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

A gift for every learner!

It’s that time of year, expect the gift guides to be coming at you fast and furious. Let’s see what’s making my lists this year.

Mercury: 100 Piece Puzzle (Featuring Photography from the Archives at NASA), (Aug. 2021, Chronicle Books), $19.99, ISBN: 9781797210346

Ages 6+

Puzzle fans, astronomy fans, science fans, everyone will love the next planetary puzzle from Chronicle Books. Mercury is the newest 100-piece puzzle using photography from the Archives at NASA, a follow-up to April’s Earth puzzle (which my kid and I still haven’t solved). It’s a beautiful photo of Mercury, and it is huge: 2 1/2 feet in diameter, so clear off a table for Thanksgiving/holiday gatherings and let the family and friends have at it. Puzzle pieces are sturdy, and they’re a good size, inviting little hands to help out, too. It’s a round puzzle, so you can somewhat figure out the outside of Mercury, but don’t forget: it’s a photo, so have fun trying to figure out which crater is goes where (G, my kiddo, and I are still arguing over them).

 

Tiger, Tiger, Burning Bright! An Animal Poem for Each Day of the Year, selected by Fiona Waters/Illustrated by Britta Teckentrup, (Oct. 2021, Nosy Crow), $40.00, ISBN: 9781536217186

Ages 3-8

This is a beautiful collection of animal poems for readers, poetry fans, and animal lovers. There are 366 poems – one for every day, including Leap Year – organized by month. Each month begins with a table of contents that lays out each poem and author by day. The spreads are beautiful and the poems are related on each spread, giving a feeling of cohesion. January 1-3 have poems about polar bears; 4-5 about whales; the action moves through the days, with spreads turning to sheepdogs on guard, wolves, and more. Britta Teckentrup’s artwork is just beautiful, with cold, quiet winter spreads moving into warm, home interiors; crocodiles lurk on one spread, gazelles leap through grass in another. Colorful, not overwhelming, the artwork brings the ideas in each poem to life. Endpapers offer lush, green leaves, inviting us in, and closing their doors behind us. Read a few a time, or savor them day by day.

 

The Wind in the Willows, by Kenneth Grahame/Illustrated by Grahame Baker-Smith, (Nov. 2021, Templar Books), $19.99, ISBN: 9781536219999

Ages 7-12

The classic children’s novel gets a gift hardcover release just in time for the holidays! If you’ve never read The Wind in the Willows, you’re missing out. The adventures of Mr. Toad, Mole, Ratty, and Badger have been delighting readers since its publication in 1908. This hardcover gift version has illustrations from Kate Greenway Medal winner Grahame Baker-Smith that give gorgeous life to the story; some are sepia-toned, some rendered in shades of blue, green, or brown, some in rich, warm, earth colors. The cloth cover looks like a copy of the book I found on my own public library’s shelves a lifetime ago; just running my hand over the cover brought back memories of sitting down with it and wandering into Mr. Toad’s magic world. Give this to a younger reader, give it to a grownup who needs to go back in time, even if just for a moment.

Posted in Fiction, Intermediate

A new Definitely Dominguita book!

Definitely Dominguita: All for One, by Terry Catasús Jennings/Illustrated by Fátima Anaya, (August 2021, Aladdin), $6.99, ISBN: 9781534465114

Ages 6-9

I raved about the Definitely Dominguita series earlier this year, and received the nicest note from author Terry Catasús Jennings, along with a signed copy of Dominguita’s newest adventure, All for One. After I finished squealing, I dove right in. Thank you, Ms. Jennings!

This is the third adventure for Dom and her friends, Pancho and Steph (and their noble steed, Roco), all inspired by the classics that she and her abuela love. This time out, the kids are Musketeers, influenced by Alexandra Dumas’s The Three Musketeers, and it’s perfect timing: there’s a Bublassi plot underfoot to ruin a quinceañera, and Dom, Pancho, and Steph have to stay one step ahead to make sure things go as planned. The story follows Dumas’s classic in great – and often hilarious – fashion, including the spurned love interest side story and a fight scene with hoses rather than swords. There’s a massive hint as to the next book included in the storyline here, too: one of my favorites ever, so you know I’ll be waiting patiently for mid-November to arrive.

