Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

It’s Your World Now! gives kids Three Golden Rules

It’s Your World Now!, by Barry Falls, (July 2019, Pavilion), $16.95, ISBN: 9781843654315

Ages 3-7

Written as a love letter from a parent or caregiver to a child, It’s Your World Now is all about giving kids the three most important things they need to know: 1) the world is full of marvelous things; 2) things won’t always go their way; and, most importantly, 3) above all else, they are loved. Teaching kids to shoot for the stars, to be resilient, and to know they are loved above all things, It’s Your World Now is this generation’s Oh, The Places You Will Go! It’s us, handing the world over to our kids, letting them know that they can do anything; be anything; urging them to strive for everything, but to be realistic and understand that sometimes, things just aren’t going to go the way they want. That people are going to talk down to them, or assume that they know more. That’s okay – it’s been happening since the dawn of time. But the narrator reminds our kids that their lives are theirs, to do their own thing, and trust in themselves at the end of the day. And through these ups and downs, the knowledge that they are loved – so, so, very much – is something that will never change. It’s an inspirational, loving story that’s meant to inspire and lift our kids up, while giving us the nudge that we may need to keep going, too.

Bright, bold artwork throughout the book features kids and grownups alike, walking together in an exciting riot of color and images: Michelangelo’s David with a keyboard guitar; giant rubber ducks float in the water. Children see themselves as judges, doctors, deep-sea divers in old-fashioned bell helmets, or ride on a rocket ship through the stars. Endpapers sports birds, planets, and books, letting readers know that something exciting is about to happen.

It’s Your World Now! is a nice storytime selection and a great gift idea for the kid who means the world to you.

Advertisements
Posted in Fiction, Humor, Middle Grade, Middle School, Realistic Fiction, Teen, Tween Reads

Jamie Sumner’s Roll With It gives life with CP a face and a story

Roll With It, by Jamie Sumner, (Oct. 2019, Atheneum), $17.99, ISBN: 9781534442559

Ages 10-14

Twelve-year-old Ellie loves to bake. She writes letters to famous chefs and cookbook authors, asking questions to make her own art better. She’s frustrated by her overprotective mom, having to go to the bathroom at school with the help of an aide, and her father, who exists in theory, not so much in practice. Ellie also has cerebral palsy, or CP, which keeps her wheelchair-bound, but never out of the game. After her grandfather, who has dementia, drives his car into a local supermarket, Ellie’s mom packs up and heads to Eufala, Oklahoma, to live with and help out. Ellie’s grandmother is thrilled to have her family for a visit, but makes it clear that she’s not putting her husband into a home. Ellie starts school and a new life in Oklahoma, befriending Coralee and Bert; schoolmates who have their own eccentric flairs, and taking on a school that isn’t ready for Ellie.

Inspired by her son, Roll With It is author Jamie Sumner’s first novel, and with it, she has given us a main character who is upbeat, smart, funny, and darned independent. She’s a tween on the verge of teenhood, coping with adolescent feelings and frustrations on top of family worries, like her grandfather’s increasing dementia, concern about her grandmother, and a father that she’s disappointed in and hurt by. On top of that, she has the struggles that come with being in a school ill-equipped to work with her needs, and being the new kid in the middle of a school year. How does she cope? She lets you know what’s going on! Her voice is strong and clear, in her fantastic tweenage snark and honesty. Her friends Coralee and Bert have fully-realized backstories, giving them life beyond being Ellie’s friends in the background. Ellie’s grandparents and mother emerge as realistic, three-dimensional characters with big concerns of their own: family health, an absent spouse, bills, bills, bills.

A story about fitting in and standing out, following a dream and making your own way, Ellie is a character you want to cheer for and your kids will want to hang out with. Hand this to any of your realistic fiction readers, especially the kids that love Aven’s adventures in Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus by Dusti Bowling or Sharon Draper’s Out of My Mind; for your baking aficionados, give to readers who loved Jessie Janowitz’s The Doughnut Fix/The Doughnut King, and Anna Meriano’s Love Sugar Magic books. Talk this up to your teacher visitors, and suggest they take a look at it (I’m always ready to push good Summer Reading list ideas).

Roll With It has starred reviews from Kirkus and Publisher’s Weekly. Check out Jamie Sumner’s author webpage, where you can sign up to receive her newsletter and download a free discussion guide.

 

Posted in picture books, Toddler Reads

Cuddle Time Reading: Upsy-Daisy, Baby!

