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

Dungeons & Dragons Dungeon Club Roll Call: Where Middle School is the Dungeon

Dungeons & Dragons: Dungeon Club: Roll Call, Molly Knox Ostertag/Illustrated by Xanthe Bouma, (Nov. 2022, HarperAlley), $19.99, ISBN: 9780063039247

Ages 8-12

This graphic novel is just what I needed to booktalk D&D to my Corona Kids! Combining D&D fantasy roleplaying with fantasy storytelling, Roll Call is the first in a new series, written by the amazing Molly Knox Ostertag and illustrated by Xanthe Bouma, who illustrates the 5 Worlds series – another series I can’t keep on my shelves. Olivia and Jess are best friends who make up incredible stories: it’s how they met on a school playground, and it’s brought them even closer in their 2-person Dungeons & Dragons campaign. They’re heading to middle school, which Olivia is really excited about. Jess? Not so much, especially when Olivia decides to expand their D&D campaign into a full-on school club. Not willing to share her game time and her best friend with anyone, Jess expresses her frustration through the game, and when it affects one of the new members of the club, Jess discovers that sometimes, you need to find room in your heart – and in your dungeon-raiding party – for new friends.

Ostertag’s got storytelling down, effortlessly moving back and forth between fantasy and reality. I’m excited for more backstory as the series develops; Jess is Diné from the Navajo Nation, living with her father, and playing a character named Sir Corius. Olivia is Afro-Latina, sporting hot-pink hair and can effortlessly rattle off character and monster stats, several of which are incorporated into the story; it gives readers a sense of game play. Having story characters create genderfluid, speciesfluid characters is wonderful, inviting readers to see what so many of us have known for a while: you don’t have to conform to any gender in the game. It says so in the Player’s Handbook! Bouma’s vibrant illustration creates personable characters and exciting fantasy settings. The whole story comes together beautifully and is an excellent choice for readers who are interested in gaming, fantasy, and realistic fiction. Display and booktalk these with any of your fantasy roleplaying graphic novels, like 5 Worlds and Dragon Prince; The Witch Boy; Popular MMOs and Dan TDM, and the Dungeon Academy middle grade novel series by Madeline Roux.

 

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Blog Tour Catchup: Turkey’s Valentine Surprise!

That festive, costume-loving Turkey is back to celebrate Valentine’s Day!

Turkey’s Valentine Surprise, by Wendi Silvano/Illustrated by Lee Harper
(Dec. 2022, Two Lions), $17.99, ISBN: 9781542023665
Ages 4-7

The sixth book in Wendi Silvano’s and Lee Harper’s Turkey series, Turkey wants to deliver valentines to all of his friends… in disguise! His friends figure him out every time – but Turkey’s never been one to give up. He’s got a surprise that will top every disguise! With adorable cartoon artwork that we’ve grown to know and love, and hilarious holiday puns aplenty, Plan on giving Turkey’s Valentine Surprise heavy readaloud rotation. The story lends itself to a post-readaloud activity, whether it’s making Valentines or disguising Turkey (there are fun templates available, or you can make your own!). Add this to your Turkey collections and holiday readalouds!

 

“Gobble, gobble! Grab this farmyard story full of Valentine’s Day puns…The spirit of Valentine’s Day shines bright in this caring community.” ―Kirkus Reviews

“A must-have for any size library: school, public, or home.” ―School Library Journal

Wendi Silvano was born in Salt Lake City, Utah, and has lived in Oregon, Colorado, and Peru. The author of the Turkey Trouble series, she has a BA in early childhood education and taught preschool and elementary school for eleven years. She is the mother of five children and the owner of an assortment of odd pets that are not nearly as clever as Turkey. She now writes from her home in Colorado, where she enjoys hiking, reading, and playing the piano. Visit her online at wendisilvano.com.

