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.

 

Posted in Fantasy, Fiction, Historical Fiction, Teen, Young Adult/New Adult

The Cure for Dreaming gives us Dracula, suffrage, and mesmerism!

cure for dreaming The Cure for Dreaming, by Cat Winters (Oct. 2014, Abrams), $17.95, ISBN: 9781419712166

Recommended for 13+

Olivia Mead is a strong-willed young woman living in Oregon in 1900. She loves to read fiction – Dracula is her current favorite novel – and she dreams of going to college. She also happens to be a suffragist, something her narrow-minded father doesn’t know anything about. Olivia’s mother left her with her father when Olivia was a young child; she lives in New York where she ekes out a living as a stage actress and dates wealthy men. She sends Olivia money every birthday, but doesn’t seem to be otherwise too involved.

Olivia’s father can’t take much more of his headstrong daughter’s ideas. He fears her behavior will lose him patients, so he contacts Henri Reverie – a mesmerist (a hypnotist) that hypnotized Olivia in a recent performance –  to “cure” his daughter. He asks Henri to help Olivia to “see things as they really are”, and rather than argue with him, to say, “All is well” when she’s angry.

It backfires. Horribly. Olivia does see things as they really are – she starts seeing oppressive men as bat-vampire-wolf creatures, and anti-suffragist women as pale, ghostly beings. She is unable to defend herself, only able to say, “All is well.” She finds herself the target of ridicule as her father glories in his “success”. But he hasn’t succeeded in doing anything other than stoking the fire of Olivia’s independence, and her desire to get away from him at all costs. She seeks Henri’s help in restoring her mind, and finds out that Henri’s story goes far deeper than a mere stage performer.

The Cure for Dreaming is one of those stories that initially makes your head swim – Dracula, suffrage, and hypnotism? It all comes together, but there are moments when the narrative lost me. There is a subplot surrounding Henri’s younger sister that was felt almost tacked on, and Olivia’s father verged on caricaturist in his rage. Olivia seems far too complacent about her absent mother leaving her with a verbally abusive and neglectful father – she left because she couldn’t take it anymore, but it was okay to leave her kid with him? And it’s okay to drop a line and tell her how much she misses her ONCE A YEAR?

Overall, The Cure for Dreaming is an interesting read. The photos that Ms. Winters chose to feature throughout the book, archival photos of suffragists and the time period, drew me right in. The subplot about an anonymous letter that adds fuel to the suffragist fire was one of the best parts of the book.

The author’s website offers a treasure trove of information, including book trailers, information on the periods during which her novels take place, an FAQ, links to social media, and book information.

 

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

Frank Einstein and the Antimatter Motor – Jon Scieszka makes science awesome.

anitmatter motorFrank Einstein and the Antimatter Motor, by Jon Scieszka (2014), $13.95, ISBN: 9781419712180

Recommended for ages 8-12

In his neverending quest to get boys – and guys! – to read, Jon Sciezska has taken on alternative history (The Time Warp Trio), fractured fairy tales (so very many), and anthology genres (his Guys Read series). He’s got a website devoted to getting men and boys to love books, and understands that there are biological and sociological factors tied into the recent decline in boys’ reading; he’s determined to find the best books and the best subject matter to write about.

Frank Einstein and the Antimatter Motor is Sciezka’s foray into science, and it is fantastic. Frank Einstein is a kid who loves science. While his parents are away, scoping out travel locations for his dad’s job, he’s with his grandfather, working on experiments in his quest to win the science fair. He’s up against his archenemy, the bratty T. Edison, who is not above stealing others’ ideas to further his own fame – and buy up Einstein’s grandpa’s shop.

Frank finds that one of his experiments wasn’t a bust after all – his attempt to create robots worked, with some lighting providing electricity! Klink and Klank are a hilarious duo who work to help Frank create an antimatter machine – until T. Edison starts to make trouble.

Scieszka loads his novel up with legit science backup, and it is amazing to read. I learned about antimatter and robotics in a way that no science textbook ever taught me as a kid. Teachers and librarians should be all over this book for its nonfiction elements that will enhance their Common Core curriculum, but mainly because it’s fun, it’s hard science made readable and understandable, and Scieszka never, ever talks down to his audience. Brian Biggs’ illustrations will empower every kid to make their own antimatter machines at home – trust and believe it. And while they’re at it, kids will be breaking down states of matter so that we parents can finally figure it out.

The book releases on August 19th. Pre-order yours from Amazon today.

Posted in Fiction, Graphic Novels, Tween Reads

Salem Hyde’s Back, and she’s making birthdays bigger and… well, interesting.

salem hydeThe Misadventures of Salem Hyde, Book Two: Big Birthday Bash, by Frank Cammuso (2014). Abrams Kids, $14.95, ISBN: 9781419710254

Recommended for ages 8-12

Fledgling witch Salem Hyde is back, along with her talking cat, Whammy (short for Percival J. Whamsford III). Whammy’s still trying to hold onto his remaining five lives as he helps Salem navigate her new magic powers. In Big Birthday Bash, Salem has a friend’s birthday party to attend, but the local Mean Girl is trying to one-up her gift. Will Salem use magic to come out on top? You know she will – the question is, what is going to happen next?

This is my first Salem Hyde book, and I enjoyed it so much that I’m going to go back and get the first one. The art is adorable; it’s cartoony, expressive, and fun. Salem is a kid who happens to be able to use magic; she’s having fun with it. She makes herself big, she shrinks other people down, she just wants to have a good time. Poor Whammy is great as her put-upon companion who ends up getting into his own trouble (wait until you get to the Slurpees) as he accompanies Salem on her travels. It’s a great story for younger readers, and the graphic novel format teaches sequence and pacing.

The book arrives in bookstores on May 20th, and I foresee this on a lot of summer reading lists. It’s a great read for girls and boys alike, although boys may shy away from the hot pink cover.

Frank Cammuso is the creator of the popular Knights of the Lunch Table series, and creates beginner graphic novels with Toon Books. His website provides contact information, author information, links to social media, and a store.