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

Elvin Link, doodler, sketch artist… and THAT kid?

Elvin Link, Please Report to the Principal’s Office!, by Drew Dernavich (July 2021, Square Fish), $7.99, ISBN: 9781250791702

Ages 8-12

Fifth grader Elvin Link is a doodler. He doodles on everything, everywhere, including his desk, which clearly looks cooler as a rocket ship… despite what the custodian and his teacher think. While he’s scrubbing down the desk, an incident involving a teacher’s glasses, an ill-fated ice cream cone, and a schoolyard collision lands him back in the principal’s office, this time, as a sketch artist. He’s so good at it that the principal brings him back in shortly after, to solve a school mystery! Meanwhile, the school bully, who specializes in wedgies, has his sights set on Elvin. Elvin has to navigate his twin sisters, one of whom has a crush on the bully, keep his best friend out of trouble, and cover his rear end: literally. For readers who loved Timmy Failure and, yes, that other illustrated diarist, Elvin Link: Please Report to the Principal’s Office is an insta-read. Award-winning New Yorker artist Drew Dernavich creates a likable, laugh-out loud funny character with Elvin and his best friends and family members are equally fun to spend time with. The book is laid out like a journal, with Elvin’s doodles and opinions throughout. He’s got the Wimpy Kid snark with a slightly more generous personality, and the black and white illustrations and added back matter will have your library kids asking when the next book is coming out. (Hey, Mr. Dernavich, when is that happening?)

Released in hardcover last July, Elvin Link is coming to paperback this July and is a good fit for your middle grade shelves.

 

Posted in picture books

Helping kids process grief

We are seeing days like no other these days. It’s got to be confusing, scary, and altogether awful for our kids, who may be experiencing loss and who see news about loss and grief all over the news. Kindergarten teacher and author Joanna Rowland has created a quietly soothing picture book and companion workbook that may provide some comfort to you and the little ones during this time.

The Memory Box: A Book About Grief, by Joanna Rowland/Illustrated by Thea Baker, (Sept. 2017, Beaming Books), $16.99, ISBN: 978-1-5064-2672-3

Ages 3-8

Written as a letter from a child to someone in the child’s life who has passed, The Memory Book is a child’s-eye view of grief and loss. Opening with the analogy of losing a balloon – “I can always get another balloon. / But I can never have another you. / I miss you.” – the book goes through questions and wishes, and the understanding that some days are okay, and some days are hard, that come to kids when experiencing a loss. The narrator then creates a box of memories, and a journal, so that she will never forget her loved one.  A grief consultant writes an end note about helping children process grief, and provides some help in answering some tough questions kids ask us. Mixed media illustrations provide texture and warmth, and the colors are calming and soft, and the overall look and feel of the book feels like we have opened the child’s own Memory Box and Memory Book.

The Memory Box is a Midwest Book Award Finalist, a Mom’s Choice Award winner, and a Moonbeam Children’s Book Award winner.

 

The Memory Book, by Joanna Rowland/Illustrated by Thea Baker, (Jan. 2020, Beaming Books), $17.99, ISBN: 978-1-5064-5781-9

A companion to The Memory Box, The Memory Book is a journal for children and families going through their grief. Beginning with a note on how to approach journaling, the book continues with writing prompts similar to the narrator’s dialogue in The Memory Box, with space for photos, memories, and artwork. Families are encouraged to talk about their memories and feelings, with journaling space available to capture these moments. Not meant to be filled up at once, The Memory Book allows an entire family to capture their feelings, emotions, and memories in one place over the course of time, as they come up.  Color illustrations from The Memory Box and newer illustrations throughout help ease readers and writers into prompts and discussion, and the book is set up, journal-style, with plenty of writing and drawing space.

Sensitive and soothing, The Memory Box and The Memory Book are good choices to have on hand for kids and families dealing with grief.

