Posted in Fantasy, Graphic Novels, Teen, Tween Reads

Breaking the cycles: Artie and the Wolf Moon

Artie and the Wolf Moon, by Olivia Stephens, (Sept. 2021, Graphic Universe), $16.99, ISBN: 9781728420202

Ages 12-15

Artie and the Wolf Moon is, on the surface, a YA graphic novel about werewolves and vampires, but there’s so much more waiting for you here. Artie Irvin lives with her mom, a park ranger. She’s a burgeoning photographer who sneaks out one night, against her mother’s wishes, to take some photographs and discovers a huge wolf that somehow morphs into her mother! Confronting her mother, Artie learns that she comes from a long line of werewolves, but may be a “late bloomer” because she hasn’t shifted yet. Artie’s mom agrees to tell her about everything, including her late father, but when racist bullies at school lead to Artie shifting, her mom realizes it’s time to introduce her daughter to her family – and learn about what it means to be shifter.

Olivia Stephens has created a truly original werewolf story with origins in Black history, infused with the power of the wolf to guard and survive. I could read stories about every character in Artie’s family and still want to read more; I love Olivia Stephens’s storytelling and artwork so much. She creates realistic characters and her origin story reminds me of indigenous artwork with earth tones and primitive figures. She creates harrowing moments in the struggle between wolf and vampire and gives readers an incredible story of Black culture, community, family, and history. Fantastic storytelling and I want more.

Posted in Fiction, Graphic Novels, Middle Grade, Teen, Tween Reads, Young Adult/New Adult

Big Graphic Novels Roundup!

I’ve been reading a LOT of graphic novels during this quarantine. They relax me, and I know my graphic novels sections (both kids and teens) see a l lot of action, so I always want to make sure I’ve got the best stuff on my shelves for them – and that I know what I’m talking about when I hand books to readers. Let’s see what’s up:

Go To Sleep (I Miss You): Cartoons from the Fog of New Parenthood, by Lucy Knisley, (Feb. 2020, First Second), $14.99, ISBN: 9781250211491

Ages 12+

These are adorable meditations on new parenthood by Lucy Knisley, whose graphic novel Kid Gloves: Nine Months of Careful Chaos let us peek into the world of her pregnancy with her baby, known as Pal. Go to Sleep is a book of sketches Lucy Knisley created during Pal’s first year, and they are moments that every parent and caregiver will recognize, from diaper “blowouts” (oh, so many diaper blowouts) and breastfeeding through teething to tummy time and those moments where we can’t wait to get some alone time… only to spend that time gazing at our sleepy little one, and waiting for them to wake up and do it all again. Black and white, filled with love and humor, Go to Sleep (I Miss You) is perfect for your parenting bookshelves (and for older siblings, as my eldest reminds me).

In this sci-fi alternate history, we visit 1943 Los Angeles, home of the Zoot Suit Riots. Siblings Flaca and Cuata meet a five-foot tall lizard when he saves them from some unsavory sailors one night, when they got out dancing. They hide him in their home and discover he’s part of a race of underground lizard people. He wants to get back to his family, but there are soldiers and mysterious government men wandering the sisters’ neighborhood, on the lookout. To sneak him back to his home, the Flaca and Cuata dress the lizard up in one of Flaca’s zoot suits and head off on an adventure. Yellow, black and white artwork give a stark, noir feel to the story, which is both sensitive and funny. Marco Finnegan provides smart commentary on racism, gender roles and the counterculture of the period. Teens will enjoy this sci-fi take on a moment in U.S. history that isn’t discussed enough.

