Posted in Fiction, Fiction, Graphic Novels, Intermediate, Middle Grade, Uncategorized

Intermediate Book Bundles!

I’ve been bundling again, and Macmillan was kind enough to give me some book bundling ideas from their imprints. This bundle is a mix of intermediate chapter books and graphic novels, and I think this will be a super popular mix.

Jasmine Toguchi, Mochi Queen, by Debbi Michiko Florence/Illustrated by Elizabet Vukovic, (July 2017, Farrar, Straus and Giroux), $15.99, ISBN: 9780374304102

Ages 6-9

I read the first Jasmine Toguchi book back in 2017 and loved this fresh new face on my chapter book shelves! Since then, there have been three more Jasmine Toguchi books, and I know my library kids enjoy Jasmine as much as I did. In her first book, 8-year-old Jasmine really wants to be part of the mochi-making process when her grandmother flies in from Japan, but she’s not 10 yet, so her family says, “no way”. But Jasmine is set on building up her arm strength to be able to heft that mochi hammer. An author’s note and microwave mochi recipe at the end introduce readers to Japanese culture, and Jasmine is a spunky, smart young heroine that readers can immediately feel close to; she could be a friend at school or from the neighborhood. Black and white illustrations throughout are playful and let us into Jasmine’s world.

Author Debbi Michiko Florence’s website is amazing, from the adorable and colorful mochi at the top of the page, to the printable activities tied to each of her books, to her colorful and blog, always loaded with photos and updates.

 

Doggo and Pupper, by Katherine Applegate/Illustrated Charlie Alder, (March 2021, Feiwel & Friends), $9.99, ISBN: 9781250620972

Ages 6-9

Newbery Medalist Katherine Applegate and illustrator Charlie Alder join together to create an adorable story of two dogs. Doggo is a family dog who has his routines, like taking naps, walking the family’s daughter, and snuggling little family members. He has calming pursuits, like watching TV, even skateboarding, but it’s a pretty routine life, even if he does wistfully remember his younger, wilder days. When the family decides to get a new puppy, Doggo’s world is turned upside down! Pupper wants to talk ALL NIGHT. He is silly and lazy and… he’s a puppy! When Pupper gets sent to charm school, he returns home a different, more sedate Pupper, which gets Doggo thinking… he misses that wacky little Pupper. He quietly takes the pup out for a night of fun, where the two can let their wild sides out with no damage: or charm school. A sweet story of friendship and enjoying childhood, Doggo and Pupper is a story early graphic novel readers will love. Cat, the family cat, is there to add wisdom to the story, and Doggo has sage advice about puppies at the end of the story; good advice for anyone considering a Pupper of their own. Colorful collage and digital artwork are adorable, and the story is organized into easily readable chapters that give kids a place to pause.

Doggo and Pupper has a starred review from Booklist.

 

Blue, Barry & Pancakes, by Dan & Jason, (March 2021, First Second), $12.99, ISBN: 9781250255556

Ages 4-8

Childhood best friends Dan and Jason give kids a new graphic novel series about the hilarity of friendship. Blue is a worm, Barry is a frog, and Pancakes is a giant bunny, who live in the same house and get into the wackiest of situations. In this first graphic novel, Barry is just about to finish his tower of waffles when Pancakes insists they hit the beach. When Barry and Pancakes start playing with Blue’s collector beach ball, a giant whale eats it and sends the trio off into a silly adventure that will have every reader giggling uncontrollably (at least, my 8 year old did). The facial expressions, the frenetic pace of the action, and the “what next?” moments all make this the graphic novel kids will be asking for this summer. Reading takes you everywhere? It sure does here, as the trio goes from home, to the beach, to the inside of a whale, a rowboat, a UFO, the inside of a volcano, and more! If you asked one of your library kids to make up an adventure right on the spot, I guarantee you they’d come up with something very close to Blue, Barry and Pancakes. Endpapers show off other items in Blue’s collection, which makes me wonder what we’ll see in future adventures…

This is the first in a planned trilogy – the second one is due out in a matter of DAYS (stay tuned). Visit Dan and Jason’s website to see more about their projects, including Blue, Barry and Pancakes.

