I’m still reading graphic novels by the bunch: I’ve even applied to be a CYBILS Graphic Novel judge this year, because I had such a great time being one last year! There are such good books coming out for middle grade and YA, and with a new focus on early reader graphic novels picking up strength, I can honestly say we comic book fans have inherited the earth and it feels good. Here are a few more to add to your Fall order carts.
The Statue of Liberty is an American icon now, but back when she was first gifted to the U.S. from France, things were quite different. America needed to build a pedestal in order to hold up all 350 pieces of Lady Liberty, once she was assembled, but money was tight and the American people weren’t happy about ponying up the cash for it. Newspaperman Joseph Pulitzer caught wind of Lady Liberty’s dilemma, and used his newspaper, the New York World, to make an Americans an offer they couldn’t refuse: every donor to the pedestal fund would get their name printed in The World. Every. One. Donations began pouring in, many from schoolchildren who took up collections, saved candy money, and found ways to put aside a penny, a nickel, or more. On August 11, 1885, The World‘s headline announced that 120,000 donors raised $100,000, and the pedestal was built, allowing Lady Liberty to be freed from her crates and put together, in New York Harbor, where she stands today. Chana Steifel is straightforward yet fun in her storytelling, concentrating on how Americans – particularly schoolchildren – came together in a joint effort to accept France’s gift in style. Chuck Groenink’s light-hearted illustrations are show groups of children gathered together alongside quotes from actual letters received with donations; he makes Lady Liberty resplendent in her shining bronze glory. Comprehensive back matter includes a Statue of Liberty timeline, facts about the Statue, a bibliography, and photos from Lady Liberty’s construction. A necessary inclusion to your history collections!
Let Liberty Rise! has a starred review from School Library Journal. Chana Stiefel has a free curriculum guide available on her author webpage.
America wasn’t the only one feeling growing pains in 1789. Marc Aronson and Susan Campbell Bartoletti, who edited and contributed to 2018’s 1968: Today’s Authors Explore a Year of Rebellion, Revolution, and Change, have put together another stellar examination of a contentious year in global history with 1789: Twelve Authors Explore a Year of Rebellion, Revolution, and Change. All-star authors, including Aronson and Bartoletti, Tanya Lee Stone, Steve Sheinkin, Joyce Hansen, and Cynthia Levinson and Sanford Levinson, take on the big events and questions that rocked the world that year: what does “The Rights of Man” mean? White men? Nobles and kings? What about enslaved people and indigenous people? The Bill of Rights was ratified in the United States while France burned toward revolution; fishwives took to the streets and Marie Antoinette’s portrait artist captured the human side of an untouchable royal. Sailors mutinied, slaves told their stories, and mathematicians calculated the digits of pi. Organized into sections entitled “Exhilaration”, “Abomination”, “Inspiration”, and “Conclusions”, essays cover the excitement of change and discovery, the horror of enslavement, and the journey toward progress. It’s a truly holistic view of a pivotal year in history, and each essay broadens the reader’s world as they connect the dots to come away with a full picture of how one event can, like a snowball rolling downhill, engulf all in its path.
Publisher Candlewick offers a sample chapter on their website as well as an educator’s guide. Back matter includes comprehensive author notes, source notes, and a bibliography. 1789 has starred reviews from Kirkus and Publishers Weekly.
This picture book biography on code breaker Elizebeth Friedman is a great way to kick off Women’s History Month! Beginning with her early years as a Shakespeare-loving student and working for an eccentric millionaire, she meets fellow code aficionado and scientist, William Friedman. The two marry, and their expertise in codes and ciphers led to their groundbreaking work in cryptology during World War I. Friedman traveled two worlds, raising her family away from the city and answering the government’s call for help, whether it was to break smuggler’s codes during Prohibition or ferreting out Nazi spies and Japanese spies during World War II. The FBI took credit for the work she and her team did, and she was sworn to secrecy. Her secrets were declassified 35 years after her death in 2015. Laurie Wallmark, a STEM/STEAM biographer for women in STEM, has written several books I’ve brought to my Girls Who Code sessions, including Grace Hopper: Queen of Computer Code (2017) and Ada Byron Lovelace and the Thinking Machine (2015). She has a great way of factual storytelling that show each of her heroines breaking barriers while juggling the weight of societal expectations. Ms. Wallmark does Elizebeth Friedman a great justice and brings her story to a new generation of girls.
