Posted in gaming, Graphic Novels, Non-Fiction, Teen, Tween Reads, Young Adult/New Adult

Jon Chad’s graphic novel history of Pinball is great for gamer historians

Pinball: A Graphic History of the Silver Ball, by Jon Chad, (Feb. 2022, First Second), $24.99, ISBN: 9781250249210

Ages 10+

Before there was Atari, there was pinball. The first pinball machine made its debut around 1930 and captivated players from the beginning: so much that banned for being a “racket that fleeces children” and drive them to petty thievery”. In 1976, champion player Roger Sharpe played the game in a Manhattan courtroom to prove that pinball was a game of skill, not chance. Graphic novelist Jon Chad ‘s (Science Comics) graphic novel Pinball is the graphic history of the game, tracing its roots back to the Court of King Louis XIV, through its scandalous era in the 1930s, and renaissance in the 1970s, all the way up to the present day. It’s like Science Comics and History Comics, all put together in great volume. Jon Chad examines not only the artwork and cultural significance of the game – gaming fans, and pinball fans in particular, know all about the collectible, incredible artwork that went into the back glass and the game floor itself – but the physics of the game, and what makes it a game of skill.

Jon Chad’s artwork is colorful, filled with movement and amazing detail. He writes with expert knowledge and a true love of the game. This is an essential purchase for nonfiction graphic collections and anyone with a gaming collection.

Read an interview with Jon Chad at ComicsBeat, visit his author webpage for more comics and teaching resources, and have your own pinball/STEM program with these PBS Kids instructions or this pizza box pinball PDF from the UK’s Science Museum Group.

Posted in Preschool Reads, Toddler Reads

Little Box of Emotions: Great for communication, great when kids struggle to find the words

Little Box of Emotions: Matching and Memory Cards, by Louison Nielman , illustrated by Marie Paruit, (July 2020, Schiffer Kids), $19.99, ISBN: 9780764358975

Ages 2+

Twenty-four cards with colorful and expressive animals and items make for a memory game and teaching tool. A 32-page guide book explains represented emotions and offers some game ideas, from matching colors to memory games. What I appreciated most is the opportunity to use these cards to teach children how to recognize emotions in themselves and others; to use these cards to define what they may not have had the words to describe before. I work in a community of English language learners; for me, having cards like this available to my kids is great: when we reopen, I would use these in storytimes to deep dive into emotions experienced by different characters; I’d leave the box by my desk, so anyone wanting to talk to me without having the words, regardless of language capability, can use these little cards to communicate feelings and thoughts. They’re a good choice to have available for toddlers, who are learning more and more words by the day, and experiencing very big emotions that may scare or frustrate them. It makes for a fun game for parents and children to play together, and the adorable animals are eye-catching and colorful. Consider making some crib notes for yourself, describing these emotions in different languages to help language learners get a firmer foot in their two worlds. For those of us with big infant populations, have some baby sign language books around to enhance language, and make yourself familiar with ASL signs for emotions.

Posted in Early Reader, Fiction, Fiction, Intermediate

More Nocturnals! Who will win The Chestnut Challenge?

The Nocturnals: The Chestnut Challenge, by Tracey Hecht/Illustrated by Josie Yee, (April 2019, Fabled Films Press), $12.99, ISBN: 978-1-944020-23-1

Ages 5-7

The latest Nocturnals easy reader is a story about playing fair. Sugar glider Bismark just loses a game of chestnut checkers to Tobin the pangolin, when a chinchilla named Chandler shows up and declares himself a chestnut champion, challining poor Tobin to a game. Tobin just likes to play for fun, but Bismark nudges him into play. Chandler causes distractions that get the group to look elsewhere so he can cheat, but Bismark finally catches him and calls him out! After confessing to cheating because he wanted to win, Tobin gently reminds him that practice makes perfect, and Dawn invites him to play with them as a group. The Chestnut Challenge addresses cheating, but it also looks at being sore losers and sore winners: we see Bismark being a sore loser, and Chandler, when cheating, gloats over his moves. Tobin doesn’t want to be in cutthroat competition, he just wants to have fun; it’s a point we should all be making when we read this with our kiddos. Winning can be fun, but cheating to win isn’t really winning. That said, being gracious and offering someone a second chance is winning, all on its own. (And, naturally, with Bismark keeping an eye out.) Back matter includes an introduction to each of the core group of Nocturnals, plus a fun fact about chestnuts.

I’m a dedicated fan of this series. Tracey Hecht has a way of reaching kids by using adorable animals with distinctive personalities to get to the heart of real-life situations kids find themselves coping with, and how to start discussions about those situations. These books are a great go-to for us grown-ups, too. The Nocturnals World website has great, free downloadables, including activity kids, coloring sheets and games, videos, and educational resources.

 

Posted in Intermediate, Middle Grade, Non-fiction, Non-Fiction

The Holiday Shopping has started… buy some books!

