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 Non-Fiction, Non-Fiction

At the Height of the Moon: A treasury for bedtime

At the Height of the Moon: A Book of Bedtime Poetry and Art, Edited by Alison Baverstock, Matt Cunningham, & Annette Roeder, (Nov. 2021, Prestel), $24.95, ISBN: 9783791374802

Ages 5+

When you and your littles want something different at bedtime, At the Height of the Moon delivers. Divided into eight areas – Twilight, Dreamland, Moonlight Menagerie, Creepy Crawlies and Things That Go Bump in the Night, Minds Ablaze, and Midnight and Magic – readers can browse artwork, poems, and short fictions to set a nighttime mood, whether it’s a mood for the surreal poetry of Edgar Allan Poe’s “Annabel Lee” or a fantastical extract from Alice in Wonderland. Images by Gustav Klimt, Vincent Van Gogh, and Thomas Cole set the mood. It’s a lovely way to introduce classic art, fiction, and poetry to kids and older readers may enjoy discovering magical prose, poetry, and art to lull them to sleep. Art pairs with words to spin images that set the stage for dreaming and sleep. A beautiful gift book or addition to your 800s (literature, plays, poems).

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

Bake, Make, and Learn to Cook with David Atherton!

Bake, Make & Learn to Cook, by David Atherton/Illustrated by Rachel Stubbs, (Dec. 2021, Candlewick Press), $17.99, ISBN: 9781536219364

Ages 5+

I am SO excited for this book. David Atherton, 2019 winner of the Great British Baking Show, has a baking book for kids (and I mean that term loosely, as I plan to bake 90% of this book, whether or not my Kiddo wants to help me)! This is the coziest cookbook, with warm illustrations throughout. Each recipe is fully illustrated, step by step, and artwork with people coming together to prep, bake, and enjoy one another’s company together (plus an adorable taco-loving dog) make this an actual family cookbook that kids will love reading. Each recipe includes a list of ingredients, both written out and illustrated and numbered steps guide readers through each bake, also written out and illustrated. The recipe names are squeal-worthy, with Snaky Breadsticks, Happy Curry, and Easy Peasy Pot Pies making me happy just reading their names. Atherton includes recipes for every palate and every time of day; recipes are organized into breakfast (Starting the Day); meals (Lunches and Simple Suppers); snacks (Delicious Treats), and the big one, Cakes and Bakes. There’s an illustrated list of equipment bakers and makers will need to get started, and a glossary of cooking terms and measurements. He includes important tips, like having an adult present to help, and the importance of kitchen safety, and his overall tone is just wonderful. He’s a baker who can talk to children, not just write a cookbook that kids will happen to read.  If you are a Great British Baking Show fan, you’ll clearly hear his voice as you read. There are vegetarian and vegan recipes as well as recipes with meat, and he gets creative and fun with many of them, including Banana Bear Pancakes and Hummus Lions, which kids may want to try and possibly contribute to holiday feasts. This book makes me so happy, and I know it will make you happy, too.

Follow David Atherton on Twitter and Instagram.

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 Non-Fiction, picture books

Excelsior! Stan Lee has a picture book biography!

With Great Power: The Marvelous Stan Lee (An Unauthorized Biography), by Annie Hunter Eriksen/Illustrated by Lee Gatlin, (Oct. 2021, Page Street Kids), $18.99, ISBN: 9781645672852

Ages 4-8

Gone but never forgotten (or, if you’re like me, maybe you prefer to think he’s hanging out with The Watcher somewhere), Stan Lee changed the faces of comic books forever: from The Hulk and the Fantastic Four, to the X-Men and the Avengers, he collaborated with industry giants like Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko, to give us heroes that were super AND human. With Great Power is a wonderful tribute to our “generalissimo”, beginning with Stanley Lieber’s spare childhood in New York City, his job at Timely Comics, which, along with his love of books and fantasy led to him becoming an editor while still in his teens, and ultimately, his work creating superheroes that have since become household names: Spider-Man, Iron Man, Doctor Strange, Black Panther, and so many more. The book even mentions “Stan’s Soapbox”, a column in Marvel comics where Stan would take on issues of the day like racism, sexism, and enjoying comics, no matter your age. (You can also buy the collected Soapboxes!) The comic book artwork is loaded with heroes that even casual fans will recognize; toned in sepia as we look back to Stan’s earlier years, things come to life when his career takes off. There’s a diverse crowd thronging as he walks a red carpet, a host of Marvel superheroes following him, and he’s surrounded by a diverse group of superhero fans, dressed as their favorites, at the story’s close. Back matter includes some more Stan facts and a bibliography, and endpapers are a collection of comic book exclamations, which you’ll also discover as you read the story. A fitting tribute for a man who gave his life to comic books. Make sure to check out the free activity guide. Display and booktalk with Boys of Steel by Marc Tyler Nobleman; the book profiles the lives of Superman creators Joe Shuster and Jerry Siegel.