Posted in Fiction, Fiction, Intermediate, Middle Grade

Get some Autumn Science in with The Acadia Files

The Acadia Files, Book Two: Autumn Science, by Katie Coppens/Illustrated by Holly Hatan, (Sept. 2018, Tilbury House Publishers), $13.95, ISBN: 9780884486046

Ages 7-10

Part science journal, part chapter book, The Acadia Files is a planned 4-book series that introduces readers to 10-year-old Acadia Greene, who loves science and investigating. She often goes on adventures with her best friend, Isabel, her dog, Baxter, and her science teacher Mom. Autumn Science, the second book in the series, is a 5-chapter book where Acadia works on conservation and environmentalism, learns about frogs, and why leaves change color. She also learns about the water cycle in a chapter called, “Drinking Dinosaur Pee” – yes, my friends, think on that for a little bit! – and discovers the International Date Line and figures out time zones in “What Time Is It?” Finally, the bane of the cooler weather – cold season – gets its due in “The Germ War”, which explains the importance of washing one’s hands and other ways to stay healthy.

Each chapter can be read as a standalone adventure. Full color illustrations throughout give a journal-type feel to the book, including “entries” made by Acadia; there are washi-taped photos and data jotted down in the pages, experiments, new science vocabulary words, and each section ends with further questions to discuss in a “Things I Still Wonder” list. A section on “further exploration”includes links to all topics covered in the book. Endpapers look like a molecule party gone wild, and the cover looks like a decorated cardboard cover. Readers with even a passing interest in science should gobble this one up, and I’d love to see science programs (program in a book!) in libraries use this book to create some STEM fun – there will be four books in the series, after all; one for each season! Which reminds me… I think a “Dinosaur Pee” program would do GANGBUSTERS here at my library. Excuse me while I go make some plans…

Give this to your readers who liked Lucy’s Lab. Display with… what else? Science Comics!

Author Katie Coppens is a science educator. You can visit her author website to learn about author visits and see more of her books.

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 Fiction, Horror, Middle Grade, Teen, Tween Reads

Thornhill is good haunted house creepiness

Thornhill, by Pam Smy, (Aug. 2017, Roaring Brook Press), $19.99, ISBN: 9781626726543

Recommended for readers 10-14

Two girls, two decades, one story: Thornhill is a story told in prose and pictures, switching back and forth to tell each character’s story. In 1982, Mary is a lonely orphan living in the Thornhill Institute for Children, relegated to her room where she makes puppets, for fear of the merciless bullying she suffers. The Institute is on the verge of closing, and the girls are being re-homed – except for Mary and her tormentor, who continues unabated by the social worker who prefers to victim blame. Mary’s story unfolds through journal entries, where we see the bullying turn her, desperately, to a plan for revenge that will echo for decades.

In 2016, Ella is the new girl in town, living in a home with a perfect view of the abandoned Thornhill Institute. As she looks out the window, she sees someone in the lonely attic window at Thornhill. Determined to discover who she is, Ella wanders onto the Thornhill property and unravels Mary’s – and Thornhill’s – story. Ella’s story is told through stark black and white artwork, leaving much for readers to discover. The narratives follow one another; Mary’s narrative enriches Ella’s story. The chilling ending will leave readers breathless.

Thornhill is captivating, urging readers to its conclusion. Mary and Ella are kindred spirits on their own journeys; while Ella’s story is relegated to what we see on the pages, there is a wealth of material there for sharp-eyed observers. It’s a great choice for suspense and thriller fans.

Posted in Fiction, Fiction, Humor, Middle Grade, Realistic Fiction

Meet two new middle grade heroines with big imaginations

Ruby Starr, by Deborah Lytton, (Aug. 2017, Sourcebooks Jabberwocky), $7.99, ISBN: 9781492645771

Recommended for readers 8-12

Ruby Starr loves getting lost in a good book. She even has a lunchtime book group with her BFFs at school: The Unicorns! Things change when Charlotte, the new girl in school, shows up and starts making big changes: she scoffs at reading and wants to make The Unicorns a drama club, and she’s spending more and more time with Ruby’s best friend, Siri. Ruby needs to dig deep into her imagination to help bring things back to normal again.

Part Secret Life of Walter Mitty, part Dork Diaries, Ruby Starr is a lovable new protagonist for middle grade readers. She daydreams scenarios to help her cope with the everyday frustrations – or imagine exciting outcomes for upcoming events – and zones out while she’s doing it, making for some giggleworthy moments throughout the story. The imagination sequences are illustrated, letting readers in on the joke. The stress of friendship – and losing it – will resonate with middle graders, as will the fear of being the outsider in the group; Ruby handles these challenges with humor and style, even reaching out to her frenemy and offering a helping hand. I loved seeing a nice librarian-student relationship, too; maybe the author can give us a Ruby Starr/Unicorns reading list to promote to our kids!

