Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Magic happens at The Midnight Fair

The Midnight Fair, by Gideon Sterer/Illustrated by Mariachiara DiGiorgio, (Feb. 2021, Candlewick Press), $16.99, ISBN: 9781536211153

Ages 3-7

A fairground closes down for the night… at least, for some. When all the people leave, glowing eyes gather… and the neighboring animals show up to enjoy their time at the fair. Some staff the booths while others wander, boarding rides and playing games. A fox wins a goldfish, a bear pays for a treat with a handful of acorns, a group of forest dwellers hang on tight as the Buccaneer ride rocks them back and forth. This wordless story is breathtaking, with watercolor, gouache, and colored pencil spreads that pulsate with vibrancy and activity. Endpapers show a family of bears and their neighbors watch the fair trucks arrive and depart. Spreads alternate with panels to illustrate different moments from the evening. You’ll smell the popcorn butter and feel the electricity in the air. Watch this one for Caldecott season.

The Midnight Fair has starred reviews from Publishers Weekly, Kirkus, Booklist, The Horn Book, Shelf Awareness, and Book Page.

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

#Books from Quarantine: Graphic Novels Rundown

I’m reading through my graphic novels stash this week, and have lots to talk about. Jumping right in.

The Black Mage, by Daniel Barnes/Illustrated by D.J. Kirkland, (Aug. 2019, Oni Press), $19.99, ISBN: 9781620106525

Ages 10+

This book was published last year, and I just found it as I was going through my hard drive during the quarantine. WOW, am I glad I did, because this is timely. It starts off with a young man named Tom Token being invited to St. Ivory Academy, a historically white wizarding school, as their first Black student, part of their “Magical Minority Initiative”. The headmaster, Atticus Lynch, wears a white robe with a pointed hood, but… it’s okay, right? Tom and his pet crow, Jim, arrive and face predictable racist treatment, from ridiculous questions (“Do you drink grape soda rather than potions to enhance your magical powers?”) to straight up hostility. When Tom discovers a mysterious student ID card, he’s determined to get to the bottom of what’s really going on at St. Ivory Academy. Joined by his new friend, Lindsay – a white girl who’s quickly learning that St. Ivory is up to no good – Tom meets two ghosts from history that will show him a dangerous conspiracy that goes all the way back to the Civil War. If Tom can’t expose St. Ivory, he may lose his soul!

This was SUCH a good story, with manga-influenced artwork, fast-paced action and dialogue, and a socially relevant storyline. I love having Harriet Tubman, Frederick Douglass, and John Henry featured as superhero freedom fighters, even in the Great Beyond. Great art, great story, great book for middle schoolers. Make sure you’ve got this handy when you rejuvenate your collections. Oni Press has an educator/discussion guide for The Black Mage available here.

 

Fun Fun Fun World, by Yehudi Mercado, (Apr. 2020, Oni Press), $12.99, ISBN: 978-1620107324

Ages 8-12

Written and illustrated by Sci-Fu’s Yehudi Mercado, Fun Fun Fun World starts off with the crew of the Devastorm 5, led by the inept Captain Minky, running from another failed mission. Minky’s in serious trouble if he doesn’t have tribute for his Queen, so he makes her an offer she can’t refuse: he’ll give her the Earth. The rest of the Devastorm has no idea how they’re going to pull this off, but Minky is convinced they can do it. So when they land at Fun Fun Fun World, a down-on-its luck amusement run by a single dad raising his son, Javi, they think they’ve got Earth laid out in front of them. Javi figures things out pretty quickly and decides not to tell them that they’ve landed in Des Moines: after all, he needs their technology to get the park up and running, saving his dad’s career and keeping a roof over their heads. The story is hilarious, bananas, and too much fun to read. It’s bright, it’s neon, with confused aliens and a kid who keeps outstmarting them to further his father’s dream. There’s a super secret mystery hidden at the heart of Fun Fun Fun World to spice things up a bit, and there’s always the threat of interplanetary war to keep things running. Kids who love watching Cartoon Network’s high-energy cartoons like Steven Universe and The Regular Show will love this.

