Posted in Uncategorized

I Wish You Knew… a teacher’s question turns into a movement

I Wish You Knew, by Jackie Azúa Kramer/Illustrated by Magdalena Mora, (May 2021, Roaring Brook Press), $17.99, ISBN: 9781250226303

Ages 4-7

In 2016, educator Kyle Schwartz wrote a book called I Wish My Teacher Knew: How One Question Can Change Everything For Our Kids, based on a getting to know you class exercise where she asked her third graders to write something they wanted her to know about them. She received the usual, adorable responses like, “I love my family” and “I love animals”, and she also received deeper feedback that gave her insight into the children in her care: “my mom and dad are divorced”; “I live in a shelter”; “my mom might get diagnosed with cancer this year”. Kids are dealing with a lot; we need to be better at listening.

In the spirit of Ms. Schwartz’s book comes Jackie Azúa Kramer and Magdalena Mora’s  I Wish You Knew. A girl named Estrella’s father was not born here, so he has to leave; she misses him, and helps care for her brother while her mother works long hours. A teacher wants her kids to know that she cares for them. She creates a space for them, in the space where their little school wraps around a 100-year-old tree; a sharing circle, where they can tell her what they wish she knew: one student is hungry. One student’s mother is serving in the military. One student lives in a shelter. And Estrella misses her father. The group shares and finds comfort and support in one another, and Estrella waits to see her father, surrounded by the sunflowers that he helped plant. A touching story, I Wish You Knew is great for welcome back to school reading and to let your kids know that with you, there is a safe space. Mixed media illustrations in soothing pastels show a diverse group of children and a teacher of color among sunflowers and in the warm greens of the area outside school. Estrella and her father are affectionate, leaning toward one another as they sit in a giant sunflower when he tells her he must leave, but that he’ll be back. A beautiful book to engender compassion and empathy.

Posted in Fiction, Fiction, Intermediate, Middle Grade, Middle School, Teen, Tween Reads, Uncategorized

A graphic novel on every shelf!

More graphic novels are hitting shelves in time for school, and that makes me happy! For me, it’s like seeing an endorsement that graphic novels are finally being seen as “real” reading! (I mean, you knew it, I knew it, lots of folx knew it, but still…) Let’s see what we’ve got for each age group, coming right up.

We Have a Playdate, by Frank Dormer, (Aug. 2021, Harry N. Abrams), $12.99, ISBN: 9781419752735

Ages 6-10

This intermediate graphic novel is perfect for all your Narwhal and Jelly and Blue, Barry, and Pancakes fans. Tuna the Narwhal, Margo the Bird, and Noodle the Snake have a playdate at the park, where they meet a hostile robot and a bear named Ralph, who quickly joins their playgroup. The story unfolds in four chapters that takes readers – and the group of friends – to each area of the playground: The Slide, The Swings, The Monkey Bars, and The SeeSaw, and the action is both hilarious and written with an eye to being a good playground friend. There’s playful language, like “fizzled their neenee bopper” or “zizzled my zipzoo” for playground injuries, and laugh-out-loud moments when the group tries to figure out ways to “help” one another, like scaring Ralph off the slide to get him to go down, or tying Noodle onto the swing to help them stay on. Cartoon artwork and colorful panels will make this a big favorite with you intermediate and emerging readers.

Visit Frank Dormer’s webpage and see more of his work, including the 10-foot monsters he drew to guard New Haven’s library in 2015!

 

 

 
Hooky, by Míriam Bonastre Tur, (Sept. 2021, Etch/Clarion Books), $12.99, ISBN: 9780358468295
 
Ages 8-12
 
I’m always happy when an online comic makes it to print. Many of my library kids only have computer access here at the library, so print comics and graphic novels are the way to reach them best (also, they’re here to do homework and play Minecraft and Roblox; reading comics online isn’t always on their radar). Hooky is a compiled comic from WEBTOON, and follows twin siblings Dani and Dorian, who’ve missed the bus to magic school (no Whomping Willow here) and don’t know the way there. Looks like they’re going to miss that first year of school – and wow, will their parents be upset! They decide to search for a mentor, which leads to a score of amusing situations; cleaning up the Huntsman to “steal Snow White’s heart” by making her fall in love with him is just the tip of the iceberg. But there’s trouble ahead, and the twins need to find a way to clear their names and heal their kingdom when more complicated challenges arise.
 
