Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads, Toddler Reads

Gorgeous concept books for toddlers and preschoolers!

There are some some amazing concept books in the publishing pipeline that are going to make toddler storytimes even more fun. Grab some colorful scarves, egg shakers, and art supplies because you’re going to want to hold an art storytime with these books as your foundation.

Lili’s Seasons, by Lucie Albon, (Apr. 2021, Schiffer Kids), $9.99, ISBN: 9780764361043

Ages 2-6

Lucie Albon’s “On the Fingertips” series illustrates concepts using finger-and hand-painted artwork that kids are going to love – and that they’ll be able to try on their own. Two mice, Lily and Henri, explore the seasons. Each seasons is set off with a spread of what you’ll discover on the pages – or outside! – for each season. In the fall, you’ll look for autumn leaves, pine cones, and squirrels; in the winter, there will be mittens, wool socks, hot chocolate, and snowflakes. Lili and Henri enjoy the gifts of every season, together, whether having hot chocolate at home in the winter or visiting the beach in the summer. Back matter teaches readers how to “draw with their fingertips”, and provides instruction on necessary supplies, and how to use the paint on your hands and fingers to create clouds and trees through the seasons. The book has a create space for exploration, but if you’re using this in your library, consider having a create space ready for your library kiddos, stocked with paper, art materials, and smocks or old t-shirts. If you’re like me, and still virtual, you can explore doing a virtual art program, and offering some supplies via grab-and-go promotion. Colorful, bright, and absolutely “you can do this!” kid-friendly, this is a fun new series that I’m looking forward to spending time with.

 

Lili’s Colors, by Lucie Albon, (Apr. 2021, Schiffer Kids), $9.99, ISBN: 9780764361036

Ages 2-6

In the companion “On the Fingertips” book to Lili’s Seasons, Lili’s Colors brings Lili and Henri back to talk about color. The two friends enjoy red lollipops, cuddle yellow chicks, sail on blue water, and spend a colorful day together, wandering across brightly colored, finger-painted spreads. Colors are featured in a bigger, bolder font, in their own shades, and the text – dialogue between Henri and Lili – is brief and perfect for young listeners and readers. A finger paint workshop section goes over primary and secondary colors, color mixing, and how to paint your fingers and hands to create the artwork in the book and a self-portrait. A spread showing paintings by children encourages readers with a “you can do it!” attitude! Adorable and cheery, this is an adorable new series for burgeoning artists.

 

Colors de la Runway, by Clarence Ruth, (Feb. 2019, Schiffer Kids), $18.99, ISBN: 9780764356834

Ages 2-6

How, oh how, did I miss this when it came out the first time? I owe Schiffer big thanks for sending me a copy of Colors de la Runway to rectify my not seeing this earlier. Colors de la Runway is a concept book on color by Clarence Ruth, fashion designer and creative director of Cotte D’Armes. Vibrant colors named in both English and French come off the page as model sketches show off fashions and accessories in 20 spreads: red/rouge dresses, light blue/bleu clair eyeshadow and the peek of a shirt under a jacket, brown/marron frames to a pair of dramatic glasses. Clarence Ruth’s book is inspiration for older readers who love fashion and art, and for littles who want to learn their colors with some pizzaz. Stunning, playful, and absolutely fun: get out a feather boa and giant sunglasses and have yourself a fashion storytime.

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

Fat Girl on a Plane is fab!

Fat Girl on a Plane, by Kelly DeVos, (June 2018, Harlequin Teen), $18.99, ISBN: 978-0373212538

Ages 14+

Cookie Vonn is an aspiring clothing designer who knows a heck of a lot about fashion and textiles. She also wants fashion that makes everyone feel good, including the plus-size curvy girls and women that seem to be left out of major clothing designers’ lines. You see, Cookie used to be one of those girls, until one slight too many – the title should give you the clue – sends her to NutriNation, a Weight Watchers-type program where she loses the weight, but gains even more baggage. Her parents – a renowned supermodel and a surgeon – leave a lot to be desired. Her supermodel mother left her to be raised by her grandmother, and if you think she’s throwing cash her way to give her daughter and mother a lavish lifestyle, you’d be wrong. Her heartbroken father ran away to Africa once her mother dumped him, and he’s nothing more than an occasional phone call to Cookie. Needless to say, Cookie knows she’s got one person to rely on: herself.

When things start happening for Cookie, including a relationship and internship with an older famous designer, she wonders whether she’s becoming just like her mother: Gareth Miller seems to want to run their relationship and her life. She struggles with staying true to herself while becoming part of the New York fashion set, and discovers that her bright future has attracted her mother’s – and sleazy stepfather’s – attentions.

