Posted in Fiction, Fiction, Graphic Novels, Historical Fiction, Middle Grade, Realistic Fiction, Tween Reads

Graphic novels: real-life stories

More graphic novels to talk about, this time, real-life stories. Some are realistic fiction, some are inspired by moments in the author’s life. All are great reading!

My Own World, by Mike Holmes, (June 2021, First Second), $12.99, ISBN: 9781250208286
Ages 8-13
Inspired by events in his childhood, Wings of Fire and Secret Coders illustrator Mike Holmes delivers a graphic memoir with a splash of fantasy. Nathan is alone, but for his older brother, Ben. His other siblings and the neighborhood bullies torment him, but he always looks to Ben to spend time with; Ben is the one person who gets him. Unfortunately, there are things coming up that take Ben farther and farther away from Nathan, leaving him to create a fantasy world to escape to when the real world intrudes too much. A study in grief, loss, and healing, My Own World is a better reading choice for middle schoolers than younger readers; there’s trauma contained within these pages. It’s an excellent starting point for discussions on the lingering damage done by bullying, loneliness, and coping with loss. The real world is depicted in flat colors, but Nathan’s fantasy world is alive with color, vibrancy, and engaging characters that Nathan creates to spend time with.
My Own World has a starred review from Booklist.
Jukebox, by Nidhi Chanani, (June 2021, First Second), $14.99, ISBN: 9781250156372
Ages 10 to 14
Nidhi Chanani is amazing in her ability to create magical travels using everyday objects. She infused a shawl with the power to fantastical India in her 2017 award-winner, Pashmina; now, she weaves a story about a jukebox that can transport listeners to a moment in time, inspired by the albums they play, in Jukebox. Shaheen is a girl who feels like she and her mom come in second to her father’s love of – obsession with? – music, particularly with albums. He never seems to be present to hear her when she’s talking; he just wants to talk about the newest album he’s on the hunt for, and he spends hours searching record bins for new additions to his collection. When he doesn’t return home one night, Shaheen and her cousin, Tannaz, start a search, only to discover a glowing jukebox at the local record store where Dad spent so much of his time. A Bessie Smith record spins on the turntable, and the girls find themselves transported to Harlem’s Savoy Ballroom in 1929! The song ends, returning them to their present time and place, and the chase through musical history is on. The girls spin different records, visiting key moments in time. from political marches to landmark concerts, while searching for Shaheen’s father. Will they be able to find him before morning? Jukebox is an incredible journey through our history using music as the vehicle. Sections are organized by album cover, with Shaheen’s father’s notes on the albums and social climate, giving readers more context as they prepare to jump into a new decade: Bessie Smith’s section includes notes on the album’s 1929 release, the oncoming Depression, and a 1929 Oscar awards program; Nina Simone’s Black Gold includes a Golden State Comic Con program and a newspaper with an Earth Day headline, all of which happened in 1970. Notes from Shaheen’s father mention her career and marriage eroding in the 1960s, and the music industry’s punishment for her political music.
Brilliant storytelling and an essential look at the ties between music and social change. Visit Nidhi Chanani’s website for printables and more about her books, and get multiple copies of this book ready – your readers deserve them! If you’re doing a travel themed Summer Reading program this year, you couldn’t ask for a better concept: pick songs, get some facts, and create slideshows; invite readers to offer their own insight. What song was popular the year they graduated from kindergarten? What song makes them think of family? A favorite friend? Invite readers to talk about music from their culture that others may not know. There’s so much you can do here!
