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

Spooky Reads for Halloween: Ghost Girl b Ally Malinenko

Ghost Girl, by Ally Malinenko, (Aug. 2021, Katherine Tegen Books), $16.99, ISBN: 9780063044609

Ages 8-12

Horror for tweens is on the rise, and I couldn’t be happier. My library kids are hungry for it, having gone past Goosebumps and cleared my Holly Black and Mary Downing Hahn books off the shelves. They’re ready for spookier, and I love reading and booktalking these to them. Ghost Girl is definitely on my must-talk list: a girl who discovers that she has a gift for seeing and communicating with ghosts, a new school principal that’s way too creepy, a missing Kindergarten teacher, and three friends that have to stand against an entire town that’s fallen under a spell? Tell me more!

Zee Puckett is a middle schooler who loves ghost stories. She’s living with her 21-year-old sister, Abby, who’s dropped out of college and taken a job at a diner to keep their family going while her widowed father is out of state looking for work. Bullied at school, Zee’s only friend is Elijah, an African-American boy who’s got a bully of his own: his father, who is constantly at his brainy son who’d rather do science projects than hit the gym with his dad. After an altercation with Nellie, the middle school gets a new principal, Mr. Scratch, who comes off like a self-help guru on steroids. While everyone in town seems to be falling under Mr. Scratch’s spell, Zee starts seeing frightening things, including what feels like… looks like… a ghost. Zee knows that somehow, Mr. Scratch is at the center of everything; now, she has to get Elijah and Nellie – yes, her bully – to help her save the ghost, themselves, and their town. Filled with fantastically creepy moments, there are great themes of feminism and family in Ghost Girl. Zee embraces her Ghost Girl moniker, put on her by Nellie, to get to the bottom of all the mysteries plaguing her town, but the talent also connects her to her mother, who died giving birth to her. Guilt, grief, and anger power the subplots in Ghost Girl, and Ally Malinenko writes in a way that will thrill and chill readers as powerfully as it will let readers know that she sees them. There are some genuinely creepy, unsettling moments that will satisfy any spooky fiction fan, making this a story to booktalk to your burgeoning horror fans.

 

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads, Toddler Reads

Spoooooky Books for your Halloween Displays!

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! Halloween is my FAVORITE holiday. It’s a celebration of fun, all things spooky and weird, and candy.

If you’re going to have a seasonal, Halloween, or spooky book display up, consider some of these fun new books!

Poultrygeist, by Eric Geron/Illustrated by Pete Oswald, (Aug. 2021, Candlewick Press), $16.99, ISBN: 9781536210507

Ages 4-8

This cautionary tale is worth a giggle or three at storytime. When a chicken crosses the road without looking both ways, he reaches THE OTHER SIDE. No, not *that* other side, The Other Side: he’s a ghost chicken now… a POULTRYGEIST. The fun play on words brings us into a story where other ghostly animals try to pressure our poor chicken into scaring others, but Poultry doesn’t want to do that! The peer pressure continues until Poultry asserts himself, proving that even the friendliest ghost can show a little “pluck”. Smart wordplay, a fun story, and a strong messages about peer pressure and standing up for oneself let readers know that it’s okay to say “no” to bullies. The digital artwork is a Halloween delight, with sprawling midnight blue and black landscapes and shimmery, colorful ghostly animals. Spooky eyes dot the landscape, giving a tummy tickle to the littles. A free teacher tip card offers tips on introducing wordplay, homophones, and puns to students.

Poultrygeist has starred reviews from Kirkus and School Library Journal.

 

 

This Book is NOT a Bedtime Story, by Eoin McLaughlin/Illustrated by Robert Starling, (Sept. 2021, Pavilion Children’s), $16.95, ISBN: 9781843655060