School for Extraterrestrial Girls Girl on Fire (Volume 1), by Jeremy Whitley/Illustrated by Jamie Noguchi, (Aug. 2020, Papercutz), $12.99, ISBN: 9781545804933

Ages 10-14

Tara Smith is a girl who live with a lot of rules: her parents demand it. Two of their biggest rules? No friends her own age, and always keep her bracelet on. One day, though, Tara’s routine gets thrown into a tizzy, and she loses her bracelet; that’s when the trouble begins. Things get even crazier when she seemingly bursts into flame in the middle of school! Tara learns that she’s not human at all: she’s an alien, and captured by the government, sent off to a school where she can’t put her human classmates in danger, and that’s where she learns the truth about herself. She’s an alien, and her parents – also aliens – likely kidnapped her at a young age. Now, she’s surrounded by other alien students, not all of whom are exactly friendly toward her race. An exciting start to a new middle grade-middle school graphic novel series, School for Extraterrestrial Girls is written by Eisner award nominee Jeremy Whitley, who you may know from his Princeless series and Marvel’s The Unstoppable Wasp. Don’t miss this first volume, which has some nice social commentary set within a very cool sci-fi story.

 

A Map to the Sun, by Sloane Leong, (Aug. 2020, First Second), $17.99, ISBN: 9781250146687

Ages 12-18

A strong story about sports and teen relationships, A Map to the Sun starts with Ren and Luna, two girls who meet on the beach during their middle school summer break. Luna disappears without saying goodbye when she suddenly moves, but returns two years later, expecting to pick up where she and Ren left off. But Ren is hurt, angry, and full off mistrust, especially since her older sister’s issues have made life nearly unbearable for her. A new teacher decides to form a women’s basketball team at the high school, bringing Luna, Ren, and a group of other girls who are tagged as the misfits in school. As they practice and improve, we get glimpses into each of their lives and see how succeeding in one arena changes how they react and are perceived in other spaces in their lives. The color palette is bright and beachy; lots of oranges, yellows, and purples, but some of the coloring made it difficult for me to tell characters apart (I read an ARC; this will likely be tightened up in the finished book). The story is strong, and highly recommended for teens and a solid choice for realistic fiction readers. A Map to the Sun has a starred review from Shelf Awareness.

Lois Lane and the Friendship Challenge, by Grace Ellis/Illustrated by Brittney Williams, (Aug. 2020, DC Comics), $9.99, ISBN: 978-1401296377
Ages 7-11
DC’s latest middle grade original graphic novel stars our favorite journalist-in-training, Lois Lane. Here, Lumberjanes co-creator Grace Ellis and Goldie Vance artist Brittney Williams create a tween Lois Lane who’s all about creating a viral video for a #friendshipchallenge. The only thing is, she’s kind of driving her best friend, Kristen, crazy with the challenge. Kristen is going to be going to sleepaway camp after the big neighborhood barbecue and bike race, and Lois is desperate to get her video make before Kristen leaves. But words gets out that the new bike store in town may be planning something shady for the bike race, and the fireworks planned for the barbecue go missing. Sounds like a mystery that the two best friends will have to solve – if they don’t drive each other crazy first. Lois’s intensity comes off as almost abrasive at first, but she’s relatable as a kid who’s single-mindedly focused on her task and upset at having to share her best friend – a best friend who is going away for the summer – with a new girl in town. Lois Lane and the Friendship Challenge is a fun summer story.
Displacement, by Kiku Hughes, (Aug. 2020, First Second), $17.99, ISBN: 9781250193537Ages 12+

Teenager Kiku travels to San Francisco with her mother to look for the place her grandmother, Ernestina, lived before she and her parents were sent to an internment camp during World War II. Kiku’s mother wants to learn more about her mother’s life pre-camp; Ernestine wasn’t given to talking about it often. As Kiku traipses alongside her, she finds herself being transported back in time, living alongside her grandmother as she, too, becomes a displaced person living in two Japanese internment camps. Powerfully written and beautifully illustrated, Displacement tells the story of the Japanese-Americans who were forced out of their homes and their established lives and stripped of their civil liberties. Kiku – and we – learn things from observing the day-to-day life in camp like human rights abuses that are quickly hushed up and the acts of resistance some engaged in, like the “No-Nos”, who answered “No” to two controversial questions on a loyalty questionnaire the Army had all incarcerated citizens answer. A tribute to the power of memory and, sadly, the power of intergenerational trauma, Displacement belongs with George Takei’s They Called Us Enemy and Art Spiegelman’s Maus in the canon of great graphic novels that belong on every reading list and every shelf.

