Posted in Graphic Novels, Middle School, Teen, Tween Reads

Music linking generations: Lucy in the Sky

Lucy in the Sky, by Kiara Brinkman and Sean Chiki, (July 2021, First Second), $14.99, ISBN: 9781626727205

Ages 10 to 14
A girl connects to her father through music and forms a band, inspired by The Beatles. Lucy is a seventh grader who’s having a rough time: she feels like her single dad isn’t enjoying his life enough; her globe-hopping photographer mom isn’t around, and her grandmother is undergoing chemotherapy. Things change when she discovers a box of her dad’s old albums, particularly his Beatles records. They open up a new world to her, a world she can escape to when the real world is too much. Inspired to create music, she and her friends form Strawberry Jam, but – just like The Beatles – the collaborations aren’t always smooth. Relationships are hard, as beautifully communicated here. Lucy is conflicted about her relationships with her friends, and her place within her friend group. She has mixed feelings about her mother, and her anger and grief over her grandmother’s battle with cancer informs most of the story. There’s music history, great character development, and a heroine you want to root for here, making this a great graphic novel to give to tweens and early teens, who will relate to the frustrating, sometimes frightening, changes that come with the territory.
Posted in Fiction, Fiction, Graphic Novels, Historical Fiction, Middle Grade, Realistic Fiction, Tween Reads

Graphic novels: real-life stories

More graphic novels to talk about, this time, real-life stories. Some are realistic fiction, some are inspired by moments in the author’s life. All are great reading!

My Own World, by Mike Holmes, (June 2021, First Second), $12.99, ISBN: 9781250208286
Ages 8-13
Inspired by events in his childhood, Wings of Fire and Secret Coders illustrator Mike Holmes delivers a graphic memoir with a splash of fantasy. Nathan is alone, but for his older brother, Ben. His other siblings and the neighborhood bullies torment him, but he always looks to Ben to spend time with; Ben is the one person who gets him. Unfortunately, there are things coming up that take Ben farther and farther away from Nathan, leaving him to create a fantasy world to escape to when the real world intrudes too much. A study in grief, loss, and healing, My Own World is a better reading choice for middle schoolers than younger readers; there’s trauma contained within these pages. It’s an excellent starting point for discussions on the lingering damage done by bullying, loneliness, and coping with loss. The real world is depicted in flat colors, but Nathan’s fantasy world is alive with color, vibrancy, and engaging characters that Nathan creates to spend time with.
My Own World has a starred review from Booklist.
Jukebox, by Nidhi Chanani, (June 2021, First Second), $14.99, ISBN: 9781250156372
Ages 10 to 14
Nidhi Chanani is amazing in her ability to create magical travels using everyday objects. She infused a shawl with the power to fantastical India in her 2017 award-winner, Pashmina; now, she weaves a story about a jukebox that can transport listeners to a moment in time, inspired by the albums they play, in Jukebox. Shaheen is a girl who feels like she and her mom come in second to her father’s love of – obsession with? – music, particularly with albums. He never seems to be present to hear her when she’s talking; he just wants to talk about the newest album he’s on the hunt for, and he spends hours searching record bins for new additions to his collection. When he doesn’t return home one night, Shaheen and her cousin, Tannaz, start a search, only to discover a glowing jukebox at the local record store where Dad spent so much of his time. A Bessie Smith record spins on the turntable, and the girls find themselves transported to Harlem’s Savoy Ballroom in 1929! The song ends, returning them to their present time and place, and the chase through musical history is on. The girls spin different records, visiting key moments in time. from political marches to landmark concerts, while searching for Shaheen’s father. Will they be able to find him before morning? Jukebox is an incredible journey through our history using music as the vehicle. Sections are organized by album cover, with Shaheen’s father’s notes on the albums and social climate, giving readers more context as they prepare to jump into a new decade: Bessie Smith’s section includes notes on the album’s 1929 release, the oncoming Depression, and a 1929 Oscar awards program; Nina Simone’s Black Gold includes a Golden State Comic Con program and a newspaper with an Earth Day headline, all of which happened in 1970. Notes from Shaheen’s father mention her career and marriage eroding in the 1960s, and the music industry’s punishment for her political music.
