Posted in Fantasy, Teen, Young Adult/New Adult

New YA fantasy duology: The Darkening

The Darkening, by Sunya Mara, (July 2022, Clarion Books), $18.99, ISBN: 9780358561989

Ages 13+

Set in a fantasy world terrorized by a storm that leaves anyone caught in it cursed, Vesper Vale is the 17-year-old daughter of revolutionaries. Her mother walked into the storm, and her father is on the run from the Wardana, the royal guard, led by the ruler’s heir, the cold-hearted Prince Dalca. Her father is a powerful ikonomancer – a magic user that works with symbols to weave spells – and refuses to teach Vesper; this all changes when the Wardana and Dalca catch up with Vesper’s father and take him prisoner. Determined to save her father, Vesper befriends a mole in the Wardana and weaves an appearance spell that will get her inside Dalca’s inner circle. Once she’s on the inside, she realizes that nothing is as black-and-white as it seems: there is much about her mother’s disappearance that she was never privy to, and she certainly never expected to fall for Dalca – or that he would fall for her, too. Strong worldbuilding sets the tone for this fantasy adventure, which has a good premise but gets in its own way at times. The interaction between characters is delicious, particularly between Vesper and Dalca: such romantic tension! The action is exciting, and the idea of ikonomancy is incredibly interesting; I wanted to learn more. This is the first in a duology, and I’m looking forward to where the story goes, now that we seem to be into the meat of the story. A good investment for your fantasy collections.

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

Graphic Novel Biographies: Nat Love and Bluma & Felix Goldberg

Best Shot in the West: The Thrilling Adventures of Nat Love – The Legendary Cowboy!, by Patricia C. McKissack and Frederick L. McKissack, Jr./Illustrated by Randy Duburke, (Aug. 2022, Chronicle Books), $9.99, ISBN: 9781797212517

Ages 10-13

Originally published in 2012, this graphic novel biography of Nat Love, also known as Deadwood Dick, one of the most famous African-American cowboys in the Old West. Based on Love’s 1907 autobiography, The Life and Adventures of Nat Love, Better Known in the Cattle Country as “Deadwood Dick,” Best Shot in the West‘s adaptation by children’s literature greats Patricia and Frederick McKissack is told in Love’s voice, from his 1854 birth into slavery in Tennessee; his leaving home to find work as a cowpoke and his adventures across the country, and his decision to marry and work as a railroad porter in his later years. The McKissacks created a faithful adaptation that appeals to a younger readership, and Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe Award Winner Randy Duburke’s painted work brings Love’s work to life, with gray wash over color to add a sepia-toned aging to the artwork. A good purchase for libraries with robust graphic novel biographies and historical U.S. collections. Pair with books like Black Heroes of the Wild West and Bad News for Outlaws for a display on the Wild West your readers didn’t learn about!

 

 

We Survived the Holocaust: The Bluma and Felix Goldberg Story, by Frank W. Baker/Illustrated by Tim E. Ogline, (Sept. 2022, Imagine & Wonder), $19.99, ISBN: 9781637610206

Ages 14-18

In 2000, Holocaust survivor Felix Goldberg handed media literacy educator Frank W. Baker a copy of the speech he’d just delivered to a South Carolina synagogue and asked him to “do something with this”. Baker worked with the Goldberg’s children and illustrator Tim E. Ogline to bring Felix’s and Bluma’s stories to the world. Rendered in stark black and white, their stories unfold: Felix’s and Bluma’s early lives in Poland parallel the growing wave of hate and rage running through Germany; the antisemitic propaganda that dehumanized and turned a nation against a people; the explosion of violence that began the Holocaust. Felix and Bluma experienced untold horrors across concentration camps and death marches, losing family members but finding one another in a displaced persons camp, and arriving in America to begin a life together. It is an moving and powerful story, and a strong book to put on shelves next to Maus. Back matter includes a timeline of events; a glossary; recommended resources for further reading, and an index. You can find a Readers Guide at the Stories of Survival website.

 

Posted in Middle School, Non-Fiction, Teen, Tween Reads, Young Adult/New Adult

New LEGO Mindstorms books from No Starch Press!

If you have tinkerers or a robotics league in your community, you may already be familiar with No Starch Press and their solid LEGO Mindstorms catalog. I’m a No Starch fan and regularly buy their computing books for both my kids and adult collections, but their Mindstorms books really are worthy of their own shout-out. I’ve used them in my own library when I had a robotics league, and they were a tremendous help to me and my team as we navigated getting the machines built and running. There are two new Mindstorms books coming out that are worth a look for your shelves.