 

Stella Diaz Has Something to Say!, by Angela Dominguez, (Jan. 2018, Roaring Brook Press), $16.99, ISBN: 978-1-62672-858-5

Ages 7-9

I read the first Stella Diaz book in 2018 and thoroughly enjoyed spending time with this shy second grader who had to find her voice. Stella Diaz loves fish and learning about the oceans and ocean life; she loves spending time with her mom and brother, and loves spending time with her best friend Jenny. She’s also incredibly shy and can’t find the words she wants to use, so she tends to stay quiet, afraid she’ll speak Spanish instead of English, or pronounce her words wrong. Either way, she’s made fun of by the class Mean Girl, but when her teacher assigns presentations that means Stella will have to speak in front of the class, she works to defeat her fears and find her voice. It’s a wonderful story about friendship, making new friends, and facing challenges. It’s infused with Mexican culture and Spanish language, inspired by the author’s own story of growing up Mexican-American, and features black and white illustrations throughout. There are two additional Stella Diaz books now, with a third coming next year – I’ve got books 2 and 3 on my desk right now, so keep an eye on this space for more.

Visit author Angela Dominguez’s website for more about her books!

 

How are you feeling about the book bundles talking? Too much? Not enough? Less description, more visual? I’d love to hear what you think!

Posted in picture books

My Day with the Panye: a love letter to Haitian women’s strength

My Day with the Panye, by Tami Charles/Illustrated by Sara Palacios, (March 2021, Candlewick Press), $17.99, ISBN: 9780763697495

Ages 5-9

In the hills above the Haitian city of Port-au-Prince, a young girl and her mother head to the market together. Fallon, the girl, wants more than anything to wear the large woven basket, called the panye, balanced on her head like her mother does. She watches her mother twist the mouchwa wrap around her head and balance the panye on top, and, walking next to her, begs to try it. Finally, when Maman allows Fallon to try, she realizes that it’s harder than it looks, but it’s worth the feeling of accomplishment! A gorgeous, lyrical story about the poise and tremendous strength of Haitian women, My Day with the Panye is simply wonderful reading. Gouache and digital artwork bring textures and color alive on the pages, with beautiful landscapes and lively street and market scenes. While not in verse, the story reads like a beautiful ode to Haiti and its people, and wearing the panye comes across as a rite of passage: Fallon says that her mother is “tall like an arrow pointing to the clouds” as she walks with her panye, and that other women “…walk like they have gold in their shoes”. To wear the panye is to move gracefully and to be strong, even under its weight: Maman compares this strength to the strength of the Haitian walls, still standing after the 2010 earthquake. An author’s note gives a brief history of the panye and its place in Haitian culture.

Tami Charles is the bestselling author of 2018’s Freedom Soup and All Because You Matter. Sara Palacios is the illustrator of Between Us and Abuela: A Family Story from the Border, by Mitali Perkins. My Day with the Panye has a starred review from School Library Journal.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

More Multicultural Children’s Book Joy: A Gift for Amma

A Gift for Amma, by Meera Sriram/Illustrated by Mariona Cabassa, (Aug. 2020, Barefoot Books), $16.99, ISBN: 9781646860616

Ages 4-7

This is a concept book that hits all the right notes! Inspired by the author’s hometown of Chennai, India, A Gift for Amma follows a little girl as she explores a street market in Southern India, searching for a gift to bring home to her amma (mother). All the colors relate to objects the girl discovers in the marketplace: saffron orange strands, jasmine white blooms, green peacock feathers, all considerations for gifts, paired with necessities like herbs, sweets, and peppers. Bright, vibrant color decorate the spreads, inviting readers to surround themselves in the sights, smells, and textures of an Indian market. An exctiing new take on concepts with a gentle story about a little girl who loves her mother, I can’t say enough good things about A Gift for Amma. Back matter includes descriptions of what the girl found at the market, and a peek at five markets around the world.

I’d love to put together a sensory storytime that would invite kids to experience different textures… consider creating texture boards or boxes for each kiddo (safety first, right?) using cloth, feathers, plastic bowls, plush… anything you can think of for your kiddos to touch and enjoy! Consider fun crafts, like this peacock from Artsy Craftsy Mom, or this elephant from Activity Village.

A Gift for Amma has starred reviews from School Library Journal and Foreword Reviews.

 

The MCBD jazz:

Multicultural Children’s Book Day 2021 (1/29/21) is in its 8th year! Thisnon-profit children’s literacy initiative was founded by Valarie Budayr and Mia Wenjen; two diverse book-loving moms who saw a need to shine the spotlight on all of the multicultural books and authors on the market while also working to get those book into the hands of young readers and educators.Eight years in, MCBD’s mission is to raise awareness of the ongoing need to include kids’books that celebrate diversity in homes and school bookshelves continues. Read about our Mission & History HERE.