Yehudi Mercado includes rough pages from the work in progress and a photo of the kids who helped come up with some of the featured rides at the park. There’s also an FFFW Character Quiz from publisher Oni Press that will make comic book discussion groups a hit. Checkout Yehudi Mercado’s webpage for a look at more of his books, a free preview of Fun Fun Fun World, and links to social media.

 

Wallace the Brave, by Will Henry, (Oct. 2017, Andrews McMeel Publishing/AMP Kids), $9.99, ISBN: 9781449489984

Ages 7-11

Reminiscent of Calvin and Hobbes, Wallace The Brave is a collection of comics strips about Wallace, an imaginative, inquisitive boy named Wallace, his best friend, Spud, and the new girl, Amelia. We also meet Wallace’s parents and unibrowed, feral little brother, Sterling, all of whom live in the small town, Snug Harbor. Kids who love Big Nate will get a kick out of Wallace, who’s always up to something; whether he’s spinning epic tales about the school bus, testing the strength of a stale muffin, or trying to figure out what seagulls are really saying.

The book includes a map of Snug Harbor, with major locations from the comic strip numbered; ways to organize a beach cleanup, help monarch butterflies, and make a nature crown. There’s a sequel, Snug Harbor Stories, for readers who want more. Wallace’s page on the AMP website has free, downloadable sheets with activities that you can do at home with the kids, and a book trailer for Snug Harbor Stories.

Cat and Cat: Cat Out of Water (Cat & Cat #2), by Christophe Cazenove, Hervez Richez & Yrgane Ramon (July 2020, Papercutz), $14.99, ISBN: 9781545804780

Ages 7-10

The second collection of Cat and Cat stories is just as much fun as the first. Catherine and her cat, Sushi, live with Cat’s dad; the strips are a series of funny slice-of-life moments. This time, the big story is that Dad takes Cat and Sushi on a camping trip, where Sushi proceeds to wreak havoc on the campgrounds. Other moments have Sushi visiting the neighbors to get his daily snacks in; constant struggles surrounding the cat door and Sushi’s habit of inviting all the cats in the neighborhood to Dad’s house, and Sushi trying to figure out what that big ditch filled with water (the new pool) is supposed to be for.

Brightly illustrated with expressive cartoony characters, this is a great addition to titles like Sisters, Ernest & Rebecca, Dance Class, and Chloe. Papercutz has the inside track on great graphic novels for Intermediate level readers who are looking to move up from Easy Readers and may need a break from chapter books.

 

Dance Class: Letting It Go (Dance Class #10), by Crip and BéKa, (March 2020, Papercutz), $14.99, ISBN: 9781545804322

Ages 7-10

Dance Class is one of the most circulated graphic novels series in my library. The kids love the stories about the dancers at Dance School, so I decided to finally sit down with a book that I got from Papercutz’s Virtual ALA email and see what the hubbub is about. I get it: it’s just a fun series! The adventures of the younger dancers and the teen dancers is good-natured and fun, with this latest storyline centering on the school’s upcoming production of The Snow Queen, and the beautiful new dress to be worn by the show’s star…. if they can get the dress to stop disappearing! It’s an amusing series of miscommunications and misunderstandings as the dancers get ready to put on their show.

Brightly illustrated with cartoon characters, fun dialogue and silly sight gags, like the dancer who’s menaced by a classmate – in her dreams! – this is a book that appeals to Loud House, Sisters, and Chloe readers. The cover is begging for Frozen fans to devour this book in a single sitting, and they will.

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

The World’s Greatest Adventure Machine will take you on the ride of your life

The World’s Greatest Adventure Machine, by Frank L. Cole, (Aug. 20017, Delacorte Press), $16.99, ISBN: 9780399552823

Recommended for readers 9-13

Take a little bit of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, toss in elements of Jurassic Park and The Matrix, and add a dose of Inception, and you have Frank L. Cole’s newest book, The World’s Greatest Adventure Machine. Four kids with varying physiological complexities – Trevor, the daredevil; Cameron, the genius; Devin, the video game master/burgeoning Internet sensation; and Nika, shy and sheltered by her overprotective grandfather – are chosen to test out The Adventure Machine, a ground-breaking new adventure ride from CastleCorp. They set out for the ride of their lives while their guardians watch, but no one expects what happens when the ride breaks down, and they discover that they’re stuck in the middle of a plot that threatens them and their families – or are they?

