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

Pacey Packer – a new spin on unicorns for middle graders

Somehow, I missed out on Pacey Packer when her first book arrived last year, but I’m remedying that right now. For any readers that think unicorns are froofy, rainbow-pooping, and sickly-sweet, I submit to you the Pacey Packer graphic novel series.

Pacey Packer: Unicorn Tracker Book 1, by J.C. Phillipps, (August 2020, RH Graphic), $12.99, ISBN: 9781984850546
Ages 7-10
Pacey is an older sister left in charge of her younger sister, Mina. Mina just wants to spend time with Pacey and have tea parties, but Pacey isn’t the greatest older sister, until she discovers Mina on the back of an actual unicorn, leaving her room! Pacey chases Mina across a rainbow and into a land called Rundalyn, where she learns that unicorns are real, and that Mina’s stuffed unicorn Slasher, is real, too. She also learns that Slasher used to be a real, full-sized unicorn, until his powerful brother, Arkane, turned him into a plush and left him in the world of humans. Arkane is a cruel leader who turns kids to stone for kicks, and Slasher has led Mina and Pacey right to him! As Slasher turns Mina into stone, Pacey decides to fight back, and Slasher, with a change of heart, joins her in the fight. Pacey learns what it means to be a good sister, and that “…you stick by family, even if they drive you up the wall sometimes”, and Slasher discovers that his home is no longer Rundalyn, trying to get back in his brother’s good graces. A fun adventure with a fantastically snarky unicorn, Pacey Packer: Unicorn Tracker is an adventure you’ll want on your Summer Reading list. Artwork is purple-black 2-color with plenty of expressive cartoon characters.
Summer Reading idea:  Travel theme! You’re in Rundalyn, do the unicorns have run of the whole place? What other kinds of fantastic animals and plants live there? Get a unicorn stamp for passports.
Pacey Packer Unicorn Tracker 2: Horn Slayer, by by J.C. Phillipps, (June 2021, RH Graphic), $12.99, ISBN: 9781984850577
Ages 7-10
Picking up where the first adventure left off, Mina and Pacey, now known as “The Horn Slayer”, are planning to free the statue children in Arkane’s palace, encountered in the first book, when Lucky, the dog the girls are watching for a neighbor, gets loose. The girls and Slasher run after Lucky, encountering Carlos – the first of the statue children and Slasher’s old friend – in a forest. The group returns to Rundalyn, where Pacey has a plan to save the statue children. She has to rely on Slasher to guide her in using the power of Arkane’s horn to free the kids, all the while trying to stay out of Arkane’s way, because he is REALLY mad at her. While not absolutely necessary to read the first book in order to know what’s going on – an illuminated manuscript-like retelling begins this volume – I found I enjoyed the second reading much more after I read the first book. There are parallels between Arkane and Pacey being neglectful and self-centered older siblings, helping us see Pacey’s character growth across the two novels. New characters add some extra friends, and the conflict between Pacey and Slasher helps readers understand that blundering into a situation without all the facts is not always the best way to success. The story ends with an open storyline, getting readers ready for the next book in the series, which hits shelves in 2022. Back matter includes a drawing lesson for Loomi, one of the new characters. Way too much fun and a good adventure tale; no sophomore slump here.
Some bundling/display ideas: Grumpy Unicorn Hits the Road by Joey Spiotto, where we learn that “inside every grump is a happy person that’s just having a bad day”. The adorably cranky unicorn story is loaded with sight gags and a story of friendship that assured me that, even when I’m feeling my most unlovable, someone out there is willing to see past that. There’s also Pip Bird’s Dave the Unicorn series. Dave is not like your usual unicorns. He farts, loves doughnuts, and doesn’t really pay attention as much as he should. Mix and match books, formats, and add some fun unicorn-type printables or crafts to your giveaways.
Posted in Middle Grade, Non-Fiction, Non-fiction, Teen, Tween Reads

#HomesCool: Career Day, Playing with Words, Women’s History, and ICK!

