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

More #Books from Quarantine: A Road Trip with Grandma in When I Hit the Road

When I Hit the Road, by Nancy J. Cavanaugh, (May 2020, Sourcebooks Young Readers), $16.99, ISBN: 9781492640257

Ages 9-12

Samantha is about to be a seventh grader, has a mother and older sisters who are over-achievers, and desperately wants to make her own mark on something. She ends up with a summer vacation she wasn’t quite expecting: accompanying her workaholic mother to her grandmother’s Florida condo, and journaling in her “Dear Me” journal to promote her mom’s company. What ends up happening is even less expected: Mom has to rush home, leaving Sam in Florida, where she ends up on a karaoke road trip with her grandmother, her grandmother’s best friend, and a really, really cute boy.

I love Nancy J. Cavanaugh’s books because they’re created to read in easily readable, fun, descriptive bursts: journal entries, lists, letters; she has a gift for a tween voice, and writes with a light, funny voice that puts readers at ease and invites introspection. She plays with her multigenerational characters; in this case, giving readers a karaoke-loving senior citizen and a tween who feels the pressure to be someone, constantly measuring herself up against those around her. The road trip is wacky and wonderful – thrift store bowling shirts, a car full of Bibles, a tour of terrifying road stop bathrooms – and will make readers laugh out loud, especially if they’ve had the dubious honor of being on the dreaded Family Road Trip. Sam’s voice comes through clearly, and I loved her referencing her future self looking back and reading the entries.

Ms. Cavanaugh navigates complex mother-daughter relationships here, too: we have the relationship between Sam’s mother and grandmother, Sam and her grandmother, and Sam and her own overachieving mother, all of which are loaded with moments for deep discussion. This would be a great choice for a mother-daughter book club.

Turn up some karaoke (YouTube has dozens of pages, including Sing King), bake some cookies, and enjoy an evening with Sam and her family. This is a great read for tweens who want a fun read with a summery vibe.


Posted in Intermediate, Middle Grade, Non-Fiction, Non-fiction, Non-Fiction, Tween Reads

Road Trip, Part Deux: NatGeo’s 125 Wacky Roadside Attractions

wacky125 Wacky Roadside Attractions, by National Geographic Kids, (May 2016, National Geographic Kids), $12.99, ISBN: 9781426324079

Recommended for ages 8+

Maybe your road trips tastes run a little more… unique. National Parks are beautiful, but what if you want to drive through a giant tree or see a giant boxing crocodile? If that’s the case, then NatGeo Kids’ 125 Wacky Roadside Attractions is just for you.

Part of the “125” series that includes 125 Cute Animals, 125 Cool Inventions, and 125 Amazing Pets, Wacky Roadside Attractions brings readers the craziest, wildest roadside hotels, statues, and other landmarks from all over the world. A world map labels and numbers all the attractions, should you want to start sticking pins in the places you want to go. Features cover anywhere from 1/2 a page to 2-page spreads, providing a brief description, location, and fast facts about each landmark. I was excited to see Wisconsin’s House on the Rock, which I first encountered in Neil Gaiman’s American Gods, and seeing Pedro from South of the Border brought me back to the road trips down to Florida that I’d take with my parents.

This book is just too much fun. It’s a crazy, fun road trip around the world that families will love to take together. Great photos and fun text against bright backgrounds make every page an eyecatcher. Add this to your collections, and vote on future attractions at NatGeo’s site.

south-of-the-border_1Me, my dad, and a gorilla at Fort Pedro, South of the Border, mid-80s


south-of-the-borderPedro welcomes you South of the Border! (image courtesy of The Dillon Herald)

This book is doing gangbusters at my library! The kids think it’s hilarious (the giant water fountain and the T-Rex you can hang out in are big favorites). I’m trying to think of a fun program – because that’s what I do with good books – that would incorporate the road trip mentality with a staycation budget. Maybe the kids and I will armchair travel every week, and put a pin in a different attraction on the map? Maybe we’ll find some new, wacky attractions along the way, or make up some of our own? I’ll let you know when we figure it out.

Posted in Horror, Teen, Young Adult/New Adult

The Asylum Series, Volume 3: Catacomb

catacombCatacomb, by Madeleine Roux (Sept. 2015, HarperCollins), $17.99, ISBN: 9780062364050

Recommended for ages 12+

Here we are, the third volume in Madeleine Roux’s Asylum series. For this one, we head to one of the most paranormal-friendly cities in America: New Orleans. Abby, Dan, and Jordan are taking one more road trip; this time, relocating Jordan to his Uncle Steve in Nawlins, where he’ll be living and attending Tulane University.