Ruby Starr is a fun entry into the humorous journal fiction sub-genre. Give this to your Dork Diaries, My Dumb Diary, and Frazzled (by Booki Vivat) readers. Ask them to draw an imaginary scenario for themselves! There’s a reader’s guide on Deborah Lytton’s author webpage, along with an author Q&A and link to her blog.

The Half-True Lies of Cricket Cohen, by Catherine Lloyd Burns, (Aug. 2017, Farrar, Straus & Giroux), $16.99, ISBN: 9780374300418

Recommended for ages 8-12

Cricket Cohen has a big imagination. Sometimes, it gets away from her – especially when she wants to impress someone, or just make a boring autobiography school assignment a little more exciting. After all, it’s fun when she and her grandmother pretend, right? Well… wrong, at least according to her schoolmates, who are tired of her making up stories, and her teacher, who wants her to redo her autobiography assignment with the truth this time. When her parents leave her alone with her grandmother, Dodo, while they go summer house-hunting in the Hamptons, Dodo convinces Cricket that they’re going to run away and have an adventure; Cricket’s all too happy to go. But Dodo starts becoming confused, and Cricket finds herself having to bail herself AND Dodo out of hot water when she’s the only one who knows what’s fact and what’s fantasy.

The Half-True Lies of Cricket Cohen is much more than a novel about a kid who likes to embellish the truth. It’s a story about grandparents and grandchildren, and it’s a story about what happens when children find themselves with the responsibility of caring for an adult: something that today’s kids sometimes find themselves managing.

Cricket finds herself disappearing into her imagination to deal with her boring classmates who prefer talking about clothes, shoes, and crushes to geology and stuffed animal brain surgery, but you can also argue that it’s an attention-seeking response to her parents, who are consumed with their nonprofit fundraising for the city’s public schools. They live above their means, and her mother – a control freak and perfectionist – treats her own mother like an inconvenience. Artsy free spirit Dodo pushes back against her daughter’s rules and regulations, and Cricket embraces her kindred spirit; but Cricket, previously unaware of her grandmother’s health struggles, finds herself in the position of being responsible for herself and her grandmother when her grandmother’s failing memory causes a problem in a department store.

The New York setting is fun – it’s got a touch of From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler to it. The story handles big issues like family relationships, aging grandparents, and embellishing the truth with a shot of fun and adventure. At the same time, the Dodo is the one character that remains truly likable throughout the story. Cricket and her family may be living above their means, but they are still an upper middle class family, living on New York’s Upper West Side and renting summer homes in the Hamptons. Her parents border on neglectful, putting the welfare of New York City’s public school children ahead of their own daughter’s. Cricket’s actions are understandable in the bigger picture, and she becomes a more sympathetic character as the story progresses.

Have The Half-True Lies of Cricket Cohen available, along with Death by Toilet Paper by Donna Gephart, and There Will Be Bears, by Ryan Gebhart, for readers who may be coping with an aging grandparent. Booktalk it with Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, Kay Thompson’s Eloise, Laura Marx Fitzgerald’s Under the Egg, and Nadja Spiegelman’s Lost in NYC graphic novel for a fun New York reading theme.

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

Spotlight on: Pippa Morgan’s Diary!

cover64902-mediumPippa Morgan’s Diary, by Annie Kelsey (December 1, 2015; Sourcebooks Jabberwocky)

Hardcover ISBN 9781492623281

Price: $12.99

Pippa is beside herself when her BFF moves to Scotland. TO SCOTLAND! In a move of self-preservation, she tries to make a new friend when Catie Brown, one of the most popular girls in school, sits next to her in class. Catie Brown has a rotating list of people who get to sit next to her at lunch every day! Pippa discovers that she and Catie both love the talent reality show, The Voice Factor, and in a desperate bid for something to get Catie’s attention, Pippa tells her she auditioned for the show. AND blew the judges away. She and Catie become BFFs, but Catie’s dying to hear Pippa sing – so much that she signed her up for the school talent show. And Pippa couldn’t catch a tune if she was carrying a barrel.

