Posted in Fantasy, Graphic Novels, Realistic Fiction, Teen, Tween Reads

Graphic Novel Bonanza: Adora and the Distance

Adora and the Distance, by Marc Bernardin/Illustrated by Ariela Kristantina, (March 2022, Dark Horse), $14.99, ISBN: 9781506724508

Ages 12+

Like I said, I read a HUGE backlog of graphic novels while I had my little break, so be prepared for some “If you didn’t read it, it’s new to you!” posts. This time, I’ve got Adora and the Distance, by television writer-producer and comic book author Marc Bernardin. Set in a high fantasy world, Adora is a young woman of color living in a world full of adventure: there are pirates, ghosts, a royal family, and a malevolent entity known as The Distance. The Distance devours and destroys, and Adora, connected to The Distance, must leave her home on a mission to stop it.

The artwork is stunning. The colors, the shading, the depth, bring this book to life in a reader’s hands. The story builds to an incredible conclusion that made the world come to a halt around me as I took it all in. Adora and the Distance is a father’s love letter to his daughter in the best way he could reach her; the best way to let her know he sees her. Adora and the Distance is a story of autism, you see; Marc Bernardin’s author’s note at the end of the book  explains his impetus for creating this epic tale. Adora is smart, brave, and full of love.  There’s humor, adventure, family, and forgiveness all here, bound into this story that connects a father to his daughter.

Put Adora and the Distance in your distributor cart, and get it on shelves for your readers. Give it to parents, educators, and caregivers.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

To let go… just a little bit: Somewhere

Somewhere, by Robie Harris/Illustrated by Armando Mariño, (Feb. 2022, Candlewick Press), $17.99, ISBN: 9781536207354

Ages 4-6

A young girl and her father go for a walk in the park. She wants to go somewhere she’s never been before, so she kisses her father goodbye and wanders off to explore. She’s aware of every sight and sound, every color and texture, and collects souvenirs to bring back to Daddy, who’s waiting for her… so they can go somewhere else together. Watercolor and ink illustrations envelop the reader in a verdant, colorful setting that goes from park to adventurous landscape that provides a sense of wonder as the girl becomes smaller against the large bushes and trees she encounters, the flora and fauna she interacts with, and the perspective of the artwork. It’s a poetic story about a small moment in time that every parent and caregiver knows is coming: that moment where we have to let go, even just a little bit, to encourage a child’s independence. Here, the girl’s father is close, but never intrusive; he lets his child return to him after having a solo adventure. Once reunited, the two discover another new “somewhere” together. Keep this one in mind for Father’s Day, too; it’s always great to get a father-daughter book. Pair with Mi Papi Has a Motorcycle by Isabel Quintero and Hope Lim’s I Am a Bird. Get a teacher tip card from Candlewick’s website.

Robie Harris a New York Times best-selling author whose books include It’s Perfectly Normal: Changing Bodies, Growing Up, Sex, and Sexual Health and It’s NOT the Stork! A Book About Girls, Boys, Babies, Bodies, Families, and Friends. Visit her website for more about her books and for class visit information. Armando Mariño is an award-winning Cuban artist; you can find more of his artwork at his website.

Posted in Fiction, Fiction, Historical Fiction, Middle Grade, Realistic Fiction, Teen, Tween Reads

Wave: A girl rides life’s ebbs and flows

Wave, by Diana Farid/Illustrated by Kris Goto, (March 2022, Cameron Kids), $18.99, ISBN: 9781951836580

Ages 10-14

Ava is a 13-year-old Persian-American girl who loves to surf, hang out with her friends, and read poetry by Rumi. She’s about to graduate eighth grade and looks forward to the summer until her mother, a prominent doctor, signs her up to volunteer at the hospital, in hopes that Ava will be inspired to follow a career in medicine. Frustrated by her distant father and her mother’s expectations, Ava’s world begins to fall apart when Phoenix’s – her best friend – cancer returns. Ava processes her feelings and emotions through the music of the ’80s, and the story, told by Ava in the first person through free verse, is a heart-breaking, resonant, gorgeous story. Blackwork illustrations throughout present Wave as a peek into Ava’s journal, making the experience of reading it personal. Ava experiences racism, grief and loss, anxiety, and frustration and communicates it all through spare, lyrical verse; readers will see themselves and their friends in her words. Set in the mid-1980s, music and mixtapes are wonderful touchstones, particularly through the music and mixtapes; references to the 1970s Iranian cultural revolution provide historical context and make Ava, her mother, and her extended family fully realized characters.  Ask your readers to create their own Spotify playlists that they’d share with a friend or family member. Ava’s and Phoenix’s mixtapes are included in the back matter, as are endnotes, information about Rumi, and lyrics. A gorgeous book.

