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

Dan Unmasked: Everyone has a story

Dan Unmasked, by Chris Negron, (June 2021, HarperCollins), $7.99, ISBN: 9780062943071

Ages 8-12

Nate and Dan are best friends. They share a love of baseball and a love of comic books, especially Captain Nexus by comics legend George Sanderson. They’re always talking, always together, until an accident at baseball practice leaves Nate in a coma. Dan feels crushing guilt that he caused the accident and desperately comes up with an idea that HAS to work: convinced that Nate is trapped, like Captain Nexus in his latest storyline, he’s going to create a comic that will show Nate the way out. He joins forces with Nate’s brother, Ollie, and Courtney, a friend from school to plot out a storyline that has to work. Right?

Dan Unmasked is as much a story of grief, loss, and recovery as it is about friendship, comics, and baseball. Chris Negron weaves all the parts of a middle schooler’s life together in his story, including parental relationships and relationships with school friends and teammates. He gives a reclusive comic book artist real life as a fully realized character with as rich a backstory as the main characters. Baseball fans will love the game narration; comics fans will love the comic book references he liberally sprinkles throughout. John David Anderson fans will easily jump into this story; it’s got that wonderful mix of the extraordinary and the everyday. Get this on your Summer Reading shelves.

The hardcover release (July 2020) of Dan Unmasked was an Independent Booksellers’ Debut Pick of the Season.  Author Chris Negron has a Dan Unmasked Curriculum Guide available for download at his author website.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Blog Tour: Super Rooster Saves the Day!

Get your cape on, put on the Chicken Dance, and turn up the volume, because here comes SUPER ROOSTER!

Super Rooster Saves the Day, by Maureen Wright/Illustrated by Rob McClurkan,
(Oct. 2020, Two Lions), $17.99, ISBN: 978-1542007788
Ages 4-7

Ralph the Rooster wants to be a superhero. He borrows the farmer’s kerchief to use as a cape. He reads superhero books. He crows flies, makes himself invisible… within reason, of course. The other farm animals are a bit dubious as to Super Rooster’s status as a superhero, but his best friend, Rosie the Pig, is always in his corner! Life on the farm really isn’t terribly exciting, but one day, when the farmer leaves the radio on in the barn, Ralph hears a song that changes his life… the Chicken Dance. With a cheep-cheep-cheep, a flap-flap-flap, a wiggle-wiggle-wiggle, and a clap-clap-clap, he is off and running! The only problem? Where Ralph sees opportunities to be a superhero, the other animals see the ordinary: until the chance to save the day appears. Will Ralph rise to the occasion and save the day?

Super Rooster Saves the Day is such fun! The digital artwork is expressive and cartoony, with picture book and comic book-type panels throughout; there are sound effects and repetition, making this a super read-aloud choice and a great book to give to your superhero fans. The colors are bright and the text is bold and black, popping right off the page. The sound effects and Chicken Dance movements just beg listeners to jump up and dance along.

Absolute fun for a farm or a superhero readaloud – heck, add some of John Himmelman’s “To the Rescue” books (Chickens, Cows, Pigs, Ducks) and have the best of both worlds. And whatever you do, play The Chicken Dance LOUD.

Posted in Fiction, Graphic Novels, Middle Grade, Teen, Tween Reads

More #BooksfromQuarantine, Graphic Novels edition

I’ve been tearing through my graphic novel stash now that I’m back at work two days a week. Here’s some from the new crop.

Supergirl: Being Super, by Mariko Tamaki/Illustrated by Joëlle Jones, (July 2020, DC Comics), $16.99, ISBN: 9781779503190

Ages 12+

The latest DC YA graphic novel is a collection of the 4-issue Supergirl storyline, Being Super (2018). Caldecott winner and YA graphic novelist powerhouse Mariko Tamaki and Eisner winner Joëlle Jones, whose work I’ve really loved on Lady Killer and Helheim, join forces here to tell the story of Kara Danvers, a teen who’s got BFFs, irritating parents that she totally loves, and a ginormous zit. She can also lift a car with one hand, and runs slower than she really can on her track team, but who cares? She loves her life in Midvale… until catastrophe strikes, and leaves Kara with more questions than answers about her past.