Upsy-Daisy, Baby! How Families Around the World Carry Their Little Ones, by Susan Hughes/Illustrated by Ashley Barron, (Sept. 2019, OwlKids), $9.95, ISBN: 9781771473873

Ages 0-3

Originally released in 2017 as Up!, Upsy-Daisy, Baby! is the board book release for this adorable story of how cultures all over the world carry their babies. Cut-paper collages illustrate families from 10 locations around the world, from Afghanistan to Peru, from Canada to West Africa. Family members all care for the little ones in their lives: grandparents, cousins, siblings, moms, and dads alike. The illustrations are eye-catching, with bold, primary colors and bold fonts. Perfect for cuddle time storytime and lapsits. Pair this with Star Bright’s board book, Llévame, which uses photos of multicultural babies to communicate the same snuggly message.

 

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Operation Photobomb: Smile! (Plus, a giveaway!)

Operation: Photobomb, by Tara Luebbe & Becky Cattie/Illustrated by Matthew Rivera, (Sept. 2019, Albert Whitman & Co.), $16.99, ISBN: 9780807561300

Ages 4-7

Monkey and Chameleon love when jungle tours visit their jungle: they get toys! This time around, Monkey finds a camera and starts snapping away. Chameleon loves the spotlight a little too much, though, and when Monkey starts taking photos of their other jungle friends, Chameleon can’t resist a good photobomb. This gets on everyone’s nerves pretty quickly, so the animals plan a little comeuppance of their own.

This book is guaranteed to bring the snickers. Most people, certainly most kids, know what a photobomb is these days, and love doing it. They’ll love Chameleon’s spotlight-stealing presence, and they’ll get a kick out of the other animals’ retribution. There are a good discussion points to be found here, too, the biggest being to think about how one’s actions can affect others. Ruining other people’s pictures, other people’s fun? Not very nice. Talk about jealousy, and how that motivates Chameleon – what could he have done to let others know he was feeling left out? Light-hearted and fun, the story gets its point across without being preachy or melodramatic. The bright and bold illustrations feature striking colors and bold fonts, making this a storytime winner.

Speaking of storytime, Operation Photobomb went over well at storytime here, and a little too well at home: my little guy already appreciates a good photobomb; now I fear for his older brother even more. Stay tuned.

 

Tara Luebbe and Becky Cattie are sisters and collaborators. Together they’ve written several picture books, including I Am Famous and I Used to Be Famous, illustrated by Joanne Lew-Vriethoff, and Shark Nate-O, illustrated by Daniel Duncan. Visit Becky and Tara online at www.beckytarabooks.com.

Matthew Rivera began drawing animals when he was old enough to hold a crayon. His parents still prize the toucan he drew when he was five. He earned his degree in Fine Arts from the University of Arizona. Visit him on Instagram @matthewdidit, or at his website, matthewdidit.com.

 

Want a shot at winning your own copy of Operation Photobomb? (U.S. addresses only, please!) Enter the Rafflecopter giveaway!

Posted in Media

Broadway HD, Puffs, and Playlists

A couple of my friends and I went to see the off-Broadway Harry Potter/Hufflepuffs tribute, Puffs, a couple of years ago and it is hilarious. I mentioned it the other day, saying we should really try to see it again, only to be told that the show has closed in NYC. ARGH.

That said, I just found out that there’s a Broadway show subscription service: BroadwayHD is a thing! BroadwayHD is a for-pay streaming service for live theatre, and from what I’ve seen so far, there are some really great shows on here. Including Puffs, The Sound of Music, The Wind in the Willows, and Peter Pan. In fact, there’s a back-to-school, family-friendly playlist available. Here’s a rundown of some of the performances.

  • Wind in the Willows – Join Ratty, Badger, Mole and the impulsive Toad as they embark on a series of riotous adventures spiraling from Toad’s insatiable need for speed!  Featuring eye-poppingly beautiful design, exuberant choreography and a gloriously British score, The Wind in the Willows recently brought comedy, heart and thrills to the world-famous London Palladium for a strictly limited summer season.

 