The World’s Greatest Adventure Machine is a big adventure for middle graders who love twisting plots, action, and a smidgen of conflict. As the kids’ adventure progresses, they grow as individuals and as a team; Trevor and Cameron learn to be aware of the impact their actions have on others, and they all learn the importance of self-advocacy.  It’s a fun read with characters that grow on you, with lots of thrills to keep pages turning.

Posted in Early Reader, Fiction, Preschool Reads

Blog Tour and a Giveaway: I Am (Not) Scared

How many times have you heard (or said) that famous boast? Anna Kang and illustrator Christopher Weyant bring their fuzzy buddies back for a third installment of fun and friendship. This time, the friends are at an amusement park, psyching one another up to brave a ride on a roller coaster. What’s scarier than a roller coaster? Lots of things: Snakes, a tub of hairy spiders, or a pan of fried ants, for starters!

I Am (Not) Scared, by Anna Kang/Illustrated by Christopher Weyant,
(March 2017, Two Lions/Amazon), $17.99, ISBN: 978-150-3937-45-1

I Am (Not) Scared is perfect for preschoolers and young readers because kids will see themselves in the two friends who learn that there are fun ways to be scared – especially when you’re with a friend. The friends brave a roller coaster with a newfound friend, and let themselves admit to being scared, which brings a giggly kind of relief, doesn’t it? Once the group has conquered their fear, they’re ready to go back and enjoy the thrill of being scared all over again.

Christopher Weyant’s ink and watercolor illustrations are bold, expressive and sweet. The bears are cuddly and friendly, inviting kids to join them on their adventures. The art, along with the bold, black text, makes this a great read-aloud, too. Invite kids to tell you what they think is scarier than fried ants or snakes on roller coasters and watch the wacky responses roll on in. There’s a great activity kit available via Anna Kang’s website, complete with discussion questions, a roller coaster-y maze, courage bracelets to give out, and more!

Get in on the fun with an I Am (Not) Scared giveaway! One winner will receive an I Am (Not) Scared gift pack: a set of squeezable stress balls, two adorable plush characters, and a copy of I AM (NOT) SCARED courtesy of Two Lions (U.S. addresses). Enter this Rafflecopter giveaway for your chance!

Wife and husband team Anna Kang and Christopher Weyant are the creators of two other books featuring these characters: Theodor Seuss Geisel Award winner You Are (Not) Small and That’s (Not) Mine. Christopher’s work can be seen regularly in The New Yorker magazine and his cartoons are syndicated worldwide. This husband-and-wife team lives in New Jersey with their two daughters and dog, Hudson. Visit them at www.annakang.com and www.christopherweyant.com.

 

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

NatGeo’s Awesome 8 has the lists kids love!

awesome8Awesome 8: 50 Picture-Packed Top 8 Lists! (National Geographic Kids), by Jen Agresta & Sarah Wassner Flynn, (May 2016, National Geographic), $12.99, ISBN: 978-1426323379

Recommended for ages 7-12

I love lists. I make them, I read them, it’s just a fun thing that people do. It gives you some cool insight into people, like when you read lists of their favorite books, foods, or things; it can make short work of a project, when you have a list of best books or coolest science fair projects. Bottom line, lists are helpful and fun. NatGeo Kids has taken that idea and run with it, giving us Awesome 8: 50 Picture-Packed Top 8 Lists!

This book is loaded with lists of the wildest things, from the most hair-raising roller coasters (that new Joker one at Six Flags Great Adventure may have to be in an updated version, tho’) to the the most bodacious buried treasures. Lists cover wild nature, history, food, and fun. Plan a trip to see some ridiculous roadside attractions (there really is a giant ball of string) and travel in the wackiest of ways, like on a monster school bus. Fun facts pop up throughout the book, as do extended features on some of the lists, like the spread discussing how icebergs flip, following Eight Awesome Things in Antarctica.