What I’ve been enjoying about DC’s YA graphic novels is the relatability. The super powers take a back seat to the relationships and the frustrations of adolescence; here, it’s Kara’s struggle to discover who she is, and the decisions she makes as she seeks that answer. Coping with grief is a secondary theme running through the story. Joëlle Jones’s  artwork is expressive, bold, and eye-catching. Being Super is a Newsweek Best Graphic Novel of the Year.

 

Child Star, by Brian “Box” Brown, (June 2020, First Second), $19.99, ISBN: 9781250154071

Ages 13+

This documentary-style graphic novel gives a look into the life and times of fictional child star, Owen Eugene. From his overbearing stage parents and his sitcom catchphrase to his post-fame struggle to steady his life, this is a story we can see – have seen – unfolding on reality TV. It’s all in here: interviews with co-stars, hangers-on, and former loves; the parents who felt they had a right to Owen’s money; the D-list reality TV shows that feel like the last stop on the road to obscurity. Readers familiar with some of the bigger child star stories will recognize them in Owen Eugene’s story. A sad look at the collateral damage of 1980s pop culture, Child Star is great reading, written by graphic novelist and biographer Brian “Box” Brown, award-winning writer and illustrator of Andre the Giant: Life and Legend, and Is This Guy for Real? The Unbelievable Andy Kaufman.

Child Star has a starred review from Publishers Weekly.

One Year at Ellsmere, by Faith Erin Hicks, (July 2020, First Second), $14.99, ISBN: 9781250219107

Ages 10+

Originally published in 2008 as The War at Ellsmere (thanks, ComicBeat!), Faith Erin Hicks’s boarding school story gets some updated art and some color. Juniper is a new student at the prestigious (read: snobbish) Ellsmere Academy, an exclusive boarding school where she – daughter of a single mother with thrift store clothes – is quickly labeled “the project” by the school’s Queen Bee, Emily. Juniper and her roommate, Cassie, quickly bond over being outcasts in a school full of Mean Girls; something that helps Juniper as she endures Emily’s brutal bullying. Running through this boarding school story is a touch of magical realism surrounding the forest next to the school. I loved the character development, the fantasy touch with the forest story, and how both elements come together to make yet another great story from Faith Erin Hicks.

Read Faith Erin Hicks’s webcomics at her author website.

Posted in Fantasy, Fiction, Graphic Novels, Middle Grade, Tween Reads

DC debuts new superheroes for middle grade readers!

DC Ink and DC Zoom are putting out top-quality graphic novel content for young and tween/teen readers. I’ve been reading every copy I can get my hands on (when I can get the DC Zoom books out of my kid’s room), and I’m being blown away every time. This time around, we’ve got two new superheroes for the middle grade and tween setHere we go.

Primer, by Jennifer Muro & Thomas Krajewski/Illustrated by Gretel Lusky (June 2020, DC Comics), $9.99, ISBN: 9781401296575

Ages 8-11

A brand new superhero! Ashley Rayburn is a 13-year-old with a criminal father in jail. She’s bounced from foster home to foster home, but her upbeat spirits have been rewarded when she’s placed with Kitch and Yuka Nolan, who provide a warm, kind atmosphere for her to live. Yuka is a little weird, little secretive, but Kitch tells Ashley not to sweat it. Turns out, Yuka works for a lab, and brings home a super-secret experiment: body paints that grant different superpowers. Ashley can’t resist the chance to play with some paint – hey, Kitch is an artist and encourages her to use his studio, after all! – and makes some very big discoveries! With her new BFF Luke, Ashley starts dabbling in her newfound paints and powers and takes to the skies as Primer, a new superhero. Unfortunately for Ashley and her new folks, the shadowy government agency that commissioned those body paints want them back at any cost. Primer’s going to have to do a lot of color wheel work to keep herself and her new family and friends safe.

