Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Welcome to the world, Robobaby!

Robobaby, by David Wiesner, (Sept. 2020, Clarion Books), $17.99, ISBN: 9780544987319

Ages 4-7

Three-time Caldecott Medalist David Wiesner is back! Robobaby is the giggle-worthy story of the chaos a new baby brings to the family, set in a robot world. Baby Flange arrives at his family’s home; he’s got great packaging and he’s a big baby: 278 pounds! Big sister Cathode, nicknamed Cathy, is positively aglow at her brother, but no one is letting her help: until a series of hilarious catastrophes, that is! Remaining calm and relying on her tools and tech smarts, she manages to make sure updates are installed, instructions are followed, and brand new Robobaby is adorably – and correctly – assembled. Perfect for a STEM/STEAM storytime, this loving tribute to girls in science is also a great idea for Women’s History Month storytimes. The artwork is incandescent, with bright yellows and artistically placed shadows to provide depth and interest. Barely-controlled chaos reigns across the spreads, which you can play for laughs during a readaloud. Sparse text is relegated to word balloons from characters, further proving the David Wiesner doesn’t need words to tell a great story: he does all the talking with his artwork. Kids will recognize and enjoy the familiarity of new baby pandemonium: the relatives arriving en masse, everyone contributing opinions, and most importantly, kids being shuttled aside in the interest of letting the grownups talk. Having Cathode triumph over the adults to bond with her brother is such a lovely, respectful way to let kids know that we see them. Must-have for collections.

Robobaby has starred reviews from Kirkus, Publishers Weekly, and Booklist.
Posted in Fantasy, Fiction, Graphic Novels, Middle Grade, Tween Reads

Middle Grade Mermaid Stories!

Mermaid stories are insanely popular. Debbie Dadey’s Mermaid Tales series is always out over here; I have early readers and middle graders constantly asking me where they can find more mermaid books, and YA has a whole category of mermaid books. If you’re of a certain age (or your parents are), like me, you remember the movie, Splash, which is getting a reboot with Channing Tatum as a mer-guy now. There’s something fascinating about the world under the sea.

The Little Mermaid, by Metaphrog, (Apr. 2017, Papercutz), $13.99, ISBN: 9781629917399

Award-winning graphic novelists and Eisner Award nominees Metaphrog – aka Sandra Marrs and John Chalmers –  are award-winning graphic novelists who have crafted a graphic novel retelling of Hans Christian Andersen’s The Little Mermaid.  For those of you who only know the Disney version, heads up: this is not that version. There’s no happy singing crab, Bette Midler is not a fabulous underwater witch with killer vocal cords, and the ending is very different than you may expect. The Mermaid – unnamed here – falls in love with a young prince whom she saves from drowning, and makes a bargain with a witch in order to grow legs and be with him, but the price is high.

Metaphrog create beautiful art to tell the mermaid’s tale. With shades of blues and greens, they weave magic, loneliness, and mystery into their story. The waves seem to lap off the cover, beckoning the reader to come in and read their tale. This adaptation beautifully translates this powerful tale. Pair this one with Metaphrog’s graphic adaptation of Anderson’s The Red Shoes and Other Tales.

Fish Girl, by Donna Jo Napoli/Illustrated by David Wiesner, (March 2017, Clarion), $17.99, ISBN: 978-0547483931

Another Little Mermaid retelling, Fish Girl tells a different, slightly darker tale. The Fish Girl is an attraction in a seaside exhibit; the proprietor refers to himself as Neptune, god of the oceans. As the story progresses, it becomes apparent that Neptune isn’t all that he claims to be, and the circumstances under which he keeps Fish Girl in captivity are unsettling, bordering on menacing. A girl visits the exhibit one day and catches a glimpse of the fish girl; the two strike up a secret friendship as Mia – the name Fish Girl’s friend bestows on her – wants more than life in a tank, and begins pushing her boundaries.

This is a more modern update of the classic fairy tale, with unsettling implications. Neptune is not a benevolent sea god; he’s not a loving father figure, and I found myself fighting a panicky feeling – most likely reacting as a parent – because I wanted Mia to get away from him. The story is intriguing, and will draw readers in, keeping them riveted until the last page is turned.

While I normally love David Wiesner’s artwork – Art & Max, Flotsam, Tuesday, you name it – this isn’t his usual artwork, where the colors blend and shade to provide depth and dimension. It’s still beautiful artwork, but it’s more flat here, really letting the story take center stage. His use of sea colors is lovely, and he creates a loving relationship between Mia and her guardian, the octopus.

I’d suggest these for higher middle graders – 5th and 6th graders – because the overall content may be upsetting to younger readers. Would I let my kids read them at that age? Yes, but that’s me. Read these first, and let that be your guide; make sure your younger readers know that these are different ways of telling the Disney story they may be familiar with.