Posted in Realistic Fiction, Teen, Young Adult/New Adult

Belittled Women: A Little Women for a new age

Belittled Women, by Amanda Sellett, (Nov. 2022, Clarion Books), $18.99, ISBN: 9780358567356

Ages 14+

Don’t ask Jo Porter how she feels about Little Women: she lives it. No, seriously. Her mother is a bit obsessed; not only did she name her three daughters Jo, Meg, and Bethamy (a mashup of Beth and Amy), and refer to herself as Marmee. Oh, and they play their namesakes in a running show called Little Women Live!, with school visits coming to watch the family act out – and put unique spins on – scenes from the Alcott classic. Jo is sick to death of it all, she’s constantly at odds with Amy, and Meg is just tuned out of everything. When a journalist and her son show up to write article about the Porter family, Jo is intrigued: the journalist asks pointed questions that get her thinking about life beyond home, and Hudson, the journalist’s son, is giving her signals. When Jo strikes out on her own and lands in New York on what she thinks is an invitation to stay with the journalist and learn from her, and pursue a relationship with Hudson, she learns that the grass ain’t always greener. Narrated by Jo, there are hilarious moments – the dialogue between Jo and Amy is particularly biting and witty – and moments that most teens will understand, like being frazzled by family relationships. You don’t need to read Alcott to read and enjoy Belittled Women. A good first purchase for teen collections.

Read Amanda Sellett’s laugh-out-loud Belittled Women FAQ on her author webpage.

Posted in Preschool Reads, picture books

Over and Under the Waves explores the ocean

Over and Under the Waves, by Kate Messner/Illustrated by Christopher Silas Neal, (Sept. 2022, Chronicle Kids), $18.99, ISBN: 9781797203478

Ages 4-7

Kate Messner and Christopher Silas Neal’s latest Over and Under story explores the ocean ecosystem. Narrated in the first person by a child while out rowing with their family, we encounter sea lions sunning on the rocks, birds soaring overhead, and a mother and baby otter cuddling among the kelp. A glimpse below the water reveals an entirely different, bustling world: shimmering fish and bristly urchins; lurking eels and drifting jellies, and a giant surprise! There’s a sense of wonder in Messner’s storytelling, beautifully translated by Neal, who creates spread after spread of mixed media realistic ocean life. The family is present only to help place the reader in the story; nature takes center stage, with the human characters occasionally appearing from the side of the spread, or from far above to provide perspective. Endpapers show sea stars, fish, and shells in white silhouette across a field of deep blue. An author’s note describes Messner’s inspiration for the tale, and an “About the Animals” section provides a brief informational paragraph on each animal in the story. Recommended books and websites direct readers to further reading. A thoughtful meditation on the ocean, and an excellent addition to both this series and STEM/STEAM and nature collections.

Posted in Preschool Reads, picture books

STEAM-pressed flipped fairy tale: Jo Bright and the Seven Bots

Jo Bright and the Seven Bots, by Deborah Underwood/Illustrated by Meg Hunt, (Sept. 2022, Chronicle Books), $17.99, ISBN: 9781452171302

Ages 4-7

The creators of fun flipped fairy tales Interstellar Cinderella and Reading Beauty are back with a fun tinkering tale that will be popular in STEM/STEAM storytimes, fairy tale storytimes, and any time. Jo Bright is a tinkerer with a talent for building bots despite the selfish queen not sharing her supplies. Even Mirror-bot knows the score, telling the queen that “your bots are great, ’tis true, / but Jo Bright has become / a better bot-builder than you”, sending the queen into a tizzy and getting Jo dropped off by a dragon’s lair. Turns out, the vegetarian dragon took to the woods to escape the queen, too, and bonds with Jo, who creates seven bots to keep the lonely dragon company. When the queen discovers that Jo is still the superior bot-maker, she takes things even further! Mixed media illustrations are just plain fun, with adorable robots, diverse and interesting background characters, and a likable blue-haired heroine with a talent for creating. Endpapers add a little extra fun to the story. The rhyming verse is easy to read and makes for a lively readaloud. Pair this one with Ashley Spires’s The Most Magnificent Thing (2014) for a fun STEAM story, and leave out some LEGOs for post-storytime play.