Lee Harper is the author-illustrator of the books Coyote, The Emperor’s Cool Clothes, and Snow! Snow! Snow! Lee is also the illustrator of the Turkey Trouble series, by Wendi Silvano, as well as the Woolbur series, written by Leslie Helakoski. Lee has four children, a German shepherd, two barn cats, eleven chickens…but no turkeys. Yet. He lives with his wife in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. Visit him online at leeharperart.com.

Posted in Graphic Novels, Middle Grade, Tween Reads

DC Original Graphic Novel Rundown

There’s a new batch of DC original graphic novels coming up, and trust and believe these will be on my shelves (and if my Kiddo has anything to say about it, my home shelves are included).

Shazam! Thundercrack, by Yehudi Mercado, (Feb. 2023, DC Comics), $9.99, ISBN: 9781779505026

Ages 8-12

Yehudi Mercado is the perfect author/illustrator to bring this fun Shazam tale to comic book life. Beginning with Billy Batson’s arrival at his new foster family home and bonding with his new foster brother, Freddy, the main plot kicks in pretty quickly: as Billy and Freddy tests the limits of Billy’s power when he’s Shazam, they realize that even when he’s in Billy’s form, he’s got some power moves – and that leads him to join the school football team. The only thing is, Billy isn’t much of a team player. He just doesn’t have that kind of trust in others, so when the chips are down for the team, why should Billy come through? Maybe because a rival school is using biotech experimentation that makes them very, very dangerous? Maybe because Billy’s foster dad drops some wisdom on Billy? Thundercrack is fun, easy reading that captures the light spirit of the 2019 movie (and the upcoming movie, Fury of the Gods). Mercado is at the top of his game when he’s writing everyday family comedy that balances with a pathos that understands each character’s backstory. Having the story take place within the DCU timeline has a nice link for readers who are versed in the cinematic universe; Freddy is a strong Number 1 to Billy and has his own spirited journey in the story, with vlog entries and commentary running through the story. Add this one to your middle grade graphic novel collections – kids aren’t getting nearly enough Shazam! in their comic book diets.

 

Bruce Wayne: Not Super, by Stuart Gibbs/Illustrated by Berat Pekmezci, (March 2023, DC Comics), $12.99, ISBN: 9781779507679

Ages 8-12

Another middle grade luminary takes the reins for this Bruce Wayne-Before-Batman story. Batman: Not Super is all about Bruce Wayne, who attends a super-special school. No, really, all the students have superpowers except for Bruce, who’s only there because his parents paid for the school to be built before they passed away. He’s rubbing shoulders with superhero elite here, but he’s not the most popular kid in school; he hangs out with an 11-year-old named Dick Grayson, whose gymnastic abilities got him into the school. He’s bullied by Clark Kent, who uses his x-ray vision to see through Bruce’s clothes and tell everyone what underwear he’s wearing that day. Things change when bully Jack Napier steals Dick’s ice cream money, though: Bruce has found his mission, and it’s to be a vigilante! Now, to just figure out how to get around his guardian, Alfred, who won’t let Bruce undertake any dangerous missions. Even when Dick overhears Jack telling Bane that they’re going to rob all the lockers while everyone is at the big game. Fast-paced dialogue and swiftly moving action come together with jokes and humor. Pekmezci’s artwork is a feast for superhero-loving eyes as the DC Middle School Universe unfolds in front of them: Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy are canoodling by the lockers; Penguin and Selina Kyle are here; Arthur Curry is more AquaKid than Aquaman, but he’s talking to the fish in the school fish tank, and Wonder Girl Donna Troy is Diana Prince’s younger sister. Sharp-eyed comics fans will catch some deep cuts, like Polka Dot Man, and comics fans of a *cough* certain age will appreciate the Bat Shark Repellent joke that finds its way into most Bat-humor. Bruce Wayne: Not Super is another home run for middle graders. Put this one on your shelves.