Have a copy of Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis available to booktalk to readers interested in learning more about the Iranian revolution and its impact on the women of Iran. Visit author Diana Farid’s webpage for more information about her books, her poetry, and essays.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Interrupting Chicken wants Cookies for Breakfast!

Interrupting Chicken: Cookies for Breakfast, by David Ezra Stein, (Nov. 2021, Candlewick Press), $17.99, ISBN: 9781536207781

Ages 4-8

The third adorable and laugh-out-loud installment of the Interrupting Chicken series is here and ready for cookies. Little Chicken wakes his Papa up, because it’s time for breakfast and he has the perfect idea: cookies! Papa decides that reading nursery rhymes would be a better way to pass the time, and he and Chicken snuggle together as he begins to read. As the rhymes unfold, Chicken finds a way to get his point across, as he shows up in just about every rhyme, figuring out a way to mention cookies while interacting with such nursery rhyme characters as the Old Woman Who Lived in a Shoe and Jack Be Nimble. Will Papa finally give in and have cookies for breakfast?

This series perfectly captures the spirit of a preschooler: excited, lovable, and single-minded in focus. Chicken has amusing outlooks on life to share with readers: cookies have Vitamin C – for cookie!; the early bird gets the cookie, and nobody likes a cold breakfast (so you sit on the cookies to warm them up). Kids will see themselves in Chicken, and grownups will get a chuckle as they recognize their little ones. Warm colors invite readers into the comfortable space Chicken and Papa share.

Interrupting Chicken: Cookies for Breakfast has a starred review from School Library Journal. Download a free activity kit for the Interrupting Chicken series, courtesy of publisher Candlewick Press.

Posted in picture books

Blog Tour and Giveaway: Dancing With Daddy

Inspired by her daughter, Elsie, author Anitra Rowe Schulte created a lovely story about a girl’s night out with Daddy in her first picture book, Dancing With Daddy.

Dancing With Daddy, by Anitra Rowe Schulte/Illustrated by Ziyue Chen,
(Dec. 2021, Two Lions), $17.99, ISBN: 9781542007191

Ages 4-7

Elsie is a little girl who can’t wait for her first father-daughter dance, and really hopes the weather holds out so she doesn’t miss it! She’s got the perfect dress and matching headband, and she and her sisters have practiced dance moves. Elsie sways in her wheelchair, and her sisters twirl her around, until she’s ready! The snow may come, but that won’t stop Elsie, her sisters, and their daddy from dancing the night away!

Inspired by her daughter, who has Wolf-Hirschhorn syndrome (WHS), Dancing With Daddy combines external narration with internal dialogue, giving us a glimpse into Elsie’s world as she waits for the big dance to arrive. Elsie’s thoughts are italicized and colorful fonts to set them apart from narration. Her sisters are supportive and excited, including her in all their dance-planning activities; they coo and squeal over her dress, and help her with dance moves by twirling her around in her chair. Soft colors and gentle illustration create a comfortable, warm family setting; when Elsie and her Daddy dance together, the world disappears around them, and the spread becomes the two, Elsie in her Daddy’s arms, as he sways and swings with her against a black background with glittering lights around them. Endpapers celebrate this moment, showcasing Dad and Elsie dancing together against a glittering background of navy blue. The story also illustrates how Elsie communicates with her family using a special communication book, with pictures and words she points to in order to give voice to her thoughts. A good book to add to your inclusive lists.

Visit Anitra Rowe Schulte’s author page for more information about her book, her journalism, and her school visits.

★“Refreshingly, Elsie’s disability is seamlessly presented as simply another aspect of family life…As she swings and sways in her father’s arms, her forehead against his, their love is palpable; Chen’s illustrations fairly glow with affection…A heartwarming portrayal of a family embracing disability.” Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

“[Anitra] Rowe Schulte uses accessible, rhythmic language…conveying Elsie’s thoughts in pink- and red-colored text. Light-filled digital illustrations by [Ziyue] Chen make use of differing angles and dynamic shots, emphasizing the love the family has for one another.” Publishers Weekly

“This sweet story is a great addition to any diverse and inclusive library.” ―TODAY

Anitra Rowe Schulte has worked as a journalist for The Kansas City Star and the Sun-Times News Group, as a staff writer for Chicago Public Schools, and as a publicist. She is the mother of three beautiful girls, one of whom has Wolf-Hirschhorn syndrome and is the inspiration for Elsie in this book. She lives in the Chicago area, and this is her first picture book. Learn more about her at www.anitraroweschulte.com and follow her at @anitraschulte on Twitter.