MCBD 2021 is honored to be Supported by these Medallion Sponsors!

FOUNDER’S CIRCLE: Mia Wenjen (Prgamaticmom) and Valarie Budayr’s (Audreypress.com)Platinum Sponsors: Language Lizard Bilingual Books in 50+ Languages, Author Deedee Cummings and Make A Way Media

Gold Sponsors: Barefoot Books, Candlewick Press, Capstone,Hoopoe Books,KidLitTV, Peachtree Publishing Company Inc.Silver Sponsors: Charlotte Riggle, Connecticut Association of School Librarians, Author Kimberly Gordon Biddle, Pack-N-Go GirlsBronze Sponsors: Agatha Rodi andAMELIE is IMPRESSED!, Barnes Brothers Books, Create and Educate Solutions, LLC, Dreambuilt Books, Dyesha and Triesha McCants/McCants Squared, Redfin Real Estate, Snowflake Stories, Star Bright Books, TimTimTom Bilingual Personalized Books, Author Vivian Kirkfield, Wisdom Tales Press, My Well Read Child

MCBD 2021 is honored to be Supported by these Author Sponsors!

Poster Artist: Nat IwataAuthors: Author Afsaneh Moradian, Author Alva Sachs & Three Wishes Publishing Company, Author Angeliki Stamatopoulou-Pedersen, Author Anna Olswanger, Author Casey Bell, Author Claudine Norden, Author Debbie Dadey, Author DianaHuang & Intrepids,Author Eugenia Chu & Brandon goes to Beijing, Green Kids Club, Author Gwen Jackson, Author Janet Balletta, Author Josh Funk, Author Julia Inserro, Karter Johnson & Popcorn and Books, Author Kathleen Burkinshaw & The Last Cherry Blossom, Author Keila Dawson, Maya/Neel Adventures with Culture Groove, Author Mia Wenjen, Michael Genhart, Nancy Tupper Ling, Author Natalie Murray, Natalie McDonald-Perkins, Author Natasha Yim, Author Phe Lang and Me On The Page Publishing, Sandra Elaine Scott, Author Shoumi Sen & From The Toddler Diaries, SISSY GOES TINY by Rebecca Flansburg and B.A. Norrgard, Susan Schaefer Bernardo & Illustrator Courtenay Fletcher,Tales of the Five Enchanted Mermaids, Author Theresa Mackiewicz, Tonya Duncan and theSophie Washington Book Series, Author Toshia Stelivan, Valerie Williams-Sanchez & The Cocoa Kids Collection Books©, Author Vanessa Womack, MBA, Author Veronica Appleton & the Journey to Appleville book series

MCBD 2021 is Honored to be Supported by our CoHosts and Global CoHosts!

MCBD 2021 is Honored to be Supported by these Media Partners!

Check out MCBD’s Multicultural Books for Kids Pinterest Board!

FREE RESOURCES from Multicultural Children’s Book Day

Diversity Book Lists & Activities for Teachers and ParentsHomeschool Diverse Kidlit Booklist & Activity KitFREE Teacher Classroom Activism and Activists KitFREE Teacher Classroom Empathy KitFREE Teacher Classroom Kindness KitFREE Teacher Classroom Physical and Developmental Challenges Kit

FREE Teacher Classroom Poverty KitGallery of Our Free PostersFREE Diversity Book for Classrooms Program

TWITTER PARTY! Register here!

Join us on Friday, Jan 29, 2021, at 9 pm EST for the 8th annual Multicultural Children’s Book Day Twitter Party!This epically fun and fast-paced hour includes multicultural book discussions, addressing timely issues, diverse book recommendations, & reading ideas.We will be giving away an 8-Book Bundle every 5 minutes plus Bonus Prizes as well! *** US and Global participants welcome. **Follow the hashtag #ReadYourWorld to join the conversation, connect with like-minded parts, authors,publishers, educators, organizations, and librarians. See you all very soon on Twitter!Hashtag: Don’t forget to connect with us on social media and be sure and look for/use our official hashtag #ReadYourWorld.

 

Posted in Intermediate, Non-Fiction

Books from Quarantine: Tag Your Dreams!