  • The Sound of Music – In this exciting production of the universally beloved musical which made its broadcast debut in the UK on ITV, the enchanting Kara Tointon (Mr Selfridge, EastEnders) delivers a “mesmerizing performance and incredible vocal talents” (Daily Mail) as Maria, an apprentice nun who is tasked with caring for the children of a retired naval officer (Julian Ovenden, Downton Abbey).  With Maria’s love for music and unwavering confidence, she brings a new zest for life back into the household.  The performance is supported by Katherine Kelly (Mr Selfridge, Coronation Street) as Baroness Elsa Schraeder and Alexander Armstrong (The Armstrong and Miller Show, Danger Mouse) as Max Detweiler, and also features two songs not in the original movie but part of the stage show since 1959, “How Can Love Survive,” and “No Way to Stop It.”  THE SOUND OF MUSIC LIVE also features showtune favorites like “The Sound of Music,” “Edelweiss,” “Sixteen Going on Seventeen,” “My Favorite Things” and many others.
  • The Woodsman – Based on the beloved writings of L. Frank Baum, The Woodsman, an imaginative retelling of the origins of Oz’s Tin Woodsman, is the story of the Tin Man, the woman he loved, and the witch that would stop at nothing to keep them apart. Through spectacular life-size puppetry and original music, the ensemble of Strangemen & Co. presents an inventive take on one of America’s original fairy tales.
  • Railway Children – The Railway Children tells the story of Bobbie, Peter and Phyllis, three children whose lives change dramatically when their father is mysteriously taken away. They move from London to a cottage in rural Yorkshire with their mother, where they befriend the local railway porter, Perks, and embark on a magical journey of discovery, friendship and adventure. But the mystery remains – where is Father, and is he ever coming back?
  • Puffs – For seven years a certain boy wizard went to a certain Wizard School and conquered evil. This, however, is not his story. This is the story of the Puffs… who just happened to be there too. A tale for anyone who has never been destined to save the world.  The New York Times proclaims PUFFS, “A FAST-PACED ROMP through the ‘Seven Increasingly Eventful Years at a Certain School of Magic and Magic.’
  • Prince and the Pauper – From BBC and based on the Mark Twain classic, Prince and the Pauper is a classic trope. The show captures a classic trope of two individuals switching places. You’ll feel the chill in the castle air and smell the foetid London streets in this richly atmospheric tale of Tudor England. Mark Twain’s story of mistaken identities stars Keith Michell, who re-creates the role that made him famous (King Henry in the classic BBC series The Six Wives of Henry VIII). Street urchin Tom Canty could be Prince Edward’s identical twin brother. When they get mixed up, no-one will believe their stories.
  • Peter Pan – A smash hit when it debuted in 1991, this production of Peter Pan starring Cathy Rigby toured the globe and continues to be beloved by theater goers.  The show was filmed in 2000 and features spectacular flying sequences as well as the tunes that everyone loves such as “I’m Flying” and “I Won’t Grow Up.”
  • Hetty Feather – A BroadwayHD original production debuting for the first time exclusively on BroadwayHD. From the best-selling author Jacqueline Wilson, the tale of plucky Hetty Feather is brought thrillingly to life on stage by award-winning scriptwriter Emma Reeves (CBBC’s The Story of Tracy Beaker) and by Olivier Award-nominated director Sally Cookson, whose many five star productions include Peter Pan, We’re Going on a Bear Hunt, and Stick Man.  With an original musical score by Benji Bower, circus skills and a huge heart, Hetty Feather is a terrific adventure story! Starring BAFTA-nominated actress Phoebe Thomas in the title role, this production of Hetty Feather was filmed from the 2015 Olivier nominated production on the West End in London.
  • Cirque du Soleil: Toruk – The First Flight – Toruk – The First Flight is a live immersive multimedia spectacle that brings to the stage the breathtaking world of James Cameron’s Avatar like you have never seen it before. Through a riveting fusion of cutting edge visuals, puppetry and stagecraft buoyed by a soaring cinematic score, Cirque du Soleil applies its unique signature style to James Cameron’s imaginary world and “makes the bond” between two kindred artistic visions that capture the imagination. It is a living ode to the Na’vi’s symbiotic coexistence with nature and their belief in the basic interconnectedness of all living things. Narrated by a “Na’vi Storyteller” and populated by unforgettable characters, Toruk – The First Flight is a mythical tale set thousands of years before the events depicted in the film Avatar, and before any humans ever set foot on Pandora.

BroadwayHD introduces award-winning theater from all across the globe with both classic and modern productions. It’s a great way to introduce your family to  live theater.   In addition to the shows highlighted above, fans can expect to see the full works of Shakespeare, awe-inspiring performances from Cirque du Soleil and a selection of the world’s greatest musical including Kinky Boots,  42nd Street, The King and I, Sound of Music, An American in Paris, and Peter Pan.  All performances are adapted specifically for streaming audiences to maximize the entertainment experience.   To learn more, visit www.broadwayhd.com. There’s a 7-day free trial available; afterwards, it’s $8.99 a month, or $99.99 a year.

