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

What does the first cat in space eat? Pizza, of course!

The First Cat in Space Ate Pizza, by Mac Barnett/Illustrated by Shawn Harris, (May 2022, Katherine Tegen Books), $15.99, ISBN: 9780063084087

Ages 7-12

Two award-winning kidlit powerhouses come together for a laugh-out-loud tale about a cat, a toenail-clipping robot, and a group of hungry rats posed to devour the moon. Rats from another galaxy are eating the moon! What is the Earth to do? Dispatch a cybernetically enhanced cat – First Cat – to take care of business. Accompanied by a stowaway robot who believes he’s destined for greater things than clipping toenails, and a ship’s computer who’s furious at being upstaged from a larger part in the story, First Cat lands on the moon, and the adventure begins: frozen wastelands, living forests, churning waters (Sea of Tranqulity? HA!) and dangers at every turn. There are repeating gags that get funnier with every utterance, and readers will giggle themselves silly as First Cat tries, time and again, to have a mouth-watering slice of pizza. Artwork is boldly outlined and colorful, hilariously communicating the madcap storytelling.

Did you know First Cat is Instagram famous? Kids can watch First Cat’s live adventures on Instagram or the First Cat webpage, where they can also sign up for the newsletter! The graphic novel includes sheet music and links to songs from the series. The First Cat in Space Ate Pizza is perfect for summer reading your readers will love.

The First Cat in Space Ate Pizza has a starred review from Publishers Weekly and is on the May/June 2022 Indie Next Kids List.

Posted in Animal Fiction, Fiction, Graphic Novels, Humor, Intermediate

Blue, Barry & Pancakes: Danger on Mount Choco is the epic adventure kids needed

Blue, Barry & Pancakes: Danger on Mount Choco, by Dan & Jason, (Jan. 2022, First Second), $12.99, ISBN: 9781250255570

Ages 6-8

The third Blue, Barry and Pancakes adventure is another laugh-out-loud hit. The three friends enter an epic sundae-making contest this time, in the quest to win a trophy for Barry’s trophy room. But the winning ingredient can only be found at Mount Choco… are the friends up to the task? Of course they are! In usual hilarious, frenetically paced style, Blue, Barry and Pancakes set out on an adventure that brings laughter, disagreement, adventure, and ice cream sundaes. It’s not necessary to read the previous books before picking up Danger on Mount Choco, but why wouldn’t you? These books are great.

Don’t forget to download a free activity kit from the first Blue, Barry and Pancakes adventure at Macmillan’s website!

 

 

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, Graphic Novels, Humor, Middle Grade, Middle School, Tween Reads

Life in the Muddle: Middle School, Muddle School

Muddle School, by Dave Whamond, (Sept. 2021, Kids Can Press), $15.99, ISBN: 9781525304866

Ages 9-13

Based on author/illustrator Dave Whamond’s own middle school experiences (with photos as proof!), Muddle School is all about Dave, an artistic kid who starts Muddle School: middle school in a town called Muddle. Think that’s bad? He’s also the new kid. He’s also the kid whose mom has him wear a blue leisure suit on the first day. Poor Dave can’t catch a break: he’s beaten up by bullies on his first day; he blows an accidental snot bubble during class, and his secret crush is revealed, all in record time. As he helps his classmate, Chad, work on a science fair project – a time machine! – Dave starts thinking this is the ticket to retconning his entire middle school experience thus far; he could go back in time and fix everything before he becomes the bully target with a runny nose, right?

Cartoon drawings, narrated by a first-person character who’s lovably awkward and self-deprecating, this is another hilarious addition to middle grade and middle school kidlit. Kids are going to see themselves in Dave; they’ll cringe at his most cringey moments, and they’ll wonder about making their own time machines, and what they could undo. Muddle School sums up the muddle that is tween life for readers, complete with hopelessly out of touch parents (Hey!) and language teachers who pretend not to hear you if you’re not speaking the language they’re teaching: even if there’s a zombie right behind them. A hilarious look at self-preservation and perseverance.

Posted in awards, Cybils, Fiction, Fiction, Graphic Novels, Humor, Intermediate, Middle Grade, Tween Reads

Graphic Novel Roundup, CYBILS edition

The games have begun! Round 1 CYBILS Judges are clearing the shelves in our libraries and homes, wherever we can find the books in our categories. This is my second year as a Round 1 Graphic Novels panelist, so I’m reading all the graphic novels I can find! The CYBILS nomination period is still going strong, so please consider nominating your favorite J and YA reads this year. If you need some inspiration, or the books you’ve liked are already nominated, check out this Padlet for suggestions.