Ages 3-6

This rhyming tale turns into a hilarious dialogue between a monster who sees himself and his friends as terribly terrifying monsters, and the woodland animals who have questions. Lots of questions. A red, stripey, fairly adorable monster tells us straight from the start that he’s got teeth, claws, and big roars, but everything else points to the contrary. He claims  that his middle name is “Terror”, but his Scary Monster Society card reveals that his full name is “Fluffy Terry McFluff”. He calls in his “horrible bunch” of monster friends, but their monster stew is a tasty recipe they’re too happy to share, and their spooky hauntings are really quite sweet. As the story progresses, we see that the monsters have their own concerns and fears, and they’re getting just a little bit sleepy. Illustrations are colorful, kid-friendly, with kindly, cute monsters that readers will want to snuggle with, not run from. A monster story for kids who aren’t really crazy about monsters, this fits nicely with Rebecca and Ed Emberley’s Go Away, Big Green Monster and If You’re a Monster and You Know It. The rhyme scheme and fun spreads that break the fourth wall make this a great readaloud candidate. There’s no need to worry about these monsters – if they’re under your bed, they’re fast asleep!
Tiny T. Rex and the Tricks of Treating, by Jonathan Stutzman/Illustrated by Jay Fleck, (Sept. 2021, Chronicle Kids), $7.99, ISBN: 9781452184906
Ages 2-4
Tiny T. Rex is all about Halloween, and he’s ready to share with us what it takes to be a Treat-master! This delightful board book lays out the Six Tricks of Treating, according to Tiny T. Rex and his best friend, Pointy. Kids will love the step-by-step process, from costumes (try them all on!) to staying warm, to trick or treating with friends. Tiny makes sure to remind little Treaters to be kind and gracious, and that candy shared is much better than candy eaten alone. Tiny is cheerful and upbeat; the sentences are simple and to the point, injected with humor and kindness. Illustrations make this book a win – I can’t read Tiny books without squealing as I turn to each spread – with Tiny and friends dressed in adorable costumes. Cute details throughout, like Pointy’s and Tiny’s experimentation with bubble gum, and the costume montage, will have readers heading for this book again and again. A wonderful introduction to Halloween for little ones.
Owl Has a Halloween Party, Illustrated by Jannie Ho, (July 2021, Nosy Crow), $8.99, ISBN: 9781536217346
Ages 0-4
This cute little story about an Owl throwing a Halloween party for his friends is loaded with durable pull-tabs that babies and toddlers will play with for hours! Owl is having a Halloween party, and readers can help him look for his friends. Each page features a pull tab that reveals owl’s friends, hiding in costume. An astronaut monkey and princess frog peek out from behind pumpkins; a pirate lion and flowery bear hide behind treees. Tabs stick out from the book, showing a variety of friendly animals peeking out in all directions. Simple sentences are good for emerging readers and for a little lapsit storytime. Let your little ones play hide and seek with the animal friends, and identify who each could be; point out colors; count bats and pumpkins: there are so many great ways to extend the fun here.
My First Pop-Up Mythological Monsters, by Owen Davey, (Oct. 2021, Candlewick Studio), $17.99, ISBN: 9781536217643
Ages 3-7
Owen Davey introduces young readers to the world of mythological monsters in his follow-up to My First Pop-Up Dinosaurs (2019). Taking readers all around the world, My First Pop-Up Monsters encounters 15 faces familiar and new, as each spread reveals bold and colorful creatures rising off the pages, with a brief descriptive note and country of origin. Kids will likely recognize Greece’s Cyclops and the Minotaur, but have they met the Ushi-Oni from Japan, or Sarimanok from the Philippines? Absolute fun, with beautiful illustration and detail; this is a great book for kids and grownups alike.
Posted in Fantasy, Fiction, Graphic Novels, Middle Grade, Middle School, Tween Reads, Uncategorized

The Unlikeliest Friends: The Ghoul Next Door

The Ghoul Next Door, by Cullen Bunn/Illustrated by Cat Farris, (July 2021, Harper Alley), $12.99, ISBN: 9780062896094

Ages 8 to 12

An 11-year-old boy named Grey takes a shortcut through a cemetery on his way to school, drops his school project down an empty grave, and discovers the unlikeliest new friend: a young ghoul named Lavinia. Lavinia leaves little gifts for Grey that are a little unsettling to the living – finger bones, teeth necklaces, that sort of thing – and Grey seeks Lavinia out, leading to the two forging a friendship that’s as sweet as it is dangerous. Ghouls are forbidden from associating with the living, and Grey’s friend, Marshall, is determined to tell all because he just knows Grey’s making a bad decision. Eventually, Grey is caught up in a struggle between ghouls and ghosts, with his friend Marshall’s – and Grey’s own – life in the balance!