Loved this story. It’s so upbeat, loaded with laughs and adventure, and has an intriguing subplot involving Ashley’s bad guy dad. There are great DC touches throughout the book, so keep an eye on the artwork, which explodes with color and movement. The ending leaves an opening to a possible sequel, and I hope we get one; my library kids are going to devour this one and ask for more. Primer is great summer reading fun.

 

Anti/Hero, by Kate Karyus Quinn & Demitria Lunetta/Illustrated by Maca Gil (April 2020, DC Comics)$9.99, ISBN: 9781401293253

Next up, a book that came out in April and really needs to get a signal flare, because the world’s events stole some of this book’s thunder. Antihero also introduces two new superheroes for middle grade readers. Piper Pájaro and Sloane MacBrute are two 13-year-olds in the same school, share some of the same classes, but are two very different people. Piper is easygoing, athletic, not a big fan of classwork, and she’s scary strong. Sloane is super smart, not a big fan of athletics, and comes from a family with a bad history. At night, Piper puts on a tutu, a leotard, and a mask and patrols the city, on the lookout for evildoers, while Sloan dons all black (she’s always wearing black, tbh) and commits crimes at the behest of her gangster grandfather, The Bear. The two come together when Piper tries to protect a device that Sloan needs to steal, and a mishap results in the two switching bodies. They learn about each other’s lives as they fake it to make it.

The story is fun, with loads of humor and presents the Sloane and Piper as total opposites: Piper wants to be a superhero more than anything else; Sloane wants to work with scientists. While Piper lives with her loving, cuddly grandmother while her scientist parents are away on assignment, Sloane Sloane is at the mercy of her grandfather so that she can care of her ailing mother. Piper dresses in bold, bright colors that work with her cheery outlook; Sloane favors an all-black wardrobe that matches her serious, all-business attitude.

Both kids are relatable, the body-switching storyline is played for laughs, and we get the value of teamwork. And there’s a cameo that made me squeal like the fangirl I am. Grab Anti/Hero for your middle graders and tweens, and make sure we get a sequel.

Posted in Fantasy, Teen, Young Adult/New Adult

JULIE MURPHY NEWS FROM VALIANT!

I just got this email, and literally dropped what I was doing (scheduling a dentist appointment, but still) to get this post out. See, I’m not at New York Comic Con this year (waving at my friend, Esti, my son, and his girlfriend who braved the morass of the Javits Center today), so I’m living for everyone’s e-mails, tweets and Facebook posts. THIS email from comics publisher Valiant made me SO HAPPY: Julie Murphy, author of one of my fave YA reads, Dumplin’, is writing a YA novel about Faith, a character from the Valiant Universe that I absolutely love. Check out this gorgeous cover!

From Valiant:

Valiant Entertainment and HarperCollins Publishers imprint Balzer + Bray announced today a new series of young adult novels featuring Valiant comics characters, kicking off in Spring 2020 with FAITH: Taking Flight by #1 New York Times bestselling author Julie Murphy.

“We are always looking for masterful storytellers to bring our stories and characters to life in new and exciting mediums,” said Russell Brown, Valiant President of Consumer Products, Promotions & Ad Sales. “Julie Murphy is one of the best. Having read several of her previous YA novels, we knew she was the perfect author to write about one of our most popular characters, Faith Herbert. Through this and more Valiant YA novels to be announced, we can’t wait to introduce a new generation of fans to the Valiant Universe.”

Julie Murphy is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of the books Side Effects May VaryDumplin’Ramona Blue, and Puddin’Dumplin’ was recently adapted into a Netflix original movie starring Danielle MacDonald and Jennifer Aniston.

“Collaborating with Valiant on FAITH: Taking Flight has been such a thrill! I’ve been able to write what I love—body positive stories about young people on the brink of self-discovery—while getting to stretch my legs and play in the world of comics and superheroes,” said Murphy. “Faith has come to mean quite a great deal to me as a plus-size icon and I’m so excited for longtime Faith fans to meet teenage Faith and for a whole new crop of readers to discover Faith and her world for the first time.”

