Posted in awards, Cybils, Fiction, Fiction, Graphic Novels, Humor, Intermediate, Middle Grade, Tween Reads

Graphic Novel Roundup, CYBILS edition

The games have begun! Round 1 CYBILS Judges are clearing the shelves in our libraries and homes, wherever we can find the books in our categories. This is my second year as a Round 1 Graphic Novels panelist, so I’m reading all the graphic novels I can find! The CYBILS nomination period is still going strong, so please consider nominating your favorite J and YA reads this year. If you need some inspiration, or the books you’ve liked are already nominated, check out this Padlet for suggestions.

That said, I’ve got some graphic novels to gush about here – maybe this will inspire you. I’ll note any CYBILS nominees on this list.

Glam Prix Racers, by Deanna Kent/Illustrated by Neil Hooson, (May 2021, imprint), $10.99, ISBN: 9781250265388

Ages 7-10

My gushing for this book is so long overdue, I’m embarrassed. Deanna Kent and Neil Hooson, co-creators of one of my favorite middle grade series – the Snazzy Cat Capers series! – have begun their foray into intermediate graphic novels with Glam Prix Racers. Described as “Mario Kart meets My Little Pony”, this book is like a video game in graphic novel form. There are vibrant colors, expressive, kid-friendly fantasy characters, and a fun storyline that relies on teamwork and friendly competition. It’s race season on Glittergear Island, and Mil the Mermaid and her monster truck, Mudwick, get sidelined on their way to take their Glam Prix team photo. They suspect the Vroombot Crew is up to no good, but what can they do? The Racers have to band together to cross the finish line first! This is the first in a planned trilogy; the second book is due out in January, and anything Deanna Kent and Neil Hooson collaborate on is gold in my book.

Visit Deanna and Neil’s website for Glam Prix (and Snazzy Cat!) freebies all in one place; find coloring sheets here, an activity kit here, and digital resources, including wallpapers, a STEM kit, and videos, here.

Glam Prix Racers is a first round CYBILS nominee.

 

 

Mayor Good Boy, by Dave Scheidt/Illustrated by Miranda Harmon, (Aug. 2021, RH Graphic), $9.99, ISBN: 9780593124871

