Posted in Fiction, Graphic Novels, Middle Grade, Middle School, Non-Fiction, Tween Reads

Graphic Novels Bonanza Begins with Button Pusher!

Button Pusher, by Tyler Page, (Apr. 2022, First Second), $14.99, ISBN: 9781250758330

Ages 10-14

What did I do on vacation? I read books and played tabletop games! Starting off my graphic novel bonanza is Button Pusher, Eisner-nominated cartoonist Tyler Page’s memoir of living with ADHD. Tyler begins as a rambunctious 8-year-old who can be the class clown or lose track of a lesson as the teacher is speaking. He cuts up a school bus seat but doesn’t really know why he did it, when asked. His teachers think he just likes to be a troublemaker, but that isn’t it, and his mother takes him to the doctor to find out what’s going on, leading to his ADHD – attention deficit hyperactivity disorder – diagnosis. While the memoir centers on Page’s ADHD, and how he moves toward functioning with (and without) medication and treatment, the story also revolves around his school and home life, including the troubled relationship between his parents and his father’s own undiagnosed neurodivergence. The story is incredibly readable and offers sensitive portrayals of Tyler Page and his mother, who works toward understanding and helping her son while in a difficult marriage. Page also touches on male adolescent anxiety, particularly Tyler’s body image issues when he realizes that the medication is contributing to weight gain. Back matter includes an author’s note, samples of Page’s childhood art, and his working process. An informative and outstanding introduction for middle graders to understanding ADHD.

Button Pusher has starred reviews from Publishers Weekly and Booklist.

Posted in Fantasy, Fiction, Middle Grade

The Button Box is perfect for Magic Tree House readers!

The Button Box, by Fawzia Gilani-Williams, Bridget Hodder/Illustrated by Harshad Marathe, (Apr. 2022, Kar-Ben Publishing), $17.99, ISBN: 9781728423968

Ages 8-12

Cousins Ava and Nadeem are fifth graders and best friends. Ava is Jewish, from Sephardic descent, and Nadeem is Muslim; this opens them up to comments from bullies at school. After a particularly tough day, the two confide in their Granny Buena, who tells them a story of a legendary ancestor, Ester ibn Evram, and her role in saving a famous Muslim prince, Abdur Rahman, in Medieval Spain. As they look through Nanny Buena’s button box, which holds one of Ester’s buttons, the two discover that have traveled through time and landed back in Medieval Spain, just in time to witness – and maybe assist! – Ester ibn Avram on her quest, and help create a “legendary Golden Age for Muslims, Jews and Christians”. The story is exciting and the relationship between Ava and Nadeem is wonderfully supportive. Granny Buena speaks with a sprinkling of the Judeo-Spanish language Ladino, which leans closely to Spanish, giving readers some exposure to a new language. Back matter includes a glossary and an author’s note about Sephardic Jews, Muslims, and the actual Prince Adur-Rahman (Ester ibn Avram is fictional). An excellent choice for readers who enjoy the Magic Tree House series, and very similar to Marcia Berneger’s A Dreidel in Time (2021).

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

Tales from the TBR: Danny Chung Sums it Up

Danny Chung Sums it Up, by Maisie Chan/Illustrated by Natelle Quek, (Sept. 2021, Amulet), $16.99, ISBN: 978-1-4197-4821-9

Ages 8-12

Eleven-year-old Danny Chung loves to draw, but his parents, especially his Ba, want him to pay more attention to school – especially math. His parents, who run a Chinese food takeaway in their British suburb, are all about “the Chinese Way” and adhering to those traditional Chinese values they grew up with. It doesn’t help when family friend Aunt Yee, who loves to stick her nose into Danny’s family business and provide uninvited commentary, is always around to compare Danny to her oh-so-perfect daughter. When Danny’s Nai Nai – his father’s mother – arrives from China to live with them, Danny is frustrated: he’s never met her; since he doesn’t speak her dialect, he can’t really communicate with her, and she’s staying in his room! She’s also showing up all over his neighborhood, including at his school, trying to make a connection with him but instead, opening him up to even more teasing from his classmates. As Nai Nai becomes a more permanent fixture in his life, though, Danny finds himself warming to his grandmother, and math ends up being a bridge between the two. Maisie Chan weaves a funny, loving story that spans generations and cultures in a way so many readers will recognize. Danny’s drawings fill the story, giving readers a good chuckle over his “Ant Gran” comics and his unique spin on events. Covering family pressure, friendship’s ups and downs, racism, and the journey of a relationship between a grandparent and grandchild, Danny Chung is on my booktalk list for sure. Pair with intergenerational stories like Lily LaMotte’s Measuring Up, Nancy J. Cavanaugh’s When I Hit the Road, and Donna Gephart’s Death by Toilet Paper. You can also booktalk and display with other authors of Asian heritage for Asian-American and Pacific Islander month in May, including Kelly Yang, Jen Wang, Christina Matula, and Lisa Yee.