FAITH: Taking Flight is the story of Faith Herbert, a regular teen, who, when she’s not hanging out with her two best friends, Matt and Ches, is volunteering at the local animal shelter or obsessing over the long-running teen drama The Grove. So far, her senior year has been spent trying to sort out her feelings for her maybe-crush Johnny and making plans to stay close to her Grandma Lou after graduation. Of course, there’s also that small matter of recently discovering that she can fly… and a super cool (to say the least!) new girl in town, one who Faith never in her wildest dreams ever thought she would get to meet.

“Julie Murphy’s books have helped change the conversation around body positivity in the YA industry,” stated Alessandra Balzer, VP, Co-Publisher, Balzer + Bray. “We are excited to partner with Julie and Valiant to bring this groundbreaking superhero’s story into the world.”

Faith, first created by Jim Shooter and David Lapham in 1992 for Valiant, received her first solo comic book series in January 2016 from writer Jody Houser and artists Francis Portela and Marguerite Sauvage and became an instant success, earning an Eisner Award nomination and praise from The Atlantic, Vox, NPR, Cosmopolitan, and many more. Today, she is one of Valiant’s most recognizable characters, and her adventures are published worldwide, available in 47 countries in 27 languages. Faith is also a key character in the Harbinger comics, a series about a group of enhanced individuals who band together to avoid being persecuted by government officials and exploited by large corporations. A Harbinger feature film is currently in development at Paramount Pictures under producers Neal H. Moritz and Toby Jaffe of Original Film and Dan Mintz, CEO of DMG Entertainment, the parent company of Valiant.

Valiant’s slate of forthcoming YA novels intend to feature younger versions of classic Valiant heroes as they learn to control their superpowers, battle evil elements, and deal with the trials of growing up. More announcements of the next books in the series will be made soon!
About Valiant Entertainment
Valiant Entertainment, a subsidiary of DMG Entertainment, founded by Dan Mintz, is a leading character-based entertainment company that owns and controls the third most extensive library of superheroes behind Marvel and DC. With more than 80 million issues sold and a library of over 2,000 characters, including X-O Manowar, Bloodshot, Harbinger, Shadowman, Archer & Armstrong, and many more, Valiant is one of the most successful publishers in the history of the comic book medium. For more information, visit Valiant on FacebookTwitterInstagram, and ValiantEntertainment.com. For Valiant merchandise and more, visit ValiantStore.com.

HarperCollins Children’s Books is one of the leading publishers of children’s and teen books. Respected worldwide for its tradition of publishing quality, award-winning books for young readers, HarperCollins is home to many timeless treasures and bestsellers such as Charlotte’s Web, Goodnight Moon, Where the Sidewalk Ends, Where the Wild Things Are, and The Hate U Give; series including The Chronicles of Narnia, Ramona, Warriors, A Series of Unfortunate Events, Pete the Cat, Fancy Nancy, Divergent, and Red Queen; and graphic and illustrated novels such as Nimona, Invisible Emmie, and New Kid.  Consistently at the forefront of digital innovation, HarperCollins Children’s Books delights readers through engaging storytelling across a variety of formats and platforms, including the largest young adult (YA) book community, Epic Reads.  HarperCollins Children’s Books is a division of HarperCollins Publishers, which is the second largest consumer book publisher in the world, has operations in 17 countries, and is a subsidiary of News Corp. You can visit HarperCollins Children’s Books at www.harpercollinschildrens.com and www.epicreads.com and HarperCollins Publishers at corporate.HC.com.

 

FOLKS, I AM BEYOND EXCITED. I love Julie Murphy’s writing style and her body confident characters. This is going to be a novel I keep an eye out for!

 

Posted in Fiction, Middle Grade, Realistic Fiction

The Great TBR Read-Down Continues: Squint and Pie in the Sky

My middle grade TBR read-down continues with two more great books, both realistic fiction: Squint, by Chad Morris and Shelly Brown, the duo that gave us Mustaches for Maddie; and Pie in the Sky, by Remy Lai. Let’s dive in!

