Posted in Fiction, Fiction, Intermediate, Middle Grade, Realistic Fiction

Meet Dominguita!

Dominguita Melendez is a third grader who loves books! When her abuela (grandmother) has to move to Florida to live with her sister, Dominguita comes up with a way to share their mutual loves of books with one another: by finding adventures in all the books her abuela left her. Definitely Dominguita is a great intermediate series for kids – there’s an adventure that introduces them to classics titles in every book, and sets those stories on city streets, where kids can see themselves and even think about recreating their own favorite books.

Knight of the Cape (Definitely Dominguita #1), by Terry Catasús Jennings/Illustrated by Fátima Anaya, (March 2021, Aladdin), $17.99, ISBN: 9781534465039

Ages 6-9

Dominguita misses her abuela and her best friend, both of whom have moved away. She spends her recess time reading in the schoolyard until the school bully makes fun of her, her choice of reading – Don Quixote by Miguel Cervantes – and tells her girls can’t be knights. Incensed, Dominguita is determined to become a knight AND have her brother Rafi write about her adventures to share with Abuela! She and Rafi put together an outfit worthy of a knight, and transforms into Dom Capote: Knight of the Cape! Along her travels, she gains a steed (the local stray dog, Roco) and a companion, Pancho Sanchez, who sees through her grand plans to keep things real. In this wonderful re-imagining of Don Quixote, a young girl uses her creativity and her love of books to see herself in her own stories, based on the classics. Dom is fun, likable, and smart; all of the characters receive backgrounds with a foundation to build future adventures, and black and white illustrations add visual reference for readers. A great new series to introduce to intermediate readers.

 

Captain Dom’s Treasure (Definitely Dominguita #2), by Terry Catasús Jennings/Illustrated by Fátima Anaya, (March 2021, Aladdin), $17.99, ISBN: 9781534465060

Ages 6-9

Dominguita and her friends, Pancho and Sarah, are back in their second adventure! This time, inspired by Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island, Dom goes from Dom Capote to Captain Dom and discovers a treasure map on a trip to the library! After some quick research, Dom and her friends discover that the map is linked to a robbery that happened in her neighborhood back in 1967 – a mystery that she and her friends need to solve and put things to rights! But a boy Pancho refers to as “Juan Largo” (Long John) has been following them around, saying he’s there to be a babysitter… a story that the group finds a lot of holes in. Can Dom and her friends find the treasure and save the day, or will Long John beat them to it? While it’s not necessary to read these books in order, it’s much more fun to see the progression of the characters from the first story to the second. The action unfolds with parallels to Treasure Island, and gives us an idea as to what the next adventure will be. Kids are going to love getting to know these characters and figuring out the mysteries with them. How much fun would a kids’ book club be, using Dom’s adventure as a jumping-off point for young reader versions of the featured classics?

Psst… All for One is due in August and Sherlock Dom is coming in November. You may want to start booktalking The Three Musketeers and Sherlock Holmes now.

Posted in Fiction, Fiction, Intermediate, Middle Grade, Realistic Fiction

New chapter book series: Twig and Turtle

I received review copies of the first two books in the new chapter book series, Twig and Turtle, from Pixel+Ink toward the end of last year and just sat down to read them, as I get my TBR self together. They are SO much fun! You don’t need to read them in order, but you’ll certainly want to read them all.

Twig and Turtle: Big Move to a Tiny House (Twig and Turtle #1), by Jennifer Richard Jacobson, (Oct. 2020, Pixel+Ink), $6.99, ISBN: 9781645950226

Ages 5-7

Sisters Twig and Turtle were living with their parents in a big home in Boston, but their parents decided to live more authentically, so they sold everything and moved their family to a tiny house in Colorado, where they can pursue their real interests. Dad’s a comic book artist, mom’s a photographer, and Twig and Turtle are navigating their new lives in a tiny home. In this first Twig and Turtle adventure, the sisters are adjusting to a new school and making new friends, but Twig is also worried about Bo, her uncle’s dog who’s been living with her grandmother. She loves Bo, but Bo – a great dane – has been making a ruckus and the neighbors are getting fed up, so she may need to rehome Bo – and Twig is so upset! Mom and Dad say there’s no room for Bo in their tiny new home, but maybe another solution will present itself? Twig and Turtle presents an interesting new take on moving and settling into a new home, new school, and new neighborhood. Twig is a third grader, Turtle is a first grader, and Turtle seems easier and quicker to acclimate than does Twig. The relationships between the girls and the girls and their parents is positive and optimistic. A fun new series; I’m always on the lookout for good chapter books for my intermediate readers and this fits the bill nicely. With Ivy and Bean coming to an end, this will be a nice new realistic fiction series to booktalk.