I love this series. It’s fun, prizes brains, family, and ingenuity, and not only prizes a love of classic literature, but makes it accessible to all readers, in the most fun and creative of ways. Fátima Anaya’s illustrations keep readers engaged and give them even more ideas for dressing up and creating their own Dominguita-like adventures.

You know? I may just have to start creating some Dom grab-and-go bags. Let me go mull this over. In the meantime, go read All for One, and visit Terry Catasús Jennings’s author website for more information about her books.

 

 

Posted in Fiction, Fiction, Intermediate, Middle Grade, Realistic Fiction

Meet Dominguita!

Dominguita Melendez is a third grader who loves books! When her abuela (grandmother) has to move to Florida to live with her sister, Dominguita comes up with a way to share their mutual loves of books with one another: by finding adventures in all the books her abuela left her. Definitely Dominguita is a great intermediate series for kids – there’s an adventure that introduces them to classics titles in every book, and sets those stories on city streets, where kids can see themselves and even think about recreating their own favorite books.

Knight of the Cape (Definitely Dominguita #1), by Terry Catasús Jennings/Illustrated by Fátima Anaya, (March 2021, Aladdin), $17.99, ISBN: 9781534465039

Ages 6-9

Dominguita misses her abuela and her best friend, both of whom have moved away. She spends her recess time reading in the schoolyard until the school bully makes fun of her, her choice of reading – Don Quixote by Miguel Cervantes – and tells her girls can’t be knights. Incensed, Dominguita is determined to become a knight AND have her brother Rafi write about her adventures to share with Abuela! She and Rafi put together an outfit worthy of a knight, and transforms into Dom Capote: Knight of the Cape! Along her travels, she gains a steed (the local stray dog, Roco) and a companion, Pancho Sanchez, who sees through her grand plans to keep things real. In this wonderful re-imagining of Don Quixote, a young girl uses her creativity and her love of books to see herself in her own stories, based on the classics. Dom is fun, likable, and smart; all of the characters receive backgrounds with a foundation to build future adventures, and black and white illustrations add visual reference for readers. A great new series to introduce to intermediate readers.

 

Captain Dom’s Treasure (Definitely Dominguita #2), by Terry Catasús Jennings/Illustrated by Fátima Anaya, (March 2021, Aladdin), $17.99, ISBN: 9781534465060

Ages 6-9

Dominguita and her friends, Pancho and Sarah, are back in their second adventure! This time, inspired by Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island, Dom goes from Dom Capote to Captain Dom and discovers a treasure map on a trip to the library! After some quick research, Dom and her friends discover that the map is linked to a robbery that happened in her neighborhood back in 1967 – a mystery that she and her friends need to solve and put things to rights! But a boy Pancho refers to as “Juan Largo” (Long John) has been following them around, saying he’s there to be a babysitter… a story that the group finds a lot of holes in. Can Dom and her friends find the treasure and save the day, or will Long John beat them to it? While it’s not necessary to read these books in order, it’s much more fun to see the progression of the characters from the first story to the second. The action unfolds with parallels to Treasure Island, and gives us an idea as to what the next adventure will be. Kids are going to love getting to know these characters and figuring out the mysteries with them. How much fun would a kids’ book club be, using Dom’s adventure as a jumping-off point for young reader versions of the featured classics?

Psst… All for One is due in August and Sherlock Dom is coming in November. You may want to start booktalking The Three Musketeers and Sherlock Holmes now.

Posted in Fantasy, Fiction, Fiction, Graphic Novels, Intermediate, Middle Grade, Middle School, Non-fiction, Realistic Fiction, Teen, Tween Reads

I’m back with more graphic novels!

Hi all! I gave myself a mental health break for the holidays. I didn’t get anything done around my home, as I’d hoped, but I did take a break, knit, and read for a bit, and it was nice. I hope you all had warm and happy holidays, and are safe and well. Let’s finish this year strong and look forward to a better 2021.

