Posted in History, Middle Grade, Non-Fiction, Non-fiction, Tween Reads, Women's History

Celebrate Latinitas!

Latinitas: Celebrating 40 Big Dreamers, by Juliet Menéndez, (Feb. 2021, Henry Holt), $18.99, ISBN: 9781250234629

Ages 8-12

This collection of biographies shines a light on 40 Latinx women from Latin America and the U.S. who have made outstanding contributions across the board: activists and advocates, educators, musicians, scientists, artists, politicians, and so many more. Some names will be familiar: Pura Belpré, Frida Kahlo, and Sonia Sotomayor are all here, as are names that will be new to many readers, like Rosa Peña de González, who built schools for girls in Paraguay; playwright and congresswoman Gumercinda Páez, who helped draft Panama’s new constitution in 1941, with an eye to Afro-Latinx rights and women’s rights; and Wanda Díaz-Merced, a blind astrophysicist who turned data points into rhythm and sound in order to create a “symphony of sounds for the stars, planets, and asteroids”. The women are outstanding, and this collection of stories should be the tip of the iceberg for more research. Hand-painted illustrations have beautiful folk art feel. Endpapers feature additional artwork with flowers representing each of the countries represented in the book. An inspiring collection with comprehensive back matter that includes brief looks at an additional 10 Latin women and full sources.

Latinitas has a starred review from Kirkus. Get a free activity kit and read a Q&A with author-illustrator Juliet Menéndez. Visit Juliet Menéndez’s author website to see more of her gorgeous artwork and more information about her books.

Posted in Preschool Reads, Toddler Reads

Board books introduce MLK Jr and Rosa Parks to young readers

The Story of Martin Luther King Jr., by Johnny Ray Moore,
(Jan. 2021, Worthy Kids), $7.99, ISBN: 9781546034421
Ages 0-3

Simple text and artwork bring this biography of Martin Luther King Jr. to life for the youngest learners while addressing issues of inequity and racism that laid the groundwork for his activism – and that some adults may recognize today. The story tells readers, in brief, easy-to-understand sentences and companion illustrations, how Dr. King grew up, became a minister, and was motivated by all he saw and endured to work toward equality and ending segregation in America.

The Story of Rosa Parks, by Patricia A. Pingry/Illustrated by Steven Walker,
(Jan. 2021, Worthy Kids), $7.99, ISBN: 9781546034438
Ages 0-3
The Story of Rosa Parks introduces young learners to the civil rights icon’s childhood, leading to the moment that she made her historic stand on a bus in Montgomery, Alabama. The book shines a light on how that act, and the events that followed were a defining moment in the civil rights moment. Display and booktalk with books like A is for Activist, Antiracist Baby, and books featured on both the Social Justice Books and Act for Social Justice websites.
Posted in Fiction, Graphic Novels, Middle Grade, Non-fiction, Teen, Tween Reads, Young Adult/New Adult

Graphic Novels check-in: CYBILS and some new books!

The TBR catch-up continues. Wow, did I overextend myself over the quarantine, but who can blame me? The books have been AMAZING. I know I’ve been light on the middle grade novels, but I promise you, they are coming, too. For now, here are a couple of CYBILS nominees, and some new books for you to investigate.

 

