Posted in awards, Cybils, Fiction, Fiction, Graphic Novels, Humor, Intermediate, Middle Grade, Tween Reads

Graphic Novel Roundup, CYBILS edition

The games have begun! Round 1 CYBILS Judges are clearing the shelves in our libraries and homes, wherever we can find the books in our categories. This is my second year as a Round 1 Graphic Novels panelist, so I’m reading all the graphic novels I can find! The CYBILS nomination period is still going strong, so please consider nominating your favorite J and YA reads this year. If you need some inspiration, or the books you’ve liked are already nominated, check out this Padlet for suggestions.

That said, I’ve got some graphic novels to gush about here – maybe this will inspire you. I’ll note any CYBILS nominees on this list.

Glam Prix Racers, by Deanna Kent/Illustrated by Neil Hooson, (May 2021, imprint), $10.99, ISBN: 9781250265388

Ages 7-10

My gushing for this book is so long overdue, I’m embarrassed. Deanna Kent and Neil Hooson, co-creators of one of my favorite middle grade series – the Snazzy Cat Capers series! – have begun their foray into intermediate graphic novels with Glam Prix Racers. Described as “Mario Kart meets My Little Pony”, this book is like a video game in graphic novel form. There are vibrant colors, expressive, kid-friendly fantasy characters, and a fun storyline that relies on teamwork and friendly competition. It’s race season on Glittergear Island, and Mil the Mermaid and her monster truck, Mudwick, get sidelined on their way to take their Glam Prix team photo. They suspect the Vroombot Crew is up to no good, but what can they do? The Racers have to band together to cross the finish line first! This is the first in a planned trilogy; the second book is due out in January, and anything Deanna Kent and Neil Hooson collaborate on is gold in my book.

Visit Deanna and Neil’s website for Glam Prix (and Snazzy Cat!) freebies all in one place; find coloring sheets here, an activity kit here, and digital resources, including wallpapers, a STEM kit, and videos, here.

Glam Prix Racers is a first round CYBILS nominee.

 

 

Mayor Good Boy, by Dave Scheidt/Illustrated by Miranda Harmon, (Aug. 2021, RH Graphic), $9.99, ISBN: 9780593124871

Ages 7-10

The town of Greenwood has a new Mayor, and he’s a very Good Boy! He’s Mayor Good Boy – a talking dog who wants to do good things in his home town.  Not everyone is thrilled about the new mayor, though, so when some disgruntled citizens start trying to make trouble for the newly elected pup, siblings Aaron and Abby intervene and get hired on as junior aides. While Mayor Good Boy is all about kindness and finding ways to help make his town better, people are plotting to bring him down by releasing fleas all over the town so that he’ll get the blame! Aaron and Abby have to save the day AND find the culprit, and keep Mayor Good Boy’s good reputation intact. With likable characters, friendly art, and loads of fart and stinky feet jokes, this is warm-hearted comedy gold for intermediate and middle graders. The story touches on themes of diversity. advocacy,  and activism, as Abby gives a great speech about being able to create change, even as a kid; back matter includes how to draw instructions for Good Boy, Aaron, and Abby, plus the Mayor Good Boy Pledge and a side comic starring the two siblings on how to contact one’s representatives. Social consciousness, a great message about friends, working together, and a cameo by a comic favorite (I see you, Steenz!) make Mayor Good Boy a graphic novel series you won’t want to miss. There are adventures planned for 2022 and 2023, so keep your carts ready to load.
Mayor Good Boy hasn’t been nominated for a CYBILS yet, so maybe this is one you want to suggest.
Death and Sparkles, by Rob Justus, (Oct. 2021, Chronicle Books), $22.99, ISBN: 9781797206356
Ages 10-14
Big themes and hilarious writing make this a macabre, middle school winner. Death is… well, Death. He touches things, they die, he doesn’t discriminate. Sparkles is a self-obsessed social media celebrity who also happens to be the last unicorn. His manager loves making money off of Sparkles, which turns out pretty poorly for Sparkles, who discovers some hard and fast truths about friendship when he and Death meet. Sparkles, seemingly immune to Death’s touch, is stuck on Death in the most hilarious of ways, leading to the two becoming the unlikeliest of friends. On one hand, there are fart jokes aplenty. On the other hand, there are incredible discussions about the pervasiveness of social media, the cult of influencers, and the fake friends that follow celebrity. There’s an ecological subplot that I expect will come back in future books that shows how even the most genuine intentions can get lost in the murky social media waters, causing a vicious cycle where getting attention for a necessary issue feeds into the popularity machine, leading to the distortion of the message. Thought- and discussion-provoking, yet laugh-out-loud funny, Death and Sparkles is a good start to a new series. Download a free activity kit and enjoy a cupcake.
Death and Sparkles is a CYBILS first round nominee.
Bedhead Ted, by Scott SanGiacomo, (Aug. 2021, Quill Tree Books), $12.99, ISBN: 9780062941305
Ages 8-12
Fourth grader Ted has is a bully target because of his “overactive hair follicles”, which give him a head of wild red hair and the nickname, “Bedhead Ted”. Taunted on the bus and in school, he and his best friend, a boy named Stacy, are on the lookout for The Brookside Beast, a fabled giant raccoon in their neighborhood. As if Ted wasn’t feeling bad enough, two of the boys’ tormentors decide to join Stacy’s Brookside Beast Research Center, causing Ted to distance himself from his best – and only – friend. Just as Ted is feeling his lowest, frustrated with his bullies, his friendship, and his hair, he discovers something incredible: his hair has superpowers! When Stacy disappears during the school’s ice cream social, Ted just knows he’s gone to track down the beast, and follows him: Ted’s hair may just save the day. Themes of bullying, appearances, friendship, and the rumor mill are all addressed in this smartly written, funny story about a kid and his hair. A fun mystery leads to a sweet conclusion, and I loved the subplot involving Ted’s family tree. Mixed media illustrations give life to Ted and his super-powered hair; as bullies throw things at him, readers will see various utensils, writing tools, paper airplanes, and more sticking to his hair as he goes through his day. His family is supportive and doesn’t ignore his bullying, checking in with him throughout the story and leading to his grandmother’s reveal. Visit Scott SanGiacomo’s webpage for Ted-related printables, draw-along videos, and more artwork.
Bedhead Ted hasn’t been nominated for a CYBILS award yet… you know what to do!
Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads, Toddler Reads

