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

Pixels of You considers friendships between AI and human

Pixels of You, by Ananth Hirsh & Yuko Ota/Illustrated by J.R. Doyle, (Feb. 2022, Amulet Paperbacks), $16.99, ISBN: 9781419749575

Ages 14+

The team behind 2016’s graphic novel, Lucky Penny, are back with a story about AI, humans, and the relationship that forms between one pair. Indira is a human artist, a photographer, who’s been cybernetically augmented after a car accident took one of her eyes at the age of 10. Fawn is the first human-presenting AI, also a photographic artist, who interns at the same gallery as Indira. The gallery owner puts them together on a project after the two have a very public disagreement over their work, the gallery owner – their mentor – puts them to the ultimate test: work on a project together, or leave the gallery. Period. At first, the collaboration is forced, grudging, but slowly, as the two artists get to know one another, a friendship forms, allowing each to see the world through the other’s eyes. Largely illustrated in shades of rose and violet, black pages with white text that record key moments in AI/Human history capture the reader’s attention and act as chapter heads, giving readers an idea of what may lie ahead. The characters are hard to get to know in the first pass – the story is interesting, but hard to connect to at first; I felt like I “got” them better as I went on in the story. I re-read the book, and the knowledge I’d gained from the first pass definitely helped me feel more for the characters from the outset, so you may want to give a solid booktalk on what’s going on in human history – touch on the paranoia that exists between humans and AI, for starters – at the time the story is set, to give tweens and teens more context to build on. There’s a slow-burn sapphic romance subplot that’s so subtle, some readers may not pick up on it for a while, but it is a satisfying close. Fawn’s robot parents are a surprise hit in the story. Give this one a shot. Talk about perspective, and how photography factors into the story of “seeing” others. I think it’ll find a dedicated audience.

Posted in Fantasy, Teen, Young Adult/New Adult

Kicking off 2022 YA with a bang: The Bone Spindle

The Bone Spindle, by Leslie Vedder, (Jan. 2022, Razorbill), $18.99, ISBN: 9780593325827

Ages 12+

This fantasy YA is heavily inspired by Sleeping Beauty, with a touch of Red Riding Hood, and a lot of adventure. Fi – short for Filore – is a treasure hunter with a curse on her head. Actually, it’s on her hand, but it’s a terrible one. Shane is an exiled female warrior who loves fighting and pretty girls. The two unlikely partners end up working together to free a kingdom when Fi pricks her finger on a bone spindle and discovers Briar Rose, the prince whose kingdom is under a sleeping curse until Love’s first kiss awakens him. Briar’s body is asleep, but his magic allows him to appear to Fi, leading her to his kingdom: if she can make it through the perilous thorns and other dangers that await.

The first in a new YA fantasy duology (or trilogy!), The Bone Spindle is a fantasy adventure that flips traditional fairy tales and gender roles, giving readers strong and smart female protagonists and a gentle hero with a mysterious dark side. Fi is afraid to fall in love after a terrible ex left her in a bad spot, but Briar is so awkward and sweet that she wonders what will happen when she finally gets to his kingdom to deliver his kiss. Shane comes from a warrior kingdom, but she’s chosen exile. She loves the heft of her axe and the smile on a pretty girl, but her partnership with Fi means she’ll put herself at risk for a friend. Fantasy readers, LGBTQ+ readers, romance readers, all will find something to love in The Bone Spindle – enjoy spotting the influences as you read.

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

Jon Chad’s graphic novel history of Pinball is great for gamer historians

Pinball: A Graphic History of the Silver Ball, by Jon Chad, (Feb. 2022, First Second), $24.99, ISBN: 9781250249210

Ages 10+

Before there was Atari, there was pinball. The first pinball machine made its debut around 1930 and captivated players from the beginning: so much that banned for being a “racket that fleeces children” and drive them to petty thievery”. In 1976, champion player Roger Sharpe played the game in a Manhattan courtroom to prove that pinball was a game of skill, not chance. Graphic novelist Jon Chad ‘s (Science Comics) graphic novel Pinball is the graphic history of the game, tracing its roots back to the Court of King Louis XIV, through its scandalous era in the 1930s, and renaissance in the 1970s, all the way up to the present day. It’s like Science Comics and History Comics, all put together in great volume. Jon Chad examines not only the artwork and cultural significance of the game – gaming fans, and pinball fans in particular, know all about the collectible, incredible artwork that went into the back glass and the game floor itself – but the physics of the game, and what makes it a game of skill.

Jon Chad’s artwork is colorful, filled with movement and amazing detail. He writes with expert knowledge and a true love of the game. This is an essential purchase for nonfiction graphic collections and anyone with a gaming collection.