Pippa Morgan’s Diary is perfect for readers who love Jim Benton’s My Dumb Diary, Rachael Renee Russell’s Dork Diaries, and Marissa Moss’ Amelia’s Notebook series. Pippa gets herself into hilarious trouble with her overactive imagination, but you have to appreciate her creativity – and her honesty. This is a fun start to a new series, and the kids in my library LOVE this diary/journal fiction trend.

Praise for Pippa Morgan’s Dairy

“With its approachable style and friendly language, this is sure to please both older fans of Rebecca Elliott’s “Owl Diaries” (Scholastic) and reluctant readers alike.” –School Library Journal

“Likable characters in humorous situations make for a promising series opener.” –Kirkus

“A charming story about the lengths you can go to win someone over, this is a great addition to the perennially popular illustrated-journal trend in middle-grade fiction. Although the character-created sketches can draw Wimpy Kid comparisons, the tone more closely matches Marissa Moss’ Amelia’s Notebook (1995)… the perfect quick read for any student with starry-eyed aspirations and a big imagination.”- Booklist

Summary:

Sometimes a little white lie can land you in a whole lot of trouble…

Pippa’s new BFF Catie Brown is perfect. So perfect, that Pippa tells her a teeny tiny lie—that she once auditioned for Voice Factor—to impress her. And it works. It works so well, in fact, that Catie enters Pippa into the school talent show.

The only problem? Pippa can’t sing. Not at all. In fact, her singing is so bad it scares the neighbors. But if she doesn’t participate in the talent show, Catie will know she lied. But if she does participate, the whole school will find out what a horrible singer she is…including Catie!

It’s up to Pippa to put an end to this pesky problem!

Goodreads Link: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/26457243-pippa-morgan-s-diary

Buy Links:

Amazon- http://ow.ly/UZb5z

Barnes&Noble- http://ow.ly/UZcJF

Books A Million- http://ow.ly/UZcQi

!ndigo- http://ow.ly/UZd4f

Indiebound- http://ow.ly/UZd9D

About the Author:

Annie Kelsey is a pseudonym for a well-known children’s book author.

Excerpt from Pippa Morgan’s Diary

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Sunday

I can still smell the stink of the moving van. Rachel and I just hugged and cried as they loaded her stuff on. Then I watched like a big-eyed kid who’d just lost her puppy while Rachel waved out of the window of her parents’ car.

I will NEVER forgive Rachel’s parents—I STILL CAN’T BELIEVE THEY DECIDED THAT RACHEL SHOULD LIVE IN SCOTLAND INSTEAD OF THREE DOORS AWAY FROM ME!

Scotland is, like, a gazillion miles away.

Rachel said Nothing Would Change Really. *rolls eyes* She said, We’ll still be best friends even though I’m so far away. I love Rachel but sometimes she can be one fry short of a Happy Meal.

Of course we’ll be best friends. But it’s not the same. I can only talk to her on the phone. I don’t get to see her every day.

We can NEVER AGAIN dress up in my dad’s extra-high-visibility cycling gear and go and stand under the fluorescent lights in the supermarket and see how many shoppers we can dazzle. The frozen-food section was best because the freezers had this cold blue glow that turned us practically luminous. We’d offer to help shoppers reach for fish sticks or ice cream and try not to giggle when they’d half-close their eyes like they were staring into the sun.

We loved dressing up. Last summer, we pretended we were characters from The Lady of Morpeth Abbey—which was our favorite TV show EVER. It was soooo romantic and all the characters wore beautiful old-fashioned clothes. Rachel and I raided every thrift store in town until we’d made the BEST costumes. Rachel dressed as Mr. Hunderbentleman (buckle-y shoes and a frilly shirt and a big hat and everything) and I wore ten big skirts on top of each other and put my hair in a bun so I looked like Lady Monteith, and we spent the whole day talking like our characters.

RACHEL: Lady Monteith, may I bring you something from my morning stroll as a token of my admiration?

ME: I would be eternally grateful if you brought me a dozen roses, Mr. Hunderbentleman, for my pretty nose needs something delicate to smell.

RACHEL: (giggling) My dear lady! Why don’t you stroll with me and we may smell the roses together?