Tag Your Dreams: Poems of Play and Persistence, by Jacqueline Jules/Illustrated by Iris Deppe, (Apr. 2020, Albert Whitman & Company), $17.99, ISBN: 9780807567265

Ages 7-10

I’m getting that TBR under control a little more every day! Tag Your Dreams is a book of poetry about sports and play for kids, but it’s more than that. These are poems about endurance, self-esteem, community, and reaching goals. It’s about a girl reaching out to a new friend by reciting a rhyme that her Guatemalan grandmother taught her (“Clapping  Hands”); it’s about a girl, swimming gracefully, mermaid-like, as she remembers being bullied for her weight earlier that day (“Mermaid Manatee”); a father and son cruising through a park on matching scooters (“Kick Scooters”), and a playground where “Spanish jumps just as high as English” as the kids skip rope and sing together. A multicultural group of adults and kids come together on these pages to play, to laugh, and to inspire readers. Jacqueline Jules, award-winning author of the Zapato Power and Sofia Martinez book series, created 31 poems about the power of play and the power of persistence to motivate readers: motivate them to play, motivate them to embrace themselves, and work as part of a team while striving to be their best. Iris Deppe’s colorful artwork shows children and grown-ups together in various stages of play: clapping hands underneath a tree, reaching for a ball in the outfield, or walking a trail with grandparents. A nice addition to poetry collections, with positive messages that we need more than ever these days.

Jacqueline Jules’s author webpage has information about her books and plenty of free, downloadable activities connected to her books.

Posted in Fiction, Fiction, Intermediate, Middle Grade, Realistic Fiction

Books from Quarantine: Nina Soni, middle grader at large

My reading mojo is back, thank goodness, so let’s keep fingers crossed that my blogging mojo is back, too.

I just finished two books that I think are great for that intermediate/middle grade reader who isn’t quite ready to take on the 300-400 page books just yet, but the 80-10 pagers are leaving them wanting a little more. Let’s meet Nina Soni and her family, shall we?

Nina Soni, Former Best Friend, by Kashmira Sheth/Illustrated by Jenn Kocsmiersky, (Oct. 2019, Peachtree Publishers), $15.99, ISBN: 978-1-68263-057-0

Ages 7-12

Nina is an Indian-American elementary school student with a loving family, a little sister who can bug her sometimes, and a knack for making lists, which she keeps in her journal, named Shakhi, which means “friend” in Hindi. She’s got big ideas, but they don’t always turn out the way she expects. In Former Best Friend, Nina finds herself on the outs with her best friend, Jay. She also has her little sister’s birthday party to help plan, and a school project where she has to come up with and write about a great discovery!

Nina Soni is such a likable character. She thinks a lot: she works out math to describe her family while her father’s away for work during the week; she writes down words she’s thinking and learning about, defining them in easy-to-understand words and breaking them down by syllable. She’s organized, making lists – to follow, lists about things she likes, things that drive her crazy. Kavita, Nina’s younger sister, is younger, freer, sillier, and it drives Nina crazy as much as she loves her. Cooking and family are main activities in the book, and there’s some interesting bits about Indian culture throughout.  It’s a fun story with likable characters and black and white line drawings and notebook pages throughout. Give this one an add to your middle grade collections, and booktalk it with books like Planet Omar by Zanib Mian, Alvin Ho and Ruby Lu books by Lenore Look  and Debbi Michiko Florence’s Jasmine Toguchi books.

 

Nina Soni, Sister Fixer, by Kashmira Sheth/Illustrated by Jenn Kocsmiersky, (Apr. 2020, Peachtree Publishers), $15.99, ISBN: 978-1-68263-054-9

Ages 7-12

Nina’s back and this time, she’s GOT to do something about Kavita. Her younger sister is driving her CRAZY, making up songs all the time; songs that don’t make sense, that don’t rhyme, that are just plain annoying! Spring Break is coming, and they’re going away to Jay’s grandfather’s cabin for a couple of days; Nina decides she’s got three days to “fix” her sister so she won’t embarrass her on their trip. Nina also decides to build a dam using some of the dirt by her next door neighbor’s house; a project that may keep Kavita entertained enough to forget about singing. But her impromptu science project may be more than she bargained for!

Even more fun than Former Best Friend, Sister Fixer has some great moments, including an emergency phone call to India that will leave readers laughing out loud. Kavita is a gleeful first grader who loves to dance, make up songs, and make artwork; that it gets on her bigger sister’s nerves is of no consequence: something older siblings will recognize and empathize with. Writing in Shakhi helps Nina come to her own conclusions, making this a good book to suggest to fledgling writers and journalers to record their thoughts and revisit them.

Don’t miss either of these books! Enjoy a Q&A with author Kashmira Sheth here and get a free discussion guide for both books here.

Posted in picture books

Blog Tour: Feast of Peas by Kashmira Sheth

I love a good folk tale, and Kashmira Sheth has certainly given me one with her newest book, Feast of Peas!