A funny, creepy story for readers who love all things Neil Gaiman, Doug TenNapel’s Ghostopolis, and – naturally! – Goosebumps. It’s a story of friendship with a touch of intrigue and just enough creepiness to make paranormal fans shudder with glee. Cullen Bunn writes a lot of big-people comics that I love (including Harrow County, which makes a fun little cameo in The Ghoul Next Door), and Cat Farris’s artwork is spooktastic, with color, great shadow work, and a ghoul that is as heartwarming as she is startling.

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

Brenna Thummler’s Sheets and Delicates: Ghost friends are the best friends

Sheets, by Brenna Thummler, (Aug. 2018, Oni Press), $12.99, ISBN: 9781941302675

Ages 9-13

Seventh grader Marjorie Glatt has a lot on her shoulders: still reeling from her mother’s untimely death, she’s also running the family laundromat while her father copes with his depression and grief. She’s helping care for her younger brother, and she’s trying to fend off the sleazy businessman who insists he is going to take over the laundromat and open up his “five star extravagant yoga retreat” in its place – but that Marjorie and her dad can work for him. Marjorie is just going through the motions, pushing her own grief down, when Wendell – the sheet-wearing ghost of an 11-year boy who’s trying to find his own place in ghost society – arrives at her shop and unintentionally wreaks havoc. The sheets are the only way ghosts have available in order to be visible: a pretty hefty metaphor for tweens and young teens trying to find their own way in the world. The book sensitively and masterfully handles big topics like grief, visibility, and identity. The villain is perfectly awful, the customers are believably demanding and abrasive, and add to Marjorie’s sense of being overwhelmed. Brenna Thummler’s artwork tells its own story, with interesting details in the backgrounds and a color palette that uses faded blues, grays, and whites to bring the characters to life. A must-buy for your graphic novel collections. TeachingBooks.net has some educator resources available.

Sheets has been selected by YALSA as a Great Graphic Novel for Teens (2019).

Delicates, by Brenna Thummler, (March 2021, Oni Press), $14.99, ISBN: 9781620107881

Ages 10-14

The sequel to Sheets introduces a new character, and delves even deeper into social themes like bullying, trauma, and teen suicide. Picking up shortly after Sheets left off, things are looking up for Marjorie Glatt. She and Wendell are still friends, she’s still providing a place for the ghosts to hang out and kick back, and she’s even in with the  in-crowd at school: the mean girls from the last book. Marjorie’s not in love with hanging out with Tessi and her crew – they keep her around as more of a project than a friend – but she’s all about the path of least resistance. When one of their teachers asks the group to keep an eye on his daughter, Eliza, who’ll be repeating eighth grade at the school, the schism between Marjorie and Tessi; Tessi sees Eliza’s quirkiness as a target for bullying, and Marjorie, not one for conflict, tries to appease both sides until she realizes that failing to act is just as much an act of bullying. The storytelling is incredibly introspective here: Eliza emerges as a particularly brilliant character as she deals with feelings of isolation, depression, and suicidal feelings. Eliza’s family is supportive and stands with her, finding her help. Brenna Thummler’s color palette is lighter, incorporating more rose-colored hues this time, speaking to the characters’ continuing journey toward happiness. A great follow-up to a superb story. I’d love to see more.

Delicates has a starred review from Foreword Reviews. Visit author/illustrator Brenna Thummler’s webpage for more information about her books and her artwork.

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.

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

Creepy, good fun: Embassy of the Dead

Embassy of the Dead, by Will Mabbit/Illustrated by Taryn Knight, (Sept. 2020, Walker Books US), $16.99, ISBN: 9781536210477

Ages 8-12

Jake Green is a pretty ordinary kid who becomes pretty extraordinary when he accepts a box from a mysterious stranger. The box contains a severed finger, and if that’s not freaky enough on its own, the act of opening the box – hey, it didn’t come with instructions – has put Jake on a very dangerous radar: a grim reaper is after him, intent on sending him into the Eternal Void. But it’s not entirely Jake’s fault: Stiffkey, a ghostly undertaker, gave Jake the box! But he can’t be entirely at fault, right? Jake used the secret phrase: “Good morning”. But Stiffkey’s in danger of getting thrown into the Void, too, so he appears to help Jake get the Reaper off his trail – which is how Jake discovers he has a talent for ghosts, and may be of some help to the mysterious Embassy, who has enough problems of their own. Jake has a habit of collecting ghosts, and his retinue expands to include a ghostly girl trapped by her trophy and a sweet pet fox, all of whom stand ready to help save the day.