Books about things that go

It’s time for a vehicle book roundup! I’ve got the new Sherri Duskey Rinker, a Pop-Up Guide, and a Do You Know? for the wee ones. Let’s roll out!

 

The Pop-Up Guide: Vehicles, by Maud Poulain/Illustrated by Charline Picard, (Sept. 2021, Twirl Books), $16.99, ISBN: 9791027609994
Ages 2-5
These Pop-Up Guides from Twirl Books are too much fun. The newest one is all about vehicles: what vehicles roll around in different locations and what they do. Visit a bustling city with street cleaners, buses, trains and more going about their workday, then visit a more rural area, where farm vehicles like tractors and harvesters get to work. Emergency vehicles help save people, and roads and rails get you where you need to go. You can travel through the sea and sky with vehicles, you can race them, and you can use them to transport all sorts of things! Ten spreads fold out to 3-D landscapes with colorful, labeled vehicles and local color, and a few descriptive sentences place the reader in each of the settings. There are elastic bands to hold pages and allow for hands-free reading and play; get some minifigs and small action figures and let the littles really explore! Keep a reference copy on hand for storytimes; the pages are sturdy but will heavily circulate.

 

 

Do You Know? Vehicles and Transportation, by Camille Babeau, Illustrated by Benjamin Bécue, Julie Mercier, & Cristian Turdera, (Oct. 2021, Twirl Books), $16.99, ISBN: 9782408029159