Feast of Peas, by Kashmira Sheth/Illustrated by Jeffrey Ebbeler,
(March 2020, Peachtree Publishing), $17.99, ISBN: 978-1-68263-135-5
Ages 5-8

Set in India, Feast of Peas is about Jiva, a farmer who works in his garden “until the sun turned as red as a bride’s sari”, tending to his crops; he’s most excited, though, for his peas. He can’t wait for them to grow, so he can gobble them up. He loves peas! But so does Jiva’s friend, Ruvji, who stops by to see how Jiva’s crops are faring. As Jiva sings his Feast of Peas song, Ruvji stands close by, imagining his own yummy feast of peas… and when Jiva discovers that his peas are going missing, Ruvji is right there, suggesting culprits from rabbits to ghosts. Jiva’s precautions don’t protect his poor peas, so Jiva must take matters into his own hands… and wait until he discovers who the thief is!

 

Feast of Peas is so much fun! Kashmira Sheth’s storytelling style is perfect for a storytime setting. She includes easily recognizable folktale elements, like everyday situations, a puzzling problem, and a solution that neatly concludes the story. Her writing style draws readers into the story, and there’s fun repetition in the interplay between Jiva and Ruvji and their daily routines: Jiva’s work in the garden; Ruvji’s daily visits; Jiva’s song, “Plump peas, sweet peas, / Lined-up-in-the-shell peas. / Peas to munch, peas to crunch, / I want a feast of peas for lunch”, and Ruvji’s response, “Peas are delicious. I would enjoy a feast of peas”. A ghost story is played for laughs, and friendship and sharing win the day at the end of the story. Jeffrey Ebbeler’s artwork brings Kashmira Sheth’s story to life with acrylic illustrations giving readers earth tones, characters with expressive faces and body language, and delicious plates of Indian food! Peapods and peas decorate the endpapers, stoking readers’ appetites.

Absolute fun. Add Feast of Peas to your folk and fairytale sections, and ask your kids what they think the morale of the story is. Publisher Peachtree has a free, downloadable teacher’s guide that includes talking points about art, social studies, math, music, movement, and more.

 

Posted in Fiction, Fiction, Intermediate, Middle Grade, Realistic Fiction

Welcome to Planet Omar!

Planet Omar: Accidental Trouble Magnet, by Zanib Mian/Illustrated by Nasaya Mafaridik, (Feb. 2020, G.P. Putnam), $13.99, ISBN: 9780593109212

Ages 7-10

Meet Omar! He’s a young Muslim boy living in the UK, and has just moved to a new neighborhood and school so his mom could accept her dream job. He’s got an imaginary dragon for a friend and pet, he’s creative and imaginative, and… he finds himself the target of the school bully. Originally published in abroad in 2018 as The Muslims, Planet Omar: Accidental Trouble Magnet is hilarious, sweet, and brilliantly tackles Islamophobia, all from a kid’s point of view.

Written from Omar’s point of view and illustrated a la Wimpy Kid, Accidental Trouble Magnet introduces us to Omar’s family: his parents, his siblings, the bully who becomes enraged at the idea of Muslims, and the sweet little old lady next door who constantly talks to someone one the phone about what “The Muslims” are doing. Omar’s parents handle the next door neighbor with grace and aplomb, always extending the hand of friendship. Omar is informative about Muslim traditions – we learn about Eid and Ramadan; his excitement about attempting to take part in the fast (so he can be up in the middle of the night to eat), and about the hijab his mother wears (no, she doesn’t shower with it). Zanib Mian convincingly writes with Omar’s voice and introduces us to a friendly kid who wants to let you know about him – and wants to let you know that he can’t wait for his holiday gifts; he loves sweets, and he loves his culture and wants to share it with you, too. Planet Omar: Accidental Trouble Magnet is an upbeat, fun intermediate story that serves as a wonderful introduction to Muslim culture. It encourages empathy, compassion, and understanding. It promotes patience with others who make rash judgements, and encourages all of us to be the best versions of ourselves that we can be.

Have readers who love Saadia Faruqi’s Yasmin books and are ready to take on a longer chapter book? Introduce them to Omar! I’d love to see this on Summer Reading Lists this year, nudge nudge.

Accidental Trouble Magnet received the 2018 Little Rebels Award, was nominated for the 2019 Carnegie Medal, and longlisted for the 2019 UKLA Award. See more about the book on Muslim Children’s Books UK.

