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

Sea Change: Memories of Summers Past

SEACHANGESea Change, by Frank Viva (May 2016, TOON Books), $18.95, ISBN: 9781935179924

Recommended for ages 10+

Twelve year-old Eliot is dreading summer vacation this year: his parents are shipping him off to his great-uncle’s fishing village in Point Aconi, in a remote area of Nova Scotia. Summer starts off pretty rough: his uncle is cranky, Eliot has to crew his fishing boat, which means he’s up before the sun is, and he’s not the most able-bodied crew member. Plus, there are bullies who can’t wait to get him alone and beat him up, just for being from somewhere different. This is a summer vacation? Slowly but surely, though, Eliot starts seeing Point Aconi through different eyes; he starts to see the place that his mother claims changed her life. Is he going to run back to his home in Lakefield when summer’s over, or will Point Aconi leave a little piece of itself in him?

Sea Change is a gorgeous coming-of-age story. It’s a graphic novel, but in a completely different sense from what pops into most people’s heads when they hear the words “graphic novel”: written in prose with quirky, evocative drawings in shades of blue, black, cream, and hot pink, the words themselves become part of the graphics: a curve, coming out of Eliot’s mouth as he describes being sick; following the trajectory of his uncle’s beard; morphing into a fishing line, where a day’s catch is hanging out to dry. The words and illustrations gel beautifully together to create an entire reading experience that will draw you in and leave you thinking of your own summer vacations. It’s all here: going fishing, swimming at the local swimming hole, a group of kids running barefoot and having fun, and the first blush of a summer romance. Skillfully woven into the story are some more serious topics about families in crisis.

This would make a great first book to introduce at the beginning of the next school year – don’t come at me with torches, I know we’re barely into summer vacation! – when the dreaded “what I did on my summer vacation” essays are assigned, maybe ask your readers to create art with their words and pictures. A picnic blanket, with the meal itself marching around the blanket, describing the treats laid out; words wandering up the edge of a beach umbrella or tossed on the sea, describing a day at the beach.

If you’re a kid, you’ll enjoy reading about another kid’s adventures over a summer break. If you’re an adult, read this book and just bask in the nostalgia of summers gone by. Then go create some new ones with the people in your life.

Frank Viva’s illustrations have appeared in the New York Times and The New Yorker. He’s also authored the TOON Book, A Trip to the Bottom of the World. Sea Change has received starred reviews from Publishers Weekly and Shelf Awareness, and Publishers Weekly has also designated it one of the Best Books for Summer 2016. TOON offers a free, downloadable discussion guide for parents and educators.






Posted in Fiction

Rebuilding Childhood Libraries: My Quest

As I mourn the Library of Alexandria, so too, I lament the passing of my own childhood library. I’m not talking about Narnia, Middle Earth, Whoville, or The Monster at the End of the Book; no: those books are still very much in print and enjoyed the world over, and they should be. They’re wonderful, and they’re classics for good reason. I still have my childhood copies. No, I’m talking about some of those books that strike you, often out of nowhere, when you say, “What happened to that book? Can I get another copy of that one? I want to read it RIGHT NOW.”

I loved Pyewacket, by Rosemary Weir, when I was a kid. LOVED this book. Slept with it, read it until the binding fell off. I don’t know when my copy of Pyewacket and I parted ways, but about two years ago, I wanted it. Thanks to Amazon, I was able to secure myself a former library copy at 2 in the morning, when the need was too great to withstand (hey, The Strand has to close sometime). Pyewacket and I have been reunited, and it feels so good. And that got me thinking about other books from my childhood library that I want back; join me, as I begin my quest to rebuild my own personal Alexandria.


Pyewacket, by Rosemary Weir, 1967, Abelard-Schuman


The cats of Pig Lane are sick of their humans. They want to be free, to form their own cat community, so they make a deal with the local rats and mice to drive the humans out, leaving the neighborhood to them. Pyewacket, the old alley cat, is the leader of the group. He’s a big old tomcat with a torn ear, and a rockstar to the other cats. I love this book.


The Lively Adventures of a Burly Woodcutter, a Pint-Sized Inventory, Two Pretty Pastry Cooks, and a Gang of Desperate Criminals,
by Hilde Janzarik, 1966, Harper & Row

lively adventures

This one is another fave, and when I was talking about it with one of my BFFs, she flipped out: she loves this book, too, and hadn’t thought about it in years, until I mentioned it. This is next on my “must acquire” list. The title here pretty much tells you everything you need to know. I remember reading this large hardcover, laughing out loud at the sheer craziness of the story, and loving every minute of it. I can’t wait to get a copy of it again, and introduce it to my 4 year-old. If you love Monty Python, it’s that level of surreal, but for kids.

What’s New, Lincoln?, by Dale Fife, Coward-McCann, 1970


This one was my challenge. I remembered it was about a kid from the projects, whose dad is a merchant marine, and he created a neighborhood newspaper that got his neighbors mad at him. I couldn’t remember the title, I vaguely thought the main character’s name was Lincoln, and that’s about it. Lots and lots of keyword searches and Google Book obsessing finally led me to this title – and I discovered that there were FOUR Lincoln books in total! My friend – the one who also loved The Lively Adventures – squealed along with me, because this was one of her faves, too! Who else loved this book? You’ve got to be out there! Did anyone else start their own newspaper because of Lincoln? I wrote one up talking all about my toys’ adventures like they were my neighbors.

The Saturdays, by Elizabeth Enright (The Melendy Quartet), 1941, Farrar & Rinehart


Yes! A book from 1941! It’s still sold in paperback, I think, but this is the cover I remember having and loving (those Dell Yearling covers were so good). Little did I know that this was the first book in the Melendy Quartet – four books about the ISAAC siblings! Four siblings get tired of having nothing to do on Saturdays, because their individual allowances are so tiny, so they form a club – Independent Saturday Afternoon Adventure Club (I.S.A.A.C.). – pool their allowances, and one sibling gets to use the money each Saturday, to go enjoy themselves in New York City. I loved reading about NYC in the ’40s, and being an only child, books about siblings always drew me right in. This series is on the list.

The Dark Forces series, various authors, 1983-1984, Bantam

thegame thedoll

I didn’t have Goosebumps when I was a tween, I had Dark Forces. We had ouija boards, devil dolls, and dark magic, and it was amazing. As far as I can tell, there were 15 books in the series. I remember having a bunch, but I specifically remember The Game and The Doll. Maybe Devil Wind, The Companion, and Magic Show. Doesn’t matter: I will have them all.

So that’s a quick roundup of books so far. Come on, there has to be books from your childhood that you want back! Sound off in the comments, I’ll write them up in a future post!