Brooke Smart’s watercolor and gouache paintings sprinkle Friedman quotes throughout and have humorous moments, including a page where a line of coded language wraps itself around an angry group of Nazis as Friedman gazes off sagely on the companion page; one spread has Friedman leading a team of young men through ticker tapes, curling all over the page, likely pointing out how to break codes. She combines the realistic with the imaginative, encouraging readers to let their minds go where coding takes them. Back matter includes an explanation on codes and ciphers, cryptography, and a crack the code exercise, along with a bibliography and timeline of Friedman’s life. An excellent biography on a ’til-now virtually unknown figure in history.
Check out the Code Breaker, Spy Hunter book page on author Laurie Wallmark’s webpage where you’ll find a trailer, cool activity sheets, and more!
Award-winning author Laurie Wallmark has written picture-book biographies of women in STEM fields ranging from computer science to mathematics, astronomy to code breaking. Her books have earned multiple starred reviews, been chosen as Junior Library Guild Selections, and received awards such as Outstanding Science Trade Book, Cook Prize Honor, and Parents’; Choice Gold Medal. She is a former software engineer and computer science professor. She lives in Ringoes, New Jersey. You can find her at lauriewallmark.com.
On Twitter: @lauriewallmark
Brooke Smart loves telling stories through her illustrations, especially stories about brave women from history. She has always loved to read, and growing up she could be found nightly falling asleep with a book on her chest. Illustrating books as a professional artist is a lifelong dream come true. She is living the busy, tired, happy, wonderful dream in Salt Lake City, Utah, with her husband, their three kids, and their naughty cat named Sunshine. Learn more about her at brooke-smart.com.
One lucky winner will receive a copy of Code Breaker, Spy Hunter courtesy of Abrams Books for Young Readers (U.S. addresses). Enter this Rafflecopter giveaway!
A companion to Prestel Publishing’s Great Ports of the World (2018) and Great Streets of the World (2019), Great Rivers of the World is a picture book tour of 18 of the world’s greatest rivers, from the Danube in Germany, to China’s Yangtze River, to the Egyptian Nile. Beautiful full-color spreads combined with informative facts about the rivers, with special attention to conservation efforts: the rain forests of the Congo, for instance, are threatened due to environmental encroachment, mining of natural resources, and hunters. A foldout section on the Nile River discusses the environmental impact the citizens of Egypt face by polluting their river. There are great historical facts that would flesh out geographical and historical reports. A great additional nonfiction resource!
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
If you have teens (and tweens) who love the creepier side of life, you have to hand them Cursed Objects. If you have fans of the podcast (and Amazon Prime show and series of books) Lore, have this book at the ready. Cursed Objects is a worldwide road trip through some of the weirdest, wackiest, allegedly objects that may or may not be cursed. Some of these treasures are well-known and infamous: the Hope Diamond and the actual Annabelle the doll are both in here, as are Robert the Doll (also featured on Lore) and . Some may be new to you, like Robert the Doll, one of the creepiest The Unlucky Mummy, who launched a thousand e-mail chain letters back in the ’90s. And some were new to me, like The Dybbuk Box, which was sold on eBay, and The Ring of Silvianus, a Roman artifact that allegedly inspired JRR Tolkien. Illustrated in two-color blue and white, each entry has a few pages dedicated to the object’s history, alleged misfortunes, and where it is today. There are callout boxes and bulleted lists throughout, making this an easy, entertaining, and absolutely fun read.
Author J.W. Ocker is the Edgar-winning author of The Rotter House and creator of OTIS: Odd Things I’ve Seen where you can read about more of his visits to oddities of culture, art, nature, and history across the world.