Brilliant storytelling and an essential look at the ties between music and social change. Visit Nidhi Chanani’s website for printables and more about her books, and get multiple copies of this book ready – your readers deserve them! If you’re doing a travel themed Summer Reading program this year, you couldn’t ask for a better concept: pick songs, get some facts, and create slideshows; invite readers to offer their own insight. What song was popular the year they graduated from kindergarten? What song makes them think of family? A favorite friend? Invite readers to talk about music from their culture that others may not know. There’s so much you can do here!
Turtle in Paradise, by Jennifer L. Holm/Illustrated by Savanna Ganucheau, (June 2021, Random House Graphic), $12.99, ISBN: 9780593126301
Ages 8-12
This graphic novel adaptation of Jennifer Holm’s 2010 Newbery Honor-winning novel is simply gorgeous. Set in 1935, eleven-year-old Turtle is a girl who’s had some tough times. She’s more level-headed than her mother, loves the movies, and really doesn’t like Shirley Temple. While figuring out where life will take her next, her mother sends Turtle to Key West, Florida, to live with her aunt when she takes a job housekeeping for a woman who doesn’t like children, and Turtle has never met her aunt or the many cousins she’s now living with. She starts getting into the swing of things, following the “Diaper Gang”: neighborhood boys with a babysitting club and a secret diaper rash formula that puts them in high demand. As she gets into a day-to-day groove, she learns some family secrets that leave her wanting more: more of her mother’s past, more of her family history, just… more. A family study, a piece of historical fiction that examines life in Depression-Era Florida, and a strong, smart female protagonist make this a great enough story, and then you Savanna Ganucheau’s artwork: filled with lush and humid outdoor spreads, we get a picture of 1930s life in Key West. Turtle’s cousins run barefoot through their day, while Turtle insists on her shoes. Babysitting moments are laugh-out loud funny, and Turtle interactions with a cantankerous senior citizen will make readers chuckle and admire the girl’s tenacity. Inspired by Jennifer Holm’s great-grandmother’s life in Key West, this is an adaptation that your readers will love and will absolutely gain the story some new fans.
Chunky, by Yehudi Mercado, (June 2021, Katherine Tegen Books), $12.99, ISBN: 9780062972781
Ages 8-12
A memoir of Yehudi Mercado’s Mexican-Jewish upbringing, Chunky is more incredible storytelling. Set in the 1980s, Hudi has one lung after a childhood battle with lung disease, he’s overweight, and he loves video games, science fiction and fantasy, and being the funny kid. His parents want him to lose weight and be healthier, and try to push him toward different sports to get him more active. Hudi, not particularly in love with the idea, goes along with his parents to make them happy, but creates an imaginary friend: a pink-furred   cheerleader/mascot called Chunky, to cheer him on as he tries – and flops – at baseball, swimming, and tennis. Chunky is there to tell Yehudi he’s better at comedy and drawing; he’s Hudi’s inner compass, telling him to stay true to himself. When Hudi’s father loses his job and has to move to another state to find work, he finds himself faced with a crossroads and joins the football team in a last bid to fit the image his parents want to have of him. Chunky is more than a memoir; it’s a story of trying to please others before yourself; it’s a story of using humor as deflection; it’s a story of listening to your true self. Hudi is funny – he can’t help but crack up people he comes into contact with, especially medical professionals – and he’s pretty game to try anything his parents want, even if his heart may not be 100% committed. He’s good-natured and kind, which makes his break with Chunky painful when he attempts one more sport to satisfy his parents. We want funny Hudi back! We want to go get ice cream with him and feel like everything will work out! The artwork is bright, colorful, upbeat, and loaded with great details, like Hudi’s t-shirts (console video games! Chewbacca!) and his room, which his father constantly redecorates to affirm his dedication to the latest sport Hudi’s involved with – and that Chunky and Hudi take great pleasure in defacing time and time again. I can gush about Chunky all day, so let me just say that this is another must-add to your shelves.
Learn more about Yehudi Mercado and get a look at Chunky at his website. Chunky has a starred review from School Library Journal.
Posted in Graphic Novels, Middle Grade, Non-fiction, Teen, Tween Reads, Young Adult/New Adult