Getting Started with LEGO® MINDSTORMS: Learn the Basics of Building and Programming Robots, by Barbara Bratzel & Rob Torok, (Oct. 2022, No Starch Press), $19.99, ISBN: 9781718502420

Ages 12+

Anyone embarking on LEGO Mindstorms robotics will find Getting Started with LEGO Mindstorms an essential reference to have on hand. Written with a friendly, easy-to-follow voice, the book provides information you and your readers will need to build your first robot, work with the Mindstorms app, and troubleshoot and refine your robots as you go. The book covers sensors, remote control, sound, light, and movement. Are you new to programming? The book introduces readers to Word Blocks, a visual programming language based on Scratch and is very user-friendly. If you’ve never delved into robotics, DON’T PANIC: this is a supremely intuitive guide that’s meant to foster an interest in programming, building, and working with LEGO Mindstorms robots. You and your readers are safe in Barbara Bratzel’s and Rob Torok’s capable hands.

 

Mastering LEGO® MINDSTORMS: Build Better Robots with Python and Word Blocks, by Barbara Bratzel & Rob Torok, (Oct. 2022, No Starch Press), $19.99, ISBN: 9781718503144

Ages 12+

You want your readers to expand their expertise on LEGO Mindstorms. Mastering LEGO Mindstorms will get them there. Moving up from basic Word Blocks programming, Mastering LEGO Mindstorms expands robotics builders’ skills by introducing Python language programming, letting users write text-based code. There’s still how-tos on designing and building, with expanded programming techniques to encourage the casual builder to grow their schools and move toward more sophisticated robotics engineering. There are chapters on gears and mechanisms, moving gyro sensors, and games and “Ultimate Challenges” to test your engineers’ mettle. Photos are incredibly helpful and the informative text is as supportive as it is educational. Bratzel is an elementary school STEM educator and Torok is a secondary STEM educator; both are Mindstorms educators who explain robotics in a way that respects the reader while challenging them.

Getting Started with LEGO® MINDSTORMS and Mastering LEGO® MINDSTORMS are excellent additions to your STEM/STEAM collections. If you have robotics leagues or maker labs in your community, they are essential. 

Posted in geek culture, Non-Fiction, Teen, Young Adult/New Adult

A little bit of Comic Con on your bookshelf… See You at San Diego

See You at San Diego : An Oral History of Comic-Con, Fandom, and the Triumph of Geek Culture, by Mathew Klickstein, (Sept. 2022, Fantagraphics), $39.99, ISBN: 9781683966517

Ages 14+

A definitive history of San Diego Comic-Con, See You at San Diego is a personal chronicle of fandom, as members of the convention and fandom community provide their own stories of the rise of Con. From a group of like-minded science fiction and fantasy fans grew a definitive event in comic book culture and fandom history. Here, creators and fan mainstays talk about their teen years, hanging out with Ray Bradbury, making ‘zines, and finding a space to hold a proper comic book convention. Over 400 black and white and color photos throughout show fans and creators, ticket stubs and programs, and featured geek culture luminaries include Neil Gaiman, Kevin Smith, Frank Miller, and the Russo Brothers. A great slice of comic book culture history for collections where you have pop culture readers. Younger readers may not gravitate to this one, but stock this for your teens and young adults if they’re comic book and pop culture fans. With New York Comic Con coming up, this is a good book to have on display; booktalk how San Diego started it all.  Also great to display with works from featured creators.

Visit Matthew Klickstein’s website for more about his books and articles.

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 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 Teen, Young Adult/New Adult

The Death-Cast Universe gets a prequel with The First to Die at the End

The First to Die at the End, by Adam Silvera, (Oct. 2022, Quill Tree Books), $19.99, ISBN: 9780063240803

Ages 13+

The prequel to 2017’s They Both Die at the End follows two teens who fall in love against the backdrop of New York City during the Death-Cast launch. Orion is a teen convinced he’s living on borrowed time thanks to his serious heart condition. He signed up for Death-Cast – an app that alerts subscribers on the day they are going to die – so that he would know when it was coming. Valentino just arrived in New York; a young model ready to take the City by storm, he signed up for Death-Cast on a lark after almost losing his sister to a car accident. The two meet and the attraction is instant: but one of them receives a call and the other doesn’t. Is Death-Cast real, or is it a hoax? The two don’t have time to mull it over; they have a day to create a lifetime. While it isn’t necessary to read They Both Die at the End before reading The First to Die at the End, you’ll want to. It’s a gorgeous story, and you’ll get a little more context from characters who make an appearance in this prequel. Using the space of one day, Silvera creates a story that is filled with expectation, joy, tension, and longing. His fully realized characters have no time to waste; they spend the most memorable day together, moving through relationship milestones and daring to to love in the face of the unthinkable. Thought-provoking discussions between the characters will translate well to discussion groups, and supporting characters and the connections made over the course of the day expand the Death-Cast universe and make this an unputdownable story that teens will devour. An essential first purchase.

