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 Animal Fiction, Fiction, Fiction, Intermediate

Detective Gordon and Buffy the Mouse are on the case

detgordon_acaseinanycase_cover_lrDetective Gordon: A Case in Any Case, by Ulf Nilsson/Illustrated by Gitte Spee, (Mar. 2017, Gecko Press), $16.99, ISBN: 9781776571086

Recommended for readers 6-8

Swedish author Ulf Nilsson’s third Detective Gordon series pairs the toad detective with his mouse sidekick for a very important case and a little bit of a misunderstanding. Detective Gordon has taken a break – he may have retired – and Buffy is holding down the fort in his absence, until she has to call him out of retirement when two schoolchildren go missing. Buffy has her own way of doing things, and Detective Gordon has his own way of doing things; the friends have a misunderstanding, but put aside their differences to work on what’s important. After the case is solved, they resolve their own differences.

This was my first Detective Gordon book. You don’t need to have read the previous books; readers can jump right in and follow the Detective and Buffy’s adventure. It’s a great next step for Frog and Toad readers, with a similarly tender pace and narration. Nilsson creates an adventurous subplot for the two missing kindergarten children, who want to create the steps that bring one of their favorite storybooks to life; he also explores themes of friendship, conflict resolution, teamwork, and talking things over. Gitte Spee’s soft colors and gentle characters will attract readers who love a good animal tale. This makes a good read-aloud selection, too, with many discussion topics to introduce to the kids in your classroom, library, and home.

Detective Gordon: A Case in Any Case received a starred review from School Library Journal.

Posted in Early Reader, Fiction, Humor, Preschool Reads

Good advice: Never Follow a Dinosaur!

never-followNever Follow a Dinosaur, by Alex Latimer, (Sept. 2016, Peachtree Publishers), $16.95, ISBN: 9781561457045

Recommended for ages 3-8

Siblings Joe and Sally spy a strange set of footprints by their cat’s bowl one morning, setting them off on an investigation. Clearly, it’s a dinosaur. With each spread, they deduce more about the dinosaur: it’s a heavy dinosaur, because the tracks are so deep; it’s a hungry dinosaur, because it’s eaten the cat’s food; footprints in the fish pond clue them in that it’s a dinosaur who likes to swim. Should you follow a dinosaur, though? Especially when it’s a hungry dinosaur? You’ll just have to read to find out!

Never Follow a Dinosaur is a cute book that teaches kids about using clues to figure out more and more about the dinosaur. The spreads are hilarious, as the dinosaur suffers indignity on top of indignity (bumped head, stubbed toe… the humanity!). The layouts give a lot of space to the kids’ imagination as they conjure up visions of their visitor, and the layout the kids come up with to trap the dino are up there with the best Rube Goldberg devices from the old Warner Brothers cartoons (totally dating myself there).

This is a fun storytime read that offers a lot of interactivity and the chance to give the kids’ imaginations a workout. Ask kids to come up with their own dinosaurs, based on the clues in the book, or just have pictures of dinosaurs to color and customize, for younger readers. Pair this with Ed Young’s Seven Blind Mice for a storytime on deduction and investigation, and then turn it on the kids: have them close their eyes and touch a piece of felt, a chair, a book, a plush toy, and use their five senses to investigate and deduce.