Read an interview with Jon Chad at ComicsBeat, visit his author webpage for more comics and teaching resources, and have your own pinball/STEM program with these PBS Kids instructions or this pizza box pinball PDF from the UK’s Science Museum Group.

Posted in Middle School, mythology, Teen, Tween Reads, Young Adult/New Adult

Mythic Gifting: Across the Rainbow Bridge

Across the Rainbow Bridge: Stories of Norse Gods and Humans, by Kevin Crossley-Holland/Illustrated by Jeffrey Alan Love, (Dec. 2021, Candlewick Studio), $18.99, ISBN: 9781536217711

Ages 10+

Here’s another great gift idea / end of year budget purchase for your collections. Do you have Percy Jackson/Magnus Chase/mythology fans in your circle, whether in work or life? Know a teen who devoured Neil Gaiman’s Norse Mythology, or a tween who loves Gaiman’s Odd and the Frost Giants? This is the book to have on hand when they ask what to read next. Across the Rainbow Bridge is a companion to 2017’s Norse Myths: Tales of Odin, Thor, and Loki, and includes five more stories from a master storyteller and artist. Loki matches wits with a troll in “The Troll and the Trickster”;  a miserly ghost isn’t ready to let go of his money just yet in Skarp’s Ghost; a girl named Inga catches the goddess Frigg’s attention in “Blue of Blue”; Odin goes wandering yet again in “Your Life or My Life”, and “The Gift of Poetry” is bestowed on a young boy… but nothing comes without strings attached. Jeffrey Alan Love’s moody, stark two-color illustrations make brilliant use of shadows and contrast, adding to the mythic storytelling. A must for your mythology collections.

Kevin Crossley-Holland is a Carnegie Medal–winning author with a gift for myth and legend. Other retellings include Between Worlds: Folktales of Britain and Ireland, illustrated by Frances Castle, and Norse Myths: Tales of Odin, Thor, and Loki, illustrated by Jeffrey Alan Love, among many others. Jeffrey Alan Love is a Kate Greenway Award nominee (for Across the Rainbow Bridge) and received the 2019 Dutch Zilveren Penseel (Silver Brush) Award for Norse Myths: Tales of Odin, Thor, and Loki by Kevin Crossley-Holland, the 2017 World Fantasy Award for Best Artist, and the 2018 British Fantasy Award for Best Artist.

Across the Rainbow Bridge: Stories of Norse Gods and Humans has starred reviews from Booklist, School Library Connection, Kirkus, and The Horn Book.
Posted in Fantasy, Graphic Novels, Teen, Uncategorized, Young Adult/New Adult

Wishes aren’t free: The Well

The Well, by Jake Wyatt/Illustrated by Choo, (Apr. 2022, First Second), $17.99, ISBN: 9781626724143

Ages 14+

A seaside village is attacked by a monster. A woodcutter, his wife and mother in law, two powerful witches, join forces to battle it, and disappear, leaving behind their child and her grandfather, to raise her. Thirteen years later, Lizzie is a teen who helps her grandfather by selling their wares at the local market, but when she needs money to cover her passage home, she grabs money from the sacred well and awakens a spirit that urges her to repay her debt. Lizzie must grant wishes, but every wish comes with a price; some are painful to bear. In her quest to cover her debts at the well, Lizzie will learn about the magic that almost destroyed her family.

The Well unfolds like a fairy tale: a monster, a tragedy, a child left behind, and a legacy of magic to be discovered. The moral – every wish comes with a price, and having a wish granted isn’t always what it seems – runs through the story, reminding readers to think before they act, even before they wish. The artwork is dreamlike, with vibrant color and fantastic monsters. A must for your fantasy fans.

I love the idea of having tweens and teens create their own fairy tales, and The Well is a great way to introduce a program like that. Invite readers to volunteer fairy tale elements they see in the story. Outback Aussie Teaching has a planning template on Teachers Pay Teachers, to help writers organize their thoughts; the Bilingual Language Institute has a Spanish/English picture board with options for characters, setting, problems, solutions, and magic powers to help give readers a flow to work with.