 

 

Posted in picture books

Freedom Soup celebrates an important New Year tradition

Freedom Soup, by Tami Charles/Illustrated by Jacqueline Alcántara, (Dec. 2019, Candlewick), $16.99, ISBN: 9780763689773

Ages 5-10

Belle and her grandmother, Ti Gran, are making soup – but it’s not just any old soup, it’s Freedom Soup. As the girl and her grandmother dance and cook, Ti Gran tells Belle the history behind the Haitian soup: it’s the history of Haiti, the history of revolution and freedom, and the history of family, as the recipe is passed from generation to generation. As the two create the recipe, readers are witness to a celebration, watching grandmother and granddaughter dance and cook, the girl learning from her grandmother about food, history, and life.

The very story in Freedom Soup teems with rhythm and movement. Belle and Ti Gran listen to Haitian music as they prepare the soup; the two dance as they cook, and the ingredients come alive with their own movement: garlicky herbs click clack as Belle mashes them; ribbons of steam dance; the soup’s delicious scent swirls around the kitchen, all coming together to set the stage for Ti Gran’s story about Haitian slaves making soup for their masters and finally, triumphantly, making soup for themselves to celebrate their independence. Belle and Ti Gran celebrate Haiti’s freedom, too, as does the rest of their family, who arrive to eat soup, dance, and celebrate. The story reads like a poem, inviting the reader in by tempting their senses with sights and smells. Jacqueline Alcántara’s mixed media illustration creates a warm, homey setting, with prominent yellows and browns, calming blues and childhood kitchen whites. There’s movement on each spread, making this a book you’ll want to move with as you read it (and you should!). Back matter includes a recipe for Freedom Soup, and a note from the author about her husband’s Ti own Gran, who inspired the book.

Put Freedom Soup on your shelves and add it to your New Year’s storytimes. With relatively little about the Haitian revolution available for children, particularly younger children, this is an excellent start – or addition – to collections.

Freedom Soup has starred reviews from Publishers Weekly, Kirkus, and Shelf Awareness.

 

Posted in Fiction, Graphic Novels, Middle Grade, Non-fiction, Teen, Tween Reads, Women's History

February graphic novels bring magical realism and STEM nonfiction

First Second is a graphic novel powerhouse. Every season, I know I’m going to see good stuff from the authors and illustrators that First Second publishes. Here are two we’ve got coming in February.

Snapdragon, by Kat Leyh, (Feb. 2020, First Second), $12.99, ISBN: 9781250171115

Ages 10+

Magical realism infuses this story about a girl who befriends the town witch. Snapdragon’s heard the rumors about the “roadkill witch”, but when Jacks – a loner constructs skeletons from roadkill to sell to veterinary schools – rescues Snap’s dog, she finds herself cultivating a friendship with the loner, who takes her on as an apprentice. But Jacks also has rituals she goes through, to put those roadkill spirits to rest, and Snap is pretty sure that Jacks has a little bit of witchcraft after all.

Snapdragon is a story with depth. Lumberjanes writer Kat Leyh creates a magical, yet real cast of characters: Snapdragon, the daughter of a single working mother, is bullied at school and by her mother’s cruel ex-boyfriend. Her friend, Louis, who prefers to go by Lulu and wear skirts and nail polish, is tormented by his brothers. The two bond over their mutual love of a a horror movie series and Lulu finds comfort and safety in Snapdragon’s home. Jacks and Snap discover a connection between them in a subplot with Snap’s grandmother.

Snapdragon has a starred review from Kirkus.

 

Astronauts: Women on the Final Frontier, by Jim Ottaviani & Maris Wicks, (Feb. 2020, First Second), $19.99, ISBN: 9781626728776

Ages 8-12

Meet the first women to travel into space in this nonfiction graphic novel that has big appeal for Science Comics fans. Astronaut Dr. Mary Cleave navigates readers through the history of women and space travel, starting with the Soviet space program that made Valentina Tereshkova the first woman in space, and illustrates the long road American women had to take to get Group 9, NASA’S first mixed-gender class, to the stars.