 

Teen Titans: Robin, by Kami Garcia/Illustrated by Gabriel Picolo, (March 2023, DC Comics), $16.99, ISBN: 9781779512246

Ages 13-17

The third in the Teen Titans series from Kami Garcia and Gabriel Picolo, Teen Titans: Robin is the fourth Teen Titans story that includes Raven, Beast Boy, and Beast Boy Loves Raven. Joined by Damian Wayne and Max Navarro, the group is on the run from Slade Wilson and H.I.V.E.; Dick Grayson leaves Gotham to find his younger brother, Damian. Damian resists getting to know his adopted brother, feeling like his father, Bruce, attempted to replace him, but Grayson just wants to get to know his brother and keep him and his friends safe. With equal emphasis on character growth, developing relationships, and action, this is a great addition to the series. Picolo does so much storytelling through his color changes and shading; he takes each color that readers and viewers familiar with the Titans will recognize and makes them part of the story, leaving Slade Wilson’s story gray and desolate. This one’s for the middle and high schoolers, but upper grade elementary schoolers may be interested, too.

I’ve been such a fan of these YA and middle grade books since they launched a few years ago. By bringing original graphic novels to kids and finding authors and illustrators that are standout names, they’re investing brand new generations of readers into comics and graphic novels.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Love Made Me More imbues objects with love and magic

Love Made Me More, by Colleen Rowan Kosinski/Illustrated by Sonia Sánchez, (Dec 2022, Two Lions), $17.99, ISBN: 9781542006200

Ages 4-7

A boy and with brown skin and dark hair, and his grandmother with tan skin and greying hair sit at a table, folding origami cranes. The boy’s paper – “just a piece of paper – orange with white and blue spots” – transforms into Origami Crane, and his love for his Boy runs deeply. The feeling is mutual, as we see Origami Crane provide friendship and comfort, imagination and adventure. As the boy grows older, he and Crane go on fewer adventures, and when a new person enters the Boy’s life, Crane is momentarily upset: and then the Crane discovers that love can multiply, not divide. A superb story of the magic we give objects, Love Made Me More spans generations and illustrates the passage of rituals. Uncomplicated storytelling, narrated by the Crane, is moving and creates an invested relationship between the Crane and the Boy; children and adults alike will understand the relationship and the meaning of the phrase, “Love has made me so much more”: it’s the love, the memories, the feelings, that create our investment with certain objects. Digital illustrations have a hand-colored feel. The Crane gives off a warm glow during time spent with the Boy. Bright oranges and deep greens bring the spreads to life, and movement swirls around each spread: pieces of paper, dream journeys, tendrils of light. An excellent readaloud choice, Love Made Me More allows for discussions on our favorite objects and the memories they hold for us.

The Spruce Crafts has step-by-step instructions on folding a paper crane, complete with photos and a video.

Love Made Me More has a starred review from School Library Journal.

 

Colleen Rowan Kosinski is the author of A Home Again and the author-illustrator of Lilla’s Sunflowers and A Promise Stitched in Time. She received her BA from Rutgers University in visual art, is an alumna of Philadelphia’s Moore College of Art and Design, and spent many years as a successful freelance fine artist. Colleen calls New Jersey her home and resides there with her family. Learn more at http://www.colleenrowankosinski.com.

Sonia Sánchez is the illustrator of a number of picture books, including Evelyn Del Rey Is Moving Away by Meg Medina, A Crazy-Much Love by Joy Jordan-Lake, and The Little Red Fort by Brenda Maier. Her books have been nominated for the Eisner Award and named a CBC/NCSS Notable Social Studies Trade Book for Young People and a Bank Street College Best Book of the Year. She lives with her husband, her kids, and a sleepyhead cat in Barcelona, Spain.

