Posted in gaming, Intermediate, Middle Grade, programs

Tabletop Tuesdays with Tem-Purr-A

I started up my Tabletop Tuesdays a couple of weeks ago for the first time since the Before Times, and I was so happy with the response, I thought I’d start writing about our gaming group.

I have mostly younger kids in my library community – we don’t have a zoned high school near us, and we’re not open for Saturday or Sunday service, so my high school kids are likely hanging out in neighborhoods where their schools are. This informs my gaming choices, to be sure; the lion’s share of my kids are 0-12, with the 5-8 year-old range being the biggest attendees for our programs. So in addition to the usual suspects: Uno, Monopoly and Monopoly Jr., Candyland, and Connect 4, I introduced Tem-Purr-A, a card game that’s similar to Uno, but with more indigestion.

Tempurra, IelloGames (2011)
Ages 8+ (6+ with modifications)
Play time: 15-20 minutes
Number of players: 3-10

The Plot: It’s an eating contest! All the players are cats, passing dishes back and forth among each other, but every card you pick brings you closer to indigestion. If you get three indigestion counters, it’s all over; go get some Alka-Seltzer and relax.

The art is adorable: various cats, brandishing gloriously overflowing dishes. Separate the Indigestion cards from the other cards, shuffle, deal 5 to each player. Put one of the Indigestion cards in the remaining pile.

Images courtesy of Iello Games

Gameplay happens over several rounds. The first player chooses a dish card from their hand and puts it face-up on the table. The next player can either:

  1. Serve a Dish: play a card with the same value (if a card has a value of 6, the player must play a card from their hand with a value of 6)
  2. Eat a Mouthful: Draw the same number of cards as the value of the played card (if you don’t have a 6 card, draw 6 cards). At this point, if you haven’t drawn an Indigestion card, discard the stack you’ve been playing on, and start a new stack by playing a card from your hand.
  3. If you DO draw an Indigestion card, the round is over: the person who got the Indigestion card gets an Indigestion counter; they add the cards they’ve drawn to their hand, and the deck is reshuffled, adding an additional Indigestion card to the mix. The stakes get higher with every Indigestion card revealed, because you’re adding MORE to the deck!
  4. Play an Action Card: Rather than Serve a Dish or Eat a Mouthful, players can play an action card if they have one in their hand. Action cards let you reverse the action, throwing the game back into the previous player’s lap; pass over yourself and have the next player take an action, OR add one dish to the total of dishes to be eaten. If you have a card with a value of 3 showing, and you play a +1 card, the next player must play a card with a face value of 3 OR draw four cards.
  5. Skip a Dish: If you don’t have a card with a face value of the card in play, but have multiple cards of another value, you can play those and Skip the Dish offered. If that 3-card is face up, and you don’t have a 3, but you have a pair of 6 cards, throw them down! Then, clear the stack and start a new pile with the second 6-card facing up, and the next player must either match with a 6-card of their own, draw 6 cards, play an action card, or skip.

Gameplay ends when someone draws their third Indigestion card.

The kids really enjoyed this game, with some modifications. I made it even simpler for my younger kids by keeping it closer to Uno rules: match the cats by number or play an action. If you can’t match, take the number of cards on the displayed card. If you play a +1, the same rules apply as the game rules. I keep the rounds short, and hope to introduce skipping dishes in the next week or two, once the kids are comfortable with game play and pace.

All in All: Super fun for kids 8+, modified for ages 7-8 made it fun for my library kids. This is one of our favorite games at home, and I have my library kids actively looking for this one on game days now.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Two Lions Celebrates Children’s Book Week with FREE EBOOKS

Happy Children’s Book Week! I just got the news that Two Lions/Amazon Publishing is offering free ebooks to celebrate this week!

You may recognize some of these books (especially my best T-Rexter buddy, Dexter); you may even have hard copies. But now, you can get e-copies to have handy whenever the occasion pops up – impromptu storytimes, long train rides (or car rides, if you and the kiddos don’t get car sick), or just those lovely “I’m so BOOOOOOOORED” moments that pop up, whether you’re visiting, sitting and waiting for a parent-teacher meeting, or out at a restaurant that actually has flatware on the tables.