That said, I’ve got some graphic novels to gush about here – maybe this will inspire you. I’ll note any CYBILS nominees on this list.

Glam Prix Racers, by Deanna Kent/Illustrated by Neil Hooson, (May 2021, imprint), $10.99, ISBN: 9781250265388

Ages 7-10

My gushing for this book is so long overdue, I’m embarrassed. Deanna Kent and Neil Hooson, co-creators of one of my favorite middle grade series – the Snazzy Cat Capers series! – have begun their foray into intermediate graphic novels with Glam Prix Racers. Described as “Mario Kart meets My Little Pony”, this book is like a video game in graphic novel form. There are vibrant colors, expressive, kid-friendly fantasy characters, and a fun storyline that relies on teamwork and friendly competition. It’s race season on Glittergear Island, and Mil the Mermaid and her monster truck, Mudwick, get sidelined on their way to take their Glam Prix team photo. They suspect the Vroombot Crew is up to no good, but what can they do? The Racers have to band together to cross the finish line first! This is the first in a planned trilogy; the second book is due out in January, and anything Deanna Kent and Neil Hooson collaborate on is gold in my book.

Visit Deanna and Neil’s website for Glam Prix (and Snazzy Cat!) freebies all in one place; find coloring sheets here, an activity kit here, and digital resources, including wallpapers, a STEM kit, and videos, here.

Glam Prix Racers is a first round CYBILS nominee.

 

 

Mayor Good Boy, by Dave Scheidt/Illustrated by Miranda Harmon, (Aug. 2021, RH Graphic), $9.99, ISBN: 9780593124871

Ages 7-10

The town of Greenwood has a new Mayor, and he’s a very Good Boy! He’s Mayor Good Boy – a talking dog who wants to do good things in his home town.  Not everyone is thrilled about the new mayor, though, so when some disgruntled citizens start trying to make trouble for the newly elected pup, siblings Aaron and Abby intervene and get hired on as junior aides. While Mayor Good Boy is all about kindness and finding ways to help make his town better, people are plotting to bring him down by releasing fleas all over the town so that he’ll get the blame! Aaron and Abby have to save the day AND find the culprit, and keep Mayor Good Boy’s good reputation intact. With likable characters, friendly art, and loads of fart and stinky feet jokes, this is warm-hearted comedy gold for intermediate and middle graders. The story touches on themes of diversity. advocacy,  and activism, as Abby gives a great speech about being able to create change, even as a kid; back matter includes how to draw instructions for Good Boy, Aaron, and Abby, plus the Mayor Good Boy Pledge and a side comic starring the two siblings on how to contact one’s representatives. Social consciousness, a great message about friends, working together, and a cameo by a comic favorite (I see you, Steenz!) make Mayor Good Boy a graphic novel series you won’t want to miss. There are adventures planned for 2022 and 2023, so keep your carts ready to load.
Mayor Good Boy hasn’t been nominated for a CYBILS yet, so maybe this is one you want to suggest.
Death and Sparkles, by Rob Justus, (Oct. 2021, Chronicle Books), $22.99, ISBN: 9781797206356
Ages 10-14
Big themes and hilarious writing make this a macabre, middle school winner. Death is… well, Death. He touches things, they die, he doesn’t discriminate. Sparkles is a self-obsessed social media celebrity who also happens to be the last unicorn. His manager loves making money off of Sparkles, which turns out pretty poorly for Sparkles, who discovers some hard and fast truths about friendship when he and Death meet. Sparkles, seemingly immune to Death’s touch, is stuck on Death in the most hilarious of ways, leading to the two becoming the unlikeliest of friends. On one hand, there are fart jokes aplenty. On the other hand, there are incredible discussions about the pervasiveness of social media, the cult of influencers, and the fake friends that follow celebrity. There’s an ecological subplot that I expect will come back in future books that shows how even the most genuine intentions can get lost in the murky social media waters, causing a vicious cycle where getting attention for a necessary issue feeds into the popularity machine, leading to the distortion of the message. Thought- and discussion-provoking, yet laugh-out-loud funny, Death and Sparkles is a good start to a new series. Download a free activity kit and enjoy a cupcake.
Death and Sparkles is a CYBILS first round nominee.
Bedhead Ted, by Scott SanGiacomo, (Aug. 2021, Quill Tree Books), $12.99, ISBN: 9780062941305
Ages 8-12
Fourth grader Ted has is a bully target because of his “overactive hair follicles”, which give him a head of wild red hair and the nickname, “Bedhead Ted”. Taunted on the bus and in school, he and his best friend, a boy named Stacy, are on the lookout for The Brookside Beast, a fabled giant raccoon in their neighborhood. As if Ted wasn’t feeling bad enough, two of the boys’ tormentors decide to join Stacy’s Brookside Beast Research Center, causing Ted to distance himself from his best – and only – friend. Just as Ted is feeling his lowest, frustrated with his bullies, his friendship, and his hair, he discovers something incredible: his hair has superpowers! When Stacy disappears during the school’s ice cream social, Ted just knows he’s gone to track down the beast, and follows him: Ted’s hair may just save the day. Themes of bullying, appearances, friendship, and the rumor mill are all addressed in this smartly written, funny story about a kid and his hair. A fun mystery leads to a sweet conclusion, and I loved the subplot involving Ted’s family tree. Mixed media illustrations give life to Ted and his super-powered hair; as bullies throw things at him, readers will see various utensils, writing tools, paper airplanes, and more sticking to his hair as he goes through his day. His family is supportive and doesn’t ignore his bullying, checking in with him throughout the story and leading to his grandmother’s reveal. Visit Scott SanGiacomo’s webpage for Ted-related printables, draw-along videos, and more artwork.
Bedhead Ted hasn’t been nominated for a CYBILS award yet… you know what to do!
Posted in Fiction, Fiction, Graphic Novels, Humor, Intermediate, Middle Grade