Ages 14+
This is a weird, wild noir story that I’d hold for my readers who are always looking for something different. It’s Barcelona, 1942, and Laia is a pregnant woman working as a scriptwriter for a radio advice program. Her husband goes missing, a serial killer is on the loose, and Laia retains the services of a private detective to track down her husband… but she’s got secrets of her own. Read this one a couple of times; the story reveals itself with more than one reading. The drastic black and white artwork places you in the middle of this macabre detective story with a wry sense of humor. Got hard-boiled detective novel readers? Give this one to them, too.
Posted in Graphic Novels, Intermediate, Non-Fiction, picture books

Fall means back-to-school, and new BOOKS.

Here in NY, most of the kids start school tomorrow, but the bigger news is that there are amazing books lined up for Fall!

Magnificent Birds, by Narisa Togo, (Sept. 2018, Candlewick), $20, ISBN: 9781536201697

Ages 7-12

Linocut artist Narisa Togo presents readers with a gorgeous book on birds from all over the world. Fourteen beautifully colored spreads feature the familiar, including the bald eagle, flamingos, penguins, and pelicans and the exotic, such as the greater bird of paradise and the kakapo. Each spread includes the genus and species, range and habitat, and two brief, informative paragraphs about each species. The linocuts are striking, with muted colors that allow the texture of the cuts to speak. A wonderful gift for bird lovers, and a nice add to nonfiction collections. Create a beautiful display with Britta Teckentrup’s Birds and Their Feathers, Drawn from Nature, and Magnificent Creatures.

A Dog Named Haku: A Holiday Story from Nepal, by Margarita Engel, Amish Karanjit, & Nicole Karanjit/Illustrated by Ruth Jeyaveeran, (Sept. 2018, Lerner Publishing Group), $19.99, ISBN: 978-1-5124-3205-3

Ages 4-8

Two brothers search the streets of Nepal for a stray dog to feed during the festival of Kukur Tihar, a special day honoring dogs. The festival is also a remembrance of the search and rescue dogs that saved lives after the devastating 2015 earthquake. Award-winning author Margarita Engle, her daughter, Nicole Karanjit and son-in-law Amish Karanjit, come together with illustrator Ruth Jeyaveeran to create a touching story of empathy, memory, and celebration. It’s a glimpse into Nepali culture, enhanced by a glossary, further reading, and activities, and a story that emphasizes empathy and love for all creatures, great and small. Ruth Jeyaveeran’s illustrations further this study in culture, with brown-skinned people wearing Nepali clothing and animals wearing vermilion paste, a sign of holiness and blessing, on their foreheads during the celebrations.

Get this one in your libraries and classrooms, and read it for Diwali – while you hit Pinterest for some Diwali crafts. I love this accordion fold paper diya craft.

My Beijing: Stories of Everyday Wonder, by Nie Jun, (Sept. 2018, Lerner Publishing Group), $30.65, ISBN: 9781512445909

Ages 8-12

This graphic novel contains four stories of Yu’er, a young girl who lives with an unnamed disability, and her grandfather, in a small Beijing neighborhood. Yu’er want to swim in the Special Olympics, but she and grandpa need to find a pool for her practice. Another story takes Yu’er and a friend to a place filled with musical insects; in one story, Yu’er learns a story about her grandparents; finally, Yu’er and her grandfather teach a painter a lesson about enjoying life. The watercolor artwork is quiet and soothing, with a storytelling style manga fans will recognize and enjoy. It’s a positive look at the relationship between grandchild and grandparent, and the colorful characters in their neighborhood illustrate the adage that it takes a village to raise a child. Display and booktalk with Atinuke’s Anna Hisbiscus books, Saadia Faruqi’s Meet Yasmin!, and Debbie Michiko Florence’s Jasmine Toguchi books for illustrated chapter books that introduce readers to world cultures.