Graphic Novels for Tweens and Teens

I’m back with more graphic novels! It’s an all-consuming joy of mine; I love them all. I’ve got some newer and up-and-coming books, and some backlist that shouldn’t be missed. I’ve got books for middle grade/middle school, and I’ve got teen/YA, so let’s see what’s good!

Sylvie, by Sylvie Kantorovitz, (Jan. 2021, Walker Books US), $24.99, ISBN: 9781536207620

Ages 9-13

An autobiographical graphic novel that really hits the sweet spot for middle schoolers but will also appeal to upper elementary and high schoolers, Sylvie is the story of the author and illustrator’s life, quirks and all. She grows up in a school where her father was principal. She loves art from an early age, but her mother is focused on her pursuing a career in math or science. The book follows her family as they add more children to the family and Sylvie’s mother doggedly pushes her academically. As she grows in confidence, and seeks her father’s council, Sylvie takes control of her own future. Artwork is cartoony and friendly, and easy-to-read, first-person narration makes Sylvie readers feel like they’re talking with a friend. Discussions about racism and anti-Semitism in ’60s and ’70s France sets the stage for discussion.

Candlewick/Walker Books US has a sample chapter available for a preview.

 

Tell No Tales: Pirates of the Southern Seas, by Sam Maggs/Illustrated by Kendra Wells, (Feb. 2021, Amulet), $21.99, ISBN: 9781419739668

Ages 10-14

Another middle school-geared book, Tell No Tales is a fictionalized account of pirate Anne Bonny, pirate Mary Read, and their female and non-binary pirate crew. They have a growing reputation, but a privateer is on their heels: Woodes Rogers, a failed pirate turned pirate hunter for the Crown, has sworn to wipe the stain of piracy from the seas. There are strong positive female and non-binary characters, based on characters from history, but the overall story falters, leaving readers to look for the thread in between the individual stories of Bonny’s crew, all of which are fascinating. The artwork is colorful, manga-inspired, and will grab viewers. Back matter includes a word on the real-life exploits of Anne Bonny and Mary Read, notes, and a bibliography.

Publishers Weekly has an interview with Sam Magga and Kendra Wells. 

Fantastic Tales of Nothing, by Alejandra Green & Fanny Rodriguez, (Nov. 2020, Katherine Tegen Books), $12.99, ISBN: 9780062839473

Ages 8-13

One of the most beautifully illustrated graphic novels I’ve ever seen, Fantastic Tales of Nothing is one of heck an epic fantasy for middle graders and tweens, and early teens. Nathan is a human living what he considers a pretty ordinary life until that fateful day when he wakes up in the middle of nowhere and meets a being named Haven and a race of shape shifters called the Volken. As the unlikely group find themselves on a quest, Nathan also learns that he isn’t that ordinary – he has mysterious power in side of him, and the fate of Nothing lies in his hands. Vivid color, breathtaking fantasy spreads, and solidly constructed worldbuilding lays the foundation for what could be a groundbreaking new fantasy series for middle graders, with nonbinary and Latinx representation to boot. Where are the starred reviews for this book?

Tales of Nothing received IndieNext Honors. The website has more information about the characters, authors, and upcoming projects.

 

Poems to See By: A Comic Artist Interprets Great Poetry, by Julian Peters, (March 2020, Plough Publishing House), $24, ISBN: 9780874863185

Ages 12+

Illustrator Julian Peters has taken 24 poems by some of the most recognizable names in the art form, and brought them to life using different art forms, from manga to watercolor to stark expressionist black and white.  Organized into six areas of introspection: Seeing Yourself; Seeing Others; Seeing Art; Seeing Nature; Seeing Time, and Seeing Death, Peters illustrates such master works as “Caged Bird” by Maya Angelou, “Annabel Lee”, by Edgar Allan Poe, and “Juke Box Love Song” by Langston Hughes. It’s a great way to invite middle school, high school, and college students to deep dive into some of the greatest works of poetry.

Marvin: Based on The Way I Was, by Marvin Hamlisch with Gerald Gardner/Adapted and Illustrated by Ian David Marsden, (Feb. 2020, Schiffer Kids), $12.99, ISBN: 9780764359040

Ages 9-13

This graphic adaptation of PEGOT (Pulitzer, Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, Tony) winner Marvin Hamlisch’s biography is one I did not see coming! The legendary musician, composer, and conductor discusses his family’s flight from Hitler’s Austria and settling in America, Hamlisch’s admittance to Julliard at the age of 6, and the intense anxiety that plagued him before every performance. He tells readers about attending high school with Christopher Walken and Liza Minelli, and playing the piano for Judy Garland as a teen; about composing pop radio hits and learning to compose music for a motion picture as he went along. By the time he was 30, he’d won his first major award. Hamlisch’s voice is funny, warm, and conversational throughot, and Marsden’s realistic art has touching moments, particularly between Hamlisch and his father. A great read for theatre and music fans – this one is going to be my not-so-secret weapon.

Posted in Intermediate, Non-Fiction, picture books

Black Lives, Black History

The Big Day, by Terry Lee Caruthers/Illustrated by Robert Casilla, (Oct. 2020, Star Bright Books), $16.99, ISBN: 978-1-59572-913-2

Ages 5-8

This celebration of suffrage and Black women voters is a fictionalized story of Agnes Sadler, the first Black woman to legally vote in Knoxville, Tennessee, in 1919. Agnes, called Big Mama here, wakes her daughter Tansy up and urges her to get moving; today is a “big day”, after all. Tansy and Big Mama dress in their finest, get on the bus, and head to the polls; it’s voting day and women have the vote! A lovely tribute to Black women’s suffrage, Agnes and the other women voters proudly wear sashes; the Black women belong to the “Colored Women’s Political League”, and the white women wear “Votes for Women” sashes. The artwork is colorful, soft, and carries a beautiful, historic feel to it. Endpapers are made up of newspaper articles about women’s suffrage, and back matter provides more information about Agnes Sadler, women’s suffrage and Black women’s role in suffrage, and sources for further reading. A great introduction to Black women’s history, and a good picture book biography on a little-known figure in Black suffrage.

For more information about African American Women and the suffrage movement, visit the Suffragist Memorial, the Black Women’s Suffrage Digital Collection, and National Geographic.

