Posted in Animal Fiction, Early Reader, Fiction, Fiction, Graphic Novels, Intermediate

Fox + Chick are sweet and funny buddies

Fox + Chick: The Quiet Boat Ride and Other Stories, by Sergio Ruzzier, (May 2021, Chronicle Books), $7.99, ISBN: 9781797208848

Ages 5-8

Fox and Chick are friends who love each other. Fox loves Chick with all Chick’s little quirks, and Chick loves Fox, who seems a little more down to earth. This latest book is the second book of their adventures, and it’s already out in hardcover. Chronicle was kind enough to send me a softcover copy, which will be out in May. Consisting of three stories – The Quiet Boat Ride, Chocolate Cake, and The Sunrise – this graphic novel is perfect for emerging readers who are ready to stretch from picture books and easy readers, but either not quite ready for chapter books or just starting them. In “The Quiet Boat Ride”, Fox is all set to spend a quiet afternoon rowing his boat when Chick arrives and injects a wild series of scenarios into the day. In “Chocolate Cake”, Chick agonizes over the gift of a chocolate cake and whether or not to eat all of it and risk a sick belly. “The Sunrise” sees Fox trying to get Chick to hurry up and come downstairs so they can see the sunrise. Parents and caregivers will love the stories, too; Chick will remind every single adult reader of the Kiddos in their lives, from trying to get a meandering preschooler to get their shoes on so you can get out of the door on time, to explaining that having access to a box of cookies (or a chocolate cake) doesn’t mean one has to EAT all of the cookies (or cake) in one sitting. Soft colors, fun dialogue, and an overall feeling of friendship makes this an excellent choice to give to kids who’ve loved Elephant and Piggie, Frog and Toad, and who are heading toward Skunk and Badger.

Sergio Ruzzier is a Sendak Fellow who has written and illustrated many critically acclaimed children’s books. The Fox + Chick books have starred reviews from Kirkus and School Library Journal, and Fox + Chick: The Party and Other Stories is included on many “Best Of” lists, including NPR Best Books of the Year, New York Times Notable Children’s Book,School Library Journal Best Book of the Year, and The Horn Book Magazine Fanfare Best Book of the Year. Visit Sergio Ruzzier’s author website for more information about his books.
Posted in Fantasy, Fiction, Intermediate

5-Minute Stories for Minecrafters: Extreme Stories!

5-Minute Stories for Minecrafters: Extreme Stories from the Extreme Hills, by Greyson Mann/Illustrated by Grace Sandford, (Sept. 2017, Sky Pony Press), $7.99, ISBN: 978-1-5107-2370-2

Recommended for readers 7-10

Buddies Zack, Sophia, and Anthony are Minecraft adventurers on the hunt for treasure. Over the course of eight short stories (or short chapters, since they do follow one adventure), the friends encounter zombies, spiders, exploding Creepers, and a dreaded Enderman! Written for a more intermediate audience, these are fun for a quick read-aloud during a circle time or for kids who are in the mood for something fast that doesn’t require a lot of commitment; something they can pick up during a homework or study break. Themes of working together and friendship frame the relationship between characters and influence choices they make while adventuring. Illustrations throughout the text keep kids in the story’s world, holding their interest.

Overall, a fun book to have available for Minecrafters. My library is loaded with them.

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

Mystery & Mayhem: New nonfiction middle grade series

Survival_CoverMystery & Mayhem: Survival, by Tom McCarthy, (Oct. 2016, Nomad Press), $9.95 (softcover)/$19.95 (hardcover), ISBN (softcover): 978-1-61930-480-2, ISBN (hardcover): 978-1-61930-476-5

Recommended for ages 8-12

Five stories of survival against all odds: Antarctic explorer Ted Shackleton and his men, fighting for their lives in the ice; legendary Mutiny on the Bounty Captain William Bligh and his men, set adrift in the Pacific Ocean; a young man and his companions struggle to travel through Death Valley to reach California during the gold rush; a young girl is one of the survivors of a shipwreck and then a trek through the Sahara Desert; and young Eliza Donner, one of the survivors of the Donner party’s fateful journey to the American West. Five stories, all terrifying, and all true.

 

 

PiratesAndShipwrecks_CoverMystery & Mayhem: Pirates and Shipwrecks, by Tom McCarthy (Oct. 2016, Nomad Press), $9.95 (softcover)/$19.95 (hardcover), ISBN (softcover): 978-1-61930-475-8, ISBN (hardcover): 978-1-61930-471-0

If it’s pirates ye be wantin’, pirates you’ll get here! Stories of the unlucky crew of the Betsey, shipwrecked and met by pirates; the 1857 recovery mission to discover what happened to an Arctic expedition that never came home; the story of Mary Read, one of the bloodthirstiest pirates ever to set sail – and a female!; the crews of two shipwrecks try to stay alive in a land populated by cannibal tribes, and the story of Barbarossa, the most feared pirate in the Mediterranean.  There are five stories of pirates and shipwrecks here, all true. Pirate fans, brandish your cutlasses, put on your eyepatch, and have a seat; these are the stories of the real Pirates of the Caribbean (and then some)!

These books read like the adventure and scary true tales I read when I was a kid. Does anyone else remember Dynamite Magazine’s book series? They had ghost stories and stories about famous disappearances (like Amelia Earhart and Judge Crater), and I devoured them. They gave me just enough of a jump scare, without venturing (too much) into “sleep with your lights on” territory. Kids who love Lauren Tarshis’ I Survived series will be all over these, but again – my brilliant nonfiction choices go unnoticed, so I’d have to display them, loud and proud, with the I Survived books and make sure the kids know where they are.