Ages 7-10

The town of Greenwood has a new Mayor, and he’s a very Good Boy! He’s Mayor Good Boy – a talking dog who wants to do good things in his home town.  Not everyone is thrilled about the new mayor, though, so when some disgruntled citizens start trying to make trouble for the newly elected pup, siblings Aaron and Abby intervene and get hired on as junior aides. While Mayor Good Boy is all about kindness and finding ways to help make his town better, people are plotting to bring him down by releasing fleas all over the town so that he’ll get the blame! Aaron and Abby have to save the day AND find the culprit, and keep Mayor Good Boy’s good reputation intact. With likable characters, friendly art, and loads of fart and stinky feet jokes, this is warm-hearted comedy gold for intermediate and middle graders. The story touches on themes of diversity. advocacy,  and activism, as Abby gives a great speech about being able to create change, even as a kid; back matter includes how to draw instructions for Good Boy, Aaron, and Abby, plus the Mayor Good Boy Pledge and a side comic starring the two siblings on how to contact one’s representatives. Social consciousness, a great message about friends, working together, and a cameo by a comic favorite (I see you, Steenz!) make Mayor Good Boy a graphic novel series you won’t want to miss. There are adventures planned for 2022 and 2023, so keep your carts ready to load.
Mayor Good Boy hasn’t been nominated for a CYBILS yet, so maybe this is one you want to suggest.
Death and Sparkles, by Rob Justus, (Oct. 2021, Chronicle Books), $22.99, ISBN: 9781797206356
Ages 10-14
Big themes and hilarious writing make this a macabre, middle school winner. Death is… well, Death. He touches things, they die, he doesn’t discriminate. Sparkles is a self-obsessed social media celebrity who also happens to be the last unicorn. His manager loves making money off of Sparkles, which turns out pretty poorly for Sparkles, who discovers some hard and fast truths about friendship when he and Death meet. Sparkles, seemingly immune to Death’s touch, is stuck on Death in the most hilarious of ways, leading to the two becoming the unlikeliest of friends. On one hand, there are fart jokes aplenty. On the other hand, there are incredible discussions about the pervasiveness of social media, the cult of influencers, and the fake friends that follow celebrity. There’s an ecological subplot that I expect will come back in future books that shows how even the most genuine intentions can get lost in the murky social media waters, causing a vicious cycle where getting attention for a necessary issue feeds into the popularity machine, leading to the distortion of the message. Thought- and discussion-provoking, yet laugh-out-loud funny, Death and Sparkles is a good start to a new series. Download a free activity kit and enjoy a cupcake.
Death and Sparkles is a CYBILS first round nominee.
Bedhead Ted, by Scott SanGiacomo, (Aug. 2021, Quill Tree Books), $12.99, ISBN: 9780062941305
Ages 8-12
Fourth grader Ted has is a bully target because of his “overactive hair follicles”, which give him a head of wild red hair and the nickname, “Bedhead Ted”. Taunted on the bus and in school, he and his best friend, a boy named Stacy, are on the lookout for The Brookside Beast, a fabled giant raccoon in their neighborhood. As if Ted wasn’t feeling bad enough, two of the boys’ tormentors decide to join Stacy’s Brookside Beast Research Center, causing Ted to distance himself from his best – and only – friend. Just as Ted is feeling his lowest, frustrated with his bullies, his friendship, and his hair, he discovers something incredible: his hair has superpowers! When Stacy disappears during the school’s ice cream social, Ted just knows he’s gone to track down the beast, and follows him: Ted’s hair may just save the day. Themes of bullying, appearances, friendship, and the rumor mill are all addressed in this smartly written, funny story about a kid and his hair. A fun mystery leads to a sweet conclusion, and I loved the subplot involving Ted’s family tree. Mixed media illustrations give life to Ted and his super-powered hair; as bullies throw things at him, readers will see various utensils, writing tools, paper airplanes, and more sticking to his hair as he goes through his day. His family is supportive and doesn’t ignore his bullying, checking in with him throughout the story and leading to his grandmother’s reveal. Visit Scott SanGiacomo’s webpage for Ted-related printables, draw-along videos, and more artwork.
Bedhead Ted hasn’t been nominated for a CYBILS award yet… you know what to do!
Posted in Librarianing

This year, Banned Books Week is more important than ever.

I was planning on taking today off from the blog to get my next round of picture books ready to go, and then a friend and colleague sent me this article from Book Riot. The Central York, Pennsylvania school board has put in a wide-reaching ban on books – from picture books through YA – that are culturally relevant and embrace diversity. This list was originally created by the district’s diversity committee.

Some of the books on this list include Andrea Beaty’s Sofia Valdez, Future PrezAlexandra Penfold’s All Are Welcome; Matthew A. Cherry’s Hair Love, and Grace Lin’s A Big Mooncake for Little Star. Look at those books and tell me what makes these contentious, problematic, or scandalous, except for the fact that they target people of color. What about a book called All Are Welcome could possibly be an issue? The issue here is racism.

Another book on the list, A Boy Called Bat, by Elana K. Arnold, has a main character who appears to be on the autism spectrum. Banning this book sends a message every bit as dangerous. Is the school board in Central York, PA, suggesting that nonwhite, neurotypical characters and creators should not be put into children’s hands?

There is no apparent reason for any of these books to be on a banned list except for the glaringly obvious one. Is this truly the world we want to create for ALL children? Is this truly the world we want to live in ourselves?

Banned Books Week is coming up in less than two weeks. This year, it’s more important than ever to understand that our freedom to read is coming under attack Educate yourselves. Educate the families around you. Read broadly and encourage others to read different viewpoints.