In the meantime, I’ve got some graphic novels to crow about.

The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald/Illustrated by K. Woodman-Maynard, (Jan. 2021, Candlewick Press), $24.99, ISBN: 9781536213010

Ages 12+

The Great Gatsby is getting lots of graphic novel love lately; Fred Forham’s vision was a 2020 CYBILS graphic novel nominee. K. Woodman-Maynard’s envisioning of the Fitzgerald classic is much more surreal, with dreamlike watercolors and narration blended into the background: Nick’s words wander around rugs and through lightbulbs, run over sidewalks, and curl into cigarette smoke. The story of Jazz Age love and murder feels like a series of beautiful watercolors, but a large chunk of the story is missing, making this hard to follow for readers who haven’t read the original story. In her author’s note, Woodman-Maynard even states that she was excited by the metaphors in the story, and it was not her intent to be “an exact literal interpretation of the novel”. As a surrealistic exploration and companion to the original, Woodman-Maynard’s book certainly provides a compelling look. Get a look at a chapter excerpt here, thanks to publisher Candlewick.

 

Beetle & The Hollowbones, by Aliza Layne, (Aug. 2020, Atheneum Books for Young Readers), $21.99, ISBN: 9781534441538

Ages 9-13

First, I have to make a huge apology here: I was invited to a blog tour for Beetle back in August, which also happened to be a point where things were falling apart here, and I blew the date. I am still embarrassed and mortified, because I really work to keep to things like that. So I hope this post makes up, in some way, for the oversight. That said, Beetle & Hollowbones is adorable! A homeschooled goblin-witch named Bettle befriends Blob Ghost, a blobby ghost that inhabits space at the local mall in the town of ‘Allows. Blob Ghost – or, BG, as Beetle calls them – is relegated to the mall, so Beetle happily visits, and is sad when she has to leave. Beetle’s old friend Kat shows up for a sorcery apprenticeship with her intimidating Aunt Hollowbone, and Beetle is fascinated: Kat’s cool, she’s social media famous, chic, and great at magic, to boot. The two start spending time together, to BG’s disappointment, but when Aunt Hollowbone’s awful plan to raze the mall becomes public news, Beetle realizes she has to save BG and find a way to release the mall’s hold on them.

A story about friendship, doing the right thing, and standing up for yourself, Beetle & The Hollowbone’s illustrations are beautiful and vibrant, with adorably creepy creatures that I could easily envision in an animated series. This is the kind of story my library kids love: warmth, family, and friendship, with some magic to infuse the tale.

Beetle and the Hollowbones has starred reviews from Kirkus, School Library Journal, Publisher’s Weekly, and Booklist. It is also a CYBILS 2020 Graphic Novels nominee.

 

Galileo! Galileo!, by Holly Trechter & Jane Donovan, (Aug. 2020, Sky Candle Press), $13.99, ISBN: 978-1939360083

Ages 8-13

Narrated by the historical Italian astronomer Galileo Galilei, Galileo! Galileo! is the story of NASA’s mission to Jupiter. We get a brief recap of Galileo’s life, for an understanding of why the mission bore his name; the narrative then moves into a comprehensive, illustrated lesson on the history of aeronautics and space missions. Holly Trechter’s time as a NASA Ames History Archives intern provides great insights, including a peek at Carl Sagan’s letter-writing campaign that saved the Galileo after budget cuts by the Reagan administration. Holly Trechter and Jane Donovan make Galileo Galilei a cartoony, amiable character who explains the science and politics of space travel in friendly, understandable terms, and the artwork is colorful and includes diagrams, maps, and colorful illustrations. Back matter includes discussion questions. Give this to your Science Comics and History Comics readers for sure. Galileo! Galileo! is a CYBILS 2020 Graphic Novels nominee.

