Posted in picture books

One Mean Ant is back!

One Mean Ant with Fly and Flea, by Arthur Yorinks/Illustrated by Sergio Ruzzier, (Oct. 2020, Candlewick Press), $17.99, ISBN: 9780763683955

Ages 4-8

The rollicking, continuing adventures of the Mean Ant continues in this second book, which picks up shortly after the events of the first. The Ant and the Fly are prisoners in a spider’s web, so Ant’s day isn’t getting any better. But, wait! What’s that spot? It’s Flea! With Flea’s acrobatic prowess – he’s a flea circus escapee – the group manage to escape the web, but they’re not out of danger yet! This is the second book in a trilogy, and I rank this up there with Jon Klassen’s Hat Trilogy in terms of laugh-out-loud storytelling. The comedic timing here is spot on: this is a priceless readaloud. Ant is cantankerous, Fly just tries so hard, and Flea is frightened for his life! The wordplay is genius, and the expressive faces and body language enhances the dialogue. I can’t wait for the third installment. A great readaloud choice beyond the little ones, first and second graders will love this story – my third grader laughs out loud when we read it together.

Posted in Realistic Fiction, Teen, Young Adult/New Adult

Pretty Funny for a Girl stands up for young women!

Pretty Funny for a Girl, by Rebecca Elliott, (Oct. 2020, Peachtree Publishing), $17.99, ISBN: 978-1-68263-147-8

Ages 12+

Haylah Swinton is an English teen who’s not like the other girls. She’s a curvy girl and she knows it – she adopted the nickname “Pig” so the bullies would have nothing to hold against her – and she loves comedy. From Tina Fey to Caitlin Moran and beyond, she’s watched them all and would love nothing more than to have her name among theirs one day. For now, though, she’s helping her single mom raise her four-year-old brother, Noah, hanging out with her besties, Chloe and Kas, until Leo Jackson enters the picture. He’s good-looking, has a killer smile, and does a stand-up routine during a school assembly that leaves Haylah gobsmacked! Finally having someone to talk comedy with, she secretly sneaks jokes she’s written into Leo’s locker, and is thrilled when he incorporates them into his routine at his dad’s club. The two start spending time together when Leo asks for her help writing material for him to perform at an upcoming youth comedy contest in London, and Haylah’s crush goes stratospheric, but her friends wonder if he really likes her for who she is, or for what she can do for him: write the jokes that will put him in the spotlight?

Pretty Funny for a Girl is all about feminism, the funny, and the heartbreak of a first crush. Haylah is a brilliantly written character who owns who she is, even while struggling with body image, friendships, and family. She knows she’s curvy, and by calling herself “fat” and taking on cruel nicknames like “Pig” before anyone else can level them at her, she’s internalizing a lot of pain that she’ll need to deal with – but she’ll be darned if anyone else gets to her more than she gets to herself. A body-positive teen who wishes everyone else would get over it, she doesn’t want to change who she is at heart, and knows she has a lot to offer, whether it’s on the comedy stage or in a relationship (friend or romantic).

If you loved Dumplin‘, you’ll love Pretty Funny for a Girl. Put this in your YA collections and check out Book Riot’s list of body positive YA novels for more ideas. Publisher Peachtree has a free, downloadable discussion guide and excerpt available.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

It’s Fox vs Sloth in My Book (not yours)

My Book (not yours) (Lento & Fox), by Ben Sanders, (Sept. 2020, Kane Miller), $14.99, ISBN: 978-1-68464-065-2

Ages 3-6

Lento the sloth has a heck of a story for us readers… after a little nap, that is. But while Lento snoozes, Fox decides to steal the show! The book is a comical back-and-forth between the two as Fox and Lento jostle one another out of the way to take center stage, breaking the fourth wall and making this a great read-aloud for two readers, or for one reader to get some voice practice on. Lento dons Valkyrie horns and braids to sing about being the book’s star, while Fox does a soft-shoe with hat and cane to say otherwise; Fox takes off in a hot air balloon as Lento pleads with the audience to stick with him. Can these two figure out a way to share the page? You have to read and find out!

A giggle-worthy book, My Book (not yours) will leave the littles in stitches as Lento and Fox become more outrageous in their attempts to take control of the book. Bright red Fox and teal Lento come alive off the spare white page, with minimal design to take the focus off the two. Their actions speak louder than their words: hilariously so.

Toddlers and preschoolers will recognize themselves as the two jockey for attention in progressively wilder ways, each proclaiming that “it’s MY book!”, and adults will get a laugh as they see their own littles in Fox and Lento. For readers of a certain age (ahem), the book evokes memories of the old Mad comic Spy vs. Spy – albeit a much kinder version. Enjoy.

