on Twitter @Amy_Spangler.

Posted in gaming, Graphic Novels, Non-Fiction, Teen, Tween Reads, Young Adult/New Adult

Jon Chad’s graphic novel history of Pinball is great for gamer historians

Pinball: A Graphic History of the Silver Ball, by Jon Chad, (Feb. 2022, First Second), $24.99, ISBN: 9781250249210

Ages 10+

Before there was Atari, there was pinball. The first pinball machine made its debut around 1930 and captivated players from the beginning: so much that banned for being a “racket that fleeces children” and drive them to petty thievery”. In 1976, champion player Roger Sharpe played the game in a Manhattan courtroom to prove that pinball was a game of skill, not chance. Graphic novelist Jon Chad ‘s (Science Comics) graphic novel Pinball is the graphic history of the game, tracing its roots back to the Court of King Louis XIV, through its scandalous era in the 1930s, and renaissance in the 1970s, all the way up to the present day. It’s like Science Comics and History Comics, all put together in great volume. Jon Chad examines not only the artwork and cultural significance of the game – gaming fans, and pinball fans in particular, know all about the collectible, incredible artwork that went into the back glass and the game floor itself – but the physics of the game, and what makes it a game of skill.

Jon Chad’s artwork is colorful, filled with movement and amazing detail. He writes with expert knowledge and a true love of the game. This is an essential purchase for nonfiction graphic collections and anyone with a gaming collection.

Read an interview with Jon Chad at ComicsBeat, visit his author webpage for more comics and teaching resources, and have your own pinball/STEM program with these PBS Kids instructions or this pizza box pinball PDF from the UK’s Science Museum Group.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Welcoming the New Year with a blog tour: Playing with Lanterns

Hi, all! I hope you all had a happy and healthy holiday season and are ready for a hopeful New Year. I’ve been sick (not THAT one, just an awful cold) for the last few days, so my triumphant return to blogging has been waylaid a bit, but I’m back, medicated, and rested.

My first post of the New Year is also about a New Year: Lunar New Year! Playing with Lanterns is a new book from Amazon Crossing Kids, translated from Chinese, about a group of children and their special New Year lanterns.


Playing with Lanterns, by Wang Yage/Illustrated by Zhu Chengliang,
Translated by Helen Wang, (Jan. 2022, Amazon Crossing Kids),
$17.99, ISBN: 9781542029841
Ages 4-7

Zhao Di and her friends are so excited to celebrate Lunar New Year! They run, dance, and play together, waving their colorful lanterns each night until the last night – the 15th day of the New Year – when they smash their lanterns! But Zhao Di doesn’t want to smash her lantern just yet. That would mean the New Year celebrations are over, after all; or what if it’s not the right time yet? That would bring bad luck!

Originally published in China, Playing with Lanterns is such a wonderful winter story about childhood and tradition. Back matter includes an author’s note about the tradition of smashing lanterns, and the story reads at times like verse, at times like a folk tale, creating a wonderful atmosphere for readers and making this a great readaloud choice. Colorful artwork decorates the text and sets warm atmosphere in the middle of winter, with colorful lanterns, clothing, warm fires, and cheery homes. For a colorful lantern craft that can easily transition into a grab-and-go, visit First Palette.

 

“A colorful wintry tale ushers in Chinese New Year over two weeks…A charming illustration of childhood memories during the holiday season.” Kirkus Reviews

“Quiet, elegant passages stud the text…Tenderly detailed gouache paintings by Zhu render the children as small, patterned bundles frolicking against expanses of snow…A quiet celebration of a Northwestern Chinese tradition.” Publishers Weekly

Wang Yage was born in Shaanxi, a central and historical province of China, where the custom of playing with lanterns was once a popular Chinese New Year tradition. A doctor of classical Chinese literature, she teaches at the University of Tibet. Playing with Lanterns is her first picture book. First published in China, the book made the prestigious White Ravens international book list.

Zhu Chengliang is an award-winning Chinese illustrator. Born in Shanghai and raised in Suzhou, he studied at the Department of Fine Art, Nanjing University, and has worked as an author, illustrator, editor, and designer. He was nominated for the Hans Christian Andersen Award in 2016, which is the highest international distinction given to authors and illustrators of children’s books. His books have been named one of the Ten Best Illustrated Books by the New York Times and to the IBBY Honor List.

Helen Wang is a writer and translator from the UK. In 2017 she was given a Special Contributor of the Year honor as part of the Chen Bochui International Children’s Literature Awards for her work in bringing Chinese children’s literature to English-speaking audiences. Wang has translated novels, picture books, and graphic novels, including Cao Wenxuan’s Bronze and Sunflower, which won the Marsh Christian Award for Children’s Literature in Translation.

 

One lucky winner will receive a copy of Playing with Lanterns, courtesy of Amazon Crossing Kids (U.S. and Canada addresses). Enter the Rafflecopter giveaway!

Amazon Crossing Kids aims to increase the diversity of children’s books in translation and encourage young reading from a range of cultural perspectives.

 

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Setting the tone for a new year: A Hundred Thousand Welcomes

A Hundred Thousand Welcomes, by Mary Lee Donovan/Illustrated by Lian Cho (Oct. 2021, Greenwillow Books), $18.99, ISBN: 9780062877727

Ages 4-8

Welcome! Readers travel to homes all over the world to share food and friendship in A Hundred Thousand Welcomes, being greeted in with a hearty “Welcome!” in 14 different languages. Each welcome includes a phonetic pronunciation to allow for readers to learn and share greetings with one another and spread a message of empathy, unity, and hope for a better world. Families greet one another and invite them to sit at tables together; a note from the artist explains her inspiration: “Food is something that joins us across cultures”. Warm colors and rhythmic verse send a wonderful message to all as people come together to share food, their cultures, and their homes. Reading this book today gives me hope for the holiday season and for a new year. Back matter includes a pronunciation guide, notes form the author and artist, and information about the languages featured in the story. Publisher HarperCollins includes A Hundred Thousand Welcomes discussion prompts and extension activities in a home and community teaching guide.