Posted in Graphic Novels, Science Fiction, Teen, Young Adult/New Adult

Pixels of You considers friendships between AI and human

Pixels of You, by Ananth Hirsh & Yuko Ota/Illustrated by J.R. Doyle, (Feb. 2022, Amulet Paperbacks), $16.99, ISBN: 9781419749575

Ages 14+

The team behind 2016’s graphic novel, Lucky Penny, are back with a story about AI, humans, and the relationship that forms between one pair. Indira is a human artist, a photographer, who’s been cybernetically augmented after a car accident took one of her eyes at the age of 10. Fawn is the first human-presenting AI, also a photographic artist, who interns at the same gallery as Indira. The gallery owner puts them together on a project after the two have a very public disagreement over their work, the gallery owner – their mentor – puts them to the ultimate test: work on a project together, or leave the gallery. Period. At first, the collaboration is forced, grudging, but slowly, as the two artists get to know one another, a friendship forms, allowing each to see the world through the other’s eyes. Largely illustrated in shades of rose and violet, black pages with white text that record key moments in AI/Human history capture the reader’s attention and act as chapter heads, giving readers an idea of what may lie ahead. The characters are hard to get to know in the first pass – the story is interesting, but hard to connect to at first; I felt like I “got” them better as I went on in the story. I re-read the book, and the knowledge I’d gained from the first pass definitely helped me feel more for the characters from the outset, so you may want to give a solid booktalk on what’s going on in human history – touch on the paranoia that exists between humans and AI, for starters – at the time the story is set, to give tweens and teens more context to build on. There’s a slow-burn sapphic romance subplot that’s so subtle, some readers may not pick up on it for a while, but it is a satisfying close. Fawn’s robot parents are a surprise hit in the story. Give this one a shot. Talk about perspective, and how photography factors into the story of “seeing” others. I think it’ll find a dedicated audience.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Summertime Rumble! Beach Toys vs. School Supplies

Beach Toys vs. School Supplies, by Mike Ciccotello, (June 2021, Farrar Straus and Giroux), $17.99, ISBN: 9780374314040

Ages 3-6

It’s beach toys versus school supplies in a sandcastle contest to beat all sandcastle contests! Shovel is relaxing at the beach when Ruler shows up to start working. Shovel doesn’t want to think about school just yet! The two decide to find out who’s better – beach toys or school supplies – with a sandcastle building contest, and the two teams set to work. Just as the winner is determined, a big wave threatens to wipe out one of the castles: will the two groups work together to save the castle and enjoy the summer?

An adorable look at the balance between work and play, Beach Toys vs. Sand Castles is filled with fun and wry observations about both sides: the school supplies naturally only want to work and appear pompous, while the beach toys are all about fun. Messages about teamwork and respecting the need for a work and play balance come across playfully and with equal weight to both sides. Cartoon artwork is colorful, with anthropomorphic supplies bearing fun, exaggerated expressions. Endpapers show the toys and supplies standing off against one another; look for my favorite, the backpack, pocket unzippered to reveal a menacing box of colored pencils shaking a fist.

Absolute fun, with a free, downloadable activity kit, to boot! Find it here. Read this to your preschoolers and kindergarteners who may be annoyed by already seeing school supplies creeping back into stores and assure them that there’s room for both.

Posted in Fiction, Fiction, Humor, Intermediate, Middle Grade

Ophelia’s back and fabulous in the latest Snazzy Cat Caper

The Fast and the Furriest (Snazzy Cat Capers #2), by Deanna Kent/Illustrated by Neil Hooson, (Sept. 2019, Imprint), $13.99, ISBN: 978-1-250-14347-1

Ages 7-11

The Diva herself, Ophelia von Hairball V of Burglaria is back in her second caper, and I could not be happier! I loved the first book, and her sophomore outing is just as much fun and just as light-hearted. The queen of all cat burglars is still working with her long-suffering (senior) inventor, Oscar Fishgerald Gold, and his robot dog creation, P.U.G. In this new adventure, there’s trouble at the Furry Feline Burglary Institute (FFBI): someone has stolen an artifact from the Institute’s vault, and it could lead to disaster for the FFBI and for felines WORLDWIDE. It takes a thief to catch a thief, so Ophelia’s assigned to the case – but those mutts at the Central Canine Intelligence Agency (CCIA) are hot on her tail, and she’s going to need every trick in her marvelous designer bag to stay one fluffy tail ahead of them, not to mention all the brainpower Oscar has to design new gadgets and costumes for her every step of the way.