A Voice Named Aretha, by Katheryn Russell-Brown/Illustrated by Laura Freeman, (Jan. 2020, Bloomsbury Kids USA), $17.99, ISBN: 9781681198507

Ages 5-8

All hail the Queen of Soul! This picture book biography on Aretha Franklin starts from her beginnings, singing in her father’s church choir through her singing for President Barack Obama (and bringing him to tears). Covering Aretha’s social justice work, Katheryn Russell-Brown notes that Aretha refused to perform for “whites only” audiences and her work with civil rights groups and philanthropy. Laura Freeman’s artwork brings Aretha Franklin to life with rich colors and passionate renderings; Aretha’s head thrown back as she sings and plays the piano at 12; clasping her hands to her chest as she belts out a song in the choir, and Barack Obama wiping a tear away as he listens to a lushly garbed Franklin sing onstage. Endpapers are a feast of vinyl and gold records on a deep purple background. Back matter provides more information about Aretha Franklin’s life and music and some of her hit songs. A must-have in your picture book biography section, this is an excellent introduction to a music and civil rights icon.

A Voice Named Aretha has starred reviews from Kirkus and School Library Journal.

 

William Still and His Freedom Stories: The Father of the Underground Railroad, by Don Tate, $18.99, ISBN: 978-1-56145-935-3

Ages 5-8

Written in free verse, Don Tate’s biography of William Still, abolitionist, member of the Underground Railroad, and archivist of stories that reunited families, is simply incredible. Born to former slaves living in New Jersey, William Still grew up with a desire to learn and a desire for justice. He moved to Philadelphia and worked with the Anti-Slavery Society, where he took on greater roles, ultimately becoming part of the Underground Railroad. When he reunited his long-lost brother with his family, Still began keeping extensive notes on the people he spoke with, leading to more reunions. The verse is concise but packs emotional punches, like this moment where he meets his brother, Peter: “The man was middle-aged. / Stooped back. Furrowed brow. / Threadbare clothes. / His name was Peter. / He was looking for his mother, his family.” Endpapers include excerpts from Still’s observations. Digital illustrations are emotional and expressive. Another must-have picture book biography. Publisher Peachtree has an excerpt, teacher’s guide, and poster on their website.

William Still and His Freedom Stories: The Father of the Underground Railroad has starred reviews from School Library Journal, Booklist, and Publisher’s Weekly.

 

 

Mary Seacole: Bound for the Battlefield, by Susan Goldman Rubin/Illustrated by Richie Pope, (Oct. 2020, Candlewick Press), $17.99, ISBN: 9780763679941

Ages 8-11

This intermediate picture book biography on Crimean War figure Mary Seacole, born in Kingston, Jamaica, begins with her childhood in Kingston, watching her healer mother care for soldiers with herbal remedies and hoping to be like her one day, through her own healing work with soldiers during the Crimean War and cholera patients in Panama. The book deep dives into the racism she encountered as a biracial woman, including a run-in with Florence Nightingale, who scoffed at her remedies and cures and refused her services. Drawn from Mary Seacole’s own writing, this biography is comprehensive for younger readers, with richly colorful and evocative illustrations. Back matter includes sources notes and a bibliography. An important biography for younger readers.

 

Northbound: A Train Ride Out of Segregation, by Michael S. Bandy & Eric Stein/Illustrated by James E. Ransome, (Oct. 2020, Candlewick Press), $17.99, ISBN: 9780763696504

Ages 6-8

Inspired by author Michael S. Bandy’s memories of taking the train as a child of color during segregation, Northbound tells the story of a boy of color and a white boy becoming friends on a train ride from Alabama to Cincinnati, amid the shifting segregation seating on the train. Young Michael boards the train and goes to the “colored only” section, but when the train leaves Atlanta, the signs come down and he’s free to roam the train. He meets Bobby Ray, a boy his own age and from his own town, and the two become instant friends. Once the train approaches Chattanooga, though, the signs go back up and the new friends are separated. A heart-rending story of separation and segregation, Northbound ends with a spark of hope. The story explains segregation in its most basic terms to children, and encourages discussion about how the story – and our past – parallels with our present. James A. Ransome’s watercolor and collage artwork creates splendid scenery as the train speeds along and the two boys become friends over the course of a train ride; moments of racism, as when the conductor leads Michael out of the “whites only” car when the train approaches Chattanooga, are emotional; the “whites only” harsh white sign stands out like an ugly scar across a lovely painting. An author’s note explains the Interstate Commerce Act and how segregation played into it.

Northbound: A Train Ride Out of Segregation has starred reviews from Kirkus and Publishers Weekly.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Yum! Books about Food

It’s getting near to Thanksgiving here in the States, but that’s another post. Here, it’s late afternoon, so I’ve got the snacky urge – you know, that urge that hits after lunch, but while dinner is still too long away to wait? Let’s talk about food books and see if that takes the edge off (or I’ll just brew a cup of coffee, while I’m at it).