Visit Adam Silvera’s author website for more about his books.

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

Conquering social anxiety through Improv

Improve : How I Discovered Improv and Conquered Social Anxiety, by Alex Graudins, (Sept. 2022, First Second), $17.99, ISBN: 9781250208231

Ages 14+

Graphic novelist Alex Graudins – you may recognize the name from Science Comics and History Comics – uses her pencils to tell her story in this autobiographical graphic novel. Graudins illustrates her history of social anxiety, often at odds with her desire to be part of the “theatre kids” groups. Intrigued by improv, she signs up for improv classes as a way to work through her anxiety and negative self-talk. As she works with others in the group, she learns to work with the ebb and flow of her anxiety spikes. Part autobiographical study and part improv guide, Graudins explains different routines, made more helpful through illustration, letting readers see skits that explain different improv games, including “One Word at a Time”, where partners create a story through alternating words and “Advance & Expand”, where partners direct each other to move the story along (advance) or provide more detail (expand). Graudins is frank about her struggles with depression as well as the camaraderie and support that her improv groups provide. Graudins’s realistic artwork has a cartoon softness – think Raina Telgemeier and Victoria Jamieson – that puts readers at ease. Back matter includes an author’s note, further reading, and additional improv games make up the back matter.

An excellent addition to YA biography collections. Teens will connect with the graphic delivery and appreciate the honest and creative discussions on anxiety. Visit Alex Graudins’s webpage for more of her artwork and webcomics.

 

Posted in Graphic Novels, Teen

SPECS is looking like good ’80s YA horror!

Most of you know I’m a comic book fan(atic). I’m also stuck in the ’80s – my beloved formative years – and the teen horror that defined so much of that decade. Stranger Things? Give it right here.  Grady Hendrix’s books like My Best Friend’s Exorcism and Paperbacks from Hell? Yup, all on my bookshelf. What’s up next? According to an email in my inbox from BOOM! Studios, it’s SPECS:

From the press release:

LOS ANGELES, CA (August 10, 2022) – BOOM! Studios announced today SPECS, a mysterious new series from highly acclaimed writer David M. Booher (Canto, All-New Firefly), artist Chris Shehan (House of Slaughter) and colorist Roman Stevens, about a group of misfit teens who mail-order a pair of novelty glasses, and realize they’ve received much more than they bargained for, in stores November 2022.

All that high school students Kenny and Ted want is to not feel like outcasts in their small town in Ohio. But their world is turned upside down when the Magic Specs they ordered unlock a world of unforeseen possibilities. . . and consequences. Their fun starts out innocent enough, but when they wish that their bully would disappear, things take a cursed turn, with far darker results than they thought possible…

Channeling his love of 80’s sci-fi, fantasy, and horror, David M. Booher writes for TV, film, and comics. He co-created and wrote fan-favorite fantasy Canto from IDW, now in development as a motion picture with Will Smith’s Westbrook Studios and with David adapting the screenplay. David’s credits also include All-New Firefly for BOOM! Studios, Killer Queens from Dark Horse Comics, the comic adaptation of Joe Hill’s novella Rain for Image Comics, and Alien Bounty Hunter and Powerless from Vault Comics. An attorney by training, David lives in Los Angeles with his husband and the true brains behind their operation—their adopted greyhounds.

SPECS is my most personal story so far. As a gay kid who grew up in the Midwest, I know how it feels not to fit it. Kenny and Ted’s story as outsiders, filtered through the lenses of wish-granting novelty glasses, is my way of reminding that little kid that he’ll find his place in the world,” said Booher.

Chris Shehan is an American comic artist living in Austin, TX. They have been published by Vault Comics, Black Mask Studios, Scout Comics, A Wave Blue World, and Titan Books. Chris is best known as the artist for the bestselling series House of Slaughter from BOOM! Studios. They are also the artist and co-creator of The Autumnal from Vault Comics. They can be found on Twitter and Instagram @ChrisShehanArt.

