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

More Graphic Novels!

I’ve got more graphic novels! Let’s get to it.

Nori, by Rumi Hara, (May 2020, Drawn & Quarterly), $24.95, ISBN: 978-1-77046-397-4

Ages 10+

Three-year old Noriko – Nori, for short – lives in Japan’s Osaka suburbs and spends most of her time with her grandmother while her parents are working. Set in the 1980s, Nori is all about a little girl’s adventures as she explores the world around her, accompanied by her best friend: her grandmother. The book contains five short stories and is infused with Japanese culture; the events of World War II still reverberate with the adults around Nori, and cultural festivals bring the excitement of the city alive in the pages. Nori brings childhood memories alive for readers: a part in a school play; chasing rabbits and watching neighborhood kids play with crawfish and beetles; she even wins a trip to Hawaii for herself and her grandmother, which leads to a healing moment for a family who’s lost their own matriarch. Black and white artwork has one-color moments for contrast and interest. Nori is a celebration of childhood and the special relationship between a child and grandparent and middle school-aged readers and young teens will especially love this.

Nori has a starred review from Publisher’s Weekly. Read an interview with Rumi Hara on We Need Diverse Books, and visit her website for more information about her work. Nori is a nominee in the 2020 Cybils Graphic Novel category.

 

Marge’s Little Lulu: The Fuzzythingus Poopi, by John Stanley, (Sept. 2020, Drawn and Quarterly), $29.95, ISBN: 9781770463660

Ages 6+

This collection takes me back to my childhood in the best of ways. I used to read Little Lulu reprints when I was growing up, alongside issues of Richie Rich, Casper, and Archie, to name a few. Little Lulu comics were all about the adventures of Little Lulu Moppet and her best friend/frenemy, Tubby; originally published by Dell Comics in the 1940s and 1950s, they’re all about childhood adventures like having snowball fights, trying to gain admission to the “No Girls Allowed” clubhouse, telling stories to a sick friend, and various – hilarious – money-making schemes. This is Drawn and Quarterly’s second Lulu collection, and is filled with reprinted Lulu and Tubby comics, “Lulu’s Diry” diary pages that ran in individual issues, and a cover gallery. The stories are loaded with imagination, like the clip where Lulu houses a ghost who’s been ousted when the house they haunt is torn down; imagines herself in a desert and has to retrieve a nickel from a sewer grate (still in the desert!) by using strands of her hair, leaving her bald. She foils a burglar claiming to be Santa Claus because “he didn’t have a twinkle in his eye!”, and rallies the neighborhood girls together to fight back when they find themselves targeted for snowball attacks by the boys.

Great for new readers who want fun, day-to-day stories of childhood and adults who grew up with Lulu, Tubby, and Alvin. This is a keeper. Read more about The Fuzzythingus Poopi and read an excerpt at publisher Drawn and Quarterly’s page; discover the impact Little Lulu has had on comics, culture, and feminism through this Comics Alliance article and this New Yorker piece.

 

Mary: The Adventures of Mary Shelley’s Great-Great-Great-Great-Great-Granddaughter, by Brea Grant, (Oct. 2020, Six Foot Press), $18.99, ISBN: 978-1644420294

Ages 12-16

Mary is perfect for every goth tween and teen you know. She’s the 5 times great-granddaughter of Frankenstein author Mary Shelley, and she’s from a family of overachieving women dedicated to that legacy. They’re all writers of renown, especially her superstar author mom, who can’t understand… Mary’s ennui? Lack of interest? The fact that she’s not an overachiever in school or life just yet? The thing is, Mary does have a very special family gift, and it makes its debut in these very pages. Mary can heal monsters. Actual, real-life monsters do exist, and Mary discovers that one night when she reattaches one walking dead guy’s foot. He tells his friends, and they tell their friends… and so on, and so on, and so on, as the old commercial goes. Monsters of all sorts show up at Mary’s with some amusing results, and Mary doesn’t know what to do with herself and this gift! Does she walk away from this gift, or does she embrace it?