Posted in Non-Fiction, picture books

Simone Biles’ lyrical picture book biography: Flying High

Flying High: The Story of Gymnastics Champion Simone Biles, by Michelle Meadows/Illustrated by Ebony Glenn, (Dec. 2020, Henry Holt & Co), $18.99, ISBN: 9781250205667

Ages 4-7

A lot of ink has been spilled and a lot of newstime has been spent on Simone Biles, whose withdrawal from several Olympic events this summer has reopened important conversations about mental health. Simone Biles has started a worldwide conversation on performance pressure and anxiety, and, more importantly, the ability to speak up and own that anxiety.

Michelle Meadows and Ebony Glenn’s late 2020 picture book biography, Flying High: The Story of Gymnastics Champion Simone Biles, touches on some of those moments within the greater story of the champion’s life so far. Told in rhyming verse, the story begins with Ms. Biles and her siblings being adopted by family members, and the moment a rainy day decided her future as a gymnast. It details the rise to her fame, but it also looks at moments like a disappointing defeat when she tried out for the national team: “Crushed by defeat, / she loses her spark. / What will it take / to rise from the dark?” The story doesn’t shy away from her sacrifices, like choosing homeschool over conventional, in-person learning, to make more time for gymnastics, and it returns, time and again, to her incredible drive to succeed. Written before Simone Biles’s Olympics withdrawal, Michelle Meadows had the understanding and the foresight to see and include moments like this in Biles’s story. Ebony Glenn’s digital artwork gives us expressive, photorealistic illustrations of Simone Biles, her family, and her teammates. She beautifully recreates the gymnast’s incredible skill, with Biles twisting, flipping, and landing with grace and style. Her facial expressions communicate volumes, whether it’s her focus, disappointment, worry, or sheer joy. Back matter elaborates on Simone Biles’s early childhood, includes fast facts about the gymnast, and sources for more reading.

Flying High: The Story of Gymnastics Champion Simone Biles has starred reviews from School Library Journal and Shelf Awareness. Visit Simone Biles’s webpage for more information about the champion, and links to her social media. Her page on the US Gymnastics website lists career highlights, and her page on the Team USA website offers more about her Olympics experience.

Posted in Non-Fiction, picture books, Preschool Reads, Toddler Reads

A Laura Gehl two-fer!

I love Laura Gehl’s books: from Peep and Egg to One Big Pair of Underwear and beyond, her stories have been hits at my storytimes and they’re just fun to read. Now, I’ve got some nonfiction by Laura Gehl to rave about that’s every bit as fun and unputdownable as her fiction is. Join me!

Odd Beasts: Meet Nature’s Weirdest Animals, by Laura Gehl/Illustrated by Gareth Lucas, (Nov. 2021, Abrams Appleseed), $8.99, ISBN: 9781419742224

Ages 2-4

A very happy book birthday to Odd Beasts! This rhyming board book introduces readers to some of nature’s wildest citizens: an armored pangolin, a frog with see-through skin, and a fish that weighs a ton are just a few of the animals waiting inside. This board book has back matter: two spreads include photos of each animal mentioned, with a brief factual paragraph. The artwork is incredible, offering colorful illustrations of each of the eight animals; they’re the perfect mixture of kid-friendly, expressive illustration and realism, making this a book readers will pick up and enjoy again and again. Sturdy pages hold up to multiple readings and definitely pass the “mom’s bag” test; I carried this one around with me for a couple of weeks. Great for an animal storytime.

Visit Laura Gehl’s author webpage for more info on her books, and great educator/caregiver resources, including coloring sheets for Odd Beasts!