The beginning of each story in each book provides a map with details on the story’s location, and each story ends with a look at other events that took place in the same year as the current adventure. While Barbarossa was terrorizing the seas in 1504, for instance, Leonardo da Vinci was hard at work, painting the Mona Lisa, and Michelangelo’s famous statue, David, was displayed in Florence. In 1849 – the same year that William Lewis Manly led his companions out of Death Valley – Elizabeth Blackwell became the first female doctor in the United States, and Minnesota became a territory of the USA! Glossaries and resources complete each book.

While each book carries a Guided Reading level of V, the text skews a bit younger, which makes this a good series to introduce struggling and reluctant readers to. You can also suggest further reading, including Mystery in the Frozen Lands, a Hi-Lo reader from Lorimer, with Pirates and Shipwrecks: Mystery in the Frozen Lands is the full story of the Arctic mission to discover the fate of the Franklin expedition 12 years previous.

These are a fun series that will appeal to adventure readers. I’ve got a few fourth grade class visits booked for October (already!), so I may see how a read-aloud from one of these books goes.

Posted in Fiction, Horror, Middle Grade, Tween Reads

Dare you venture into The Haunted Mansion?

haunted mansionTales from The Haunted Mansion, Volume 1: The Fearsome Foursome, by Amicus Arcane (July 2016, Disney-Hyperion), $14.99, ISBN: 978-1-4847-1329-7

Recommended for ages 9-12

Four school friends band together over a mutual love of horror stories, forming the group, The Fearsome Foursome. One night, the friends find themselves at a spooky house – a mansion – and head inside, where they meet librarian, Amicus Arcane, who sits them down to tell them a few stories. But the stories are starring each of the foursome, and things get a little spooky from there. Inspired by the Disney ride, The Haunted Mansion, this is the first volume of short stories starring the ride’s narrator and Haunted Mansion librarian, Amicus Arcane, and is sprinkled with little references to the Disney experience.

If you haven’t been to Disney and don’t know much about the ride, you won’t miss a thing. It’s still a book of good, macabre stories – like Goosebumps, taken up a notch – for middle graders. If you are familiar with the ride, though, these little references are an added wink and nudge, giving you a little creepy chuckle that runs up your spine; right next to that little chill that’s headed in the same direction.

The stories are fun, spooky, and come with a twist, and the final reveal made me look forward to reading more. There are hideous sea creatures, possessed baseball mitts, witch bones, and a dare that will leave readers cringing. It’s a fast, fun read; perfect for a summer book. I’d love to see a graphic novel adaptation – any chance we’ll get one, Disney?

A fun add to burgeoning horror collections. Booktalk it with Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark and, naturally, Goosebumps.

Posted in Graphic Novels, Young Adult/New Adult

Friendship ain’t easy: Friends is Friends

friends is friends_covFriends is Friends, by Greg Cook, (Aug. 2016, First Second), $19.99, ISBN: 9781596431058

Recommended for ages 16+

A series of short stories portray the complicated relationships between an elephant that’s down and out on his luck, a teddy and a ghost bear that follows him around, taunting him, and a family of pigs. Not a graphic novel for younger audiences (content and language), Friends is Friends is indie author/artist Greg Cook’s first major work in over a decade. The stories border surreal and loaded with dark humor. The artwork is in black and white, with white on black pages denoting the beginning of new vignettes.

I’ll be honest, this just wasn’t my book. I enjoy dark humor, but I just didn’t get into the stories or the characters. There were moments where I chuckled along – the opening short between the elephant and the young pig in particular – but other moments that just didn’t catch me. Friendship isn’t easy – that’s a key message contained in the book – but the characters just weren’t likable enough for me to want to be friends with them, to stick with them through the ups and downs of their relationships.

My teens aren’t the audience for this one. If you have a good YA and adult-level graphic novel collection, give this a read before you choose to add or not to add.

Posted in Animal Fiction, Early Reader, Fiction, Fiction, Intermediate, Uncategorized

Olga da Polga – a favorite classic comes to Kane Publishing!

olgaOlga da Polga, by Michael Bond/Illustrated by Catherine Rayner (Oct. 2015, Kane Miller Publishing), $17.99, ISBN: 978-1-61067-433-1

Recommended for ages 6-10

The creator of Paddington Bear, Michael Bond, introduced Olga da Polga, an adventurous guinea pig with a bit of sass, in 1971. I don’t remember this book when I was growing up, so I’m not sure whether these were originally published only in the UK, but there are both picture and chapter books full of Olga’s Adventures! Kane Miller Publishing recently brought Olga back to readers with this beautifully illustrated edition. Greenaway Medal winner Catherine Rayner adds beautiful watercolor artwork to this collection of stories that new readers and their parents will love and want on their shelves.

Olga da Polga is a guinea pig who wants to go on adventures. She wants out of the pet store! She gets her wish when she’s adopted by the Sawdust family – that’s what she calls humans – who builds her a her own hamster run in their garden. She goes on adventures in the family’s backyard and meets the local wildlife, including Noel the housecat, Fangio the hedgehog, and Graham, the tortoise. Stories encompass all the seasons, also lending themselves to great seasonal storytimes.

Olga da Polga is one of those books that I feel like I missed out on, and that I need to get on the shelves here at my library to make sure today’s kids meet Olga and her friends! Give this to kids who love their animal fiction – Paddington fans, naturally; Olivia fans, and Corduroy fans can move up to Olga da Polga and enjoy another group of stories about a plucky little guinea pig and her adventures. Kids reading the EB White trilogy (Charlotte’s Web, Stuart Little, Trumpet of the Swan) will love Olga, too. The short chapters/stories provide for great read-aloud opportunities.

You can get your own copy of Olga da Polga at the Usborne books website. Amazon offers the book through independent sellers.