Posted in Intermediate, Non-Fiction, picture books

Breaking Through the Clouds celebrates STEM Women!

We often hear the word “meteorologist” and think of those nice weatherfolx on TV, right? How often do we think of meteorology as the actual science of studying the weather, though?

Breaking Through the Clouds: The Sometimes Turbulent Life of Meteorologist Joanne Simpson, by Sandra Nickel/Illustrated by Helena Perez Garcia,
(March 2022, Abrams Books for Young Readers),
$19.99, ISBN: 9781419749568

Ages 6-9

Breaking Through the Clouds is the picture book biography of Joanne Simpson, the first woman in the United States to earn her Ph.D. in meteorology, who went on to research clouds and weather. Touching on what seems to be a difficult childhood, through her work with World War II planes and her education and work with clouds and wind, Breaking Through the Clouds is an inspirational STEM story and a brilliant International Women’s Month profile. Helena Perez Garcia’s gorgeous illustrations blend realism with surrealism to show how Joanne Simpson was discounted by the men around her; the men who told her “no woman ever got a doctorate in meteorology. And no woman ever will”, and the Air Force clout that put her on a plane going through clouds to research them.

 

Factual and straightforward storytelling, using uplifting language like, “As Joanne walked through the university, the halls were filled with jarring comments and bumpy silences. She flew her last flight and sold her boat – because Joanne was stubborn” remind readers to persevere in the face of challenges. Back matter includes a timeline of Joanne Simpson’s life and notes on her weather work. Another must-add to your biography sections and your Women’s History and STEM/STEAM collections.

Joanne Simpson has an entry on NASA’s webpage with a link to a more in-depth article about her career. For more meteorology resources, visit the National Weather Service, Easy Science for Kids, and PBS Kids.

 

Sandra Nickel says that story ideas are everywhere; you just have to reach out and grab them.  She holds an MFA in writing for children and young adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts. Her first book, Nacho’s Nachos: The Story Behind the World’s Favorite Snack, was awarded a Christopher Award and was a Golden Kite Award finalist. Sandra lives in Chexbres, Switzerland, where she blogs about children’s book writers and illustrators at whatwason.com. To learn more, visit https://sandranickel.com/.

Twitter:  @senickel

Facebook: @sandranickelbooks

Instagram: @sandranickelbooks

Check out the trailer and other cool resources here!

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 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 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 picture books, Preschool Reads

Even Bogeymen get scared: El Cucuy is Scared, Too!

El Cucuy is Scared, Too!, by Donna Barba Higuera/Illustrated by Juliana Perdomo, (July 2021, Harry Abrams), $17.99, ISBN: 9781419744457

Ages 4-8

A little boy named Ramón and his cucuy – a bogeyman of sorts in Mexican folklore – are restless and can’t sleep the night before Ramón starts at a new school. They’ve moved to a new town and both are nervous, talking about how they miss their old home. Gradually, Ramón begins to comfort El Cucuy, reassuring him that things will be better. By reassuring El Cucuy, Ramón learns to comfort himself and find his inner strength to embrace his new beginning. With Spanish words sprinkled throughout, and colorful cultural touches throughout the artwork, this is an adorable look into Latinx culture via a gentle story about overcoming fears. El Cucuy is a cute, wide-eyed grey monster with a little black cloak; Ramón is a boy with light-brown skin. Details in the spreads infuse the story with a Latinx cultural background, from the vibrant colors in his bedding, to the artwork on his walls, to the visions of his former home. A definite add to your collections.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Blue Floats Away explains the water cycle and global warming

Blue Floats Away, by Travis Jonker/Illustrated by Grant Snider, (March 2021, Abrams Books for Young Readers), $17.99, ISBN: 9781419744235

Ages 4-8

Blue is a little iceberg who floats along with his parents in the North Pole until one day, when he cracks and floats away, surprising the three of them! He’s carried along by the water, noticing new and beautiful things and meeting new friends, when he transforms again, and again! Blue’s gentle little adventure explains the water cycle to young learners in a way that will interest and delight them, as Blue transforms from an iceberg, to a cloud, to a snowflake, as he experiences new and exciting things on his journey. Back matter includes more information about the water cycle and a note about climate change and its affect on polar ice. Blue Floats Away is so  much more than a cute STEM story to read to your Kiddos, though: it’s about growing up, having new experiences, and always having an eye toward home. Blue and his parents have subtly illustrated, gentle faces that I had to read a second time to really discover; Blue’s expressions change throughout his story; at first content, then frightened, unsure, even excited, as his story moves along. Mixed media illustrations remind me of Lois Ehlert in the best of ways. Deep blues dominate the story, with bright colors popping out to keep interest. Spare text makes this a great readaloud choice that you can follow with a torn paper collage craft, inviting kids to create their own Blue story. KidZone has water cycle activity pages for coloring that you can have handy for a storytime or grab and go craft, as does Clever Learner.