Originally published in Australia in 2019, Lento and Fox have another book, My Pet (not yours), which looks like it’s another laugh-out-loud read. Let’s hope they visit the U.S. shores soon!

My Book (not yours) has a starred review from Kirkus.

 

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads, Uncategorized

One Mean Ant has a lot to complain about!

One Mean Ant, by Arthur Yorinks/Illustrated by Sergio Ruzzier, (Feb. 2020, Candlewick Press), $22.99, ISBN: 9780763683948

Ages 4-7

See that guy on the cover? He is mean. I mean, MEAN. Leaves fall off trees, grapes shrivel into raisins, and dung beetles… well, you can guess what they do when he walks by. One day, this crabby ant is so focused on complaining and yelling at everyone around him that he wanders into the desert and discovers he’s totally lost. Luckily for him, a fly happens by. Unluckily for the fly, the ant starts yelling at him! The fly takes the ant’s lousy attitude in stride, and the two engage in a progressively funnier exchange that ends with a twist you won’t see coming, but will laugh out loud when you get there.

Arthur Yorinks has captured what it means to be in a lousy mood. Everyone will recognize and appreciate this Mean Ant, because we’ve ALL been there. Kids will laugh out loud, especially if you give it some spirit during a readaloud. The fly’s passive, sweet demeanor is a great foil for the ant, and their exchanges are laugh-out-loud hilarious as the story continues. My kiddo and I take turns being the ant and the fly when we read this together, and it’s pretty darned funny each time.

Sergio Ruzzier’s pen, ink, and watercolor illustrations have a great retro vibe, reminding me of picture books I grew up with: very ’70s Sesame Street watercolor schemes, and the facial expressions on the ant and fly are the perfect accompaniment to the story. Everyone will love One Mean Ant.

Posted in Fantasy, Fiction, Humor, Middle Grade, Middle School, Tween Reads

All hail Doug, King of the Mole People!

King of the Mole People, by Paul Gilligan, (Aug. 2019, Henry Holt & Co.), $13.99, ISBN:  978-1-250-17134-4

Ages 8-12

Doug Underbelly just wants to be a normal seventh grader, but the fates are stacked against him: he and his dad live in a house that looks straight out of a scary movie, and the only meals his dad makes are from the eels that are plentiful around the house grounds; the weird girl at school follows him around, too. And it doesn’t help that he’s covered in mud and worms most of the time… but that’s what happens when one is king of the mole people, as Doug is. He doesn’t really want to be their king, but it was thrust upon him, and even though the throne is awfully uncomfortable and his royal advisor most definitely is plotting against him, he’s doing his best. But there’s trouble rumbling down below: the Slug People are getting fidgety and fussy, and it looks like the Mushroom Folk and the Stone Goons are going to get involved, too. What happens when giant worms start rising up and wrecking everything above ground? Doug has to get things under control, and quick – and maybe that weird girl will be more of a help than he expects.

This laugh-out-loud middle grade book is the first in a new series that kids are going to devour. It’s got gross-out humor, there’s some touching moments, and Doug is the underdog character that we all love to cheer for (and laugh at). He’s got a fatalistic yet snarky outlook on life, and his attempts to be normal – from signing up for sports and drama, to deciding he’ll crush on a popular girl, because everyone else does – are sweetly hilarious and painfully relatable. Magda, the “weird girl”, is a goth girl with brains and depth, and she keeps Doug on his toes. Doug’s royal entourage/mole people buddies are sweetly literal and not terribly bright, but loyal.

Kirkus says it best: “The Wimpy Kid’s got nothing on the King of the Mole People—he’s got more laughs and more mud”. Betsy Bird has a fun interview with author Paul Gilligan on School Library Journal, and you can find an excerpt, trailer, and downloadables – including your own crown – at the publisher’s King of the Mole People website.


From Macmillan’s website

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

Is This Guy for Real? Brian Brown introduces a new generation to Andy Kaufman

Is This Guy for Real? The Unbelievable Andy Kaufman, by Box Brown, (Feb. 2018, First Second), $19.99, ISBN: 9781626723160

Recommended for readers 14+

Box Brown, the award-winning creator of Andre the Giant: His Life and Legend and Tetris: The Games People Play returns to introduce readers to one of the most controversial comedians of the ’70s and early ’80s, Andy Kaufman. The biography covers Andy’s younger years; how his persona was largely formed by television, particularly Elvis, professional wrestling and cartoons, all of which would figure into his act years later. Much of Is This Guy for Real? details his “feud” with wrestler Jerry the King Lawler; one of the greatest “are they or aren’t they?” rivalries of all time. The book also covers his death at age 35 from lung cancer, and the fact that many people – including his co-stars on the television show Taxi – swore it was a hoax.