Work with me: this is relatable! Teens feel the pressure to know what they want to do with their lives by the time they’re seniors in high school. Imagine the stress of being Mary Shelley’s descendant? When there’s a shrine to your many times-great grandmother, who wrote an enduring classic at the age of 19, in your very own home? Imagine discovering you are good at something… it just happens to be something unusual, or different, and the extra stress that can carry with it! Mary is a teen trying to find her way in a family of high-achieving, highly valued women, and isn’t quite sure that being known for healing monsters is what she wants to be known for. To accept her gift and embrace herself is a journey that most tweens and teens can get on board with. Brea Grant’s moody artwork gives great atmosphere to the story, and the dialogue is wonderfully snarky and introspective all at once. Please buy this for your collections and the readers in your life.

Don’t believe me? EW has an excerpt and article on it. Check it out.

 

The League of Super Feminists, by Mirion Malle/Translated by Aleshia Jensen, (Oct. 2020, Drawn and Quarterly), $16.95, ISBN: 9781770464025

Ages 12+

A fantastic guide to feminism for tweens, teens, and beyond, The League of Super Feminists explains the basics of feminism: YES! you can still enjoy princess movies! NO! You don’t have to hate men! What we need everyone – EVERYONE – to understand is how to critically evaluate the media that makes men knights and dragon slayers, and women damsels in distress. That women don’t come in one size: skinny, white, blonde. That women need to build one another up, not tear each other down. That boys and girls can be friends! Diving into such topics as gender, representation, inclusivity, consent, and beauty, The League of Super Feminists uses a range of characters to illustrate and explain these concepts and deconstruct myths and falsehoods for readers. Written like a conversation between the friends, the book is fun, upbeat, and playful, but always self-aware and smart. Mirion Malle never talks down to readers; it’s straight talk that lets everyone know that feminism is good for all, leads to healthy thinking and self-image. A great beginning to an ongoing conversation. See an excerpt on publisher Drawn and Quarterly‘s webpage. Aleishia Jensen’s translation from the original French to English is flawless and picks up all the nuances set forth by Mirion Malle.

Read more about The League of Super Feminists at publisher Drawn and Quarterly’s webpage, including an excerpt on representation. Read an interview with Mirion Malle on We Need Diverse Books.

Psst… makes an excellent holiday gift for the tween in your life. Just saying. The League of Super Feminists is a nominee in the 2020 Cybils Graphic Novel category.

And one to look forward to!

 

Forever Home, by Jenna Ayoub, (Feb. 2021, Boom! Studios), $12.99, ISBN: 9781684156030

Ages 9-13

This sweet, funny haunted house story is perfect reading for kids who are big on comedy. Willow’s a girl who’s been raised all over the world: her parents are in the Army, and that means moving around every couple of years. She’s had to say goodbye to friends too many times, and she doesn’t want to move again! Her parents have just bought Hadleigh House, an old, pink house in need of some TLC, and Willow is happy to finally set down roots: but Gladys and Viola, the ghostly Hadleigh sisters, want their home all to themselves – and the two ghosts that live with them, the Lady and Thomas, a World War I veteran. The sisters raise a ruckus, but they don’t count on the fact that Willow can see and hear them, and she lets them know she isn’t going anywhere. A touching story of belonging and family, Willow is a smart kid who has no problem digging in her heels to stay in the home she loves; Viola and Gladys are delightfully mischievous ghosts, and The Lady’s habit of killing husbands and fiancees is played for laughs as it’s alluded to, never quite addressed. Thomas’s backstory is poignant, and he emerges as a sweet, almost tragic figure. Forever Home has a little bit of comedy, a touch of bittersweet, and enough affection to make this a sure bet for readers who get a kick out of spooky comedies like The Addams Family and The Boxtrolls. Good for middle grade, great for middle school.

 

Posted in Uncategorized

Halloween March! The Ghosts Went Floating

The Ghosts Went Floating, by Kim Norman/Illustrated by Jay Fleck, (July 2020, Farrar Straus & Giroux), $17.99, ISBN: 9780374312138

Ages 3-6

Inspired by the classic favorite, “The Ants Go Marching”, The Ghosts Go Floating is a Halloween counting story where ghosts, skeletons, witches, mummies, zombies, and more all join a march by the light of the moon. Where are they going? You can only find out if you read the story!  Colorful, friendly ghouls and ghosts march across the pages with with rosy cheeks and friendly faces. The repetitive text lets kids jump in and be part of the storytelling, calling out the “Boo-Rah!” cheer and “moon, moon, moon”, which leads into the next group of monsters to join the dance: “The goblins galloped, six by six, / Boo-rah! Boo-rah! / while waving clubs and pointy sticks. / Boo-rah! Boo-rah! / The goblins galloped, six by six. / They dragged their knuckles on pointy bricks / and they all trooped up the hill, / in the chill. / by the light of the moon, / moon, moon, moon”.