 

Posted in Middle Grade, Non-fiction, Tween Reads

Hope Wins: Inspiring personal stories from favorite authors

Hope Wins: A Collection of Inspiring Stories for Young Readers, Edited by Dr. Rose Brock, (May 2022, Philomel Books), $17.99, ISBN: 9780593463932

Ages 8-12

The last couple of years have been really hard for kids. Hope Wins is a collection of personal stories from some of the best-known names in kidlit – R.L. Stine; Christina Soontornvat, and Tom Angleberger, to name just a few – on overcoming adversity and embracing hope. Dr. Rose Brock, co-founder of the North Texas Teen Book Festival, brings together 22 authors to tell their stories, and every reader will find something – someone – to speak to them here. Origami Yoda series author Tom Angleberger writes about discovering his place on the autism spectrum in “Major Malfunction”; Black Panther author and Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe Award winner Ronald L. Smith writes about the new world waiting for him when he got glasses in “The Boy in the Back of the Class”; Newbery Medalist Christina Soontornvat describes the grace of going high when others go low in “Everything I Need to Know I Learned in a Thai Restaurant”. Readers will love the feeling of being invited into each author’s life, of seeing these writers as children. Vashti Harrison’s gorgeous cover features a young brown-skinned girl holding aloft a banner with the title, Hope Wins; the authors selected are diverse and offer a wide worldview. An excellent choice for readers: if you haven’t purchased a copy yet, now is the time. Booktalk these stories with your readers and familiarize yourself with them. After two years of strife, we all need a little extra hope. Hope Wins is the middle grade companion to Dr. Brock’s 2019 YA anthology, Hope Nation: YA Authors Share Moments of Personal Inspiration.

Posted in Fantasy, Teen, Young Adult/New Adult

Just in time for Halloween: Raising the Horseman by Serena Valentino

Raising the Horseman, by Serena Valentino, (Sept. 2022, Disney-Hyperion), $17.99, ISBN: 9781368054614

Ages 12+

The Disney Villains series is one of series I can’t keep on my teen shelves. My library teens devour them and they devour the Disney Twisted Tales series faster than authors can write them, which goes to show you can’t go wrong with the classics, especially when there’s a fun change-up. Serena Valentino, author of the Disney Villains series, takes on the Headless Horseman and the legend of Sleepy Hollow in her newest book, Raising the Horseman. Kat Van Tassel is the latest in a long line of Katrina Van Tassels; the famed heroine of Sleepy Hollow was her many times great-grandmother and every woman in her line has been named for her. She’s straining against that legacy, though: she wants to leave and go to college; she doesn’t want to get married and stay in Sleepy Hollow like every other Katrina, despite her mother’s gentle pushing her toward the very thing. Kat finds herself captivated by a new girl in town just as she’s drifting further apart from her boyfriend, Blake: Isadora Crow challenges Kat to see Blake and his gaslighting behavior and to consider a life beyond expectation. As the 200th anniversary of the Headless Horseman’s rise approaches, Kat’s mother gives her Original Katrina’s diary, and Kat begins unraveling the secrets held within. What really happened that night, so long ago? Valentino gives readers a fun, female-forward twist on the classic spooky story, a smart, bisexual heroine who knows there’s more to life than reliving a legend, and a warning about toxic relationships. There are moments where the story struggles with repetition, but the action is fast-paced and the developing relationship between Kat and Isadora, plus the deftly placed twist in the original Sleepy Hollow story, make this worth the time.

Bottom line? You can’t go wrong with Disney YA. A good purchase.

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

Frizzy unleashes curly hair power!

Frizzy, by Claribel A. Ortega/Illustrated by Rose Bousamra, (Oct. 2022, First Second), $12.99, ISBN: 9781250259639

Ages 8-12

Marlene is a tween who loves her books, her supercool Tía Ruby, and her best friend, Camila. What she doesn’t love? Her mother’s insistence on “growing up” and having “good hair”, which means Marlene is spending every weekend in the salon having her hair straightened. She hates every bit of it, and wishes she could have curly hair like her Tía, or like one of her favorite characters, Dulce Maria from Super Amigas; then, she wouldn’t be teased or forced into a hellish hair straightening torture session. Tía Ruby and Camila both come together to help Marlene appreciate and care for her beautiful hair – and Marlene and her mom have deep conversations about self-esteem and value. Ortega examines cultural attitudes, grief, and self-worth with a plot that reveals itself as the story moves along, keeping readers invested with every page. Marlene is a lovable character that readers will cheer for as she – and her hair – come into their own. Tía Ruby is a bright spark who shows Marlene the key to self-acceptance and hair care. Rose Bousamra’s realistic illustration work is filled with rich color and Afro-Latinx characters. A first-purchase that so many readers need.

Frizzy has starred reviews from Kirkus, School Library Journal, and Publishers Weekly.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads, Uncategorized

Book Blitz & Giveaway: Dear Wild Child

Dear Wild Child, by Wallace J. Nichols & Wallace Grayce Nichols/Illustrated by Drew Beckmeyer, (Aug. 2022, Cameron Kids),
$18.99. ISBN: 9781951836467
Ages 4-8

Inspired by a letter from a father to his daughter about life, family, and the wildfire that took their home, Dear Wild Child is a emotional story that chooses to celebrate the idea of home and its presence inside of all of us. Textured artwork shows beautiful detail: a home filled with books, music, and nature, from seashells to plants; family moments as a child grows up in a home filled with love; a life, filled with memories, moving on. An author’s note discusses climate change and its detrimental impact on our homes and our environment.