You don’t have to love everything you read. You don’t have to agree with everything you read. But it is not on you, or on me, or on anyone, to tell others what they are forbidden to read. In a society where Mein Kampf remains on bookshelves but All Are Welcome isn’t, Banned Books Week is still necessary.

I’ll be making sure to keep reading and writing about books that represent the world I want to live in, and I’ll be working on displays for my library – I’d love to see yours, if you create some, too. You don’t need a library or a classroom, either: let your bookshelves show off who you are!

To view the Diversity Committee Resources, now banned by Central York, PA’s school district, click here. The equity list of banned books is here in Word format.

Time to get to reading and sharing, my friends.

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

And now, the catch-up posts begin! First up: The Okay Witch and the Hungry Shadow

Get ready for graphic novels! I’m working on my massive catch-up, so there will be several round-ups posts as I get all my cats herded and book notes together.

Personal note: Library’s open! We opened today and had a nice, fairly small (for us) group in and out today. It was a relaxing, wonderful way to start reconnecting with our families. I can’t wait to see what tomorrow brings!

Personal note 2: Did we finish weeding and adding the new books yet? To quote Pete the Cat, Goodness No! But we’re rocking and rolling, and I’ve weeded my way through the adult collection 300s; onward and upward. And now… let’s get graphic!

The Okay Witch and the Hungry Shadow, by Emma Steinkellner, (July 2021, Aladdin), $12.99, ISBN: 9781534431485

Ages 8-12

The follow-up to 2019’s The Okay Witch takes on some big issues, and it’s so good. We get a quick recap from Lazlo the Cat (if you don’t remember him, or haven’t read the first book yet, don’t worry: he’ll catch you up nicely). Moth and her mom are still hanging in there, and the racist and creepy jerks at her school are still… racist and creepy. Moth is stressed out, frustrated, and no one can quite understand; even her best friend, Charlie, isn’t able to. The minute Moth pushes back against her tormentors, she’s the one taking the heat and she’s the one who “can’t take a joke”. Issues of race and equity take center stage here in a way that kids can identify with and understand; others will hopefully gain more of an understanding. Adults could do with reading this book, too; there’s a moment when Moth chafes at having to attend a school founded by someone who tried to wipe out witches that really eloquently frames what I like to call “the great statue debate”.

I digress. Moth manages to get hold of a charm that contains a power to make Moth into the popular, funny, confident girl she wants to be – but we all know what happens when you get what you wish for, don’t we? Great story, great artwork, characters you’ll love (and love to rage about), and an altogether great graphic novel for middle graders who love fantasy as much as they love realistic fiction.

 

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads, Toddler Reads

Oddbird: Vive la difference!

Oddbird, by Derek Desierto, (May 2021, Feiwel and Friends), $18.99, ISBN: 9781250765314

Ages 3-6

It’s a really hot day in the jungle, but all the birds at the pool wouldn’t dream of going into the water and messing up their feathers! It’s a place to see and be seen, until a little gray bird shows up and dips their toes in the water, attracting everyone’s attention. Those rude birds tease Oddbird for being different and bullying him until they flies away, crying… but they’ve got a plan! Oddbird is a smart story for young readers about fitting in… and standing out. It’s a great readaloud and provides a lot of food for thought, whether you’re approaching from a social-emotional learning perspective or a diversity, equity, and inclusion frame of mind. Oddbird celebrates individuality and acceptance, and it’s a hat tip to perseverance. Oddbird is gendered as male in the flap text and in the story, but if you prefer, can easily be nonbinary during a readaloud; I’d read the story using they/them pronouns, myself; it flows nicely either way. The bright illustrations are cheery and pop right off the white background; readers will love seeing these colorful birds. Have feathers in your craft storage? Make Oddbird grab and go kits by putting some feathers, some gray construction paper (cut into a vaguely Oddbird shape if you’d like), and some googly eyes and link it to a virtual (or in-person) storytime!

Posted in Early Reader, Fiction, picture books, Preschool Reads

Indie author/publisher spotlight!