 

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads, Uncategorized

Survival and Triumph: Finding Fire

Finding Fire, by Logan S. Kline, (Sept. 2022, Candlewick Press), $18.99, ISBN: 9781536213027

Ages 4-8

This almost completely wordless picture book is set in a prehistoric society where rain has just put out the family fire. A young boy volunteers for the quest, thus beginning a tale of survival, friendship, and triumph as he braves a hostile landscape to find the precious fire his family needs to survive. Striking mixed-media illustrations carry the story forward: the family, in a bleak cave, standing over the extinguished fire; the red-haired boy, standing in the sunlight, his hair a beacon as he ventures forth, sleeping in trees to escape predators, fording rivers and saving a life. The artwork is stunning, each spread coming to life under the reader’s eye. A gorgeous story that begs to be shared, and an essential purchase. Keep an eye on this one during awards time.

Finding Fire has a starred review from Publishers Weekly.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Time well spent is The Best Gift for Bear

The Best Gift for Bear, by Jennifer A. Bell, (Sept. 2022, Two Lions), $17.99, ISBN: 9781542029223

Ages 4-7

Hedgehog has been baking all morning, making just-right cookies for her friends and neighbors: snowflakes for the mice, trees, for the squirrels, special rabbits for all of her bunny friends. But what to make for Bear, her very best friend? Hedgehog decides on the perfect idea, but there’s a bit of an upset on the way to deliver Bear’s gift. It’s okay, though: Bear and Hedgehog enjoy a warm beverage together and discover that time well spent is the best gift of all. An adorable holiday story with a delightful message about the true meaning of giving with warm gouache and pencil illustrations and adorable animals and gingerbread cookies. Front endpapers feature recipes for cookies and icing; back endpapers show some of Hedgehog’s cookie work, and cookies representing Bear and Hedgehog together. And endearing readaloud that deserves a spot in seasonal storytimes.

Want some fun gingerbread post-storytime activities? Panda Speech on TeachersPayTeachers has a very cute dress up activity, and Education.com has several gingerbread coloring sheets.

 

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★“This genuinely heartfelt, quietly moving friendship story emphasizes that ‘a day with a friend is the best gift of all.’” ―Publishers Weekly (starred review)

 

“A sweet, appealing picture book for the season.” ―Booklist

 

A 2022 Goodreads Choice Award Nominee


Jennifer A. Bell is the illustrator of more than forty children’s books, including the Sophie Mouse series. She studied fine art at the Columbus College of Art & Design, and her work can also be found on greeting cards and in magazines. This is the first picture book she’s written and illustrated. She lives in Saint Paul, Minnesota. Learn more about her at www.jenniferabell.com.

Instagram: @jbellstudio

Twitter: @JenniferABell_

Facebook: Jennifer A. Bell Illustration

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads, Uncategorized

Reading for the Season: Bright Winter Night

Bright Winter Night, by Alli Brydon/Illustrated by Ashling Lindsay, (Dec. 2022, Two Lions), $17.99, ISBN: 9781542022248

Ages 4-7

Folks, I’m finally back. The flu tore through our home, but we hung in there and are all finally on the mend. I’ll be playing catch-up for quite a bit, so I think everyone for their patience. I fell behind on two blog tours while I was sick, so let me start with these first.

Bright Winter Night is a story in verse, perfect for bedtime reading. A group of woodland creatures come together on a winter evening, using materials around them to create something… wonderful. A quietly joyful celebration of nature, friendship, and creativity, the story builds expectation as this seemingly unlikely group of animals – mice and wolves working together? Rabbits, bears, and birds? Stags and squirrels? – come together with one goal in mind: to enjoy one of nature’s most breathtaking sights. There’s a quiet urgency as the animals work – “They sense there is a task to do / as night descends, replacing blue” – and a spirit of teamwork and conviviality, as everyone contributes to the project and enjoys the moments they spend together. Mixed media artwork in deep blues give a cozy feeling to the chilly winter landscape. Sure to be a readaloud kids will want to hear again and again; keep this one handy for storytimes and winter craft times.