Little Green Donkey, by Anuska Allepuz, (July 2020, Candlewick Press), $16.99, ISBN: 9781536209372

Ages 3-6

In this relatable story that will give preschoolers and grownups a giggle, Little Donkey LOVES to eat grass, even when his mom pleads for him to try something different. Little Donkey just responds, “No thanks!” and keeps munching on leafy, chewy grass until waking up one morning and discovering, upon seeing his reflection, that – AHHH! – he’s turned GREEN! After unsuccessfully trying to disguise the new color, Little Donkey has to try new foods: Blech! Pew! Pew! Yuck! But hey… carrots are pretty good… watch out, Little Donkey! What color will you turn next? Mixed media illustrations bring this hilarious story to life, and kids and parents alike will recognize the picky eater in all of us (I’ve got a chicken nugget Kiddo here, myself). Pair this with Greg Pizzoli’s The Watermelon Seed for extra laughs and dramatic reading.

 

Every Night is Pizza Night, by J. Kenji López-Alt/Illustrated by Gianna Ruggiero, (Sept. 2020, Norton Young Readers), $17.95, ISBN: 978-1-324-00525-4

Ages 4-7

Pipo is a little girl who loves pizza. Pizza is the best, and she wants it every night, no matter what her family says: after all, she says it’s a scientific fact; she’s done the research. But maybe…. just maybe she needs to collect more data, so off she goes to visit friends around the neighborhood and try their foods. For data collection, clearly. As she tries different foods like bibimbap, tagine, red beans and rice, and more, she discovers that other foods are really good, too! Pipo learns that pizza can be the best, along with other foods, too: it just depends on what you need at that moment. Beautifully written with humor and sensitivity, Every Night is Pizza Night looks at the connection we have to food within our cultures and our homes and hearts: Pipo learns that food can be “something that reminds you of home”; “the kind that says ‘I love you’ without making a sound’, or something to share”. Food brings us together. Front endpapers feature all the pizza makings splashed colorfully across the spread, and back endpapers incorporate other ingredients for the foods Pipo discovers in the story. The artwork is colorful, bright, a touch frenetic when Pipo declares her love for pizza, and adorably delivers the story’s message. A pizza recipe at the end of the book invites readers to cook with their families. Pair with William Stieg’s Pete’s a Pizza for a tasty, ticklish pizza storytime.

 

Hot Pot Night!, by Vincent Chen, (Sept. 2020, Charlesbridge), $16.99, ISBN: 978-1-62354-120-0

Ages 4-7

This modern take on Stone Soup is diverse and adorable. It’s evening in a building, and everyone asks the eternal question: What’s for dinner? A young boy proposes hot pot, a traditional dish in Asian countries, and the whole building is in! Neighbors arrive with a hot pot and ingredients to share: one neighbor brings the broth; another, the meat; one grew the vegetables to add to the pot, and others help out by prepping the food. Once it’s ready, everyone partakes until the last scrap is gone… until next time! A story of coming together and sharing food, culture, and company, Hot Pot Night is perfect for storytime reading and would be great with flannel board figures you can easily make. Digital illustrations are colorful, bright, and fun. A hot pot recipe at the end encourages readers to start their own hot pot nights. Endpapers feature colorful hot pot ingredients.

While we can’t eat together as often as we’d like these days, there’s always Zoom and Google Meets. Try a virtual storytime and dinner one night! Publisher Charlesbridge has loads of free downloadables for a Hot Pot party!

 

Veg Patch Party, by Clare Foges/Illustrated by Al Murphy, (Oct. 2020, Faber & Faber), $15.95, ISBN: 978-0571352852

Ages 3-7

From the team that brought you Kitchen Disco and Bathroom Boogie, we get a Veggie Patch-a-Palooza as the farm beds down for the night and the vegetables take the stage to dance and sing in the mud for a Veg Patch Party! Kids will love seeing cartoon pumpkins put on disco boots, carrots forming a conga line, and red hot chillis rock out on stage. The rhyming story has great repetition with its call to action: “So conga like a carrot, / Party like a pea, / Rock out like a radish, / YEAH! / And boogie like a bean!” Bathroom Boogie went over huge for me at storytime, so I’ll be enjoying Veg Patch Party with my littles next. Perfect for flannel storytimes, and there are lots of cute vegetable coloring pages to have handy. I like doing a “cute vegetable coloring pages” search so you get animated, kid-friendly faces, like this selection. Endpapers have veggie sketches with smiling vegetables to greet readers. Pair with one of my oldies but goodies, Food Fight, for a storytime about feisty food.

 

Posted in Realistic Fiction, Teen, Young Adult/New Adult

Sing Like No One’s Listening brings the healing

Sing Like No One’s Listening, by Vanessa Jones, (Sept. 2020, Peachtree Publishing), $17.99, ISBN: 978-1-68263-194-2

Ages 12-18

Nettie Delaney is grieving the loss of her mother, a superstar in the performing arts world, when she’s accepted to Duke’s , the prestigious London performing arts school that her mother also attended. The problem? Nettie can’t get in touch with her voice since her mother’s death; she hasn’t been able to sing at all since her mother died. She makes it into the school, but the looming figure of director Miss Duke makes things more stressful. Add to that the fact that a ballet teacher has it in for her, and she’s the target of two mean girls who want to sabotage her at every turn, and Nettie seems to have the odds stacked against her. She’ll need her new friends to lean on as she works to discover her voice and get through her first year at Duke’s.