 

Bear, by Ben Queen & Joe Todd-Stanton, (Aug. 2020, Archaia), $24.99, ISBN: 978-1684155316

Ages 7-12

This is another CYBILS 2020 Graphic Novels nominee that I really enjoyed. An original graphic novel from Pixar writer Ben Queen and illustrator Joe Todd-Stanton and published by BOOM! imprint, Archaia, Bear is the story of the relationship between a guide dog and his human. Bear is service dog who lives with Patrick, the blind man he takes care of. Bear and Patrick are happily living together, but when Bear suddenly loses his vision; he worries that he’s lost his purpose. He gets separated from Patrick while trying to get advice from a raccoon, on getting his vision back, and ends up on a grand adventure where he’ll meet bears, run through the streets and subways in Manhattan, and try to find his way back to Ulster Country. Bear is gentle and noble; he will do anything for Patrick, and in turn, Patrick will stop at nothing to find Bear. I loved the relationship between these two, and I thoroughly enjoyed the raccoons, largely played for comic relief, and Stone, the bear who takes it upon himself to keep Bear safe on his travels. The story is also a positive portrayal of a blind character: Patrick repairs vending machines, is a passionate reader and “a decent athlete” who applies for a guide dog in order to pick up more machines on his service route; he hears that having a guide dog will allow him to travel faster than walking with a cane.  The book also gently corrects ableist language; when Patrick mentions having a “seeing eye dog”, the trainer responds that they are called “guide dogs”.

Beautifully illustrated with gentle colors and empathetic characters, Bear will make my graphic novel  shelves when we reopen. Until then, I’ve handed this one to my Kiddo. Results to come.

 

Twins, by Varian Johnson/Illustrated by Shannon Wright, (Oct. 2020, Graphix), $12.99, ISBN: 978-1338236132

Ages 8-12

Twin sisters Maureen and Francine share a room and a life, but starting sixth grade is BIG. Francine, the more extroverted, can’t wait for the chance to start meeting new people and having new experiences, but Maureen is more introverted, more hesitant. She misses dressing like her twin, and she’s really not thrilled that she has no classes with her; when Francine starts calling herself “Fran”, Maureen doesn’t know who this alien who took off with her sister is! Maureen is also intimidated by her school’s Cadet Corp, especially her instructor, Master Sergeant Lucinda Fields. Maureen, the straight-A student, is frustrated by her difficulty in getting marching in formation down and the overwhelming experience of middle school, so discovering that Francine and their parents were behind the decision to put the girls in separate classes AND enroll Maureen in Cadet Corp makes her take action: she decides to run against her sister in the race for Class President. A story of growing up and facing adolescence with all its challenges, Twins features main characters of color in a strong family and a relatable story that anyone with siblings – and close friends – will recognize. It’s hard enough growing apart from one’s best friend, but what happens when that best friend is your sister – and a person you share a friendship group with? I loved the story, the relationship between the sisters and the relationship between family members, the realistic frustration of sharing friends when you have a falling-out, and the challenges of taking on new experiences. Give to your Varian Johnson readers and your graphic novel fans that loved the Invisible Emmie, Becoming Brianna, New Kid, Class Act, and the Nat Enough books.

Twins has starred reviews from The Horn Book, School Library Journal, Publishers Weekly, Kirkus, and Booklist. Twins is also a CYBILS 2020 Graphic Novels nominee. See the full list of honors at Varian Johnson’s webpage.

Posted in Fiction, Graphic Novels, Humor, Middle Grade, Middle School, Tween Reads

More Graphic Novels!

I’ve got more graphic novels! Let’s get to it.

Nori, by Rumi Hara, (May 2020, Drawn & Quarterly), $24.95, ISBN: 978-1-77046-397-4

Ages 10+

Three-year old Noriko – Nori, for short – lives in Japan’s Osaka suburbs and spends most of her time with her grandmother while her parents are working. Set in the 1980s, Nori is all about a little girl’s adventures as she explores the world around her, accompanied by her best friend: her grandmother. The book contains five short stories and is infused with Japanese culture; the events of World War II still reverberate with the adults around Nori, and cultural festivals bring the excitement of the city alive in the pages. Nori brings childhood memories alive for readers: a part in a school play; chasing rabbits and watching neighborhood kids play with crawfish and beetles; she even wins a trip to Hawaii for herself and her grandmother, which leads to a healing moment for a family who’s lost their own matriarch. Black and white artwork has one-color moments for contrast and interest. Nori is a celebration of childhood and the special relationship between a child and grandparent and middle school-aged readers and young teens will especially love this.