 

Squint, by Chad Morris & Shelly Brown, (Oct. 2018, Shadow Mountain Publishers), $16.99, ISBN: 978-1629724850

Ages 9-13

Flint is a middle schooler who loves to draw and loves superheroes. He’s creating a comic starring his kinda sorta superhero alter ego, Squint, who fights the villains who used to be his buddies, with the help of his rock dog. Flint’s been nicknamed Squint by his former best friend, because he has keratoconus, an eye disease that could leave him blind. Raised by his grandparents, Squint copes with his frustration through his comic, but when he meets McKell – a Filipina with a terminally ill brother who puts up YouTube challenges, daring others to live the life that he can’t – he may just have made a real friend again, after all.

Squint is a beautifully written book of grief, loss, and coping. It’s as much McKell’s story as it is Flint’s, and Chad Morris and Shelly Brown have created another sensitive, compelling story about kids coping with illness, and about the adults who are there to shepherd these kids through the heavy stuff. Flint’s grandparents have had to raise their grandson because their daughter couldn’t; they’ve given Flint the best they could with what they’ve had, and they’ve been the ones to see him through the multiple doctor appointments, and, now, surgery. McKell’s parents are working through grief and loss, and sometimes, that takes a toll on their daughter. Flint and McKell find in each other someone who may not understand, but who gets it, if that makes sense. They push each other to be their best, and when they combine their talents – Flint, with his art, and McKell, with her rhyming and songwriting – they shine.

Squint is a great addition to your middle grade fiction collections. It’s got realistic characters with strong backstories, and deals with real world issues like abandonment, grief, loss, illness, and navigating the aggravations of middle school.

 

Pie in the Sky, by Remy Lai, (May 2019, Henry Holt & Co), $21.99, ISBN: 978-1-250-31410-9

Ages 8-12

Twelve-year-old Jingwen, his younger brother, Yanghao, and his mother leave China for Australia, but this wasn’t the original plan. They were supposed to move to Australia with Jingwen’s and Yanghao’s father, so he could open his dream bakery, Pie in the Sky. But Jingwen’s father died in a car accident almost two years ago, and Jingwen is wracked with guilt over events leading up to his father’s death. When they arrive in Australia, he feels like everyone around him is speaking Martian, but that he’s the alien – especially with little Yanghao seems to fit right in, quickly learning English and making friends. To deal with his grief and his frustration with his new life in Australia, Jingwen decides he’s going to make all the cakes he and his father talked about making for Pie in the Sky. Yanghao is only too happy to have cake every night, and Jingwen sets to work while his mother works. After all, cake makes everything better, right?

I LOVED Pie in the Sky. It’s a graphic novel within a novel, with 2-color illustrations on almost every page, that keep the action moving and keep readers invested in the story. When Jingwen tells readers he feels like an alien, we see that he’s an alien! He’s drawn as an alien for every time someone can’t understand him; on the occasions where he successfully speaks a word or two of English, a fourth eye will disappear, or something else will make him slightly more human. But all around him, people speaking English – including his brother and mother – may as well be an alien language, something we see as Remy Lai brilliantly illustrates a single word here and there, surrounded by alien glyphs in speech bubbles. Remy Lai creates a moving story about a family working through grief and loss, but each seem to be in isolation, when they need to come together to move on. Jingwen’s fear and frustration at being in a new country, speaking an unfamiliar language, comes across through prose and illustration, making him even more likable and empathetic. Jingwen and Yanghao have an realistic sibling relationship, with ups and downs, general silliness, and the love the always manages to shine through. Kids will love how they call each other – and anyone who annoys them, really – a “booger”.  Pie in the Sky works as a humorous and touching look at a family working their way through a tragedy. The tasty recipe at the end encourages families to bake together – because cake really does make everything better.

Pie in the Sky has a starred review from Kirkus.

