Posted in Fantasy, Teen, Young Adult/New Adult

Black Canary’s YA novel starts the new year off with a Canary Cry

Okay, 2021. Let’s see what you’ve got. Please be gentle with us, we’re still reeling from 2020. Thankfully, there were books. So many great books. And 2021 is shaping up to have just as many great books – seriously, look at the upcoming Latinx titles, and lists from Here We Read, Brightly, and Beyond the Bookends, for starters. And let’s dive into the first book I finished this shiny new year.

Black Canary: Breaking Silence (DC Icons #5), by Alexandra Monir, (Dec. 2020, Random House Books for Young Readers), $18.99, ISBN: 9780593178317

Ages 12+

I’ve been a Black Canary fan for a while now (thanks, Arrow!), and getting an email inviting me to read the new Black Canary YA novel sent me over the moon. The fact that it takes place in a dystopia where Gotham City has been taken over by the Court of Owls – some of the best storylines in the Batman universe –  made me salivate. The Court of Owls, in the comics, is a secret society that quietly oversees the machinations of Gotham City, always looking out for the wealthy founding families’ interests. In Breaking Silence, the Owls have taken on a fundamentalist-type role, sending women back into the home and relegating them to second-class citizens in the name of “decency” and “morality”. Penguin, the iconic Bat-villain who sided with the Owls during their takeover 20 years prior to the events in Breaking Silence, engineered a toxic gas that stole the singing voices away from women in Gotham; finding a way to silence them while still allowing them to function. The overthrow of Gotham and Silencing, the culminating event that stole women’s singing voices, was sparked by the death of Bruce Wayne – Batman – who died of old age; the revolt also saw the deaths of Commissioner James Gordon and superheroes at the hands of the Owls and their enforcers, the Talons. Dinah Laurel Lance has grown up under the boot of the Owls. Her father, Detective Larry Lance, works for the Gotham City Police Department and treads lightly between the Owls and his duties for the GCPD, while raising his daughter as a widowed father. Now a high school senior, Dinah listens to forbidden music in private and is already on the Owls’ watch list. Between a cautious romance with new student Oliver Queen and discovering the hidden truth about her mother, Dinah’s heading into strange new territory. The Owls had better be ready, a revolution is coming.

I LOVED, LOVED, LOVED Breaking Silence. Smashing the patriarchy and literally finding one’s own voice? Sign me up! Dinah Laurel Lance comes right off the pages; her frustration and fear are palpable and serve as a motivator and a hindrance; it isn’t all black and white here. Alexandra Monir gives us a smart teen heroine who navigates family secrets, a secret society, and the frustration of being a woman in a male-dominated society with skill. Her father, her male friend Ty, and the super-handsome, mysterious rich boy Oliver Queen all lament the current circumstances with her, but they don’t – can’t – get it: they’re men. They have freedom and privilege that they just can’t comprehend not having. There’s a DC cameo or two that made my heart sing, too… Read this book, add it to your booktalks, and get it into the hands of other readers. Then, go read Black Canary: Ignite and get some Birds of Prey trade paperbacks! (Psst… Gail Simone’s run is unparalleled).

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

Batter Up with the newest Ballpark Mysteries Super Special: The World Series Kids

The World Series Kids (Ballpark Mysteries Super Special #4), by David A. Kelly/Illustrated by Mark Meyers, ($5.99, Random House), ISBN: 9780525578956

Ages 7-10

The Ballpark Mysteries is a fun mystery series for intermediate readers that fits right in with Ron Roy’s mystery series (Capital Mysteries; Calendar Mysteries; A to Z Mysteries). The hook here is baseball; each mystery takes place at a ballpark and stars Mike and Kate, cousins who love baseball and solving mysteries. The World Series Kids is the latest Super Special – a little longer in length and structured around a big happening in baseball; in this case, the Little League World Series. Mike and Kate’s friend, Colin, is on the Cooperstown team, and Kate and Mike travel to South Williamsport, Pennsylvania, to support the hometown team. They quickly discover that someone’s trying to sabotage the team: the coach’s son saw someone slash one of the team bus’s tires; the team’s equipment goes missing right before their first game, and there’s a warning that more shenanigans are coming! Thank goodness Mike and Kate are on the case to help out, but can they find out who’s behind the incidents in time to keep the team in the game?