Black Heroes of the Wild West: Featuring Stagecoach Mary, Bass Reeves, and Bob Lemmons : A TOON Graphic Novel, by James Otis Smith/Introduction by Kadir Nelson, (Sept. 2020, TOON Graphics), $16.95, ISBN: 9781943145515
Ages 8-12
This is a MUST buy for your nonfiction and graphic novel shelves. The New York Times calls Black Heroes of the Wild West “Comics That Dismantle the Cowboy Myth”, and I couldn’t put it any better. Three profiles: Stagecoach Mary Fields, a woman who ran her own business, was a stagecoach driver, and played cards and chomped cigars with the best of the boys; Deputy US Marshal Bass Reeves, the first black deputy US marshal west of the Mississippi, who was charming and caught the bad guys with style; and Bob Lemmon, a Texas horseman who calmed wild mustangs by making them believe he was one of their own. Incredible lives, told in small moments in this book that will whet kids’ (and adults!) interests with stories of life in the Wild West. I loved the stories, the artwork, and the incredible history lesson that unfolds in the back matter. It’s time to recognize the diversity of the Old West, and it’s time to celebrate the Black Lives that helped build the U.S. TOON has free, downloadable lesson plans, videos, and teachers guides for Black Heroes of the Wild West, and the book received a starred review from Booklist. One can only hope there’s a second volume in the works. Black Heroes is a CYBILS graphic novels nominee.
Manga Classics: Anne of Green Gables, by L.M Montgomery/Adapted by Crystal Chan/Illustrated by Kuma Chan, (Nov. 2020, Manga Classics), $19.99, ISBN: 9781947808188
Ages 12+
I’ve been happy to have Manga Classics available for my tweens and teens who struggle with reading the classics, but devour manga. This latest one gave me the chance to sit down again with Anne of Green Gables, the classic story of the orphan reluctantly adopted by older siblings Marilla and Matthew Cuthbert, taking place on Canada’s Prince Edward Island. The artwork will immediately draw in manga readers, and the story is faithfully adapted here. Anne’s melodrama is wonderfully translated from words to pictures, and Marilla’s ice queen exterior is softened considerably by the artwork, which shows the struggle to keep herself at a distance as this quirky red-headed girl wins her heart. Manga Classics has been doing justice by my library kids for a few years now; I’ll make sure to keep this one handy, too. If you have readers who are interested in diving deeper, display and booktalk author LM Montgomery’s illustrated biography, House of Dreams; Anne’s life is heavily influenced by the author and will make for a wonderful author study for middle and high school students. Anne of Green Gables is a CYBILS graphic novels nominee.
Last Pick: Rise Up, by Jason Walz, (Oct. 2020, First Second), $17.99, ISBN: 9781626728950
Ages 12+
The third book in the Last Pick series is finally here! Last Pick is a sci fi trilogy where Earth has been taken over by a cruel alien race; they’ve taken countless humans as slave labor across the universe, but the disabled; the elderly; the too young are left behind. These “last picked” have banded together to fight the alien menace, and Wyatt – a teen boy with autism – is at the head of the revolution. His sister, Sam, has been sent off into the stars, but she’s been fomenting revolution, too, with her new girlfriend, Mia; an underground freedom radio broadcaster. In this final chapter of the trilogy, everything that’s been put into motion over the last two books is coming together, and the aliens won’t know what hit them. The artwork ad action explode off the page while the very human story of resistance, family, and burgeoning romance keep the reader turning pages. This is one of the best sci-fi series in recent years, with intense, smart portrayals of characters who are left behind and how take charge to save a planet. I recently took part in a graphic novels panel, Librarians Love Comics!, and one of my colleagues mentioned how much he liked this series, so don’t just take my word for it. Last Pick is librarian-approved.
The Challenger Disaster: Tragedy in the Skies (History Comics), by Pranas T. Naujokaitis, (Oct. 2020, First Second), $19.99, ISBN: 9781250174291
Ages 8-12
It’s the year 2386, and the students on Space Station Sagan are celebrating Challenger Day. The students begin their presentations, and through the magic of AI and holograms, meet the seven members of the 1986 Space Shuttle Challenger crew, hear about their selection and training for the Challenger mission, and what went so horribly wrong that day in January 1986. Written as nonfiction within a fictional setting, The Challenger Disaster creates fun, engaging characters and lets them interact with actual people from US history to deliver a narrative that is great for history and STEM readers, and graphic novel readers alike. Each member of the 1986 Challenger crew is developed and invites readers to meet the people behind the legend, behind the headlines. Back matter includes an afterword from the author about growing up in a post-Challenger world and additional Challenger facts. The artwork introduces a fun science fiction feel while solidly addressing the nonfiction portion of the book. Sketches and diagrams throughout will help readers gain an understanding of the many moving parts it takes for a space shuttle to come together, and the discussion on the story behind the disaster is sobering and, quite frankly, chilling. It’s a mistake that should never have been made, and it brings home the risk of stepping outside our front doors.
Fangirl: The Manga (Volume 1), by Rainbow Rowell/Adapted by Sam Maggs, Illustrated by Gabi Nam (Oct. 2020, Viz Media). $16.99, ISBN: 9781974715879
Ages 12+
The manga adaptation of one of Rainbow Rowell’s most beloved novels is here, and written by a force in fandom, no less. Sam Maggs has written comic book storylines for Star Wars, Star Trek, Captain Marvel, and more; she’s written Geek Girls Guides to the Galaxy and the Universe; she’s even written an original middle grade novel, Con Quest, which takes place at a thinly veiled facsimile of San Diego Comic Con. So of course she’d be the person to adapt a love letter to fan fic, fandom, and finding your own way. Cath and Wren are twin sisters heading to college. Wren is ready to make changes and become her own person, but Cath is more of an introvert, holding onto her fanfiction and her fandom for Simon Snow, a Harry Potter-esque type of story about magic and vampires. As Wren branches out and gains new (and sometimes dubious) experiences, Cath finds herself inching out of her own comfort zone thanks to her roommate and her boyfriendish friend and a classmate who’s a little too stuck on himself but so good-looking. At the same time, Cath worries about their dad, who’s alone for the first time in years, and frustrated with her professor, who doesn’t see fanfiction as a legitmate form of writing. This is only Volume 1, but its so well-adapted that the Rowell fans are going to be howling for more. The subtle shifts from “real” life to Cath’s magnum Simon Snow opus, Carry On, are wonderfully placed throughout the book, and seriously – were two characters ever better suited for a manga interpretation than Simon and Baz? The artwork is perfect; readers will love seeing their favorite characters with life breathed into them. A manga interpretation of Fangirl is going to bring new fans to Rainbow Rowell’s fanbase as the manga readers discover this series – I hope there are plans for a Carry On manga next.
Posted in Uncategorized