It’s that time of year again, where I dig deep to find all sorts of great books to add to your holiday shopping lists. This is the first round, so I’m thinking this post will suggest books and goodies to bring when you celebrate Thanksgiving, or the Fall Harvest, with your families and friends. These books will be fun for the kiddie table – before the food, naturally!

City, by Ingela P. Arrhenius, (Sept. 2018, Candlewick Press), $22, ISBN: 9781536202571

Ages 3-7

This book is just too much fun. First of all, it’s huge: over 40 inches high by over 17 inches wide, making it almost as big as some of the kids you’ll be seeing this holiday season! My niece giggle-shrieked when I stood the book up next to her, and that was that. She was hooked. It’s a gorgeous, funky concept book, introducing readers to different sights of city life: streetlamps, subways, coffee shops, fountains, zoos, even skateboarders are all here, with retro chic, bright art. The only words are the descriptive words for each picture; the endpapers are loaded with pictures of the smaller details of city life: a cat, a server, a scale, a shrub.

Put this in front of the kids, and let them have at it. My niece and my son loved talking about things they recognized: my niece remembers taking a train to work with her mom, and my son talked up the subway when I took him into the city on our winter break. And they both pretended that I was in the coffee shop and the bookstore, so it’s nice to know they think of me.

City is a gorgeous gift book that can be a coffee table art book for kids, or a prompt for creativity. Its only limit is the imagination.

The Smithsonian Exploration Station sets are fantastic gifts. Bring one or two of these with you, and set the kids up in their own personal science labs while the food cooks.

Smithsonian Exploration Station: The Human Body, (Nov. 2018, Silver Dolphin Books), $21.99, ISBN: 9781626867215

Ages 4-10

The Smithsonian sets are contained in a nice, sturdy box that holds a lot of stuff. The Human Body box includes a 56-page fact book, 30 stickers, a plastic model skeleton kids can put together, and 25 fact cards. It’s similar to the Adventures in Science kit Silver Dolphin put out earlier this year, and my son loved them both. Learn what makes your blood pump, your muscles stretch and how your different systems come together to make you walk, run, eat, sleep, and play. Older kids can help younger kids with some basic terms and reading, and the littlest ones can still enjoy putting the stickers on the skeleton body while bigger kids help put the skeleton together.

 

Smithsonian Exploration Station: World Atlas, (Nov. 2018, Silver Dolphin Books), $21.99, ISBN: 9781626867208

Ages 4-10

This set was hands-down my son’s favorite set. A blow-up globe, a world map and stickers of landmarks from all over the world, and cardstock puzzles of the Eiffel Tower, Taj Mahal, and a Mayan Pyramid? Plus, a 56-page fact book that tells readers all about the cool landmarks as they decorate their maps? SOLD. We spent three days working on the map, at which time he told me that he wants to see every single one of these sights. We built the cardstock models, which called for much dexterity – so I called my eldest son in to help, because I tend to become a little exuberant, shall we say, with my papercrafting. My son also loves his inflatable globe, and asks me to point out cool places to him; some from the map, some, the countries that his friends at school hail from, some, names of places he hears about on TV. It’s a great set.

 

Smithsonian Exploration Station: Space!, (Nov. 2018, Silver Dolphin Books), $21.99, ISBN: 9781626867222

Ages 4-10

Kids love planets! The Space! Exploration Station includes a 56-page fact book, astronaut and rocket plastic figurines, stickers, and glow in the dark stars to make their own constellations. There are incredible, full-color photographs and text that explains the makeup of our solar system, galaxies, planets, and constellations. Let the kids decorate your dining room to and eat under the stars!

Every single one of these kits is such fun, and urges kids to be curious and explore the world inside them and around them. If you have the budget for it, throw these in your distributor cart and get a few sets for your STEM/STEAM programming, too. The Smithsonian has a good science education channel on YouTube, with kid-friendly videos that make for good viewing.

 

Where’s Waldo? The Spectacular Spotlight Search, by Martin Handford, (Oct. 2018, Candlewick Press), $18.99, ISBN: 9781536201765

Ages 5-9

Waldo’s back with a new trick: this time, the spreads have all gone dark! Luckily, the Spectacular Spotlight Search comes with a cool spotlight viewer to help you find him, and the challenges he sets out for you. There are six puzzles and a magic slider that slides into the scene to “light up” small sections – like a spotlight. Find Waldo and other familiar characters, plus other hidden challenges and games on each spread.  My 6-year-old and my 3-year-old niece had a blast with this book, eventually recruiting me for my Waldo-finding skills (narrator: The children were better.)

If you have puzzle and game fans in your family, this is a great gift to bring along. If you’re looking at it for your library, I suggest keeping it in reference; that spotlight will go missing or get beaten up in no time. But it’s good Waldo fun.

I have so much more to come, but I think this is a good start. A little something for everyone and plenty of hands-on fun!