This is such a fun whodunit! Mike and Kate work together well as a team, and David A. Kelly’s writing has action, humor, and a wealth of baseball knowledge. He creates whodunits that will leave kids (and adults, to be honest) guessing until the end of the story, with a surprise reveal, a lesson to be learned, and a happy ending, leaving kids ready to read the next book… right after they play a few innings. Dugout Notes at the end of the book are all about the Little League World Series, with cool facts to read and share.

There are loads of great resources on David A. Kelly’s author site, including educator guides, fan art and videos, even missing chapters. The Ballpark Mysteries are popular reading at my library, among baseball fans and mystery readers alike. David A. Kelly’s MVP series is also a big hit here, because I have a lot of soccer fans in this community. (A LOT.)  Display and booktalk this series with Matt Christopher’s sports fiction, and Dan Gutman’s Baseball Card Adventures series.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads, Toddler Reads

Two Halloween stories for your little monsters to love!

10 Busy Brooms, by Carole Gerber/Illustrated by Michael Fleming,
(Aug. 2018, Doubleday), $7.99, ISBN: 9781524768997
Ages 2-6

Originally published in hardcover (2016), this board book version of the rhyming, counting story follows a group of little witches as they rescue one another from mischievous skeletons, ghosts, and goblins. The digital artwork is bold and bright, and the witches have eschewed basic black for jewel tones and fashionable hats. There’s some diversity among the witches, too; something always nice to see. One witch even sports a hijab under her hot pink pointy hat! The fonts are bold and white, set off against the nighttime backgrounds of each spread, and the numbers are brightly colored, large, and bold. It’s a fun story for little Halloweeners to enjoy, and the sturdy board book will hold up to multiple readings.

 

How to Scare a Ghost, by Jean Reagan/Illustrated by Lee Wildish,
(Aug. 2018, Knopf), $17.99, ISBN: 9781524701901
Ages 3-7

The team that brought you How to Babysit a Grandpa, How to Raise a Mom, and How to Catch Santa are here to teach readers How to Scare a Ghost! First, you have to attract a ghost. There are several different ways to do this. Then, you have to make sure you have a real ghost, and not some kid dressed up for Halloween. Once you’ve got those two points down, you’re ready to scare! But wait! You’ve gone too far, and you’ve really rattled your ghost? Okay, the book has that covered, too, with ways to comfort, play, and choose a costume for your ghost. A combined handbook and story, How to Scare a Ghost features a brother-sister duo and a friendly ghost enjoying a Halloween together. Endpapers offer a variety of kids and ghosts in a variety of costumes, and the digital art is upbeat and cheerful. This one’s a cute add to holiday collections and great for readers who are a little shy around monsters and spookier fare.

Posted in Fantasy, Fiction, Fiction, Graphic Novels, Humor, Intermediate, Middle Grade

Hilo’s back to save the Whole Wide World!

hilo_1Hilo Book 2: Saving the Whole Wide World, by Judd Winick (May 2016, Random House Books for  Young Readers), $13.99, ISBN: 9780385386234

Recommended for ages 7-12

The boy who crashed to Earth returns, one piece at a time – no, seriously, the book starts out with his friends DJ and Gina holding a toe – to save the world again! Hilo, the android boy who captured readers’ imaginations and hearts, returns to learn how to tell knock-knock jokes, gets excited about transportation, and discovers cool new things he can do. He thinks everything is outstanding, especially dogs and cereal with milk. Then, the portals start opening up all over the place, letting in freaky things like viking hippos, mutant chickens, and a very cool warrior cat. What the heck is going on? It sounds like Razorwark is back in town – or, at least, trying to get back to town. Hilo and his friends are charged with keeping the planet safe one more time, but Hilo doesn’t want to hurt anyone.

Hilo’s first adventure was a huge hit, receiving a 2016 Choice Book Award and multiple starred reviews. I haven’t seen it on my shelves since the day I put the first copy up, and I really need to order more for Summer Reading. I love Judd Winick’s fun art, and Hilo’s genuine love of life and discovery. He’s relentlessly optimistic, even when faced with monsters coming through portals.

Add the Hilo books to your graphic novel collection: there’s fun, friendship, diversity, and some great word definitions (another cool thing Hilo does). Booktalk it with one of my favorite series, the Zita the Spacegirl books by Ben Hatke, and Hatke’s Little Robot, and introduce kids to the joy that is science fiction.

