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

Kitty Sweet Tooth serves up movies and magic candy!

Kitty Sweet Tooth, by Abby Denson/Illustrated by Utomaru, (Apr. 2021, First Second), $17.99, ISBN: 9781250196774

Ages 6-10

Kitty Sweet Tooth is a cat who loves candy and movies, so when her Pop-Pop gives her the chance to realize her dream of running a combination restaurant and movie house, she is thrilled! With the help of magical candy makers, she’s off and running. But playing with magic is never easy, so when the creations start taking on lives of their own, Kitty and her viewers all get a little more than they bargained for! Manic, adorable, and just plain fun, Kitty Sweet Tooth is perfect graphic novel reading for younger readers who love a good, silly story. The artwork is bright and jumps off the page, enchanting readers with magical food like crepes that grow into waving towers, rainbow chips that give the snacker their own case of the stripes, or blooming tea and scones that grow into a veritable garden inside the theatre! Luckily for Kitty, her customers love it all! This is the first in a new series of adventures for intermediate readers. Back matter lets readers create their own candy-making magic with an illustrated recipe for rock candy, including step-by-step instructions, ingredients, and a suggestion to seek grownup help.

 

 

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

Elvin Link, doodler, sketch artist… and THAT kid?

Elvin Link, Please Report to the Principal’s Office!, by Drew Dernavich (July 2021, Square Fish), $7.99, ISBN: 9781250791702

Ages 8-12

Fifth grader Elvin Link is a doodler. He doodles on everything, everywhere, including his desk, which clearly looks cooler as a rocket ship… despite what the custodian and his teacher think. While he’s scrubbing down the desk, an incident involving a teacher’s glasses, an ill-fated ice cream cone, and a schoolyard collision lands him back in the principal’s office, this time, as a sketch artist. He’s so good at it that the principal brings him back in shortly after, to solve a school mystery! Meanwhile, the school bully, who specializes in wedgies, has his sights set on Elvin. Elvin has to navigate his twin sisters, one of whom has a crush on the bully, keep his best friend out of trouble, and cover his rear end: literally. For readers who loved Timmy Failure and, yes, that other illustrated diarist, Elvin Link: Please Report to the Principal’s Office is an insta-read. Award-winning New Yorker artist Drew Dernavich creates a likable, laugh-out loud funny character with Elvin and his best friends and family members are equally fun to spend time with. The book is laid out like a journal, with Elvin’s doodles and opinions throughout. He’s got the Wimpy Kid snark with a slightly more generous personality, and the black and white illustrations and added back matter will have your library kids asking when the next book is coming out. (Hey, Mr. Dernavich, when is that happening?)

Released in hardcover last July, Elvin Link is coming to paperback this July and is a good fit for your middle grade shelves.

 

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, Middle Grade, Realistic Fiction, Tween Reads

A young journalist looks for The Leak

The Leak, by Kate Reed Petty/Illustrated by Andrea Bell, (March 2021, First Second), $22.99, ISBN: 9781250217950

Ages 8-12

It starts at the dentist’s office. Ruth, an aspiring young journalist, is frustrated when her dentist scolds her for not brushing and flossing, and scoffing when she insists that she does. Shortly after the dentist visit, she and her friend Jonathan go fishing, only to discover dead fish and a thick, oily sludge by the water. Ruth decides to investigate and report her findings, with the help of her brother’s girlfriend – an intern at the New York Times – and finds herself on the radar of the local country club owner and the power company. Dealing with frenemies, a middle school crush, and finding herself thrust into the spotlight and being intimidated by people who have a lot to lose, Ruth has to choose between personal and journalistic integrity or getting out of the way of controversy. A brilliantly done story about freedom of the press, pollution, and integrity, readers will cheer Ruth on. Artwork is vivid and characters are expressive. This is the kind of art my library kids love; it’s super middle grade friendly and has so much to say. The dialogue keeps pace with the action and readers will get to challenge themselves by wondering what they would do in a similar situation. Give this to readers along with Kayla Miller’s Act and Dress Coded by Carrie Firestone for a surefire primer in activism.

Posted in Fantasy, Fiction, Middle Grade, Science Fiction, Tween Reads

Houdini and Me – he’s back for one last trick!

Houdini and Me, by Dan Gutman, (March 2021, Holiday House), $16.99, ISBN: 9780823445158

Ages 8-12

Eleven-year-old Harry Mancini lives at Harry Houdini’s old address, so he’s learned quite a bit about the magician. But when someone leaves him a mysterious old flip phone, and someone calling himself Houdini starts texting himself on it, Harry thinks someone has to be playing a prank on him, but the texter knows way too much about Houdini, and Harry’s current apartment… is he really Houdini, and how did he find a way to text from beyond the grave? As the two exchange text conversations, Houdini lays out his plan: he wants to come back and experience life again, and in return, he’ll make Harry famous. But there are always strings attached, aren’t there?

Dan Gutman is already a celebrity in my home and my library for books like his My Weird School and The Genius Files series, and Homework Machine. He has a way of writing that kids relate to so well; it’s like having another kid level with them, and they love it. Houdini and Me has that same first-person narration and conversational voice that kids love, rapid-fire dialogue between characters, and a solid history lesson Harry Houdini, magic, and the early 20th century, that kids will enjoy, too. It’s an interesting take on Harry Houdini – this would make a good reading group book.

Check out Dan Gutman’s author website, loaded with resources, including his My Weird Read-Aloud, excerpts, and information about virtual school visits. Houdini and Me is on the Indie Next List.

