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

The Way of the Hive tells the story of Clan Apis

The Way of the Hive: A Honeybee’s Story, by Jay Hosler, (Apr. 2021, HarperAlley), $12.99, ISBN: 9780063007352

Ages 8-12

Nyuki is an inquisitive honeybee larva who has a lot of questions for Dvorah, an older bee who ends up being her mentor. Why does her cell have to be capped off? Why does she have to go through metamorphosis? Why are some of the bees getting ready to leave the hive? Can she go? Should she go? Is Dvorah going to go? Dvorah patiently answers Nyuki’s questions, and helps Nyuki develop into an independent member of her colony. The story follows the life journey of one honeybee and the members of her hive. Nyuki is childlike in her interactions, and never loses her sense of wonder and curiosity, making her a wonderful character. She struggles with anxiety about the unknown and adapts, always puzzling over the “inner voice” that spurs her on to adventure. The story is sweet, funny, and moved me to tears. Illustrations are realistic, but Jay Hosler manages to make these realistic depictions of bees simply adorable; readers will want to cherish them and care for them. The science is solid, but never, ever feels like a lecture or a textbook. It’s simply a great story. An absolute must for your graphic novel collections, and perfect for Science Comics readers. Back matter includes even more information about bees.

Did you know World Bee Day is May 20th this year? Visit the Bee Culture website for some resources on bees and celebrating them on their special day. The National Parks Service has a great middle school curriculum for Bee Week available. Author Jay Hosler’s website is a treasure trove of information on using comic books in the classroom (yes!!) and links to more science comics.

The Way of the Hive has a starred review from Kirkus. It was originally published under the title, Clan Apis, in 1998.

Posted in Conferences & Events, Early Reader, Graphic Novels, Intermediate, Non-Fiction, Non-Fiction

Kevin McCloskey, Giggle & Learn, Ants and Pigeon Poop: It’s all good here!

Kevin McCloskey is one of my favorite graphic novelists. What does he draw, you ask? Spidey? The Avengers? X-Men?

Nope. He creates science graphic novels for the little ones, examine such subjects as snail goo, pigeon and worm poop, and foot-long goldfish. Sometimes, he paints his pictures on recyclable grocery bags, because he believes in recycling. Most importantly, he creates nonfiction that speaks to young learners in a way that engages their minds and their funny bones, talking about the funny, gross, and awesome parts of nature and making them equally… amazing.

Ants Don’t Wear Pants!, by Kevin McCloskey, (Sept. 2019, TOON Books), $$12.95, ISBN: 9781943145454

Ages 4-7

Who here hasn’t been told, “You have ants in your pants!” while growing up? With that phrase, Kevin McCloskey sets readers off on the study of ants: biology and physiology, life cycle, food, kinds of ants, and what they eat. The book is loaded with fun facts and illustrations, like the one of an ant bench pressing an apple, combined with a picture of a child lifting a car, to bring home the fact that an ant can lift up to 50 times its own weight, and what that would mean to us human folk. The front endpapers have hundreds and hundreds of ants, with one magnified under a magnifying glass, greeting readers and inviting them to come and learn. This is the newest in Kevin McCloskey’s Giggle and Learn series of graphic novels for young learners, published by TOON, and I love it. My kiddo’s first McCloskey book was We Dig Worms (2015), which I read to him when he was barely out of the toddler years, and he loved it, because the material is accessible and fun. A lesson plan is coming soon!

 

The Real Poop on Pigeons!, by Kevin McCloskey, (Sept. 2019, TOON Books), $6.99, ISBN: 9781943145430

Ages 4-7

Originally published in 2016, The Real Poop on Pigeons! is coming to paperback. When a man sitting on the park bench starts shooing pigeons away, a group of children, dressed as pigeons, show up to school him – and us readers – on pigeon history – they carried the first airmail! – and biology, breeding, and pigeon milk. (Read the book. You can’t buy this in Stop & Shop.) There are some great pigeon family tree revelations here, like the fact that the Dodo was a member of the pigeon family. A three-foot pigeon! Ever wonder why you haven’t seen a baby pigeon? Read the book! The Real Poop on Pigeons is yet another win from Kevin McCloskey, and another win for young readers.