“The art echoes the text’s emphasis on beauty rather than loss. . .In the event’s aftermath, the affecting story’s tone remains openhearted, concluding with sentiments that encourage resilience and reflect on the nature of home.”
Publishers Weekly

“It’s a touching sentiment that reminds readers of all ages that our lives are defined not by our material possessions but by the memories we make… Intricate and emotional.”
Kirkus Reviews

In the shade of ancient redwood trees, by a creek, not far from the ocean, a father builds a house for his newborn daughter, where she grows up wild and strong in their coastal canyon home. When a wildfire takes back their beloved house, a father writes his now-grown daughter a letter telling her it’s gone. Inspired by the real letter the author wrote his daughter, this poignant story—written together by father and daughter—joyfully declares that a home is more than just wood and stone; it is made of love and can never be taken away. You carry home with you wherever you go.

 

Wallace Grayce Nichols is a student of sustainable design, problem solver, and water lover. Her father, Dr. Wallace J. Nichols, is a marine biologist and the author of the bestselling book Blue Mind: The Surprising Science That Shows How Being Near, In, On, or Under Water Can Make You Happier, Healthier, More Connected, and Better at What You Do. Home is the slow coast of California. Website | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram

Drew Beckmeyer is a fine artist, illustrator, and elementary school teacher. He lives in Northern California. Website | Instagram

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10 winners will receive a hardcover of Dear Wild Child. US/Can only; no P.O. Boxes, please! Enter the Rafflecopter giveaway here!

Posted in awards, Cybils

CYBILS Awards: Last Call for Judges!

Hi all! Regular readers may know that I’m a big fan of the CYBILS Awards – Children’s and Young Adult Bloggers Literary Awards – and that I have been lucky to be picked as a judge for almost 10 years now. The application period for 2022 judges is open, and will be until this coming Monday, September 12th. If you have an interest in kidlit and you have the time, I highly recommend applying. It’s rewarding, you get to read great books, and have a hand in telling other readers what’s good this year.

First Round judges will read ALL the nominated books: this is heavy-duty reading, so clear your night table. You’ll be reading upwards of 100 books in some cases, and deliberating with your fellow panelists on what books are good enough to make the cut and move on to become Finalists.

Second Round judges will read the 6-8 finalists nominated by the First Round judges. Second Round judges will choose the CYBILS award winner and finalists in their chosen category. This is where the nitty gritty discussions happen.

Visit the CYBILS call for judges post to learn more. You don’t necessarily need a blog to qualify: do you talk books up on Twitter? Instagram? Facebook? If you have a public venue for talking kids books, please think about contributing your time and expertise!

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

My Beautiful Voice celebrates self-expression

My Beautiful Voice, by Joseph Coelho/Illustrated by Allison Colpoys, (Aug. 2022, Kane Miller), $12.99, ISBN: 9781684644698

Ages 4-7

A classroom assembles, ready to meet their new teacher, who “explodes into the class”. Miss Flotsam has traveled the world, wears colorful clothes, and loves poetry. She makes the classroom an exciting place to be, with her stories of bicycle rides and hurricanes and flights through storms, but when her class begins working on their own poetry, one child becomes anxious. Miss Flotsam comes to the rescue, calming her nerves and stopping bullies in their tracks with her “eyes that can turn summer into rain”. Encouraged and feeling supported, the child whispers her poem into the teacher’s ear and, eventually, finds her voice and is able to share it with her class. Coelho spins a story in verse that illustrates the exhilarating gift an educator can be in this story. Miss Flotsam is a force in the classroom, encouraging equity and sharing her spark. Miss Flotsam is brown-skinned and dark-haired; the shy child who serves as narrator is brown-skinned with brown hair, and the class is a diverse group of children. Miss Flotsam brings life to the story’s pages, with butterflies, birds, and magic around her. A good back-to-school choice.

 

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Otters vs Badgers: Yummy food is the great equalizer

Otters vs. Badgers, by Anya Glazer, (Aug. 2022, Kane Miller), $14.99, ISBN: 9781684644117

Ages 4-7

Otters and badgers live on either side of a shared river, but they do NOT get along until Francie, a shy otter who loves to bake delicious treats, accidentally ends up in badger territory on a quest to find new ingredients. The resulting kerfuffle can only be resolved with Francie’s delicious baked goods! Glazer spins an amusing tale of sharing and finding common ground that readers will appreciate. Cartoon animals communicate outside of the omniscient narrator through speech bubbles, making for a fun readaloud. Anthropomorphic characters sport scarves and bowties, carry babies in slings, and wear hats. Francie has a wooden spoon tucked behind one ear and rocks a striped apron. Endpapers are striped to match Francie’s apron. The fun resolution shows readers that you don’t have to agree on every single thing to get along. A good book to read as kids head back to the classroom, or enter classrooms for the first time.