Illustrated in manga style, this is going to be big with my middle graders and middle schoolers. They’re manga fans, and finding graphic novels incorporating manga artwork is a great way to get them to stretch their reading interests and introduce them to new titles. Plus, it’s fantasy, with some similar tropes, like magic twins, magic school, and bringing unity to a divided society; all familiar fantasy scenarios that readers will feel comfortable setting down with. The artwork has some truly outstanding moments, like Dorian standing atop books as he works in his aunt’s library; the relationship between the siblings is relatable as it moves from affectionate to teasing to bickering and back again. This release of Hooky includes additional content you won’t find on the WebToon page, making it even more attractive to readers. Give this one a look.
 
 

 

Other Boys, by Damian Alexander, (Sept. 2021, First Second), $21.99, ISBN: 9781250222824
 
Ages 10-14
 
An autobiographical middle school graphic novel about being the new kid, crushes, and coming out, Other Boys absolutely needs space in your graphic novel memoir sections. Damian decides that he’s not going to speak when he enters seventh grade. He’s the new kid, and was bullied at his last school, so it’s just easier to not speak at all, he figures. But it doesn’t work, because Damian isn’t like other boys in his school: he lives with his grandparents; his mom is dead and his father isn’t in the picture, and his family is low-income. Plus, Damian doesn’t like a lot of things that other boys in his school like: he likes flowers in his hair; he’d rather play with Barbie than with G.I. Joe, acting out stories rather than playing fighting games. Damian doesn’t feel like he fits in as a boy or a girl, and now… he’s got a crush on another boy.
 
Other Boys is a middle school story along the lines of Mike Curato’s Flamer and Jarrett Krosoczka’s Hey, Kiddo. It draws you in with first person storytelling and a narrator that you want to befriend; it places you next to Damian in the narrative, walking with him and seeing his story unfold in front of you. Put this on your shelves – there are kids who need this book.
 

Posted in Uncategorized

Burden or Friend in Need? Move That Mountain sees two sides to the story

Move That Mountain, by Kate & Jol Temple/Illustrated by Terri Rose Baynton, (Sept. 2021, Kane Miller), $12.99, ISBN: 9781684642939

Ages 4-8

A companion “two sides to every story” adventure to 2019’s Room On Our Rock by Kate and Jol Temple and Terri Rose Baynton, Move That Mountain stars a group of puffins who react when a whale beaches on their island. Is the whale an immovable mountain menace that the puffins have to learn to live with? Or are the puffins motivated to mobilize and help a potential friend in need get back in the water? Read it one way to see how the story may appear on the surface, then read it back to front to see another story emerge. A story of teamwork, determination, and kindness, Move That Mountain encourages readers to look at situations from other points of view before arriving at conclusions. Excellent books to generate discussion, this book and Room On Our Rock are great additions to your storytime collections.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads, Toddler Reads, Uncategorized

Blog Tour and Giveaway: Pug & Pig and Friends!

The wait is over!! After four years, Sue Lowell Gallion and Joyce Wan have reunited to give us a new installment in the Pug & Pig Chronicles. I give you…

Pug & Pig and Friends, by Sue Lowell Gallion/Illustrated by Joyce Wan,
(Aug. 2021, Beach Lane Books), $17.99, ISBN: 9781534463004
Ages 3-7

Pug and Pig have worked out their differences in the first two books, so Pug & Pig and Friends begins with Pug and Pig playing in their yard with their friends, Squirrel, Robin, and Cat. Squirrel and Robin have loads of fun with the two siblings, but Cat is a different sort of friend… the “frenemy” likes to pounce on Pug when he least expects it, and it’s just not fun. When an unexpected rain shower begins, poor Cat is stuck in a tree and is too afraid to come down! Pug knows what to do to lure her down, though… Fun, friendship, and a bit of pranking are the heart of this adorable book with Joyce Wan’s too-cute artwork. Simple, short sentences describe the action and give us a gleeful group of friends. Cat is mischievous but not mean-spirited; Pug uses her penchant for pranks to help her – and get a fun bit of payback in the process.