I’m back with more independently published authors! You’ve seen them here before: both Lois Wickstrom and Riya Aarini have been kind enough to share their books with me in the past, and I’m happy to feature more of their books today. Let’s see what Carefree Ollie and Alex the Inventory are up to, and meet some new friends along the way.

How to Make a Flying Carpet, by Lois Wickstrom/Illustrated by Janet King, (November 2020, Independently Published),  $24.99, ISBN: 978-0916176778

Ages 7-11

Alex is a girl who likes science and likes repurposing broken things, so when a frog magnet falls from her refrigerator and breaks, she sees opportunity. Taking the magnet, she discovers that she can rescue her father’s key from the heating vent where it fell, and she can make paper clips dance. She begins experimenting with the magnets to find out what else she can do, and when she discovers a cache of magnets in the garage, she gets an idea… can she use the repelling powers of magnets to make a real flying carpet? Filled with fun and easily creatable experiment with magnets, How to Make a Flying Carpet is a fun STEM/STEAM story that will work really well with a science club/Discovery Club. The illustrations help kids visualize how to work with magnets, especially in a household setting: super-helpful these days, when finding things around the house is the best way to keep kids busy during remote and blended learning days! Alex’s interest in learning and in expanding the scope of her experiments will motivate kids to dig deeper and embrace the fun in learning. If you’re interested in more magnet experiments, Babble Dabble Do has four easy magnet experiments that you can easily do with household items or with a quick trip to the 99-cent store.

Visit author Lois Wickstrom’s website, Look Under Rocks, for more information about her books, including What Do the Plants Say?, her first Alex the Inventor story.

 

Ollie’s Garden (Carefree Ollie #3), by Riya Aarini/Illustrated by Virvalle Caravallo, (Nov. 2020, Independently Published), $15.99, ISBN: 978-1735347325

Ages 6-10

Carefree Ollie has to negotiate between bickering groups of animals in his garden kingdom in his latest adventure. The orange ladybugs won’t let the red ladybugs near the daisies; frogs are chasing toads away from the water because they “ribbit” while toads “croak”; chipmunks and squirrels are quarreling over their tails. With Ollie’s garden kingdom in chaos, it’s up to him to stop the fighting and help bring peace, tolerance, and understanding to the kingdom once more.  A sweet parable on equity, diversity, and inclusion, Ollie’s Garden is a good way to approach embracing our differences and how those differences make us wonderful. Digital artwork is kid-friendly and colorful, and the storytelling is a good starting point for your own discussions about how diversity makes us stronger.

Education.com has some great activities on diversity, including a Kindergarten lesson plan on Appreciating Diversity, a second grade lesson plan on Appreciating Diversity and Differences, and a Welcome All activity for Kindergarten and first graders that helps develop an appreciation for differences and building social awareness.

 

Sam and Sophie, by Kerry Olitzky/Illustrated by Jen Hernandez, (March 2021, Higher Ground Books & Media), $12.99, ISBN: 978-1949798838

Ages 3-7

Sam has just become a big brother to baby sister Sophie, but he’s frustrated. There doesn’t seem to be much time or energy left over for him, and he’s not happy with all the attention baby Sophie is getting. But when Baby Sophie gets sick, Sam finds himself worrying and trying to make her happy and feel better. A moving story that grows from the Jewish tradition of planting a tree when a new child is born, Sam and Sophie includes back matter on the tradition and on trees, people, and their relationship to God. Mixed media artwork has a manga influence. Sam and Sophie is a good book to begin a talk on sibling jealousy and how to navigate complicated feelings that arise when a new baby arrives.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Halloween(ish) Books: Witchy Things!