Embassy of the Dead is the first in a new series, and it’s got adventure, laugh-out-loud moments, and some thoughtful, moving moments that readers will love. There are some creepy moments, but they’re fun, with chills and giggles, rather than outright fear or terror. The characters are each extraordinary in their remarkably ordinary-ness, which is the appeal of a good adventure. Graveyard Book fans will love this one. Black and white illustrations throughout add to the gothic, quirky mood of the story. I can’t wait to see what Jake gets himself into next. This is just the type of spooky story my library kids love. I can’t wait to get it to them when we open back up… but in the meantime, I’ll crow about it here, and to the kids in the community I’m subbing at for now.

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

More Graphic Novels!

I’ve got more graphic novels! Let’s get to it.

Nori, by Rumi Hara, (May 2020, Drawn & Quarterly), $24.95, ISBN: 978-1-77046-397-4

Ages 10+

Three-year old Noriko – Nori, for short – lives in Japan’s Osaka suburbs and spends most of her time with her grandmother while her parents are working. Set in the 1980s, Nori is all about a little girl’s adventures as she explores the world around her, accompanied by her best friend: her grandmother. The book contains five short stories and is infused with Japanese culture; the events of World War II still reverberate with the adults around Nori, and cultural festivals bring the excitement of the city alive in the pages. Nori brings childhood memories alive for readers: a part in a school play; chasing rabbits and watching neighborhood kids play with crawfish and beetles; she even wins a trip to Hawaii for herself and her grandmother, which leads to a healing moment for a family who’s lost their own matriarch. Black and white artwork has one-color moments for contrast and interest. Nori is a celebration of childhood and the special relationship between a child and grandparent and middle school-aged readers and young teens will especially love this.

Nori has a starred review from Publisher’s Weekly. Read an interview with Rumi Hara on We Need Diverse Books, and visit her website for more information about her work. Nori is a nominee in the 2020 Cybils Graphic Novel category.

 

Marge’s Little Lulu: The Fuzzythingus Poopi, by John Stanley, (Sept. 2020, Drawn and Quarterly), $29.95, ISBN: 9781770463660

Ages 6+

This collection takes me back to my childhood in the best of ways. I used to read Little Lulu reprints when I was growing up, alongside issues of Richie Rich, Casper, and Archie, to name a few. Little Lulu comics were all about the adventures of Little Lulu Moppet and her best friend/frenemy, Tubby; originally published by Dell Comics in the 1940s and 1950s, they’re all about childhood adventures like having snowball fights, trying to gain admission to the “No Girls Allowed” clubhouse, telling stories to a sick friend, and various – hilarious – money-making schemes. This is Drawn and Quarterly’s second Lulu collection, and is filled with reprinted Lulu and Tubby comics, “Lulu’s Diry” diary pages that ran in individual issues, and a cover gallery. The stories are loaded with imagination, like the clip where Lulu houses a ghost who’s been ousted when the house they haunt is torn down; imagines herself in a desert and has to retrieve a nickel from a sewer grate (still in the desert!) by using strands of her hair, leaving her bald. She foils a burglar claiming to be Santa Claus because “he didn’t have a twinkle in his eye!”, and rallies the neighborhood girls together to fight back when they find themselves targeted for snowball attacks by the boys.

Great for new readers who want fun, day-to-day stories of childhood and adults who grew up with Lulu, Tubby, and Alvin. This is a keeper. Read more about The Fuzzythingus Poopi and read an excerpt at publisher Drawn and Quarterly’s page; discover the impact Little Lulu has had on comics, culture, and feminism through this Comics Alliance article and this New Yorker piece.