Two Lions has a website ready for you to view and download your books, along with discussion prompts and reading tips, courtesy of Amazon’s nonprofit partner, Reading is Fundamental.

Now, go get your books!

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 Graphic Novels

Graphic Novel bonanza continues! Let There Be Light, by Liana Finck

Let There Be Light: The Real Story of Her Creation, by Liana Finck, (Apr. 2022, Random House), $28.99, ISBN: 9781984801531

Ages 14+

Artist Liana Finck reimagines the Book of Genesis in her latest graphic novel; here, god is a woman wearing a crown and wielding a wand, creating the world and populating it but not quite satisfied. She creates Man, then creates Lilith (Adam’s first wife), creating Eve when Lilith storms out and leaving Adam bereft. It’s assumed God presents as male – something that irks the Creator throughout the book, as rendered in amusing and outraged footnotes – which ends up being the reason behind why humans are unable to view the face of God. Let There Be Light tells the stories of Cain and Abel, the “Begats” (an hilarious look at all the babies being born to centuries-old men, seemingly without female assistance), Joseph, Abraham, and others. Simple black and white line drawings get spots of color for emphasis. God is a more human deity in this book, with neuroses and anxiety, making her a more compassionate figure.  An author’s note touches on Kabbalist concepts and its influence on her story. An amusing and thought-provoking retelling.

Let There Be Light: The Real Story of Her Creation has a starred review from Booklist. Visit Liana Finck’s webpage for more information on her books and her artwork.

Posted in Fantasy, Fiction, Middle Grade, Tween Reads

The Monsters of Rookhaven is all about Family

The Monsters of Rookhaven, by Pádraig Kenny/Illustrated by Edward Bettison, (Sept. 2021, Henry Holt), $16.99, ISBN: 9781250623942

Ages 10-14

Mirabelle loves her very unique family: there’s Uncle Bertram, who can transform into a grizzy bear, and Aunt Eliza, entirely made up of spiders. There are the twins, Dotty and Daisy, who can be a little cruel, and Odd, who travels through portals. There’s Gideon, the newest addition to the family, and the mysterious Piglet; and there’s Uncle Enoch, who presides over the group. They have an agreement with the English village that separates them by way of a magical border: they don’t cross the border and eat the townsfolk, and the village keeps them fed and safe from the outside world. But Jem and Tom, two orphaned siblings, discover a tear in the magic and find their way into Rookhaven, with consequences for everyone on both sides of the border.

This book is gorgeous; beautifully macabre and perfect for kids who loved Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book. The narration moves swiftly along but is never rushed; it’s deliberate and takes its time creating the world of Rookhaven and the post-War English countryside; we meet a group of people devastated by war and the grief and loss it brings, making them susceptible to the worst type of manipulation. We meet another group of beings, specially gifted but assumed terrible, also suffering from grief and loss, with the added confusion of having two very human children stumble into their secure world and turn things upside down. Pádraig Kenny masterfully brings these elements together with dark humor and gentle moments, tension and terror mixed with wonder and pain. Edward Bettison’s blackwork illustrations add the perfect moodiness to the story. An excellent choice for book groups

The Monsters of Rookhaven is out in hardcover now and will be released in paperback this September, to coincide with the hardcover release of the next Rookhaven book, The Shadows of Rookhaven.

The Monsters of Rookhaven has a starred review from Booklist.

Posted in Fantasy, Fiction, Middle Grade, Tween Reads

Indie Spotlight: The Voting Tree by Gareth Griffith

The Voting Tree (The Pelagius Chronicles, Book 1), by Gareth Griffith, (Nov. 2018), $10.25, ISBN: 978-1729264485

