Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Stella’s Stellar Hair is out of this world!

Stella’s Stellar Hair, by Yesenia Moises, (Jan. 2021, Imprint), $18.99, ISBN: 9781250261779

Ages 4-8

Stella is a little girl with a fabulous head of hair! She wakes up on the morning of the Big Star Little Gala, though, and her hair is just not doing what she wants it to – so her mother sends her off across the solar system to get some hair advice from her aunties on all the different planets, and the sun! Every auntie has their own gorgeous style: twists, braids, buns, all beautiful, but not quite what Stella has in mind. Sun-dwelling Auntie Solana has the best advice of all: “there’s really no such thing as hair not acting right – your hair just wants to be a little more fun today. / And that’s okay. / You don’t have to change a thing. / Just be yourself”. A wonderful celebration of loving oneself, Stella’s Stellar Hair is the definition of Black Joy and Black Girl Magic. The story celebrates the different styles of Black hair, using the back matter to describe the type of atmosphere on each planet and how each hairstyle would be best adapted to it.

Can I have a moment to gush about the vibrant colors? The cartoon artwork is adorable, and the deep colors are just a wonder to look at. The blues and purples that run through most of the book are incredible, and then bright yellows come in to add a glow to the pages, and come together to create a reading experience that kids will return to often. I love this book.

Stella’s Stellar Hair has a starred review from Kirkus.

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

The Startup Squad: Middle grade entrepreneurs!

The Startup Squad: Face the Music (The Startup Squad #2), by Brian Weisfeld & Nicole C. Kear, (May 2020, Macmillan), $7.99, ISBN: 9781250180469

Ages 8-12

The second book in the new Startup Squad series has our group of entrepreneurial friends working to promote a band. The series is all about the adventures of four friends – Harriet, Resa, Amelia, and Didi – who take matters into their own hands, learning how to earn money by creating their own businesses! In the first Startup Squad adventure, the girls worked to get a lemonade stand business up and running for a class assignment and grand prize. Here, Harriet’s brothers are in a band called the Radical Skinks; they’re kind of on hiatus because Harriet accidentally broker her brother’s guitar. A Battle of the Bands is on the horizon, where the winner would get a spot on the huge talent show hit, American Supahstars! The Startup Squad jumps into action with a plan to sell t-shirts, raising enough money to get a new guitar for Harriet’s brother, Larry, in time for the show… but Harriet tends to be a little overenthusiastic, and doesn’t think things quite through, which cause a lot of tangles for the girls: and the band. Can the Startup Squad get it together in time to help the Skinks get back on their feet?

This is a fun, comprehensive series that embraces entrepreneurship and shows kids that everyone can start a business with the right information and drive. The multicultural group of girls each has different strengths and skills, and get some solid information and encouragement from friends and family members on the way. They make believable mistakes to illustrate the pitfalls of going into a business without a fully sketched out plan, and how to correct those mistakes the next time. Back matter includes a section on what principles the girls learned in this adventure, a breakdown of the terms and how to put them to use, with tips and emphasis on customer service, negotiating, and revenue vs. profit; there’s also a profile on a real-life tween entrepreneur. Brian Weisfeld is the founder of The Startup Squad; he was inspired after being disappointed in the lack of entrepreneurial books available for girls. Author Nicole Kear is also the author of The Fix-It Friends series, where a group of friend solve problems together.

The Startup Squad website has a wealth of information for young entrepreneurs, including free, downloadable parent and teacher guides; activity kits; business tips, and book recommendations. Add these to your collections and booktalk/display with books like The Babysitter’s Club (the original chapter book series and the newer graphic novels) and Jessie Janowitz’s novels The Doughnut Fix and The Doughnut King. The Startup Squad and The Fix-It Friends are great for those readers that are moving out of intermediate chapter books and moving toward longer fiction.


Posted in Fiction, Fiction, Humor, Intermediate, Middle Grade

Ophelia’s back and fabulous in the latest Snazzy Cat Caper

The Fast and the Furriest (Snazzy Cat Capers #2), by Deanna Kent/Illustrated by Neil Hooson, (Sept. 2019, Imprint), $13.99, ISBN: 978-1-250-14347-1

Ages 7-11

The Diva herself, Ophelia von Hairball V of Burglaria is back in her second caper, and I could not be happier! I loved the first book, and her sophomore outing is just as much fun and just as light-hearted. The queen of all cat burglars is still working with her long-suffering (senior) inventor, Oscar Fishgerald Gold, and his robot dog creation, P.U.G. In this new adventure, there’s trouble at the Furry Feline Burglary Institute (FFBI): someone has stolen an artifact from the Institute’s vault, and it could lead to disaster for the FFBI and for felines WORLDWIDE. It takes a thief to catch a thief, so Ophelia’s assigned to the case – but those mutts at the Central Canine Intelligence Agency (CCIA) are hot on her tail, and she’s going to need every trick in her marvelous designer bag to stay one fluffy tail ahead of them, not to mention all the brainpower Oscar has to design new gadgets and costumes for her every step of the way.

The Fast and the Furriest captures all the fun of the first book in the series, introduces a new mystery, and keeps some hilarious subplots going. Ophelia still has her long-simmering feud/competition with her unibrowed cousin, Pierre; she still really, REALLY wants to work alone, but Oscar finds a way to sneak on board – and thank goodness for it; and the dogs at the CCIA will stop at nothing to try and subjugate all of felinekind. The black and white graphic novel panels add directly to the story, breaking up the chunks of text and keeping kids on their toes, switching from text to graphics, and keeping them engaged and reading. In addition to the graphic novel panels, there are black and white illustrations, and each chapter begins, once again, with sage advice from Ophelia, which everyone needs to read and heed. She could write her own Little Instruction Book, in all honesty: “Be the fabulous you want to see in the world”; “Not everyone will adore what you do. That’s purr-fectly fine. Do what makes you feel shiny”; and “Don’t bother ‘overcoming’ your obstacles. Stomp them into fine dust, add glitz, and use as party confetti” are words I need to live by, and, quite frankly, I think the kids in my library do, too. I may have to start printing these up on colorful paper and hanging them up in the kids’ room.

In short, I’m fangirling hard for this intermediate/middle grade series, because we all need to lighten up and enjoy the finer things in life, just like Ophelia. Snazzy Cat Capers: The Fast and the Furriest will be on shelves in September, and what a way to welcome kids back to school.