Posted in Toddler Reads, Preschool Reads, picture books

Hungry, Howly, Wolfboy!

Wolfboy, by Andy Harkness, (Feb. 2021, Bloomsbury Children’s Books), $17.99, ISBN: 9781547604425

Ages 3-6

A fussy, drooly, growly Wolfboy storms through the forest, howling for rabbits. The rabbits scramble around in the background, evading him… but what happens when Wolfboy finally catches up with them? In this adorable, claymation-illustrated story, things aren’t what they seem. Award-winning art director Andy Harkness creates a funny, cumulative tale that will have little readers giggling and howling along with the hungry, hangry Wolfboy. Wolfboy is relatable to anyone – who doesn’t get cranky when they need something to eat? – but toddlers and preschoolers, who can turn from happy to hangry on the turn of a dime, will see themselves in the bright blue figure. Repetitive phrases and cumulative, emphasized words (“Hungry. Huffy. Drooly. Growly. Fussy.”) offer opportunities for readers to chime in. If you have the space, stomp and fuss along! Bold artwork features claymation figures that will delight littles. There’s gorgeous texture and bright color; story text is yellow and pops nicely against the black pages. Sentences are short, easy to read, and perfect for new and emerging readers. Absolute fun for storytime! If you have money for Play-Doh in your budget, consider little grab and go kits so storytime attendees can create their own Wolfboys and rabbits.

Wolfboy is an Indie Next choice and has a starred review from Kirkus.

Posted in Fiction, Fiction, Middle Grade, Middle School, Realistic Fiction, Tween Reads

Fairy tale meets the half pipe: Beauty and Bernice

Beauty and Bernice, by Nancy Viau, (Sept. 2018, Schiffer Kids), $12.99, ISBN: 9780764355806

Ages 8-12

I continue my quest to read down my TBR and feature great backlist for your readers advisory and your booklists. This time out, I’ve got another Nancy Viau book, Beauty and Bernice. Twelve-year-old Bernice Baransky is a skater girl. She’s a grunge-loving whiz on a skateboard, on the verge of middle school, and she’s got a crush on fellow skater Wyatt – not that she can do anything other than nod when he calls her “Dude”. Enter Odelia, a new transplant to the neighborhood, who appears dressed in princess gowns and decides to make Bernice her new best friend and project. She’s determined to teach Bernice her guide to the “Social Graces”, with lessons on hygiene, posture, and manners, and Bernice reluctantly goes along for the ride, teaching Odelia that she can let loose a little, herself. Both spend a summer learning about one another while volunteering with Smile Academy, a summer camp for children with Down syndrome. A kind story that brings a little everyday magic to realistic fiction, this has some surprises that will make readers smile. The subplot with the girls volunteering – and encouraging their friends to help – with the Smile Academy gives nice depth to the characters and allows for Bernice’s character growth.  If you have skater fans, sell the detailed discussions on skateboarding.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Would you look good in the The Purple Puffy Coat?

The Purple Puffy Coat, by Maribeth Boelts/Illustrated by Daniel Duncan, (Nov. 2020, Candlewick Press), $16.99, ISBN: 9781536204971

Ages 3-7

Beetle can’t wait to give his best friend, Stick Bug, his birthday present, so he gives it to him early: it’s a purple puffy coat! Beetle loves it – after all, purple is Beetle’s favorite color. Stick Bug isn’t really in love with it, but Beetle is his best friend, so he endures Beetle’s marching him all around town to show off the coat. But when Beetle takes the time to think about it, he realizes that maybe, just maybe, the purple puffy coat wasn’t what Stick Bug wanted. A sweetly humorous and poignant story about empathy and taking others into consideration, kids will see themselves and their friends in the story. Guide them into a discussion, using Candlewick’s downloadable Teacher Tips, about giving gifts and taking the other person into consideration before giving them a gift. Digital illustrations are colorful and cute, and the friendship between Beetle and Stick Bug will make readers think of Frog and Toad, or Bert and Ernie. A fun story to illustrate thoughtfulness that kids will like.

Posted in Fiction, Fiction, Middle Grade, Realistic Fiction

Somethings Bugging Samantha Hansen – but it’s not bees!