 

Mary: The Adventures of Mary Shelley’s Great-Great-Great-Great-Great-Granddaughter, by Brea Grant, (Oct. 2020, Six Foot Press), $18.99, ISBN: 978-1644420294

Ages 12-16

Mary is perfect for every goth tween and teen you know. She’s the 5 times great-granddaughter of Frankenstein author Mary Shelley, and she’s from a family of overachieving women dedicated to that legacy. They’re all writers of renown, especially her superstar author mom, who can’t understand… Mary’s ennui? Lack of interest? The fact that she’s not an overachiever in school or life just yet? The thing is, Mary does have a very special family gift, and it makes its debut in these very pages. Mary can heal monsters. Actual, real-life monsters do exist, and Mary discovers that one night when she reattaches one walking dead guy’s foot. He tells his friends, and they tell their friends… and so on, and so on, and so on, as the old commercial goes. Monsters of all sorts show up at Mary’s with some amusing results, and Mary doesn’t know what to do with herself and this gift! Does she walk away from this gift, or does she embrace it?

Work with me: this is relatable! Teens feel the pressure to know what they want to do with their lives by the time they’re seniors in high school. Imagine the stress of being Mary Shelley’s descendant? When there’s a shrine to your many times-great grandmother, who wrote an enduring classic at the age of 19, in your very own home? Imagine discovering you are good at something… it just happens to be something unusual, or different, and the extra stress that can carry with it! Mary is a teen trying to find her way in a family of high-achieving, highly valued women, and isn’t quite sure that being known for healing monsters is what she wants to be known for. To accept her gift and embrace herself is a journey that most tweens and teens can get on board with. Brea Grant’s moody artwork gives great atmosphere to the story, and the dialogue is wonderfully snarky and introspective all at once. Please buy this for your collections and the readers in your life.

Don’t believe me? EW has an excerpt and article on it. Check it out.

 

The League of Super Feminists, by Mirion Malle/Translated by Aleshia Jensen, (Oct. 2020, Drawn and Quarterly), $16.95, ISBN: 9781770464025

Ages 12+

A fantastic guide to feminism for tweens, teens, and beyond, The League of Super Feminists explains the basics of feminism: YES! you can still enjoy princess movies! NO! You don’t have to hate men! What we need everyone – EVERYONE – to understand is how to critically evaluate the media that makes men knights and dragon slayers, and women damsels in distress. That women don’t come in one size: skinny, white, blonde. That women need to build one another up, not tear each other down. That boys and girls can be friends! Diving into such topics as gender, representation, inclusivity, consent, and beauty, The League of Super Feminists uses a range of characters to illustrate and explain these concepts and deconstruct myths and falsehoods for readers. Written like a conversation between the friends, the book is fun, upbeat, and playful, but always self-aware and smart. Mirion Malle never talks down to readers; it’s straight talk that lets everyone know that feminism is good for all, leads to healthy thinking and self-image. A great beginning to an ongoing conversation. See an excerpt on publisher Drawn and Quarterly‘s webpage. Aleishia Jensen’s translation from the original French to English is flawless and picks up all the nuances set forth by Mirion Malle.

Read more about The League of Super Feminists at publisher Drawn and Quarterly’s webpage, including an excerpt on representation. Read an interview with Mirion Malle on We Need Diverse Books.

Psst… makes an excellent holiday gift for the tween in your life. Just saying. The League of Super Feminists is a nominee in the 2020 Cybils Graphic Novel category.

And one to look forward to!

 

Forever Home, by Jenna Ayoub, (Feb. 2021, Boom! Studios), $12.99, ISBN: 9781684156030

Ages 9-13

This sweet, funny haunted house story is perfect reading for kids who are big on comedy. Willow’s a girl who’s been raised all over the world: her parents are in the Army, and that means moving around every couple of years. She’s had to say goodbye to friends too many times, and she doesn’t want to move again! Her parents have just bought Hadleigh House, an old, pink house in need of some TLC, and Willow is happy to finally set down roots: but Gladys and Viola, the ghostly Hadleigh sisters, want their home all to themselves – and the two ghosts that live with them, the Lady and Thomas, a World War I veteran. The sisters raise a ruckus, but they don’t count on the fact that Willow can see and hear them, and she lets them know she isn’t going anywhere. A touching story of belonging and family, Willow is a smart kid who has no problem digging in her heels to stay in the home she loves; Viola and Gladys are delightfully mischievous ghosts, and The Lady’s habit of killing husbands and fiancees is played for laughs as it’s alluded to, never quite addressed. Thomas’s backstory is poignant, and he emerges as a sweet, almost tragic figure. Forever Home has a little bit of comedy, a touch of bittersweet, and enough affection to make this a sure bet for readers who get a kick out of spooky comedies like The Addams Family and The Boxtrolls. Good for middle grade, great for middle school.