The most frustrating thing about Astronauts is reading how seemingly determined the U.S. government was to keep women out of space. The graphic novel tells multiple stories from different points of view; the Mercury 13 and Women in Space Program both ended up going nowhere, while the Soviet Union focused on sending just one woman – Tereshkova – into space. (And she didn’t even tell her mother before she went.) It’s disheartening to read that science journalists imagined conversations between women – female scientists – and Mission Control consisting of, “this little thingamabob has jiggled off the gizmo”. Even when NASA got it together and began recruiting women for the space program for real this time, their concerns about dress codes and complete ignorance of basic physiology left me frustrated and even more determined to get my STEM/STEAM programming firmly entrenched here at my library. The second half of the book, focusing more on Mary Cleave’s space shuttle missions and NASA training, are a welcome relief. There are some great and hilarious anecdotes throughout, and Mary Cleave’s love for space exploration and science comes through, making me hopeful that this book will inspire many, many kids. There are references, a bibliography, and working sketches.

Astronauts has starred reviews from Kirkus and Publisher’s Weekly.

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

DC Zoom is bringing it to young graphic novel readers!

I have been loving the two DC original graphic novel lines. DC Ink, for YA, has been one hit after the next with Mera, Harley Quinn, and Raven, for starters; DC Ink’s lineup so far – Superman of Smallville, Dear Justice League, and The Secret Spiral of Swamp Kid – have rivaled the until-now unchallenged Dog Man on his bookshelf. I received a handful of new and upcoming DC Ink titles recently, wrestled them back from my kid (he’s got them back now, it’s fine), and dove in.

Black Canary: Ignite, by Meg Cabot/Illustrated by Cara McGee, (Oct. 2019, DC Zoom), $9.99, ISBN: 978-1-4012-8620-0

Ages 8-12

In DC Comics, Black Canary is a formidable metahuman whose Canary Cry is a sonic screech that brings bad guys to her knees. She’s also a pretty awesome fighter, and a musician. In Ignite, she’s 13-year-old Dinah Lance, daughter of a detective with an interest in police work, and lead singer and guitarist in a band. All she wants to do is win the battle of the bands at school and get her dad’s permission to join the Gotham City Junior Police Academy, but a mysterious person shows up in her neighborhood and starts causing trouble for Dinah. Dinah’s voice is also getting in the way, causing havoc when she laughs, yells, or sings too loud, and it’s landing her in the principal’s office. A lot. When the mystery figure attacks her as she works in her mother’s florist store, yelling about a “Black Canary”, Dinah discovers there’s more to her – and her family – than meets the eye, and it’s time for her to take charge of her voice and channel her inner superhero.

One of the great things about the DC young readers and YA books is that they’re bringing on authors kids know, or I know and can talk up to my kids. The Princess Diaries is HUGE here, and her Notebooks of a Middle School Princess books make her a Very Big Deal in the kids’ room here at the library. Having her take on one of my favorite DC women was a treat.Meg Cabot gives Dinah a realistic teen voice, giving her real-world problems to balance out the fact that she’s a metahuman with power: she’s always in hot water with her principal; her dad wants to keep her safe and tries to squash her interest in police work; she has trouble with her friends; she wants to be a rock star! There’s a nice nod to the Black Canary legacy, and I love the illustrations: Cara McGee even manages to include the famous Black Canary fishnets, making them part of Dinah’s punk teen look. Together, Meg Cabot and Cara McGee capture the spirit of an enduring DC character and make her accessible to younger readers. (Now, go watch Arrow, kiddies!)

 

Diana, Princess of the Amazons, by Shannon & Dean Hale/Illustrated by Victoria Ying, (Jan. 2020, DC Zoom), $9.99, ISBN: 978-1401291112

Ages 8-12

Diana of Themyscira is growing up in an island paradise where she’s surrounded by loving “aunties” and her mother. But, at age 11, she’s also the only child on the island, and she’s lonely. She decides to take matters into her own hands and forms a child from clay – just like the story of Diana’s own birth – and prays that the gods will give her a friend. Imagine her surprise when she discovers that her wish has come true, and Mona, the friend she dreamed of, is in front of her and ready to take on the world! But Mona doesn’t have the same idea of fun that Diana does, and starts leading Diana toward more destructive, mean-spirited fun. Mona starts putting some ideas in Diana’s head that could have disastrous consequences for Themyscira – can she reign herself and Mona in before catastrophe?