Turtle in Paradise, by Jennifer L. Holm/Illustrated by Savanna Ganucheau, (June 2021, Random House Graphic), $12.99, ISBN: 9780593126301
Ages 8-12
This graphic novel adaptation of Jennifer Holm’s 2010 Newbery Honor-winning novel is simply gorgeous. Set in 1935, eleven-year-old Turtle is a girl who’s had some tough times. She’s more level-headed than her mother, loves the movies, and really doesn’t like Shirley Temple. While figuring out where life will take her next, her mother sends Turtle to Key West, Florida, to live with her aunt when she takes a job housekeeping for a woman who doesn’t like children, and Turtle has never met her aunt or the many cousins she’s now living with. She starts getting into the swing of things, following the “Diaper Gang”: neighborhood boys with a babysitting club and a secret diaper rash formula that puts them in high demand. As she gets into a day-to-day groove, she learns some family secrets that leave her wanting more: more of her mother’s past, more of her family history, just… more. A family study, a piece of historical fiction that examines life in Depression-Era Florida, and a strong, smart female protagonist make this a great enough story, and then you Savanna Ganucheau’s artwork: filled with lush and humid outdoor spreads, we get a picture of 1930s life in Key West. Turtle’s cousins run barefoot through their day, while Turtle insists on her shoes. Babysitting moments are laugh-out loud funny, and Turtle interactions with a cantankerous senior citizen will make readers chuckle and admire the girl’s tenacity. Inspired by Jennifer Holm’s great-grandmother’s life in Key West, this is an adaptation that your readers will love and will absolutely gain the story some new fans.
Chunky, by Yehudi Mercado, (June 2021, Katherine Tegen Books), $12.99, ISBN: 9780062972781
Ages 8-12
A memoir of Yehudi Mercado’s Mexican-Jewish upbringing, Chunky is more incredible storytelling. Set in the 1980s, Hudi has one lung after a childhood battle with lung disease, he’s overweight, and he loves video games, science fiction and fantasy, and being the funny kid. His parents want him to lose weight and be healthier, and try to push him toward different sports to get him more active. Hudi, not particularly in love with the idea, goes along with his parents to make them happy, but creates an imaginary friend: a pink-furred   cheerleader/mascot called Chunky, to cheer him on as he tries – and flops – at baseball, swimming, and tennis. Chunky is there to tell Yehudi he’s better at comedy and drawing; he’s Hudi’s inner compass, telling him to stay true to himself. When Hudi’s father loses his job and has to move to another state to find work, he finds himself faced with a crossroads and joins the football team in a last bid to fit the image his parents want to have of him. Chunky is more than a memoir; it’s a story of trying to please others before yourself; it’s a story of using humor as deflection; it’s a story of listening to your true self. Hudi is funny – he can’t help but crack up people he comes into contact with, especially medical professionals – and he’s pretty game to try anything his parents want, even if his heart may not be 100% committed. He’s good-natured and kind, which makes his break with Chunky painful when he attempts one more sport to satisfy his parents. We want funny Hudi back! We want to go get ice cream with him and feel like everything will work out! The artwork is bright, colorful, upbeat, and loaded with great details, like Hudi’s t-shirts (console video games! Chewbacca!) and his room, which his father constantly redecorates to affirm his dedication to the latest sport Hudi’s involved with – and that Chunky and Hudi take great pleasure in defacing time and time again. I can gush about Chunky all day, so let me just say that this is another must-add to your shelves.
Learn more about Yehudi Mercado and get a look at Chunky at his website. Chunky has a starred review from School Library Journal.
Posted in Preschool Reads, Toddler Reads

