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

Fair Shares teaches kids about equity

Fair Shares, by Pippa Goodhart/Illustrated by Anna Doherty, (Jan. 2020, Kane Miller), $$12.99, ISBN: 9781684640485

Ages 3-7

Hare and Bear both want some of the tasty-looking pears in a tree, but can’t reach. Hare finds three chairs, but Bear says it’s unfair if Hare takes two chairs, to Bear’s one – but once they’re on the chairs, Bear is the only one that can reach! Luckily for Hare, Beetle steps in and explains that “giving everybody the same thing isn’t always fair”. Whew! Bear realizes that Hare really does need two chairs to reach the pears. Now, what does Beetle want to eat?

Originally published in the UK in 2019, Fair Shares is a beautifully smooth and straightforward explanation of equity, Fair Shares teaches readers of ALL ages that equal doesn’t always mean fair. Bear, who towers over Hare, only needs one chair to reach the pears. With just one chair, Hare is still struggling. Once Bear realizes this simple fact, he’s happy to let Hare get his share. The digital artwork is wonderfully textured, and Anna Doherty’s scanned ink and pencil textures give the story a lovely fall feel, with deep reds, greens, and yellows, and a fuzzy Hare and furry Bear. The ending will surprise and delight readers. Beautifully done, and an essential book to keep on hand.

Free Spirit Publishing has an article, with additional book suggestions, on teaching kids the difference between fair and equal. Teachers Pay Teachers has several free, downloadable classroom printable posters that explain and illustrate equity, including this one from the National Alliance for Partnerships in Equity, this equity classroom poster from Panda Circus, and this equity poster from Studying Education.