This book just draws you right in. Written in Cookie’s voice, the story takes place in two alternating timelines: right before and through her NutriNation journey, and the “present”, some two years into her weight loss. Pre-NutriNation, we see how 300-lb-plus Cookie’s treated; obviously a radical difference from how size 6 Cookie moves through life. She strives to make accessible fashion for everyone, no matter what size, and discovers the fashion industry’s dirty little secrets on the way. In the end, she almost loses herself, but is grounded by her friends and family back home in Arizona. There were some high points: I loved that she could move on without caving in and embracing the people who treated her so awfully. (It’s a relief to not scream at a book when a protagonist kisses and makes up with her or his tormentors!) It’s a very smooth read that held my interest all the way through, with characters that are realistic: not all wonderful and light, not all mustache-twirling villain. Pair this with Julie Murphy’s Dumplin’ for two great books about curvy heroines this summer.

Posted in Fiction, Fiction, Graphic Novels, Intermediate, Middle Grade, Teen

Three new graphic novels coming your way in May!

There are some good graphic novels coming out in May. There’s manga-influenced work, an animal tale that brings Watership Down to mind, and a gripping story about being an undocumented immigrant. Let’s see what’s up!

 

Snails are Just My Speed!, by Kevin McCloskey, (May 2018, TOON Books), $12.95, ISBN: 9781943145270

Recommended for readers 3-7

The latest in Kevin McCloskey’s Giggle and Learn series of graphic novels takes a look at snails! They live in their shells! They like to eat together! They make a LOT of mucus! (So. Much. Mucus.) This latest easy reading, nonfiction graphic novel is perfect for pre-k and Kindergarten science groups and animal lovers. It’s loaded with fun facts, much of it mucus-related, which will make this a guaranteed hit with kids who love to squeal and shriek at “gooey” stuff. I love the infographic, built into the story, of all the animals that are faster – and slower! – than a snail, and the different types of snails that exist, including a hairy snail and a “glass” snail with a see-through shell. There’s a quick drawing lesson at the end – great way to end a storytime or science group session! – and the TOON website always has great teacher’s resources available for download. Kevin McCloskey is aces in my book!

 

Animus, by Antoine Revoy, (May 2018, First Second), $16.99, ISBN: 9781626721838

Recommended for readers 12+

This is a creepy ghost tale/mystery surrounding a ghost destined to haunt a playground. Schoolmates Hisao and Sayrui meet Toothless, a ghost who tells them that the playground is magic: the swings let you look into people’s dreams; the sandbox brings your worst fears to life, and the slide has the power to give or take years from your life, depending on the direction you go. When another friend goes down the slide, rapidly ages, and develops dementia, the two friends must save him – and to do that, they must discover who Toothless really is, and how he came to haunt the playground.

Heavily influenced by Japanese and French comics, this black-and-white graphic novel is eerie and unsettling; a strong noir story with ghostly elements woven throughout to create a story that will stay with readers.

 

Chasma Knights, by Boya Sun & Kate Reed Petty, (May 218, First Second), $17.99, ISBN: 9781626726048

Recommended for readers 8-12

Beryl is a Neon Knight in the fantasy land of Chasma, where toys “catalyze” with a touch and come to life, merging with their owners and imbued with special abilities. But the thing is, in Chasma, being a Neon Knight isn’t that great – it’s kind of a joke. Neon Knights can’t catalyze; Oxygen Knights do. But Beryl has a talent all her own: she’s an inventor that can repurpose broken toys into new creations. Coro, an Oxygen Knight, meets Beryl at the Toy Market, and the two strike up an initially cautious friendship.

I’ll be honest, this one left me scratching my head – I didn’t always quite get what was going on, but I did appreciate the kid-friendly artwork and storyline: who wouldn’t want to read about toys coming to life? I booktalked this to a few of my library kids – all big manga fans – and they seemed to have a better grasp on the concept than I did, so go them! My best advice? It’s a fun, bright, kid-friendly graphic novel. Let your audience be your guide.

And two that are already out, but that I just read…

Chloe, Vol. 1: The New Girl, by Greg Tessier and Amandine, (May 2017, Papercutz), $9.99, ISABN: 9781629917634

Recommended for readers 10-12

Originally published in French, the Chloe graphic novels are fun stories about a fashion-fabulous teen named Chloe as she navigates high school, friendships, and relationships. Her family mortifies her, and the mean girl fashionistas at school are mean to her – in other words, she’s totally relatable. In this first issue, Chloe starts high school and tries to get in with the in crowd. The artwork is fun and the subject matter is light.