Halloween fun, and a must for readalouds. Just make sure to have treats ready for your little goblins and werewolves! Pair with Tony Mitton’s and Guy Parker-Rees’s The Spooky Hour for Halloween Party fun.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Halloween(ish) Stories: Do Not Go in There!

Do Not Go in There!, by Ariel Horn, (July 2020, imprint), $18.99, ISBN: 9781250189493

Ages 3-7

Two monsters. One door. One monster wants to go in, and the other is too afraid to consider it. Bogart and Morton are two best friends who see things a little differently. Where Morton is excited and ready to embrace the unknown, Bogart is terrified! So when a closed door presents the opportunity to go discover what’s on the other side, Bogart says no way: there could be wolves! Morton, on the other hand, is drawn to the shiny doorknob and the bright red door: what if it smells like candy? The two debate back and forth on what scenarios lay behind the door; Bogart imagining unknown terrors, Morton turning those fears around into exciting new adventures. Who will win out?

A fun look at optimism and pessimism, Do Not Go in There! also shows kids that we can all be different and still be friends. And where one friend is scared, another friend can soothe that friend and help them try something new. It also illustrates how our imaginations work, whether to overwhelm or take us away to new heights. The artwork is cheery and bright, and the text color changes to reflect Bogart’s and Morton’s sides of the conversation. Bogart and Morton are adorably fuzzy, gently colored monsters that kids will love. Invite readers to each adopt a character and read out loud, or imagine fun Halloween scenarios that would be behind the door: will there be witches flying on lollipop brooms? Werewolf puppies? Teachers Pay Teachers has free, adorable Halloween clipart that you can invite readers to use to illustrate their story. A perfect not-so-scary story for preschoolers!

 

Posted in Science Fiction, Steampunk, Teen, Young Adult/New Adult

Delightfully eldritch, creepy storytelling from Frances Hardinge: Deeplight

Deeplight, by Frances Hardinge, (Apr. 2020, Amulet), $13.99, ISBN:  978-1509897568

Ages 12+

(This review and ISBN are the paperback version. The hardcover was released in October 2019.)

Taking place in a time and world where gods were earthbound monsters who killed themselves in battle, Deeplight is set on an island named for one of these gods, Lady’s Crave, where the inhabitants scavenge the waters for pieces of the gods, referred to as “godware”, imbued with small but noticeable power. Hark, a 14-year old orphan, and his best friend, Jelt, are petty crooks who get involved in schemes of varying illegality. Hark is caught and sold to a godware “expert’, Dr. Vyne, as an indentured servant; she puts him to work in a home for the aging priests, to find out what he can about the gods and where key pieces and archives remain. Meanwhile, Jelt hasn’t let go of his hold on Hark, and convinces him to go on one more expedition, where Hark discovers a pulsing piece of godware that has healing powers. But nothing comes without a cost, and healing Jelt sets events into motion that will have huge repercussions.

I love Frances Hardinge’s work. She creates wonderfully creepy stories; Deeplight adds a level of eldritch horror with a dash of steampunk and takes the conversation to a new level, throwing in themes of idolatry, greed, and the part fear plays in holding onto belief. Each character is fully realized, with backstory and motivation; whether or not they’re likable is entirely up to you – but you will never forget them. I’ll be gushing about this book for a long time. Frances Hardinge is the author you give your Mary Downing Hahn fans when they’re ready for more. Give this to your horror fans, your steampunk fans, and slide it in front of any HP Lovecraft fans you may have come across.