Something’s Bugging Samantha Hansen, by Nancy Viau, (Aug. 2019, Schiffer Kids), $16.99, ISBN: 9780764357763

Ages 8-12

Samantha Hansen is a 10-year-old fourth grader with a love for bugs, especially bees! When she discovers that the local apiary owner is considering selling his bee farm, she launches into action, assembling her classmates to drop some knowledge on the importance of bees to her community, and encourage everyone to help save the apiary. She’s also dealing with some big feelings: she is learning to keep her temper under control, which is really difficult, because her best friend, Kelli, is hanging out with another girl lately, and she’s got big feelings to contend with. This is the second Samantha Hansen book; the first, Samantha Hansen has Rocks in Her Head (2008), introduced us to Samantha, her temper, and her coping mechanisms. It’s a good book for STEM/STEAM readers, with information about bees and apiaries; it’s a good family story that continues the exploration of loss within a family, and working through feelings in a positive way. Black and white illustrations introduce the chapter heads, and colorful endpapers show bee-friendly flowers, a honeycomb, and different types of bees. A good book club choice because there’s so much covered in this story, you can also use this Bee Hotel activity from Vivify as an end of book activity.

Posted in Fiction, Intermediate

A puppy searches for his “yip” in a new series

Finding My Yip (Boomers Tales, Book 1), by Christine Isley-Farmer/Illustrated by Taylor Bills, (March 2021, Wandering in the Words Press), $8.95, ISBN: 978-1733212663

Ages 7-10

Boomer is a young Cavalier King Charles Spaniel puppy, adopted by Nana Weathers and her nine-year-old orphaned granddaughter, Chloe. Chloe has a stutter and wants to sing like her Nana, a music teacher, and Nana is confident that Boomer – a puppy who can’t “yip!” just yet – and Chloe can help one another. Chloe and Boomer quickly bond and discover other friends at dog obedience classes. Nana’s magic ring helps her communicate with Boomer, and Chloe’s love encourages Boomer to keep trying and find his Yip; Boomer’s and Nana’s love and encouragement help Chloe find the confidence to be part of the school talent show. Narrated by Boomer, the story is a cute intermediate read for animal lovers with likable characters. Black and white illustrations are cartoony, cute, and will keep readers turning pages.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

It’s Soosie, the Horse Who Saved Shabbat!

Soosie: The Horse That Saved Shabbat, by Tami Lehman-Wilzig/Illustrated by Menahem Halbertstadt, (March 2021, Kalaniot Books), $19.99, ISBN: 9780998852775

Ages 4-8

This sweet Shabbat tale is inspired by a true story. Bakers Ezra and Esther have a bakery in Jerusalem, where they make delicious challahs for Shabbat. Their delivery boy, Jacob, and their horse, Soosie, take the challahs around Jerusalem, where everyone awaits their delicious Shabbat delivery. But one Friday, Jacob is too sick to make the challah rounds: what are Esther and Ezra to do? Jacob has the answer: Soosie can deliver the challahs! She knows the route! Worried, but knowing the bread must be delivered so that everyone can enjoy their Sabbath. Can Soosie save the day? A gentle story of friendship, Soosie: The Horse That Saved Shabbat is set in early 20th-century Jerusalem and brings the comfort and warmth of Shabbat to readers. The familial relationships between Ezra, Esther, Jacob and Soosie are so loving; Ezra and Esther care for Jacob as they would a family member, and they worry about Soosie as more than a work animal; they fret over her safe return, and they make sure she has her day of rest, as set forth in the Bible. Sound effects, like the clip-clop of Soosie’s hooves and the clink-clang of the coins in the money box are bright red and in a larger size font, providing some nice repetition for readers. An author’s note adds context to the story and provides more background on the Shabbat celebration. The artwork is expressive and friendly, and illustrations demonstrate the diversity of Jerusalem’s people. A charming story that would be a lovely addition to Shabbat gatherings.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Blog Tour and Giveaway: Scooper and Dumper by Lindsay Ward

Scooper and Dumper are best friends, trucks who take care of their town in all sorts of weather. One day, a big snowstorm hits the city, and they’re called into action to save the day!

