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

Heels, Faces, Works and Life: Bump by Matt Wallace

Bump, by Matt Wallace, (Jan. 2021, Katherine Tegen Books), $16.99, ISBN: 9780063007987

Ages 8-12

MJ is a twelve-year-old wrestling fan who is dealing with loss in her home life and racism in her school life. She feels isolated, alone, with only her wrestling show for company until she notices a covered wrestling ring in her neighbor’s yard. Turns out, her neighbor is the owner of a wrestling school, and after some intense discussion with her mother and some successful nudging on MJ’s part, Mr. Arellano – Papí, to his wrestling students – agrees to take her on as a student. At the Victory Wrestling School, MJ finally feels like she’s part of something, but an investigator from the state Athletic Commission is doing his best to shut Mr. Arellano down. MJ is determined to get to the bottom of some shady business and save the school and her wrestling family.

I loved Bump, because it’s such a good mix of family stories – the family we have and the families we create – plus the fun and work of the wrestling business. MJ knows that the bruises are real; she loves the rich history of the luchadores, and she loves being part of this history. Wrestling fans will enjoy all the nuances and peek into the ground floor of the industry, and sports fans will enjoy the heart and guts that comes with dedication. Matt Wallace addresses the casual racism that exists in our schools, and all too briefly looks at the issues with racism within MJ’s friend group. The action is fast-paced, and there’s a wild moment that belongs in a wrestling storyline that brings the story to its conclusion. A good read that I’d hand off to my library kids. Add some luchador coloring masks to your book discussion activity and invite the kids to explain why they chose the designs they did; make the masks an extension of their personalities. There’s a good explanation of lucha libre and its place in Mexican culture at SpanishPlayground.net.  Not an #OwnVoices book, but a good read that kids will like.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Books for Bedtime… or not.

Anyone else finding that bedtimes are taking on lives of their own? Here are a few books to let us know we’re not alone. Turn bedtime into funtime with these wacky families!

Friday Night Wrestlefest, by JF Fox/Illustrated by Micah Player, (Feb. 2020, Roaring Brook Press), $17.99, ISBN: 9781250212405

Ages 4-8

It’s Friday night. Pizza’s been eaten, school’s out for the weekend… it’s time for FRIDAY NIGHT WRESTLEFEST! One family’s Battle To the Bedtime is an inspiration to the rest of us as they adopt their fantastic ring personas – Dangerous Daddooo (“He’s mad. He’s bad. He’s DAD.”), Tag Team Twins, Peanut Brother and Jellyfish, and “special guest star”, Big Bald Baby – and turn their living room into an all-star arena! Will Mom come in for the big save, or will Big Bald Baby clear the ring?

The artwork is a riot of color and movement, with kids and parents sailing through the air, talking smack, and dramatically posing. The family that plays together, stays together, for sure: endpapers feature a lovely wall of family photos in the usual well-mannered poses up front; back endpapers have the family striking victorious poses, hugging one another while celebrating various Wrestlefest wins.

This is a non-stop fun family read for bedtime or anytime. And if you were to construct your own wrestling ring in your living room to take on your family, you’d definitely want to download this activity kit from the publisher, so you could outfit yourself with a cool mask, pick out a great wrestler name, and get that championship belt all shined up.

Everyone’s Awake, by Colin Meloy/Illustrated by Shawn Harris, (March 2020, Chronicle Books), $17.99, ISBN: 978-1-4521-7805-9

Ages 4-8

A foreboding house on a hill has a single light shining on a dark, dark, night… wait a minute, this is no scary story! Turn the page, and discover what’s going on in that house on that late, late night: everyone’s awake! This rhyming story stars a family that just can’t sleep, and the young narrator takes us through what everyone’s up to: Dad’s in the kitchen, Grandma’s crafting, Sister’s flossing and putting her hair in braids, but all of a sudden things take a turn for the anarchic when Mom starts tap-dancing to Prince and Dad rolls a motorcycle in the room. Even the ghost of Grandpa shows up for a late night visit!  The manic story lets readers cut loose and embrace the chaos of bedtime gone wild. The ink, charcoal, and pencil artwork has a soft, surreal feel to it, lending a dreamlike, half-awake half asleep feel to the story. There are amazing details to be found in each spread, like Prince’s album covers, and the spines on the family bookshelf. Blues, oranges, and yellows dominate the landscape, taking readers from a drowsy sleep to full-on, sleepless mania and back again.

Author Colin Meloy is the lead singer and songwriter of The Decemberists, and the author of several children’s books, including the New York Times bestselling Wildwood series. Illustrator Shawn Harris is an artist and musician and the illustrator of several award-winning children’s books including Her Right Foot and What Can a Citizen Do?

Will this family ever get to sleep? You don’t expect me to spoil the surprise, do you? Everyone’s Awake is an hilarious bedtime romp.