Posted in Fantasy, Graphic Novels, Teen, Young Adult/New Adult

DC Ink: Top name YA authors and reimagined origin stories. Sign me up!

DC Ink is a fairly new (little over a year) DC Comics imprint, dedicated to middle grade and YA original graphic novels. I only had a sneak peek at Harley Quinn’s upcoming book, Breaking Glass, and haven’t read Mera’s book, Tidebreaker yet, but I received ARCs for both Under the Moon: A Catwoman Tale, and Teen Titans: Raven, and had to dive in.

As with the YA novels in the DC Icons line, every book DC Ink is written by YA royalty, so you just know you’re getting good stuff before you even open the book. They’re illustrated by graphic novel rock stars, so  you’re going to get some phenomenal artwork. Put it all together, and you’ve got a can’t-miss group of graphic novels coming your way. Let’s check ’em out.

Under the Moon: A Catwoman Tale, by Lauren Myracle/Illustrated by Isaac Goodheart, (May 2019, DC Ink), $16.99, ISBN: 978-1-4012-8591-3

Ages 13+

We all know Selina Kyle, aka Catwoman, has a multitude of origin stories (the comics, Gotham, Batman Returns, The Dark Knight Rises), but it’s because she’s such a captivating character: authors want to tell ALL the stories, and we want to read them! Selina can be anyone, from anywhere; her fluidity makes her a longtime fan favorite, and in Lauren Myracle’s hands, we get an entirely new Selina: a 14-year-old, living with her mother and her revolving door of awful boyfriends. The current one, Dernell, has been around for a while, and seems to be the absolute worst. He’s verbally and physically abusive, and Selina’s mother won’t say a word against him. When he goes too far in “punishing” Selina one night, she has had enough: she runs away and lives on the streets, stealing what she needs to survive. And she finds that not only is she good at it, but she enjoys it. A group of homeless kids adopts Selina, despite her desire to be a loner; she’s drawn in by Rosie, a selectively mute young girl who bonds with Selina. But Rosie goes missing, and Selina finds herself in an awkward situation as she tries to track Rosie down and keep her safe.

Under the Moon is such a good origin story. The consistent thing about Selina is that she’s always capable, always collected, and always at odds with her desire to be a loner and her desire to help those less fortunate then she is. Her vulnerability is her heart, but you’ll never know it (unless you’re a third party reading her book, amirite?). Bruce Wayne is a supporting character here, and it’s fun to see him and his perfect hair in high school; it’s also nice to see he and Selina verbally spar even back in the day. There’s also an interesting murder mystery subplot, because it’s Gotham City.

The artwork is largely subdued purple-blue and white, with sound effects rendered in yellow for effect. The artwork makes excellent use of movement, perspective, and body language. Grab this one for your YA collections, but use caution if you’re thinking of handing it off to younger readers: there’s domestic violence and profanity in here, so much younger readers will be much better off with Superhero Girls trades.

Lauren Myracle is the author of the New York Times bestselling Internet Girls series, which includes ttyl and ttfn, all of which are written in textspeak. Isaac Goodhart is an illustrator whose graphic novel cred includes Postal and Love is Love. He also has an amazing sketch of Hawkeye and Kate Bishop on his Instagram.

 

Teen Titans: Raven, by Kami Garcia/Illustrated by Gabriel Picolo, (July 2019, DC Ink), $16.99, ISBN: 978-1-4012-8623-1

Ages 12+

Teen Titan’s Raven speaks to my wannabe goth girl soul. I love her on the original Teen Titans cartoon from the early 2000s, and I crack up watching her on Teen Titans GO! now. Who else could write this character but Kami “Beautiful Creatures” Garcia, who also speaks to my inner wannabe magic-using goth girl? Raven’s orphaned at age 17 when her foster mom is killed in a car accident. Raven moves in with her foster mom’s sister, who seems to know something about Raven that Raven either can’t remember or doesn’t know. She and her foster sister become fast friends, and a cute guy named Max is interested in her, so things should be settling down for Raven, but weird occurrences start happening. When Raven thinks something, it happens: a mean girl trips and falls, just as Raven wishes she would. She can hear what people are thinking. She’s having nightmares. A sprinkling of good, old school Nawlins voodoo and a Deathstroke appearance make Raven’s origin story A-plus reading.