I adore this series. It’s sweet, it’s adorable, it’s great for storytime for a broad range of kids. Happy Book Birthday, Pug & Pig and Friends!

As the daughter of a printer, Sue Lowell Gallion has a life-long love of type, paper, and the aroma of ink. She is the author of the Pug & Pig series and the picture book All Except Axle as well as a nonfiction board book, Our World: A First Book of Geography, and three books in the Tip and Tucker early reader series. Sue lives in Leawood, Kansas, with a black lab mix who provides her with daily inspiration. To learn more and download free activities for all of her books, visit suegallion.com.

Twitter:  @SueLGallion

Instagram: @suelowellgallion

 

Joyce Wan is the author and illustrator of several books for children, including Pug Meets PigPug & Pig Trick-or TreatSleepyheads,You Are My CupcakeWe Belong Together, and The Whale in My Swimming Pool. Joyce lives with her husband and daughter in New Jersey. Visit her at wanart.com.

TwitterFacebook, & Instagram: @joycewanbooks

Personalized and signed books are available at Rainy Day Books!

One lucky winner will get their own copy of Pug & Pig and Friends! Enter the Rafflecopter giveaway!

Posted in Fiction, Middle Grade, programs, Tween Reads, Uncategorized

Summer Fun: Escape Room Books

Now that I’m back in the library, I’m trying to think of ways to keep the kids engaged while we have no in-person programming. Enter Escape Room books! My Kiddo and I discovered some fun ones online, like this Dog Man one, but I want to be able to give the kids something to think over while they’re here. Luckily for me, Schiffer Books sent over some escape room books, and I’m thinking these may be my next project.

The Escape Game series by Mélanie Vives and Rémi Prieur, and illustrated by El Gunto, consists of four books right now. They don’t need to be read or played in order; each book has instructions and the story: you’re a member of a time traveling agency called Spatial-Temporal Agency Y. As a high-risk mission specialist, you and your robot companion, Dooz, are sent into different time periods to head off horrible disasters. Together with Dooz, you have to figure out the clues to advance through the adventure and save the day. You can get hints in a different section of the book, and check your answers against Dooz’s “validation grid” – and yes, you can look at the answers, if you really, really need to. Let’s take a look at the adventures!

Escape Game Adventure: The Last Dragon, by Mélanie Vives and Rémi Prieur/Illustrated by El Gunto, (Jan. 2020, Schiffer Kids), $9.99, ISBN: 9780764358951

Ages 7-12

We’re going further back in time in this adventure: heading to the 12th century, our mission is to save the last dragon egg, currently in the clutches of an evil king, who wants to make it into a dragon egg omelet! Recover the egg and get it to safety while escaping the castle before the king finds out you’re even there, all while learning about the Middle Ages, magic, and dragons. Perfect for fantasy fans that want to have their own fun adventure; kids will be able to save a wizard, put pieces together to create a coat of arms, and choose the right invisibility potion so you won’t be seen. Use Dooz’s clues – they’re your best way of figuring out what you need to advance! Have pictures of eggs for participants to decorate and take home – or wizard hat crafts available; all you need is a piece of construction paper to roll into a cone, and some stickers or gems and glue!

Have fun with these books, extend the activities into programs if you can, and handouts if you aren’t able to yet. There are so many fun ideas to have with this book as a jumping-off point: make your own coat of arms, have a magic wand workshop (I’m pulling from my old Harry Potter party ideas); decorate with Time Machine clip art.