Ages 10-13

The Voting Tree is an epic fantasy taking place across two worlds: Sydney, Australia in the year 2000, and a fantasy kingdom called the Land of Pelas. In the current world, Sam Archer is a middle schooler who’s just moved to Sydney, thanks to his dad’s new job. He starts school where he meets new friends Hamish, Sylvia, Athena, and Oscar… and the local bullies, who target Sam and his group of friends for being “freaks”. In the fantasy world of Pelas, there’s open war as Lord Boreas slays his brother, the king, and his wife; their child, Pelagius, is sent into hiding and will live in exile until he’s old enough to retake his father’s throne. Back in Sydney, Sam and his friends gather around a fig tree near their school, and discover that it’s a portal to Pelas, where they meet Pelagius and join his quest. Sam and his friends all have special abilities in this fantasy world to guide them and Pelagius on their way, and time works differently here: they can spend hours in Pelas, but almost no time has passed when they return home. At times, the differences between the two worlds made for a challenging transition, especially because there isn’t a lot of involvement with each of the worlds. Their time in Pelas does lead to character growth and confidence, making this a nice hero’s journey story to recommend. Characters deal with family stress, bullying at school, and inaction on the part of the teachers. Give this to your fantasy readers who love Garth Nix.

Posted in Fiction, Middle Grade, Science Fiction

Indie spotlight: Immigrant from the Stars by Gail Kamer

Immigrant from the Stars, by Gail Kamer/Illustrated by Daniel F. Bridy, (June 2019, Gettier Group LLC), $12.99, ISBN: 978-0999459553

Ages 9-12

I’ve been working to catch up with review requests, so I dug into my indie review pile while I was off and caught up with Gail Kamer’s 2019 middle grade tale, Immigrant from the Stars. Iko is a middle school kid who’s like other middle school kids: he loves hanging out with his friends; he loves his grandfather and his parents, he loves his dog. Oh, and he’s an alien from the planet Trinichia, ruled by a totalitarian government, with eyes and ears seemingly everywhere. Iko’s parents put their escape plan in motion and leave Trinichia, fleeing to Earth, where they start their new lives in Kentucky, disguised as the Newman family, a completely normal Earthling family from Texas. Iko tries to adjust to this new life – this new species! – while desperately hoping he doesn’t give himself and his family away, and worrying about his grandfather and dog, who are still on Trinichia.

I enjoyed Immigrant from the Stars so much! Narrated in the first person by Iko, the story has humor and pathos in equal amounts, with some tense moments that inject some excitement into the story. The story puts a sci-fi spin on the challenges facing immigrants who arrive as refugees and find themselves faced with a new way of life – and possibly an unfriendly reception. If your readers loved Geoff Rodkey’s We’re Not From Here (2019), consider recommending Immigrant from the Stars.

Posted in Fiction, Graphic Novels, Middle Grade, Tween Reads

Sweet Valley High gets the graphic novel treatment!

Wow, this is taking me back. If you’re of an age, you may remember Francine Pascal’s Sweet Valley High – I can still see the shelf full of novels in the kids’ section at my childhood Barnes and Noble. (We didn’t have a separate YA section yet; teen books just wrapped around the end of the kids’ books. It was the ’80s, folks.) I never got into them the way some of my friends did; I was all about S.E. Hinton’s angsty boys by then, but those books were everywhere and I had friends who were OBSESSED. So this morning, when I saw that Sweet Valley High is getting the graphic novel treatment ala Babysitters’ Club, I knew I had to get the word out.

Random House Graphic is publishing the series, starting with Sweet Valley Twins #1: Best Friends. Nicole Andelfinger is adapting, which is fantastic news; Andelfinger has worked on Sabaa Tahir’s graphic adaptation of the An Ember in the Ashes novels, worked on Steven Universe, and writes the Power Rangers comics for BOOM! Studios. Nicole Andelfinger knows how to write for graphic novels AND knows how to adapt teen novels for graphic novels, so I think my library kids are in very good hands. GLAAD Media Award nominee and Eisner nominee Claudia Aguirre is illustrating, and she’s done incredible work on Morning in America and Lost on Planet Earth, so I’m ready for this.