Ages 5-8

Another fun entry in Twirl’s Do You Know series hits shelves in just a couple of weeks! Vehicles and Transportation is full of facts and detailed illustrations of vehicles, from people (transportation had to start somewhere!) and animals, cruise ships, military vehicles, hot air balloons, and more. Chapters are organized into land, water, and air vehicles, with a final “More to Know” chapter that lays out the big points of all the content, including a travel timeline, a review of different machines, and future vehicles. Cross-section illustrations provide detailed information, and helpful Q&A sections run on each page. Learn answers how to recognize an emergency vehicle; how a steam engine works, and when you can try hang gliding! There is a wealth of information, laid out in a way that is easy and engaging to read. The book is fully indexed for easy reference, too. Make a display of Do You Know? books, or match this up with Richard Scarry’s Cars and Trucks and Things That Go, Mike Lowery’s The Way Downtown and Nadja Spiegelman and Sergio Garcia Sánchez’s Lost in NYC: A Subway Adventure. Have coloring sheets on hand!
Construction Site: Road Crew, Coming Through!, by Sherri Duskey Rinker/Illustrated by AG Ford, (Oct. 2021, Chronicle Kids), $17.99, ISBN: 9781797204727
Ages 2-5
Sherri Duskey Rinker, ruling headmistress of the transportation story, is back with a new Construction Site story! In this latest rhyming tale, the construction team heads off to their biggest job yet as they build a superhighway. Kids meet a group of new machines with exciting, big jobs: Water Truck squirts water on the ground to keep dirt and grit from flying around; Paver lays down asphalt and Roller smashes the asphalt down to make the surface even and flat; Striper Truck rolls down the road, spray painting yellow and white lines to keep the traffic moving. With teamwork like this, happy cars will be driving down the new mega-road in no time! Kids love these books, and it’s so easy to see why: Sherri Duskey Rinker’s text is cheerful, with happy rhymes about friendship, teamwork, and enjoying one’s work. AG Ford’s wax and oil crayon illustrations depict happy vehicles working and driving together, helping one another out, and getting the job done. An author’s note at the end calls the reader’s attention to a coyote at the beginning of the book, who shows up later, and mentions that road builders are increasingly taking local wildlife “travelers” into account and making special allowances to accommodate them. Visit Sherri Rinker’s website for more of her Construction Crew books (including some upcoming books!), and visit artist AG Ford’s website to see more of his gorgeous artwork, including his Children’s Book Gallery. Download activity kits, teachers’ guides, and watch videos at the Good Night Construction Site.
Posted in picture books

The fascinating is often right in front of you: The Collectors

The Collectors, by Alice Feegan, (May 2021, Kids Can Press), $17.99, ISBN: 9781525302046

Ages 4-8

Two friends go on a nature expedition to find the perfect piece to complete their collection, only to discover a most outstanding wonder right outside their window in this STEM-inspired story. Alice and Winslow are two exploring friends who have their treasures on display in a magnificent treehouse, but they need one final piece to complete it. They go on an expedition where they discover amazing things, from a giant crystal to a buried T-Rex skull, but each new discovery is out of reach for one reason or other. When their last discovery – a very cranky bear! – sends them running back to their treehouse, they look over the accomplishments of the day and celebrate what they were able to achieve; an exciting noise outside draws their attention and reveals the most exciting discovery of all, right outside their window. The book has a great message about tenacity, discovery, and friendship. Budding naturalists and researchers will appreciate the collaboration and teamwork the girls exhibit, and the fact that they plan, journal, and catalog their findings. Alice Feagan’s cut paper collage illustrations add depth, encouraging the reader’s attention and capturing the varyious textures of different landscapes, like gritty stalagmites and stalactites to rough trees. The endpapers show off Alice and Winslow’s cabinet of curiosities.

The Collectors is great readaloud for STEM and science classes. Encourage kids to make their own nature journals and observe their own surroundings. Ask kids what they like to collect – my son has a rock collection with interesting-shaped rocks and pebbles that he’s kept for years – and if they have a special place to show them off.

Posted in Uncategorized

Burden or Friend in Need? Move That Mountain sees two sides to the story

Move That Mountain, by Kate & Jol Temple/Illustrated by Terri Rose Baynton, (Sept. 2021, Kane Miller), $12.99, ISBN: 9781684642939

Ages 4-8

A companion “two sides to every story” adventure to 2019’s Room On Our Rock by Kate and Jol Temple and Terri Rose Baynton, Move That Mountain stars a group of puffins who react when a whale beaches on their island. Is the whale an immovable mountain menace that the puffins have to learn to live with? Or are the puffins motivated to mobilize and help a potential friend in need get back in the water? Read it one way to see how the story may appear on the surface, then read it back to front to see another story emerge. A story of teamwork, determination, and kindness, Move That Mountain encourages readers to look at situations from other points of view before arriving at conclusions. Excellent books to generate discussion, this book and Room On Our Rock are great additions to your storytime collections.

Posted in Fiction, Graphic Novels, Intermediate

Pizza and Taco, together again!