Blue Floats Away has starred reviews from Publishers Weekly and Kirkus.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Itty-Bitty-Kitty-Corn will steal your heart

Itty-Bitty Kitty-Corn, by Shannon Hale/Illustrated by LeUyen Pham, (March 2021, Abrams Books for Young Readers), $18.99, ISBN: 9781419750915

Ages 4-8

An adorable pink, fluffy kitten is positive she’s a unicorn. She feels like one on the inside, so she must be… a Kitty-Corn! Her friends, a parakeet and a gecko, insist that there’s no way she’s anything other than a cat -she meows in her sleep, after all! – , When a unicorn shows up to change all of that by saying that he, too, feels like a Kitty-Corn, these two new friends see one another for who they really are. Adorably illustrated, with just too-cute, huggable, expressive animals, Itty-Bitty Kitty-Corn is a story of identity and seeing others for who they really are. A spread where Kitty tells Unicorn, “I see you” is beautiful; a lovely statement on visibility and existence; of knowing yourself and seeing others – and most importantly, letting others know that you see them.  Cheerful, appealing characters and a lovely story flow make this a great storytime read-aloud. Publisher Abrams has a free activity kit with coloring pages. Consider this book, and Lulu is a Rhinoceros, for Visibility Days storytimes and displays.

Posted in Intermediate, Non-Fiction, picture books

Vera Rubin, The Stuff Between the Stars, and a Giveaway!

The Stuff Between the Stars: How Vera Rubin Discovered Most of the Universe, by Sandra Nickel/Illustrated by Aimée Sicuro, (March 2021, Abrams Books for Young Reader), $18.99, ISBN: 9781419736261

Ages 6-9

The Stuff Between the Stars is the picture book biography of Vera Rubin, the astronomer who discovered and named dark matter. It also touches on the sexism and ignorance she encountered from the male scientists in her field who called her ideas “ridiculous” and “outlandish”; she persisted, taking pictures of galaxies in motion, proving her groundbreaking theory and forcing the men in her field to admit she was right and concede that they had only been studying a fraction of the actual universe. A vanguard whose time has come, this biography is best for early grade schoolers. Watercolor, ink, and charcoal artwork bring the magic of the night sky to life, with colorful endpapers and artwork throughout. The images of Vera Rubin standing alone against a group of men helps readers feel the intimidation Vera Rubin must have fought off every day of her career, but she stands firm. Back matter includes an author’s note, a timeline of Vera Rubin’s life, notes, and a bibliography. Read this with Marion Dane Bauer’s The Stuff of Stars (2018) for a beautiful perspective on our connection to the universe.

 

Sandra Nickel says that story ideas are everywhere; you just have to reach out and grab them.  She holds an MFA in writing for children and young adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts. Her first book, Nacho’s Nachos: The Story Behind the World’s Favorite Snack, was a Golden Kite Award finalist. Sandra lives in Chexbres, Switzerland, where she blogs about children’s book writers and illustrators at whatwason.com. To learn more, visit https://sandranickel.com/.

Twitter:  @senickel

Facebook: @sandranickelbooks

Instagram: @sandranickelbooks

 

Aimée Sicuro is an illustrator, picture book maker, and surface pattern designer who received a BFA in Illustration from Columbus College of Art and Design. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband and young sons. Visit her website to learn more.

Twitter: @aimeesicuro

Instagram: @aimeesicuro

One lucky winner will receive a copy of The Stuff Between the Stars courtesy of Abrams Books for Young Readers (U.S. addresses). Enter this Rafflecopter giveaway!

Posted in Intermediate, Non-Fiction, picture books

Codebreaker Elizebeth Friedman gets a book and a giveaway for Women’s History Month!

Code Breaker, Spy Hunter: How Elizebeth Friedman Changed the Course of Two World Wars, by Laurie Wallmark/Illustrated by Brooke Smart, (March 2021, Abrams), $18.99, ISBN: 9781419739637

Ages 7-9

This picture book biography on code breaker Elizebeth Friedman is a great way to kick off Women’s History Month!  Beginning with her early years as a Shakespeare-loving student and working for an eccentric millionaire, she meets fellow code aficionado and scientist, William Friedman. The two marry, and their expertise in codes and ciphers led to their groundbreaking work in cryptology during World War I. Friedman traveled two worlds, raising her family away from the city and answering the government’s call for help, whether it was to break smuggler’s codes during Prohibition or ferreting out Nazi spies and Japanese spies during World War II. The FBI took credit for the work she and her team did, and she was sworn to secrecy. Her secrets were declassified 35 years after her death in 2015. Laurie Wallmark, a STEM/STEAM biographer for women in STEM, has written several books I’ve brought to my Girls Who Code sessions, including Grace Hopper: Queen of Computer Code (2017) and Ada Byron Lovelace and the Thinking Machine (2015). She has a great way of factual storytelling that show each of her heroines breaking barriers while juggling the weight of societal expectations. Ms. Wallmark does Elizebeth Friedman a great justice and brings her story to a new generation of girls.