 

Who Is a Scientist?, by Laura Gehl, (Oct. 2021, Millbrook Press), $9.99, ISBN: 9781728441085

Ages 4-9

Scientists are people, too! Who Is a Scientist? humanizes the science providers by providing profiles on 14 different scientists; who they are, what they study and do, and what they like to do when they’re not science-ing. Isha is a meteorologist who studies the weather, and also enjoys dancing, playing volleyball, and eating chocolate. She’s photographed dancing in a flowing red skirt on one page and operating a weather balloon on another. Names appear in bright colors to personalize each scientist, and fun photos like Isha’s show readers that scientists like karate, surfing, cooking, and painting: just like they do. Each descriptive paragraph explains what the scientists study, introducing them to fields like astronomy, neuroscience, and mechanical engineering. The group is diverse, and really encourages kids to see themselves in this book, offering a QR code to learn more about the scientists, and a flow chart to help guide readers to a field of study that may be right for them, based on their own interests. What a great way to inspire the next generation of scientists, right? Who Is a Scientist? makes science playful and fun, like it should be. A guide to phonetic pronunciations at the end of the book help readers learn to pronounce Laura Gehl’s name, and the names of each scientist.

Visit Laura Gehl’s author page for a Who Is a Scientist? educator’s guide.

Posted in Middle Grade, Non-Fiction, Non-fiction, Tween Reads

Break the monster codes with Sleuth & Solve: Spooky

Sleuth & Solve: Spooky: Decode Mind-Twisting Mysteries Inspired by Classic Creepy Characters, by Ana Gallo/Illustrated by Victor Escandell, (Aug. 2021, Chronicle Books), $18.99, ISBN: 9781797205908

Ages 8-12

I do love a good code-breaking book, and this one is right in step with the season. Part of Chronicle’s Sleuth & Solve series, Sleuth & Solve: Spooky puts readers up against the creepiest characters to solve mysteries. Unlock a mummy’s hieroglyphics; discover the Frankenstein monster’s hideout; help a deceased aunt keep her promise to her niece. There are nine mysteries to solve, with a cryptograph available to help readers break the codes. Readers can use their problem-solving skills to unravel the mysteries, and it makes for a great addition to escape room challenges or spy school programs. The stories are told in entertaining comic book style, with characters wandering around the page offering prompts and thinking points. Each spooky creature gets a little factual bio at the beginning of the section, giving readers some context to the game as it unfolds. Great for cooperative gaming, the mysteries work best when teams can work together to solve the puzzles.

Display and booktalk with escape room books like the Escape Room Adventure series from Schiffer Books. Check out Sleuth & Solve and Sleuth & Solve: History for more code-breakers in the series.

Posted in Middle Grade, Non-Fiction, Non-fiction, Teen, Tween Reads

Good for you, good for the planet, Green Kids Cook!

Green Kids Cook: Simple, Delicious Recipes & Top Tips, by Jenny Chandler, (Aug. 2021, Pavilion), $23.95, ISBN: 9781911663584

Ages 8-14

You have to love a cookbook that teaches kids to cook and to be good global citizens al at once. Green Kids Cook has over 50 recipes, organized into 5 areas: Breakfast and Brunch, Snacks, Soups and Salads, Mains, and Sweet Things. There’s an intro for kids and adults, focused on food and cooking area safety and having a balance of food on your plate: vegetables and meat can share the same space! There are spreads throughout on reducing food waste and plastic use (smartly referred to as reducing our “foodprint”); crafts like making your own cook’s apron and beeswax wraps rather than relying on plastic wrap, and creating a welcoming table. Colorful photos accompany tasty-sounding recipes, and each recipe includes tips on adding variety and swapping in alternatives, like less spicy options, more vegetables, and additional tasty treats to excite palates. I’m ready to dive into the Halloween Hummus, made with pumpkin; Indian Chickpea Salad, and flatbreads. Originally published in the UK earlier this year, there’s also a glossary for us US folk that call tea towels “dish towels”, kitchen paper “paper towels”, and cornflour “corn starch”. Recipes include measurements for grams and ounces, too.

Grab this one for sure! My library system isn’t doing in-person programming and we tend not to do food programming with kids, but if your system differs, there are plenty of no-bake recipes here to try, including the Super-Cool Smoothie Bowl that only calls for some quick prep on your end.