 

Twig and Turtle: Toy Store Trouble (Twig and Turtle #2), by Jennifer Richard Jacobson, (Oct. 2020, Pixel+Ink), $6.99, ISBN: 9781645950257

Ages 5-7

The second Twig and Turtle story centers on the new toy store opening in the neighborhood, which gets the kids all excited: especially since there’s a contest to name the new store, and the grand prize winner will also get to choose a toy of their own! Twig and Turtle are excited to win: they were only allowed to pick five toys each to take with them when they moved, but Twig is worried; Mom has already told them that for every new toy they receive, they need to choose one to part with. What if Twig doesn’t want to part with any of them? Toy Store Trouble looks at tough decisions kids have to make, and the solutions they can come up with when given time to think things through. The book also features thrift store shopping and trade-ins, so it’s a nice nod to stepping away from “fast fashion” and consumer culture.

 

Twig and Turtle: Quiet Please! (Twig and Turtle #3), by Jennifer Richard Jacobson, (Feb. 2021, Pixel+Ink), $6.99, ISBN: 9781645950455

Ages 5-7

Full disclosure: I haven’t read this one yet, but it’s just come out, so I wanted to make sure to include it here. The family is starting to chafe against tiny house living, especially when Twig is participating in a school read-a-thon while the rest of the family is living in the same space! One of Twig’s classmates is able to log more reading time, so she starts staying up way past her bedtime to keep up, making Mom and Dad realize that there need to be some changes made.

The Twig and Turtle series has black and white illustrations throughout, and is a nicely written series that looks at a different way of living than we normally see. I think the kids will enjoy this one.

Posted in Fiction, Intermediate

A puppy searches for his “yip” in a new series

Finding My Yip (Boomers Tales, Book 1), by Christine Isley-Farmer/Illustrated by Taylor Bills, (March 2021, Wandering in the Words Press), $8.95, ISBN: 978-1733212663

Ages 7-10

Boomer is a young Cavalier King Charles Spaniel puppy, adopted by Nana Weathers and her nine-year-old orphaned granddaughter, Chloe. Chloe has a stutter and wants to sing like her Nana, a music teacher, and Nana is confident that Boomer – a puppy who can’t “yip!” just yet – and Chloe can help one another. Chloe and Boomer quickly bond and discover other friends at dog obedience classes. Nana’s magic ring helps her communicate with Boomer, and Chloe’s love encourages Boomer to keep trying and find his Yip; Boomer’s and Nana’s love and encouragement help Chloe find the confidence to be part of the school talent show. Narrated by Boomer, the story is a cute intermediate read for animal lovers with likable characters. Black and white illustrations are cartoony, cute, and will keep readers turning pages.

Posted in Fantasy, Fiction, Fiction, Intermediate, Middle Grade

Independently Published Spotlight: Intermediate and Middle Grade

One thing I did do this year was make progress on my TBR, and concentrated on those indie and small press submissions I’ve received over the last few years. Here are two novels I’ve read and want to share. I’ll be reading and reviewing more, whittling down that TBR, into next year, so if you’ve asked me to review a book of yours and I haven’t gotten to it yet, please be patient!