 

 

“Destined to be a favorite bedtime read-aloud.” ―Kirkus Reviews

“Awash in shades of purple, blue, and pink, [Ashling] Lindsay’s watercolor and digital artwork project the magic evoked by Brydon’s smooth rhymes, illuminating a magnetic portrait of woodland camaraderie.” ―Publishers Weekly

 

Author Alli Brydon is inspired by natural wonders and what they can teach us, and she strives to bring that magic to the books she writes for children. Recent picture books include Lobstah Gahden, illustrated by EG Keller, and Love Around the World, illustrated by Wazza Pink. She also writes nonfiction about creatures, from insects to lemurs to humans. Alli holds an MFA in poetry from Sarah Lawrence College in New York and lives in England with her family. Learn more at www.allibrydon.com.

Instagram: allibrydon

Twitter: Alli Brydon

 

Ashling Lindsay is an artist and writer from Belfast, Ireland. Her picture books are published in more than ten languages and have received various awards and accolades, including a nomination for the Kate Greenaway Medal; being shortlisted for the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize, the Klaus Flugge Prize, and the Children’s Books Ireland Book of the Year; and being longlisted for the UKLA Book Awards. In 2020 she was awarded the KPMG Children’s Books Ireland Honour Award for Illustration with her book The Tide, written by Clare Helen Welsh. Learn more at www.ashlinglindsay.co.uk.

Instagram: ashling.lindsay

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Books About Kindness

We’re heading toward the holidays, which means my library system is gearing up for their annual “It’s Time for Kind” campaign, where we encourage our communities to show kindness to one another. This year, it means a LOT. I won’t get on too much of a soapbox here, but I will say that I live in a state where people are arriving scared and alone, and need kindness more than ever. These books have been out for a few months, so consider these when you’re putting together readers advisory lists or book displays, or planning storytimes this season.

All You Need, by Howard Schwartz/Illustrated by Jasu Hu, (Apr. 2022, Neal Porter Books), $18.99, ISBN: 9780823443291

Ages 3-7

Written as a poem, All You Need is a meditation on what one needs for a fulfilling life, from the basics – sun and rain, food and water – to the higher needs, like “a place where you are welcome” and “words to share your thoughts”. Illustrator Jasu Hu tells the story of a young woman who grows to be an artist, nurtured by the land and the people around her. Inspired by Schwartz’s story, illustrator Jasu Hu’s watercolor illustrations bring a tenderness to the work that fits beautifully with the gentle lyrics and leaves touches of Chinese culture throughout the story, including a swallow, ever-present in the tale, to deliver words of happiness and homecoming. Back matter from Schwartz and Hu each explains their motivation. The main character presents as Asian, with touches of Asian culture and landscape throughout. All You Need is a reminder of how simple and fragile our needs are and is a beautiful opening story for storytimes.

All You Need has a starred review from School Library Journal.

 

 

Luli and the Language of Tea, by Andrea Wang/Illustrated by Hyewon Yum, (May 2022, Neal Porter), $18.99, ISBN: 9780823446148

Ages 3-7

A group of parents file into an ESOL (English as a Second Language) class, while their children head into the free childcare area while their parents are in class. The children play alone, not understanding English, until Luli decides to bring everyone together with one word that they all understand: tea. She sets up a tea party around a table and calls out “Chá!”, the Chinese word for “tea”; the children recognize the word, which sounds similar to the word for tea in their languages: Russian, Hindi, Turkish, Persian, Arabic, Spanish, German, Swahili, and Portuguese. The children sit together and share tea while the caregiver watches, delighted. Showing that language brings us together more than it divides us, Luli and the Language of Tea features a group of children from all over the world coming together in friendship. Each time the word “tea” is spoken it is illustrated in a colorful font with a phonetic spelling in parentheses. Endpapers feature colorful cups of tea from different countries. Colored pencil illustrations add a childlike innocence to this joyful story. Back matter includes an author’s note, a note on the languages spoken in the story, and notes on immigrants living in the U.S. and how they enjoy their tea. Author Andrea Wang’s website includes a bibliography of sources and audio of various children’s literature creators speaking the word for “tea” in their own languages; there’s also a downloadable educator’s guide. An excellent storytime choice.

