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

Measuring Up brings together two worlds

Measuring Up, by Lily LaMotte/Illustrated by Ann Xu, (Oct. 2020, Harper Alley), $12.99, ISBN: 9780062973863

Ages 8-13

Twelve-year old Cici is a Taiwanese girl whose parents are moving to Seattle. She’s not thrilled about leaving her life behind in Taiwan, especially her A-má, the grandmother that helped raise her. While she and A-má video chat, she misses her grandmother terribly and wishes she could bring her to the States. School is okay, but there are the inevitable comments from bullies; even her new friends tend to lump her in with “Chinese” as opposed to “Taiwanese”. Cici wants so much to bring A-má to Seattle to celebrate her 70th birthday, and a kids’ cooking contest offers her the perfect chance to do it: the grand prize will pay for A-má’s ticket! Cici has a few hurdles to overcome, though: her father’s insistence on prioritizing schoolwork over everything else, including cooking; the fact that she only knows how to cook Taiwanese food, and being intimidated by one of the other contestands, a girl named Miranda, whose family owns a popular restaurant and who was practically raised in kitchens. With some help from a friendly librarian (hi!) who introduces her to Julia Child, Cici begins finding her own “courage and conviction” – and that inspires her as she finds herself in her new country.

Cici navigates two worlds in Measuring Up: her Taiwanese world and her new, American world; neither of which make her entirely comfortable all the time. She struggles to “fit in” with her American friends, with new activities like sleepovers – that don’t sit so easily with her parents – and her discomfort with her friends seeing “how Taiwanese” her home life is. Learning to cook with Julia Child’s recipes, and Child’s willingness to not be perfect, gives her the confidence to step outside her comfort zone. Working with Miranda is intimidating at first, but with her newfound confidence, Cici begins trusting herself and finds her voice in the competition and with Miranda, too. It’s an exciting development to watch unfold across the pages, and the colorful artwork is eye-catching. Readers who enjoy slice-of-life, coming of age books like Shannon Hale’s Real Friends books, Victoria Jamieson’s All’s Faire in Middle School, Remy Lai’s Pie in the Sky will love Measuring Up. The New York Times has a great article on food-related novels for kids, too; it’s a great piece on how we connect food, family, and culture. and and Visit author Lily LaMotte’s webpage and find out more about the book, including a recipe from the story.

Posted in Fantasy, Fiction, Graphic Novels, Middle Grade, Tween Reads

The Nameless City saga comes to a close with The Divided Earth

The Nameless City: The Divided Earth (The Nameless City #3), by Faith Erin Hicks (Sept. 2018, First Second), $14.99, ISBN: 9781626721609

Ages 8-13

Faith Erin Hicks’ epic graphic novel trilogy, The Nameless City, comes to a phenomenal close with The Divided Earth. Dao prince Erzi now has control of The Nameless City, but the city is under siege by Dao and Yisun forces who want the war for the Nameless City to come to an end. The Named – the people of the city – are caught in between. Rat and Kaidu (Kai), the two main characters, plan to sneak into Erzi’s palace and steal back the ancient text containing the formula for napatha, an ancient weapon that Erzi plans to unleash on the city.

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

NatGeo’s 2017 Almanac is jam-packed!

almanac_coverNational Geographic Kids Almanac 2017 (May 2016, National Geographic), $14.99, ISBN: 978-1426324178

Recommended for ages 8-13

NatGeo’s 2017 almanac is packed with content from their kids’ magazine, their collection of books, and their NatGeo Kids website. It’s chock full of articles, facts, games, and digital extras, including an invitation to the Newsmaker Challenge, where kids can submit their own time capsule artifact photos to be featured in next year’s almanac. Features on animals encourage kids to get involved in the Summer Mission Animal Rescue Challenge, increasing awareness about endangered species and how they can play a part in helping do their part toward conservation and protection.

Information is broken out into 10 sections, covering current events, animals, going green, world cultures, adventure, fun and games, science and nature, history, and geography. Each section is loaded with breathtaking photos, top 10 lists, homework help and research ideas, and a quiz.

These books are a great idea for kids who love trivia, and they’re great for introducing readers to the world outside their doors. Like I’ve said before, NatGeo books are a win with the kids in my library, my own kids, and the kids in my extended family. There’s so much to love!