“A story about a magic item that grants wishes… what could possibly go wrong?” said Shehan.  “David Booher, as usual, poured a lot of heart into SPECS and bringing that to life has been such a joy for me.”

SPECS #1 features main cover art by highly acclaimed artist Skylar Patridge (Trial of the Amazons), and variant covers by fan-favorite illustrators Kevin Wada (Buffy the Vampire Slayer), Chris Shehan (House of Slaughter), David Talaski (Nightwing), and more.

SPECS is ’80s adventure movies, supernatural horror, and small town kids going through some very strange events that will change them and their friendships forever,” said Elizabeth Brei, Editor, BOOM! Studios. “David and Chris have perfectly captured the chaos of teens caught in a trap of their own making and it’ll be up to you, dear readers, to find out if they manage to escape with their lives or sanity intact.”

SPECS is the newest release from BOOM! Studios’ eponymous imprint, home to critically acclaimed original series, including BRZRKR by Keanu Reeves, Matt Kindt, and Ron Garney; Something is Killing the Children by James Tynion IV and Werther Dell’Edera; Once & Future by Kieron Gillen and Dan Mora; We Only Find Them When They’re Dead by Al Ewing and Simone Di Meo; Seven Secrets by Tom Taylor and Daniele Di Nicuolo; The Many Deaths of Laila Starr by Ram V and Filipe Andrade; Basilisk by Cullen Bunn and Jonas Scharf; Grim by Stephanie Phillips and Flaviano; and the upcoming series Briar by Christopher Cantwell and Germán García, Stuff of Nightmares by R.L. Stine and A,L. Kaplan, Damn Them All by Si Spurrier and Charlie Adlard; The Approach by Jeremy Haun, Jason A. Hurley, and Jesus Hervas, and Behold, Behemoth by Tate Brombal and Nick Robles. The imprint also publishes popular licensed properties, including Dune: House Atreides from Brian Herbert, Kevin J. Anderson, and Dev Pramanik; Mighty Morphin and Power Rangers from Ryan Parrott, Mat Groom, Moises Hidalgo, and Marco Renna; and Magic from Jed McKay and Ig Guara.

Coming to comic book stores in November, I’m going to keep an eye out for SPECS #1 and definitely keep it in mind for when the trade paperbacks start coming.

Posted in Fantasy, Historical Fiction, Science Fiction, Teen, Tween Reads

Traveling through Time via my TBR: Ripped Away by Shirley Vernick

Ripped Away, by Shirley Vernick, (Feb. 2022, Fitzroy Books), $15.95, ISBN: 9781646032037

Ages 10-14

Abe Pearlman is a kid that who’s a bit of a loner. He’s got a kinda-sorta crush on his classmate, Mitzy Singer, but he doesn’t think she really notices he’s alive. When Abe spots a new fortune teller shop in his neighborhood, he goes in, figuring it’s worth a shot. Zinnia, the fortune teller, tells him he can save a life, and Abe leaves, only to discover that he’s not in his neighborhood anymore: he’s somehow been transported back in time to the slums of Victorian-era London, England! He’s now working as an assistant to a jewelry salesman named Mr. Diemschutz, living with his mom in a tenement apartment, and discovers that Mitzy has been sent back in time, too. She and her mother are living with her deceased father’s brother, in the same tenement building as Abe, and Mitzy is blind. Both were given cryptic clues by Zinnia, and now they have to figure out how to get back to their own place and time… but they also have to try and figure out how their fortunes are connected to Jack the Ripper, who’s on the loose in their neighborhood, and they have to survive the hatred directed toward Jewish refugees, already being accused to stealing jobs and housing from the English, and now being accused of possibly counting The Ripper among their community. Inspired by true events, Ripped Away is a great time-traveling story with a strong historical fiction backbone. Characters are realistic and have strong personalities that extend beyond the main plot; the author brings the history of anti-Semitism in Victorian Europe, particularly in the Jack the Ripper case, to light, and there are great points for further discussion throughout the story, including comparing and constrasting the plights of refugees, anti-Semitism, and family structures, from Victorian England (and further back!) through the present day. Back matter includes an author’s note that touches on the Victorian England, Jack the Ripper, and the anti-Jewish sentiment that gave rise harmful theories about the killer’s identity. An excellent read.

The Forward has an interesting article on Jack Ripper and anti-Semitic hysteria.

Shirley Vernick is an award-winning author. Visit her website for more information about her books and to follow her on social media.