Posted in Teen, Young Adult/New Adult

YA Crossover potential: Fan Club by Erin Mayer

Fan Club, by Erin Mayer, (Oct. 2021, Mira), $16.99, ISBN: 9780778311591

Ages 16+

A young woman falls into obsessive fandom in this novel with YA/new adult interests. Fan Club follows a first-person narrator who’s bored with her life working at a women’s lifestyle website until the night she hears a new song by pop star Adriana Argento. The song speaks to hear like nothing she’s heard before, and becomes obsessed with the star, ultimately falling into an online fandom where fans obsess over Argento’s every Instagram post, song lyrics, and appearances. A coworkers invites her to join her group of Adriana superfans who call themselves “The Ivies”; a group of young women who gather to listen to her music and talk about the star, her life and career, with eerie, almost cult-like devotion. As she becomes more mired in the group, the narrator discovers a horrible secret about the women – but is she too far gone to pull away?

Fan Club is so timely in its depiction of our celebrity-obsessed society and social media, toxic, and obsessive fandom culture. It’s not a character-driven book; readers may recognize character archetypes, but this read is purely about the big picture. Acerbic, dark humor takes aim at pop culture and makes this a read your teen and young adult/new adults will devour. Display and booktalk with Megan Angelo’s Followers and Goldy Moldavsky’s Kill the Boy Band.

 

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

LEGO Mindstorms books? Gotta go with No Starch Press!

The LEGO MINDSTORMS Robot Inventor Activity Book : A Beginner’s Guide to Building and Programming LEGO Robots, by Daniele Benedettelli, (Nov. 2021, No Starch Press), $34.99, ISBN: 9781718501812
Ages 9+
I love No Starch Press for my computer and tech books. They find the best writers and illustrators to communicate tech concepts to everyone, from kids to grownups. Their manga guides to the sciences are great for my YA collection, and they move: as soon as I show a teen The Manga Guide to Calculus, I feel like I’ve done my good deed for the day. So when someone from No Starch asked me to look at the LEGO Mindstorms Robot Inventor Activity Book, I jumped! We had a robotics program at my last library, and I’m hoping to get a program going here if I can get some grant money, so a No Starch library of LEGO Mindstorms books would be a nice part of my grant.
Daniele Benedettelli delivers. He’s collaborated with LEGO Group to help develop and test LEGO MINDSTORMS, including the software for the LEGO MINDSTORMS Education EV3 set, has written several LEGO Mindstorms books. and has a YouTube channel with tutorials and experiments.
Written for beginners – no, honest – this book includes seven projects to get you up and running. Use the Robot Inventor set and the companion to to build bots like a magical monster that can answer written questions AND eat paper, a working electric guitar, or a remote-controlled transformer car that will have kids channeling their inner Optimus Prime. Pages are filled with color photos and step-by-step instructions on building and programming your robots using the Mindstorms app. Benedettelli communicates clearly and with helpful, informative detail, and clear color photos will help even the most confounded of learners .(That would be me. I’m the confounded learner.) Helpful tips and ideas abound in callout boxes. Fully indexed.
If you’re building a Mindstorms/robotics library, this is an essential book to have, especially if you haven’t run a robotics league before. Good luck!
Posted in Middle School, Non-Fiction, Teen, Tween Reads

Threads of Peace and how two nonviolent activists changed the world

Threads of Peace: How Mohandas Gandhi and Dr. Martin Luther King Changed the World, by Uma Krishnaswami, (Aug. 2021, Atheneum/Caitylyn Dlouhy Books), $19.99, ISBN: 9781481416788

Ages 9-14

Two activists who chose peace and nonviolence; two activists whose lives were cut short by violence. As we forge ahead in this time of social unrest and protest, Threads of Peace: How Mohandas Gandhi and Dr. Martin Luther King Changed the World emerges as a book for tweens and young teens to turn to as they try to make sense of what they see on the news. Award-winning author Uma Krishnaswami profiles Gandhi and Dr. King, their paths to resistance and social justice, and their continuing influence on the world stage and nonviolence movements. Uma Krishnaswami writes about the threads that join Gandhi and Dr. King – and through them, all of us – together in a desire for social justice and freedom for all, even as their experiences – like ours – may travel different paths. Ms. Krishnaswami’s writing infuses her factual writing with emotion and empathy, investing readers in her subjects and in their mission. Black and white and color photos and colorful callout quotes and fact boxes throughout reach all interest levels. Back matter includes an author’s note, timeline of events in both Gandhi’s and Dr. King’s lives, and a glossary of terms. A bibliography, sources, and index make this an excellent research resource.

Threads of Peace: How Mohandas Gandhi and Dr. Martin Luther King Changed the World has starred reviews from Kirkus and Booklist. Display and booktalk to your middle school/early high schoolers along with Todd Hasak-Lowy’s We Are Power: How Nonviolent Activism Changes the World and Protest! : How People Have Come Together to Change the World by Emily Haworth-Booth and Alice Haworth-Booth. Unleashing Readers has some suggested questions for discussion.