I grew up watching Andy Kaufman as Latka Gravis on Taxi, and his stand-up performances on Saturday Night Live. I can’t hear the Mighty Mouse theme song without seeing him lip sync and gesture along. I remember watching he and Jerry Lawler go at each other, and never being quite sure whether or not it was real (you’ll find the answer in the book). Is This Guy for Real is an eye-opening look at an artist who was ahead of his time – warts and all – and gone too quickly. I’m hoping this profile introduces new audiences to Andy Kaufman and his stand-up; I know I’ll talk it up to our teens once I get our library’s copy.

Posted in gaming, geek, geek culture, Guide, Humor, Intermediate, Middle Grade, Tween Reads, Video Games

Yogscast: The Book!

yogscastYogscast: The Diggy Diggy Book, by The Yogscast, (Feb. 2016, Scholastic), $8.99, ISBN: 9780545956635

Recommended for ages 8-13

Yogscast is an insanely popular YouTube channel by gamers, for gamers. They have skits, animations, videos, songs – it’s like SNL on crack for gamers, and it’s pretty kid-friendly (otherwise, Scholastic wouldn’t be putting this book out). If you have Warcraft and/or Minecrafters in your household, library, or classroom, you’ve likely heard of Yogscast, or the kids in your life have.

My gamer boy was a faithful Yogscast fan when he was 7 or 8; I’d see him curled up with his iPad and headset in, cackling and snorting, and wondering what in the world he was listening to. So I asked him, and he told me, and then he showed me.

Yogscast is HUGE. The channel has over 4 BILLION views. If they were a movie, they’d be Deadpool PLUS Avengers, and that is just something that warps my fragile little mind. When I saw that they had a book out, I knew I’d need to check this out.

The Diggy Diggy Book is for people who know this channel and know it well. You will meet the creators and explore different areas. There are tons of in-jokes, a tour of YogTowers, a the tourist’s guide to Datlof, and the chance to become a JaffaQuest cadet. I was pretty clueless reading this book, because it is such an inclusive community (yes, I know calling a community of millions and billions inclusive is hilarious), but if you’re a fan, you’ll love the book. Carry it in your library at your own risk, though – there are workbook-type pages in here and they’ll most likely get written on. This book will do gangbusters at the Scholastic Book Fairs, bet on it.

 

Posted in Fantasy, Fiction, Graphic Novels, Middle School, Science Fiction, Tween Reads

The Glorkian Warrior Delivers a Pizza: Middle-Grade Hilarity in a Graphic Novel Format

The Glorkian Warrior Delivers a Pizza, by James Kochalka (First Second, 2014), ISBN: 978-1-59643-917-7, $17.99
Pub Date: March 2014

Recommended for ages 8-12

Glorkian-Warrior_AdvanceBooks_FrontCover I first discovered James Kochalka a few years ago, when my son read and adored his book, Peanut Butter & Jeremy’s Best Day Ever. I loved the cartoony art and fun dialogue; when I saw this title available on NetGalley, I immediately requested it, knowing I’d be in for a fun read. I was absolutely right.

Not knowing about the successful Glork Kickstarter that Mr. Kochalka and PixelJam games had back in 2010, I came to Glork as a brand new audience. The book is hilarious and surreal on a level that middle schoolers can truly appreciate and adults will just laugh out loud looking on. The Glorkian Warrior is sitting at home with his Super Backpack, when the phone rings – it is destiny? Well… kind of – it’s a pizza order. While Backpack wants the Glorkian Warrior to disregard the obviously wrong number, the Warrior will not be put off – this is his mission! He grabs a partially eaten pizza from his fridge and sets off on a journey that will introduce him to alien babies and add strange and unusual toppings to the pizza, including ash, tears, and fire damage. Will the Glorkian Warrior fulfill his delivery destiny? Don’t look at me for answers, read the book!

The book, which hits bookshelves in late March, is great fun. The cartoony art is perfect for its middle grade audience, as is the goofy humor. The Warrior is hilariously oblivious, Backpack is the brains of the operation, and together, the two are responsible for bickering and laughs on the level of Star Wars’ C3P0 and R2D2.