Witchy Things, by Mariasole Brusa/Illustrated by Marta Sevilla, (Aug. 2020, NubeOcho), $16.95, ISBN: 9788417673604

Ages 4-8

Oh no! The witch is furious! A potion explosion turned her hair blue! BLUE! Not Blood Red, or Ash Gray, or Booger Green, but BLUE FAIRY BLUE! The Witch is furious, so she’s off to prove that blue hair doesn’t make her any goody-goody: she’s going to snatch a kid. She discovers a boy named Adam playing in the park with some dolls and immediately thinks he’s some rotten kid stealing his sister’s dolls, but she discovers that making assumptions about others is just as wrong as people making assumptions about her! Adam proceeds to drop some wisdom on the Witch, telling her to stop doing what she thinks she’s supposed to do, based on what people think, and do what makes her happy. And isn’t that the best advice you’ve heard today?

Originally published in Italy in 2019, Witchy Things is available in Spanish as Cosas de Bruja. The text won the Narrating Equality contest. It’s a story about looking past appearances and assumptions and celebrating just being oneself. The artwork is cartoony fun, with a furiously blue-haired witch, complete with hairy wart (kind of looks like a cute spider) on her nose and her very expressive familiars, a black cat and two rats. Fun, sweet, and with a good message, Witchy Things/Cosas de Bruja is a Halloween story about which witch you want to be. (See what I did there?)

There are some great self-esteem activities for kids available online. Teachers Pay Teachers has a free, downloadable set of self-esteem bookmarks for kids to color in and use; 5 Things I Love About Myself are printables that allow kids to write about what they value in themselves. Education.com has a free, downloadable Venn diagram of differences and similarities than be used in conjunction with this book; ask kids to think about what makes Adam and the Witch the same and different.

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

DC Zoom is bringing it to young graphic novel readers!

I have been loving the two DC original graphic novel lines. DC Ink, for YA, has been one hit after the next with Mera, Harley Quinn, and Raven, for starters; DC Ink’s lineup so far – Superman of Smallville, Dear Justice League, and The Secret Spiral of Swamp Kid – have rivaled the until-now unchallenged Dog Man on his bookshelf. I received a handful of new and upcoming DC Ink titles recently, wrestled them back from my kid (he’s got them back now, it’s fine), and dove in.

Black Canary: Ignite, by Meg Cabot/Illustrated by Cara McGee, (Oct. 2019, DC Zoom), $9.99, ISBN: 978-1-4012-8620-0

Ages 8-12

In DC Comics, Black Canary is a formidable metahuman whose Canary Cry is a sonic screech that brings bad guys to her knees. She’s also a pretty awesome fighter, and a musician. In Ignite, she’s 13-year-old Dinah Lance, daughter of a detective with an interest in police work, and lead singer and guitarist in a band. All she wants to do is win the battle of the bands at school and get her dad’s permission to join the Gotham City Junior Police Academy, but a mysterious person shows up in her neighborhood and starts causing trouble for Dinah. Dinah’s voice is also getting in the way, causing havoc when she laughs, yells, or sings too loud, and it’s landing her in the principal’s office. A lot. When the mystery figure attacks her as she works in her mother’s florist store, yelling about a “Black Canary”, Dinah discovers there’s more to her – and her family – than meets the eye, and it’s time for her to take charge of her voice and channel her inner superhero.

One of the great things about the DC young readers and YA books is that they’re bringing on authors kids know, or I know and can talk up to my kids. The Princess Diaries is HUGE here, and her Notebooks of a Middle School Princess books make her a Very Big Deal in the kids’ room here at the library. Having her take on one of my favorite DC women was a treat.Meg Cabot gives Dinah a realistic teen voice, giving her real-world problems to balance out the fact that she’s a metahuman with power: she’s always in hot water with her principal; her dad wants to keep her safe and tries to squash her interest in police work; she has trouble with her friends; she wants to be a rock star! There’s a nice nod to the Black Canary legacy, and I love the illustrations: Cara McGee even manages to include the famous Black Canary fishnets, making them part of Dinah’s punk teen look. Together, Meg Cabot and Cara McGee capture the spirit of an enduring DC character and make her accessible to younger readers. (Now, go watch Arrow, kiddies!)