Deeplight has starred reviews from Kirkus and Publishers Weekly.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

A monster slayer never sleeps! Poesy the Monster Slayer

Poesy the Monster Slayer, by Cory Doctorow/Illustrated by Matt Rockefeller, (July 2020, First Second), $18.99, ISBN: 9781626723627

Ages 4-6

Cory Doctorow always knows how to make me smile, whether he’s writing about gamer uprisings (Little Brother) or unionizing MMORPG gold farmers (In Real Life). His newest book, Poesy the Monster Slayer, is an illustrated picture book about a little girl who’s got to contend with her parents giving her a bedtime when she’s got far bigger things to worry about: monsters. Dad reads her trusty book on monsters to her every night, so Poesy is prepared and waiting when the slew of monsters arrive throughout the evening: werewolves, Great Old Ones, vampires, even Frankenstein’s monster all face off against Poesy’s skills, and she deftly navigates dispatching the monsters with carefully selected toys in her room while putting up with her parents’ constant interruptions as they tell her to go to bed.

Illustrated in comic book style, with panels and word bubbles, Poesy is a fun story about a smart little girl taking on bedtime and those irksome bedtime monsters. Shades of black, purple, and blue set a nighttime feel for the story, and the monsters are comically menacing, meeting their defeats at the hands of Poesy and her room full of carefully selected toys. Parents will love the relatability of trying to get one’s little one to stay in bed: I know I feel like I log more steps in the hours from 9-12pm than I do most of the day!

Absolute fun for storytime; keep this one handy for bedtime, too – just don’t blame me if your little ones add fighting Great Old Ones to their list of nighttime activities!

Posted in Fantasy, Graphic Novels, Teen, Young Adult/New Adult

#BooksfromQuarantine: Graphic Novels You May Have Missed

The graphic novel devouring continues as I raid my laptop hard drive and rediscover books I downloaded with the intention of getting to, but apparently needed a pandemic lockdown to provide the time. If you’ve missed out on these, revisit them. There’s good stuff here.

 

The Last Dragon, by Jane Yolen/Illustrated by Rebecca Guay (Sept. 2011, Dark Horse Comics), $12.99, ISBN: 9781595827982

Ages 12+

Kids who grew up with Jane Yolen’s picture books, like the How Do Dinosaurs…? series, will be thrilled to read her fantasy graphic novel, The Last Dragon, illustrated by Rebecca Guay (who also does gorgeous Star Wars art). Two hundred years after dragons were driven out of the islands of May, a lone dragon hatches and grows, and dreams of blood. As the dragon starts a reign of terror, a group of boys from the village seeks out a hero. Someone who can save them. Who they find is a man who looks the part, but his heroic acts like mostly in his gift for exaggeration. When he arrives on the scene and realizes what he’s up against, he realizes he’s bitten off far more than he can chew. He’ll join forces with Tansy, a healer’s daughter, and discover that the most unconventional of ways may be the only way to survival and victory.

Beautifully illustrated in a dreamlike, fairy-tale style, and written with a combination of dialogue balloons and narrative storytelling, The Last Dragon is a good choice for fairy tale fans who like their fairy tales a little grittier, a little darker.

 

Kaijumax Season 1: Terror and Respect, by Zander Cannnon, (Sept. 2016, Oni Press), $9.99, ISBN: 9781620102701

Ages 16+

This book has been going strong for a few years now; the collected trades for Season 4 published in late 2019, so I expect we’ll see a Book 5 sometime this year? Maybe? Anyway, the series is written by two-time Eisner Award winner Zander Cannon, and it centers of the lives of Kaiju – giant monsters, a la Godzilla and Friends – in lockdown on a prison island. Think Pacific Rim meets Oz. In Season One, Electrogor is a loving Kaiju single dad who goes out to get some radioactive waste for his kids to eat, gets nabbed, and sent off to Kaijumax, where he experiences all the prison horror: he gets shanked, meets corrupt guards, and has run-ins with gangs that run the prison.

I’ll be honest, I was expecting a lighter-hearted co@lionforgemic. The artwork is bright, the monsters and guards’ Ultraman-inspired uniforms are amazing to look at, and, come on: it’s monsters! On a prison island! I didn’t expect things to be so heavy, so if that’s not your jam, watch Pacific Rim one more time. It was entertaining for me, and I know older teens who will love this, but I just felt so bad for poor Eletrogor and his kids while I read this. So if you’re a mush like me, you’ve been given notice. Kaijumax was a Best New Series nominee in the 2016 Eisners. When I finally get back to my library, I’ll order the first four trades, because I am confident that these will move.