A story of loss and renewal, Sing Like No One’s Listening is also a romance. Nettie and second year student, Fletch, have a chemistry neither can deny, but it’s a slow burn all the way through the book as the two deal with miscommunication and outside interference. There’s a little mystery in here, too, as Nettie rediscovers her voice only when she’s alone, and a mysterious piano player in the next room provides a low-stress outlet for her voice.

Sing Like No One’s Listening, originally published in the UK, is perfect for fans of the performing arts and musical theater. Readers will feel like they’ve got a chance to peek in on a group of talented college students as they dance, shmooze, and romance their way through a year at school. Give this to your romance readers, and consider some of these titles, courtesy of Simon Teen, that are perfect for music lovers, too.

Find an excerpt, author Q&A, and discussion guide at Peachtree Publisher’s website.

Posted in Fiction, Intermediate, Middle Grade, Non-Fiction, Non-fiction, Tween Reads

#SummersCool: Art and Architecture, Music, and Science

The latest edition of #SummersCool is here! Get ready for a full day of fun!

 

Build a Castle, by Paul Farrell, (April 2020, Pavilion Children’s Books), $19.99, IBN: 9781843654469

Ages 7+

Way too much fun, this box of 64 slotted cards let kids build castles with all the details: heraldry, arches, arrow-slit windows, flags, and more. Brightly colored in reds, blues, and yellows, with bold black outlines, kids can read up on different architectural features and get an idea of the basics from the included foldout sheet, and let their creative energy take them wherever they want to go. I worked on these with the Kiddo, and he ended up incorporating his Lego bricks and minifigs to come up with a fantastic spread that covered our dining room table. The box is just the beginning – print out some paper knights, draw some dragons, and have a great time!

Turn it Up! A Pitch-Perfect History of Music That Rocked the World, by Joel Levy, (Dec. 2019, National Geographic Kids), $19.99, ISBN: 978-1426335419

Ages 8-12

From the earliest music to K-Pop, Turn It Up! is a comprehensive guide to the history of music and its influence on the world. Six sections organize music into time periods, beginning with the earliest instruments, including wind instruments played on crops, and string instruments handed down from the gods. Isn’t It Romantic? introduces readers to orchestras, operas, and Classical and Romantic music’s origins in the 18th ad 19th centuries. Thoroughly Modern Music explores the 20th century, and the changes to music brought by the emerging film and radio industries; All-American Sound is all about the American sound of Jazz and Blues, influenced by African culture. Play it Loud covers protest music, the British invasion that brought the Beatles to American shores, and the distinctive style of 1970s rock. Pop Goes the Music is about pop, punk, rap, and hip-hop. Spotlights on instruments, musical terms, superstars of the music world, and notes about essential pieces of music give readers a well-rounded backgrounder in music history. There’s a timeline, glossary, further resources list, and index to complete this volume. Let your kids create a Spotify playlist with music they like; create one for them.

 

Extreme Ocean: Amazing Animals, High-Tech Gear, Record-Breaking Depths, and Much More!, by Sylvia A. Earle and Glen Phelan, (March 2020, National Geographic Kids), $12.99, ISBN: 9781426336850

Ages 8-12

I love NatGeo’s animal compendiums, and Kiddo does too – he usually runs off with mine as soon as they arrive! After retrieving Extreme Ocean from his bookcase, I was able to sit down and see what deep sea explorer Sylvia A. Earle had to say about some of her ocean explorations. Filled with colorful, vibrant photos, Extreme Ocean is all about the oceans that cover over 71% of our world: and the dangers they face. The information is organized into five chapters: Blue Heart of the Planet is about the ocean itself; Life Beneath the Waves is about ocean life; Going Deeper, Staying Longer covers exploration, and An Ocean in Trouble and How to Save an Ocean is a call to action for readers to educate themselves about dangers like pollution and overfishing, and what scientists and conservationists are doing – and what readers can do – to turn the tide in our favor. Extreme sections in each section look at major happenings, from tsunamis to the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, a polluted area of the Pacific Ocean that may measure as large as the state of Alaska. There are experiments for kids to try at home, and Who’s Who callout boxes bring readers’ attention to different ocean dwellers to discover. There’s a glossary, list of resources, and an index. A great companion to NatGeo’s Ultimate Oceanpedia and Captain Aquatica’s Awesome Ocean, and a book kids will love.