Pizza and Taco: Super-Awesome Comic!, by Stephen Shaskan, (Aug. 2021, RH Graphic), $9.99, ISBN: 9780593376034

Ages 5-8

The third outing for BFF duo Pizza and Taco is all about the creative process, and the disagreements that can throw a wrench into the works. The two friends decide to work on a comic together: Pizza is the writer, Taco’s the artist, but they don’t really see eye to eye on things. Taco’s superhero sketches make him look like a musclebound superhero, but Pizza’s superhero wizard looks a tad… scrawny. Pizza’s superhero backstories make Pizza “Pizza Supreme:” with superpowers like “super everything”, while Taco’s superpowers include “onion breath” and “super farts”, and works at a bank. Deciding to work separately, they realize that something’s missing… each other! They reunite, setting ground rules before they launch back into their story of superhero wizards who do karate to save the universe! The story has hilarious dialogue that kids will love and laugh at as they learn about working through differences, compromise, and creating working agreements in order to work with others. Great for emerging readers, the book is organized into chapters that prepare readers for bigger books like the Wimpy Kid series, Dog Man, and Captain Underpants. Give to your Narwhal and Jelly, Fox and Chick, and Shark and Bot readers. Make sure to do the Best Friend dance with your Kiddos – they’ll love it.

Visit author Stephen Shaskan’s webpage for great printables, too!

Posted in Fiction, Graphic Novels, Middle Grade

The Ocean Strikes Back in Super Sidekicks #2!

Super Sidekicks #2: Ocean’s Revenge, by Gavin Aung Than, (July 2021, RH Graphic), $12.99, ISBN: 9780593175125
Ages 8 to 12, Grades 3 to 7
The second book in the Super Sidekicks graphic novel series is all about the sidekicks standing on their own. The world’s leaders and the superhero grownups have been captured by The Mother of the Sea, who’s sick and tired of the damage us humans are wreaking on the planet, and it’s up to Junior Justice (JJ), Flygirl, Dinomite, Goo, and Ada, the most intelligent belt buckle in the universe, to save things and start the world on a better path. Mother of the Sea has put together a Trash Titan – a giant monster created out of all the trash from the Pacific Ocean – and wants to destroy all the land dwellers, so talking her down is going to take all of the skills the Sidekicks have at their disposal!
This is a perfect series for readers who are moving up from chapter books. It’s a fast-paced adventure story with fun superheroes who show the adults a thing or two about respecting kids and the planet. Illustrations are colorful, and the beginning of the story carries incredible weight: drifting trash in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch; seagulls feeding plastic bottle caps to their babies; a sea turtle swimming with a plastic soda ring around its neck. Watching the Trash Titan form from the tons of junk polluting the waters, you kind of want to root for the Mother of the Sea. Naturally, the adults are all clueless, but the kids know what’s up! Empowering kids to save the world one piece of junk at a time, Super Sidekicks: Ocean’s Revenge includes tips on reducing our trash footprint, and tips on how to draw Dinomite and Goo.
Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Summertime Rumble! Beach Toys vs. School Supplies

Beach Toys vs. School Supplies, by Mike Ciccotello, (June 2021, Farrar Straus and Giroux), $17.99, ISBN: 9780374314040

Ages 3-6

It’s beach toys versus school supplies in a sandcastle contest to beat all sandcastle contests! Shovel is relaxing at the beach when Ruler shows up to start working. Shovel doesn’t want to think about school just yet! The two decide to find out who’s better – beach toys or school supplies – with a sandcastle building contest, and the two teams set to work. Just as the winner is determined, a big wave threatens to wipe out one of the castles: will the two groups work together to save the castle and enjoy the summer?

An adorable look at the balance between work and play, Beach Toys vs. Sand Castles is filled with fun and wry observations about both sides: the school supplies naturally only want to work and appear pompous, while the beach toys are all about fun. Messages about teamwork and respecting the need for a work and play balance come across playfully and with equal weight to both sides. Cartoon artwork is colorful, with anthropomorphic supplies bearing fun, exaggerated expressions. Endpapers show the toys and supplies standing off against one another; look for my favorite, the backpack, pocket unzippered to reveal a menacing box of colored pencils shaking a fist.