Judd Winick has scripted issues of bestselling comic series, including Batman, Green Lantern, Green Arrow, Justice League, and Star Wars, and has been head writer on the Hulu network’s animated series, The Awesomes. Judd also appeared as a cast member of MTV’s The Real World: San Francisco and is the author of the highly acclaimed graphic novel Pedro and Me, about his Real World roommate and friend, AIDS activist Pedro Zamora. Check out his author website for more about his books and artwork, and take a look at more of Hilo: Saving the Whole Wide World right here.

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Posted in Animal Fiction, Early Reader, Fiction, Preschool Reads

Babymouse comes to picture books!

I’m a huge Babymouse fan. She’s smart, she’s a bit sassy, she’s a great read for kids. The Babymouse graphic novels do gangbusters, no matter what library I’m at, and my kids’ book club had a Babymouse discussion that ended up being more about laughing and talking about the crazy things Babymouse (and Squish, her graphic novel counterpart) come up with. Today, I’m super excited, because Babymouse is coming to picture books!

babymouse

Little Babymouse and the Christmas Cupcakes will be out in October, but I was able to get a sneak peek at a few pages, thanks to Edelweiss, where I get a lot of my advance reader copies. The book is colorful, as opposed to Babymouse’s 2-color graphic novels, so this will get me a lot of mileage at storytime. The book is still set up like a graphic novel, with word balloons, narration boxes, and mini panels popping up here and there.

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Here’s the story: Babymouse ate all of the Christmas cookies her mom made for Santa, so now she can make him something he really wants—CUPCAKES! But a dragon rears its fiery head, and Sir Babymouse has to defeat him to save Christmas – or, you know, a cupcake or two.

I love that the Holms are bringing graphic novels to different formats. Their board books, I’m Grumpy and I’m Sunny, are adorable and perfect introductions to the graphic novel medium for babies and toddlers. Get your kids started on comics early!

Little Babymouse and the Christmas Cupcakes, by Jennifer L. Holm/Illustrated by Matthew Holm, (Oct. 2016, Random House Kids), $16.99, ISBN: 9781101937433

 

 

 

 

Posted in Intermediate, Non-Fiction

Pretty in Pink? Pink is for Blobfish takes a look at pink animals

blobfishPink is for Blobfish, by Jess Keating/Illustrated by David DeGrand (Feb. 2016, Knopf Books for Young Readers), $16.99, ISBN: 9780553512274

Recommended for ages 5-8

Pink is for princesses, sparkles, and all things girly and pretty. Right? Um… maybe not. Have you ever seen a blobfish? It was voted the ugliest animal in the world by the Ugly Animal Preservation Society (yes, it’s really a thing) and it’s pink. So very pink. But that’s not the only pink animal! Pink is for Blobfish introduces readers to animals who are all perfectly pink – but you probably won’t find a princess in the bunch.

The first book in zoologist Jess Keating’s “World of Weird Animals” series, Pink is for Blobfish offers brightly colored pages with photos, facts, and hilarious and commentary, plus illustrations by David DeGrand, that kids are going to love.  You know those Weird But True NatGeo books? I can’t keep those on the shelves at my library. Kids love weird stuff, they love animal books, and let’s be honest – everyone is tired of writing reports about bears, snakes, and frogs when their animal reports are due.

There’s no way this book will go unnoticed on your shelf. Add to that the original, outright freaky looking animals with solid facts written by a zoologist and kids’ author, and you’ve got your kids’ science reports wrapped up this year. I’m also looking at incorporating this into a Discovery Club we’re working on at my library (more posts on that when I get it underway), because who wouldn’t love a weird animal program?

Check out Jess Keating’s author webpage, where you can sign up to receive her Creature Newsletters and find out more about her #KeatingCreature Twitter feature!

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Posted in Animal Fiction

Quackers – A story about fitting in and standing out

quackers_1Quackers, by Liz Wong (Mar. 2016, Knopf Books for Young Readers) $15.99, ISBN: 978-0-553-51155-0

Recommended for ages 3-7

“Quackers is a duck. He knows he is a duck because he lives at the duck pond with all the other ducks.”

Quackers is the story of a cat who’s grown up with ducks. He doesn’t see himself as anything other than a duck, and neither do the ducks around him. But sometimes, Quackers doesn’t feel like he quite fits in. He has trouble making himself understood, he’s not in love with the food, and he really, really hates getting wet! One day, when Quackers meets Mittens, he learns that he’s what others call a cat – he’s not a duck at all! He tries to fully embrace his feline side, but he ends up missing the duck life. And that’s when Quackers learns that bringing all the parts of your different backgrounds together makes for a wonderful feeling. .