Scooper and Dumper, by Lindsay Ward, (Feb. 2021, Two Lions),
$17.99, ISBN: 978-1542092685
Ages 3-6

Lindsay Ward’s latest outing is a rhyming story of friendship, bravery, and trucks! Scooper and Dumper are friends taking care of their town, but have to head to the big city to help out when a big snowstorm hits, but Dumper finds himself in trouble when he hits an icy road that’s caused a pileup! When no other trucks can get through to help, it’s up to Scooper to save the day. The story is such a positive study of helping, friendship, and teamwork, that caregivers are going to love it as much as the kiddos will. The digital illustrations are just adorable – Scooper is bright, cheery yellow with a red and white polka dotted bow on her hood; Dumper is a baby blue with a sweet smile. Word balloons break up the story text and give it a graphic novel feel. Think of these two as cousins to Lindsay Ward’s WWII heroine, Rosie: getting the job done with a smile and some good, old-fashioned determination. Perfect for storytime reading, Scooper and Dumper will work with some toy trucks, flannels, and lots of car songs and fingerplays!

 

It’s been an… eventful start to the New Year, so let’s start things off with a giveaway. One lucky winner will win their own copy of Scooper and Dumper by entering the Rafflecopter giveaway here. U.S. addresses only, please!

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

“A wedding is a party for love”: Julián at the Wedding

Julián at the Wedding, by Jessica Love, (Oct. 2020, Candlewick Press), $16.99, ISBN: 9781536212389

Ages 4-8

This book is joy wrapped in paper and cardboard. Julián, the adorable child we met in 2018’s Julián is a Mermaid, is back with his abuela and in a wedding party. We learn that “a wedding is a party for love” as the two brides beam at each other and their friends and family surrounding them. Julián and his new friend Marisol are in the wedding party, along with Gloria, the brides’ dog. The three new friends wander off to play, where Marisol’s dress gets dirty. No worries! Julian shares his clothes with her and creates fairy wings for them both out of the leaves of a tree. When they’re discovered by their abuelas, all is well, and they’re received back at the wedding with hugs and kisses. A gorgeous celebration joy, friendship, and love, Julián at the Wedding is a book I want to read again and again. Watercolor, gouache, and ink illustrations come alive with rich, vibrant colors; the endpapers are the true beginning and close of the story, with two sleepy children and one sleepy pup resting, post-wedding, under a tree as the grandmothers enjoy cake and the happy couple dance in the background. Every page is a delight; I enjoyed this book even more than I enjoyed Julián is a Mermaid, which I adored. Read a conversation with the author and download an activity kit at publisher Candlewick’s page.

Julián at the Wedding has starred reviews from Publishers Weekly, Kirkus, and The Horn Book.

Posted in Fantasy, Fiction, Fiction, Intermediate, Middle Grade

Independently Published Spotlight: Intermediate and Middle Grade

One thing I did do this year was make progress on my TBR, and concentrated on those indie and small press submissions I’ve received over the last few years. Here are two novels I’ve read and want to share. I’ll be reading and reviewing more, whittling down that TBR, into next year, so if you’ve asked me to review a book of yours and I haven’t gotten to it yet, please be patient!

Gregory and the Grimbockle, by Melanie Schubert/Illustrated by Abigail Kraft, Book Soundtrack by Jared Kraft (Nov. 2017, New Wrinkle Publishing), $14.94, ISBN: 978-0991110933

Ages 8-11

Gregory is a 10-year old with a giant mole beneath his nose. The creepy neighbor lady always tries to rip it off his face, but when she finally manages to snag a bit of it, Gregory discovers a BIG surprise: the mole is a hiding place and portal into our world for a tiny creature called a Grimbockle. The Grimbockle belongs to a group of creatures called Bockles, and they oversee Exoodles, the invisible threads that connect humans to one another. When affections and feelings are loving and strong, the threads are strong, but when those threads fray or break, they can cause heartbreak and strife. Gregory accompanies the Grimbockle on his nightly rounds and finds himself on an adventure as he attempts to reconnect exoodles and relationships. The story is a nice statement on how our feelings affect those around us and how we are connected by our relationships and emotions. The storytelling moves at a decent pace and the characters are cute; black and white illustrations throughout keep the reader’s interest. A good additional middle grader/intermediate book.