 

Posted in Fiction, Middle Grade, Tween Reads

Halloween-ish Reading: Ghostology

Ghostology: A True Revelation of Spirits, Ghouls, and Hauntings, by Dugald A. Steer & Lucinda Curtle/Illustratrated by Anne Yvonne Gilbert, Garry Walton, & Doug Sirois, (Aug. 2020, Candlewick Press), $27.99, ISBN: 9781536209150

Ages 8-12

A spooky letter from a ghost hunter who’s just seen too much. A tome filled with information, including notes about (in)famous hauntings and maps of haunted rectories, and sketches of ghost towns; journal excerpts and information on hunting ghosts, with flaps and secret notes throughout. And… a missing page, torn from the book? Are those… notes from a ghost, scribbled hastily all over the book? Ghostology is a ghost-hunting adventure in a book, with fun facts on putting together a ghost-hunters kit, detailed information on the types of ghosts and a map of notable spottings, haunted houses, hotels, and forts, and so much more. Perfect for Halloween collections and for readers who love reading about ghosts all year long, but make sure you keep a copy on your Reference shelf; my library kids love the “-Ology” books, but they are eaten alive in circulation.

Back when I used to have actual people and programs in my library – fun times, right? – I used the “‘Ology” books as part of my program planning. I would recreate notes, leading kids to clues that they could look up in the books (Wizardology); read excerpts and use codes (Spyology) as part of dossier files I’d hand out to the kids. They are just so much fun for grownups and kids alike – imagine what I’d have been able to do for this last year’s Imagine Your Story Summer Reading? Now, to think about ways to recreate these programs virtually… Actually, these are pretty much made for Escape Room planning, so let me just get my notebook out and start writing!

The ‘Ology books are largely authored by Duglad Steer and have been around for a while, but as they’ve had different publishers, it’s hard to find one spot for all of them. I linked to Candlewick’s page earlier, and I also found a Beautiful Books page that lists quite a lot of them. If you click through to the Ghostology book detail page, check the lower left-hand part of the screen for more titles by Dugald Steer, and that’s also a pretty detailed list. Dugald Steer also has an ESL-ology website for teachers and educators, with free tools for English lessons in the classroom!

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

This Halloween, invite Gustavo The Shy Ghost to visit!

Gustavo the Shy Ghost, by Flavia Z. Drago, (July 2020, Candlewick Press), $16.99, ISBN: 9781536211146

Ages 3-7

Gustavo is a sweet ghost, but he’s terribly shy. He has a big crush on a monster named Alma, and wants to be friends with the other ghosts and monsters in his neighborhood, but he’s so shy, he just ends up hiding around them and hoping he’ll be noticed, to no avail. But one thing Gustavo loves to do is play violin, and he decides to invite all his potential friends to a Day of the Dead violin concert. That’s got to win them over! But… will they show?

A perfect choice for Día de los Muertos and Halloween alike, Gustavo the Shy Ghost is a story of friendship, overcoming fears, and celebration. Mixed media illustrations give us adorable renderings of ghosts and monsters, with Latinx touches like the papel picado cover and decorations in Gustavo’s and other monsters’ homes. Gustavo’s mother is a skeleton and his father is a ghost; his mother looks like a simpler, stripped-down sugar skull and sugar skulls and Mexican art decorate his home. There are other smart touches throughout, like the goldfish skeleton in the fish tank, the book cart with Edgar Allan Poe and Cthulhu books, and the altars at headstones in the cemetery. Front endpapers show a photo booth strip of Gustavo by himself, and the back endpapers show photos of Gustavo enjoying the company of his new friends.

Adorable, and perfect for holiday reading. Publisher Candlewick has a free, downloadable activity kit with a maze, drawing, and writing activity. There are so many great Día de los Muertos crafts and activities now, too! AZ Central has a 32-page downloadable packet with information about the holiday, coloring pages, and activities; the Think Make Share blog has a step-by-step instructional post on making papel picado, complete with templates.

