Posted in Intermediate, Non-Fiction, picture books

Fearless: Daphne Caruana Galizia’s story

Fearless: The Story of Daphne Caruana Galizia, Defender of Free Speech, by Gattaldo, (Sept. 2021, Candlewick Press), $17.99, ISBN: 9781536219180

Ages 7-10

Daphne Caruana Galizia, a Maltese journalist who exposed corruption at all levels of government and organized crime, gets her moment in this powerful picture book biography by one of her close friends, award-winning creative director and illustrator Gattaldo. Fearless introduces readers to Caruana Gallizia, whose love of books inspired her to think for herself and the courage to speak out through protest. The story follows her career in journalism, depicting her as a warrior fighting a many-headed hydra of corruption; her headlines proving that the pen is mightier than the sword. Gattaldo uses soft mixed media illustration to create powerful images: Daphne, in colorful clothing, clutching a fountain pen, stands out in a dreamlike sea, illustrating her determination to stand out among those too fearful to speak up. Later, she stands proudly among a group of protestors inspired by her voice and her work. Endpapers feature bay laurels; symbols of strength and victory, and known as “daphne” in ancient Greece. An author’s note includes photos of Caruana Galizia and discusses her assassination, with a touching note about the author’s friendship with her.

Strong words about a strong figure who wouldn’t be silenced, this is a necessity for your biography shelves. You can view Daphne Caruana Galizia’s Running Commentary blog here, where she pulled no punches with her commentary. You can read about her death here, and can follow the latest news on bringing her murderer(s) to justice here.

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

A young journalist looks for The Leak

The Leak, by Kate Reed Petty/Illustrated by Andrea Bell, (March 2021, First Second), $22.99, ISBN: 9781250217950

Ages 8-12

It starts at the dentist’s office. Ruth, an aspiring young journalist, is frustrated when her dentist scolds her for not brushing and flossing, and scoffing when she insists that she does. Shortly after the dentist visit, she and her friend Jonathan go fishing, only to discover dead fish and a thick, oily sludge by the water. Ruth decides to investigate and report her findings, with the help of her brother’s girlfriend – an intern at the New York Times – and finds herself on the radar of the local country club owner and the power company. Dealing with frenemies, a middle school crush, and finding herself thrust into the spotlight and being intimidated by people who have a lot to lose, Ruth has to choose between personal and journalistic integrity or getting out of the way of controversy. A brilliantly done story about freedom of the press, pollution, and integrity, readers will cheer Ruth on. Artwork is vivid and characters are expressive. This is the kind of art my library kids love; it’s super middle grade friendly and has so much to say. The dialogue keeps pace with the action and readers will get to challenge themselves by wondering what they would do in a similar situation. Give this to readers along with Kayla Miller’s Act and Dress Coded by Carrie Firestone for a surefire primer in activism.

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

Humans can be such a pain: The Creepy Case Files of Margo Maloo returns!

The Creepy Case Files of Margo Maloo: The Monster Mall, by Drew Weing, (Sept. 2018, First Second), $15.99, ISBN: 9781626724921

Ages 8+

The intrepid duo of Margo Maloo and Charles Thompson is back in their second adventure! Margo Maloo is on a new case, and she needs Charles and his journalistic talents to help. The situation in Echo City is getting tougher on monsters. Humans are encroaching on their environment, and the Monster Code states that NO monster can let themself be seen by a human. Thank goodness, kids don’t count, but teenagers do, and there’s a group of teens hanging out at an abandoned mall. Some monsters are sick of hiding, and want to fight. Other monsters just want to be left alone. Tensions are running high, and it’s up to Margo and Charles to help keep the monster community in status quo!

The Monster Mall is a great follow-up to 2016’s The Creepy Case Files of Margo Maloo. The dynamic between Margo and Charles is fun and light, with smart dialogue and loads of humor. Margo has some wise insights, like one of my favorite lines, “…the older people get, the less they can be trusted”; Charles believes that kids and monsters can learn to trust one another. After all, Marcus and Kevin, Charles’ monster buddy in the basement and his friend, play Battlebeenz together, right? An epilogue teases the future of human-monster relations, and I can’t wait for the next installment. Cartoony monster art, witty dialogue and a diverse cast of characters that bring up some smart questions about diversity make this a book you want in your graphic novel collections.

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

Support Monster Journalism! Check out The Creepy Case Files of Margo Maloo!

margo_1The Creepy Case Files of Margo Maloo, by Drew Weing, (Sept. 2016, First Second), $15.99, ISBN: 9781626723399

Recommended for ages 8+

Charles F. Thompson just moved to Echo City with his family. He’s not thrilled, especially with their new digs: a creepy building his dad will be refinishing as the family lives there. Charles – an avid blogger – swears there’s a monster in his room, and he’s not wrong. Some of his toys go missing, and he knows he didn’t just misplace them. Charles is seriously freaked out: what if the monster tries to eat him?! A neighbor quietly slips him Margo Maloo’s number, and Charles’ whole world changes: Margo is a monster mediator. The monsters all know her; she knows all the monsters. She helps smooth relations between Charles and Marcus, the troll that lives in his building. Turns out Marcus is really upset that these awful humans are moving in and messing with his stuff! Once Margo sorts things out, and Charles has been exposed to this new world right under his nose, he’s hooked – freedom of the press demands that he write about this! Margo firmly puts the kibosh on Drew’s reporting, but lets him tag along on her missions. The Echo City monsters aren’t thrilled with Charles, but who knows? Maybe they’ll see Charles’ value as Margo’s assistant. After all, he and Marcus bonded over Battlebeanz toys!