 

Whiz Bang and Amelia the Adventure Bear: The Jade Dragon, by Forrest Helvie and Michelle Lodge, (Oct. 2016, Independently Published), $1.99, Kindle ASIN: B01MDP3D3M

Ages 7-10

A quick read, this 31-page adventure is about Whiz Bang, a robot, and his friend Amelia, a bear. They’re martial arts students who have to learn that self-control, discipline, and the ability to show respect are the most important skills to learn in their quest to progress through their belts. Their sensei uses the story of a former student and the school’s mascot, a jade dragon, to communicate his message. There’s one other book in the series and another forthcoming; to get the Whiz Bang and Amelia newsletter and find out more about the books, visit the Whiz Bang and Amelia webpage.

Posted in Fantasy, Fiction, Fiction, Graphic Novels, Intermediate, Middle Grade, Middle School, Non-fiction, Realistic Fiction, Teen, Tween Reads

I’m back with more graphic novels!

Hi all! I gave myself a mental health break for the holidays. I didn’t get anything done around my home, as I’d hoped, but I did take a break, knit, and read for a bit, and it was nice. I hope you all had warm and happy holidays, and are safe and well. Let’s finish this year strong and look forward to a better 2021.

In the meantime, I’ve got some graphic novels to crow about.

The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald/Illustrated by K. Woodman-Maynard, (Jan. 2021, Candlewick Press), $24.99, ISBN: 9781536213010

Ages 12+

The Great Gatsby is getting lots of graphic novel love lately; Fred Forham’s vision was a 2020 CYBILS graphic novel nominee. K. Woodman-Maynard’s envisioning of the Fitzgerald classic is much more surreal, with dreamlike watercolors and narration blended into the background: Nick’s words wander around rugs and through lightbulbs, run over sidewalks, and curl into cigarette smoke. The story of Jazz Age love and murder feels like a series of beautiful watercolors, but a large chunk of the story is missing, making this hard to follow for readers who haven’t read the original story. In her author’s note, Woodman-Maynard even states that she was excited by the metaphors in the story, and it was not her intent to be “an exact literal interpretation of the novel”. As a surrealistic exploration and companion to the original, Woodman-Maynard’s book certainly provides a compelling look. Get a look at a chapter excerpt here, thanks to publisher Candlewick.

 

Beetle & The Hollowbones, by Aliza Layne, (Aug. 2020, Atheneum Books for Young Readers), $21.99, ISBN: 9781534441538

Ages 9-13

First, I have to make a huge apology here: I was invited to a blog tour for Beetle back in August, which also happened to be a point where things were falling apart here, and I blew the date. I am still embarrassed and mortified, because I really work to keep to things like that. So I hope this post makes up, in some way, for the oversight. That said, Beetle & Hollowbones is adorable! A homeschooled goblin-witch named Bettle befriends Blob Ghost, a blobby ghost that inhabits space at the local mall in the town of ‘Allows. Blob Ghost – or, BG, as Beetle calls them – is relegated to the mall, so Beetle happily visits, and is sad when she has to leave. Beetle’s old friend Kat shows up for a sorcery apprenticeship with her intimidating Aunt Hollowbone, and Beetle is fascinated: Kat’s cool, she’s social media famous, chic, and great at magic, to boot. The two start spending time together, to BG’s disappointment, but when Aunt Hollowbone’s awful plan to raze the mall becomes public news, Beetle realizes she has to save BG and find a way to release the mall’s hold on them.

A story about friendship, doing the right thing, and standing up for yourself, Beetle & The Hollowbone’s illustrations are beautiful and vibrant, with adorably creepy creatures that I could easily envision in an animated series. This is the kind of story my library kids love: warmth, family, and friendship, with some magic to infuse the tale.

Beetle and the Hollowbones has starred reviews from Kirkus, School Library Journal, Publisher’s Weekly, and Booklist. It is also a CYBILS 2020 Graphic Novels nominee.