Gregory and the Grimbockle, by Melanie Schubert/Illustrated by Abigail Kraft, Book Soundtrack by Jared Kraft (Nov. 2017, New Wrinkle Publishing), $14.94, ISBN: 978-0991110933

Ages 8-11

Gregory is a 10-year old with a giant mole beneath his nose. The creepy neighbor lady always tries to rip it off his face, but when she finally manages to snag a bit of it, Gregory discovers a BIG surprise: the mole is a hiding place and portal into our world for a tiny creature called a Grimbockle. The Grimbockle belongs to a group of creatures called Bockles, and they oversee Exoodles, the invisible threads that connect humans to one another. When affections and feelings are loving and strong, the threads are strong, but when those threads fray or break, they can cause heartbreak and strife. Gregory accompanies the Grimbockle on his nightly rounds and finds himself on an adventure as he attempts to reconnect exoodles and relationships. The story is a nice statement on how our feelings affect those around us and how we are connected by our relationships and emotions. The storytelling moves at a decent pace and the characters are cute; black and white illustrations throughout keep the reader’s interest. A good additional middle grader/intermediate book.

 

Whiz Bang and Amelia the Adventure Bear: The Jade Dragon, by Forrest Helvie and Michelle Lodge, (Oct. 2016, Independently Published), $1.99, Kindle ASIN: B01MDP3D3M

Ages 7-10

A quick read, this 31-page adventure is about Whiz Bang, a robot, and his friend Amelia, a bear. They’re martial arts students who have to learn that self-control, discipline, and the ability to show respect are the most important skills to learn in their quest to progress through their belts. Their sensei uses the story of a former student and the school’s mascot, a jade dragon, to communicate his message. There’s one other book in the series and another forthcoming; to get the Whiz Bang and Amelia newsletter and find out more about the books, visit the Whiz Bang and Amelia webpage.

Posted in Fantasy, Fiction, Fiction, Graphic Novels, Intermediate, Middle Grade, Middle School, Non-fiction, Realistic Fiction, Teen, Tween Reads

I’m back with more graphic novels!

Hi all! I gave myself a mental health break for the holidays. I didn’t get anything done around my home, as I’d hoped, but I did take a break, knit, and read for a bit, and it was nice. I hope you all had warm and happy holidays, and are safe and well. Let’s finish this year strong and look forward to a better 2021.

In the meantime, I’ve got some graphic novels to crow about.

The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald/Illustrated by K. Woodman-Maynard, (Jan. 2021, Candlewick Press), $24.99, ISBN: 9781536213010

Ages 12+

The Great Gatsby is getting lots of graphic novel love lately; Fred Forham’s vision was a 2020 CYBILS graphic novel nominee. K. Woodman-Maynard’s envisioning of the Fitzgerald classic is much more surreal, with dreamlike watercolors and narration blended into the background: Nick’s words wander around rugs and through lightbulbs, run over sidewalks, and curl into cigarette smoke. The story of Jazz Age love and murder feels like a series of beautiful watercolors, but a large chunk of the story is missing, making this hard to follow for readers who haven’t read the original story. In her author’s note, Woodman-Maynard even states that she was excited by the metaphors in the story, and it was not her intent to be “an exact literal interpretation of the novel”. As a surrealistic exploration and companion to the original, Woodman-Maynard’s book certainly provides a compelling look. Get a look at a chapter excerpt here, thanks to publisher Candlewick.

 

Beetle & The Hollowbones, by Aliza Layne, (Aug. 2020, Atheneum Books for Young Readers), $21.99, ISBN: 9781534441538

Ages 9-13

First, I have to make a huge apology here: I was invited to a blog tour for Beetle back in August, which also happened to be a point where things were falling apart here, and I blew the date. I am still embarrassed and mortified, because I really work to keep to things like that. So I hope this post makes up, in some way, for the oversight. That said, Beetle & Hollowbones is adorable! A homeschooled goblin-witch named Bettle befriends Blob Ghost, a blobby ghost that inhabits space at the local mall in the town of ‘Allows. Blob Ghost – or, BG, as Beetle calls them – is relegated to the mall, so Beetle happily visits, and is sad when she has to leave. Beetle’s old friend Kat shows up for a sorcery apprenticeship with her intimidating Aunt Hollowbone, and Beetle is fascinated: Kat’s cool, she’s social media famous, chic, and great at magic, to boot. The two start spending time together, to BG’s disappointment, but when Aunt Hollowbone’s awful plan to raze the mall becomes public news, Beetle realizes she has to save BG and find a way to release the mall’s hold on them.