Nori has a starred review from Publisher’s Weekly. Read an interview with Rumi Hara on We Need Diverse Books, and visit her website for more information about her work. Nori is a nominee in the 2020 Cybils Graphic Novel category.

 

Marge’s Little Lulu: The Fuzzythingus Poopi, by John Stanley, (Sept. 2020, Drawn and Quarterly), $29.95, ISBN: 9781770463660

Ages 6+

This collection takes me back to my childhood in the best of ways. I used to read Little Lulu reprints when I was growing up, alongside issues of Richie Rich, Casper, and Archie, to name a few. Little Lulu comics were all about the adventures of Little Lulu Moppet and her best friend/frenemy, Tubby; originally published by Dell Comics in the 1940s and 1950s, they’re all about childhood adventures like having snowball fights, trying to gain admission to the “No Girls Allowed” clubhouse, telling stories to a sick friend, and various – hilarious – money-making schemes. This is Drawn and Quarterly’s second Lulu collection, and is filled with reprinted Lulu and Tubby comics, “Lulu’s Diry” diary pages that ran in individual issues, and a cover gallery. The stories are loaded with imagination, like the clip where Lulu houses a ghost who’s been ousted when the house they haunt is torn down; imagines herself in a desert and has to retrieve a nickel from a sewer grate (still in the desert!) by using strands of her hair, leaving her bald. She foils a burglar claiming to be Santa Claus because “he didn’t have a twinkle in his eye!”, and rallies the neighborhood girls together to fight back when they find themselves targeted for snowball attacks by the boys.

Great for new readers who want fun, day-to-day stories of childhood and adults who grew up with Lulu, Tubby, and Alvin. This is a keeper. Read more about The Fuzzythingus Poopi and read an excerpt at publisher Drawn and Quarterly’s page; discover the impact Little Lulu has had on comics, culture, and feminism through this Comics Alliance article and this New Yorker piece.

 

Mary: The Adventures of Mary Shelley’s Great-Great-Great-Great-Great-Granddaughter, by Brea Grant, (Oct. 2020, Six Foot Press), $18.99, ISBN: 978-1644420294

Ages 12-16

Mary is perfect for every goth tween and teen you know. She’s the 5 times great-granddaughter of Frankenstein author Mary Shelley, and she’s from a family of overachieving women dedicated to that legacy. They’re all writers of renown, especially her superstar author mom, who can’t understand… Mary’s ennui? Lack of interest? The fact that she’s not an overachiever in school or life just yet? The thing is, Mary does have a very special family gift, and it makes its debut in these very pages. Mary can heal monsters. Actual, real-life monsters do exist, and Mary discovers that one night when she reattaches one walking dead guy’s foot. He tells his friends, and they tell their friends… and so on, and so on, and so on, as the old commercial goes. Monsters of all sorts show up at Mary’s with some amusing results, and Mary doesn’t know what to do with herself and this gift! Does she walk away from this gift, or does she embrace it?

Work with me: this is relatable! Teens feel the pressure to know what they want to do with their lives by the time they’re seniors in high school. Imagine the stress of being Mary Shelley’s descendant? When there’s a shrine to your many times-great grandmother, who wrote an enduring classic at the age of 19, in your very own home? Imagine discovering you are good at something… it just happens to be something unusual, or different, and the extra stress that can carry with it! Mary is a teen trying to find her way in a family of high-achieving, highly valued women, and isn’t quite sure that being known for healing monsters is what she wants to be known for. To accept her gift and embrace herself is a journey that most tweens and teens can get on board with. Brea Grant’s moody artwork gives great atmosphere to the story, and the dialogue is wonderfully snarky and introspective all at once. Please buy this for your collections and the readers in your life.

Don’t believe me? EW has an excerpt and article on it. Check it out.