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

NatGeo’s Awesome 8 has the lists kids love!

awesome8Awesome 8: 50 Picture-Packed Top 8 Lists! (National Geographic Kids), by Jen Agresta & Sarah Wassner Flynn, (May 2016, National Geographic), $12.99, ISBN: 978-1426323379

Recommended for ages 7-12

I love lists. I make them, I read them, it’s just a fun thing that people do. It gives you some cool insight into people, like when you read lists of their favorite books, foods, or things; it can make short work of a project, when you have a list of best books or coolest science fair projects. Bottom line, lists are helpful and fun. NatGeo Kids has taken that idea and run with it, giving us Awesome 8: 50 Picture-Packed Top 8 Lists!

This book is loaded with lists of the wildest things, from the most hair-raising roller coasters (that new Joker one at Six Flags Great Adventure may have to be in an updated version, tho’) to the the most bodacious buried treasures. Lists cover wild nature, history, food, and fun. Plan a trip to see some ridiculous roadside attractions (there really is a giant ball of string) and travel in the wackiest of ways, like on a monster school bus. Fun facts pop up throughout the book, as do extended features on some of the lists, like the spread discussing how icebergs flip, following Eight Awesome Things in Antarctica.

It’s a NatGeo book, so you know the pictures are stunning and the information covers different cultures and different parts of the world.There’s a full index in the back and a companion website, the Awesome 8 Hub, where you can find more Awesome 8 lists and log into NatGeo’s Kids portal, which offers resources for educators and homework help resources.

flipped-iceberg-antarctica_88301_990x742Icebergs can flip! Who knew? (from

I’m a huge NatGeo Kids fan, with good reason: the kids embrace the books, which are fun, factual, and contain beautiful photographs of the world around us. Know a kid who loves cool stuff? Consider this book. Looking for a summer program to put together on the spot? Maybe a spot the camouflaged creature game – there’s an Awesome 8 list dedicated to Coolest Camouflage, including this picture of three toads – can you find them?

toadsphoto from


Posted in Graphic Novels, History, Middle Grade, Non-fiction, Tween Reads

Child Soldier tells a survivor’s story

child soldierChild Soldier, by Michel Chikwanine & Jessica Dee Humphreys/Illus. by Claudia Davila, (Sept. 2015, Kids Can Press), $18.95, ISBN: 9781771381260

Recommended for ages 10+

In 1993, Michel Chikwanine was a 5 year-old boy living in the Democratic Republic of Congo. He admired his father, a human rights lawyer, and loved his mother, who took care of children from all over the neighborhood who needed food or care. He was surrounded by friends and family, played soccer, and goofed off with his friends.

His father talked to him about the world as they listened to the news on the radio together; he had no idea that he would become directly involved in world events so soon, though.

On the way home from school one day, he was kidnapped by rebel militants and forced to become a child soldier. He was drugged and forced to kill, tortured and starved, until weeks later, he was able to escape and return to his family. But how do you return to a life when, at the age of 5, your childhood has been taken away?

This heartbreaking, yet inspirational biography is Chikwanine’s story, told in graphic novel format. Michel provides a brief background on his country, so that we may follow the history of conflict that has led to a society that creates child soldiers. We see his parents struggle to give Michel his life back and the risks they take as activists to fight against this happening to another child, ever again: his father is jailed, his home attacked, and his family separated as they escape to protect Michael and his siblings.

The story is told, both in words and pictures, in a way that will grasp younger readers’ attention. They can see themselves in Michel’s childhood: playing games, enjoying friends and family, attending school. The story, while horrific, never becomes too graphic for younger readers – it’s important, because we need younger readers here to know this is happening to children their age and younger. It’s also important for children to see that adults can take care of their children; we see Michel escape on his own, but adults in his village return him to his family, and his family takes action to protect their son.

Child Soldier is ultimately an inspirational story: Michel’s childhood has been taken from him, but he rises from the ashes and recreates himself, becoming a young man with a mission. He is a human rights activist with a story to tell and motivates young people to action. A graphic novel is a wonderful and powerful way to introduce a discussion on human rights in the classroom, and Child Soldier includes discussion questions and information, information on how to get involved and help, and primary sources for further research to facilitate these discussions.

Over the last two summers, I’ve noticed more books on child soldiers showing up on summer reading lists for kids in grades 4 and up. I’m glad to see this subject being addressed in the schools, and hope that this book is on next year’s summer reading lists.

Child Soldier is a book in Kids Can Press’ Citizen Kid series, a collection of books about global issues that seeks to make our kids better global citizens.

Child Soldier is on sale on September 1, but you can take a look at the book trailer here and see some of Claudia Davila’s beautiful artwork.