Witchy, by Ariel Slamet Ries, (Sept. 2019, Lion Forge), $14.99, ISBN: 9781549304811

Ages 11+

Witchy is a webcomic that just got its first print run last year. Perfect for middle school and up, it’s glorious fantasy storytelling that smashes gender stereotypes. Nyneve is a young witch living in the kingdom of Hyalin, where the length of your hair determines your magic power. Witches deemed too powerful are taken away and killed – it’s called a “witch burning”, and this is what happened to Nyneve’s father. Keeping her hair pinned up so no one can tell its true length, she withstands the laughs and bullying of her classmates, until conscription time rolls around and she makes the choice to run away rather than serve or risk being on the kingdom’s hit list. Nominated for the 2015 Ignatz Award for Outstanding Online Comic, Witchy is just great storytelling. It moves along at a good pace, letting readers enjoy the worldbuilding and meet the characters; there’s always something happening, so there’s no lag time. The colorwork is beautiful, and the magic arts really stand out in the book with sweeping magical gestures and bursts of color and movement. This one was a hit, and it was one of the last books I ordered, just on what I’ve read about it; I’m so glad this turned out to be everything I hoped it would be.

Witchy by Ariel Ries was nominated for the 2015 Ignatz Award for Outstanding Online Comic, and it still ongoing at Witchycomic.com. It’s also part of the Library of Congress’s Small Press Expo Comic and Comic Art Web Archive, and the Queer Comics Database has a great entry on Witchy. You can find a Witchy Discussion Guide here, courtesy of the publisher.

There’s more to come! Enjoy and keep reading!

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Bo the Brave knows that monsters aren’t always that easy to spot

Bo the Brave, by Bethan Woollvin, (Apr. 2020, Peachtree Publishers), $17.99, ISBN: 978-1-68263-182-9

Ages 3-7

Any day I get to talk about a new Bethan Woollvin book is a good day. She creates fairy-tale heroines that upend all existing conventions, whether it’s the witch getting the goods on bratty Hansel and Gretel, or Little Red Riding Hood saving the day on her own. Her new book, Bo the Brave. stars another young girl who teaches readers that monsters aren’t always fairy tale creatures – they’re much closer.

Bo is a young girl who wants to be a monster hunter like her brothers. When they tell her she’s too little, so she strikes out on her own. On her travels, she meets a griffin, a kraken, and a dragon, all of whom seem much nicer, and certainly more helpful, than she’s been led to believe. In fact, the dragon is a mother, grieving because her baby’s been kidnapped by monster hunters! Bo, pretty sure she knows exactly who the culprits are, leads her new friends to the rescue: while delivering a stern lecture to her brothers. Bo the Brave has learned that rumors and hearsay are deceiving and can lead to a lot of misunderstanding and heartache. In this story, it’s her brothers that “were certainly acting like monsters”, not the griffin, the kraken, or the dragons!

That’s the best part of Bethan Woollvin’s storytelling. She takes a look at who the real monsters are, like Hansel and Gretel; she has heroines who save themselves – they have no time to deal with that whole helpless girl foolishness – like Red Riding Hood and Rapunzel. Bethan Woollvin’s heroines have no time to waste, waiting for someone to rescue them and no patience to follow someone who doesn’t value them for who they are. They’re out there on their own, using their brains and their own common sense to save the day, and teach some valuable lessons.

The endpapers illustrated Bo the Brave’s evolution, too: the front endpapers are a map, pre-journey, where Bo notes where the “horrid forest monsters”, “scary cave beasts”, and “slimy sea monsters” are, along with her “stinky brothers’. The back endpapers are edited to show that her “stinky brothers” are actually her “monster brothers”, and each of the new friends she’s made have their rightful names noted on the map.

Bo the Brave has a starred review from School Library Journal, and is essential reading.

