Posted in Fiction, Intermediate, picture books

The Great TBR ReadDown, 2020 Edition

I’ve said it before: when it comes to books, my eyes are bigger than my reading capacity. I’m attempting to read down as much as I can before the new year, so please enjoy my TBR as I whittle it down.

21 Cousins, by Diane de Anda/Illustrated by Isabel Muñoz, (Feb .2021, StarBright Books), $16.99, ISBN: 978-1-59572-915-6

Ages 4-8
Big families are big fun, and this mestizo family – a mix of Mexican people and cultures (Indian, Spanish, French) – is full of cousins! They’re all gathering for a special reason, and Alejandro and Sofia act as our narrators as they introduce us to each of their cousins. The family members are different ages, have different interests, abilities, and appearances that we learn about as we go through each colorful spread. There is some Spanish language infused into the English text, and the book is also available in Spanish. Beginning with the pages of a family photo album and closing with a family picture of all the cousins, it’s a wonderful story about how cultural diversity exists and flourishes within families: the small communities where it all begins.
Bronson Beaver Builds a Robot, by Teko Bernard/Illustrated by Howard Russell, (Apr. 2021, Tabron Publishing), $9.95, ISBN: 978-0986059360
Ages 7-11

Bronson Beaver is a 13-year-old builder, inventor, and video game fan whose family runs Beaver Valley Lodge, a hugely popular vacation resort. While Bronson just wants to spend a weekend playing video games with his best friends, his father has other plans: the big pancake festival is happening, and Bronson has a list of chores to get done for the festival! Like any brainiac inventor, Bronson decides to take the easy way out and invent a robot to do all the chores while he and his best friends can take part in the Zombie Fight video game tournament and win the cash prize that will allow them to build their dream workshop. You know the true course of video games and robots never did run smooth, though, and things go wrong in a big way: and now it’s up to Bronson and his friends to make things right. A smart chapter book about friendship, making good decisions, and with a nice STEM component, plus black and white illustrations throughout, I hope we see more of Bronson and friends in the future. Give this indie published book a shot and invite your kiddos to build robots of their own, with some after-holidays boxes and decorations you have available to repurpose.

Sharks at Your Service, by Mary Cerullo/Photos by Jeffrey Rotman, (July 2021, Tumblehome), $17.99, ISBN: 9781943431632

Ages 7-9

There are two stories at play in this story about sharks and all the jobs they do: the fictional story of a girl named Marina and her dad’s trip to the aquarium, where they see sharks and attend a talk by shark photographer (also the photographer behind the photos in this book) Jeffrey Rotman, and the nonfiction facts and photos of sharks that run parallel to the fictional narrative. Marina’s aquarium visit starts a growing fascination with sharks; on the way home, she sees sharks everywhere! This gets her thinking of all the jobs sharks have, keeping the ocean in balance and clean: sharks like tiger sharks eat just about anything they see, earning the nickname “garbage collectors of the sea”; they weed out weak and sick ocean life, keeping disease from spreading through schools of fish; their superior senses help them maintain their status as alpha predators of the sea. Manga-influenced color illustrations and incredible color photos on every page make this a book shark fans will pick up again and again.

 

Starboy : Inspired by the Life and Lyrics of David Bowie, by Jami Gigot, (May 2021, Henry Holt), $18.99, ISBN: 9781250239433

Ages 4-8

Inspired by artist, singer, actor, and icon David Bowie, Starboy is a breathtaking tribute to every kid who doesn’t feel like they fit in… until they find that they do. David is a boy who lives in a black and white world until he hears “star chatter” that brings color to his world… and then again when he hears music on the radio. Music brings color to his world, and gives him a place where he belongs: and reaches out to color other people’s worlds, too. Jami Gigot’s illustrations bring David Bowie’s magic to life through sparks of color and nods to his personas like the Starman, Major Tom the Astronaut, the chic ’80s music and fashion icon, even Labyrinth’s Goblin King. As David the Starboy comes to life through music, the spark spreads to his schoolmates and people on the street, showing readers the ability that music has to reach inside and speak to us – just like “star chatter”. An author’s note talks about the influence of David Bowie on fashion and music, an there are fun facts and further resources for readers interested in learning more. The cover is a gorgeous tribute to Bowie’s Starman persona from the 1972 Aladdin Sane album cover.