 

Escape Game Adventure: Trapped in Space, by Mélanie Vives and Rémi Prieur/Illustrated by El Gunto, (Oct. 2020, Schiffer Kids), $9.99, ISBN: 9780764360312

Ages 7-12

You and Dooz are being sent to the year 3144 to rescue a crew of astronauts from the planet Vacumy, who have not responded to messages for 24 hours. They’re some of the most intelligent scientists in the universe, and in danger from the evil inhabitants of the star, Hyena, so you need to intervene and find out if the crew is safe, fast! Solving puzzles and logic riddles, you and Dooz will complete your mission and learn about space thanks to helpful callout boxes. The Validation Grid is a fun way of checking your answers without spoilers: follow the page number and your suggested puzzle answer; if you see a thumbs up, you’re good: proceed! If there’s a thumbs down, go back to the drawing board. The artwork is kid-friendly, with big-eyed, friendly robots and aliens, and fun, challenging puzzles that will get your readers thinking and playing with solutions to advance.

Jumping-off activities: we just had an entire Summer Reading program about space two years ago! You know there are oodles of space-related fun activities to be found! Let readers color in their own aliens, or have some craft supplies around so they can make their own.

 

Escape Game Adventure: The Mad Hacker, by Mélanie Vives and Rémi Prieur/Illustrated by El Gunto, (Feb. 2020, Schiffer Kids), $9.99, ISBN: 9780764358968

Ages 7-12

All right, in this adventure, you and Dooz are going to the year 2394 to stop a mad hacker named Snarf from releasing a computer virus that will paralyze all the world’s computers! You need to localize and destroy the virus by hacking Snarf’s computers, and then escape from his compound before he finds out what you’re doing there. Solve problems, save the world, and learn about computers thanks to callout boxes. The story is not linear: solving problems will help you jump easily around the book, taking you further into Snarf’s compound and closer to destroying the virus! The answer key is illustrated and step-by-step, but you don’t want to do that, do you? You want to solve these along with your kiddos! Choose from a number of keys to break down the languages of different drones you encounter, take apart a riddle to find the right door to Snarf’s lair, and cut the right cable to unlock the doors and escape. Time yourself and see if you’ve improved your escape time!

Offer to let readers take the books and have – if you have the budget – small pads for them to work out the riddles, or just have extra paper on hand for them. Explain what a hackathon is – a collaborative event where computer programmers get together to work on a project – and tell them that The Mad Hacker Adventure is a kind of hackathon for them, collaborating to destroy the virus and save the world! You can always make cool certificates to hand out when they’ve completed the adventure.

 

Escape Game Adventure: Operation Pizza, by Mélanie Vives and Rémi Prieur/Illustrated by El Gunto, (Feb. 2020, Schiffer Kids), $9.99, ISBN: 9780764360305

Ages 7-12

Heading back to Naples, Italy in 1889, your mission this time is to preserve pizza history. A chef is due to present his new creation – a margherita pizza – to the royal family, but he’s about to be murdered by his cold-blooded rival, unless you and Dooz can save the day. Enter the bad guy’s restaurant, find the poisoned food, and replace it with an identical dish you prepare, and escape before they can find out you’ve been there. Is there a more important mission than to preserve the sanctity of pizza? Learn all about pizza thanks to fact boxes throughout. Use menus to help you navigate the ingredients you need to make an identical dessert that won’t kill our pizza inventor; locate the poisoned dessert so you can dispose of it, and figure out how to get out of a locked bathroom before you can get caught!

I’ve done a bunch of pizza programs in the past, and they’re always popular. Make your own pizza crafts couldn’t be easier, and you can make them grab and go: put a small paper plate, and cut-up construction paper shapes for toppings, like sausage, peppers, cheese, sauce, and mushrooms, into a plastic or paper bag, and you’ve got a craft kids will love.

If you’re going to invest in these for your library, be forewarned: they’re going to get marked up. Consider for your games reference collection if you don’t have the budget to replace them. I’m thinking of introducing the adventure to my library kids, a few puzzles at a time, by leaving the book at reference and collecting answers each day (I have a LOT of prizes in my prize drawer, for incentive). Give the Escape Game series a shot!