Kitten Construction Company: Meet the House Kittens!, by John Patrick Green, (Sept. 2014, First Second), $17.99, ISBN: 978162672830

Ages 7-10

Marmalade is the best architect you’d ever want to meet – but she’s also an adorable kitten, too! How can she get anyone to take her seriously? By teaming up with an adorable group of similarly skilled kittens to form the Kitten Construction Company, of course! Sampson, an electrical engineer, Bubbles, a skilled (and easily distracted) plumber, and Professor von Wigglebottom, a carpenter with a lot of contacts, decide to build their own mansion for Mewtown’s mayor. This graphic novel is the first in a new series and it’s too much fun for younger readers. There are great sight jokes, crisp, kid-friendly cartooning, and a smart story about being taken seriously, no matter how cute you are. I can’t wait to see more of this series!

Posted in Intermediate, Non-Fiction, Non-Fiction

STEM Bios – Aprille Ericsson, Aerospace Engineer

aprille_ericssonSTEM Trailblazer Bio: Aprille Ericsson, Aerospace Engineer, by Laura Hamilton Waxman (2015, Lerner Publishing Group) $26.60, ISBN: 9781467757935

Recommended for ages 8-12

Where are my science fans at? My future astrophysicists, mathematicians, and engineers? Maybe you’re still in middle school, watching episodes of Cosmos on YouTube. Are you at the museum or planetarium, or staring up at the night sky? Wherever you are, this book is for you. Get to your library and ask for it.

Aerospace engineer Aprille Ericsson started out as the kid in school who loved math and science. After taking second place at a middle school science fair, she knew she wanted to make science her life. We follow her education path, her work with NASA, and learn what she’s working on these days. There are great pictures and callout quotes from Ms. Ericsson, a timeline of her life thus far, source notes, and a glossary. For anyone interested in learning more, there are recommended books and websites.

I adore Lerner’s STEM Trailblazer biography series. They’re great books for young to intermediate readers who need biographies on people that are making discoveries and progress today. These books – these people – are introducing kids to names like Aprille Ericsson, Neil deGrasse Tyson, Steve Chen, Chad Hurley, and Jawed Karim, who founded YouTube, theoretical physicist Brian Greene, computer engineer Ruchi Sanghvi, and more. Please get these books on your shelves, teachers and librarians; parents, get to your libraries and get these books for your kids. Let the other kids be Cleopatra and Albert Einstein on Biography Day – let your kid be Aprille Ericsson!

Posted in Animal Fiction, Early Reader, Fiction, Graphic Novels

BirdCatDog: A graphic novel for beginners, with multiple points of view

birdcatdogBirdCatDog, by Lee Nordling and Meritxell Bosch (Nov. 2014, Lerner Publishing Group). $25.26, ISBN: 9781467745222

Recommended for ages 5+

Three narratives, three separate points of view, all come together in this graphic novel by Lee Nordling and Meritxell Bosch. A bird, a cat, and a dog all start their day with different achievement – the bird, to find freedom, the cat, to explore his world, and the dog, to defend his home. Each character meets and interacts with the others throughout the course of the book – the bird chases the cat, who ends up on the wrong side of the dog’s fence – and other character come into play to lead to more pandemonium.

The stories can be ready separately – each character’s narrative is color-coded – or as a whole. The pages are split into three panels, facilitating the individual narratives. The animals are cartoony, but not exaggeratedly so. They have expressive faces and body language, and the story is straightforward, making it perfect for new readers and even pre-readers, with the help of an adult or older sibling.

The split narratives make this book useful in many different ways across different ages. You can talk about perspective and point of view; you can read the individual narratives; you can encourage children to talk about what they see happening on the page in any number of combinations. It’s a great way to introduce sequential concepts in reading to kids.