 

Diana, Princess of the Amazons, by Shannon & Dean Hale/Illustrated by Victoria Ying, (Jan. 2020, DC Zoom), $9.99, ISBN: 978-1401291112

Ages 8-12

Diana of Themyscira is growing up in an island paradise where she’s surrounded by loving “aunties” and her mother. But, at age 11, she’s also the only child on the island, and she’s lonely. She decides to take matters into her own hands and forms a child from clay – just like the story of Diana’s own birth – and prays that the gods will give her a friend. Imagine her surprise when she discovers that her wish has come true, and Mona, the friend she dreamed of, is in front of her and ready to take on the world! But Mona doesn’t have the same idea of fun that Diana does, and starts leading Diana toward more destructive, mean-spirited fun. Mona starts putting some ideas in Diana’s head that could have disastrous consequences for Themyscira – can she reign herself and Mona in before catastrophe?

Shannon Hale and Dean Hale are literary powerhouses. They’ve created graphic novels (Rapunzel’s Revenge and Calamity Jack; most recently, the Best Friends and Real Friends autobiographical graphic novels); they’ve had huge success with their Princess in Black series of intermediate books, and Shannon Hale is a Newbery Medalist for her 2006 book, Princess Academy. They’ve written books in the Ever After High and Marvel’s Squirrel Girl series; they’ve written picture books: in short, they are rock stars. Asking them to write a Wonder Woman story for kid, you know you’re going to get something good. They deliver. Diana, Princess of the Amazons isn’t about Wonder Woman; it’s about a lonely 11-year-old girl who is so excited to have a friend, that she’ll follow anything that friend says or does, even when it puts her at odds with her mother and the adults around her. She’s frustrated because she can’t get the adults to listen to her; she feels clumsy and like she can’t measure up; she’s a self-conscious young teen. It’s an entirely relatable story that kids will read, see themselves in, and read again. I loved this book, and I loved the cute little nods to Wonder Woman throughout, like her being concerned about the cheetah population (one of Wonder Woman’s main foes is Cheetah) and having familiar characters like Antiope appear. Victoria Ying’s illustration will instantly appeal to Raina Telgemeier, Victoria Jamieson, and Shannon and Dean Hale fans. It’s colorful, with beautiful landscapes and cartoony artwork. Add this one to your graphic novel stacks, without question. Introduce your realistic readers to Wonder Woman!

One last note: While this is – as most of the DC Zoom books are – suggested for readers ages 8-12, you can go a little lower on this one. My 7-year-old gobbled this one up quite happily.

Green Lantern: Legacy, by Minh Lê/Illustrated by Andie Tong, (Jan. 2010, DC Zoom), $9.99, 978-1-4012-8355-1

Ages 8-12

What a fantastic new Lantern story! Tai Pham is a 13-year-old child of Vietnamese immigrants, living in an apartment with his family, above his grandmother’s grocery store, The Jade Market. (Ahem.) The store is the target for vandals; the front plate window continues to be smashed as the neighborhood deteriorates, but his grandmother will not consider closing the store or selling, saying, “We will not let fear drive us from our home. Not again”. When Grandmother dies, Tai inherits her jade ring… and discovers that there was a lot more to her than she let on, when he learns about the power behind the ring, and meets John Stewart, from the Green Lantern Corps. As Tai tries to understand the weight his grandmother carried, keeping her neighborhood safe, and come to terms with his new status as a Green Lantern, he also discovers that there are those out there who would do him harm, and that not everyone who approaches him in the wake of his grandmother’s death is a friend.

This is a great new Green Lantern origin story, with a fantastic multicultural cast and mission. Author Minh Lê authored one of my favorite picture books from  last year, the award-winning Drawn Together; also a multi-generational tale of a grandparent and grandchild coming together through their different experiences of American and Vietnamese culture. He creates a solid, relatable story about growing up in an immigrant community under siege by crime and the threat of gentrification, and creates a superhero story where a hero, imbued with the power of the universe in his hand, makes the welfare of his cultural community a priority. Tying Tai Pham’s grandmother’s story as a Lantern into the family’s flight from Vietnam is incredible: Minh Lê’s story, powered by Andie Tong’s powerful images, are unforgettable. Even the Lantern costume both Tai and his grandmother wear are culturally influenced and I can’t wait to read more.