The newest Board Books for little learners are GREAT!

I have a special place in my heart for a good board book. They’re so little, and durable, and take the biggest ideas in the world and make them perfect for little eyes, fingers, and minds (and yes, mouths) to enjoy. I  love everything about board books, so I’m always on the lookout for good ones to read to my toddlers and babies. Here are the latest ones that you can expect to show up in storytimes.

8 Little Planets, by Chris Ferrie/Illustrated by Lizzie Doyle, (Oct. 2018, Sourcebooks Jabberwocky), $10.99, ISBN: 9781492671244

Ages 2-5

How adorable is this book?! Put a cute little face on a planet or two, and I will buy it. It’s a weakness. Chris Ferrie, whose praises I sing pretty regularly here at MomReadIt, shifts his focus from the sciences to this sweet rhyming story about the planets. Counting down from 8 to 1, readers learn a couple of facts about each planet, from Neptune to Mercury, in an upbeat rhyming pattern that kids and caregivers will easily clap along with. Each planet is unique in its own way: Uranus spins on one side; Mars has the tallest mountain in the solar system. The collage artwork adds fun texture; there are corrugated planets and waffle-patterned moons, comets that combine textures, and happy stars and constellations abound. The happy-faced planets are going to delight any reader that comes across the book.

This is a perfect flannel board read. I’m going to have to get some flannel planets underway. Pair this with They Might Be Giants’ “How Many Planets?” to get the little ones up and dancing. For some more nonfiction-y board books, you can’t go wrong with ABC Universe, from the American Museum of Natural History (nice and big, for a larger storytime), and Our Solar System, also from the American Museum of Natural History, complete with graduated flaps that make turning pages a little easier for itty bitty fingers.

Vroom Vroom Garbage Truck, by Asia Citro/Illustrated by Troy Cummings, (Oct. 2018, Innovation Press), $8.99, ISBN: 9781943147434

Ages 0-4

A garbage truck wakes up and starts its day in this fun board book. Creaks and clangs, rumbles and bangs, and naturally, vroom-a-vroom vrooms abound as the garbage truck trundles through the city, picking up the trash and keeping its headlights open for crossing ducks and slowing down for a grateful early riser who forgot to put out his trash the night before. After a trip to the dump to lighten its load, Garbage Truck heads back to the garage for a good night’s sleep, with a shush, a sigh, and a click.

Told using only sound effects, this is a great story for infant and toddler storytime! There are so many fun sounds to make, and inviting caregivers to rumble and gently bounce little ones on their laps adds to the fun. Bold, black lines, bold, large text, and bright colors will keep little eyes engaged and active. There are oodles of great transportation board books out there to make for a fun storytime, especially anything by Byron Barton. If you want to go with a city-inspired storytime, you can’t go wrong with Christopher Franceschelli’s CityBlock. Songs and fingerplays abound, too. Add some plastic cars and trucks to your playtime and let the toddlers vroom along!

 

You Can Be, by Elise Gravel, (Oct. 2018, Innovation Press), $8.99, ISBN: 978-1-943147-40-3

Ages 3-5

A sight familiar to any kid or caregiver, You Can Be starts readers off with a carefree kid, clad only in underwear, running across the cover. And you know this is going to be a kid-friendly book about being a carefree, happy kiddo. Elise Gravel starts off by telling readers, “There are many ways to be a kid. You can be…” and proceeds to bring readers through weird and wonderful ways of being a kid: funny and sensitive; noisy and artsy; grumpy and smelly (sometimes… complete with toot cloud!). Kids are diverse and the drawings are bold and bright, each adjective large, bold, colorful, and fun. The message here? You can be angry, you can be smelly, you can be funny, or quiet… there’s no wrong way to be a kid. After all, as Elise Gravel says, “you can feel “almost any way you feel like being. (Except mean or rude, of course.)” I love that gender doesn’t define anyone’s mood here: girls are smelly, boys are artsy; kids are kids. It’s a great message to readers about self-acceptance and self-awareness.

Invite your readers to act out different moods! Let them be as silly or serious as they want to be. I love all things Elise Gravel, so this one will be on my shelves, no question. Pair this one with any Todd Parr book for a feel good, I Love Me! storytime. Check out Elise’s website for a free downloadable book, Artsy Boys and Smelly Girls, and other fun downloadables!

 

Autumn Babies and Winter Babies, by Kathryn O. Galbraith/Illustrated by Adela Pons, (Sept. 2018, Peachtree Publishers), $6.95, ISBN: 9781682630662 (Autumn) and 9781682630679 (Winter)

The first in a new series, Babies in the Park, Autumn Babies and Winter Babies star a group of multicultural babies who discover the joy in each season as they play in the park. Composed of two- and three-word sentences, each book takes readers through a park as it goes through the season. The four babies ( Sai, Simón, Jayden, and Emma) are dressed for the season and stomp, romp, and roll through the Fall, throwing sticks for pups to fetch, flying kites, and throwing leaves.

They bundle up for their winter playdate, sporting boots, hats, scarves, and warm coats. Snow plops, and babies catch snowflakes on their tongues, run, glide, and ride through the snow. Each book begins with a simple statement of the season: “It’s autumn in the park.” “It’s winter in the park”, establishing the season, and ends with a closeup of one a baby, with a joyful exclamation of the season: “It’s Autumn!” “It’s Winter!”