Brooke Smart’s watercolor and gouache paintings sprinkle Friedman quotes throughout and have humorous moments, including a page where a line of coded language wraps itself around an angry group of Nazis as Friedman gazes off sagely on the companion page; one spread has Friedman leading a team of young men through ticker tapes, curling all over the page, likely pointing out how to break codes. She combines the realistic with the imaginative, encouraging readers to let their minds go where coding takes them. Back matter includes an explanation on codes and ciphers, cryptography, and a crack the code exercise, along with a bibliography and timeline of Friedman’s life. An excellent biography on a ’til-now virtually unknown figure in history.

Check out the Code Breaker, Spy Hunter book page on author Laurie Wallmark’s webpage where you’ll find a trailer, cool activity sheets, and more!

 

Award-winning author Laurie Wallmark has written picture-book biographies of women in STEM fields ranging from computer science to mathematics, astronomy to code breaking. Her books have earned multiple starred reviews, been chosen as Junior Library Guild Selections, and received awards such as Outstanding Science Trade Book, Cook Prize Honor, and Parents’; Choice Gold Medal. She is a former software engineer and computer science professor. She lives in Ringoes, New Jersey. You can find her at lauriewallmark.com.

On Twitter: @lauriewallmark

Facebook: @lauriewallmarkauthor

Instagram: @lauriewallmark

 

Brooke Smart loves telling stories through her illustrations, especially stories about brave women from history. She has always loved to read, and growing up she could be found nightly falling asleep with a book on her chest. Illustrating books as a professional artist is a lifelong dream come true. She is living the busy, tired, happy, wonderful dream in Salt Lake City, Utah, with her husband, their three kids, and their naughty cat named Sunshine. Learn more about her at brooke-smart.com.

Instagram: @bookesmartillustration

 

 

One lucky winner will receive a copy of Code Breaker, Spy Hunter courtesy of Abrams Books for Young Readers (U.S. addresses). Enter this Rafflecopter giveaway!

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

Power to the People: We Are Power elevates nonviolent activism

We Are Power: How Nonviolent Activism Changes the World, by Todd Hasak-Lowy, (April 2020, Abrams Kids), $18.99, ISBN: 9781419741111

Ages 12+

A thought-provoking treatise on nonviolent activism, We Are Power presents six case studies throughout recent history: Gandhi, Alice Paul, Martin Luther King, Cesar Chavez, Václav Havel, and Greta Thunberg. Each section explores nonviolent resistance, the roots behind each advocate’s activism, and how the power of one person, exhorting nonviolence, can motivate thousands and create change. In an increasingly contentious world, the power of nonviolent activism, and placing this information in the hands of a generation of activists, is not only smart, it’s crucial.

Beginning with Gandhi and his theory of “soul force”, or satyagraha, each consecutive profile touches on how previous movements inspired one another. Martin Luther King in particular was influenced by Gandhi, while Alice Paul’s suffrage activism was a response to the more extreme suffagists in the UK, and her desire to be seen as calm, unflappable, and strong. Cesar Chavez understood that increasing awareness of migrant worker conditions was the best way to bring social justice to migrant workers and received a letter of encouragement from Martin Luther King, himself leading nonviolent resistance movements to bring civil rights to the country. Playwright-turned-Czech president Vaclav Havel used his art to protest; later, letters from prison, where he wrote about truth and opened people’s eyes by telling them that they were complicit in allowing their restrictive government’s rule by following the rules. Teenager Greta Thunberg began her climate change protest by being the sole student striking for climate change, and motivated a planet to take action.

A solid beginning for a discussion on social justice, activism, and civil disobedience, this is a must-have volume for middle school and high school collections. I can’t wait to put this in my order cart when my library, opens again. This would be a great Summer Reading choice, for educators who haven’t finished their lists yet. Photographs of protests and tense moments, like seeing schoolchildren attacked by dogs and being doused with hoses, make for great discussions on the use of violence against nonviolence – what stands to be gained? Comprehensive endnotes, bibliography, and index complete the book. Author Todd Hasak-Lowy’s author webpage has videos and resources for parents and educators.

We Are Power has starred reviews from School Library Journal, School Library Connection, and Kirkus.