Zatanna and the House of Secrets: A Graphic Novel, by Matthew Cody/Illustrated by Yoshi Yoshitani, (Feb. 2020. DC Zoom), $9.99, ISBN: 978-1-4012-9070-2

Ages 8-12

I love that characters like Swamp Thing (well… Swamp Kid) and Zatanna are getting in front of younger audiences with DC Zoom. Zatanna and the House of Secrets is the origin story for Zatanna, a magician who can actually wield real magic. A young teen, she lives in a rambling house – “a certain house on a certain street that everyone talks about” – with her stage magician father and their rabbit, Pocus. Sick of the bullies at school, Zatanna – much like Black Canary in Ignite – loses her temper, with interesting consequences that change everything. When Zatanna comes home and finds her father mysteriously gone, she learns that her house is much, much more than a home, and she’s much, much more than a kid with a pet rabbit.

Matthew Cody can write superheroes; he’s written middle grade novels Powerless, Super, and Villainous, and he’s written graphic novels. He gives Zatanna so much more depth than “that magician chick who says things backwards”; something I’ve heard her referred to by people who don’t really know much about the character or the comic. As with the most successful superhero books, Matthew Cody makes Zatanna relatable: a kid who fends of bullies; who experiences upheaval with the Mean Girls over who to be seen with versus who’s social poison; a kid who’s grieving the loss of her mother and who loves her father, who’s doing the best he can. There’s an unlikely friendship that two characters have to learn to navigate, and a sidekick that kids will immediately love. Yoshi Yoshitani’s artwork is bold, cartoony fun. This one can skew a little younger than 8-12, too. Enjoy.

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

Katie O’Neill follows up The Tea Dragon Society with The Tea Dragon Festival

The Tea Dragon Festival, by Katie O’Neill, (Sept. 2019, Oni Press), $21.99, ISBN: 978-1-62010-655-6

Ages 8-12

The Tea Dragon Festival takes place in the universe introduced in the Eisner-winning The Tea Dragon Society (2017) and is a prequel of sorts, featuring two characters from the first book. Taking place in a mountain village called Silverleaf, Tea Dragons are small dragons that live with the villagers; the villagers care for them, even pamper them, and harvest tea leaves that the dragons grow on their bodies. Each dragon is named for the teas they produce: we’ve previously met Jasmine, Roobios, and Chamomile, and The Tea Dragon Festival debuts some additional dragons: Fennel, Marshmallow, and Mountain Chamomile.

A girl named Rinn goes into the woods to gather ingredients and discovers a real dragon, fast asleep. Upon waking, Aedhan – the dragon – explains that he was sent to protect Silverleaf, but dozed off. But he’s ready for the barley tea celebrations at the next Tea Dragon Festival! The only problem is… the barley tea celebration happened 80 years ago. To lift Aedhan’s spirits, Rinn brings him back to the village and introduces him to everyone, including her Uncle Erik and his companion, Hesekiel, who previous Tea Dragon readers will remember. The couple are younger here, and are still in their bounty hunting days; they deduce that the bounty they are hunting – a mysterious forest creature who can put people to sleep for decades. While Erik and Hesekiel seek out the bounty, Rinn includes Aedhan in festival preparations, and endears him to the village – and vice versa.

This is just a lovely, uplifting story. Katie O’Neill once again gives us a world where diverse characters live and work together in harmony; we have fluid gender identities and diverse characters, even diverse species, living among one another in peace. It’s a visually beautiful story, with verdant forest colors and lush landscapes. Aedhan is a shape-shifting dragon who looks stunning, majestic, in flight and shifts into a softer, humanoid form to interact with the Silverleaf inhabitants. Back matter includes a note about tea dragons and dragons, and an Alpine Tea Dragon Handbook, introducing three new tea dragons from the story. A wonderful fantasy that will make readers happy.