Vacation Reading: Bad Kitty Goes on Vacation

Bad Kitty Goes On Vacation, by Nick Bruel, (Dec. 2020, Roaring Brook Press), $13.99, ISBN: 9781250208088
Ages 7-10
It’s those last couple of weeks of summer vacation for some, and that means – for a lot of families – it’s time for a road trip! So who better to go on a road trip with than Uncle Murray and Kitty? This latest Bad Kitty read is a full-color graphic novel, and it is laugh-out-loud hilarious. Uncle Murray wins a trip to Love Love Angel Kitty World, and he ends up suckered into taking Kitty – one of Angel Kitty’s biggest fans! – with him. But nothing is ever that easy, right? Sure enough, Uncle Murray encounters obstacles at the airport, checking in, and getting into the park. Once he and Kitty are in the park, all Kitty wants to do is shop for overpriced souvenirs! Will poor Uncle Murray get a break? Will Kitty get Love Love Angel Kitty ears for all her friends? Bad Kitty Goes on Vacation has trademark Bad Kitty humor, including overwrought Uncle Murray, humorous asides and observations, and, ultimately, a sweet ending. It’s a home run for Kitty fans who may see themselves and their parents, whether they’re asking for that toy car on the grocery store endcap or in a theme park souvenir store, when they just have to have that t-shirt/exclusive water bottle/branded plush.
Posted in Animal Fiction, Fantasy, Fiction, Fiction, Graphic Novels, Humor, Intermediate, Middle Grade, Middle School, Teen, Tween Reads

Quick Takes: Graphic Novels

This is a graphic novel summer: so many good ones hitting shelves week after week! Perfect for Summer Reading and anytime reading, there are some gorgeous, fun, fantastic stories to be found.

Ham Helsing #1: Vampire Hunter, by Rich Moyer, (June 2021, Crown Books for Young Readers), $12.99, ISBN: 9780593308912

Ages 8-12

Ham Helsing is a young descendant of a long line of vampire hunters who never seem to live quite long, usually because they make rather silly decisions. Ham was always content to let his older brother, Chad, wear the monster hunting mantle; he preferred more creative pursuits, like painting and poetry, but Chad’s daredevil acts led to… well, Ham is the new monster hunter in the family, so he’s off to hunt a vampire. The only problem is, the vampire he’s out to get isn’t what you’d expect. Ham Helsing: Vampire Hunter is the first in a planned trilogy and is a fun, not-at-all scary story about learning that people aren’t always what they seem, and that it’s always good to have friends to back you up. The action is animated, the dialogue is fun and witty, and there are robotic knights, sight gags, a toddler werewolf, and animated bacon. What more can you ask from a graphic novel?

Author Rich Moyer’s website has links to more of his illustration work, social media, and school visit information. Get a look at some more of Ham Helsing at Random House’s website.