More #HomesCool fun as I catch up on my Summer Reading TBR! Here’s what’s good this week:

Incredible Jobs You’ve (Probably) Never Heard Of, by Natalie Labarre, (Apr. 2020, Nosy Crow), $19.99, ISBN: 9781536212198

Ages 9-12

Welcome to Career Day! What do you want to be when you grow up: a librarian? Teacher or doctor? How about… a Train Pusher, or a Pet Preservationist? If the usual Career Day job list is leaving you with a case of the blahs, Incredible Jobs You’ve (Probably) Never Heard Of is the book for you and your kiddos. Oversized and illustrated in full color, this book spotlights jobs that are off the beaten path: sure, kids may have heard of an Egyptologist, but do they know that a Body Farmer uses the bodies of folks who’ve donated their bodies to science to recreate crime scenes or do scientific research? Or that a Chief Sniffer smell-checks anything going on a spacecraft launch? How about creating works of art from cheese, like a Cheese Sculptor? There are so many great jobs in here, kids will never look at Career Day the same way again. Illustrated with upbeat, fun artwork, and bright blue endpapers that give nods to all sorts of careers waiting inside, this is way too much fun, and a brand new take on the question, “So… what do you want to be when you grow up?”.

 

Alphamaniacs: Builders of the 26 Wonders of the Word, by Paul Fleischman/Illustrated by Melissa Sweet, (Apr. 2020, Candlewick Studio), $19.99, ISBN: 9780763690663

Ages 12+

Looking like an artist’s journal, filled with colorful, mixed media illustrations in bold, wild colors, Alphamaniacs is a book for those of us who love words and language. Twenty-six profiles fill this book, but they’re not the kind of wordsmiths you may think of: Simon Vostre, the 15-century publisher of religious books who wrote book curses to protect his works from careless readers and handlers: “Whoever steals this Book of Prayer / May he be ripped apart by swine, / His heart be splintered, this I swear, / And his body dragged along the Rhine”; Corín Tellado, the prolific author whose writing career left us with over 4,000 novels; and Daniel Nussbaum, the creator of “PL8SPK” – vanity license plates that retell the classics – are all here, as are other word artists and lovers. The book is perfect for tweens and teens who love a good word-related joke, and can be used in ELA classes to show how much fun it is to play with language. Any language!

Alphamaniacs has starred reviews from Kirkus and the Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books.

 

Noise Makers: 25 Women Who Raised Their Voices & Changed the World, by Kazoo Magazine, Edited by Erin Bried, (Jan. 2020, Alfred A. Knopf), $25.99, ISBN: 9780525580171

Ages 9-14

This book is AMAZING. It’s a graphic novel look at 25 women who made history, written and drawn by some of the most outstanding names in comics and graphic novels today, including Lucy Knisley, Maris Wicks, and Kat Leyh. Collected by the editors at Kazoo Magazine, every woman profiled here gets star treatment: a biographical spread with a picture, summary paragraph, and bullets points, inviting readers to see what they have in common with these women (talk about inspiring!), and a short graphic novel story from the woman’s life. Eugenie Clark, the “Shark Whisperer” (and Shark Lady, according to Jess Keating), is here; Wangari Maathai, who planted trees in Kenya, is here, too. Junko Tabei, the first woman to reach the peak of Mount Everest; artist Frida Kahlo, and musician and spy Josephine Baker are all here, too. Their stories are beautifully told and in a way that links reader, writer, and subject. Noise Makers organizes profiles under six areas: Grow (women who worked with nature); Tinker (entrepreneurs and inventors); Play (those with more physical accomplishments); Create (artists and creators); Rally (advocates and activists); and Explore (pioneers and explorers). This is essential, joyful, reading. Each contributing artist has a profile in the back matter. Put a copy on your Biography shelves and a copy on your Graphic Novels shelves.

 

 

Ick! Delightfully Disgusting Animal Dinners, Dwellings, and Defenses, by Melissa Stewart, (June 2020, National Geographic Kids), $14.99, ISBN: 9781426337468

Ages 7-13

You have got to love NatGeo Kids for having their finger on the pulse of what kids like. Ick! celebrates the grossest stuff in the animal world: caterpillars that camouflage themselves to look like dung, birds who build their nests with spit, a wasp who builds her nest inside her prey; it’s all here, with full-color photos that will make readers squeal with macabre delight. Organized into sections on Disgusting Dinners, Disgusting Dwellings, and Disgusting Defenses, readers learn all about the ways animals live, eat, and protect themselves. Callout facts and stats feature throughout the book, as do “Extra Ick!” sections with even grosser facts! Birds, bugs, mammals, fish, lizards, every type of animal can be found here: 45 of them, to be precise. A glossary, selected sources, and index round out the back matter.

Pair this with NatGeo Kids’ and Anna Claybourne’s Don’t Read This Book Before Dinner for an all-out squeal fest. And check out the Ick! section of author Melissa Stewart’s webpage, which includes a great interactive teaching presentation!