The story is getting a little bit of a reworking to be more available to middle graders, which makes perfect sense, especially in light of the fact that I cannot keep any of my Babysitters Club books on the shelves. From the press release: “In SWEET VALLEY TWINS #1: BEST FRIENDS, Jessica and Elizabeth are ready to take on middle school . . . but are they ready to take on each other? Jessica and Elizabeth have always been inseparable, but starting middle school means a chance for new beginnings. Elizabeth is excited to organize a school newspaper, but Jessica is more interested in joining the exclusive Unicorn Club. Middle school is hard enough, but with these twins each dealing with becoming their own person, will they be able to stay friends?”

The graphic novels will be available simultaneously in hardcover and trade paperback formats on November 1, 2022. The second book in the series, Teacher’s Pet, will be published in 2023.

 

Francine Pascal is the creator of the Sweet Valley universe, which includes Sweet Valley Twins, Sweet Valley High, and Sweet Valley Unicorn Club. Over their lifetime, Sweet Valley books have sold millions of copies, been adapted into a TV series (in the eighties), and inspired board games, puzzles, and dolls. It is one of the most popular kids’ book series of all time. Francine lives in New York and the South of France.

Claudia Aguirre is a Mexican lesbian comic-book artist and writer. She is a cofounder of Boudika Comics, where she self-publishes comics, and is a GLAAD Media Award nominee and Eisner Award nominee. Her comic works include Lost on Planet Earth with ComiXology Originals, Hotel Dare with Boom! Studios, Firebrand with Legendary Comics, Morning in America with Oni Press, and Kim & Kim with Black Mask Studios.

Nicole Andelfinger was crafting stories back when jelly shoes were cool. When not changing her hair color or writing comics for some of her favorite franchises—such as Jim Henson’s The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance, Regular Show, Rugrats, Steven Universe, and more—she works a day job best described as “emails.” She lives with her absolutely, most decidedly perfect cat in Los Angeles.

Random House Children’s Books (rhcbooks.com) is the world’s largest English-language children’s trade book publisher. Creating books for toddlers through young adult readers, in all formats from board books to activity books to picture books, novels, and nonfiction, the imprints of Random House Children’s Books bring together award-winning authors and illustrators, world-famous franchise characters, and multimillion-copy series. Random House Children’s Books is a division of Penguin Random House LLC.

 

SWEET VALLEY TWINS: BEST FRIENDS

By Francine Pascal, Illustrated by Claudia Aguirre, Adapted by Nicole Andelfinger

Random House Graphic | On sale November 1, 2022 | 224 pages | Ages 8–12

HC: 978-0-593-37647-8 | $20.99/$27.99 Can.

TP: 978-0-593-37646-1 | $13.99/$18.99 Can.

Ebook: 978-0-593-37649-2 | $8.99/$10.99 Can.

Posted in Fiction, Graphic Novels, Middle Grade, Middle School, Non-Fiction, Tween Reads

Graphic Novels Bonanza Begins with Button Pusher!

Button Pusher, by Tyler Page, (Apr. 2022, First Second), $14.99, ISBN: 9781250758330

Ages 10-14

What did I do on vacation? I read books and played tabletop games! Starting off my graphic novel bonanza is Button Pusher, Eisner-nominated cartoonist Tyler Page’s memoir of living with ADHD. Tyler begins as a rambunctious 8-year-old who can be the class clown or lose track of a lesson as the teacher is speaking. He cuts up a school bus seat but doesn’t really know why he did it, when asked. His teachers think he just likes to be a troublemaker, but that isn’t it, and his mother takes him to the doctor to find out what’s going on, leading to his ADHD – attention deficit hyperactivity disorder – diagnosis. While the memoir centers on Page’s ADHD, and how he moves toward functioning with (and without) medication and treatment, the story also revolves around his school and home life, including the troubled relationship between his parents and his father’s own undiagnosed neurodivergence. The story is incredibly readable and offers sensitive portrayals of Tyler Page and his mother, who works toward understanding and helping her son while in a difficult marriage. Page also touches on male adolescent anxiety, particularly Tyler’s body image issues when he realizes that the medication is contributing to weight gain. Back matter includes an author’s note, samples of Page’s childhood art, and his working process. An informative and outstanding introduction for middle graders to understanding ADHD.

Button Pusher has starred reviews from Publishers Weekly and Booklist.