The artwork is mainly black and white, with some color pages splashed here and there. Raven’s trademark purple and black hair shines off the page, and – Raven fans, are you ready? – she wears adorable narwhal pajama pants at one point. There are little DC winks and nudges throughout, including Raven holding a Wonder Woman doll as a child, and there are some amusing girl power-message tees.

Kami Garcia is a bestselling author and cofounder of YALLFest, the biggest teen book festival in the U.S. Gabriel Picolo is a comics artist who’s worked with Blizzard, BOOM! Studios, and DeviantArt.

Get the Raven book. Get all the DC Ink books. Your readers will be glad you did. And really, you should sit down and read through them, too.

 

Posted in Fiction, Intermediate

Webcomics on Wednesday: The Bug Zapper!

“In a town full of bug villains, it’s up to one superhero to keep them all in line!” With that, we begin the saga of The Bug Zapper, a superhero who defends his neighborhood against buggy bad guys like Butterfly Bob, who defaces public parks, and a car thief who goes by the Mean Mosquito. But has Bug Zapper met his match when he meets Bumblebeezy, a bank robber who teams up with the Bear-acuda?

The Bug Zapper started life as a webcomic, and has since moved onto books, but there’s a nice, extended preview available at writer/artist Tom Eaton’s website, and The Bug Zapper Tumblr has sneak peeks at art and appearances for kids who are interested in following. It’s a good series for younger graphic novel readers – Kindergarten through third grade – that features a fun superhero and supervillains that are more goofy than terrible. Bug Zapper faces off against bugs, superheroes, robots, and bears, in his future issues, but the extended preview offers his origin story: we all need to start somewhere, right?

Give The Bug Zapper a space on your webcomics list, and see how the kids respond! The first two collected issues of The Bug Zapper are available for purchase on Tom Eaton’s website.

Posted in Fantasy, Fiction, Middle Grade, Tween Reads

Black Panther: The Young Prince: Middle Grade superhero fiction!

Black Panther: The Young Prince, by Ronald L. Smith, (Jan. 2018, Disney Book Group), $16.99, ISBN: 9781484787649

Recommended for readers 10-13

YES. A middle grade novel about an African superhero, written by a Coretta Scott King Award-winning author? ALL THE YES, PLEASE. Ronald L. Smith brings T’Challa to life with this first novel, where we meet the not-quite-yet Black Panther and his best friend, M’Baku, in their homeland, Wakanda. Ulysses Klaue (Marvel fans, heads up for continuity!) has shown up in Wakanda, and T’Chaka, current King of Wakanda and Black Panther, knows that’s never a good sign. He sends his son and M’Baku off to Chicago and safety while Wakanda braces for an invasion. T’Challa wants to keep his head down and blend in, but M’Baku couldn’t want anything less. The opportunity presents itself in the form of local middle school tough guy Gemini Jones and his gang, the Skulls. Kids whisper that Gemini’s a warlock, but that doesn’t stop M’Baku from falling in with Gemini and turning a cold shoulder to T’Challa. If middle school squabbling were the only problem, right? But nope, things are about to go south in a big wayl; luckily for T’Challa, his father packed a Black Panther suit for his son… just in case of emergencies.

This novel is SO GOOD. It’s unputdownable, whether you’re a superhero/Marvel fan or not. Ronald L. Smith brings his talent for creating interesting characters and conflict, plus his gift for writing about magic, and gives life to one of Marvel’s most exciting characters.