Starboy has a starred review from School Library Journal.

 

I Can Be Kind, by Rainbow Gal, (June 2021Fat Cat Publishing), $12.99, ISBN: 978-1-989767-00-9

Ages 4-7

A cute pet shop fairy tale, I Can Be Kind is the story of Oscar, a 2-year-old piranha found in the sewer after being flushed by his owner. He ends up at a pet shop in Brooklyn, where he terrorizes the fish in the tank next to him. Being a carnivorous fish, the pet shop owner fed goldfish to Oscar until one day, when Maria – a friendly goldfish who refused to be scared off by Oscar’s posturing – ends up in Oscar’s tank! Oscar can’t eat Maria – she’s his friend, and he’s got a crush on her – and the two end up sharing fish food together, living happily ever after. It’s a sweet story, illustrated in full color, with coloring sheets available with the paperback version and for free at Rainbow Gal’s website.

Posted in Non-Fiction, Teen, Tween Reads, Young Adult/New Adult

LEGO Mindstorms books? Gotta go with No Starch Press!

The LEGO MINDSTORMS Robot Inventor Activity Book : A Beginner’s Guide to Building and Programming LEGO Robots, by Daniele Benedettelli, (Nov. 2021, No Starch Press), $34.99, ISBN: 9781718501812
Ages 9+
I love No Starch Press for my computer and tech books. They find the best writers and illustrators to communicate tech concepts to everyone, from kids to grownups. Their manga guides to the sciences are great for my YA collection, and they move: as soon as I show a teen The Manga Guide to Calculus, I feel like I’ve done my good deed for the day. So when someone from No Starch asked me to look at the LEGO Mindstorms Robot Inventor Activity Book, I jumped! We had a robotics program at my last library, and I’m hoping to get a program going here if I can get some grant money, so a No Starch library of LEGO Mindstorms books would be a nice part of my grant.
Daniele Benedettelli delivers. He’s collaborated with LEGO Group to help develop and test LEGO MINDSTORMS, including the software for the LEGO MINDSTORMS Education EV3 set, has written several LEGO Mindstorms books. and has a YouTube channel with tutorials and experiments.
Written for beginners – no, honest – this book includes seven projects to get you up and running. Use the Robot Inventor set and the companion to to build bots like a magical monster that can answer written questions AND eat paper, a working electric guitar, or a remote-controlled transformer car that will have kids channeling their inner Optimus Prime. Pages are filled with color photos and step-by-step instructions on building and programming your robots using the Mindstorms app. Benedettelli communicates clearly and with helpful, informative detail, and clear color photos will help even the most confounded of learners .(That would be me. I’m the confounded learner.) Helpful tips and ideas abound in callout boxes. Fully indexed.
If you’re building a Mindstorms/robotics library, this is an essential book to have, especially if you haven’t run a robotics league before. Good luck!
Posted in Fiction, Fiction, Graphic Novels, Intermediate, Middle Grade

Kid-Friendly graphic novels for younger readers

I told you, this is a graphic novel summer! I’m so happy to see graphic novels coming out with younger and newer readers in mind: they helped develop a love of reading in my own kiddo, and I know the littles in my library love them as much as my middle graders do. Let’s take a look at what’s good.

Magic Tree House: Dinosaurs Before Dark Graphic Novel, by Mary Pope Osborne, Adapted by Jenny Laird, Illustrated by Kelly Matthews and Nicole Matthews, (June 2021, Random House Books for Young Readers), $9.99, ISBN: 9780593174715

Ages 6-9

Jack and Annie are headed to graphic novels! The Magic Tree House books have been a staple in libraries for decades; now they’re transitioning to more visual storytelling mediums with graphic novels, starting with the first Magic Tree House adventure, Dinosaurs Before Dark. Jack and Annie discover a treehouse loaded with stacks of books, make a wish to see dinosaurs, and discover that they’re been transported back in time to the prehistoric era! Annie befriends a couple of plant-eaters, they run from a T-Rex, and try to figure out how to get home again. The story translates wonderfully to a graphic novel medium, and the artwork has a manga influence, which makes for big facial expressions; the artwork is colorful and eye-catching. Less dense text relies on visual storytelling, making this even more appealing to emerging and struggling readers. This series is going to be a hit.