Celebrating Ignacio (Nacho) Anaya on National Nacho Day!

Nacho’s Nachos: The Story Behind the World’s Favorite Snack, by Sandra Nickel and Oliver Dominguez, (Aug. 2020, Lee & Low), $18.95, ISBN: 9781620143698

Ages 6-10

Not all heroes wear capes. Ignacio Anaya was born in Northern Mexico in 1895, and raised by a foster mother who made him delicious quesadillas. He grew up and became well-respected in the restaurant industry, handling everything from waiting tables to greeting guests and making sure everyone was well taken care of and happy. When a famous foodie asked him for “something different” one night in 1940, Ignacio – called “Nacho” for short – searched the kitchen until he noticed a bowl of fried corn tortillas. Thinking of his foster mother’s delicious quesadillas, he put his own spin on them, by melting cheddar cheese on them, topping each with a piece of pickled jalapeño pepper, and serving them up as “Nacho’s Special”. And, my friends, a legend was born.

Nacho’s Nachos tells Ignacio’s story, from the beginnings at his foster mother’s table through to his fame as the creator of a dish that appealed to everyone, everywhere, including actors and presidents; even allowing him to open a restaurant of his own. Ignacio’s original recipe is included in the back matter, along with an afterword on his life. There are sources and an author’s note addressing the somewhat tall tales that have arisen about Nacho’s life. Sandra Nickel creates a wonderfully inspirational biography, and Oliver Dominguez’s mixed media artwork is realistic and has gorgeous earth colors alongside colorful nightlife scenes. A fantastic addition to picture book biographies.

Warm up some cheddar cheese, have some nachos, and celebrate the life of Nacho Anaya today! Check out the National Nachos Day website for recipes and the history of the celebration.

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

#HomesCool: Career Day, Playing with Words, Women’s History, and ICK!

More #HomesCool fun as I catch up on my Summer Reading TBR! Here’s what’s good this week:

Incredible Jobs You’ve (Probably) Never Heard Of, by Natalie Labarre, (Apr. 2020, Nosy Crow), $19.99, ISBN: 9781536212198

Ages 9-12

Welcome to Career Day! What do you want to be when you grow up: a librarian? Teacher or doctor? How about… a Train Pusher, or a Pet Preservationist? If the usual Career Day job list is leaving you with a case of the blahs, Incredible Jobs You’ve (Probably) Never Heard Of is the book for you and your kiddos. Oversized and illustrated in full color, this book spotlights jobs that are off the beaten path: sure, kids may have heard of an Egyptologist, but do they know that a Body Farmer uses the bodies of folks who’ve donated their bodies to science to recreate crime scenes or do scientific research? Or that a Chief Sniffer smell-checks anything going on a spacecraft launch? How about creating works of art from cheese, like a Cheese Sculptor? There are so many great jobs in here, kids will never look at Career Day the same way again. Illustrated with upbeat, fun artwork, and bright blue endpapers that give nods to all sorts of careers waiting inside, this is way too much fun, and a brand new take on the question, “So… what do you want to be when you grow up?”.