Gustavo the Shy Ghost has starred reviews from School Library Journal and Kirkus.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

More Halloween books for your spooky read-alouds!

Hide and Seek, by Katie May Green, (July 2019, Candlewick), $16.99, ISBN: 9780763696061

Ages 4-7

Welcome back to Shiverhawk Hall, where the paintings won’t stay put! The companion to 2015’s Seen and Not Heard, Hide and Seek is a standalone rhyming picture book that tells the story of a group of playful paintings who clamber out of their frames for a day of hide and seek fun in the surrounding gardens and woods. Twin sisters turn out to be too good at the game, leading their friends on a chase until the rain sends them running back home to the comfort of their frames. The rhyming scheme is a joy to read and sets a perfectly lovely, eerie setting to the story. The charcoal artwork is colorful but never bold and loud, creating an atmosphere just eerie enough to be Addams Family-creepy, not nightmare-inducing scary. The ghostly sisters have  matching white dresses, long, black hair, and wide-eyed expressions; all the children wear period clothing, with loads of ruffs, ballgowns, buckled shoes, and sailor oufits. Pale pink endpapers give readers a glimpse into the forest, with imprints of leaves, animal tracks, and local fauna. Perfect for a creepy storytime read where you don’t want to terrify your little ones, but give them a delicious case of the willies.

 

The Right One for Roderic, by Violeta Nay, (July 2019, Candlewick), $16.99, ISBN: 9781536205725

Ages 5-7

Roderic is the latest ghost in a long line of Roderics, but he’s also the smallest ghost in his family. He’s really not a fan of the boring white sheets that everyone in his family wears; it makes him feel even smaller than he already is, because hardly anyone notices him to begin with! Roderic starts experimenting with his look, adding hats and scarves to his ensemble, and comes up with a new look that he loves: but his family doesn’t. Roderic heads to the city, hoping to find a more fashionable group of people, but discovers that in a big city, he’s just as invisible as he was at home. He returns home, tweaks his style, and tells his family that he’s happy to be different and will wear what he wants: and his family, encouraged by his fashion sense, decides to take some chances on their own, too! The digital illustrations are adorable, making Roderic a sweet little ghost in the world. The ghosts are cute, not scary; they’re white, sheet-wearing blobs with big, round eyes and smiley faces. Roderic’s fashion experimentation is played for laughs and to broach discussion about individuality, finding what feels comfortable and good for you, and owning it. For Roderic to tell his family how he feels is a major step; it encourages kids to talk about what makes them feel comfortable or uncomfortable, happy or sad. A sweet story with a positive message.

 

Frankie’s Scared of Everything, by Mathew Franklin, (Oct. 2019, Building Block Press), $$19.95, ISBN: 9781944201227

Ages 3-6

Frankie tries to get to sleep at night, but it’s really hard when his mind won’t stop whirling. During the day, he’s got schoolwork, sports, and the neighbor’s dog with an attitude; at night, all the thoughts in his brain come together to send crashing, creaking robots; scraping, scratching dinosaurs; wailing, flailing sea creatures, and fuming, booming molemen after him! He runs to his mom, who calms him down by telling him that imaginations are tricky – they can make the simplest things into pretty scary stuff; by encouraging him to embrace his wild imagination, though, Frankie’s able to go back to those freaky creeps with a new outlook. Artist and author Mathew Franklin creates a wild, day-glo dreamscape, with bold, neon colors popping off a black and sepia background to create Frankie’s scariest nightmares. The sound effects and fonts are big, with easily readable white fonts that stand out against the dark spreads. The monsters aren’t scary so much as BIG: they take up the better part of each two-page spread, and the artwork has an incredible graffiti/tattoo flourish. Text is presented in word balloons and pieces of paper taped to the pages. Endpapers are black, with neon dots splashed across them, looking like a drop-cloth or a universe waiting to reveal itself. It’s a fun book that will work for a Halloween story, a story about facing fears, and a story about embracing your imagination. Publisher Building Block Press has some free printables on their website; not currently Frankie-related, but something to keep an eye on.