Yes, I’m a Black Panther fan. Yes, I’m thrilled about the movie coming out. And yes, this book is fantastic and deserves its spot on every middle grade/middle schooler’s library shelf. Representation counts, and by giving an African superhero his own novel, written by an award-winning African American novelist, Disney has shown readers their commitment to diversity and #ownvoices. I’m thrilled with The Young Prince, and want to read more. Maybe next, we can get a story about the Dora Milaje? How about a Shuri mention? (She’s Black Panther’s sister, in the comics.) Indulge me!

Posted in geek, geek culture, Middle Grade, programs, Tween Reads

I had a BookPop! party and it was great!

Quirk Books is a… well, quirky, fun book publisher that has a comic book writer and former YA librarian in their ranks, spreading the good word. It’s pretty awesome, because now, my library gets to do things like have a gallery dedicated to horror paperbacks of the ’70s and ’80s (Paperbacks From Hell), and have a mini pop culture con for my kiddos and tweens.

First up, my Paperbacks From Hell gallery, in my teen section. It’s garnering some looks, some chuckles, and some conversations: “What the hell is that?” “That is a giant gila monster. And watch your mouth.” (The display is in the teen area, but you know, little pitchers, big ears). The teens are pretty baffled, the grownups get a kick out of it, and it just makes me happy.

Next up, BookPop: Quirk’s traveling pop culture fest, happening in libraries and bookstores all over the place. I held mine late, because I thought it would be the perfect program to hold when the kids were out of school; last Thursday – since most of the families in my community don’t observe Rosh Hashanah – was the day. Quirk sent me a box o’swag, including ET: The Extra-Terrestrial tattoos (not in the picture: those babies were GONE); posters of the new kids’ books, X-Files: Children are Weird, and the YA novel My Best Friend’s Exorcism; and a spiffy tote bag to put everything in. I downloaded Quirk’s Geek Guides for putting on a great day of programming, and was ready.

First program of BookPop! Day was Superhero Storytime. I had a handful of kiddos and their parents attend, and we made masks and Geek Family Crests when we were done. The kids loved the masks – I downloaded some blank templates from First Palette, handed out scissors, markers, crayons, and lanyard to tie the masks, and the kids loved it. One little one even wore her mask through the next program…

Nick and Tesla’s Science Workshop. The Nick and Tesla books are tons of fun and loaded with STEM experiments, but I wanted something that even my littler ones could do. Enter, bubbles. I told the kids that Nick and Tesla are a brother-sister team that solve mysteries and get out of trouble by creating great science projects, and that we were going to learn about surface tension, and the difference between bubbling your milk and bubbling water with a little dish soap in it. I had a gallon-sized tub filled with water, gave out droppers, straws, and cups, and we bubbled away. Then, I had one of the kids add a cup of plain old liquid dish soap, and they all took turns stirring it. I spread some water on the table and demonstrate how to blow a table bubble, and that was all the kids needed. Look at these bubbles!

The entire table, at one point, was covered in bubbles. They loved it, I loved it, and they want more fun science programming, so win, all around. Next up was…

The Miss Peregrine Photo Workshop. Originally, I planned this for my teen patrons, but they weren’t interested – I had a group of tweens, though, who were all over it. We talked about the movie, I showed them the books, and brought out the equipment: photos I printed onto card stock from a Miss Peregrine-inspired Pinterest board (search on “vintage weird” and I guarantee you won’t be sorry), lots of paper towel, a spray bottle full of coffee, and two containers of coffee and tea. The kids loved aging their photos, and I was amazed by their creativity: one girl laid a paper towel over her photo to give it more texture as the coffee seeped through, and another tore the borders of her photo to make it look even older.

When I told them I wanted to create a photo gallery of their work, they all donated the photos to the library! So today, we have “Queensboro Hill’s Library for Outstanding Children” (forgive the glare, I laminated the photos so they wouldn’t deteriorate further):

I handed swag bags out for most of the day, and everything went except for one tote, two X-Files posters, and a handful of My Best Friend’s Exorcism posters, which will all be prizes for future programs. One kid couldn’t even wait to get home: he gave himself an ET tattoo sleeve, which was pretty fabulous.

I’d call our Queensboro Hill BookPop! a success.