 

Alphamaniacs: Builders of the 26 Wonders of the Word, by Paul Fleischman/Illustrated by Melissa Sweet, (Apr. 2020, Candlewick Studio), $19.99, ISBN: 9780763690663

Ages 12+

Looking like an artist’s journal, filled with colorful, mixed media illustrations in bold, wild colors, Alphamaniacs is a book for those of us who love words and language. Twenty-six profiles fill this book, but they’re not the kind of wordsmiths you may think of: Simon Vostre, the 15-century publisher of religious books who wrote book curses to protect his works from careless readers and handlers: “Whoever steals this Book of Prayer / May he be ripped apart by swine, / His heart be splintered, this I swear, / And his body dragged along the Rhine”; Corín Tellado, the prolific author whose writing career left us with over 4,000 novels; and Daniel Nussbaum, the creator of “PL8SPK” – vanity license plates that retell the classics – are all here, as are other word artists and lovers. The book is perfect for tweens and teens who love a good word-related joke, and can be used in ELA classes to show how much fun it is to play with language. Any language!

Alphamaniacs has starred reviews from Kirkus and the Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books.

 

Noise Makers: 25 Women Who Raised Their Voices & Changed the World, by Kazoo Magazine, Edited by Erin Bried, (Jan. 2020, Alfred A. Knopf), $25.99, ISBN: 9780525580171

Ages 9-14

This book is AMAZING. It’s a graphic novel look at 25 women who made history, written and drawn by some of the most outstanding names in comics and graphic novels today, including Lucy Knisley, Maris Wicks, and Kat Leyh. Collected by the editors at Kazoo Magazine, every woman profiled here gets star treatment: a biographical spread with a picture, summary paragraph, and bullets points, inviting readers to see what they have in common with these women (talk about inspiring!), and a short graphic novel story from the woman’s life. Eugenie Clark, the “Shark Whisperer” (and Shark Lady, according to Jess Keating), is here; Wangari Maathai, who planted trees in Kenya, is here, too. Junko Tabei, the first woman to reach the peak of Mount Everest; artist Frida Kahlo, and musician and spy Josephine Baker are all here, too. Their stories are beautifully told and in a way that links reader, writer, and subject. Noise Makers organizes profiles under six areas: Grow (women who worked with nature); Tinker (entrepreneurs and inventors); Play (those with more physical accomplishments); Create (artists and creators); Rally (advocates and activists); and Explore (pioneers and explorers). This is essential, joyful, reading. Each contributing artist has a profile in the back matter. Put a copy on your Biography shelves and a copy on your Graphic Novels shelves.

 

 

Ick! Delightfully Disgusting Animal Dinners, Dwellings, and Defenses, by Melissa Stewart, (June 2020, National Geographic Kids), $14.99, ISBN: 9781426337468

Ages 7-13

You have got to love NatGeo Kids for having their finger on the pulse of what kids like. Ick! celebrates the grossest stuff in the animal world: caterpillars that camouflage themselves to look like dung, birds who build their nests with spit, a wasp who builds her nest inside her prey; it’s all here, with full-color photos that will make readers squeal with macabre delight. Organized into sections on Disgusting Dinners, Disgusting Dwellings, and Disgusting Defenses, readers learn all about the ways animals live, eat, and protect themselves. Callout facts and stats feature throughout the book, as do “Extra Ick!” sections with even grosser facts! Birds, bugs, mammals, fish, lizards, every type of animal can be found here: 45 of them, to be precise. A glossary, selected sources, and index round out the back matter.

Pair this with NatGeo Kids’ and Anna Claybourne’s Don’t Read This Book Before Dinner for an all-out squeal fest. And check out the Ick! section of author Melissa Stewart’s webpage, which includes a great interactive teaching presentation!

 

Posted in picture books

Are you Fast Enough to keep up with Bessie Stringfield?