 

The League of Super Feminists, by Mirion Malle/Translated by Aleshia Jensen, (Oct. 2020, Drawn and Quarterly), $16.95, ISBN: 9781770464025

Ages 12+

A fantastic guide to feminism for tweens, teens, and beyond, The League of Super Feminists explains the basics of feminism: YES! you can still enjoy princess movies! NO! You don’t have to hate men! What we need everyone – EVERYONE – to understand is how to critically evaluate the media that makes men knights and dragon slayers, and women damsels in distress. That women don’t come in one size: skinny, white, blonde. That women need to build one another up, not tear each other down. That boys and girls can be friends! Diving into such topics as gender, representation, inclusivity, consent, and beauty, The League of Super Feminists uses a range of characters to illustrate and explain these concepts and deconstruct myths and falsehoods for readers. Written like a conversation between the friends, the book is fun, upbeat, and playful, but always self-aware and smart. Mirion Malle never talks down to readers; it’s straight talk that lets everyone know that feminism is good for all, leads to healthy thinking and self-image. A great beginning to an ongoing conversation. See an excerpt on publisher Drawn and Quarterly‘s webpage. Aleishia Jensen’s translation from the original French to English is flawless and picks up all the nuances set forth by Mirion Malle.

Read more about The League of Super Feminists at publisher Drawn and Quarterly’s webpage, including an excerpt on representation. Read an interview with Mirion Malle on We Need Diverse Books.

Psst… makes an excellent holiday gift for the tween in your life. Just saying. The League of Super Feminists is a nominee in the 2020 Cybils Graphic Novel category.

And one to look forward to!

 

Forever Home, by Jenna Ayoub, (Feb. 2021, Boom! Studios), $12.99, ISBN: 9781684156030

Ages 9-13

This sweet, funny haunted house story is perfect reading for kids who are big on comedy. Willow’s a girl who’s been raised all over the world: her parents are in the Army, and that means moving around every couple of years. She’s had to say goodbye to friends too many times, and she doesn’t want to move again! Her parents have just bought Hadleigh House, an old, pink house in need of some TLC, and Willow is happy to finally set down roots: but Gladys and Viola, the ghostly Hadleigh sisters, want their home all to themselves – and the two ghosts that live with them, the Lady and Thomas, a World War I veteran. The sisters raise a ruckus, but they don’t count on the fact that Willow can see and hear them, and she lets them know she isn’t going anywhere. A touching story of belonging and family, Willow is a smart kid who has no problem digging in her heels to stay in the home she loves; Viola and Gladys are delightfully mischievous ghosts, and The Lady’s habit of killing husbands and fiancees is played for laughs as it’s alluded to, never quite addressed. Thomas’s backstory is poignant, and he emerges as a sweet, almost tragic figure. Forever Home has a little bit of comedy, a touch of bittersweet, and enough affection to make this a sure bet for readers who get a kick out of spooky comedies like The Addams Family and The Boxtrolls. Good for middle grade, great for middle school.

 

Posted in Uncategorized

T.S. Eliot’s Cats get the picture book treatment

The Cats movie is coming out in December; whether you’ve seen the trailer or not, whether you’re ready for this movie to come to the big screen or not, you know it’s going to be an event. Me? I’m perfectly happy to read these Faber & Faber picture books starring some of T.S. Eliot’s more memorable feline characters. There are five books in the series; I’ve received three to review, and have to say, I really enjoy them. Am I going a Cats movie storytime? I don’t know about that, but I am always down for a cat storytime.

Macavity: The Mystery Cat, by T.S. Eliot/Illustrated by Arthur Robins,
(July 2016, Faber & Faber), $9.95, ISBN: 978-0-571-30813-2
Ages 4+

Macavity is a master thief, a cheat, a sneak, a charismatic rebel who always manages to stay one paw ahead of the law. T.S. Eliot’s Macavity poem wanders through this story, amusingly illustrated by Arthur Robins, who wittily draws the marmalade tabby as a rangy, sly cat who sharp-eyed readers will catch glimpses of at the scenes of his various crime scenes. The bloodhound police dog just can’t keep up with the Napoleon of Crime.