Chloe, Vol. 2: The Queen of High School, by Greg Tessier and Amandine, (October 2017, Papercutz), $9.99, ISBN: 9781629917634

Recommended for readers 10-12

In this second volume, Chloe is back for her second year of high school and taking things by storm. She’s got a cute new boyfriend, a fashion blog, and a group of friends to call her own. She’s still got embarrassing parents and mean girls at school, but she’s taking it all in stride.
There are four Chloe volumes in total available. These would be good for Summer Reading groups, maybe even in conjunction with a blog project for tweens!
Posted in Fantasy, Fiction, Graphic Novels, Tween Reads

Fantastic Fairy Tale: The Prince and The Dressmaker

The Prince and the Dressmaker, by Jen Wang, (Feb. 2018, First Second), $16.99, ISBN: 9781626723634

Recommended for readers 10+

In a Parisian town, during what looks like a Renaissance period, Frances is a brilliant dressmaker who slaves away in drudgery until she’s hired to work for the crown prince, Sebastian. It’s only when Frances arrives at the palace does she realize that Sebastian has a secret: he loves to wear extravagant, lavish dresses and go out on the town! Together, he and Frances craft a persona, Lady Crystallia, and hit the streets of Paris together; Lady Crystallia makes a splash on the Paris fashion scene, and Frances finds her talents in demand. But to go public with her talents puts Sebastian’s secret at risk.

This is a great modern fairy tale. It challenges gender identity, it’s got great characters, the art is soft realistic with a touch of the fantastic, and a touch of sweet romance that will make you just sigh, “Aww!” Frances is a lovable character who I felt for, and Sebastian put my emotions through the ringer as he went through his own stress. Each chapter is set off with a dress pattern, keeping readers in the overall story. Give this one to your readers who loved Princess Princess Ever After, your Lumberjanes fans, and anyone who appreciates a good, modern fairy tale.

The Prince and the Dressmaker won’t be out until February, but you can pre-order now (and check out more amazing art).

 

Posted in Preschool Reads

Pepper’s perfect pattern

A Pattern for Pepper, by Julie Kraulis, (Aug. 2017, Tundra Books), $16.99, ISBN: 978-1101917565

Recommended for ages 4-8

A young girl needs a dress for a very special occasion; her mom takes her to a dressmaker to have one specially made, and together, Pepper and the dressmaker search through patterns until they find the perfect one for Pepper’s dress.

This fun story about the search for a perfect fabric pattern also provides some background on patterns both popular and exotic; from Houndstooth to Ikat, Seersucker to Argyle, Pepper relates each pattern’s history to her own life: Seersucker, for instances, comes from the Persian words for milk and sugar, to describe the bumpy textures; Pepper prefers her tea strong, without milk or sugar, so she passes. When she finally finds her perfect pattern, the dressmaker allows her to help out, and we get a glimpse at the pattern-making process; pieces pinned onto fabric to be cut out and sewn together. Pepper’s dress is done, and we learn the special occasion: tea with her grandmother, who is wearing a dress made from her own perfect pattern.

The oil and graphite art, rendered on board, gives a textured feel to the story. Subdued colors make this a relaxing read, and visuals related to each pattern’s history – a bagpiper for Tartan, a hound and his Houndstooth-wearing master, a photograph of Pepper’s grandmother in her Dotted Swiss wedding dress – are superimposed over each fabric, provide further meaning and connection to each pattern’s history.

This is a sweet, beautifully rendered book about fashion and history, and a loving multigenerational tale, woven through the main story.  Extend a storytime by adding a textile component; bring in different fabrics to have kids look at, touch, and identify, like cotton t-shirts, fake fur, wool, and denim; if you have any patterned fabric, bring them in to let the kids get an up-close look at them, too, and ask them what patterns are familiar to them.

 

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

Barbie goes graphic via Papercutz: Fashion Superstar #1

barbie_1Barbie: Fashion Superstar, by Sarah Kuhn/Illustrated by Alitha Martinez, (Oct. 2016, Papercutz), $7.99, ISBN: 9781629915876

Recommended for ages 6-10

Papercutz continues their graphic novel license domination with every little girl’s (okay, just about every little girl) best friend, Barbie. In this first graphic novel under Papercutz, we get a brief history of Barbie comics (first published by Dell in 1962, later, in the ’90s, by Marvel) and an original Barbie story where she tackles a big fashion show panic with her enthusiasm and quick thinking. Her best friend, Liz, helps Barbie make everything fall right into place, and mega-fashion designer Whitney Yang is grateful when the dynamic duo save the day.