A story about friendship, doing the right thing, and standing up for yourself, Beetle & The Hollowbone’s illustrations are beautiful and vibrant, with adorably creepy creatures that I could easily envision in an animated series. This is the kind of story my library kids love: warmth, family, and friendship, with some magic to infuse the tale.

Beetle and the Hollowbones has starred reviews from Kirkus, School Library Journal, Publisher’s Weekly, and Booklist. It is also a CYBILS 2020 Graphic Novels nominee.

 

Galileo! Galileo!, by Holly Trechter & Jane Donovan, (Aug. 2020, Sky Candle Press), $13.99, ISBN: 978-1939360083

Ages 8-13

Narrated by the historical Italian astronomer Galileo Galilei, Galileo! Galileo! is the story of NASA’s mission to Jupiter. We get a brief recap of Galileo’s life, for an understanding of why the mission bore his name; the narrative then moves into a comprehensive, illustrated lesson on the history of aeronautics and space missions. Holly Trechter’s time as a NASA Ames History Archives intern provides great insights, including a peek at Carl Sagan’s letter-writing campaign that saved the Galileo after budget cuts by the Reagan administration. Holly Trechter and Jane Donovan make Galileo Galilei a cartoony, amiable character who explains the science and politics of space travel in friendly, understandable terms, and the artwork is colorful and includes diagrams, maps, and colorful illustrations. Back matter includes discussion questions. Give this to your Science Comics and History Comics readers for sure. Galileo! Galileo! is a CYBILS 2020 Graphic Novels nominee.

 

Bear, by Ben Queen & Joe Todd-Stanton, (Aug. 2020, Archaia), $24.99, ISBN: 978-1684155316

Ages 7-12

This is another CYBILS 2020 Graphic Novels nominee that I really enjoyed. An original graphic novel from Pixar writer Ben Queen and illustrator Joe Todd-Stanton and published by BOOM! imprint, Archaia, Bear is the story of the relationship between a guide dog and his human. Bear is service dog who lives with Patrick, the blind man he takes care of. Bear and Patrick are happily living together, but when Bear suddenly loses his vision; he worries that he’s lost his purpose. He gets separated from Patrick while trying to get advice from a raccoon, on getting his vision back, and ends up on a grand adventure where he’ll meet bears, run through the streets and subways in Manhattan, and try to find his way back to Ulster Country. Bear is gentle and noble; he will do anything for Patrick, and in turn, Patrick will stop at nothing to find Bear. I loved the relationship between these two, and I thoroughly enjoyed the raccoons, largely played for comic relief, and Stone, the bear who takes it upon himself to keep Bear safe on his travels. The story is also a positive portrayal of a blind character: Patrick repairs vending machines, is a passionate reader and “a decent athlete” who applies for a guide dog in order to pick up more machines on his service route; he hears that having a guide dog will allow him to travel faster than walking with a cane.  The book also gently corrects ableist language; when Patrick mentions having a “seeing eye dog”, the trainer responds that they are called “guide dogs”.

Beautifully illustrated with gentle colors and empathetic characters, Bear will make my graphic novel  shelves when we reopen. Until then, I’ve handed this one to my Kiddo. Results to come.

 

Twins, by Varian Johnson/Illustrated by Shannon Wright, (Oct. 2020, Graphix), $12.99, ISBN: 978-1338236132

Ages 8-12

Twin sisters Maureen and Francine share a room and a life, but starting sixth grade is BIG. Francine, the more extroverted, can’t wait for the chance to start meeting new people and having new experiences, but Maureen is more introverted, more hesitant. She misses dressing like her twin, and she’s really not thrilled that she has no classes with her; when Francine starts calling herself “Fran”, Maureen doesn’t know who this alien who took off with her sister is! Maureen is also intimidated by her school’s Cadet Corp, especially her instructor, Master Sergeant Lucinda Fields. Maureen, the straight-A student, is frustrated by her difficulty in getting marching in formation down and the overwhelming experience of middle school, so discovering that Francine and their parents were behind the decision to put the girls in separate classes AND enroll Maureen in Cadet Corp makes her take action: she decides to run against her sister in the race for Class President. A story of growing up and facing adolescence with all its challenges, Twins features main characters of color in a strong family and a relatable story that anyone with siblings – and close friends – will recognize. It’s hard enough growing apart from one’s best friend, but what happens when that best friend is your sister – and a person you share a friendship group with? I loved the story, the relationship between the sisters and the relationship between family members, the realistic frustration of sharing friends when you have a falling-out, and the challenges of taking on new experiences. Give to your Varian Johnson readers and your graphic novel fans that loved the Invisible Emmie, Becoming Brianna, New Kid, Class Act, and the Nat Enough books.