Absolute fun, with a free, downloadable activity kit, to boot! Find it here. Read this to your preschoolers and kindergarteners who may be annoyed by already seeing school supplies creeping back into stores and assure them that there’s room for both.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Blog Tour and Giveaway: Scooper and Dumper by Lindsay Ward

Scooper and Dumper are best friends, trucks who take care of their town in all sorts of weather. One day, a big snowstorm hits the city, and they’re called into action to save the day!

Scooper and Dumper, by Lindsay Ward, (Feb. 2021, Two Lions),
$17.99, ISBN: 978-1542092685
Ages 3-6

Lindsay Ward’s latest outing is a rhyming story of friendship, bravery, and trucks! Scooper and Dumper are friends taking care of their town, but have to head to the big city to help out when a big snowstorm hits, but Dumper finds himself in trouble when he hits an icy road that’s caused a pileup! When no other trucks can get through to help, it’s up to Scooper to save the day. The story is such a positive study of helping, friendship, and teamwork, that caregivers are going to love it as much as the kiddos will. The digital illustrations are just adorable – Scooper is bright, cheery yellow with a red and white polka dotted bow on her hood; Dumper is a baby blue with a sweet smile. Word balloons break up the story text and give it a graphic novel feel. Think of these two as cousins to Lindsay Ward’s WWII heroine, Rosie: getting the job done with a smile and some good, old-fashioned determination. Perfect for storytime reading, Scooper and Dumper will work with some toy trucks, flannels, and lots of car songs and fingerplays!

 

It’s been an… eventful start to the New Year, so let’s start things off with a giveaway. One lucky winner will win their own copy of Scooper and Dumper by entering the Rafflecopter giveaway here. U.S. addresses only, please!

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

The Endangereds: In this A-Team, the “A” stands for “Animals”

The Endangereds, by Philippe Cousteau & Austin Aslan/Illustrated by James Madsen, (Sept. 2020, HarperCollins), $16.99, ISBN: 9780062894168

Ages 10-13

This is a new adventure series that animal adventure fans are going to want to pay attention to. A team of endangered animals from all over the world – an orangutan, a narwhal, and a pangolin – meet at a rehabilitation and research facility called The Ark, and discover they are hyperaware. They can understand humans, and they can understand and communicate with each other. Nukilik, a polar bear, joins the Ark and is solely focused on one thing: going home. But when a mated pair of ferrets leave the Ark to be reintroduced into the wild and go missing, Nukilik joins the team as they launch into action to find their friends and discover an insidious plot to cause pure mayhem. A fun story, colorful characters with strong, standout personalities and solid backstories, and great pacing and dialogue, this is just nonstop action and great reading; there are strong themes of climate change and environmental encroachment that will appeal to younger readers, who will be motivated to think about our impact on the planet and how we can work to make things better for ourselves and the creatures we share this world with.

Philippe Cousteau, grandson of Jacques Cousteau and host of Xploration Awesome Planet, and award-winning author Austin Aslan – who also holds a master’s degree in Tropical Conservation Biology, have a great new series on their hands. I’m looking forward to seeing where the Endangereds go next!

Definite must-add for your animal fiction fans. Display and talk up with Tracey Hecht’s Nocturnals novels, The Lost Rainforest books by Eliot Schrefer, and Katherine Applegate’s The Ending series.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Catkwondo takes aim!

Catkwondo, by Lisl H. Detlefsen/Illustrated by Erin Hunting, (Sept. 2020, Capstone), $17.95, ISBN: 9781684461004

Ages 4-7

Kitten wants to break a board in her taekwondo class, but she’s got a lot to learn! Her sensei, Master Ca,t teaches her to prepare her body and mind, and makes it look so easy! As Kitten struggles to learn and master her forms, Master Cat is there with encouragement and advice. Kitten practices her forms while reminding herself of the five tenets of taekwondo: courtesy, integrity, perseverance, self-control, and indomitable spirit. Her classmates all help her as she keeps her eye on the prize: breaking that board! Adorable digital illustrations and short sentences make this a sweet story about teamwork and working toward a goal. A list of Korean terms used in taekwondo adds new words to readers’ vocabulary.

Kitten’s moments of frustration and her joy at success will resonate with readers, and images of classmates with advanced belts working to help Kitten improve nicely promote the value of working together. Master Cat is wizened and cheerful, and his little charges all have cartoony, expressive faces that will attract younger readers. Read alongside SumoKitty, by David Biedrzycki, a different martial arts story with a zen outlook… and cats.