Shannon Hale and Dean Hale are literary powerhouses. They’ve created graphic novels (Rapunzel’s Revenge and Calamity Jack; most recently, the Best Friends and Real Friends autobiographical graphic novels); they’ve had huge success with their Princess in Black series of intermediate books, and Shannon Hale is a Newbery Medalist for her 2006 book, Princess Academy. They’ve written books in the Ever After High and Marvel’s Squirrel Girl series; they’ve written picture books: in short, they are rock stars. Asking them to write a Wonder Woman story for kid, you know you’re going to get something good. They deliver. Diana, Princess of the Amazons isn’t about Wonder Woman; it’s about a lonely 11-year-old girl who is so excited to have a friend, that she’ll follow anything that friend says or does, even when it puts her at odds with her mother and the adults around her. She’s frustrated because she can’t get the adults to listen to her; she feels clumsy and like she can’t measure up; she’s a self-conscious young teen. It’s an entirely relatable story that kids will read, see themselves in, and read again. I loved this book, and I loved the cute little nods to Wonder Woman throughout, like her being concerned about the cheetah population (one of Wonder Woman’s main foes is Cheetah) and having familiar characters like Antiope appear. Victoria Ying’s illustration will instantly appeal to Raina Telgemeier, Victoria Jamieson, and Shannon and Dean Hale fans. It’s colorful, with beautiful landscapes and cartoony artwork. Add this one to your graphic novel stacks, without question. Introduce your realistic readers to Wonder Woman!

One last note: While this is – as most of the DC Zoom books are – suggested for readers ages 8-12, you can go a little lower on this one. My 7-year-old gobbled this one up quite happily.

Green Lantern: Legacy, by Minh Lê/Illustrated by Andie Tong, (Jan. 2010, DC Zoom), $9.99, 978-1-4012-8355-1

Ages 8-12

What a fantastic new Lantern story! Tai Pham is a 13-year-old child of Vietnamese immigrants, living in an apartment with his family, above his grandmother’s grocery store, The Jade Market. (Ahem.) The store is the target for vandals; the front plate window continues to be smashed as the neighborhood deteriorates, but his grandmother will not consider closing the store or selling, saying, “We will not let fear drive us from our home. Not again”. When Grandmother dies, Tai inherits her jade ring… and discovers that there was a lot more to her than she let on, when he learns about the power behind the ring, and meets John Stewart, from the Green Lantern Corps. As Tai tries to understand the weight his grandmother carried, keeping her neighborhood safe, and come to terms with his new status as a Green Lantern, he also discovers that there are those out there who would do him harm, and that not everyone who approaches him in the wake of his grandmother’s death is a friend.

This is a great new Green Lantern origin story, with a fantastic multicultural cast and mission. Author Minh Lê authored one of my favorite picture books from  last year, the award-winning Drawn Together; also a multi-generational tale of a grandparent and grandchild coming together through their different experiences of American and Vietnamese culture. He creates a solid, relatable story about growing up in an immigrant community under siege by crime and the threat of gentrification, and creates a superhero story where a hero, imbued with the power of the universe in his hand, makes the welfare of his cultural community a priority. Tying Tai Pham’s grandmother’s story as a Lantern into the family’s flight from Vietnam is incredible: Minh Lê’s story, powered by Andie Tong’s powerful images, are unforgettable. Even the Lantern costume both Tai and his grandmother wear are culturally influenced and I can’t wait to read more.

Zatanna and the House of Secrets: A Graphic Novel, by Matthew Cody/Illustrated by Yoshi Yoshitani, (Feb. 2020. DC Zoom), $9.99, ISBN: 978-1-4012-9070-2

Ages 8-12

I love that characters like Swamp Thing (well… Swamp Kid) and Zatanna are getting in front of younger audiences with DC Zoom. Zatanna and the House of Secrets is the origin story for Zatanna, a magician who can actually wield real magic. A young teen, she lives in a rambling house – “a certain house on a certain street that everyone talks about” – with her stage magician father and their rabbit, Pocus. Sick of the bullies at school, Zatanna – much like Black Canary in Ignite – loses her temper, with interesting consequences that change everything. When Zatanna comes home and finds her father mysteriously gone, she learns that her house is much, much more than a home, and she’s much, much more than a kid with a pet rabbit.

Matthew Cody can write superheroes; he’s written middle grade novels Powerless, Super, and Villainous, and he’s written graphic novels. He gives Zatanna so much more depth than “that magician chick who says things backwards”; something I’ve heard her referred to by people who don’t really know much about the character or the comic. As with the most successful superhero books, Matthew Cody makes Zatanna relatable: a kid who fends of bullies; who experiences upheaval with the Mean Girls over who to be seen with versus who’s social poison; a kid who’s grieving the loss of her mother and who loves her father, who’s doing the best he can. There’s an unlikely friendship that two characters have to learn to navigate, and a sidekick that kids will immediately love. Yoshi Yoshitani’s artwork is bold, cartoony fun. This one can skew a little younger than 8-12, too. Enjoy.