Ziyue Chen is the Deaf illustrator of a number of children’s books, including Mela and the Elephant by Dow Phumiruk, How Women Won the Vote by Susan Campbell Bartoletti, and Rocket-Bye Baby: A Spaceflight Lullaby by Danna Smith. She lives with her loved ones in Singapore. Find out more at www.ziyuechen.com or follow her @ziyuechen on Instagram.

 

One lucky winner will receive a copy of Dancing With Daddy. Enter the Rafflecopter giveaway! If you’ve won in the last six months, please give other folx a chance and don’t enter this one. U.S. addresses and no P.O. Boxes, please!

 

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

Middle Grade Twofer: Stella Díaz!

I’ve gotten into a groove (of sorts) when it comes to my middle grade reading; I’ve been reading one upcoming book and one from my TBR, trying to keep both lists copasetic. I had to read Angela Dominguez’s latest two Stella Díaz books back to back because I enjoyed them so much! I wrote about the first Stella book, Stella Díaz Has Something to Say, when I read it in 2018 (and revisited in a book bundles post this past June), and finally read the next two. Stella is such a great young heroine for middle graders; read on and see for yourself.

Stella Díaz Never Gives Up, by Angela Dominguez, (Jan. 2020, Roaring Brook Press), $16.99, ISBN: 9781250229113
Ages 6-9
Stella is finished with third grade and is ready to take on saving the world: well, the oceans, to start. She’s found her voice and a new confidence; she’s signed up to attend a special summer camp at the Shedd Aquarium in her Chicago hometown, and she can’t wait! After a trip to visit family in Mexico, she’s ready to meet the marine animals and hopefully, make some new friends. While at the Shedd, she learns about the danger to sea life that water pollution, especially plastics, poses, and is determined to take action. Starting a group called the Sea Musketeers, Stella and her new camp friends work on ways to take action, starting with asking members of her family to sign a pledge to use less plastic. In addition to Stella’s new environmental awareness, she has to navigate new friendships and navigate some bumps in the road with her best friend, Jenny. Stella is such a wonderful and relatable character! She’s working through a lot of feelings in this book: her best friend, Jenny, is interested in saving the oceans, but has her own passion for dance; her older brother, Nick, is about to enter high school and has a part-time job, so their relationship is evolving; her dad is not as active in her life as she’d like, and she’s still uncomfortable with the fact that she’s not fluent in Spanish. Stella shows readers – adults and kids alike – that there’s a lot of growing, evolving, and change in a kid’s life! The story has a great pace, characters that are equally interesting and likable, and a strong call to environmental awareness and action that helps kids see that they can make positive changes in the world. Spanish words throughout the story – translated by Stella for us readers – give a richer feeling to the prose and give readers some new vocabulary. There are black and white illustrations throughout.
Stella has her own website! Visit and find a multitude of resources, including an activity kit, a copy of Stella’s and the Sea Musketeers’s pledge, and links to environmental resources, including the Shedd Aquarium.
Stella Díaz Dreams Big, by Angela Dominguez, (Jan. 2021, Roaring Brook Press), $16.99, ISBN: 9781250763082
Ages 6 to 9
Stella’s starting fourth grade! She’s got good friends, she’s president of the Sea Musketeers, and she’s… OVERSCHEDULED. She’s taking swimming lessons, and jumps at the chance to join a new art club at school. She’s also got a lot more homework this year… how is she going to keep all of her projects and studies straight? When things start to slip, Stella realizes that she’s going to have to learn to organize her schedule, and she’s going to have to start sharing some of her responsibilities. A story about growing up and taking responsibility, the narrative and the situations are growing up along with Stella and her readers. As a second grader, she was overcoming her shyness and learning to speak up. Now, a fourth grader, she’s navigating complex feelings and relationships, including sharing responsibility – and the recognition! – with others for her ideas; her feelings about dating when her mother makes a new friend with a single dad who just moved to the town, and when the school bully taunts her and her best friend, Stanley, and the desire to do all the great things we want to do versus the reality of what we have to do. Angela Dominguez takes these challenges on with ease, letting readers know that it is all going to be okay; this is a normal part of growing up, and offers some ideas for how to jump those hurdles.
Put Stella Díaz on your shelves, if you don’t already have her there. She’ll look great next to Jasmine Toguchi, Ramona Quimby, and Dominguita Melendez.
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 Graphic Novels, Teen, Young Adult/New Adult