It’s a NatGeo book, so you know the pictures are stunning and the information covers different cultures and different parts of the world.There’s a full index in the back and a companion website, the Awesome 8 Hub, where you can find more Awesome 8 lists and log into NatGeo’s Kids portal, which offers resources for educators and homework help resources.

flipped-iceberg-antarctica_88301_990x742Icebergs can flip! Who knew? (from NationalGeographic.com)

I’m a huge NatGeo Kids fan, with good reason: the kids embrace the books, which are fun, factual, and contain beautiful photographs of the world around us. Know a kid who loves cool stuff? Consider this book. Looking for a summer program to put together on the spot? Maybe a spot the camouflaged creature game – there’s an Awesome 8 list dedicated to Coolest Camouflage, including this picture of three toads – can you find them?

toadsphoto from NationalGeographic.com

 

Posted in Fiction, Humor, Intermediate

Return to Augie Hobble – A Supernatural Notebook and a Werewolf?

augie hobbleReturn to Augie Hobble, by Lane Smith (May 2015, Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group), $16.99, ISBN: 9781626720541

Recommended for ages 9-13

Augie Hobble lives and works at Fairy Tale place, an amusement park managed by his father. The park – and Augie, to be honest – have seen better days. He’s bullied by the local jerks who come to the amusement park and by some of his coworkers, he’s just flunked Creative Arts and has to redo his project, and he can’t get his crush to notice him- but the kind of weird girl at the amusement park does.  Some some crazy, hairy thing shows up in the area and drools on Augie, and he swears that’s it: he’s turning into a werewolf. All of a sudden, things take a turn for the even worse, and Augie starts looking at the weird happenings in a completely new light.

I’m a huge Lane Smith fan, and was looking forward to this book. I thought I’d get a fun, wacky story about a kid and a werewolf, be it paranormal or comedy. What I got was a story that seems to have everything but the kitchen sink thrown in, with a lot of disjointed storytelling and multiple “what the heck was THAT?” moments. There’s a story about friendship, grief and loss, paranormal/supernatural, and tween romance, but it’s all thrown together and doesn’t have a cohesive narrative to pull it all together. I was really disappointed in this one.

Posted in Fiction, Middle School, Tween Reads

Desmond Pucket is back, with a Mountain Full of Monsters!

desmond puckettDesmond Pucket and the Mountain Full of Monsters, by Mark Tatulli (Andrews-McMeel, August 2014). $13.99, ISBN: 9781449435493

Recommended for ages 8-12

Desmond Pucket, star of Desmond Pucket Makes Monster Magic, is back and he’s finally on the class trip to Crab Shell Pier, where the Mountain Full of Monsters awaits! He’s dying to ask his crush to go on the ride with him, but he’s thwarted by Mr. Needles, the school disciplinary officer who has it in for poor Desmond, and bully Scott Seltzer. When he finds out that the Mountain Full of Monsters is scheduled for demolition, he’s determined to save it – in his own way, naturally – and discovers that kids will actually pay him to scare their friends, brothers, and sisters! Can Desmond stay one step ahead of Mr. Needles and make his dreams come true again?

If you enjoyed the first Desmond Pucket book, you’ll be very happy with Desmond Pucket and the Mountain Full of Monsters. The sequel picks up shortly after the first book ends, and the main characters are all in place, waiting to be rejoined by the reader. The reading is fast-paced and funny, told by Desmond via his journal. The book is filled with “Desmond’s” scribbles and illustrations, and there are more tricks and recipes this time. Desmond is a likable character, and you really want him to succeed. He’s entrepreneurial this time out, which should get kids thinking about making their own money doing what they love. It sends a great message!

The Desmond Pucket site offers teacher and librarian resources, which link the books to the Common Core. Currently, there are guides only for Desmond Pucket Makes Monster Magic, but I hope, with the release of Desmond Pucket and the Mountain Full of Monsters in August, that these resources will be updated to include the new book. There are also resources for using graphic novels in the classroom.

These are great books to have available to middle grade readers, particularly boys, who love the Wimpy Kid books.