Be sure to check out the Magic Tree House Classroom Adventures website, where you can find lesson plans and more resources. The Magic Tree House website has resources for kids and parents, including a Mission Game and Kids Adventure Club.

Fitz and Cleo, by Jonathan Stutzman and Heather Fox, (May 2021, Henry Holt), $12.99, ISBN: 9781250239440

Ages 6-9

The dynamic duo behind the Llama Destroys the World series is doing graphic novels now!! Fitz and Cleo are sheet-wearing ghost siblings who find and adopt a cat they name Mr. Boo. There are 11 bite-sized stories in this first volume; perfect for newly confident readers to pick up and spend time with. Fitz sports a baseball cap and glasses and is more interested in science than cats; Cleo wears a head bow, is cheery and fun, and is always there to support her brother. The two are best friends, with Mr. Boo adding comic relief with his antics, usually aimed at Fitz. Adorable, fun, Fitz and Cleo is a great early graphic novel to add to your younger reader shelves. Download a Fitz and Cleo activity kit right here!

 

Blue, Barry & Pancakes: Escape from Balloonia, by Dan & Jason, (June 2021, First Second), $12.99, ISBN: 9781250255563
Ages 4-8
The second Blue, Barry, and Pancakes adventure is just as wacky and fun as the first. Blue and Barry want a day just for themselves, but Pancakes has other plans: she’s made a rocket, and a planet made of balloons, and before Blue or Barry can say a word, they’re zooming off into space, where they’ll find themselves facing a giant Balloonian – a resident of Balloonia, naturally – named Balloon Kong. Will the trio ever get home? Will Blue and Barry ever get their quiet day? You have to read it to find out! This is such a fun series that you can easily start reading with preschoolers. The humor is light, laugh-out-loud funny, and the characters are endearing and adorable.
Scaredy Squirrel in a Nutshell, by Melanie Watt, (June 2021, Random House Books for Young Readers), $12.99, ISBN: 9780593307557
Ages 6-9
Popular picture book friend, Scaredy Squirrel, makes his graphic novel debut in Scaredy Squirrel in a Nutshell. Scaredy has successfully secured his tree from wooly mammoths, woodpeckers, lumberjacks, and aliens, but now he’s faced with a seemingly insurmountable foe: his new neighbor, a friendly bunny named Ivy. Scaredy has to weigh all the potential risks and plan for every scenario before deciding whether or not to invite Ivy to share his takeout pizza, and he discovers that having a friend can be pretty fun, after all. If you’re familiar with the Scaredy books, you’ll give a hearty chuckle at seeing Scaredy’s familiar lists for everything. If you’re new to Scaredy, you will be quickly enchanted by how funny and sweet he is. The artwork is adorable, expressive, bold, and eyecatching; there are three easy-to-navigate chapters that advance the story and give readers easy spots to put the book down for a break if they need to. Scaredy Squirrel is a great choice to bring to graphic novels!
Shark and Bot #2: Sleepaway Champs, by Brian Yanish, (June 2021, Random House Books for Young Readers, $9.99, ISBN: 9780593173381
Ages 5-8
The two besties are back in their new adventure, where they head off to sleepaway camp (much to Bot’s chagrin: he wanted to go to Space Camp). Camp Sweet Sunshine is not what the friends expect: Bot is put in a giant bubble because “everyone swims at Camp Sweet Sunshine”; they’re glitter-bombed by another camper, and the bathroom may be haunted. But they have a talent show to practice for, and it’s the one place that has enough privacy! Sleepaway Champs is a funny, cheerful story about summer, friends, and trying new things, sure to make readers smile. The book is organized into 8 chapters, making for easily paced reading with breaks. Author Brian Yanish’s website has loads of resources for caregivers and educators, including a video on how to draw Shark and Bot. Back matter includes instruction on how to draw Batty, Shark’s stuffed wombat, and amusing and interesting facts about wombats.
Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Welcome to the world, Robobaby!