The Tea Dragon Society webpage has a cast of characters, an almanac of tea dragons, and the tea dragon webcomic! Add to your friendly list of links for kids!

Katie O’Neill is an Eisner and Harvey Award-winning graphic novelist. Visit her webpage for more about her books and illustration.

Posted in Librarianing

Updating reading lists is important.

You may have heard about the recent uproar over the Florida Department of Education reading list, which offered little diversity and consisted of very few recently published books (the most recent book for 3-5th grades is 20 years old).

I understand the importance of getting the classics in front of kids, but let’s be real: kidlit has radically changed in the last 5-10 years, let alone the last 20. Our kids have radically changed, too, and giving them books that don’t speak to 90% of their experiences is a quick way to discourage them from the joy of reading. It’s just not a great way to go.

I see a lot of lists when I’m at that children’s desk. Some are amazing – I asked one middle schooler to give his librarians and teachers, whoever came up with his school’s list, a high five from me when he saw them, because the books were great. Nonfiction selections included graphic novels and a book on creating Minecraft worlds. The fiction was recent, within the last 7-10 years, with some being only 6 months to a year old. I know I work in an urban library in a multicultural community, and for that, I’m fortunate; our teachers get what our kids need and want to read. But I also get book lists that have books on them that are so old, there may be only one or two repeatedly book-taped, repaired copies in the system: surely, there are more recent concept books than this one?

Anyway, after reading the School Library Journal article, I sat down and came up with some of my own suggestions to rejuvenate some of the school reading lists out there. I’ve read most of these books; what I haven’t, fellow educators have read, and enjoyed, and suggested that I read (and so, they go on my precariously lurching TBR). I humbly suggest considering some of these for future reading lists.

This is by no means a complete list – it’s just a hopeful start for a conversation. I’d like to hear what you’re reading, and what you suggest, so I can pass along the good word to the families in my community and in my life. My list is influenced by my living and working in urban Queens, New York, so I’ve worked to give it a multicultural feel that speaks to everyone living here. I haven’t included graphic novels and only included a smattering of primary nonfiction; I may work on a list for each of those next.

Books are in alphabetical order by author’s last name.

Books K-2

Books 3-5

Books 6-8

 

Posted in Graphic Novels, Non-Fiction, Teen, Women's History

What Makes Girls Sick and Tired – great for YA collections

What Makes Girls Sick and Tired, by Lucile De Pesloüan/Illustrated by Geneviève Darling, (March 2019, Second Story Press), $13.99, ISBN: 9781772600964

Ages 12+

The time for conversations is here: there are a lot of things women are sick and tired of hearing. We’re tired of hearing the same old “jokes” and passive-aggressive comments and we’re not laughing it off with a simple eyeroll any longer. What Makes Girls Sick and Tired is a graphic novel – a feminist manifesto, as publisher Second Story Press states – that brings these obnoxious ideas, assumptions, and comments to light, in the hope that it will prompt discussion and understanding.

Geneviève Darling’s purple-and-white artwork gives visual understanding to Lucile De Pesloüan’s words and ideas, featuring  diverse, inclusive groups of women to get the points across. Girls and women are not cookie-cutter templates: we are different, have different tastes and experiences, come from different cultures and backgrounds, and have different ideas and beliefs. We don’t all want to be rescued, and we don’t want to be someone’s “score”. We don’t like it when you assume we’re weak, when you tell boys and men to “man up” or “stop crying like a girl”. We don’t want to be told to “act like a lady” or, for that matter, what a lady is, does, or looks like. These moments, and many more, are intelligently captured and plainly stated. It’s a powerful, smart book that I hope will inspire young women – and men – to read, discuss, and move forward with understanding. There are no solutions presented here: that’s for us to take on.

What Makes Girls Sick and Tired has received some great feedback from librarians and bloggers, and I’m looking forward to getting this on my shelves. Like Oni Press’s A Quick Easy Guide to They/Them Pronouns, this is information that works well in graphic format for teen and college audiences.