Posted in Fiction, Middle Grade, Realistic Fiction, Tween Reads

The Startup Squad: Middle grade entrepreneurs!

The Startup Squad: Face the Music (The Startup Squad #2), by Brian Weisfeld & Nicole C. Kear, (May 2020, Macmillan), $7.99, ISBN: 9781250180469

Ages 8-12

The second book in the new Startup Squad series has our group of entrepreneurial friends working to promote a band. The series is all about the adventures of four friends – Harriet, Resa, Amelia, and Didi – who take matters into their own hands, learning how to earn money by creating their own businesses! In the first Startup Squad adventure, the girls worked to get a lemonade stand business up and running for a class assignment and grand prize. Here, Harriet’s brothers are in a band called the Radical Skinks; they’re kind of on hiatus because Harriet accidentally broker her brother’s guitar. A Battle of the Bands is on the horizon, where the winner would get a spot on the huge talent show hit, American Supahstars! The Startup Squad jumps into action with a plan to sell t-shirts, raising enough money to get a new guitar for Harriet’s brother, Larry, in time for the show… but Harriet tends to be a little overenthusiastic, and doesn’t think things quite through, which cause a lot of tangles for the girls: and the band. Can the Startup Squad get it together in time to help the Skinks get back on their feet?

This is a fun, comprehensive series that embraces entrepreneurship and shows kids that everyone can start a business with the right information and drive. The multicultural group of girls each has different strengths and skills, and get some solid information and encouragement from friends and family members on the way. They make believable mistakes to illustrate the pitfalls of going into a business without a fully sketched out plan, and how to correct those mistakes the next time. Back matter includes a section on what principles the girls learned in this adventure, a breakdown of the terms and how to put them to use, with tips and emphasis on customer service, negotiating, and revenue vs. profit; there’s also a profile on a real-life tween entrepreneur. Brian Weisfeld is the founder of The Startup Squad; he was inspired after being disappointed in the lack of entrepreneurial books available for girls. Author Nicole Kear is also the author of The Fix-It Friends series, where a group of friend solve problems together.

The Startup Squad website has a wealth of information for young entrepreneurs, including free, downloadable parent and teacher guides; activity kits; business tips, and book recommendations. Add these to your collections and booktalk/display with books like The Babysitter’s Club (the original chapter book series and the newer graphic novels) and Jessie Janowitz’s novels The Doughnut Fix and The Doughnut King. The Startup Squad and The Fix-It Friends are great for those readers that are moving out of intermediate chapter books and moving toward longer fiction.


Posted in Middle Grade, Non-fiction, Tween Reads

Middle grade entrepreneurial books kids will want to read: From an Idea to…

I had a bit of business book success a few years ago when I put Notch’s – the creator of Minecraft – bio on the shelves at my first library, but books about successful businesses aren’t always easy to come by for a middle grade audience. This new series from Case Marketing founder Lowey Bundy Sichol tries to fill some of that gap, taking brands that are uber-popular with tweens and breaking down the companies’ histories, successes, and setbacks.

From an Idea to Disney: How Imagination Built a World of Magic, by Lowey Bundy Sichol/Illustrated by C.S. Jennings, (Feb. 2019, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt), $15.99, ISBN: 978-1-328-45361-7

Ages 10-12

From an Idea to Disney is part bio on Walt Disney, part bio on his empire, from Mickey Mouse and Steamboat Willie to Disneyland, Disney World, and all of Disney’s acquisitions. The chapters are quick, explain business practices in plain language and include callout boxes with definitions for specific business terms. Disney’s story focuses on the development of the family-friendly, inclusive brand, Walt Disney’s desire to create full experiences for families at his parks, and how the Disney family pushed back at what they perceived an over-merchandising of the brand in the 1990s, bringing about a management change that brought Disney back to Walt’s original vision.

Inspirational quotes from Walt himself run throughout the book, and black and white line drawings add visual interest. A Walt Disney Company timeline, bibliography, and source notes round out the volume.