 

Pirates Escape Game : A High Seas Mystery, by Eric Nieudan/Illustrated by Margot Briquet, (Aug. 2020, Schiffer Kids), $16.99, ISBN: 9780764360084
Ages 8-12

Okay, last one up, and it’s a good one: a pirate escape game! You’re a sailor who wakes up and discovers you’re the only one left on a ship that’s been adrift in the high seas. No captain. No crew. No memory of anything that’s happened. You have to explore the ship and find clues to discover what happened, solving logic puzzles, breaking codes, and figuring out word puzzles and riddles. Unlock a padlocked pantry; find a mysterious note in the surgeon’s cabin; decipher recipes, with the help of a separate clue book and your own wits. The book is not linear – you’ll be jumping back and forth as solving different puzzles takes you to different pages – and includes brain busters for every type of skill. Pirate fans are going to love it, and you know you can enhance a pirate day! Make eyepatches, mustaches, and pirate hats as either grab-and-go or in-house crafts!

Escape Room Games don’t have to be relegated to online or in a room – see how these work out for you with your kids and teens. We’ve all had to get more creative in the last year and a half; let’s keep adapting.

Posted in Fantasy, Fiction, Graphic Novels, Middle Grade, Middle School, Tween Reads, Uncategorized

The Unlikeliest Friends: The Ghoul Next Door

The Ghoul Next Door, by Cullen Bunn/Illustrated by Cat Farris, (July 2021, Harper Alley), $12.99, ISBN: 9780062896094

Ages 8 to 12

An 11-year-old boy named Grey takes a shortcut through a cemetery on his way to school, drops his school project down an empty grave, and discovers the unlikeliest new friend: a young ghoul named Lavinia. Lavinia leaves little gifts for Grey that are a little unsettling to the living – finger bones, teeth necklaces, that sort of thing – and Grey seeks Lavinia out, leading to the two forging a friendship that’s as sweet as it is dangerous. Ghouls are forbidden from associating with the living, and Grey’s friend, Marshall, is determined to tell all because he just knows Grey’s making a bad decision. Eventually, Grey is caught up in a struggle between ghouls and ghosts, with his friend Marshall’s – and Grey’s own – life in the balance!

A funny, creepy story for readers who love all things Neil Gaiman, Doug TenNapel’s Ghostopolis, and – naturally! – Goosebumps. It’s a story of friendship with a touch of intrigue and just enough creepiness to make paranormal fans shudder with glee. Cullen Bunn writes a lot of big-people comics that I love (including Harrow County, which makes a fun little cameo in The Ghoul Next Door), and Cat Farris’s artwork is spooktastic, with color, great shadow work, and a ghoul that is as heartwarming as she is startling.

Posted in Fantasy, Fiction, Middle Grade, Tween Reads, Uncategorized

Great middle grade fantasy in two giant graphic novels: Scales & Scoundrels!

Fantasy fans have so much to read this year, but make space on your shelves for a graphic novel duo: Scales and Scoundrels is a fantasy series that will resonate with fantasy role-playing gamers and fantasy fans alike. Publisher TKO Studios released definitive versions of Volumes 1 and 2, which include the collected issues plus incredible, new material. I wasn’t familiar with the story until I saw these on Edelweiss, but I am so glad I rectified that.

Scales & Scoundrels Definitive Edition Book 1: Where Dragons Wander , by Sebastian Girner/Illustrated by Galaad, (July 2021, TKO Studios), $14.99, ISBN: 9781952203220,
Ages 8-13
Luvander is a female treasure hunter who sets off for the fabled “Dragon’s Maw”, where she hopes to find riches beyond comprehension. (Naturally, that whole “Dragon’s Maw” business also suggests that maybe there’s a dragon who will protect their hoard, but she’s not going to let that stop her!) She teams up with a group of adventurers, including a prince, his bodyguard, and a dwarf, and together, the group sticks together while fighting monsters and braving dungeons, but Luvander has a secret she’s not sharing just yet… is this her epic journey, or just a simple treasure looting operation? A heroine’s journey filled with excitement, adventure, great dialogue and an inclusive cast of characters, the writing and the fantastic artwork make this aces for your middle grade and middle school readers. Display and booktalk with Nimona by Noelle Stevenson, Kazu Kazubuishi’s Amulet series, James Parks and Ben Costa’s Rickety Stitch and the Gelatinous Goo series, Faith Erin Hicks’s The Nameless City series, and Robin Robinson’s No One Returns From the Enchanted Forest.