 

 

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

Katie O’Neill follows up The Tea Dragon Society with The Tea Dragon Festival

The Tea Dragon Festival, by Katie O’Neill, (Sept. 2019, Oni Press), $21.99, ISBN: 978-1-62010-655-6

Ages 8-12

The Tea Dragon Festival takes place in the universe introduced in the Eisner-winning The Tea Dragon Society (2017) and is a prequel of sorts, featuring two characters from the first book. Taking place in a mountain village called Silverleaf, Tea Dragons are small dragons that live with the villagers; the villagers care for them, even pamper them, and harvest tea leaves that the dragons grow on their bodies. Each dragon is named for the teas they produce: we’ve previously met Jasmine, Roobios, and Chamomile, and The Tea Dragon Festival debuts some additional dragons: Fennel, Marshmallow, and Mountain Chamomile.

A girl named Rinn goes into the woods to gather ingredients and discovers a real dragon, fast asleep. Upon waking, Aedhan – the dragon – explains that he was sent to protect Silverleaf, but dozed off. But he’s ready for the barley tea celebrations at the next Tea Dragon Festival! The only problem is… the barley tea celebration happened 80 years ago. To lift Aedhan’s spirits, Rinn brings him back to the village and introduces him to everyone, including her Uncle Erik and his companion, Hesekiel, who previous Tea Dragon readers will remember. The couple are younger here, and are still in their bounty hunting days; they deduce that the bounty they are hunting – a mysterious forest creature who can put people to sleep for decades. While Erik and Hesekiel seek out the bounty, Rinn includes Aedhan in festival preparations, and endears him to the village – and vice versa.

This is just a lovely, uplifting story. Katie O’Neill once again gives us a world where diverse characters live and work together in harmony; we have fluid gender identities and diverse characters, even diverse species, living among one another in peace. It’s a visually beautiful story, with verdant forest colors and lush landscapes. Aedhan is a shape-shifting dragon who looks stunning, majestic, in flight and shifts into a softer, humanoid form to interact with the Silverleaf inhabitants. Back matter includes a note about tea dragons and dragons, and an Alpine Tea Dragon Handbook, introducing three new tea dragons from the story. A wonderful fantasy that will make readers happy.

The Tea Dragon Society webpage has a cast of characters, an almanac of tea dragons, and the tea dragon webcomic! Add to your friendly list of links for kids!

Katie O’Neill is an Eisner and Harvey Award-winning graphic novelist. Visit her webpage for more about her books and illustration.

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

Jen Wang does it again with Stargazing!

Stargazing, by Jen Wang, (Sept. 2019, First Second), $12.99, ISBN: 9781250183880

Ages 9-13

Jen Wang’s given us cyberpunk fantasy with In Real Life (2014) and high fantasy with The Prince and the Dressmaker (2018). With Stargazing, readers get a more contemporary story with, as Kirkus notes, a true portrayal of the diversity within the Asian-American community.

Christine is a Chinese-American girl from a more traditional Chinese family. She is focused on school and her music, until her family moves YuWen Lin and her daughter, Moon, into the in-law apartment where Christine’s grandfather used to live. YuWen and Moon are a struggling family, and the hospitality offered by Christine’s family is much appreciated. Christine and Moon are encouraged to spend time together, but the two are polar opposites: Moon is a vegetarian Buddhist who loves K-Pop and is rumored to get into fights. Despite their differences, Christine and Moon grow close, with Moon introducing Christine to a lighter, more fun side of life, letting her relax and let her guard down. Moon confides in Christine, telling her that she belongs in outer space, and that beings from space speak to her. When Moon meets a Caucasian girl that shares many of her interests, Christine’s jealousy takes control, and she puts Moon into an embarrassing situation; Moon reacts with her fists, which leads to an episode that lands Moon in the hospital.

Jen Wang weaves an intricate story of family expectations, social groups, and the complexity of navigating friendships in Stargazing, giving us some of her best storytelling yet. Influenced by events in her childhood and growing up in an Asian-American family, the story has depth and incredible emotion. Whether she’s giving us cyber farmers (In Real Life) or a friendship between two schoolgirls who love K-Pop, Jen Wang always manages to make her character’s humanity the central focus of her stories. Christine and Moon are so real, so strong, that their voices come right off the page and speak to readers; telling them about their stories, their lives, their struggles. When Christine writes that she doesn’t consider Moon Asian, we see the conflict between a traditional Chinese household versus a more contemporary, Westernized Chinese-American household. Christine’s mother holds Chinese lessons in her home; YuWen runs a plant nursery and watches TV with her daughter at night. While Christine listens to more Westernized music, Moon embraces K-Pop and dance routines. The two families present a glimpse into the diversity of Asian-American families, both connected to the culture in different ways.

Stargazing is a definite must-read and has starred reviews from Kirkus and Publisher’s Weekly. Newsarama has an interview with Jen Wang that’s worth reading.