Quackers is a great book to have on hand for read-alouds and libraries with multicultural populations. It’s a great book to give to an adoptive family as a welcome home gift for baby, too! Quackers is a duck – no one thinks any differently. Once he learns that he’s a cat, though, he tries to throw himself into being a cat – but when you’ve been raised lovingly by one group, why walk away? This is the heart of the story, and it’s when Quackers realizes that he can be a cat and be a duck, he’s happiest. Kids from different backgrounds will learn that they can embrace more than one culture, whether it’s a culture they’re adopting, like moving to a new city/state/country, or a culture that they’ve been adopted into.

On a different note, Quackers works for all kids who may feel like they don’t fit in, for whatever reason. I’d pair this with Harvey Fierstein’s The Sissy Duckling to reach LGBT kids and kids being raised by LGBT families. Quackers teaches kids (and their caregivers!) to embrace themselves first and foremost – you can’t ask for a better message than that.

The art, created digitally and with watercolor, is adorable and soft, with soothing greens and teals for the water and grass. The text is set off almost like an old photo album, placed in small text boxes with a font that looks almost handwritten. Kids will love reading this book and adults will love reading it to them. Take a look at some of the art, below.

 

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You can find more of Liz Wong’s illustrations at her website.

Posted in Fantasy, Teen

Alexandra Moni’s Suspicion – A touch of the paranormal in this mystery

suspicionSuspicion, by Alexandra Moni (Dec. 2014, Delacorte Press), $17.99, ISBN: 9780385743891

Recommended for ages 13+

When Imogen Rockford was 10, she lost her parents, aunt, and uncle in a fire that raged out of control. Extended members of the British upper class, they were enjoying their annual gathering at the family estate when the fire in the garden maze consumed them. Seven years later, she’s living with her guardian in New York City when the call comes in – her grandfather has been dead for three years, and her cousin-next in line for the title of Duchess-has just died . Imogen is the new Duchess of Rockford, and is immediately swept into a new life in Britain, on the same estate where her family died. There are family secrets that haunt her, especially the secret of the infamous fifth Duchess, and what she left in the maze…

I’ve got to be honest, this book was good without the addition of the paranormal details. If anything, the paranormal plot brought down the book for me, bringing me out of the story’s flow with what felt like tacked-on additions. The paranormal could have been alluded to, or done away with entirely, and it would have strengthened the rest of the book.

Posted in Science Fiction, Teen, Uncategorized

Don’t Even Think About It – Talk About Your Strange Side Effects!

Don’t Even Think About It, by Sarah Mlynowski, Random House Children’s (2014), 9780385737388, $17.99

dontthinkaboutitRecommended for ages 16+

I was lucky enough to be chosen by Random House to review an advanced copy of this book, by Sarah Mlynowski, who I fondly remember from her Red Dress Ink chick lit days. I thoroughly enjoyed her book Milkrun, so I was excited to see that she was writing YA. The plot is certainly different: a group of New York teens, attending Bloomberg Public High school down in Tribeca, develop ESP after receiving a tainted batch of flu shot at school.

Ms. Mlynowski has her ensemble cast: Cooper and Mackenzie the young lovers, one of whom has a secret; Pi, the overachiver; Olivia, the shy girl; BJ, the pervert; Tess, the one with the unrequited love for her best friend – these personalities and more are all here, which gives a feeling of familiarity to those reading the book. You know these kids – we’ve been these kids, in many cases. The characters aren’t soul-searching, and don’t require that depth of character for this quick read. It’s a situational piece of fiction.

What interested me was not the superficial teens, because they mostly are – even “the brain”, Pi, who uses her powers to try and get ahead of the number one student in the school so she can get the vaunted Harvard acceptance letter – it was how they dealt, on their own levels, with their newfound abilities. They didn’t take to Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook to discuss it with the world. They kept it quiet. They didn’t want anyone to know, because they live in a day and age where they know they’d be poked and prodded like test animals, or even worse, have their ability – something to give them an edge, to make them special – taken away from them. At the same time, Mlynowski creates an interesting portrait of what these abilities do to their bearers. It’s not always predictable, and it was enjoyable to see things play out.

The book is suggested for 16 and over for some language and situations. For a quick, light read between tests and papers, Don’t Even Think About It will fit nicely in your backpack.