From an Idea to NIKE: How Marketing Made Nike a Global Success, by Lowey Bundy Sichol/Illustrated by C.S. Jennings, (Feb. 2019, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt), $15.99, ISBN: 978-1-328-53062-2

Ages 10-12

Global athletic shoe giant NIKE began as high school athelete Phil Knight’s grad school project for an entrepreneurship class. Despite pushback from his critical father, he made a go of it, bringing his high school track coach, Bill Bowerman, into the fold. Bowerman would go on to create the “waffle iron soled” sneaker that would grip surfaces better – and ruined his wife’s waffle iron in the process. From an Idea to NIKE concentrates on the value of marketing in NIKE’s success, from athletic endorsements, to the Just Do It campaign, to running different sales channels, including NIKETown stores and the ability to order customized shoes online. The book mentions NIKE’s struggle to survive shortly after going public, when Reebok rose to popularity in the early ’80s; their quest to gain footing in Europe and the soccer market, and dealing with endorsed athlete scandal.

As with From an Idea to Disney, From an Idea to NIKE is loaded with fun facts, business term callouts, quotes from Phil Knight, and black and white line drawings. There’s a NIKE timeline, a list of the brand’s top endorsement deals, a bibliography, and source notes.

If you have nonfiction readers that have an interest in how business or brands work, stick a toe into the water and put a few of these into your collection. They’re quick reads and offer a beginning look into the business world. Focusing on entrepreneurs can be inspirational for readers – consider a book club or program where kids can come up with their own entrepreneurial idea? Have books like Jessie Janowitz’s The Doughnut Fix and Jacqueline Davies’s The Lemonade War handy. Other titles in the series include From an Idea to Lego and From an Idea to Google.



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

Box Brown gives us the real story of Tetris, the most addictive game EVER

tetris_1Tetris: The Games People Play, by Box Brown (October 2016, First Second), $19.99, ISBN: 9781626723153

Recommended for ages 12+

If you spent the better part of the early ’90s glued to your keyboard/gaming console/handheld, immersed in the video game Tetris, you’re not alone. I have logged many hours in front of my NES, rotating those little blocks to achieve the perfect fit. Box Brown’s graphic novel tells the story behind Tetris: the men who created it, and the game developers that almost went to war over bringing it to the masses.

We meet Alexey Pajitnov and his colleague, Vlad Pokhilko, computer scientists at the Moscow Academy of Science. In 1984, Alexey created Tetris in his spare time; it began life as freeware, being passed from friend to friend, coworker to coworker. This game was a phenomenon waiting to happen: it was addicting from the start; people were mesmerized. One story in the book illustrates a manager providing copies to his workplace colleagues, only to take the discs back and destroy them when office productivity declined.

We see the struggle between game developers and the tangled weave of rights for the game: Nintendo, Atari, and Sega all wanted it, and rights 0wnership was downright sketchy, with miscommunication and under the table deals leading to lawsuits. The story reads like an international thriller in parts, with all the trips to Moscow, international dealings, and theft and intrigue.

The story unfolds in two-color art, with game screen renderings and simple character drawings keeping readers focused on the story and the complexity of the game itself. In the story of Tetris, Box Brown also gives us the story of gaming: the pursuit of fun, and the role of gaming in art, culture, commerce, and intellect. From Lascaux cave paintings, which depict games, to artifacts of gaming pieces rendered in bone, to Senet, an Ancient Egyptian board game, to dice games, and finally, to smartphone gaming (where Tetris still lives on), the pursuit of fun, the joy of gaming, is part of human history.

This will go over well with gamers and history fans, graphic novel fans and anyone interested in business. There’s some good advice for businesses in the story of Tetris, especially for anyone interested in international licenses. Box Brown’s graphic novel is multilayered and well-rounded, with an abundance of information presented in an interesting and easy to digest format.

Box Brown is a New York Times–bestselling author. He wrote the best-selling graphic biography, Andre the Giant: Life and Legend. Take a look at some more of Tetris here, and head over to Box Brown’s author webpage and see more of his illustration work.

tetris_2 tetris_3 tetris_4


And now, you can’t get the Tetris music out of your head, either. You’re welcome.