Twins has starred reviews from The Horn Book, School Library Journal, Publishers Weekly, Kirkus, and Booklist. Twins is also a CYBILS 2020 Graphic Novels nominee. See the full list of honors at Varian Johnson’s webpage.

Posted in Fiction, Intermediate, Teen, Tween Reads

Holiday Book Hurrah!

I know it’s been a few days, but I’m back! I had a big birthday (as in number, not celebration), and took a few days for introspection and thinking of where the next half century will take me. It was nice, there’s been hot cocoa and homemade cookies, and now I’m ready to embrace the full-on holiday season, snowstorm warnings (for NYC) and all. So let’s celebrate all things bookish!

DC Christmas Carols: We Wish You a Harley Christmas, by Daniel Kibblesmith, (Oct. 2020, Chronicle Books), $14.95, ISBN: 9781797207957

Ages 10+

Perfect for comics and pop culture fans, this little book of Christmas carols all have a DC comics spin, taking favorite characters and creating songs to the tunes of popular holiday classics. There are 31 songs in here, with household names and deeper cuts, sure to make everyone laugh. “Batman Baby”, to the tune of “Santa Baby”, is Catwoman’s plea to Bats let her get away with some mischief just once: “Batman baby, just let me get away this one time / It’s fine / I won’t do it again / Batman baby, you don’t have to be such a Dark Knight”. There’s “I Saw Lois Kissing Superman” – well, you can guess that one – and “We Wish You a Harley Christmas”. Illustrated with full-color contemporary and vintage artwork, you’ll see DC’s finest hanging out with snowmen, hoisting sleighs aloft, exchanging gifts, and racing Santa Claus. Artists featured include Alex Ross, George Pérez, Sergio Aragonès, Tim Sale, and John Byrne. C’mon, go beyond “Jingle Bells, Batman Smells” and embrace the joy of “The Twelve Days of Villains”.

A Kitten Called Holly (Jasmine Green Rescues), by Helen Peters/Illustrated by Ellie Snowdon, (Sept. 2020, Walker Books), $6.99, ISBN: 9781536215724

Ages 7-10

The newest in the Jasmine Green Rescues series is all about Holly, a kitten Jasmine and her best friend, Tom, rescue when they discover that the newborn kitten’s been abandoned when the mother cat was moving her litter! Jasmine and Tom help nurse the kitten to health as her mother explains the difference between feral and tame cats, and why feral cats don’t always make great pets, but when Jasmine asks to keep Holly, Dr. Singh puts her foot down: Jasmine already has a pet pig, a pet dog, and a pet duck; she intends to put Holly up for adoption as soon as she’s old enough! But what about Jasmine’s best friend, Tom, who loves Holly just as much as Jasmine does? Can he convince his mother to open her heart and home to a pet?

The Jasmine Green stories are gentle, with stories that will endear themselves to animal fiction fans. Jasmine and Tom’s genuine love for animals and the knowledge imparted by Jasmine’s veterinarian mother brings together fiction and straight talk for readers. Black and white illustrations throughout add to the story pacing and feel, and Helen Peters’ writing is so warm-hearted, every story ends up being a feel-good story about animals and fur-ever homes. A nice winter read, A Kitten Called Holly is best paired with a cat (real or plush) and a cup of hot chocolate.

Posted in Fiction, Intermediate, picture books

Picture book STEM with second-grader, Geraldine: Gizmo Girl!

I’ve got two STEM picture books from Schiffer Publishing, by author Sol Regwan and illustrator Denise Muzzio. The Gizmo Girl series stars a second grader named Geraldine. If you have readers who enjoyed Pip Jones’s Izzy Gizmo, Andrea Beaty’s Questioneers series, or Ashley Spires’s The Most Magnificent Thing, this series should be next on their reading lists.