Posted in Uncategorized

A league of heroes dedicated to protecting: Spark and the League of Ursus

Spark and the League of Ursus, by Robert Repino, (Apr. 2020, Quirk Books), $16.99, ISBN: 9781683691662

Ages 8-12

Have you ever seen that meme with a teddy bear standing over a sleeping child, challenging a looming monster? If you have, you’ve got the basis for Spark and the Legends of Ursus. Spark and Sir Reginald are teddy bears, pledged to protect their now-tween children, Loretta and Matthew, from monsters. Sir Reginald is the elder bear and mentor to Spark, the one who introduced her to the League of Ursus – the secret society of teddy bears, sworn to protect. Things are dire when a monster shows up in Loretta’s room, and when a neighborhood girl goes missing. Spark and Sir Reginald are determined to protect their charges, but find themselves up against a terrible evil that they need help battling. Additional League of Ursus members, a sock monkey, and Amazon warrior princess doll are all that stands between the monster and the children of their neighborhood.

This is an exciting, heartfelt adventure book that embraces our love of teddy bears. Their gentle natures belie the fact that they are bears, who can be pretty ferocious! The story also looks at the love between a toy and a child – in this universe, a toy doesn’t “awaken” until it’s loved by a child – and how that changes as the child gets older and finds less time for their toys. If you have Toy Story fans, and readers of books like Brian Lynch’s Toy Academy series, that are ready for a more involved book, this is the book to give them. Spark is a wonderfully idealistic, eager young character, waiting to be called upon for her moment; Sir Reginald is a world-weary warrior with much to pass along to his student. Loretta and Matthew are burgeoning filmmakers with their own YouTube channel, so there’s some filmmaking tidbits here and there that could link up nicely with some Summer Reading programming involving filmmaking, maybe on a cell phone.

Spark and the League of Ursus is a good first fantasy novel to give to readers who are looking for something new, and a good fantasy novel to give to readers who may need that reassurance that it’s still okay to love a teddy bear. (I do.) Have Stranger Things fans? Give them this one, too – that monster can surely come from The Upside Down.

Note: I believe the final book will have illustrations; my ARC didn’t.

Posted in Fantasy, Fiction, Fiction, Intermediate, Middle Grade, Uncategorized

Polly and Buster prove that witches and monsters should be friends

Kane Miller sent me a middle grade fantasy trilogy about Polly & Buster, a young witch and a young monster who are best friends despite monster and witch society not always seeing eye to eye.

Polly and Buster: The Wayward Witch and the Feelings Monster (Book 1), by Sally Rippin, (Sept. 2019, Kane Miller), $6.99, ISBN: 978-1-61067-926-8

Ages 7-11

The first book in the series introduces us to Polly, a 9-year-old witch who just can’t seem to get her witching schoolwork right. Her older sister, Winifred, is the star sibling, and her widowed mother is often frustrated by Polly’s inability to excel like Winifred, and by her friendship with Buster, the monster next door. Polly and her family are still reeling from her father’s death in the mines a few years ago, which seems to be the tipping point for witch-monster tensions. When Polly casts a powerful spell while trying to protect Buster from bullies, her actions are misinterpreted, and the relationship between witches and monsters grows dangerous. Polly and Buster have to work together to salvage their own relationship and keep one another safe as witches and monsters choose sides in what could be a brewing war.

I was pulled right into this easily readable adventure. Polly exhibits some ADHD, dyslexic, and OCD tendencies, which could be linked to her burgeoning witch power: think Percy Jackson and the similar issues exhibited by demi-gods in that series. Buster is a kind-hearted monster who tries to hide his sensitivity from other monsters; his feelings manipulate his size and color, leaving him open to bullying. Witch and monster society in this series is symbolic of our own society: racism, intolerance, and exclusion abounds in witch society, while monsters grow increasingly tired and angry of being considered second-class citizens. Throw in a mean girl bully, and her equally mean, manipulative mother, and Polly and Buster goes from being a sweet story about acceptance and friendship to a powerful look at inequality and revolt.

 

Polly and Buster: The Mystery of the Magic Stones (Book 2), by Sally Ripkin, (Sept. 2019, Kane Miller), $6.99, ISBN: 978-1-61067-927-5

Ages 7-11

The second book in the Polly and Buster series brings the action and the tension up several notches as readers witness the breakdown of relations in witch-monster society. Polly and Buster are on the run from witches who have determined that Buster is dangerous and needs to be taken prisoner (or worse); Polly turns to her favorite teacher, the sympathetic Miss Spinnaker, for help. Meanwhile, a handful of mysterious stones that Polly’s father left to her start to glow and feel warm to the touch; Polly feels them beckoning her… to the mines where her father died?