Count this as a subset of my running Books From Quarantine posts. I’ve been stressed out thinking about my second grader, soon to be rising third grader, this summer, when half of his school year has consisted of less homeschooling than crisis management. I want to find things for my kiddo to read and enjoy that give him a little bit of each of his subjects, you know? I know you know. So consider these Summer’s Cool posts as my way of sharing some bookish and Web-ish things I find along my way. Today, I’m talking History Comics, a new nonfiction graphic novel series from First Second; the imprint we know and love that’s given us Science Comics and Secret Coders.
Before the pilgrims set foot on Plymouth Rock; before Captain John Smith landed at Jamestown, the first English settlers arrived in what we now call the United States, on Roanoke Island. Colony governor John White returned to England to get supplies for the colony, but we delayed for three years. When he returned, the colony was abandoned; the settlers, gone. No trace. It’s one of the biggest mysteries in American history, and Chris Schweizer investigates in this History Comic.
Similar in format to Science Comics, we get two guides through the story: in this case, Wanchese a Roanoke Indian, and Manteo, a Croatan chief, inspired by the actual Native Americans who met with the settlers and Sir Walter Raleigh in the earliest days of the settlement. At once a history of the Roanoke Colony and the politics behind its settlement and a discussion of Native Americans and the settlers’ condescending treatment of them from the beginning, The Roanoke Colony is an historical mystery filled with explorers, pirates, jealous queens, shady businessmen, and a brewing war. Very readable and with cartoon-realistic illustrations, this will enchant a new generation of budding historians the same way In Search Of pulled me in when I was a kid. The book examines theories, some plausible and some… well, out there, that persist as people try to work out what happened to the colonists at Roanoke. An afterword from the author on what we know about Roanoke includes a discussion of primary and secondary sources: hugely helpful when working on research reports!
In October of 1871, a fire started in the city of Chicago and burned for two days, destroying homes, taking lives, and causing millions of dollars in damage. It’s become a moment in history and an American legend. The story of the Chicago Fire is told here, through the points of view of two siblings, Franny and John Patrick (JP), as they search for their parents in the midst of the fire and the chaos that erupts. It was a disaster that made an urban legend out of a woman named Catherine O’Leary: the fire began about 10 blocks from her home, leading anti-Irish residents to lay the blame on her and her cow; stories ranged from the cow kicking over a bucket while being milked to one of O’Leary’s renters hosting a drunken party which resulted in a lantern being knocked over. These theories, and more plausible ones are covered here, as Franny’s and JP’s story progresses.
Back matter includes a timeline of the fire, a map of spots mentioned in the story, a section dedicated to fire sites to visit in Chicago, a list of fast facts, and a bibliography and resources for further reading. Rising From the Ashes is a comprehensive, thrilling retelling of a major moment in American history.
For more Great Chicago Fire resources, point your browser to The Great Chicago Fire and The Web of Memory, a joint project with the Chicago History Museum and Northwestern University Information Technology (NUIT) Department of Academic and Research Technologies (A&RT), and supported by the Guild of the Chicago History Museum. It’s got a wealth of information, including stories from eyewitnesses, image galleries, songs inspired by the fire, and excerpts from media and personal correspondence. The History Channel has a section about the fire; Smithsonian magazine has an article on the Mrs. O’Leary myth; education site Ducksters.com has a section on the fire, and so does Kids Britannica.
Booktalk these to your I Survived readers – they will eat these up (especially with I Survived graphic novels also hitting shelves). There is an I Survived the Great Chicago Fire chapter book available, so make sure to have a copy handy (cross-promotion is everything)!
I really like Lee and Low’s “The Story of…” series: for me, it’s easily a companion series to the more well-known “Who Was…?” series from Penguin Random House, and the subjects of the “Story of” books shine spotlights on people of color that we may not hear about as often. The biography of Civil War Hero Robert Smalls, by Janet Halfmann (The Midnight Teacher) and illustrated by Duane Smith (Seven Miles to Freedom), is a concise, thorough biography of Robert Smalls, an enslaved steamboat wheelman who saved his family and crew when he used the captain’s hat and cover of darkness to commandeer a Confederate ship and steer it directly to the Union – and freedom. Filled with illustrations and photos, readers get a great picture of Robert Smalls and his nighttime ride through Confederate waters, and his life afterward, including his further actions in the Civil War, where he took part in 17 battles, and his post-War life, when he founded the Republican Party i South Carolina and helped write the new democratic state constitution and a proposal on education, his activity in the state militia, where he attained the rank of major general, and his political life, winning seats in both the South Carolina house and senate. The book includes a timeline of of Smalls’s life and a glossary of terms, plus references and a list of further reading.