Robobaby, by David Wiesner, (Sept. 2020, Clarion Books), $17.99, ISBN: 9780544987319

Ages 4-7

Three-time Caldecott Medalist David Wiesner is back! Robobaby is the giggle-worthy story of the chaos a new baby brings to the family, set in a robot world. Baby Flange arrives at his family’s home; he’s got great packaging and he’s a big baby: 278 pounds! Big sister Cathode, nicknamed Cathy, is positively aglow at her brother, but no one is letting her help: until a series of hilarious catastrophes, that is! Remaining calm and relying on her tools and tech smarts, she manages to make sure updates are installed, instructions are followed, and brand new Robobaby is adorably – and correctly – assembled. Perfect for a STEM/STEAM storytime, this loving tribute to girls in science is also a great idea for Women’s History Month storytimes. The artwork is incandescent, with bright yellows and artistically placed shadows to provide depth and interest. Barely-controlled chaos reigns across the spreads, which you can play for laughs during a readaloud. Sparse text is relegated to word balloons from characters, further proving the David Wiesner doesn’t need words to tell a great story: he does all the talking with his artwork. Kids will recognize and enjoy the familiarity of new baby pandemonium: the relatives arriving en masse, everyone contributing opinions, and most importantly, kids being shuttled aside in the interest of letting the grownups talk. Having Cathode triumph over the adults to bond with her brother is such a lovely, respectful way to let kids know that we see them. Must-have for collections.

Robobaby has starred reviews from Kirkus, Publishers Weekly, and Booklist.
Posted in Fantasy, Fiction, Fiction, Intermediate, Middle Grade

Independently Published Spotlight: Intermediate and Middle Grade

One thing I did do this year was make progress on my TBR, and concentrated on those indie and small press submissions I’ve received over the last few years. Here are two novels I’ve read and want to share. I’ll be reading and reviewing more, whittling down that TBR, into next year, so if you’ve asked me to review a book of yours and I haven’t gotten to it yet, please be patient!

Gregory and the Grimbockle, by Melanie Schubert/Illustrated by Abigail Kraft, Book Soundtrack by Jared Kraft (Nov. 2017, New Wrinkle Publishing), $14.94, ISBN: 978-0991110933

Ages 8-11

Gregory is a 10-year old with a giant mole beneath his nose. The creepy neighbor lady always tries to rip it off his face, but when she finally manages to snag a bit of it, Gregory discovers a BIG surprise: the mole is a hiding place and portal into our world for a tiny creature called a Grimbockle. The Grimbockle belongs to a group of creatures called Bockles, and they oversee Exoodles, the invisible threads that connect humans to one another. When affections and feelings are loving and strong, the threads are strong, but when those threads fray or break, they can cause heartbreak and strife. Gregory accompanies the Grimbockle on his nightly rounds and finds himself on an adventure as he attempts to reconnect exoodles and relationships. The story is a nice statement on how our feelings affect those around us and how we are connected by our relationships and emotions. The storytelling moves at a decent pace and the characters are cute; black and white illustrations throughout keep the reader’s interest. A good additional middle grader/intermediate book.

 

Whiz Bang and Amelia the Adventure Bear: The Jade Dragon, by Forrest Helvie and Michelle Lodge, (Oct. 2016, Independently Published), $1.99, Kindle ASIN: B01MDP3D3M

Ages 7-10

A quick read, this 31-page adventure is about Whiz Bang, a robot, and his friend Amelia, a bear. They’re martial arts students who have to learn that self-control, discipline, and the ability to show respect are the most important skills to learn in their quest to progress through their belts. Their sensei uses the story of a former student and the school’s mascot, a jade dragon, to communicate his message. There’s one other book in the series and another forthcoming; to get the Whiz Bang and Amelia newsletter and find out more about the books, visit the Whiz Bang and Amelia webpage.