The Mystery of the Magic Stones brings the action on quickly – witch and monster society are breaking down, and the story has a very Harry Potter feel as a group of vigilante witches start taking policing matters into their own hands as monsters form gangs to protect one another and defend themselves against witches. There’s a feeling of urgency throughout the story, as Polly tries to unravel the mystery of the stones while she and Buster are running and hiding for their lives. No sophomore syndrome here; the second book in the Polly and Buster series will leave readers waiting to find out how this is all going to shake out: make sure you have that third book ready to give them.

 

Polly and Buster: The Seach for the Silver Witch (Book 3), by Sally Ripkin, (Sept. 2019, Kane Miller), $6.99, ISBN: 978-1-68464-095-9

Ages 7-11

The third book in the Polly and Buster series brings things to a big close. Polly and Buster have been on the run through all of the second book as relations between witches and monsters threaten to descend into violence. Polly has made discoveries about herself that will change how others see her – if she can stay safe long enough! Seeking out her aunt – an outcast from witch society – for answers, Polly hopes to unload the burden the stones have put on her. Meanwhile, there’s a dark power brewing in Polly and Buster’s neck of the woods, and it’s making everything worse!

In this third book, Polly learns that she’s far stronger than she ever dreamed – her inner strength will give her the power she and Buster need to make things right between their two communities, and will help her defend everyone she loves against the biggest danger that her village has ever faced. Polly has her hero’s journey across these three books, but Buster also comes into his own as a monster who accepts his feelings and can put aside his own fear to jump in and help when he’s needed.

The whole series, originally published in the UK, is great for emerging readers who are ready for a little more of a challenge in terms of book content and length. It’s an intermediate-level series with more heft and big social issues to unpack. There’s fantastic world-building, solid character development, and sympathetic heroes and villains alike. Black and white illustrations throughout will keep readers interested, and help with pacing and imagining. This series will be super-popular with your fantasy readers. U.S. publisher Kane Miller has a bunch of extras, including a free word search, discussion questions and activities, and some discussions points from the author herself.

Posted in Toddler Reads

Board book fun: Yum Yummy Yuck and A Mischief of Monsters

If you’ve read my blog for a while, you know I love a good board book: they’re easily portable and ready for a storytime, or to quietly hand to soothe a fussy kid during travel time, storytime, or anytime. They’re sturdy and can hold up to the Mary Poppins-like madness that is my purse, or a toddler’s exploring hands and mouth. And they’re just adorable. Here are two new ones to enjoy.

 

Yum Yummy Yuck, by Cree Lane & Amanda Jones, (Sept. 2019, Prestel Publishing), $9.95, ISBN: 9783791374055

Ages 0-3

Love Leslie Patricelli’s Yummy Yucky? This book takes things a hilarious step further, giving kids some foods that are “yum”, some that are “yummy”, and then… well, some stuff that’s just “yucky”: boogers, for instance, are yucky, no matter what your 2-year-old tells you. Each “yucky” comes with a little lesson: use a tissue; band-aids are for ouchies; there will be regrets if you try to eat sand; and toothpaste gets spit out, for starters. Minimalist art in bright colors, with a wry sense of humor translated through artwork and sparse text make this a hilarious read-aloud that you and the kids will love reading again and again. Like it says on the back cover, this is a “book for the kid who likes to eat boogers”. Priceless.

 

 

 

A Mischief of Monsters: A Book of Noises and Actions, by Roger Priddy, (July 2019, Priddy Books), $8.99, ISBN: 9780312528829

Ages 0-3

Well, what else would you call a group of silly monsters? A Mischief of Monsters is adorable, tactile, silly fun. Rhyming monsters snore, roar, squelch, belch, leap, creep, and more across the pages of this board book, which sports raised shapes and cutouts on each page, letting little fingers (and toes) roam and explore. Different sound effects on ever page make for great storytime reading, and the goofy, colorful monsters encourage kids to shriek with giggles, not fright. The pages are super tough, and will be able to take a beating from multiple readings and play. Priddy Books are always good for toddlers – I’ve been reading them to my own kids for years. The Priddy Books webpage has free, downloadable coloring sheets and puzzles, too. A Mischief of Monsters is a great add to your lapsit Halloween storytimes, or anytime.