Treat yourself to this book, and this series, and treat yourself to more books about Robert Smalls, including Janet Halfmann and Duane Smith’s picture book, Seven Miles to Freedom, also published by Lee & Low, and Be Free or Die, by Cate Linberry, is available for teens and adults. Smithsonian Magazine has an excellent article on Smalls.
In a nod to history, and a fitting way to send off Women’s History Month, Rosie: Stronger Than Steel salutes the American and English women who took care of business during World War II. Most of us know the iconic Rosie the Riveter, symbolic of the women who went to work in factories during the War, but not many of us in the States have heard of the British Women’s Land Army, tthat encouraged women to work in agriculture, keeping he Women’s Land Army was a British civilian organisation created during World War II so women could work in agriculture, so that Britain – an island nation that largely relied on imported food – could grow their own crops and be self-sufficient.
Rosie is an ode to the power of women working together. Created as a poem – part rhyme, part evocative verse – from the point of view of a tractor named Rosie, built in America by female factory workers – Rosies – and sent overseas to join the Women’s Land Army. She’s green, with a painted rose, and filled with a strong sense of purpose as she works with the women in Britain to plow fields, grow crops, and feed her new nation. She has a mantra that she clings to, repeated throughout the story: “I plow and I dig. / I dig and I plow. / No matter the job, / This is my vow. It spurs her on, as she plows in the shadow of fighter planes, through mud and muck. When the war ends, she mentors new farm machines, until the day she thinks it may all come to an end when she gets stuck in the mud… but wait! No one is going to abandon our Rosie! Like the Little Engine That Could, Rosie is truly stronger than steel, and roars back to life. A testament to women coming together to achieve great things, Rosie: Stronger Than Steel is an inspiring story about collaboration, cooperation, and determination. An author’s note tells the story of the American factory workers – our Rosie the Riveters – and the British Women’s Land Army. There’s an abbreviated World War II timeline across the bottom of the author’s note spread.
Lindsay Ward’s colored pencil and cut paper artwork is colorful, bright, and filled with images of women (including Rosie!) working together, determined. Her art is so different here, from her colorful, cartoony artwork we see in her Dexter trilogy and Brobarians: here, we see realistic women and farmland, with a sweet-face, cartoony tractor; a blend that shows her versatility as an artist as well as an author. I really enjoyed Rosie: Stronger Than Steel and love this introduction to women’s history, for younger readers.
Rosie: Stronger Than Steel has starred reviews from Kirkus and Booklist.
Lindsay Ward is the creator of the Dexter T. Rexter series as well as This Book Is Gray, Brobarians, Rosco vs. the Baby, and The Importance of Being 3. Her book Please Bring Balloons was also made into a play. Lindsay lives with her family in Peninsula, Ohio, where she often sees tractors from the 1930s and 1940s. Learn more about her online at www.lindsaymward.com.
Reviewers love Rosie!
★“More than the sum of its parts, this is a wildly successful and well-researched shaping of the picture-book form to true historical sheroes.” —Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
★“This ‘little tractor that could’ sort of tale pays tribute to the iconic Rosie the Riveter persona from the US and the British Land Girls of the Women’s Land Army during WWII. Fans of Loren Long’s Otis, Virginia Lee Burton’s Katy, and like sturdy, dependable workhorses will welcome Rosie into the fold, but the historical perspective adds an unusual dimension to her story.” —Booklist (starred review)
“Vocabulary is rich, and the younger set will appreciate the intermittent rhymes. The style of Ward’s colored pencil and cut-paper illustrations reflect the period of the tale. ” —School Library Journal
One lucky winner will receive a copy of Rosie: Stronger than Steel, courtesy of Two Lions (U.S. addresses). Enter the Rafflecopter giveaway!