Fast Enough: Bessie Stringfield’s First Ride, by Joel Christian Gill, (Feb. 2019, Lion Forge), $17.99, ISBN: 978-1-5493-0314-2

Ages 5-9

Young Bessie just wants to ride her bike with the kids after school, but they’re awful to her. They tell her she’s not good enough, not fast enough, not pretty enough, not tough enough. Determined not to listen to them, she asks her mother for advice and is told to “ask the Man upstairs”; she does, and she has a dream where she rides all over the world: she rides over water, between buildings, and even up into the sky. Bessie wakes up with a new determination, and starts riding that bike. Mistress of her own destiny, she beats the boys who scoffed at her, and goes on to become Bessie Stringfield, groundbreaking pioneer motorcyclist and traveler.

Bessie’s story is told here by Joel Christian Gill, award-winning graphic novelist and historian behind Strange Fruit, Books One and Two. Mr. Gill creates an inspiring story with a young child of color at the forefront. Bessie Stringfield was othered from a young age, and used that to fuel her resolve. In the book’s back matter, we learn that Bessie traveled the United States using Victor Hugo Green’s “Green Book”: The Negro Motorist Green Book, further illustrating Bessie Stringfield’s determination to succeed in the face of those who would other her. Joel Christian Gill’s artwork is filled with deep, vibrant color and is a joy to read. Endpapers show Bessie happily riding her bike as depicted in her dreams: throughout the world and beyond. The book is playful, with a spine of steel delivering its message. Read this often.

Fast Enough: Bessie Stringfield’s First Ride has a starred review from Kirkus.

Posted in Early Reader, Intermediate, Non-Fiction, Non-Fiction

NatGeo Readers shine a spotlight on Women’s History

March is Women’s History Month – do you have your displays up? I feel like I’m a hundred years behind, but thankfully, my saving grace is that I merchandise as I go, so I’ll pull a few books out as I wander my room, make sure they’re face-out, and pique the kids’ interest as they wander the stacks. Teachers Pay Teachers has me covered again, thank goodness, as does Education.com. I’ve got printables galore thanks to these two sites; everything from trading cards to coloring sheets, for which I’m hugely grateful.

Biographies are always good to have on hand, especially when those research projects come up. NatGeo Kids’s leveled Easy Reader series is a big help for collections geared toward younger readers.

Susan B. Anthony, by Kitson Jazynka, (Dec. 2019, National Geographic Kids), $4.99, ISBN: 9781426335082

Ages 5-7

The Level 1 Co-Readers also provide a nice bonding opportunity, with a “You Read/I Read” format that lets a grownup read a page with denser text, but with fact boxes and color photos and illustrations that allow for discussion. The “I Read” page has bigger, bolder text, simpler vocabulary, and repeated new vocabulary words that let a new reader try out words they’ve just read with their grownup.

Susan B. Anthony’s biography introduces readers to the feminist pioneer, with information about her upbringing, her background as a teacher, her friendships with Frederick Douglass and work with Elizabeth Cady Stanton, with whom she traveled, speaking about women’s suffrage. Five “Your Turn!” sections present discussion questions and invite readers to come up with their own viewpoints on causes they believe in, differences between school in Susan B. Anthony’s time versus the present, and how to hold an election (voting on artwork, they start the kids off gently!). Loaded with photos from primary sources and helpful, quick call-out fact boxes, this is a nice introduction to women’s history for readers becoming more comfortable with informative text. There’s a Susan B. Anthony coloring page available for free on Education.com, which will make a nice addition to a reading.

 

Harriet Tubman, by Barbara Kramer, (Dec. 2019, National Geographic Kids), $4.99, ISBN: 9781426337215

Ages 6-8

Level 2 readers are the next Easy Reader step, good for kids ready to work on greater informational text, with more vocabulary. There are fact boxes, “Words to Know” boxes that define new vocabulary words, and a timeline of the subject’s life; in this case, abolitionist, spy, and activist Harriet Tubman.

Harriet Tubman’s biography begins with her childhood as a slave named Araminta; her escape via the Underground Railroad and continued work in leading slaves to freedom along the Railroad, her work as a Northern spy during the Civil War, and her postwar life and work with the African American elderly. Spaced between the denser text about Harriet Tubman’s life are spreads with chunked facts like, “In Her Time”, where readers can learn facts about life as a slave in 1820s America, “6 Cool Facts About Harriet Tubman”, and a quiz. Readers can discover Ms. Tubman’s own words with “In Her Own Words” quote boxes throughout the text. There are incredible photos of Harriet Tubman and primary sources (newspapers, Tubman’s hymnal), maps, and artwork.