Visit Maisie Chan’s webpage to find out more about the first Danny Chung book, Danny Chung Does Not Do Maths, and get free downloadable resources for both books! Visit illustrator Natelle Quek’s webpage to see more of her illustration work.

Check out Maisie Chan as she talks about the inspiration for Danny Chung Sums it Up here!

Posted in Fiction, Fiction, Humor, Middle Grade

The Great TBR Readdown: Ben Yokoyama and the Cookie of Perfection

Ben Yokoyama and the Cookie of Perfection (Cookie Chronicles, Vol. 3), by Matthew Swanson/Illustrated by Robbi Behr, (Dec. 2021, Knopf Books for Young Readers), $12.99, ISBN: 9780593302774

Ages 8-12

Ben Yokoyama is not having a good day. So far, the 9-year-old’s mom has burned his pancakes and his dad ruined his jersey in the laundry. It doesn’t get much better at school until he sees a chance to make a new friend. Darby is a kid who excels in math, and lets Ben in on a little secret: he’s got a super secret alter ego named Darbino. Darby’s quest to become perfect gave birth to Darbino’s identity, and he offers to help Ben attain perfection, too. At first it sounds great, but when you’re working at being perfect, Ben realizes that you have to give up a lot: baseball, for instance. As Ben starts to realize that being perfect isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, he takes readers on a hilarious, very sweet, journey, illustrated in black and white, as if readers are peeking through a journal. This is the third Cookie Chronicle, with two more coming, and it’s a great series to booktalk to your Timmy Failure, Big Nate, Wimpy Kid, and Alvin Ho fans. Ben is biracial and there are nice multicultural nods to his American and Japanese heritage, including a look at the Japanese concept of kintsugi, the art of repairing broken pottery with gold seams, highlighting the mistakes and making them beautiful. Now that we’re in testing season (at least, we are here in NYC), kids will really appreciate the book’s take on the pressure to be perfect. Back matter includes a history of the fortune cookie.

Visit Matthew Benson and Robbi Behr’s webpage for more about their books (including the other Cookie Chronicles), and loads of fun, free printables.

Posted in Fiction, Fiction, Intermediate, Middle Grade, picture books

Carrimebac: The Town That Walked is great folklore

Carrimebac: The Town That Walked, by David Barclay Moore/Illustrated by John Holyfield, (March 2022, Candlewick Press), $18.99, ISBN: 9781536213690

Ages 6-10

When old Rootilla Redgums and her young grandson, Julius Jefferson walk into the town of Walkerton, Georgia, everyone is suspicious. Dogs snargggled. Cats hisssked. But Rootilla, who was born almost 100 years before in 1776, and her 9-year-old grandson quickly win the town over with their kindness and Rootilla’s everyday magic: she teaches the townspeople to weave rugs that never wear down, and bake ceramic jugs that never empty. The whites in the area – known here as “the Fearful Folks” – are convinced the Black residents are up to no good, and show up in their bedsheets and wielding their torches, trying to scare everyone. Rootilla isn’t having it, and turns those torches to cornstalks. But time is running short, and Julius puts her last wish into action, renaming the town Carrimebac and literally moving the town away, pulled by his faithful goose, Woody. Carrimebac: The Town That Walked is a delightful tall tale; folklore told in a lively voice and brought to life with gorgeous acrylic illustrations. Set in 1876, the Ku Klux Klan are a menacing presence; readers will cheer to see them upended by the Rootilla and the townspeople, let by Rootilla’s young grandson, Julius. A wonderful addition to your collections. Visit Candlewick’s website for a free educator guide.

David Barclay Moore is a John Steptoe New Talent Award winner for his YA novel, The Stars Beneath Our Feet. Visit his website to learn more about his books and his films. Visit illustrator John Holyfield’s website to see more of his artwork.

Posted in Intermediate, Middle Grade, Non-fiction, Non-Fiction

Celebrate Poetry Month with Imagine!

Imagine! Rhymes of Hope to Shout Together, by Bruno Tognolini/Illustrated by Giulia Orecchia, Translated by Denise Muir, (March 2022, Red Comet Press), $18.99, ISBN: 9781636550145

Ages 5-8

One of Italy’s most beloved children’s poets, Bruno Tognolini, brings a collection of “rhymes of hope to shout together” to U.S. shores. Originally published in Italy in 2021, Imagine! can be read as a series of short poems or as one continuous story. The rhythmic verse covers a wide range of imagination and wish, from wishing that one could share a meal with fictional characters to heartbreaking thoughts about war and the hope for peace and compassion, to the desire to draw a parent out of a depression caused by unemployment. The collage artwork instantly evokes Eric Carle’s colorful illustration play, and each brief poems ends in a colorful cry, “Imagine!”, which you can encourage your readers to join in and invoke with each reading. It’s poetry with a desire for social change and a cry for understanding and empathy.