 

 

Rickety Stitch and the Gelatinous Goo Book 3: Battle of the Bards, by James Parks & Ben Costa, (Apr. 2021, Knopf Books for Young Readers), $16.99, ISBN: 9780399556203

Ages 11-14

A fantasy more geared toward middle- and high schoolers rather than middle graders, the third volume of the Rickety Stitch and the Gelatinous Goo book continues the adventures of the skeletal bard and his jelly-like friend, Gelatinous Goo. In this adventure, Rickety Stitch – an animated skeleton who retains his love of music and his gentle soul, despite having no memory of who he was when he was alive – and Goo travel with an acting troupe to perform in a music competition, but Rickety discovers another performer, a woman named Canta, who brings back memories of his past. It becomes clear that the competition is a distraction from some seedy behavior underneath the city, and Rickety and Goo find themselves right in the middle of the action. The story is full of action and adventure and manages to tug at readers’ heartstrings with Rickety’s genuine tale of loss and memory. Middle schoolers and early high schoolers in particular will love this great wrap-up to a fantasy tale. It helps to read the first two before beginning the third; you may feel lost otherwise, as there is a lot of world-building and character development that’s gone on thus far. Great for your fantasy section.

Check out the Land of Eem website for Rickety Stitch and Eem-related role-playing games and sign up for a newsletter!

 

Apple of My Pie, by Mika Song, (June 2021, Random House Graphic), $12.99, ISBN: 9781984895851

Ages 5-8

The follow-up to last year’s Donut Feed the Squirrels, the newest Norma and Belly adventure is an adorable romp to save Pops, who falls onto a truck and heads to the apple orchard where he may end up in a pie! Norma, Belly, and their friend, B, are on the case in this sweet story, perfect for newly confident readers. The watercolor artwork is colorful but not overwhelming, with lots of calming earth colors and cute animal artwork. A school trip to the orchard provides some extra fun as the squirrels dash around the kids on their race to find Pops first.

Mika Song’s website has all sorts of treasures for readers, including extra comics, a newsletter signup, and printable activity sheets! Great to bundle with other graphic novels for young readers, like Narwhal and Jelly, Blue Barry and Pancakes, Fox and Chick, and Shark and Bot. You can also mix up the formats and include other books, like Mo Willems’s Unlimited Squirrels series, or Mélanie Watt’s Scaredy Squirrel series (graphic novels are forthcoming, too: future post!).

Apple of My Pie has a starred review from Kirkus.

 

Much, much more to come: let these three start you off!

Posted in Humor, Teen, Young Adult/New Adult

Weird Science, reimagined: You Were Made for Me

You Were Made for Me, by Jenna Guillaume, (April 2021, Peachtree Publishers), $17.99, ISBN: 9781682632956

Ages 12-17

Part Weird Science, part Wonder Woman origin story, You Were Made for Me is a fun teen rom-com that touches on topics including asexuality, bullying, male body image, and friendship. Kate Camilleri is a 16-year-old who sculpts her vision of her dream guy out of clay. When she wakes up in the morning, she discovers she’s not alone: a six-foot  tall, floppy haired hunk is laying next to her! Her creation, whom she names Guy, exists to love Katie, but she discovers a whole slew of new problems, including some friction between she and her best friend, Libby, who’s going through some relationship issues of her own, and her male best friend, Theo. All Katie wanted was the perfect first kiss! A fun romp, written in the first person from Katie’s point of view, with additional commentary from Libby, make this a fun read for middle schoolers and high schoolers alike. Good beach read for the summer!

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, Graphic Novels, Humor, Middle Grade, Middle School, Tween Reads

Chef Yasmina and the Potato Panic

Chef Yasmina and the Potato Panic, by Wauter Mannaert, (Feb. 2021, First Second), $14.99, ISBN: 9781250622051

Ages 10+

Yasmina is a young chef who loves to work with food. Her dad works in a french fry restaurant (frites! frites!) where he coworkers eat their fill of fast food, while Yasmina makes sure to send her father healthy greens, spring rolls, and vegetable dishes. The family is strapped for cash, so Yasmina gets her fresh ingredients from her wacky friends at the neighborhood garden and, occasionally, from the mysterious neighbor’s rooftop garden. But something weird is afoot when the community garden is bought out by a wealthy corporation and plowed over with scientifically enhanced potatoes that cause some strange behavior in anyone who eats them! Not only are they obsessed with the taters, they’ve started barking, slobbering, and howling at the moon. Yasmina needs to find out what’s going on, fast!

Yasmina is quirky, but tends to be a little hard to follow. The smaller panels contribute to this; it’s hard to see what’s going on and subtle nuances may go missing with a first read. The artwork is fun and colorful, with exaggerated facial expressions and body behavior, but the main point of the plot – the genetically modified foods versus the small community garden – may get lost. Overall, an interesting read that I’m going to put in my library and talk up, because I think it’s a good book for discussion, but this may be an additional purchase for strapped budgets.