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

Deadman’s Castle and a family on the run

Deadman’s Castle, by Iain Lawrence, (March 2021, Margaret Ferguson Books), $17.99, ISBN: 9780823446551

Ages 9-12

Twelve-year-old Igor and his family have been on the run for years. When he was five, his father saw a terrible crime; ever since, they’ve been leaving homes in the middle of the night, creating new identities never settling in one spot, as a man his dad refers to as The Lizard Man hunts them down. But when they settle in yet another town, Igor is tired of running. He wants to be a normal middle school student. He wants to go to school, have friends, go to sleepovers – and he’s more and more worried that The Lizard Man may be a construct of his father’s imagination. But what if it’s not? Deadman’s Castle is is a solid psychological mystery that will keep readers turning pages – I finished this in the course of a day rather than put it down – as they, like Igor, discover new secrets with each turn of the page. It’s intense at some points, taut at others, and a thoroughly enjoyable read.

This one has an easy booktalk: “You think your parents are overprotective? Igor can’t have a computer, video games, or even a cell phone because his father is convinced a bad guy is going to track him and his family down using them! And no, he isn’t allowed to come to the library to use them, either.” (Because I know that’s what at least one of my wisecrackers would come up with.)

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

Booktalk this Book: Dress Coded

Dress Coded, by Carrie Firestone, (July 2020, GP Putnam), $17.99, ISBN: 9781984816436

Ages 9-13

I’ve been killing myself with anticipation over this book since I received the early galley last year. I finally put everything else aside and finished this in a day, because it’s that good. Told in short chapters and including podcast transcripts, text messages, and letters, Dress Coded is a perfect snapshot of what it’s like being a young woman in middle school today. Molly Frost is fed up: fed up with her vape-addicted brother, who’s wreaked havoc on her family; fed up with feeling invisible at school, and fed up with the school’s dress code, which seems hardwired solely to embarrass and harass female students of a certain body type. It all blows up the day her friend Olivia is humiliated by the dean and principal for wearing a tank top at school and refusing to take her sweatshirt off her waist to put it back on – a reason that makes itself clear as the story progresses. Several of Molly’s friends have been “dress coded” for similar offenses, and the humiliation and frustration are far greater than the suspected offense. Molly starts a podcast, Dress Coded, where girls speak up about their dress coding experiences and the mental and emotional fallout from run-ins with staff. The podcast grows into a movement to remove the dress code, and Molly, at the center of it, finds the power within her to stand up to her brother and the school bully, and the ability to help other girls find their voice. A primer in middle school activism and a scathing indictment of how women’s bodies are weaponized and sexualized from a young age, Dress Coded is simply essential reading. Please, educators, put this on your summer reading lists!

Dress Coded is author Carrie Firestone’s middle grade debut. I can’t wait to see what else she’s going to give my middle graders. The book is a Booklist Editors’ Choice Selection, a Texas Lone Star Reading List Selection, and a Rise: Feminist Book Project Selection. It has starred reviews from Kirkus, School Library Journal, Booklist, and Publishers Weekly. Submit your own dress coding story at Carrie Firestone’s author webiste, and learn about her other books, workshops, and author inspiration, too.

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

Fairy tale meets the half pipe: Beauty and Bernice

Beauty and Bernice, by Nancy Viau, (Sept. 2018, Schiffer Kids), $12.99, ISBN: 9780764355806

Ages 8-12

I continue my quest to read down my TBR and feature great backlist for your readers advisory and your booklists. This time out, I’ve got another Nancy Viau book, Beauty and Bernice. Twelve-year-old Bernice Baransky is a skater girl. She’s a grunge-loving whiz on a skateboard, on the verge of middle school, and she’s got a crush on fellow skater Wyatt – not that she can do anything other than nod when he calls her “Dude”. Enter Odelia, a new transplant to the neighborhood, who appears dressed in princess gowns and decides to make Bernice her new best friend and project. She’s determined to teach Bernice her guide to the “Social Graces”, with lessons on hygiene, posture, and manners, and Bernice reluctantly goes along for the ride, teaching Odelia that she can let loose a little, herself. Both spend a summer learning about one another while volunteering with Smile Academy, a summer camp for children with Down syndrome. A kind story that brings a little everyday magic to realistic fiction, this has some surprises that will make readers smile. The subplot with the girls volunteering – and encouraging their friends to help – with the Smile Academy gives nice depth to the characters and allows for Bernice’s character growth.  If you have skater fans, sell the detailed discussions on skateboarding.

Posted in Fiction, Fiction, Middle Grade, Realistic Fiction

Somethings Bugging Samantha Hansen – but it’s not bees!

Something’s Bugging Samantha Hansen, by Nancy Viau, (Aug. 2019, Schiffer Kids), $16.99, ISBN: 9780764357763

Ages 8-12

Samantha Hansen is a 10-year-old fourth grader with a love for bugs, especially bees! When she discovers that the local apiary owner is considering selling his bee farm, she launches into action, assembling her classmates to drop some knowledge on the importance of bees to her community, and encourage everyone to help save the apiary. She’s also dealing with some big feelings: she is learning to keep her temper under control, which is really difficult, because her best friend, Kelli, is hanging out with another girl lately, and she’s got big feelings to contend with. This is the second Samantha Hansen book; the first, Samantha Hansen has Rocks in Her Head (2008), introduced us to Samantha, her temper, and her coping mechanisms. It’s a good book for STEM/STEAM readers, with information about bees and apiaries; it’s a good family story that continues the exploration of loss within a family, and working through feelings in a positive way. Black and white illustrations introduce the chapter heads, and colorful endpapers show bee-friendly flowers, a honeycomb, and different types of bees. A good book club choice because there’s so much covered in this story, you can also use this Bee Hotel activity from Vivify as an end of book activity.