You can stream the song and the instrumental for Imagine! on Red Comet Press’s SoundCloud site. Red Comet’s website also offers a downloadable educator’s and discussion guide to use when working with kids and reading the book.

Posted in Intermediate, Middle Grade, Non-fiction, Non-Fiction

Spotlight on Women’s History: Kip Tiernan and Rosie’s Place

Sanctuary: Kip Tiernan and Rosie’s Place, the Nation’s First Shelter for Women, by Christine McDonnell/Illustrated by Victoria Tentler-Krylov, (March 2022, Candlewick Press), $18.99, ISBN: 9781536211290

Ages 7-10

Inspired by her grandmother, who fed hungry men from her door during the Great Depression, Kip Tiernan went on to work with and feed the homeless as an adult. She noticed women dressing as men to get on the food lines, and began noticing more and more homeless women on the street; when she worked to bring public notice and aid, however, she was initially told that homelessness was not a “women’s problem”. Determined to make a safe place for women, she pushed until the city of Boston rented her an empty supermarket for $1 a year: Rosen’s Market because Rosie’s Place, opening in 1974; they served hot meals and provided free clothes, beds, and a safe place for women to come together. Sanctuary is Kip Tiernan’s story, told in straighforward prose and accompanied by evocative watercolor and digital illustration set against a white page, giving readers the feel of peeking into moments from Kip Tiernan’s life. The focus is on community, with multicultural women coming together to talk and support one another; there are embraces, hand-holding, and active listening, all there to emphasize the importance of connection and compassion. Display and booktalk with Dangerous Jane, the picture book biography of Jane Addams, founder of Chicago’s Hull House.

Sanctuary: Kip Tiernan and Rosie’s Place, the Nation’s First Shelter for Women, has starred reviews from The Horn Book and Book PageVisit the Rosie’s Place webpage to learn more about the sanctuary. The Harvard Radcliffe Institute houses Kip Tiernan’s papers.

Posted in Intermediate, Middle Grade, Non-fiction, Non-Fiction

Welcome Spring with My Big Book of Outdoors

My Big Book of Outdoors, by Tim Hopgood, (March 2022, Candlewick Studio), $19.99, ISBN: 9781536215335

Ages 7-10

One part poetry book, one part nonfiction resource, one part craft and activity primer, My Big Book of Outdoors is an illustrated guide to the seasons with activities and mixed media illustrations. Each season is organized like a scrapbook of art, poetry, nature facts, and nature-based projects to create, like chocolate nests (made with shredded wheat and chocolate); leaf mobiles, and bird feeders. Thoughtful observations and questions invite readers to consider nature as seasons move from one to the next; to think about different birds they see in each season, or look for types of plants and trees. The artwork is vibrant. Think of it as a scrapbook that celebrates and encourages active participation in each season. It’s beautiful to look at, enjoyable to read, fun to play with. There are tons of ideas for seasonal programs and grab-and-go programs in here, too – an all-around great resource for kids and educators.

My Big Book of Outdoors was originally published in the UK in 2021.

Posted in Intermediate, Middle Grade, Non-fiction, Non-Fiction, picture books, Preschool Reads

Some poetry books for National Poetry Month

April 1 starts off National Poetry Month, and Candlewick Press is ready with three new books to share with your readers! Take a look at these picture book poetry collections.

Behold Our Magical Garden : Poems Fresh from a School Garden, by Allan Wolf/Illustrated by Daniel Duncan, (March 2022, Candlewick Press), $18.99, ISBN: 9781536204551

Ages 8-12

Perfect for springtime reading, this collection of poems celebrates gardening at school; from scientific observations and flavorful herbs to bugs on strike and compost bins, all facets of gardening get a moment in the sun (so to speak) here. Colorful illustrations featuring diverse students and an enthusiastic teacher have cartoony moments and photorealistic artwork that comes together to give readers a fun expedition into gardening. Great for quick readalouds, Behold Our Magical Garden gives silly moments like an underwear-sporting thundercloud: “We saw up in the sky by chance / a rain cloud who had lost his pants. / But luckily he wore a pair / of silver lining thunder-wear”, and thoughtful moments, as with The Green Bean Bower: “so much depends / upon / a green bean / bower / covered with vine / leaves / climbing the bamboo / poles”. Back matter includes notes on each poem, and endpapers showcase a variety of gardening tools and inhabitants. What a way to welcome springtime planting activities!