 

Posted in Graphic Novels, Non-Fiction, Teen, Young Adult/New Adult

Is This Guy for Real? Brian Brown introduces a new generation to Andy Kaufman

Is This Guy for Real? The Unbelievable Andy Kaufman, by Box Brown, (Feb. 2018, First Second), $19.99, ISBN: 9781626723160

Recommended for readers 14+

Box Brown, the award-winning creator of Andre the Giant: His Life and Legend and Tetris: The Games People Play returns to introduce readers to one of the most controversial comedians of the ’70s and early ’80s, Andy Kaufman. The biography covers Andy’s younger years; how his persona was largely formed by television, particularly Elvis, professional wrestling and cartoons, all of which would figure into his act years later. Much of Is This Guy for Real? details his “feud” with wrestler Jerry the King Lawler; one of the greatest “are they or aren’t they?” rivalries of all time. The book also covers his death at age 35 from lung cancer, and the fact that many people – including his co-stars on the television show Taxi – swore it was a hoax.

I grew up watching Andy Kaufman as Latka Gravis on Taxi, and his stand-up performances on Saturday Night Live. I can’t hear the Mighty Mouse theme song without seeing him lip sync and gesture along. I remember watching he and Jerry Lawler go at each other, and never being quite sure whether or not it was real (you’ll find the answer in the book). Is This Guy for Real is an eye-opening look at an artist who was ahead of his time – warts and all – and gone too quickly. I’m hoping this profile introduces new audiences to Andy Kaufman and his stand-up; I know I’ll talk it up to our teens once I get our library’s copy.

Posted in Realistic Fiction, Teen, Young Adult/New Adult

Blog Tour: Playing for the Devil’s Fire, by Philippe Diederich

devilsfirePlaying for the Devil’s Fire, by Phillippe Diederich, (March 2016, Cinco Puntos Press), $11.95, ISBN: 978-1-941026-29-8
Recommended for ages 14+

Photojournalist Philippe Diederich wrote his debut novel as a way of communicating his sorrow and anger at the brutual narcoviolence and corruption infecting Mexico. The brutal and gripping story follows 13 year-old Libero “Boli” Flores as he sees his town, Izayoc, crippled by the town’s new inhabitants: men who wear shiny guns, expensive clothes, and drive big SUVs; men who have a lot of money to spend, and men who don’t like to be questioned or crossed. When people speak out, they show up dead.

Boli’s parents know it’s no use to go to the local police, so they head to a neighboring town to seek help, but they never arrive. Boli waits for someone to bring he and his sister, Gaby, some kind of news. Hope comes, briefly, in the form of El Chicano Estrada, a small-time luchador that Boli sees at a wrestling match. Boli, a devoted fan of lucha, particularly the legendary El Santo, begs Chicano to help him locate his parents. Chicano sees the corruption and grim reality facing Boli and the people of Izayoc; it awakens something in him, and he tries to be the hero that Boli needs. But Chicano also knows a truth that Boli hasn’t learned yet: the world is not a good place.

This is a vicious, heartbreaking story about the end of childhood. It’s a grim, powerful, and beautifully written novel, with unforgettable characters: Boli and Gaby are two siblings struggling to move on with their lives in the most horrifying circumstances; their Abuela escapes into her memories of the past to cope; Chicano is someone who just wanted to get by until he found someone that believed in him. Diederich looks at the morality, or lack of it, using Boli as the lens.

Who do you turn to in a town when everyone can either be bought or murdered? This is the question at the heart of Playing for the Devil’s Fire, and it is a very real question facing many Mexican communities. It’s an eye-opening look into a reality many young people face. Philippe Diederich puts a very human face on the cost of the neverending war on drugs.

This is not a book for middle grade or middle schoolers. There is graphic violence (the story begins with a child finding a decapitated head), language, and overall content that is disturbing and upsetting. I’d suggest this for upper high school, young adult, and adult readers, because it is a brilliantly written book that will make readers think, and hopefully, talk.

Playing for the Devil’s Fire has received a starred review from Publishers Weekly.

Philippe Diederich grew up in Mexico City where he played marbles in the streets and became a fan of lucha libre – pastimes he revisits in Playing for the Devil’s Fire. This is his first novel for young adults, but his short stories have been published in literary journals, and his mystery, Sofrito, is a culinary mystery that travels from Havana to New York City. His author website offers a newsletter and more information.

Playing for the Devil’s Fire Blog Tour

August 31: Rich in Color review  (http://richincolor.com)

Sept 1: The Pirate Tree review & interview (http://www.thepiratetree.com)

Sept 4: Guest Post for Clear Eyes, Full Shelves (www.cleareyesfullshelves.com)

Sept 5: Review, The Brain Lair (http://www.thebrainlair.com)

Sept 6: Rich in Color author interview (http://richincolor.com)

September 7: Edi Campbell CrazyquiltEdi review (https://campbele.wordpress.com)

September 8: Anastasia Suen, #KidLitBookoftheday (asuen.com)

September 9: Reading Through Life author highlight plus links to blog tour  (http://readingtl.blogspot.com)

Sept 9: Guest Post, The Brain Lair (http://www.thebrainlair.com)

September 12: Linda Washington (https://lmarie7b.wordpress.com/ )

September 13: Excerpt, Review, Mom Read it (https://momreadit.wordpress.com)