Great for newly confident independent readers, perfect for a circle time or history readaloud, this Harriet Tubman biography is a brilliant, compact introduction for readers to an iconic figure in history. Education.com has a free, downloadable Harriet Tubman coloring sheet to have handy, too.

 

Breaking Through: How Female Athletes Shattered Stereotypes in the Roaring Twenties, by Sue Macy, (Feb. 2020, National Geographic Kids), $18.99, ISBN: 9781426336768

Ages 8-12

Welcome to the Roaring Twenties! A hundred years ago, things were very, very different: we didn’t have Title IX protecting girls’ and women’s rights to compete in school sports, for starters, but women found ways to get it done. Breaking Through travels through the original Roaring Twenties, a decade where women, having just secured the right to vote, are ready to take on more. But women in athletics? Perish the thought! Each chapter takes on a different year in the 1920s and profiles the women who fought their way into the athletic arena and the critics who opposed them. There are reprints from news stories, black and white photos and full-color artwork, and historical events that place readers fully in the context of each year. While Bessie Coleman, the first African-American woman to earn a pilot’s license, was making headlines in 1922, for instance, the National Women’s Party began their campaign for an Equal Rights Amendment (and we’re still waiting, folks); archaeologist Howard Carter discovered King Tutankhamun’s tomb, and the Charleston was the dance rage. Each year profiles a Trailblazer whose dedication to the sport opened the door for generations to come. An epilogue looks at where women in sports are now, from Wilma Rudolph to Billie Jean King to Megan Rapinoe. A timeline, Defining Moments in Women’s Sports, looks at 15 major highs and lows of women’s athletics. Resources are available for further research. Breaking Through is a needed history of women’s athletics, perfect for middle graders.

Posted in picture books

A tall tale about Mother Goose from Chris Raschka

Mother Goose of Pudding Lane (A Small Tall Tale), by Chris Raschka/Illustrations by Vladimir Radunsky, (Sept. 2019, Candlewick), $17.99, ISBN: 9780763675233

Ages 4-8

We’ve all grown up with Mother Goose: usually the British vision of a goose wearing a tall black hat, glasses down on her beak, and a shawl; sometimes, it’s a kindly old woman. But was there a real Mother Goose? Caldeott Medalist Chris Raschka and illustrator Vladimar Radunsky introduce the “real” Mother Goose: Elizabeth Foster, who, in 1692, married Isaac Goose – a widower with 10 children – in Boston and became Mother Goose. She sang songs and made up rhymes for her children (she and Isaac Goose went on to have four more children), which were published at a print shop on Pudding Lane in Boston. Although no copies of the original Mother Goose compilation exist today, we’ve all grown up with adaptations and additions to the legend. Here, Chris Raschka and Vladimir Radunksy recreate some of Mother Goose’s best-known, most beloved pieces while creating new poems and illustrations that recreate the life of Elizabeth Foster Goose, the Mother Goose of Pudding Lane.

Vladimir Radunsky’s playful, colorful gouache and pencil illustrations infuse the story with a sense of fun and joy: animals and people in colonial dress act out some of Mother Goose’s best-known rhymes, like “There Was an Old Woman Who Lived in a Shoe”, “Old King Cole”, and “Baa Baa Black Sheep”. The story of Elizabeth and Isaac Goose is told in rhyme throughout, from their courtship to their old age. Endpapers include sketch art of a young Mother Goose in front, and an alphabet rhyme reprint in back.

A sweetly done fictional biography of a beloved figure in children’s literature.

Mother Goose of Pudding Lane has starred reviews from Publisher’s Weekly and Booklist.

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

Learn about these Awesome Achievers in Technology!