 

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

Big Nate meets Medieval Times: Max and the Midknights

Max and the Midknights, by Lincoln Peirce, (Jan. 2019, Crown Books for Young Readers), $13.99, ISBN: 978-1-101-93109-7

Ages 8-12

From the creator of Big Nate comes Max and the Midknights, a story about Max, a troubadour in training who really wants to be a knight; a mean king, and a group of kids determined to make things right. Throw in a magic sword and a bumbling magician, and you have Max and the Midknights, a clever blending of graphic novel and middle grade novel. Max and Uncle Budrick visit Budrick’s childhood home in the kingdom of Byjovia, only to discover that the kind King Conrad is missing and presumed dead, and his awful brother, King Gastley, is on the throne. The villagers all seem cruel and distant, and routinely rounded up and thrown in Gastley’s dungeons. Max and new friends Kevyn, Millie, and Simon, hatch a plant to save Budrick and have some exciting adventures on the way, including some interesting background on Max, epic poetry, dragons, and haunted forests.

The book is loaded with humor, very likable characters, and adventure. Big Nate fans will be happy to see Nate show up in the book’s very beginning: Max and the Midknights is his book report. I loved spending time with Max and friends, and I’m hoping to see another installment soon. Put this right up there with Dav Pilkey, Jeff Kinney (both of whom blurbed Max), and Jeffrey Brown’s books. This could be the book that gets your reluctant reader to embrace fantasy fiction!

 

Posted in Graphic Novels, Non-Fiction, Teen, Women's History

What Makes Girls Sick and Tired – great for YA collections

What Makes Girls Sick and Tired, by Lucile De Pesloüan/Illustrated by Geneviève Darling, (March 2019, Second Story Press), $13.99, ISBN: 9781772600964

Ages 12+

The time for conversations is here: there are a lot of things women are sick and tired of hearing. We’re tired of hearing the same old “jokes” and passive-aggressive comments and we’re not laughing it off with a simple eyeroll any longer. What Makes Girls Sick and Tired is a graphic novel – a feminist manifesto, as publisher Second Story Press states – that brings these obnoxious ideas, assumptions, and comments to light, in the hope that it will prompt discussion and understanding.

Geneviève Darling’s purple-and-white artwork gives visual understanding to Lucile De Pesloüan’s words and ideas, featuring  diverse, inclusive groups of women to get the points across. Girls and women are not cookie-cutter templates: we are different, have different tastes and experiences, come from different cultures and backgrounds, and have different ideas and beliefs. We don’t all want to be rescued, and we don’t want to be someone’s “score”. We don’t like it when you assume we’re weak, when you tell boys and men to “man up” or “stop crying like a girl”. We don’t want to be told to “act like a lady” or, for that matter, what a lady is, does, or looks like. These moments, and many more, are intelligently captured and plainly stated. It’s a powerful, smart book that I hope will inspire young women – and men – to read, discuss, and move forward with understanding. There are no solutions presented here: that’s for us to take on.

What Makes Girls Sick and Tired has received some great feedback from librarians and bloggers, and I’m looking forward to getting this on my shelves. Like Oni Press’s A Quick Easy Guide to They/Them Pronouns, this is information that works well in graphic format for teen and college audiences.

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

Three new graphic novels coming your way in May!

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

 

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

Recommended for readers 3-7

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

 

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

Recommended for readers 12+

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

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

 

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

Recommended for readers 8-12

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

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

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

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

Recommended for readers 10-12

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

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

Recommended for readers 10-12

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

Cuentos populares de latinoamérica en español e ingles!

            

The Dragon Slayer: Folktales from Latin America/La matadragones: cuentos de latinoamérica, by Jaime Hernandez, (April 2018, TOON Graphics), $16.95, ISBN: 9781943145287 (English)/9781943145300 (Spanish)

Recommended for readers 6+

TOON Graphics has a great collection of folktales from Latin America, simultaneously published in English and Spanish. Three tales starring intelligent female characters make up this volume; as with most folk and fairy tales, each one imparts its own wisdom using the story as a vehicle. The title tale, The Dragon Slayer, sees a young woman betrayed by her two horrible sisters; an act of kindness brings a boon in the form of a magic wand, which leads her to employment at a king’s palace, where she falls in love with a prince, who she must save. Twice. It’s got the best parts of a fairy tale: dragons, magic wands and rings, ogres, and a happily ever after; it’s got a strong, smart young woman who can stand toe to toe with mythical monsters and real-life intolerance, and she saves the day AND gets the boy.

Martina Martinez and Pérez the Mouse stars Ratoncito Pérez, a popular character in Latinx folktales. This version, told by Alma Flor Ada, comes from another book, Tales Our Abuelitas Told”, and is the story of a pretty but shallow young woman, Martina, who marries Pérez after turning down other animal suitors (Martina often shows up as a cockroach in other versions of the tale). When she runs to the store to get salt for a soup, Pérez tries to sneak a taste of onion and falls into the pot! Martina discovers him in the pot and runs sobbing around the village, where birds, a fountain, and a young girl all grieve for her in various ways. It takes a wise old woman to discover that no one has actually tried to save Pérez , and rushes over to put things right again. Always respect your elders, kids! And seriously, use some common sense and try to keep your head in a situation.