Luli and the Language of Tea has starred reviews from Booklist and Shelf Awareness.

 

 

La Casita de Esperanza, by Terry Catasús Jennings/Illustrated by Raúl Colón, (June 2022, Neal Porter Books/Holiday House), $18.99, ISBN: 9780823452033

Ages 4-8

This is the Spanish translation of a book I fell in love with when I reviewed it in July. Terry Catasús Jennings writes about a little home that welcomes a family new to the U.S., and how that family turns that little house into a sanctuary where they, and their extended family, can come, be safe, and begin a new life. The Spanish text is lyrical and makes for a beautiful readaloud; Pura Belpré medalist Raúl Colón’s pencil and watercolor artwork frames pivotal moments in the characters’ lives to create powerful moments, from arriving home to a bustling household to people coming together to forge a new life when they’ve been forced to leave the old one behind. I have copies of both the English and Spanish translations on my shelves. One of the best books you’ll read this year.

Visit Terry Catasús Jennings’s webpage to see more of her books and read her own story; the inspiration for La Casita de Esperanza.

 

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Sleepy Happy Capy Cuddles loves all the ways to cuddle!

Sleepy Happy Capy Cuddles, by Mike Allegra/Illustrated by Jaimie Whitbread, (Oct. 2022, Page Street Kids), $18.99, ISBN: 9781645675594

Ages 4-8

The rainforest is alive with squeaks and squawks, grunts, grows, and hisses, until the day a cheerful capybara shows up and introduces cuddles to all the animals. Some animals aren’t so sure about the full-on cuddle: turtle’s worried it will make their shell less tough, and hugs make green iguana uncomfortable, but capybara assures everyone that a cuddle can take whatever form makes you comfortable: it’s just about being together! One animal after another FLOOFS along with the capybara, making the rainforest a friendlier, cuddlier place than ever before. Cheerful storytelling illustrates the power of a hug while reassuring readers who may be uncomfortable with full-on contact that cuddles can take whatever form makes them feel happy, secure, and loved. An author’s note touches on the book’s inspiration (Capybaras really do FLOOF!), and endapapers reveal a lush rainforest setting. Pleasant cartoony animals are cute and will appeal to readers; shades of yellow, green, and brown give the artwork an earthy feel. This will make a good readaloud for preschool and kindergarten classrooms, when kids are still learning their boundaries, and the boundaries that others feel comfortable with.

Visit the Sleepy Happy Capy Cuddles book detail page on Page Street Kids’s website to download a free activity kit, complete with capy facts and an activity on consent.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Big Bear, Little Fish, Great Friends

Big Bear and Little Fish, by Sandra Nickel/Illustrated by Il Sung Na, (Sept. 2022, Carolrhoda Books), $18.99, ISBN: 9781728417172

Ages 4-8

Bear goes to a carnival hoping to win a giant teddy bear, but wins a goldfish instead. Worried that she is too big to play with, feed, or love the tiny fish, she stays as far away from it as possible, lamenting the fact that she’s saddled with this little fish instead of a big teddy bear. Fish helps Bear discover that the two are not so different after all. With a sweet look at relative size and ability, Big Bear and Little Fish is a story of looking past the surface and snap judgements to get to the heart of a situation. It’s a wise story of friendship and kindness that reads beautifully for a young audience and gives slightly older readers food for thought. Cartoon illustrations endear the animals to readers; cool shades of blue against a bright white background provide depth and texture; warm browns and golds on the animals add a warmth to the narrative. Sentences are brief and to the point, letting newly independent readers enjoy the book on their own or as part of a storytime. A good selection for storytime collections.

A free educator kit on the Lerner Books website offers discussion questions and activities.