 

Mister Mistoffelees: The Conjuring Cat, by T.S. Eliot/Illustrated by Arthur Robins,
(October 2016, Faber & Faber), $9.95, ISBN: 978-0-57132-222-0
Ages 4+

Mister Mistoffelees is the elegant conjurer, the magician, who can creep through the tiniest crack and walk on the narrowest rail. He can play tricks on humans, and is rumored to have magical powers, not just skill at sleight of hand. The little black cat is can saw a dog in half and produce kittens from his magical hat; he can be asleep by the fire while he’s heard on the roof. He’s just the Magical Mister Mistoffelees!

 

Jellicle Cats, by T.S. Eliot/Illustrated by Arthur Robins, (Aug. 2017, Faber & Faber),
$9.95, ISBN: 978-0-57133-341-7
Ages 4+

The Jellicle Cats are the party animals of T.S. Eliot’s world. With their dapper attire and their cool dance moves, the group of black and white cats head en masse to the Jellicle Ball, where they dance and sing by the light of the moon. They sleep all day, saving their energy to let it rip when the Jellicle Moon shines bright.

Each book is illustrated by Arthur Robins, who brings a wonderful, fun look to T.S. Eliot’s playful rhymes. Each cat is bursting with personality, from Mister Mistoffelees’s rainbow bow tie and wand flourishes to Macavity’s sly smile as he traps an unsuspecting mouse, to the dapper Jellicle Cats doing the Charleston under a full moon. The books are colorful and the art is bold, with chunky outlines defining the cats and their environs. The poetry is in large, bold, black font, making this an easy read for newly confident readers that like to play with language, and works really well in a storytime, where you can be playful with the words and your own movements. Add some felt Cats to your storytime! These are begging for a felt board reading.

The Kiddo (my second grader) got a big kick out of these – Macavity is a favorite, because he’s 7 and he’s all about being a rebel. I’m going to introduce these in a storytime and see how they go over; I’d love to include these in our poetry collection, because it’s making a classic work super-accessible to young learners.

Don’t miss Arthur Robins’s webpage, where you can see more of his illustration, scribbles, and cartoons he’s had featured in UK magazines.

Posted in Fiction, Graphic Novels, Historical Fiction, Teen, Tween Reads, Young Adult/New Adult

More manga classics! Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility

austenSense and Sensibility, by Jane Austen (adapted by Stacy King)/illustrated by Po Tse, (Udon Entertainment/Morpheus Studios, Aug. 2016). $19.99 ISBN: 9781927925638

Recommended for ages 12+

Udon’s Manga Classics line continues to put out the most popular literary classics in manga format, no doubt to the relief to high school and college students everywhere. This time out, I read Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility. When sisters Elinor and Marianne Dashwood’s father dies, their family is forced by family finances and turmoil to move to a cottage in Devonshire. Elinor has high hopes for her former romantic interest, Edward, while Marianne falls for John Willoughby – who seems to be hiding something. Colonel Brandon, an older man, also shows interest in Marianne, but she’s initially afraid that he’s too old for her. Similar to Pride and Prejudice, we have romantic entanglements and complicated relationships. Manga fans who also want some reinforcement of the Austen classic will appreciate this more visual layout of all the relationships in this story. Great for middle, high school, and college students.

 

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

Add Manga Classics Jane Eyre to your TBR

manga-jane-eyreJane Eyre (Manga Classics), by Charlotte Bronte/adapted by Stacy King, (Jul. 2016, Udon Entertainment/Morpheus Publishing), $19.99, ISBN: 9781927925652

Recommended for ages 12+

I am loving the Manga Classics line from Udon Entertainment. This is my third one; I’ve read The Scarlet Letter and Pride and Prejudice – both books I struggled with in high school – and came away with a better grasp on them. This time, I read Jane Eyre, a book I really enjoy (I’m a Bronte fan), but know that kids tend to struggle with, too.

Jane is an orphan, left in the care of her awful aunt and cousins. She finally gets away and makes her way in the world as a governess, sent to the mysterious Mr. Rochester’s estate, where they fall in love. A dark secret in Mr. Rochester’s past gets in the way. It’s a Gothic novel, which lends itself nicely to a manga adaptation; there’s drama, angst, and enduring love, all of which shine in this visual adaptation.