Awesome Achievers in Technology, by Alan Katz/Illustrated by Chris Judge, (Aug. 2019, Running Press), $11.99, ISBN: 9780762463367

Ages 8-12

Kids have heard of the big names in Technology: Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, and, lord knows, Markus Persson (also known as Notch; Minecraft’s creator). But have they heard of Sir Tim Berners-Lee, the particle physicist who invented the World Wide Web as a way to share information with other scientists? Or Marie Van Brittan Brown, the nurse from Queens who devised the first closed circuit TV system, in conjunction with her engineer husband? Awesome Achievers in Technology is a series of short bios on some of the lesser-heralded names in technology. The book is part biography compilation, part wacky facts and silly stories, and a sprinkling of dad jokes. There are 12 profiles and 13 biographies – Adam Cheyer and Dag Kittlaus, the developers who created Siri, are included together – with black and white illustrations throughout. There are fun asides, including a “Get the couch potato back where he belongs” maze, remote control pop quiz, and wacky poems and stories from Katz’s memories.

All in all, a fun addition to biography shelves, and a good way to introduce kids to even more figures in STEM history. Awesome Achievers is going to be an ongoing series, with Awesome Achievers in Science hitting shelves on the same day as Awesome Achievers in Technology.

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

July graphic novels: A Hawking bio and a witchy middle grade noir

Hawking, by Jim Ottaviani/Illustrated by Leland Myrick, (July 2019, First Second), $29.99, ISBN: 9781626720251

Ages 12+

If your science and biography sections don’t have an Ottaviani/Myrick section yet, you may want to get to work on that. This is the second collaboration the two have worked on; the first being Feynman, a graphic biography on physicist and Nobel laureate Richard Feynman.

Hawking is in parts biography and science comic for teens and adults, moving easily back and forth between Stephen Hawking’s life story and explanations of physics, black holes, and the universe at large. The story begins with Hawking’s birth, 300 days to the day after Galileo’s death, wanders through his early adolescence as a teen who speaks “Hawkingese” and appears socially awkward; his marriage to Jane Hawking and his diagnosis with motor neurone disease, also known as ALS; his research and ultimate pop culture fame, and his later years, second marriage, and the degenerative path of his disease. First and foremost, this is a story about science; there are pages devoted to discussions between defining voices, including Newton, Faraday, and Einstein, about cosmology, light, and gravity. Jim Ottaviani captures Hawking’s voice – the graphic novel is narrated by a fictional Hawking – and shows up a glimpse of the man behind the legend. Award-winning illustrator Leland Myrick‘s artwork is unfussy, providing scientific sketches as easily as he captures Stephen Hawking’s wry smirk and his ability to disappear into a cloud of physics, even in a crowded room. The end of Hawking’s story will catch readers right in the feelings – I choked up a bit. An author’s note discusses how graphic novels are a good medium for narrative nonfiction, and I couldn’t agree more. Jim Ottaviani is an New York Times-bestselling author whose graphic biographies also include The Imitation Game (Alan Turing) and Primates (Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey, and Biruté Galdikas), so the man knows how to plot out a graphic biography. There is a nice list of references that will give interested readers even more material to look through.

I love graphic novel bios – they’re a great way to get tweens, teens, and adults interested in reading biographies, and the graphic medium allows for great explanations of topics that may be difficult in solid print (like physics!). If you have readers who have aged up from Science Comics, hand them Hawking. A definite must-add to your (growing!) graphic novel biographies.

 

Grimoire Noir, by Vera Greentea/Illustrated by Yana Bogatch, (July 2019, First Second), $17.99, ISBN: 9781626725980

Ages 12+

This beautifully illustrated graphic novel has a few plots going on at once: set in a town called Blackwell, where all the girls are witches, a teen named Bucky yearns for power of his own – despite the fact that no witch can leave the town. Ever. Bucky’s younger sister, Heidi, is kidnapped, and Bucky joins forces with his estranged friend, a teen girl named Chamomile, to look for her. Within this main story are threads of other plots; the hostility Chamomile’s father, Blackwell’s deputy, has toward Bucky (who also happens to be the sheriff’s son); a coven of Mean Girls/The Craft witches called The Crows, who want to set plans in motion that will set them free to leave Blackwell, and a ghost of the very first witch, a child named Griselda, whose death at the hands of witch hunters set the curse on Blackwell’s daughters into motion.

The storyline has moments where the storyline becomes confusing to follow, but has some touching relationship bits that I’d like to have seen more about. The relationship between Chamomile and her father runs deep, and we only get a surface glimpse, for instance. Will we get more Blackwell stories from Vera Greentea and Yana Bogatch? We can sure hope so; I think there’s a lot more to tell in a town with a history like theirs. Tween and young teens will enjoy this human, paranormal tale with a twist.