Everyone has their own agenda, though. Abby’s pretty sure she’s taking a year off from college to pursue her art and photography; she’s investigating a famous criminal who has a history in the South. Dan has leads on his parents – his birth parents, not Paul and Sandy, the adoptive parents who adore him. He wants to understand more about why he was abandoned to the foster care system and hopes to find answers; he’s got some clues he found in the paperwork from Sanctum.

The action starts quickly enough. While on the road, the teens discover they’re being watched, even photographed. And then, Dan starts receiving Facebook messages. From Micah. Who really isn’t anywhere near a reliable Wi-Fi reception, so this presents a huge problem. They find themselves stuck in another mystery, involving another secret society, but this time, Dan’s directly in their sights.

There’s a lot of revelation happening in this book, and the paranormal aspect is back. We’ve got a secret society that’s truly chilling, tied into voudou and grave robbing. The big bad is pretty obvious from the get-go, but he’s supposed to be; the big twist is waiting for you closer to the end. The biggest question I had going in was how the heck do Dan’s parents keep letting him go away on these trips? He comes back beaten, stabbed, and traumatized each time; I’d never let my kid out of the house again.

I enjoyed Catacomb and think it brings all the storylines to a satisfying close. The Brookline connection felt a little forced, so I’m glad it was a piece that Ms. Roux touched on, and let be. The photos are mostly from Abby’s point of view this time, which adds a nice connection with the character and her point of view.

If you’re in the mood for a good, creepy trilogy, the Asylum trilogy is for you. I’m looking forward to reading more from Madeleine Roux!

Posted in Graphic Novels, Non-fiction, Teen, Tween Reads, Uncategorized

Raina Telgemeier’s Sisters – A Companion Tale to Smile

sistersSisters, by Raina Telgemeier, (Aug. 2014, Scholastic Graphix). $10.99, ISBN: 9780545540605

Recommended for ages 10+

A companion to her Eisner Award-winning graphic novel, Smile, Sisters examines Raina Telgemeier’s relationship with her sister, Amara. The autobiographical novel takes place mainly during a road trip to visit her mother’s family that Telgemeier took when she was 14, with flashbacks that spotlight key points in Raina and Amara’s relationship, leading up to the road trip.

Sisters is about relationships, and emotions that come into play in those relationships. The primary relationship is the one between Raina and Amara, but there are other important relationships here – relationships that, for the purposes of this book, orbit Raina and Amara, but will strike a chord with any reader – the relationship between the sisters and their younger brother, Will; their relationship between their parents; the relationships between their mother and her siblings (and how it mirrors theirs) and the relationship between Raina and her cousins.

Sisters examines family tension on many levels – it’s not a dark novel, but it does inject realism and humor into situations many of us know all too well, and Ms. Telgemeier’s soft cartoon art is like comfort food for my psyche.

Smile still continues to be one of the most popular graphic novels in my library. I’m positive that Sisters will join it.

Posted in Animal Fiction, Fiction, Graphic Novels, Humor, Intermediate

Bird & Squirrel on Ice – A New Adventure!

bird and squirrel on iceBird & Squirrel on Ice, by James Burks (Sept. 2014, Scholastic Graphix), $8.99, ISBN: 9780545563185

Recommended for ages 7-12

Bird & Squirrel is an adorable, fun graphic novel series for younger readers. The series follows the adventures of two friends: Bird, a bright yellow bird, and his buddy, Squirrel, a blue squirrel with an acorn hat. Bird seems to blunder into things, and Squirrel plays the voice of reason.

In the second book in this series, Bird & Squirrel on Ice, the two friends find themselves in the South Pole, befriended by a group of penguins that swear Bird is their Chosen One – he will fight the giant killer whale that bullies them, threatening to eat them if they don’t make an offering of food to him. They’re going to starve if they need to keep feeding this whale! Bird is only too thrilled to bask in the accolades, but Squirrel knows something’s up – and sure enough, it’s a doozy. With the help of their new penguin friend, Sakari, maybe they can just make it out after all.

This book is an adorable look at friendship. It uses the “Odd Couple” model, with two contrasting personalities, but who ultimately fit together nicely. It’s a sitcom, set in a graphic novel: the situation is set up, the problem introduces itself, and the resolution plays out. There’s some fun dialogue, and the cartoon art is adorable and eye-catching, with bright colors that will draw all readers in.

This is a great addition to graphic novel collections for younger readers: there’s a plucky female heroine, and there are strong themes about friendship and honesty. Pick this one up when it publishes in September, and check out the first book, Bird & Squirrel on the Run.