Scales and Scoundrels Definitive Edition Book 2: The Festival of Life, by Sebastian Girner/Illustrated by Galaad, (July 2021, TKO Studios), $14.99, ISBN: 9781952203237

Ages 8-13

The second Scales and Scoundrels volume, like the first, contains a wealth of new material, and picks up the adventure from where we left off in Book One. Luvander continues on her journey to break her curse; it’s a quest that will bring her to a monastery that guards a secret entrance to The Dragon Dream, where few have dared to enter. She and her group of friends face dark trials ahead, including demons and their own deepest fears. An introspective adventure that prompts conversations, this is an excellent companion to Book One. The artwork is gorgeous, with bright and vibrant colors, movement, and beautiful fantasy artwork. There’s great world-building – seriously, you can create a Dungeons and Dragons adventure based on the information contained in these two books – that readers will return to time and again.

To paraphrase School Library Journal, the Scales and Scoundrels books roll a natural 20 – and that’s pretty awesome.

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized

A quick update, not blog-fading

Hi again, just another post to let you know that I am NOT blog fading. I’ve been a bit overwhelmed and my focus has 100% been on getting my library ready for reopening tomorrow, with all the excitement and anxiety that carries. I haven’t been checking my personal emails – I come home and crash, so I haven’t even been reading much these last two weeks! – and expect to be a little terrified and assume the fetal position when I do finally log on.

Some updates:

On Saturday, I joined two librarian colleagues and we held a live, in-person Outreach storytime at Roosevelt Island’s Urban Farm. It was the first live storytime I’ve done in at least 16 months, and the first in-person Outreach my library has held in the same amount of time. It was incredible, and was the battery recharge I was looking for to carry me into the reopening phase.

Our library? We’re still unpacking boxes, weeding collections, and shelving books, but we’re ready for tomorrow. As ready as we’re going to get right now, but I think we’re in pretty good shape. The machines all crashed when I was trying to get them ready for action, so we’ll see where that takes me; luckily, I know how to quickly, manually process book borrowing, just in case.

Opening Day Outfit: This shirt, black trousers, iridescent pink Doc Martens, cardigan at the ready if the a/c is working (don’t bet on it):

 

I’ve got a virtual program with my friend and colleague, Sara, tomorrow morning, so I’ll get a little space for a breather right after we open. I can’t wait! And now, to prepare my lunch and lay out my clothes. Here we go. Thanks for sticking with  me.

Posted in Uncategorized

Library Under Construction… Kinda

Just a quick update and explanation on why posts are slow-coming.

I’m back at my library! Yay!! It’s amazing and wonderful and I’m so glad to be at my library home. But folx, we were gone for 16 months, and WOW. We came back to about 100+ boxes and bins full of books, old and new, that need to be processed and shelved… and we have to weed the entire library collection in order to make sure we have enough space for those books. In two weeks (less than, now). Take a look at my Instagram, so you can see what I’m talking about.

So I’m trying to post when I can, usually the morning before I head to work (like now), because when I get home, I’m dog tired and just have enough energy to eat dinner, watch Jeopardy!, and go to bed. Today, I sat down to write a review before I leave for work, but I’m pretty sure my brain is fried, so you’re getting this apology.

We open July 12th, and I’ll be back to a regular posting schedule then. But for now, I’m just doing the best I can. But on the bright side, we’re all getting through the weeding and hope to start processing books to get back on shelves by the end of today!

Posted in Uncategorized

Meanderings…

Just wanted to drop a quick post, because I know sometimes I post several times a day, and then sometimes I don’t for a few days. You know the time of year: it’s the end of the school year; there are graduations, and celebrations being planned. And honestly, I have a dark secret that I’m going to share…

I got a little burned out. On kids’ books.

I know. But it happened! I just couldn’t do it for a few days. The joy was gone. I took the time to read some grown-up stuff, for the sheer enjoyment of reading, and it was wonderful. And it worked: I have a towering TBR that can be overwhelming, but I just ask for patience from all the wonderful people sending me books. I’m only human, and am reading as fast as I can. Hang in there with me.

Tom Hiddleston Sigh GIF