Posted in picture books

Blog Tour: I Am Awesome! and Guest Post from Author Ryan K. Maule

Ryan Maule, motivational speaker and host of the popular Expect Awesome Podcast, wants to make sure that all children get the positive self-esteem they need early so they can be the type of adults that live up to their God-given potential.

I Am Awesome!, by Ryan K. Maule/Illustrated by L.M. Phang,
(Jan . 2020, WestBow Press), $16.95, ISBN: 978-1-9736-8105-2
Ages 5-8

Enter I Am Awesome!, a story about two robots, Grace and Zeal, who meet a new invention who claims to be Awesome and not just Good. Author Ryan K. Maule was kind enough to share a guest post for today, so read on and enjoy.

3 Secrets to Teaching Your Kids to Choose Confidence Over Fear
By Ryan Maule, author of the children’s book I Am Awesome!

Being a parent of a child in grade school means constantly sitting on the edge of your seat. Changes are happening all the time that affect the way your child reacts and responds to everyday life situations. This makes parenting overwhelming, feeling like you’re just sitting around waiting to come up with answers to issues you didn’t realize would come up in the first place.

One of those changes seen regularly is a loss in self-esteem or confidence. Many parents face the dilemma of seeing confidence deplete with little to no understanding of what’s going on or how it happened. Most of the time we don’t even notice until the confidence has dropped so far that we wonder how it will ever recover!

So, what happened? If you’re like me, it’s easy to remember the moments where your child looked like they were absolutely unstoppable. I’ve seen my daughter take on roller coasters that made me nauseous, introduce herself to a group of strangers where I hoped to just blend in and get ignored, and perform, sing, and dance in front of crowds that make even the most confident of parents wonder “where did this kid come from?!” For a while it seemed like the only thing that scared her was Santa Claus.

But then, without notice or warning, she doesn’t have that confidence anymore. She doesn’t want to perform, she’s withdrawn, she doesn’t want to go on even simple child rides, or stand out at school or in small groups.

Where did the confidence go?

The reality is that these depletions in confidence are normal and common throughout not only the growing up process, but throughout your child’s entire life. These life tests never go away. The trick is to be able to recognize and label the problem that is always getting in the way. It can be called many things and summed up into one word: fear.

Fear is the main reason your children lose some or most of their self-confidence. It can be discovering the fear of death, the fear of judgement, the fear of disapproval, the fear of disappointment, the fear of embarrassment, or even the fear of simply failing. They could even just be scared in general. Fear is always present and will never fully go away. Fear is the amplifier of all the negative outcomes in every situation that we hold in the back of our mind.

The secret is to teach our children how to react to fear in order to maintain and build their confidence. To do this, I have three easy secrets to help your kids choose confidence over fear.

  1. Teach Your Children to Recognize and Admit Their Fears

Most situations where confidence is attacked are never recognized because we allow ourselves to get away with lying to each other. Instead of properly saying “I’m afraid of” or “I’m scared to,” we allow bad excuses and “I just don’t want to’s” to be acceptable answers. Teaching your kids to identify the thoughts and feelings that are fear-related helps them to create the potential for a stronger, more confident response.

  1. Make A Rule of No Hypotheticals

 This secret is one that all families should use and applies to both adults and children. Hypotheticals are imaginary negative outcomes and more commonly, fantasy worst-case scenarios. It’s so easy to think up disasters and failures and play them out like a movie in your mind. The answer is to not allow them. No hypotheticals means basing your decision on only the things that are facts and that you already know. By not allowing your worst-case scenario to impact your decision, you create opportunities where positive outcomes are truly possible.

  1. Discuss Past Successes!

When you’re in the moment, it’s hard to remember past experience. Sometimes all you need is a little reminder of great moments of past confidence to inspire more instances of future confidence!

“Do you remember that time you did this same thing and it went perfectly?!”