These books are such fun ways to greet the seasons, and the Babies in the Park idea is adorable. Give parents and caregivers ideas about activities – Peachtree has done the work for you and made up an activity companion sheet to the books! There are great extension activities to engage the kids during storytime: show different shapes (circle trees, diamond kites, triangle roofs), talk about different colors that you see. There are so many seasonal songs and fingerplays to be found on the Web: TeachingMama, one of my favorite blogs, always has adorable printables that you can give out to your families to sing along; let them bring the sheets home to keep the kids singing along after storytime.

If you want to read a little more about the series, Peachtree has an article on their website. Spring Babies and Summer Babies will be out early next year, so completionists like me can breathe a sigh of relief.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Perfectly Norman is perfectly lovely

Perfectly Norman, by Tom Percival, (May 2018, Bloomsbury USA), $16.99, ISBN: 9781681197852

Ages 4-7

Norman is a perfectly normal little boy until the day he sprouts big, colorful wings! At first, he enjoys his wings and the freedom they give him, letting him soar through the sky, but then worry slips in: what would his parents think?  Norman slips on a heavy yellow coat and resigns himself to being hot, uncomfortable, and sad, until his parents encourage him to take off the coat. Norman unfurls his beautiful wings, embraces his true self, and takes to the skies again: this time, encouraging other children to shed their coats and embrace their wings, too. Because there’s no such thing as perfectly normal, but he is perfectly Norman.

This sweet picture book embraces diversity and self-awareness. Norman is a biracial boy with a light-skinned mom and a dark-skinned dad, who shows lives and moves throughout his black and white world. Even Norman is black and white, sporting a bright yellow sweater with red striped sleeves, and carrying a bright yellow and red kite. once Norman’s wings make an appearance, though, Norman’s no longer black and white: he’s full color, and so are the blue skies and colorful birds he flies with! He soars above his black and white world, soaking in the color, until he gets called to dinner: Norman’s world goes back to black and white, the yellow coat now setting him apart in a seemingly different way, calling attention not to his uniqueness, but his desire to hide. When the colorful birds fly by him again, and his parents encourage him to shed the coat, the world fills with color again – and so do the multicultural group of kids he invites to fly with him. Perfectly Norman sends a passionate message about the freedom of self-acceptance and encourages kids to share that message with others. It’s a solid storytime read and a good addition to picture book collections.

Originally published in the UK, Perfectly Norman is available in the States. Tom Percival is also the author of the Little Legends chapter book series, which flies off the shelves.

 

Posted in Early Reader, Fiction, picture books

Blog Tour: ERASER, by Anna Kang and Christopher Weyant

I am so excited for this blog tour stop! I’ve been a fan Anna Kang and Christopher Weyant since 2014’s You Are (Not) Small. That’s (Not) Mine (2015) and I Am (Not) Scared (2017) round out a fun trilogy on friendship and preschooler life that makes every storytime too much fun. Now, just in time for back-to-school, Kang and Weyant give readers…

Eraser, by Anna Kang/Illustrated by Christopher Weyant,
(Sept. 2018, Two Lions), $17.99, ISBN: 978-1503902589
Ages 4-8

Eraser is a school supply that’s sick and tired of cleaning up everyone’s mess and getting no respect. She’s always there to help, but Pencil gets all of her glory. Her friends Sharpener and Ruler are the only two who understand her, but their encouragement isn’t enough anymore: Eraser’s tired of being on the cleanup crew. When the other school supplies snub her while holding a creative meeting, Eraser’s has HAD IT. She heads off to other adventures, leaving Pencil and the other supplies to fend for themselves. Eraser, meanwhile, meets a group of new friends that help her see where her true talent lie.

Eraser is a fun, smart story about looking beneath the surface and embracing one’s true gifts; using school supplies to tell this story is a great way to communicate this to younger readers, who may not understand how to see within themselves – or each other – those subtle gifts that make each one of us unique. Anna Kang’s got a gift for pacing and dialogue that makes her books something we return to again and again; Christopher Weyant brings the characters to life using ink and watercolor, creating instantly recognizable, with a touch of childlike fun that will have kids drawing their own school supply adventures.