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

Himawari House: A glimpse of adjusting to life as an expat

Himawari House, by Harmony Becker, (Nov. 2021, First Second), $17.99, ISBN: 9781250235572

Ages 14+

A glimpse into the lives of three exchange students living in Japan, Himawari House is about the friendships, frustrations, and adjustments that come with living in a new country: in this case, Japan. Nao, Hyejung, and Tina all move into Himawari House and attend the same Japanese school, but have different reasons for being there. Nao wants to reconnect to her Japanese heritage and worries about fitting in with Japanese culture. “Too Japanese” for her American life and “Too American” to Japanese classmates, she struggles with cultural identity. Hyejung, is Korean and moved to Japan to escape her overbearing parents and their unrelenting focus on her academic success. Tina is from Singapore and struggles with connection, preferring to lose herself in fandom. Although Nao’s story is the main driver, Hyejung and Tina have fully realized, moving backstories, all explored here, along with their roommates, two Japanese brothers with widely differing personalities. The group all come together and live here at Himawari House, and the story is a slice of life look into a year in their lives, as they all live and work side-by-side, eat, fall in and out of love, go to school, and talk late into the night. The language barriers are expertly illustrated here – largely bilingual, Japanese characters appear in many word bubbles; the dialogue has a blend of English, Japanese, Korean, and Singlish (the English Creole spoken in Singapore), with a brilliant explanation of the use of accents in the story at the end. Black and white artwork is largely realistic, with Chibi renderings to communicate extreme emotion. It’s a well-done character study and will be popular with teens and young adults.

Himawari House has starred reviews from Kirkus, Publisher’s Weekly, and School Library Journal.

Posted in Animal Fiction, Fiction, Horror, Middle Grade, Teen, Tween Reads

Spooooktastic middle grade: SCARY STORIES FOR YOUNG FOXES

I can’t believe Halloween is THIS WEEKEND. I’ve been booktalking all the spooky books I’ve been reading year-round, in anticipation of this moment!

Scary Stories for Young Foxes, by Christian McKay Heidicker/Illustated by Junyi Wu, (July 2019, Henry Holt & Co.), $16.99, ISBN: 9781250181428

Ages 9-14

A Newbery Honor-winning collection of interconnected stories, Scary Stories for Young Foxes stole the show when it hit shelves in 2019, and it’s still going strong today. Framed by the setting of a storyteller spinning tales for a group of young foxes, the heart of each story involves two kits, Mia and Uly, separated from their litters, and fighting scary creatures to get back. It’s a great concept, because the stories are told for young foxes, putting readers into the mindset of a fox, not a person, and thinking about things that would terrify a young animal, rather than a person, and realizing that we share similar fears. These are stories for older kids – there are some moments that may be tough to read about, including domestic abuse, a witch who wants to wear the kits’ skins, and a very hungry zombie – not fare for kids who are still loving Goosebumps. Think of your Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark fans, maybe a year or two older. Junyi Wi’s illustrations add additional chills. As Kirkus writes, “Dark and skillfully distressing, this is a tale for the bold”.

Scary Stories for Young Foxes has starred reviews from Booklist and the Bulletin for the Center of Children’s Books. You can visit author Christian McKay Heidicker’s author webpage and learn more about his books and school visits, and read his blog.

 

 

Scary Stories for Young Foxes: The City, by Christian McKay Heidicker/Illustated by Junyi Wu, (Aug. 2021, Henry Holt & Co.), $17.99, ISBN: 9781250181442

Ages 9-14

The stories continue in the companion to Scary Stories for Young Foxes! Scary Stories for Young Foxes: The City is back with eight new stories, more gloriously horrifying illustration, and two new foxes. Fox kit 0-730 loves the “old stories” about Mia and Uly, and is desperate for an exciting, adventurous life away from the Farm and what he thinks are the safe, wire dens the foxes inhabit. He escapes his cage to discover the truth behind what’s going on at the Farm, and runs for his life. Cozy is a fox who lives in the suburbs with her skulk, forced to escape her den when a terrifying creature that hunts foxes arrives. Both foxes arrive in The City, a scary new world with scary new dangers awaiting them.

The book can be read on its own as a stand-alone, or as a companion to the first book. Either way, the stories are scary: the kind of scary that creeps like dread as you read, and the heart-pounding panic you experience when you have information that the characters just don’t know (yet). Fans who love Katherine Arden, Mary Downing Hahn and Holly Black will love Scary Stories for Young Foxes and Scary Stories for Young Foxes: The City.

Visit illustrator Junyi Wu’s website to see more amazing artwork.