 

Geraldine and the Most Spectacular Science Project, by Sol Regwan/Illustrated by Denise Muzzio, (Feb. 2020, Schiffer Kids), $16.99, ISBN: 9780764358982

Ages 5-8

Geraldine is a second grader who loves to call herself a troublemaker, but she’s really not. She’s curious, a budding astronaut and scientist, and just needs a little focus, which she gets when her teacher announces a science contest! The winner gets a trophy and the title of Best Second-Grade Scientist, and Geraldine knows she has to win. She puts her talent for tinkering to work and gets out her piles of gadgets, screws, electronic parts, and other bits and pieces she’s scavenged from her parents (sometimes, while they were still in use), and thinks about what to make that would win first prize. Will it be good enough to impress her teacher and take home the gold? A fun story with a rambunctious heroine, Geraldine and the Most Spectacular Science Project is a good STEM/STEAM picture book for kids who still love picture books, but are ready to take on more complex text. The story provides a look at some popular science fair projects, like the erupting volcano and solar system mobile; teachers who are prepping classes for a science fair should kick off with this one, particularly for first- and second-graders. Illustrations are colorful and cheerful, and present a diverse group of learners. The cover and endpapers are a nod to Geraldine’s interest in outer space, and her name looks like a fun mashup of technology and gadgets from her project pile. Additional Schiffer Kids readalikes in the back are spotlighted as some of Geraldine’s “favorites”, which is really sweet and invests readers in the character.

Give this one a shot; I think it’s going to be a hit. Kids who are interested in Geraldine’s project can find a similar one here at the HomeScienceTools website.

 

Geraldine and the Space Bees, by Sol Regwan/Illustrated by Denise Muzzio, (Aug. 2020, Schiffer Kids), $16.99, ISBN: 9780764359941

Ages 5-8

Gizmo Girl Geraldine waters her mother’s plants one day and notices that there aren’t as many bees as she’s used to seeing. After mentioning it to her mother, she learns that bee populations are on the decline and that pesticides – bug-killing poisons – are a big cause. Geraldine decides to make saving the bees the subject of her next science project: creating a model of something she’d like to send into outer space, for the Space Museum. After thinking over the decline of the bee population and how a spaceship wouldn’t have harmful chemicals aboard, she decides she’s going to build a feeding station that will allow scientists to study bees in space, in a pesticide-free environment! This story delves even further into the scientific process than the first Geraldine book, and it’s really exciting to read and see Geraldine work out the steps in her experiment. Geraldine and the Space Bees makes a great reading choice for science and STEM/STEAM classes, where learners can discuss how they can and would address the environmental factors leading to the decline in bee populations, and why this is such a serious matter. Back matter includes a note about pollination and why bees are so important. Endpapers show bees buzzing around the planets in outer space, a nod to the story inside. A note at the end of the book promises more Gizmo Girl books are coming soon.

Readers who are interested in learning more about the bee crisis can read 6 Ways to Help Honeybees, from the Whole Kids Foundation; A Bee is More Than a Bug from NASA’s Climate Kid webpage; and Why Are Bees Vanishing? from Science News for Students. The Pragmatic Mom blog has a DIY Bee House STEM project that would be a good project to work on over the winter.

Posted in Fiction, Intermediate, picture books

Big Wishes for Little Feat – a horse and human story

Big Wishes for Little Feat, by Cheryl Olsten/Illustrated by Paolo d’Altan, (Oct. 2020, Fleecydale Press), $17.95, ISBN: 978-1-7339551-0-2

Ages 7-10

Little Feat is a horse who’s small, and worries he’ll never find a rider to love him. Ella is an American girl who moves in with her aunt, in Belgium, while her parents try to get back on their financial feet. Each feels sad and alone, until Ella’s Aunt Anastasia brings the two together. The story is based on a true story, with a spark of fantasy for inspiration as the horse and the girl look to the stars for courage and hope: Ella, hoping to feel a connection by looking at the same sky her family at home in the States looks at, and sharing a love of constellations with her father; Lafitte (Little Feat is the name Ella gives him), who imagines himself leaping into the sky, a constellation made real. The artwork is just lovely, with deep colors and beautiful renderings of horses, nighttime skies, and the bond between horse and rider. A good choice for animal fans and horse lovers.