The fun part about books by Anna Kang? You can give them all sorts of different voices, or invite your kids to put on their own voices and act them out. Eraser gives readers several different characters to take on, so try out a reader’s theatre! There’s a great art project contained within the story, so keep an eye out for it and invite your kiddos to create some dioramas of their own – just make sure all art supplies get their say. You know I love my activity kits, and you can find one right here.

 

One lucky winner will receive a 7-piece school supply kit along with a copy of ERASER, courtesy of Two Lions (U.S. addresses). Enter this Rafflecopter giveaway!

Anna Kang and Christopher Weyant are the creators of Theodor Seuss Geisel Award winner You Are (Not) Small and its follow-ups That’s (Not) Mine and I Am (Not) Scared. Christopher’s work can be seen routinely in The New Yorker magazine and his cartoons are syndicated worldwide. As an author, Anna regularly goes through first, second, and third drafts. Chris wears down many erasers while making his art. This husband-and-wife team lives in New Jersey with their two daughters and their rescue dog. Visit them at www.annakang.com and www.christopherweyant.com.

 

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Delivery Bear has a message about being yourself

Delivery Bear, by Laura Gehl/Illustrated by Paco Sordo, (Sept. 2018, Albert Whitman & Company), $16.99, ISBN: 978-0-8075-1532-7

Ages 4-7

Zogby is a big, brown bear who’s wanted to be a Fluffy Tail Cookies delivery animal ever since he was a cub. When he finally gets his chance, he’s up against a few obstacles: management is a little concerned that he doesn’t have “the Fluffy Tail Cookies look”, and his trial run is less fluffy, more… terrifying. He tries to change his appearance to be less scary to his little woodland customers, but no one wants to give the big guy a chance! It’s time for Zogby to put the lyrics to the Fluffy Tail jingle to work: You are special! You are YOU! Zogby comes up with his own original song to put the animals at ease, and before he knows it, he’s being invited in for tea and giving out bear hugs.

Delivery Bear is an adorable story about judging other based on appearances, and about appreciating yourself for who you are.The book is loaded with comic moments of a friendly cartoon bear trying to be friendly, and wide-eyed little animals screaming in terror, but there are plenty of teachable moments to talk over with readers; most notably, why Zogby had to change his approach to be accepted. Is it right or wrong to change for someone else? There is a lot to talk about here. (There’s also the question of whether or not the hiring manager was facing a lawsuit for not hiring Zogby, based on appearances, but I digress.)

With cartoony, kid-friendly artwork and a sweet story about self-acceptance, Delivery Bear is a cute add to storytime collections. Author Laura Gehl has a bunch of free downloads on her author website, including curriculum guides and coloring sheets for her Peep & Egg series, and One Big Pair of Underwear (which is a storytime standard for me).

 

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!

Posted in Preschool Reads

The Tiny Tale of Little Pea

The Tiny Tale of Little Pea, by Davide Cali/Illustrated by Sébastien Mourrain, (Sept. 2017, Kids Can Press), $18.99, ISBN: 9781771388436

Recommended for readers 4-7

So begins the tale of Little Pea, who could sleep in a matchbox, ride a grasshopper, and wore his doll’s shoes, while his clothes were lovingly hand-sewn by his mom. When it’s time for Little Pea to go to school, he realizes just how small he is. He’s too small for his desk. Too small to play the flute. Definitely too small for gym class. But is Little Pea’s confidence shaken? No way! He finds his own place in the world, painting postage stamps and living in a home that fits him just right.
Little Pea is a cute story with a main character who has a lot to say about resilience. He doesn’t let his perceived weakness stop him from living life on his terms; it’s a strong message for kids who hear, “You’re too little for that” once too often. Self-acceptance, creativity, and individuality drive the story, and every reader can take something away from it. Sébastien Mourrain comes up with wonderful scenes to demonstrate Little Pea’s size, bringing to mind some of my favorite parts of E.B. White’s Stuart Little. It’s a sweet story that will add to a storytime or individual reading.