 

Acadia Files: Book Four, Spring Science, by Katie Coppens/Illustrated by Holly Hatam, (March 2020, Tilbury House Publishers), $13.95, ISBN: 978-0-88448-604-6

Ages 7-11

The fourth book in Acadia’s Science Notebook series is all about Spring! This season, Acadia investigates dinosaurs, meteors, and mass extinctions. She also looks at parasites, ticks, and the diseases they can spread, including Lyme disease and malaria. She also looks through her previous seasons’ notebooks and puts together her inquiries from all four of them, to give herself – and readers – a rounded, holistic understanding of the natural world. This is such a great intermediate STEM/STEAM series for kids; it’s part science, part chapter book, with a handwritten, journal feel throughout that should inspire some of your kiddos to start their own journaling. I fall back on this one quite often because it’s so easy. Kiddo and I used this as a guideline to make our own journal and had a great time wandering our neighborhood to fill it up. Enjoy a chapter read and activity in the video below.

Posted in Non-Fiction, Teen, Young Adult/New Adult

Playlist: The Rebels and Revolutionaries of Sound gives classical musicians rock star status

Playlist: The Rebels and Revolutionaries of Sound, by James Rhodes/Illustrated by Martin O’Neill, (Oct. 2019, Candlewick), $29.99, ISBN: 9781536212143

Ages 12+

Concert pianist James Rhodes gives an introduction to the original rock stars: Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Chopin, Schubert, Rachmaninoff, and Ravel. These forefathers of classical music are anything but fusty and boring. As Rhodes writes in his introduction, “…they were the original rock stars. They changed history, inspired millions, and are still listened to and worshipped all around the world today”. Rhodes starts off by providing his own Spotify playlist for readers to start exploring classical music, and creates profiles on each composer. The profiles are easily readable, laid out in magazine-type layout, and includes pop culture references to each composer’s music: Bach, for instance, has been referenced by or sampled in music by The Beatles, Zayn Malik, and Led Zeppelin, and used in The LEGO Batman Movie and Stranger Things. Each composer’s profile includes a profile on a word from the Spotify playlist, to give readers further context and understanding.

This crash course in Music Foundations is illustrated by artist Martin O’Neill, who creates vibrant collages using photos and mixed media, presenting a mind-blowing art installation to accompany Rhodes’ writing. Rhodes includes musical terminology in his “The Language of Music” section at the end, and there is an index.

This is a gorgeous coffee table book with a mission. It’s music history, and world history; it’s art history and a treatise on the evolution of pop culture. Don’t miss this one.

Playlist: The Rebels and Revolutionaries of Sound has starred reviews from Kirkus and Booklist.
Posted in Uncategorized

Board Books, Board Books, Board Books!

There’s a whole bunch of great board books out, and I love it!

Cat & Mouse, by Britta Teckentrup, (March 2019, Prestel Publishing), $14.95, ISBN: 978-3-7913-7374-4

Ages 0-4

This die-cut, rhyming book is adorable! A cat and mouse play a game of hide and seek, with die-cut squares on each page letting little ones find the mouse, and explore with their fingers as well as their eyes and ears, as they go along. Cat and mouse wreak havoc across each spread, upending furniture and running up and down stairs: will the cat catch the mouse? I read this to my storytime group and wiggled fingers through the squares, let the little ones peek through the holes, and stuck my nose through one or two to mimic a cat sniffing for a mouse, all to tremendous giggles. This is an adorable storytime read, and a great pick for sensory and explorative reading. The artwork is loaded with shapes and colors to identify, making this a book you can really engage your little ones with.

 

Who is Afraid of Little Wolf?, by Yayo Kawamura, (Apr. 2019, Prestel Publishing), $12.95, ISBN: 978-3-7913-7381-2

Ages 0-3

Little Wolf is bored and wants to play, but it seems like no one wants to play with him: the squirrel, rabbit, and fox all tell him their moms won’t let them play with wolves! Just when Little Wolf starts to cry, a little bee invites him to play. Seeing Wolf and Bee play together, the other animals realize that there’s nothing to be afraid of, and join the game. At sunset, Little Wolf and his new group of friends sit in a cuddled group, enjoying one another’s company after a big day of playing hide and seek. A sweet, simple story about overcoming prejudice, Who is Afraid of Little Wolf is a story that has a big message for little eyes and ears. Bold, colorful artwork and friendly animal faces make this instantly appealing to young readers and listeners, and gives a face to the fallout of predetermined ideas.

 

I Want My Hat Back, by Jon Klassen, (March 2019, Candlewick Press), $8.99, ISBN: 978-1-5362-0757-6

Ages 2-5

This is one of my favorite picture books of ALL TIME, and now it’s available in board book form! The darkly hysterical tale of a bear, a hare, and a hat is complete here; just in smaller format for littler fingers. The illustrations are beautifully, perfectly recreated here. My 6-year-old asked me if this was a “backpack copy” for him to bring to school, and darned if I didn’t say, “Wow… you may be onto something here”. Start your younger readers off right: give them Jon Klassen board books! (PLEASE say we’ll be getting Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen’s Triangle, Square, and Circle trilogy in board book at some point!)