Enjoy a preview of the book, and learn about the EQUUS Foundation, a charity supporting America’s horse, at the author’s website.

Posted in Fiction, Intermediate

It’s a BAD KITTY READ-ALONG! #FurEverBad

Fellow Bad Kitties! I come with great news! Bad Kitty publisher, Macmillan, launched a Fur-Ever Bad Kitty Read-Along Campaign, and they are challenging YOU to read all the Bad Kitty chapter books this Fall!

The read-along is happening in three parts:

Don’t let the start date scare you! YOU’VE GOT THIS.

I’m applauding you and cheering you on! Go! Go! Go!

Finish STRONG!

Grab your books, get ready, and READ! Fill your school reading logs with Bad Kitty this Fall! (Psst… your library has SHELVES of Bad Kitty just waiting for you.) Good luck!

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

Jim Benton is back with a twofer: new Franny K Stein and Attack of the Stuff!

I have a special place in my heart for Jim Benton, and not just because Happy Bunny made me chuckle back in the day. The Franny K. Stein books were my eldest’s first favorite book series, and my Kiddo is discovering his graphic novels now (he LOVED Clyde). My about-to-be-a-high-school-senior (sounds nicer than “the middle child”) always got a kick out of My Dumb Diary, a series my library kids also devour. Mr. Benton’s rep got in touch with me and offered me a copy of his newest graphic novel, Attack of the Stuff, which I’ve read with the Kiddo and am eternally grateful.

Attack of the Stuff, by Jim Benton, (May 2020, Papercutz), $14.99, ISBN: 978-1-5458-0499-5

Ages 7-11

Bill Waddler is a simple duck trying to live his life. He works in a hay store that doesn’t seem to get a lot of customers, and he’s harassed day and night by the stuff that surrounds him in his home: his toilet has aspirations to show biz; his blanket isn’t ready to go to bed when Bill is, and his alarm clock is annoyed at having to get up so early. One day, Bill decides he’s had enough, and heads out to the woods to live a quiet life, just as the rest of the world falls into chaos. The Internet has decided to stop working, and the world needs someone who can communicate with it, and who better than the duck who can talk to stuff? This is Bill’s moment to shine, if only everyone else will take him – and the Internet’s demands – seriously.

This is the kind of surreal comic book storytelling that the kids in my library would love. Jim Benton goes way out there for Attack of the Stuff, but it’s funny in its lunacy! His artwork is immediately recognizable, and so is the humor. It’s bright, fun, and with an enduring sense of snark that keeps kids coming back for more. My kiddo loved it.

 

Franny K. Stein: Recipe for Disaster, by Jim Benton, (July 2020, Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers), $15.99, ISBN: 9781534413405

Ages 7-10

Can you believe this is Franny’s ninth adventure? I, for one, am so happy that she’s back with new books: my library kids check the first 8 out all the time, and have asked me when more are coming. Now, I have something to tell them! Franny rescues an old furnace from the trash bin and creates a robot that just wants to make kids happy. To help out the art and music bake sale, she puts the robot to work baking, but the eager to please robot creates THE MOST DELICIOUS MUFFINS ON EARTH. Suddenly, all the kids want to do is eat muffins. Schoolwork, interests, everything is tossed aside. Nothing exists except for the muffins. It’s up to Franny to save the day… but those kids at school can be very persuasive.

There’s so much great humor in this series, and this story is rife with Invasion of the Body Snatchers vibes while poking fun at bake sale culture. Franny and Igor, her canine (ish) assistant, are a hilarious twosome. Black and white illustrations throughout the book give readers a birds-eye view into an innocent fundraiser spinning out of control. A welcome addition to the Franny K. Stein series, I’m happy to recommend Recipe for Disaster to my kiddos.

There are some Franny printables and lesson plans on Teachers Pay Teachers, all at varying prices. I also did a “mad science” search on TpT which yielded some fun freebies, like free mad science clip art and mad scientist crazy hair headbands. Print some, share them, and encourage your kiddos to unleash their inner mad scientist!