For extension activity ideas, visit KidsGardening.org, and find learning activities, lesson plans, and information on designing a school garden of your own.

 

Marshmallow Clouds: Two Poets at Play among Figures of Speech, by Ted Kooser and Connie Wanek/Illustrated by Richard Jones, (March 2022, Candlewick Press), $19.99, ISBN: 9781536203035

Ages 9+

Framed by the four elements – fire, water, air, earth – and infused with dreamlike imagery, Marshmallow Clouds is a collection of poems that takes readers into the heart of a hot July day: “I was the crimson crayon / melting in a sunny car, / the color of firecrackers and flags / and Mars, where once water / cooled the red stones” and confides in the readers as to why pets don’t write: “Parrots could, actually, / but they don’t believe that’s / any of your business”. The authors let their imaginations run wild, envisioning remote controls “designed for the human hand / the way a pacifier fits exactly / where a baby cries” and old barns “pull[ing] on / its patched-up underwear of rotten boards / beneath its coveralls of corrugated metal”. Richard Jones’s dreamlike illustrations manage to bring Ted Kooser’s and Connie Wanek’s imagery to life while maintaining a surreal, hazy feel. Readers will devour these, come to the end, and turn back to start all over again.

Marshmallow Clouds has starred reviews from The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books, Booklist, and The Horn Book. Ted Kooser is a Pulitzer Prize-winning former US Poet Laureate; find more of his poetry at his webpage. Find more of Connie Wanek’s poetry at her website.

 

Take Off Your Brave, by Nadim (age 4)/Illustrated by Yasmeen Ismail, (March 2022, Candlewick Press), $17.99, ISBN: 9781536223163

Ages 4-8

Enjoy this collection of poems that shows the world through a preschooler’s eyes. Nadim, the author, wrote these poems when he was a 4-year-old preschooler (his sister and his preschool class have piece in here as well) after discovering poetry at school. The poems are adorably created, by children for children, with observations on love: “Everyone has love / even baddies”, beloved teachers: “Miss Angela is nice. / Miss Angela smells like flowers. / Miss Angela is warm. / Miss Angela sounds like a bell, ringing gently”, and best friends: “He’s as fast as anyone – / Faster than everyone – / And everyone you’ve ever seen. / And he knows pretty much everything / About aliens”. The poems are a true, wonderful look into a preschooler’s mind; a sweet, comforting hug kids and adults alike could really use to get through a rough day. Essential reading for Poetry Month and beyond, teachers can use Nadim’s Take Off Your Brave as a class project jumping off point and create their own poetry collections to share. A note from Nadim’s mother explains how Nadim discovered poetry. Yasmeen Ismail’s watercolor illustrations are a joyful celebration of being a child, with a diverse group of children and animals playing together. Take Off Your Brave was originally published in the UK in 2021.

Poets.org has a wealth of National Poetry Month resources, including printable Poem in Your Pocket PDFs and programming ideas, both in-person and virtual.

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

The Great TBR Read-Down: Carry Me Home, by Janet Fox

Carry Me Home, by Janet Fox, (Aug. 2021, Simon & Schuster), $17.99, ISBN: 9781534485082

Ages 8-12

Twelve year-old Lulu and her younger sister, third grader Serena, live in their car with their father. It’s not so bad; the Suburban has a big back seat, the showers in the RV park aren’t too far away, and the food pantry is near enough to get their food to keep in the car. It’ll be okay. Daddy tells the girls it will get better, and they hope it will, until the morning when the girls wake up and their father is gone. Lulu, afraid and distrustful of adults, keeps the girls’ father’s disappearance a secret – he’s done this before, right after their mother died – and tries to keep their RV park bill paid, get food from the pantry, and navigate both her and Serena’s school schedules, hoping upon hope that no one will discover their secret and separate the sisters. The weather in Montana is getting cold – much colder than their home in Texas – and the stress of keeping up appearances and being hungry and cold is starting to wear on Lulu. Told in the first person from Lulu’s point of view, and moving between past and present, Carry Me Home has characters that instantly feel real, with heartbreaking moments and the incredible strength exhibited by each character. It’s a story of friendship and finding home as much as it is a story of grief, loss, and poverty. A reminder that we never know what any given person is dealing with in a given moment, Carry Me Home is a book for readers who love realistic fiction. A side subplot links to Eleanor Coerr’s Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes, and author Janet Fox’s author webpage includes downloadable instructions on folding paper cranes, a curriculum guide, and other resources.

Display and booktalk with readalikes like Katherine Applegate’s Crenshaw and Melissa Sarno’s Just Under the Clouds.