The Fast and the Furriest captures all the fun of the first book in the series, introduces a new mystery, and keeps some hilarious subplots going. Ophelia still has her long-simmering feud/competition with her unibrowed cousin, Pierre; she still really, REALLY wants to work alone, but Oscar finds a way to sneak on board – and thank goodness for it; and the dogs at the CCIA will stop at nothing to try and subjugate all of felinekind. The black and white graphic novel panels add directly to the story, breaking up the chunks of text and keeping kids on their toes, switching from text to graphics, and keeping them engaged and reading. In addition to the graphic novel panels, there are black and white illustrations, and each chapter begins, once again, with sage advice from Ophelia, which everyone needs to read and heed. She could write her own Little Instruction Book, in all honesty: “Be the fabulous you want to see in the world”; “Not everyone will adore what you do. That’s purr-fectly fine. Do what makes you feel shiny”; and “Don’t bother ‘overcoming’ your obstacles. Stomp them into fine dust, add glitz, and use as party confetti” are words I need to live by, and, quite frankly, I think the kids in my library do, too. I may have to start printing these up on colorful paper and hanging them up in the kids’ room.

In short, I’m fangirling hard for this intermediate/middle grade series, because we all need to lighten up and enjoy the finer things in life, just like Ophelia. Snazzy Cat Capers: The Fast and the Furriest will be on shelves in September, and what a way to welcome kids back to school.

Posted in Uncategorized

The Tale of the Mighty Brobarians!

Brobarians, by Lindsay Ward, (March 2017, Two Lions/Amazon Publishing), $17.99, ISBN: 978-15039-6167-0

Recommended for readers 3-7

“Two barbarians, once at peace – Uh-Oh! – were now at odds.” Otto and Iggy are brothers and barbarians, but when Iggy stages a takeover of the land, Otto fights back and the two go to war. Told as an epic tale, Brobarians is the adorably fun story of two brothers and their disagreement, resolved only when a higher power interferes.

This book is adorable. The endpaper maps that depict Otto’s (he’s the bigger brother, so I assume he created them) layout of his and Iggy’s territory, the illuminated manuscript-like exposition that leads into the tale and the epic storytelling style are wonderful. If you’re a fan of sword and sorcery movies like I am, then you’ll hear the Conan the Barbarian-like narration in your head and squeal with joy.

The art – cut paper, pencil, and crayon on chipboard – escalates, dipping into the brobarians’ imaginations to render them as fierce (but still really cute) brothers on wild steeds. The fonts are exaggerated, colorful, providing readers with a wholly fun storytime experience. You can’t read this in a monotone, you just can’t. I read it to my little guy and immediately slipped into epic narrator mode, with mock gravity and urgency at different points of the story. I was rewarded with belly laughs, which are wonderfully contagious.

You need this book for the kids you love. Heck, you need this book for yourself. Let’s try and see my kid get this off my bookshelf, where it lives next to my Red Sonja comics!

About the Author
Lindsay Ward would never have written this book if she hadn’t stayed up late one night watching Conan the Barbarian. She finds the idea of baby barbarians to be very funny . . . and hopes you do too. Lindsay’s recent books include Rosco vs. the Baby and The Importance of Being 3. Most days you can find her writing and sketching at home in Ohio with her family. Learn more about her at or on Twitter: @lindsaymward. She’s got Brobarians activities coming soon, too – keep an eye on the website!

Praise for BROBARIANS:

“Highly cinematic, both in imagery and narrative soundtrack…Good and campy and a fine opportunity for vocabulary building.”—Kirkus Reviews

“As readalouds go, it’s pretty epic.” – Publishers Weekly



One lucky winner will receive a copy of BROBARIANS courtesy of Two Lions (U.S. addresses). Enter a Rafflecopter giveaway here!

Posted in Fiction, Horror, Humor, Teen

Drama, demons, and the Revenge of the Evil Librarian

evil-librarianRevenge of the Evil Librarian, by Michelle Knudsen, (Feb. 2017, Candlewick), $16.99, ISBN: 978-0763688288

Recommended for ages 13+

Cynthia and her BFF, Annie, have finally settled down after the events from Evil Librarian (#1), where Mr. Gabriel, the librarian in question, tried to make Annie his demon bride. Cyn’s now dating her crush, the gorgeous Ryan Halsey, and the two are off together to drama camp, where Cyn’s hoping to start working on set design. She’s ready to embrace the summer and all it has to offer, especially with Ryan at her side, but the demons have other plans: Aaron, demon-ish consort of the demon queen, looks Cyn up and reminds her that she owes the queen a few favors, for one. And things with Mr. Gabriel may not be quite over just yet.

