Posted in Graphic Novels, Middle School, Teen, Tween Reads

Music linking generations: Lucy in the Sky

Lucy in the Sky, by Kiara Brinkman and Sean Chiki, (July 2021, First Second), $14.99, ISBN: 9781626727205

Ages 10 to 14
A girl connects to her father through music and forms a band, inspired by The Beatles. Lucy is a seventh grader who’s having a rough time: she feels like her single dad isn’t enjoying his life enough; her globe-hopping photographer mom isn’t around, and her grandmother is undergoing chemotherapy. Things change when she discovers a box of her dad’s old albums, particularly his Beatles records. They open up a new world to her, a world she can escape to when the real world is too much. Inspired to create music, she and her friends form Strawberry Jam, but – just like The Beatles – the collaborations aren’t always smooth. Relationships are hard, as beautifully communicated here. Lucy is conflicted about her relationships with her friends, and her place within her friend group. She has mixed feelings about her mother, and her anger and grief over her grandmother’s battle with cancer informs most of the story. There’s music history, great character development, and a heroine you want to root for here, making this a great graphic novel to give to tweens and early teens, who will relate to the frustrating, sometimes frightening, changes that come with the territory.
Posted in Preschool Reads, Toddler Reads

Books for giving thanks

Thanksgiving is next week, but this is the time of year when, no matter what you celebrate – or don’t – it’s a time to reflect and be thankful. This year has given us a lot to think about, and while we’ve definitely had our share of challenges, we can always find things to be thankful and appreciative for. Here are a couple of books that do just that.

Peppa Pig and the Day of Giving Thanks, (Sept. 2020, Candlewick Entertainment), $12.99, ISBN: 9781536216608

Ages 2-6

Peppa is aces in my library. The kids adore her, and my books fly off the shelves, so I doubly miss reading them this book this year. In this latest Peppa story, Peppa, her younger brother George, and mother and father are taking a nature walk on a fall day, and are so happy with the beautiful day that they find themselves thankful for everything they see: the clouds, the sky, the apples in the trees, even the rain that pours down on them, because it leaves them a happy surprise. Never mentioning a holiday, this is lovely reading all year ’round, but especially kind and gentle for this time of year; it reminds us all to be thankful for the little moments around us that often get taken for granted. The digital illustrations are identical to the TV show, so kids will recognize this one right away. The inside cover is a coloring sheet, so librarians, do yourselves a favor and have coloring sheets available at checkout. This pack from Nickelodeon was always popular for me.

 

What I Like Most, by Mary Murphy/Illustrated by Zhu Cheng-Liang, (April 2020, Candlewick Press), $16.99, ISBN: 9781536209402

Ages 3-6

A young girl talks about all the things she likes most: her window, where she can see the world; new people moving in and moving out; her grandmother’s apricot jam, her favorite shoes. Kids will see themselves and adults will see their kids in the constant idea of “this is my very favorite thing… except for this!”, but read further and see the girl’s wisdom in honoring change: she loves her window, acknowledging that “my window won’t change, but the things outside will”; “when our jar is nearly empty, I only put a tiny bit on my toast to make the jam last”; “one day the shoes will wear out, or my feet will grow too big for them”. She loves in the moment and understands that the moments change; she’s grateful for them all, regardless. And what she loves most in the world will never change: her love for her mother. Mary Murphy creates wonderful worlds when she writes, and this one just shines. Zhu Cheng-Liang’s watercolor and ink artwork is gentle, soft, with shifting permanence from spread to spread. Endpapers show three birds sitting in a tree with pink flowers in the front, and an empty tree, now red and gold, with falling leaves in the back. A beautiful tribute to autumn and celebrating change.

Posted in Uncategorized

Two picture books about summer… and life

Waiting for Chicken Smith, by David Mackintosh, (May 2019, Candlewick Press), $16.99, ISBN: 9781536207712

Ages 4-8

A young boy waits for his friend to show up at the family’s summer rental in this story about summer, relationships, and change. The boy, a child of color, narrates the story as he waits for Chicken Smith to show up. The boy talks about Chicken Smith, his dog, Jelly, and the fun summers the two friends have had in the past as he waits, holding a “crazy shell from the gas-station shop” as a gift. Where the heck is his friend? Readers know; in the beautifully detailed pages, we see an empty cabin with a “Summer Rental” sign. The boy’s sister finally manages to get his attention, and the two glimpse a whale: something he and Chicken Smith have never been able to catch together, not even with binoculars. The boy and his sister head back to the cabin and enjoy their evening together, and he wonders if he’ll see Chicken Smith next year.

Originally published in the U.K., Chicken Smith is a story about change and summer friendships. Readers feel the boy’s longing as he waits for his friend; it’s in his voice as he recalls summers past, the cool shell he found for him, and the fact that he’s so focused on waiting for Chicken Smith that he ignores just about everything going on around him. His sister is finally able to get through to him through sheer persistence, and that’s when the Chicken Smith spell is broken: there’s a whale to watch. The story is almost achingly sad at points; when the boy askis, “What is taking Chicken Smith so long, anyway? We’re missing out on everything”, we just know he won’t be there this year – and sure enough, the next page shows an empty cabin, and the boy describes the windows being shut and seeing a cobweb with a fly in it. David Mackintosh pulls readers and the narrator back from the brink by giving us a new relationship to discover: the relationship between the boy and his sister, brought together by the whale. The two go back to their cabin and look at his whale book, then make plans to go on a shell hunt. The boy ends on an optimistic tone, hoping he’ll see Chicken Smith next year, but deciding to enjoy his sister’s company for this year. The pen, pencil, ink, watercolor, and kraft paper artwork come together to create a child’s scrapbook-like feel for summer memories.