Alitha Martinez’s art is on point. It’s bright, fun, and looks consistent with other Barbie illustrated books and media. The friends talk about what inspires their creativity, embrace science (Barbie even creates a special ink to help her combine her doodling and fashion design), and think on their feet to solve problems. A diverse cast of characters makes this an all-around fun read for Barbie fans to enjoy. There’s a preview for the second volume of the Papercutz import series, Sisters, at the end.

I’ll add this one to my shelves – Barbie has a strong fan following here at my library; I can think of two sisters in particular that will be thrilled to see this appear on my graphic novels shelf. I may buy one copy for now, just to get it on the shelves, but invest in the hardcover copy when it’s published in January.

Posted in Non-Fiction

Coco and the Little Black Dress is an inspirational story

coco and the black dressCoco and the Little Black Dress, by Annemarie Van Haeringen (Sept. 2015, North South Books), $16.95, ISBN: 9780735842397

Recommended for ages 6-10

Raised in an orphanage, Coco Chanel may have started life off in a decidedly life, but she learned life skills and developed a drive for success that propelled her to the heights of high fashion. Coco and the Little Black Dress tells the story of Coco Chanel’s rise to fame, beginning with learning how to sew, embroider, knit, mend, and crochet at the orphanage. She befriended the wealthy and powerful as she got older, and decided to change to outlandish and uncomfortable clothing the women wore. Starting with a pair of jodphurs for herself, she began making beautiful hats and comfortable, loosely fitted knits for women, freeing them from corsets. She created a perfume that smelled “like a beautiful woman” and finally, her crowning achievement: the little black dress – “the magic dress that shows how beautiful a woman is.”

It’s always a relief to see a biography for younger children about a strong female figure, and Coco Chanel certainly fits the bill. She was a self-made woman who gave women the ability to be free of uncomfortable clothing, to embrace their figures. The endpapers lead us right into Coco’s story, providing an early dress design at the beginning and a finished black dress to leave us with.

Author Annemarie van Haeringen is a three-time Golden Brush Award winner; Coco and the Little Black Dress, previously published in German, won the silver in 2014.

Posted in Fiction, Teen

Material Girls: Pop Culture Gone Wild!

material girlsMaterial Girls, by Elaine Dimopoulos (May 2015, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Children’s Group), $17.99, ISBN: 9780544388505

Recommended for ages 12-18

Imagine a world where teenagers’ tastes drive commerce. Fashion trends? Voted on my teen judges. Tween programming and music stars rule the day, setting trends and acting out carefully crafted roles and personas. But guess what? A handful of adults are still running the show, sitting behind the scenes, letting this new version of child labor run society.

Material Girls takes place in a not too-distant future, where popularity drives everything. Young tweens are picked, after crafting online portfolios, to be called to creative careers in fashion or entertainment; “adequates” are left to do the boring stuff that holds society up – doctors, accountants, that sort of thing. Fashion is paramount, and trends are fast, furious, and make tons of money. People have trendcheckers that scan clothing labels and let you know whether or not you’re still on trend; teenage judges decide what clothes get made. There are no more superstar fashion designers; designers and drafters are relegated to the less glamorous, lower levels of the operation. “Stay Young!” has replaced “See ya!” as a well-wish greeting.

Two narratives make up Material Girls. Marla is a teen judge who finds herself demoted to drafter after disagreeing with her fellow judges’ outrageous tastes one too many times. Told in the first person, we see Marla slowly gaining awareness of society around her, and work with her fellow drafters and adequates to bring about change, through revolution, if necessary.

Ivy is a teen queen pop star who begins questioning her place in society and society in general. Through a third person narrative, we see her growing discomfort with people spending money they can’t afford on outrageous and uncomfortable trends that she, and other teen pop stars like her, seemingly dictate. Her brother’s “tapping” – the process by which kids are called to special careers – doesn’t go as well as planned. She’s tired of living a scheduled, scripted life and just wants to be free, but does she have the courage to see it through?

Material Girls is a brilliant indictment of today’s pop-culture and youth-obsessed society. Blending shades of Brave New World with reality television, this is as much a cautionary tale as it is a parody of today’s society. I loved this story; it provides great topics to discuss in a tween or teen book club setting, and can be read as a sociological text to generate discussion on youth culture, pop culture, and how it affects society as a whole.

This is author Elaine Dimopoulos‘ first book. She’ll be having a book release party at Boston Public Library on May 5, which sounds great for anyone in the area. There’s going to be a slide show with fashion trends that influenced the book and eco-chic swag to win. Weigh in if you get to go!

Material Girls Release Party!
Tuesday, May 5, 7 p.m.
Abbey Room, Boston Public Library