Revenge of the Evil Librarian is the follow-up to 2014’s Evil Librarian, and it keeps a lot of the fun tone set in the first novel. There are demons at a theatre camp, a romantic rivalry, and a showdown to remember. Cyn is head-over-heels for Ryan, and the ups and downs of their romance – impacted by the fallout from the first book – will appeal to YA romance readers. Peter, another camper, is an endearing character whose background will crack readers up, and Jules, Ryan’s longtime summer camp “friend”, is the classic romantic rival.

Liven things up with your drama/theatre club readers and pair this with Stephanie Kate Strohm’s Taming of the Drew. If you’ve got readers who enjoyed the first one, they’ll love this one (and wait for the next one); if you have readers who enjoy their YA with a smidgeon of paranormal or horror, booktalk this one.

Posted in Fiction, Humor, Tween Reads

Lug: Dawn of the Ice Age – a middle-grade Ice Age tale

lugLug: Dawn of the Ice Age, by David Zeltser. Egmont USA (2014). $17.99, ISBN: 9781606845134

Recommended for ages 8-12

A mix of How to Train Your Dragon and Ice Age, Lug: Dawn of the Ice Age introduces readers to Lug, a young caveboy who’s the outcast of his tribe. His fellow tribe-mates are big brutes who face off against their rival tribe in a rough sport called Headstone; Lug would rather be painting in his art cave. He and his tribe-mate, Stony, are banished after they fail to secure macrauchenia mounts for Headstone, and wander the woods, eventually meeting Echo, a young cavegirl from the rival tribe with a secret – she can talk to animals and has a pet woolly mammoth, Woolly, that she needs to find a home for. Echo and her younger brother, Hamhock, join Lug and Stony on a journey that will introduce them to new animals and great changes headed their way – namely, the onset of the Ice Age.

This is a great book for middle graders. Not only is it a fun, accessible story with parallels to two books and movie series they grew up with – How to Train Your Dragon and Ice Age – they will pick up some knowledge on the way. The themes of two factions at war without really knowing one another, being the odd kid out, and bullying are all themes that will speak to readers’ day-to-day experiences, but they’ll also learn about prehistoric animals like the macrauchenia – a kind of giant llama (I looked it up!), the woolly mammoth, and the Dodo bird, all of which give readers who are willing to dig deeper the chance to pinpoint where Lug and his people are from (look it up!). There’s even a brief description on how Lug creates his cave paint. The blending of nonfiction with fiction is seamless and would enhance a class unit on prehistory. There is black and white line art throughout the book, which are, presumably, Lug’s cave drawings. These little “easter eggs” within the story add a fun new dimension to reading.

Lug: Dawn of the Ice Age isn’t due out until September 9, but it’ll be perfect timing for back-to-school reading. These little “easter eggs” within the story add a fun new dimension to reading. I’m hoping to see more of Lug’s adventures down the line.

Posted in Preschool Reads

My Beastly Brother, by Laura Leuck/illus. Scott Nash (HarperCollins, 2003)

beastly brotherRecommended for ages 3-6

A young monster reflects on life with his older brother, who can be  truly beastly or very kind. Ms. Leuck uses two monster brothers to illustrate the ups and downs of sibling relationships. The younger brother makes a laundry list of his older brother’s “beastly” – a double entendre here – behavior toward him: he will not allow him to play with his stuff, feed his pets, and outdoes his younger brother at everything he does, from burping to spewing spider spit. He throws his toys away, bothers him, and never lets him win.  But when he has scary dreams of humans coming after him, the younger monster learns that sometimes, his beastly brother is not so beastly after all.

Scott Nash’s cartoon illustrations bring humor to the monster family; they are not scary at all.  He turns the idea of the traditional family on its head by creating a monster nuclear family, complete with details like eyeball wallpaper and skull upholstery. The humans are the monsters in this tale; to that end, Mr. Nash illustrates the young monster’s nightmare with scary humans with frozen smiles and outstretched arms. The text is black, bold font on a stark white background, with a single image beneath the text, allowing the illustrations to take center stage. The monsters, other than being hairy, are fairly normal.  Their faces are pleasant and expressive, with large eyes and big smiles fully of pointy teeth. The boys wear jeans and t-shirts; Mom wears a pink dress with a spider print pattern, and Dad mows the lawn in shorts, a t-shirt and a baseball cap.

Laura Leuck and Scott Nash’s monsters show up again in My Creature Teacher.

This would be a fun book to incorporate into a family read-aloud. There are many family printables available for coloring on DLTK, along with family puppets, and poems.

HarperCollins offers an author webpage that allows interested readers to sign up for author updates.