Waiting for Chicken Smith has a starred review from Kirkus.

 

Sea Glass Summer, by Michelle Houts/Illustrated by Bagram Ibatoulline, (May 2019, Candlewick Press), $16.99, ISBN: 9780763684433

Ages 5-8

A boy named Thomas explores the beach by his grandmother’s seaside cottage. Using his grandfather’s magnifying glass, he discovers the complex beauty in nature: grains of sand look as big as rocks, and clamshells have swirls of color. But the discovery of sea glass is what really fascinates Thomas. Learning how sea glass is made – a piece of glass, dropped into the sea, becomes worn smooth and cloudy over time – and that his grandfather said that “every piece of sea glass has a story all its own” fuels his imagination; he finds himself dreaming of ship christenings and ships caught in storms; stories that could give rise to the found glass on the beach. When he and his grandmother head back to the mainland, the magnifying glass shatters, and he tosses the glass into the sea. Years later, a girl named Annie discovers sea glass on the beach, and brings her discovery to her grandfather, an older man she calls Papaw Tom.

Sea Glass Summer is a moving inter-generational story that beautifully recreates the feel of summer: warm, lazy days on the beach; the smell of the sea air, the grains of sand, rough against your fingertips, the smooth sea glass in the palm of your hand. In between these cozy summer memories, there’s a story that reaches across decades, linking a grandfather and his granddaughter, in a story that stirs the imagination and tugs at the heartstrings. An author’s note notes that sea glass was more common in the days before recycling awareness.

I loved Sea Glass Summer. This one is a summer classic.

Sea Glass Summer has a starred review from Kirkus.

Posted in Fiction, Historical Fiction, Uncategorized

Take a trip through the decades with My Hometown

myhometownMy Hometown, by Russell Griesmer/Illus. by Priscilla Wong (Oct. 2015, Capstone), $15.95, ISBN: 9781623701741

Recommended for ages 4-8

“Every town has a story…”

A magical newspaper floats through a town ready to celebrate its 150th anniversary, transporting a young boy through the history of the town. We see the evolution of a small American town; from horses and carriages, to buggies, to big-finned cars, to SUVs and minivans. As we move through the decades, we see history unfold: the townsfolk prepare a scrap metal drive for the war effort and a welcome home party for the troops; get a glimpse at the women’s lib movement, a possible recession, and a comeback. It’s a slice of Main Street, USA Americana in a wordless text that lets the illustrations speak volumes.

The art is amazing. We go from a grainy sepia tone, with a grainy feel like an old photo or newspaper clipping, through to a cleaner black and white to highlight the town’s first few decades. During the World War II years, we get a little grittier, like an old photo that’s seen some use. The boy, an outside observer, is always in full color, reminding us that he, like us, is there to observe and learn. As we move from the 1960s into the 1970s, the color goes to a wonderful tinted color, like an old Kodakchrome photo that will make a lot of parents smile and look for their old photo albums. We see some futuristic cars as the town moves into the 1980s, but it also reminds us that there were some hard times, with empty storefronts and the Town Hall holding a benefit breakfast for a repair fund. The architecture evolves with the decades, as do the businesses along Main Street.

We come back to the present, and the newspaper moves on – what will the next child discover?

This is a great book to prompt discussion, whether it’s with grandparents, parents, or an educator, about history and change. It’s a great opportunity to talk to kids about our childhoods, and compare the differences in our formative years. The wordless text allows kids to tell the story and expand beyond the printed page. Who are some of those people? What are those businesses selling? What happened to the businesses that left, and who took their places? What would you do if you went back in time?

My Hometown will be in stores in October, and will definitely find a place on my library shelves.

Posted in Fantasy, Fiction, Middle Grade, Tween Reads

Woundabout debates the pros and cons of change

woundaboutWoundabout, by Lev Rosen/Illus. by Ellis Rosen (June 2015, Little, Brown), $17, ISBN: 978-0-316-37078-3

Recommended for ages 9-13
When their dads are killed during a bomb explosion at their capybara training camp, siblings Connor and Cordelia are sent to live with their Aunt Marigold and her driver, Gray, in the odd town of Woundabout. There are no kids in Woundabout – they all go to boarding school. They’re told that asking questions is frowned upon, there’s no Internet service, and they’re told to develop and stick to a daily routine. They meet a boy from a neighboring town and together, they start unraveling – or unwinding – some of the secrets kept by the Mayor of Woundabout.
This is a good read for so many reasons. It addresses grief and loss sensitively and with a touch of humor. Every one of the main characters is dealing with a loss of some sort, which propels not only the narrative, but the town of Woundabout itself. Sickness, injury, death, relationships: all of these areas are explored in terms of loss and moving on, and the book can lead to a great discussion about the pros and cons of change in our lives. There are no absolutes, and that’s the message here: there shouldn’t be. For good or bad, change happens and we have to move along with it.
I love that Connor and Cordelia’s parentage is so sweetly addressed. They’re the kids’ parents. That’s it. The illustrations and text show readers that there is “Dad” and “Pop”, and that they adored their children as much as they adored each other. Its very ubiquity makes it stand out as an important facet of the story.
Ellis Rosen’s black and white illustrations add a fun, quirky feel to this unconventional adventure, giving a slightly moody, unbalanced feel to the town of Woundabout.
Woundabout is fun fantasy with some very realistic fiction issues. It’s a great Summer Reading pick. It’s on sale on June 23, so make sure to get your orders in now!