ME: Oh, Mr. Hunderbentleman! I am so lucky to know such a kind gentleman as you.

And we did it ALL day. Mom and Dad thought it was really funny (Mom and Dad were still married then) and it was the best day ever. Then Mom told us to go and get changed because my big skirts kept sweeping things off her knickknack shelf and Rachel had to go home for dinner.

I wonder what Rachel’s having for dinner tonight? I could have the same thing and it’d be like we were having dinner together like we used to when Rachel’s mom went to yoga.

But I can’t even text her to ask because she’s living on the side of a mountain in the middle of NOWHERE.

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Enter a Rafflecopter giveaway to win a copy of Pippa Morgan’s Diary (U.S. & Canada only)!

 

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

Not a Dr. Logan’s Divorce Book – a Survival Guide for Kids Stuck in the Middle

Dr_-Logan-New-Cover-EatonNot a Dr. Logan’s Divorce Book, by Sydney Salter (2014, Character Publishing), $16.99 ISBN: 978-0-9890797-5-4

Recommended for ages 8-13

Eleven-year-old Logan’s parents have split up, turning her life upside down. Her father has already moved on and is dating; she and her mother have relocated from their house to a small apartment, and she’s feeling left behind by her friends, her father’s family – even her father, himself. Logan’s mom immerses herself in the teachings of a self-help author/TV host, Dr. Donna; Logan finds Dr. Donna quotes taped up all over her home. To combat her feelings of helplessness and frustration, Logan begins her own (Not a) Doctor Logan’s Divorce Book, part journal, part book of lists for dealing with the hurdles of being a child of divorce, all survival guide for kids.

I did not expect this book to bowl me over as hard as it did. Like half the country, I’m a child of divorce. Although my parents split when I was 18, rather than 11, I went through many of the same emotional upheavals and experienced so many of the same feelings that Logan describes – especially the feelings of anger and frustration with the parent that left. Ms. Salter covers the depression one parent experiences, and the almost teen-like personality the other parent takes on – how is a kid supposed to deal with this? She also manages to find the humor in every situation, from Logan’s botched “love magic” that she hopes will reunite her parents, to her idea that shirking her schoolwork will reunite her parents, albeit in the principal’s office. We take Logan’s journey with her, and see her through to the other side, when things just may get better after all.

The story, written in the first person, allows readers to place themselves in Logan’s shoes. Illustrations by Chelsea Eaton give firmer shape to the story, and I loved the journal entries, complete with notebook spiral rings. Different fonts help emphasize Logan’s writing versus her overall narrative.

Book discussion questions at the end are helpful to both book discussion groups and parents who may want to read this book with their kids, letting the questions lead them into deeper conversations about any life changes going on. There are also links to divorce resources for children and parents alike.

Sydney Salter dedicates the book to us readers, and to her nine-year-old self. My 40-something self thanks her for it. I’ll be getting this on the shelves at my library, where kids who need it will be able to find it.

The author’s webpage includes a Q&A, discussion questions about her other books, links to her social media, and a link to her blog.

Posted in Non-Fiction, Teen

Peek into the mind of a teen with The Isobel Journal

isobelThe Isobel Journal, by Isobel Harrop (Capstone, August 2014). $16.95, ISBN: 9781630790035

Recommended for ages 12+

The Isobel Journal is a real-life journal from Isobel Harrop, “just a girl from where nothing really happened”. She lives in Britain, and shares her journal here with readers, who get a glimpse of her thoughts on herself, her friends, otters, and love. It’s filled with her artwork – she loves to sketch – and tidbits about her family and friends. I like her sketches, juxtaposed over photos, like the pages featuring her dog and cat. They’re fun pieces that bring art and life together.

Isobel is a teen girl – she likes to collect things, like photos and ticket stubs, and stick them in her journal. She likes to draw on herself. She daydreams, she explores. She’s got a fun, friendly sensibility that comes right through the page. Some reviewers have called this book random, but isn’t that the point of a journal? Isobel invites readers into her world, and in so doing, brings readers together – because what feels like not far too long ago (but in actuality, is), I was a teenage girl doing the same things, and reading this journal made me smile and think about that.

The Isobel Journal is a fun, quirky book that teen girls will get a kick out of looking through. Take a look at the book trailer!