Do you have crafts after storytime? Use this free, downloadable activity kit to let the kids make their own red hat, recreate their own forest story scene, and more.

 

Wild Bios: Frida Catlo, by Courtney Acampora & Maggie Fischer/Illustrated by Lindsay Dale-Scott, (Jan. 2019, Silver Dolphin Books), $7.99, ISBN: 978-1-68412-558-6

Ages 2-5

This is the cutest new board book series! Wild Bios puts an “animalistic twist” onto famous figure biographies by adding cute animals and wink, nudge puns to the biographical text. Here, we’ve got artist Frida Kahlo’s life with a feline spin: Frida Catlo was born in Meowixco City, painted self-pawtraits, and married fellow artist Doggo Rivera. A sweet way to introduce art to your little ones (I think it’s time for me to revisit my Art Storytime) and the puns will keep older siblings and adult caregivers chuckling at storytime. The bright, festive artwork is fun to look at, and Frida’s even got a little unibrow. Make sure to mention that Friday Kahlo loved animals – display and booktalk Monica Brown’s Friday Kahlo and Her Animalitos handy. Let the little ones draw afterward!

 

The Story of Rock, by the Editors of Caterpillar Books/Illustrated by Lindsey Sagar, (May 2019, Silver Dolphin Books), $8.99, ISBN: 978-1-68412-509-8

Ages 0-5

Perfect for music storytime, this rhyming look at the history of rock music starts – as it should! – with rock’s roots in blues and features some of the most iconic names in rock history, including Chuck Berry, Elvis, Jimi Hendrix, Queen, the Ramones, and more. The blues, through the rockabilly ’50s, the psychadelic ’60s, punk, hair metal, grunge, and ska are all here, with sweetly illustrated, friendly faces and instruments. Add this to your music shelf with board books like What is Punk?, Brandon Stousy’s What is Music? and We Are Music, Amazing Me! Music, by Carol Thompson, and Baby Loves to Rock! by Wednesday Kirwan.

 

The Story of Rap, by the Editors of Caterpillar Books/Illustrated by Lindsey Sagar, (May 2019, Silver Dolphin Books), $8.99, ISBN: 978-1-68412-508-1

Ages 0-5

A companion to The Story of Rock, The Story of Rap starts off with rap’s beginning at a New York house party in 1973 and explains the genre’s sound: big bass, spoken word rhyme. Learn about rap icons, from Grandmaster Flash, Run DMC, and NWA; the protests, the East vs. West battle, and modern figures, including Jay-Z, and Kendrick Lamar. The emphasis on soul and social justice is here, and like the books says: “Rap is for the people, just like from the start, it’s more than music: it’s a work of heart”. The artwork is identical to The Story of Rock, with soft, cute, friendly faces and urban street wear; there’s some breakdancing, mixing and scratching at the turntables, and female representation (Lauryn Hill and Missy Elliott are here, but where’s Queen Latifah?). Add this to your music board books, and keep up your readers’ music education.

 

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

A boy learns to live between Here and There

Here and There, by Tamara Ellis Smith/Illustrated by Evelyn Daviddi, (March 2019, Barefoot Books), $16.99, ISBN: 9781782857419

Ages 4-8

Ivan is a biracial child who splits his time between his two homes: Here, where he lives with his mother, and There; his father’s new home. Here, Ivan is comfortable; he sits in a tree and chatters with the birds. There, he curls into a chair, pulled into himself, ignoring his father’s attempts to engage him. Dad knows how to reach his son, though: he starts playing a song on his guitar, and Ivan can’t stop the good feelings from flowing through him. As Ivan negotiates living Here and There,  he knows there is music, there are birds, and there are people who love him at each place.

Here and There is a touching story about living as a child in a divorced family. Being taken out of his comfort zone; his home, makes Ivan feel off-balance. He isn’t Here, with the familiar; he’s There. He may even feel different around his father, bein gin this different place, with his father not where he’s supposed to be. But music builds a bridge between father and son: Ivan has an affinity for music, as we s

ee early on, when he chatters with the birds in his mother’s home. Once his father’s guitar music opens the door to conversation, Ivan reaches a new comfort zone, and finds himself discovering new birds in his father’s neighborhood, too. He’s building a new life for himself, understanding and working through feeling guilty for being happier in one place or another.

Here and There will speak to many kids who split their time between two households. The text uses the concepts of “Here” and “There” to explain Ivan’s familiarity and initial discomfort  as he learns to navigate between his mother’s and father’s home.  The pencil, acrylic paint, and collage artwork presents multiracial characters with soft, gentle facial features. Back matter includes 12 different birdcalls, with phonetic pronunciation, for kids to try out. Display and booktalk with The Mirror in Mommy’s House/The Mirror in Daddy’s House by Luis Amavisca, which uses a mirror to connect a child with two households.