Posted in Fantasy, Fiction, Horror, Middle Grade, Tween Reads

Can you escape Monsterville?

monstervilleMonsterville: A Lissa Black Production, by Sarah S. Reida, (Sept. 2016, Sky Pony Press), $16.99, ISBN: 9781510707337

Recommended for readers 9-13

Jumanji meets Goosebumps in this fun and unexpectedly touching novel. Lissa Black is not happy with her family’s decision to move out of their Manhattan apartment to a house in Freeburg, Pennsylvania, inherited when her great-aunt passes away. She’s away from her friends, her school, and the conveniences of living in New York City; she’s only got the neighbor kid, Adam, who’s set on making her appreciate life outside of the city, and this weird game, Monsterville, that she found in her aunt’s basement. Just as Lissa is set on languishing in the wilds of PA, she discovers a sad, shape-shifting goblin she calls Blue, who’s escaped from Down Under. Blue’s so sad that Lissa and Adam feed him and check in on him, but when Lissa discovers he can shape-shift, she decides to make a documentary starring Blue. But an interview with the goblin uncovers secrets that put Lissa’s family at risk. When her little sister is kidnapped and taken Down Under on Halloween, Lissa and Adam have to go in after her, and the Monsterville game is their only hope of making it back.

Lissa is hard to like at first: she’s a great older sister, but largely self-centered and snobbish at the novel’s outset. As the story progresses, and the urgency not only of Blue’s situation, but her sister’s, hits home, though, Lissa rises to the occasion and grows into a strong female character that I was rooting for. I liked her supportive, loving family and I really liked the glimpse we got of her mysterious aunt. I think a Monsterville prequel is in order, to tell her story! There was great world-building Up Above and Down Below, with Adam acting as Lissa’s – and the reader’s – guide to rural life, and the Monsterville game laying out Down Below for us before we even get there. I ended up loving this book and can’t wait to booktalk this. A film glossary at the end introduces readers to film terms, most of which show up in Monsterville – Lissa is a filmmaker, after all.

Challenge your readers to make up their own version of Monsterville! What monsters would inhabit their Down Under? What would counteract the monsters and help humans escape? This could be a great summer reading group program, just saying…

Monsterville is Sarah S. Reida’s debut novel. Find teacher resources at LissaBlackProductions.com, which also links to Sarah’s author blog and appearances.

 

Posted in Middle Grade, Non-Fiction, Non-fiction, Tween Reads

NatGeo’s 2017 Almanac is jam-packed!

almanac_coverNational Geographic Kids Almanac 2017 (May 2016, National Geographic), $14.99, ISBN: 978-1426324178

Recommended for ages 8-13

NatGeo’s 2017 almanac is packed with content from their kids’ magazine, their collection of books, and their NatGeo Kids website. It’s chock full of articles, facts, games, and digital extras, including an invitation to the Newsmaker Challenge, where kids can submit their own time capsule artifact photos to be featured in next year’s almanac. Features on animals encourage kids to get involved in the Summer Mission Animal Rescue Challenge, increasing awareness about endangered species and how they can play a part in helping do their part toward conservation and protection.

Information is broken out into 10 sections, covering current events, animals, going green, world cultures, adventure, fun and games, science and nature, history, and geography. Each section is loaded with breathtaking photos, top 10 lists, homework help and research ideas, and a quiz.

These books are a great idea for kids who love trivia, and they’re great for introducing readers to the world outside their doors. Like I’ve said before, NatGeo books are a win with the kids in my library, my own kids, and the kids in my extended family. There’s so much to love!

Posted in Horror, Tween Reads

Book Review: Goosebumps: The Beast from the East, by R.L. Stine (Scholastic, 1996)

Recommended for ages 9-12

R.L. Stine is the Stephen King of kid’s horror. His Goosebumps series has been scaring the daylights out of kids for almost 20 years now, and he has branched out into other Goosebumps series (Horror Land, Hall of Horrors) and a television series based on the novels.

The Beast from the East is like reading a demented version of the old nursery song, Teddy Bear’s Picnic(also referenced in the story). Twelve year-old Ginger, her ten year-old twin brothers Nat and Pat, and their parents go on a camping trip one summer. While their father sets up the campsite, Ginger and her brothers go exploring and end up getting lost in the woods, where they come upon a group of big, blue, furry bearlike beasts that want to play a game where the winners get to live, but the losers get eaten. There are a lot of rules – can they figure them all out and get back to their parents, or will they end up as dinner?

Stine’s stories are short, creepy fun, and end with a macabre twist every time. There isn’t a lot of character development here, but there doesn’t need to be – you learn what you need to know to get through the story, because it’s really the situation that makes the book. Stine is great at describing panic and fear, giving readers the good scare they want in the safety of their own space. The twist is one last parting shot to keep you thinking after the book’s end, or until you pick up the next book.
 
Several books from the series have won Nickelodeon Kids’ Choice Awards and is one of the best-selling children’s series of all time. Scholastic has an official Goosebumps site.