 

Galileo! Galileo!, by Holly Trechter & Jane Donovan, (Aug. 2020, Sky Candle Press), $13.99, ISBN: 978-1939360083

Ages 8-13

Narrated by the historical Italian astronomer Galileo Galilei, Galileo! Galileo! is the story of NASA’s mission to Jupiter. We get a brief recap of Galileo’s life, for an understanding of why the mission bore his name; the narrative then moves into a comprehensive, illustrated lesson on the history of aeronautics and space missions. Holly Trechter’s time as a NASA Ames History Archives intern provides great insights, including a peek at Carl Sagan’s letter-writing campaign that saved the Galileo after budget cuts by the Reagan administration. Holly Trechter and Jane Donovan make Galileo Galilei a cartoony, amiable character who explains the science and politics of space travel in friendly, understandable terms, and the artwork is colorful and includes diagrams, maps, and colorful illustrations. Back matter includes discussion questions. Give this to your Science Comics and History Comics readers for sure. Galileo! Galileo! is a CYBILS 2020 Graphic Novels nominee.

 

Bear, by Ben Queen & Joe Todd-Stanton, (Aug. 2020, Archaia), $24.99, ISBN: 978-1684155316

Ages 7-12

This is another CYBILS 2020 Graphic Novels nominee that I really enjoyed. An original graphic novel from Pixar writer Ben Queen and illustrator Joe Todd-Stanton and published by BOOM! imprint, Archaia, Bear is the story of the relationship between a guide dog and his human. Bear is service dog who lives with Patrick, the blind man he takes care of. Bear and Patrick are happily living together, but when Bear suddenly loses his vision; he worries that he’s lost his purpose. He gets separated from Patrick while trying to get advice from a raccoon, on getting his vision back, and ends up on a grand adventure where he’ll meet bears, run through the streets and subways in Manhattan, and try to find his way back to Ulster Country. Bear is gentle and noble; he will do anything for Patrick, and in turn, Patrick will stop at nothing to find Bear. I loved the relationship between these two, and I thoroughly enjoyed the raccoons, largely played for comic relief, and Stone, the bear who takes it upon himself to keep Bear safe on his travels. The story is also a positive portrayal of a blind character: Patrick repairs vending machines, is a passionate reader and “a decent athlete” who applies for a guide dog in order to pick up more machines on his service route; he hears that having a guide dog will allow him to travel faster than walking with a cane.  The book also gently corrects ableist language; when Patrick mentions having a “seeing eye dog”, the trainer responds that they are called “guide dogs”.

Beautifully illustrated with gentle colors and empathetic characters, Bear will make my graphic novel  shelves when we reopen. Until then, I’ve handed this one to my Kiddo. Results to come.

 

Twins, by Varian Johnson/Illustrated by Shannon Wright, (Oct. 2020, Graphix), $12.99, ISBN: 978-1338236132

Ages 8-12

Twin sisters Maureen and Francine share a room and a life, but starting sixth grade is BIG. Francine, the more extroverted, can’t wait for the chance to start meeting new people and having new experiences, but Maureen is more introverted, more hesitant. She misses dressing like her twin, and she’s really not thrilled that she has no classes with her; when Francine starts calling herself “Fran”, Maureen doesn’t know who this alien who took off with her sister is! Maureen is also intimidated by her school’s Cadet Corp, especially her instructor, Master Sergeant Lucinda Fields. Maureen, the straight-A student, is frustrated by her difficulty in getting marching in formation down and the overwhelming experience of middle school, so discovering that Francine and their parents were behind the decision to put the girls in separate classes AND enroll Maureen in Cadet Corp makes her take action: she decides to run against her sister in the race for Class President. A story of growing up and facing adolescence with all its challenges, Twins features main characters of color in a strong family and a relatable story that anyone with siblings – and close friends – will recognize. It’s hard enough growing apart from one’s best friend, but what happens when that best friend is your sister – and a person you share a friendship group with? I loved the story, the relationship between the sisters and the relationship between family members, the realistic frustration of sharing friends when you have a falling-out, and the challenges of taking on new experiences. Give to your Varian Johnson readers and your graphic novel fans that loved the Invisible Emmie, Becoming Brianna, New Kid, Class Act, and the Nat Enough books.

Twins has starred reviews from The Horn Book, School Library Journal, Publishers Weekly, Kirkus, and Booklist. Twins is also a CYBILS 2020 Graphic Novels nominee. See the full list of honors at Varian Johnson’s webpage.