It ain’t easy being a superhero’s kid: I Am Not Starfire

I Am Not Starfire, by Mariko Tamaki/Illustrated by Yoshi Yoshitani, (July 2021, DC Comics), $16.99, ISBN: 9781779501264

Ages 13-17
The latest original DC YA graphic novel, by YA rock star Mariko Tamaki, is all about the fraught relationship between (Teen) Titan’s Starfire and her teen daughter, Mandy. Mandy’s been raised by her mom – no word on her dad’s identity, although everyone around her sure has opinions they don’t mind sharing with her – and she is NOT like her mother at all. She isn’t sparkly. She isn’t a tall, alien superhero with superpowers. She’s a goth chick who dyes her hair black, wears combat boots, and looks at just about everyone her with total disdain, except for her best friend, Lincoln. When Mandy is paired with “in” girl Claire for a school project, the two hit it off – so well that Mandy, who’s just walked out of her SAT and decided to run away to France rather than go to college – may be interested in sticking around after all. But Starfire’s family unrest follows her from Tamaran to Earth, and Mandy finds herself facing a fight for her life – or her mother’s.
I Am Not Starfire is all about the up-and-down relationships between parents and kids. Are parents aliens to teens? Possibly. Are teens aliens to grownups? Heck yes (speaking for my two, exclusively). The relationship between Mandy and Starfire is recognizable, whether you have a parent that expects too much from you, or that you just can’t relate to for a moment in time, but that you still love and want to be loved by in return. It’s about family secrets, starting over, and discovering ourselves for who we are, sparkly powers notwithstanding, and it’s about relationships with our friends, nurturing a crush to see where it goes, and the (sometimes) explosive relationships we have with family. Yoshi Yoshitani’s artwork is amazing, and Mariko Tamaki is one of best writers in comics right now. Together, they create a great book for your teen graphic novel collections.
Posted in Fiction, Middle Grade, Middle School, Realistic Fiction, Tween Reads

Another good middle grade mystery! Coop Knows the Scoop!

Coop Knows the Scoop, by Taryn Souders, (July 2020, Sourcebooks Young Readers), $7.99, ISBN: 9781492640189

Ages 8-12

I pulled Coop Knows the Scoop off my TBR yesterday morning, and I finished it this morning. That’s how good this middle grade mystery is. Cooper Goodman – call him Coop, please! – lives with his mom and grandfather in Georgia, where he helps out in his mom’s bookstore/coffee shop when he’s not in school. His dad, a Marine, died in action, and his Gramps is the retired town doctor. It’s small town life, where everyone knows one another, and it’s pretty idyllic, until the morning a skeleton is discovered buried at the playground. After some DNA testing, the skeleton is revealed to be Coop’s grandmother, Tabby, whom everyone thought left Gramps years ago, when Coop’s dad was little more than a baby. When Gramps falls under suspicion – they always suspect the spouse, right? – Coop enlists his best friends, twin siblings Liberty and Justice, to help him search for clues and exonerate Gramps.

Written in the first person from Coop’s point of view, I could not put this book down. It’s got all the elements of a good whodunnit: a scandal, a quirky cast of local characters, smart dialogue, fleshed out characters with good backstories that make just about everyone a suspect, and an impending sense of danger that you just know is going to explode when you get these elements mixed together. You and your readers are going to want to know what the real scoop is, and that’s going to keep all of you reading this book until you get to the end, and its very satisfying conclusion. Put this on your mystery lists, for sure.

Read more about Taryn Souders and her books at her author website. Coop Knows the Scoop is a 2021 Edgar Award nominee for Best Juvenile mystery novel. Download a great activity kit, including a recipe for sweet tea, through publisher Sourcebooks, Download a discussion guide from Sourcebooks here, too!

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

I Am a Bird introduces kindred spirits

I Am a Bird, by Hope Lim/Illustrated by Hyewon Yum, (Feb. 2021, Candlewick Press), $16.99, ISBN: 9781536208917

Ages 3-7

Every day, a little girl rides to school on the back of her father’s bike, pretending she is a bird. Arms outstretched, she “caws” to the birds, who sing back to her as people wave. But one woman in a blue coat does not wave or smile, and the girl wonders why; one day, she and her father discover where this mysterious woman, with her mysterious bag, heads off to every day, and she is delighted! I Am a Bird is a gentle story with a sense of freedom and abandon. Spare text allows the pencil and gouache illustrations to breathe and wander; the little girl rides securely at her father’s back, arms thrown out wide and head thrown wide as she greets the day with joy. Endpapers are blue and white, with flocks of birds flying across the spreads. A lovely story for storytimes.

I Am a Bird has a starred review from Kirkus.