Tup and the Ants is a fun little story about the power of being smart and lazy. Tup is the youngest and laziest of three brothers, who marry three sisters. Tup’s in-laws are not thrilled with their lazy son-in-law, so when they send the three brothers out to clear the land for cornfields, they send Tup with less food to show their displeasure. Doesn’t matter: Tup finds a place to snooze, ends up meeeting a group of ants, and trades his food for their labor. This is a sweet little partnership, and pays off as the two not-so-bright brothers are hopelessly out of their league in clearing and planting a cornfield, and Tup builds his own little empire by continuing to trade food for labor. The moral of the story may be a bit ambiguous, since the lazy guy gets the accolades, but there is something to be said for knowing how to get the job done. And, as a later explanation points out, it’s a story that teaches listeners and readers about planning and undertaking a planting season.

A foreword from F. Isabel Campoy explains the power of folktales and the Latin American tradition, and features beautiful Aztec and Mayan pictograms and popular animals, like jaguars, monkeys, and dogs. An afterword goes into more detail about the origins of these three folktales, with photos and illustrations. A section on the oral tradition invites readers to personalize and create their own tales, with prompts to help them along. A strong bibliograpy includes books and online resources that will strengthen diverse folk and fairy tale collections and provide nice online resources for further research.

I absolutely love this introduction to Latin American folktales, and can only hope there’s a volume 2 somewhere down the line. This is such a great addition to folk and fairy tale collections and diverse, culturally rich collections. This would be great for a storytime for school-age kids – it’s such a fun read! – and a storytelling program.

Posted in Graphic Novels, History

Two families find common ground during the Civil Rights era: The Silence of Our Friends

The Silence of Our Friends, by Mark Long and Jim Demonakos/Illustrated by Nate Powell, (Jan. 2018, First Second), $9.99, ISBN: 9781250164988

Recommended for readers 12+

Originally published in 2012, The Silence of Our Friends is getting a re-release next week.Set in 1968 Texas, The Silence of Our Friends tells the story of two families – a black family and a white family – who come together as the civil rights struggle comes to a boil. It’s a memoir of Mark Long’s childhood in a virulently racist Texan suburb; it’s the story of his journalist father, Jack, and his friendship with African-American professor at Texas Southern University professor, Larry Thompson; and it’s the story of a lesser-known event in civil rights history: a series of student protests at Texas Southern University, culminating in police brutality and shots fired at unarmed African-American students in a university dorm. Those same students were imprisoned and put on trial for the death of a police officer who was killed by a fellow officer’s misfire.

The Silence of Our Friends is taken from the Martin Luther King quote, “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies but the silence of our friends.” It’s a powerful quote given powerful illustration in Long’s story. Jack Long is a journalist trying to do the right thing, but his racist boss wants a pro-white narrative in the press. Jack’s silence can kill.

Artist Nate Powell, who beautifully illustrated John Lewis’ March trilogy, creates strong, stark images here, using black and white artwork to create imposing shadows and menacing crowds and idyllic homes with tension thrumming throughout. The Silence of Our Friends is an ally’s story and a good additional title in civil rights collections.

Posted in Fiction, Horror, Media, Middle Grade, Non-Fiction, Realistic Fiction, TV Shows, Tween Reads, Uncategorized

Part Lois Lane, Part Nancy Drew… Introducing Cici!

Cici’s Journal: The Adventures of a Writer in Training, by Joris Chamblain/Illustrated by Aurelie Neyret, Translated by Carol Burrell, (Nov. 2017, :01FirstSecond), $16.99, ISBN: 9781626722484

Recommended for readers 8-12

Cici’s dream is to become a novelist. She journals her thoughts and ideas, and constantly people watches, much to the chagrin of her mother and friends. Cici doesn’t see it as being nosy; she figures that you need to understand what’s inside of people in order to write about them. But when she starts digging further into people’s lives and expecting her friends to lie to her mother to cover up her “investigations”, they let her know that they’ve had enough. Can Cici learn to be a good friend and an attentive writer?