As with the other books in Udon’s series, this is a nice companion to Bronte’s work; a solid introduction to new and reluctant readers in middle and high school.

Posted in Early Reader, Fiction, Toddler Reads

Vocabulary the Dickens Way – Cozy Classics’ Great Expectations

great_coverCozy Classics: Great Expectations, by Holman Wang and Jack Wang (March 2016, Chronicle Books), $9.95, ISBN: 9781452152431

Recommended for infant-3 years

The brothers behind one of my favorite board book series, Star Wars Yarns, is back with their Cozy Classics series, this time, tackling Charles Dickens. But seriously, don’t sweat it – they’re teaching our wee ones vocabulary, using their adorable felted yarn figures and words related to the Dickens’ tale. Words like “boy”, “help”, “manners”, and “old”, set against the backdrop of the Victorian epic, give extra feel to the words. I particularly love Pip – the “boy” – standing on the first page of the story. Parents will love it, kids will think it’s something cool (because it is). “greatexpec_1

 

 

 

 

greatexpec_2Miss Havisham illustrates the word “old”. With her tattered dress and her worn expression, young readers will see that old takes on many meanings – the dress is old, Miss Havisham is old, and are those cobwebs surrounding her in that picture? Explain that cobwebs form when something hasn’t been moved or dusted in a while.

 

 

 

 

 

Naturally, Estella is “pretty”. See Pip staring at her from behind the wall? That speaks volumes – she’s pretty, and Pip has a crush on her. greatexpec_3

 

There are about 12 illustrations and words in Cozy Classics: Great Expectations, with great words that aren’t sight words – it’s a real chance to expand kids’ vocabulary. The Wang brothers’ art is amazing – my Star Wars Yarns books are never on the shelf here at the library – and I think it’s time to bring some Cozy Classics to my home and work libraries.

I love this classics to teach concepts trend. BabyLit does it, Cozy Classics does it, and Mini Myths teaches kids Greek myths on a level that makes complete sense in today’s world. The books make for great storytimes, and you can get moms, dads, and caregivers to pick up a grown-up book, too – pair up your board books with their companion grown-up titles for a heck of a list!

Posted in Toddler Reads

Learn to Count with Dracula!

baby-draculaLittle Master Stoker: Dracula, A Counting Primer, by Jennifer Adams/illus. by Alison Oliver (Gibbs Smith, 2012), $9.99, ISBN: 978-1423624806

Recommended for ages 0-3

I was in a great little indie bookstore this weekend, when I came across this lovely. Seeing as how I like a little of the unusual in my board books, I fell instantly in love. BabyLit, in case you aren’t familiar with them, produces gorgeous board books, based on the classics, for babies. They drill down basic concepts in each classic, perfect for little ones.

Dracula is a counting book. Going from 1 to 10, we count different objects present in the famous classic: 1 castle, two friends (Mina and Lucy), 3 wolves, 4 ships, 5 heroes (Harker, Seward, Turnbull, Morris, and Van Helsing), and more. The pictures are rendered in the sweetest detail with just a touch of baby goth. The art is mainly black, gray, and white, with accents of red as necessary. There are little winks to the grownups who will read this book over and over again – Dracula’s face on the Demeter flag, well-known character names and locations, a rat wearing a bat shirt – that will make you smile and chuckle. There’s a wonderful sense of humor in the book, which is as perfect for grownups as it is for children.

1 castle

This is now in my toddler’s short stack of favorites. He carries it around with him and asks to read it several times a day. I can’t wait to fill out his classics bookshelf with more BabyLit, and I know for sure that I’m buying some of these for my storytime toddlers. How often do you get to read babies Frankenstein and Dracula, where they learn about basic concepts?

Check out BabyLit’s webpage for more titles, but don’t blame me if you end up buying a Pride & Prejudice playset. They’ve also got one of the best Pinterest layouts going, and you can check out some of their videos on Google+.