Think of Charles as a kids’ Night Stalker, led by a hard-boiled, female, juvenile Philip Marlowe: She’s on a just a first-name basis with all the monsters in her town, and operates in the shadows, confidently keeping a balance between the monster world and ours. Charles is hilarious, whether he’s complaining about exotic new take-out or proclaiming that “information wants to be free!” (the librarian in me was so happy with that panel); Margo is the picture of cool and sassy, navigating both worlds with a self-assuredness most kids could only dream of, and the monsters themselves are very human: they worry about humans discovering them; they collect toys and knickknacks, and parents worry about their kids walking off when a stranger offers them candy, too. The cartoony art will appeal to kids without scaring them (or maybe, just give ’em a little frightened giggle).

There are three stories in this first volume, to start you off on the world of Margo Maloo. There are also pages from Charles’ notebook, with sketches and information about ghosts, goblins, ogres and trolls, the monsters he encounters in these first tales. If you want more Margo and can’t wait for the next volume, you don’t have to! Margo began life as a webcomic that’s still running, updating on Tuesdays and Thursdays. You can check it out at, and while you’re at it, discover a few more comics on the site.

The Creepy Case Files of Margo Maloo is a fun addition to graphic novel collections, perfect for kids who are in Goosebumps mode and want something witty,  a little spooky, and a lot of fun.  margo_7

Posted in Uncategorized

Women’s History Month: Ten Days a Madwoman

nellie blyTen Days a Madwoman: The Daring Life and Turbulent Times of the Original “Girl” Reporter, Nellie Bly, by Deborah Noyes (Feb. 2016, Viking Books for Young Readers), $18.99, ISBN: 9780803740174

Recommended for ages 12+

In 1887, a 23 year-old woman decided to show her newspaper editor that she had the chops to write more captivating stories than the latest hat and dress styles of the season. Elizabeth Jane “Pink” Cochran, who went by the pen name Nellie Bly, managed to convince a battery of bystanders, doctors, and nurses that she needed to be admitted to Blackwell’s Island, home of an infamous insane asylum, so that she could write an exposé. Sure enough, she was admitted and spent 10 horrific days in the asylum, where she later wrote about the mistreatment she received and witnessed other patients endure. Her career, so she thought, was made.

Ten Days a Madwoman is a biography on Cochran and her investigative journalism. The Blackwell’s Island piece inspired other women to pursue “stunt journalism”, where they would take on often outrageous stunts like boxing the famed Gentleman Jim Corbett, rescuing a child from a burning building, or jumping in front of a trolley car. Bly worked hard at her journalism and championing women and children in particular, but struggled throughout her career with the idea of women being taken seriously as journalists. When she decided to travel around the world in 80 Days, hoping to beat the fictional record set by Jules Verne’s Around the World in 80 Days character, Phileas Fogg, a rival newspaper sent their female reporter on the same trip, setting up a race between the two.  (Bly beat her rival and Fogg: she completed her trip in 72 days.)

Noyes explores Bly’s professional and personal life, focusing on her desire to care for her family and attain financial security in addition to gaining professional respect. Pictures and reprinted documents, with additional profiles of people, places, and events influencing or influenced by Bly, round out this must-read biography on a woman whose career may be overlooked in this age of Twitter and 24-hour news, when hard-hitting journalism tends to take a back seat to pop culture.

Ten Days a Madwoman has already received a starred School Library Journal review and includes a rich bibliography, source notes, and index. An important addition to any collection, and a great Women’s History Month spotlight.

Deborah Noyes is an award-winning author of fiction and non-fiction for children and adults. Her author webpage offers more information about her books and links to her social media. Check out an excerpt here!

Posted in Teen, Young Adult/New Adult

Finding Forever – Secrets, Lies, and the Search for Eternal Youth

finding foreverFinding Forever, by Ken Baker (Sept. 2015, Running Press), $9.95, ISBN: 978-0-7624-5594-2

Recommended for ages 13+

Brooklyn Brant isn’t your ordinary 16 year-old with a blog. She’s determined to break into  celebrity journalism, and has a blog – Deadline Diaries – that’s gaining some momentum. When she gets call from Simone, the assistant to white-hot teen celebrity Taylor Prince, claiming that Taylor’s been kidnapped and needs help, Brooklyn has the opportunity of a lifetime handed to her. Using her police officer dad’s investigative techniques, she launches her own investigation – but as she gets too close to the truth, could she find herself in danger?

Taylor Prince has it all – fame, fortune, screaming fans – but she just wants one night as a normal teenager. Her Sweet 16 party has no security, no press, just friends and a really, really cute guy that her assistant set up for her. She has no idea how vulnerable she is until she’s abducted at her own birthday party and wakes up in a strange place, where she’s told she’s been put in rehab for her own good.

Told in dual narratives following Brooklyn and Taylor, Ken Baker creates a story that shows readers that what we see isn’t always what we should believe in the world of celebrity journalism; we also get a chilling look at medical quackery in chase of eternal youth. It’s a mystery that touches in social issues like drug and alcohol abuse, OCD, dealing with grief and loss, and faith.

Baker, an E! news correspondent, has likely seen and heard about stories like this and more, and his writing is fast-paced and keeps the pages turning. The chapters revolving around Taylor’s abduction were interesting, even disturbing at points, but I had trouble connecting with the book overall because there’s a lot of pontificating. The main antagonist has an unhealthy Peter Pan/youth fixation and talks at length about it. Taylor’s attempts to play along come off as just letting victimization happen to her. Brooklyn tends to preach when she’s not suffering an attack of OCD.

It’s a good, light read for teens who may not gravitate to most realistic fiction, but enjoy a celeb fix.