Originally published in France under the French title Les carnets de Cerise (2012), this is Cici’s first English translation and includes two stories. In the first story (title), Cici discovers an older man walking through the forest every Sunday, covered in paint and lugging cans of paint back and forth. In Hector’s Journal, she tries to get to the bottom of a mystery involving an older woman who takes the same library book out every week. Both times, Cici goes after her subject with gusto, but is often insensitive to her friends and mother. It isn’t until her mentor, a local author, steps in to have a heart to heart with Cici that she finally understands that she’s been using people, and starts taking others into consideration. Kids will recognize themselves and their friends in Cici, especially as she goes through the frustration of disagreeing with Mom and falling out with friends.

The graphic novel is a mix of graphic storytelling and journaling, with doodles, scrapbook pieces, comments, and notes throughout the book. The art is realistic with a soft touch, and Cici has a very fun and eclectic style that will appeal to middle graders. She complains about her friends throughout the book, and with seeming good reason: one girl is in a perpetually bad mood, and Cici herself can be exasperating (mind you, I say this as a 46 year -old mother of three, not a tween). In short, kids will identify with or see their friends in these characters, and dive into Cici’s adventures – and maybe start journaling on their own.

In my neverending quest to create programs that I can booktalk with, Cici’s Journal is a nice fit with a writer’s program I want to test out. Put this one with your Dork Diaries, Amelia’s Notebooks, Wimpy Kid books, My Dumb Diaries, Kate the Great, Origami Yodas, and Popularity Papers.

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

The King of Soccer: Pelè

Pelè: The King of Soccer, by Eddy Simon/Illustrated by Vincent Brascaglia, (Oct. 2017, :01FirstSecond), $15.99, ISBN: 9781626727557

Recommended for ages 10+

The latest graphic novel biography from FirstSecond is Eddy Simon and Vincent Brascaglia’s Pelè: The King of Soccer. From his beginnings as a child growing up in poverty in Sao Paulo, Brazil, readers see Pelè – born Edison Arantes do Nascimento, son of a football player whose career ended with an injury – rise from a child using a ball made from rags, to his dominance in youth leagues, and to his first professional soccer contract at the age of 15. He became a sensation at 17, when he led Brazil to victory at the World Cup, and went on to become “O Rei” – The King – a household name, a worldwide sensation. More than just a soccer player, Pelè traveled the world as a goodwill ambassador for UNICEF. An athlete worth more than face value, the Brazilian government and the military tried to force him to continue playing when he wanted to play for the U.S., and the United States thought that acquiring Pelè would make soccer the next great American sport. He partied with the likes of Mick Jagger and Andy Warhol, and had a turbulent personal life that includes multiple affairs and illegitimate children. Full-color photos of Pelè complete this solid graphic biography of a sports icon.

Great for middle school and up, display and booktalk with other graphic novel biographies, including Box Brown’s biography on Andre the Giant, and 21: The Story of Robert Clemente, by Wilfred Santiago.

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

Cucumber Quest: Bunny Siblings Save the World!

Cucumber Quest, Vol. 1: The Doughnut Kingdom, by Gigi DG, (Oct. 2017, :01FirstSecond), $14.99, ISBN: 9781626728325

Recommended for ages 8-12

If you’ve never read the webcomic Cucumber Quest, now’s your chance to dive in. The seven kingdoms of Dreamside are in trouble when the evil queen Cordelia plans to unleash some serious havoc. Cucumber – who’s all packed and ready to start his studies at Puffington’s Academy for the Magically Gifted – gets a letter from his dad, telling him that it’s up to him to save the kingdoms. His brave and way-more-heroic sister, Almond, offers to go in his place, but their mother and father seem to have some pretty outdated ideas about gender, and tells her it’s too dangerous for her. Almond joins Cucumber’s Quest, regardless, and the two head out in search of the Dream Sword: the only weapon powerful enough to defeat Cordelia’s supernatural thug, the Nightmare Knight. On the way, Cucumber and Almond meet a batty Dream Oracle, a trio of hare-brained guards, and a host of other wacky characters.

Beginning life as a webcomic (that you can still read online), Cucumber Quest: The Doughnut Kingdom collects the first 137 pages of Cucumber Quest (the Prologue and chapter 0); Cucumber Quest 2: The Ripple Kingdom will continue collecting stories from the online archive. Forty pages of additional comics, including Reader Q&A for various characters, and short bios for each character, complete with ability ratings in trading card format, concept art, and a tour of the world of Dreamside, home to the seven kingdoms.

The story is light and fun; the artwork is cute and Chibi-inspired. Manga fans will love it, as will adventure fans. Give this to your Adventure Time and Steven Universe readers; for your fantasy fans that want some lighter summer reading (or aren’t really passionate readers… YET), this will be a welcome addition to shelves.

Want to learn more? Check out the Cucumber Quest wiki and Cucumber Quest page, where you can access the complete comic archive and learn more about the characters.