“Mom and I were so proud of you the last time you handled a situation like this!”

“You are awesome at this!”

“This is nothing for you!”

“You could do this in your sleep!”

By drawing on past successes, your children will start to see beyond the fear and see themselves conquering the world!

RYAN MAULE is the author of the children’s book I Am Awesome! He is also a nationally recognized and highly sought-after motivational speaker, host of the popular Expect Awesome Podcast, and the president of Integrity Doctors, the world’s largest chiropractic business organization. Over the last 15 years Ryan has traveled the world spreading the message of expecting awesome and building a stronger self-image in order to gain a God-powered confidence. Ryan is happily married to his awesome wife Amber and they live in Florida with their two awesome kids, Summer Grace and Nolan Zeal.

 

  • Author’s Facebook: LINK
  • Author’s Twitter: LINK
  • Author’s Instagram: LINK
  • Author’s Website: LINK
  • Amazon: LINK
  • com: LINK
Posted in Middle Grade, Tween Reads

STEAM project fun: Super Robot

Super Robot, by Arnaud Roi, (Oct. 2019, Schiffer Kids), $12.99, ISBN: 9780764358302

Ages 6-12

This is one of those books that makes me think back to when I had punch-out paper doll books. They’re still around, albeit a little tougher to find, so I was really excited to get a copy of Super Robot in the mail from Schiffer Kids! Artist Arnaud Roi uses his love of the 1950s aesthetic to create a vintage-looking robot that kids can punch out and put together, creating a 2-foot-high paper structure.

Assembly instructions are detailed and take readers, step-by-step, through assembly; the assembly process is helpfully illustrated so you don’t get too turned around in the building process. The paper is sturdy and scored where necessary, to help with folding and assembling. The robot is a bright, bold combination of primary colors.

Younger scientists and paper artists will need a helping hand, but bigger creators should be able to work on this, no problem. It’s a fun idea for a Discovery Club activity, and small groups can work on one robot at a time, if your budget permits you to buy a few copies. Create a robot army, or an army of one – either way, Super Robot is a fun build that get kids working with their hands.

Pair with Adam Rubin’s Robo-Sauce, one of my favorite robot books: the book transforms into a Robo-Book. Have some Legos, and some robotics books around for your readers who are ready to explore more. I recommend NatGeo Kids’ Everything Robotics and National Geographics Readers: Robots.

 

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

Happy Book Birthday to Weird Little Robots by Carolyn Crimi!

Weird Little Robots, by Carolyn Crimi/Illustrated by Corinna Luyken, (Oct. 2019, Candlewick), $16.99, ISBN: 9780763694937

Ages 8-12

Two girls discover their mutual love of tinkering and science in this quirky, fun, illustrated novel. Eleven-year-old Penny Rose is new in town, and doesn’t really have any friends yet – unless you count the little robots she makes in her shed. She makes them out of found objects, and tinkers lovingly with them, giving them names and looking after them every day. Lark, her neighbor, is a quirky girl next door who loves birds and tinkers with found objects given to her by the crows; she makes birdhouses to keep her friends safe from the elements. The two girls become friends and create an entire town for the little robots… and when a mysterious wind sweeps through their town, it brings some surprises with it! But while Penny and Lark enjoy one another’s company, a secret science club at school offers Penny membership in their society. Penny feels the tug between her new best friend and a group of like-minded science friends, but making the wrong decisions for the wrong reasons could cost Penny her best friend and the robots that she loves so much.

This is such an unconventional, enjoyable book! I love the idea of making creations out of found objects, and the touch of magical realism infused in this story makes it a joy to read. It’s a STEM story, a friendship story, and a comforting story about second chances. The little robots have their own personalities, each reflected in their names, bestowed on them by Penny. Penny is more tech-focused, while Lark prefers the world around her, showing that making and tinkering presents endless creations. The black and white illustrations throughout give life to the story and keep readers interested as they move through the book.