I enjoy graphic novels for kids, for several reasons. The first reason? Reluctant readers. They may stare at a page full of words and shut their brains off, but how can you look at a brightly colored, fun adventure and say, “No thanks”? You can’t. This will draw in reluctant readers, who – sadly – also tend to be boys. Having an alien warrior delivery a pizza with his laser-powered sentient backpack will definitely help bring the boys to the reading table. The second reason? Graphic novels teach sequence. Sequential art – art that is broken up into panels, a sequence – gives kids a sense of pacing and “what happens next” – very important concepts in the Common Core these days.

I thoroughly enjoyed riding shotgun with the Glorkian Warrior, and look forward to seeing him again. Reserve this book for any young readers you may have – they’ll get a kick out of it. The book also opens itself up to some great reading group discussions, including drawing your own alien workshop/top your own alien pizza workshop, map out the mission mapmaking sessions, and make your own comic book programs.

Mr. Kochalka has a Tumblr, Kochalkaland, where he features some webcomics (not necessarily young child-appropriate, but then again, neither is Tumblr) and a webcomic at American Elf (again, not young reader-appropriate). You can follow Glorkian Academy on Twitter for news about the books.

I found some interior art from The Glorkian Warrior Delivers a Pizza on the publisher’s website:

GlorkianWarrior-FINAL-5

 

Posted in Media, TV Shows

TV Show Review: Good Luck Charlie (Disney Channel, 2011-Present)

Recommended for ages 9-14

Good Luck Charlie is a Disney Channel show that follows the Duncan family, a family of six. The title refers to the youngest, Charlie (Charlene), and the videos that her family makes for her as a guide to growing up. Every video ends with her oldest sister (and star of the show) Teddy, played by Disney Channel favorite Bridgit Mendler, wishing Charlie “good luck” as she navigates her wacky family.

The show sticks to the Disney formula of having present, loving parents who tend to need more supervision than the children. While lacking much of the smart-alecky backtalk that some of the Nick shows have drawn fire for, the Duncan children, particularly the middle schooler Gabe, have no problem talking to their parents as their peers. Mom Amy may be a nurse, assuming a degree of intelligence, but she craves attention like a child; Dad Bob has his own bug-extermination business but seems to be lucky he can function on his own, as he comes across dim-witted beyond belief.

Each Duncan child is a stereotype: PJ, the oldest son, takes after his father in being slow-witted; high-schooler Teddy is the straight-A, neurotic overachiever; middle-schooler Gabe is the caustic, scheming pre-teen, and toddler Charlie steals the show with a cute word or smile.

The formulaic characters provide a comfortable familiarity to the ‘tweens who watch the show – they know what to expect, they know that they’ll get a laugh, and they know everything is neatly resolved by the end of the episode. The parents manage to be loving and supportive and offer disciplinary action when warranted; for instance, when Teddy is caught in a lie, she is grounded; when Teddy goes through a bad breakup with her boyfriend, her mother is there to hold her and tell her it will be okay. The kids come together and care for one another and their parents and have friends who they surround themselves with. They are good kids, a good family, with their quirks – kind of like most families.

Posted in Humor, Middle School, Tween Reads

Book Review: I Am a Genius of Unspeakable Evil and I Want to be Your Class President, by Josh Lieb (Razorbill, 2009)

Recommended for ages 10-12

Twelve year-old Oliver only pretends to be “slow”. He wants to keep his genius – and the fact that he is already a multi-millionaire and international villian – a secret from his family and the kids at school. Oliver spends his day blundering along in school, having his secret henchmen shoot darts at bullies (that cause some unpleasant gastrointestinal distress), drinking soda and root bear out of his secretly rigged water fountains, and tormenting his English teacher from a distance. At home, he maintains his secret evil empire.

Until Oliver is nominated for Class President by a classmate as a cruel prank. Initially, Oliver declines the nomination, but his anger toward his father, who Oliver perceives as being perpetually disappointed with him, drives him to get back into the election and play as dirty as possible to win it – even if he has to rig his running mates.

This book is hilarious. Written by the executive producer of The Daily Show, there is plenty of wit and a breakdown of politics on a middle school level that shows the reader how juvenile the entire political process can be. While at a times a bit heavy-handed, it still gets its point across, and in Oliver, Lieb has created a narrator that is like a young Dr. Evil meets Gru from Despicable Me. Middle schoolers will love the idea of a kid running an international evil empire from his underground lair and who has his school rigged for his personal comfort, all while tormenting teachers and bullies anonymously. The frustration of wanting to be loved by one’s parents while being aware of their flaws is a strong theme that will resonate with many readers.

There is a limited website for the book at Sheldrake Industries (Oliver’s cover company in the book) that offers some information about the book, a video with Josh Lieb, and a quiz where readers can figure out how evil they are.