There’s a downloadable guide with discussion questions and activities, making this a good idea for an ELA/Science partnership or book club/Discovery Club program. I can’t wait until my library’s copy arrives, so I can start telling kids how much they need to read this book. Maybe it’s time for a secret science society at MY library… hmmmm…

 

“[A]uthor Crimi infuses this unassuming transitional novel with compassion, humor, and a refreshing storyline in which girls organically weave a love for science into their everyday lives. Illustrations by Luyken add to the guileless sensibility. A contemplation on the magic of friendship told with sweetness, simplicity, and science.”—Kirkus Reviews

 

Carolyn Crimi enjoys snacking, pugs, Halloween, and writing, although not necessarily in that order. Over the years she has published 15 funny books for children, including Don’t Need Friends, Henry and the Buccaneer Bunnies, Where’s My Mummy?, There Might Be Lobsters, and I Am The Boss of This Chair. Weird Little Robots is her first novel.

For more information, and to download a free classroom guide for Weird Little Robots, visit her website.

Twitter: @crims10

Corinna Luyken is the author-illustrator of The Book of Mistakes. She lives with her husband and daughter in Olympia, Washington.
Posted in Science Fiction, Teen, Young Adult/New Adult

Mecha Samurai Empire – Crossover YA/Adult SciFi!

Mecha Samurai Empire (United States of Japan #2), by Peter Tieryas, (Sept. 2018, Berkley Publishing Group), $16, ISBN: 9780451490995

Ages 14+

This is a fantastic crossover novel for any sci-fi/fantasy fans, manga and anime fans, and alternate history fans out there.  I did NOT want to put this one down!

The backstory: The AXIS powers (primarily Germany and Japan, for purposes of this novel) won what we know as World War II. America is now known as the United States of Japan, and Germany shares control to some degree, of the American territories. It’s an uneasy alliance between Japan and Germany, and the terrorists known as the George Washingtons are always ready to fight.

Now: Makoto Fujimoto is a young man born and raised in California, orphaned by war and raised by an abusive foster home, now a student with one goal: to attend the Berkeley Military Academy and become a mecha pilot. His awful grades threaten his dream, but a chance to work as a civilian mech pilot gives him a chance to get into shape and learn some skills. When his squadron comes under attack by Nazi bio-mechs, he and his surviving squadmate land two spots at the Military Academy, just in time for tensions between the USJ and Nazi Germany to hit an all-time high. There are traitors everywhere… maybe even among Makoto’s old friends.

I LOVED this book. I haven’t read the first book, United States of Japan, and you don’t need to – this adventure takes place in the same universe, but Makoto’s story is entirely his own. (You can bet that I’ve just requested it for myself, and put both books in order cart for the library, though.) There’s fantastic action and world-building; gratuitous mech battles; intrigue, and strong characters. Peter Tieryas creates some wonderfully strong, intelligent female characters and gives his male characters empathy and feeling. Pacific Rim fans, Harry Turtledove fans, and Man in the High Castle fans will dive right into this series, and so will your anime and manga fans. I’ve already booktalked this one to a teen at my library; he fully expects this to be waiting here for him when it hits shelves on September 18th.

Get your geek on and booktalk/display with Garrison Girl and some gundam manga.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Rusty the Squeaky Robot wants to be your friend!

Rusty the Squeaky Robot, by Neil Clark, (Apr. 2018, words & pictures), $17.95, ISBN: 9781910277522

Recommended for readers 3-6

Rusty is a friendly robot who’s uncomfortable with the way he sounds. He squeaks, and he really doesn’t like it: “If he couldn’t like his squeak/Then he couldn’t like himself”; he’s really letting this squeak get him down. Luckily, the other robots on on Planet Robotone are there to show him that everyone’s got something to make them different, whether they Squeak!, Boom!, Twang!, or Hoot!, and when differences come together, they can create some great music!

This is such a positive story about owning one’s own individuality and embracing diversity. It’s a positive story about friendship, sending a message to kids about empathy and acceptance. The rhyming text is light and fun, inviting kids to move with the words, and the retro artwork is bright and fun, with basic black fonts setting the story apart from the big, colorful sounds each robot makes. Robot fans will love this upbeat story!