Posted in Graphic Novels, Middle Grade, Non-Fiction, Non-fiction, Tween Reads

Science Comics takes to the skies with Flying Machines

Science Comics: Flying Machines, by Alison Wilgus/Illustrated by Molly Brooks, (May 2017, :01First Second), $12.99, ISBN: 9781626721395

Recommended for readers 8-12

This latest installment of Science Comics introduces readers to Katharine Wright, sister to Wilbur and Orville Wright. When their mother died, Katharine stepped in to take over running the family household, which included corresponding with Wilbur and Orville as they traveled, both in the process of getting their first flight airborne and later, as they traveled through America and Europe. Here, she serves as the reader’s guide through the history of aviation. We learn about European aviation enthusiasts, and the race for funding and progress between the Wright Brothers – owners of a bicycle shop in Dayton, Ohio – and the titled European men working toward the same cause.

Readers gets detailed names and statistics on the Wright brothers’ flyers, and a look at the frustrating mechanical failures and serious injuries, including one fatality, leading up to that first historic flight. Readers also meet historic aviators who came after the Wright Brothers, including Frank Whittle, inventor of the turbojet engine, and who came There’s an incredible amount of detail in this volume- aviation enthusiasts will love it.

An appendix with short biographies on other aviation pioneers, a biography on Katharine Wright, a glossary of aviation terms, and a list of further reading round out this volume. Providing readers with a look into history and aviation technology, Science Comics: Flying Machines is a solid add to STEM collections and reinforces the fact that comic books DO belong in the classroom.

 

Posted in Adventure, Fantasy, Young Adult/New Adult

New fantasy YA brings a together a group of Royal Bastards

Royal Bastards (Royal Bastards #1), by Andrew Shvarts, (Jun 2017, Hyperion), $18.99, ISBN: 9781484767658

Recommended for ages 14+

This new fantasy series follows a group of Royal Bastards – illegitimate children of royals – as they try to save a royal princess’ life and prevent a war. Sixteen year-old Tilla is the bastard daughter of Lord Kent of the Western Province; she lives in comfortable accommodations, but her father has held her at arm’s distance ever since his legitimate wife bore him two daughters. Tilla’s half brother, Jax, from a different father, lives on Kent’s lands as a stablehand. While Jax is happy with life as it is, Tilla longs for legitimacy and a better relationship with her father; two things he’s withheld from her thus far. She’s invited to her father’s banquet honoring the visiting royal princess Lyriana, and sits at the bastard table with Miles, a bastard from neighboring House Hampsted, and Zell, a trueborn son-turned-bastard from the warrior Zitochi clan of the North. Lyriana insists on sitting with them and getting to know them, and ends up tagging along on what was supposed to be an evening out between just Jax and Tilla. While out at the shore, the group stumbles upon a horrific and treasonous episode that puts every one of their lives in danger: in Miles’ and Tilla’s cases, even from their own parents.

The group of teens is on the run, hoping to make it back to Lyriana’s kingdom before the combined forces of Lord Kent, Lady Hampsted, and the Zitochi clan can catch them. The bastards have to stay alive, prevent a mage slaughter, and a civil war that will claim thousands of lives – can they get along long enough to survive the journey?

There’s a lot of story to unpack in this first book. The biggest stumbling block for me was the contemporary language used in the high fantasy setting. It’s off-putting and took me out of the flow of the novel. Vernacular aside, Royal Bastards is a fast-paced adventure, loaded with intrigue, betrayal, and teen romance. I like the world-building: a fantasy world where bastards are recognized and can gain legitimacy if their parents choose to bestow it upon them; a major coup in the works, and plenty of intrigue and betrayal to keep things interesting. There’s rich character development, particularly in the relationship between Jax and Tilla and Tilla’s growth throughout the novel. There’s some diversity in the characters, although some fantasy tropes pop up here; most notably, the clueless royal who wants to meet “the little people” and the brooding, fur-wearing savage.

YA fantasy fans will dig in and enjoy this one. I’d booktalk Erin Bow’s The Scorpion Rules as an interesting counterpart that looks at the relationship between royals and their children and war. Talk up the Game of Thrones books to readers that may be familiar with the HBO series. Give a copy of Joshua Khan’s Shadow Magic and Dream Magic books to younger siblings who aren’t ready for this one yet.

Posted in Fantasy, Fiction, Middle School, mythology, Tween Reads

Loki’s daughter has her say in The Monstrous Child

The Monstrous Child, by Francesca Simon, (June 2017, Faber & Faber), $11.95, ISBN: 9780571330270

Recommended for ages 12+

Being the daughter of a giantess and the god of mischief is hard enough, but being born as a half-corpse on top of it? No wonder Hel, daughter of Loki and Angrboda, has a chip on her shoulder. Her older brothers are a snake and a wolf, her half-brothers are human – but they’re jerks, and her father’s no prize, whether or not he’s a Marvel and Tumblr heartthrob in another universe.

So goes the story of Francesca Simon’s The Monstrous Child. Narrated by Hel herself, it’s Neil Gaiman’s Norse Mythology for the middle school set. We read about her anger at Odin’s casting her into Niffelheim to rule over the dead, and the pain of her unrequited love for Baldr, the most beautiful of the Norse gods. We discover her friendship with a frost giant, condemned to oversee the bridge to Hel’s realm, and the despair that leads her to consider a role in Ragnarok: The Twilight of the Gods.

I loved this book. As a fan of Norse myth and YA, I enjoyed seeing the myths from Hel’s perspective: an outcast, literally cast away from her family; forced to make her way on her own. She suffers loneliness, the pain of loving someone unavailable, and the desire for revenge. This is a perfect addition to middle school libraries, and a great way to connect ancient myths to contemporary YA. Hel’s voice is clear and strong; supporting characters also have defined personalities and the dialogue – both Hel’s internal dialogue and the dialogue between characters, particularly between Hel and Loki, is delicious.

Francesca Simon has delved into Greek and Norse myth in the past. While I’m not sure if her books The Sleeping Army and The Lost Gods are part of The Monstrous Child‘s Universe, as they take place on Midgard (Earth), I’m still going to add them to my collection to stand next to Rick Riordan’s Magnus Chase series, because the kids at my library read any and all things fictional myth. The Monstrous Child stands on its own as a solid work of Norse myth and middle school-level fiction. Younger readers will be familiar with Ms. Simon’s Horrid Henry intermediate series.

Originally released in hardcover in May 2016, The Monstrous Child‘s paperback release is due out in a few short weeks. You can grab a copy from your library right now!

Posted in Non-Fiction, Non-Fiction

My First Book of Soccer explains the game to rookies!

My First Book of Soccer: Mostly Everything Explained About the Game (A Rookie Book), by the Editors of Sports Illustrated for Kids (May 2017, Sports Illustrated), $11.99, ISBN: 978-1-68330-002-1

Recommended for readers 4-8

Sports Illustrated’s newest book in their Rookie series introduces readers to Soccer – football, if you’re from anywhere other than the U.S. As with previous Rookie books, there are two Rookies on hand to show readers the ins and outs of the sports. I’m particularly excited about the Soccer Rookies, because we have a girl and a boy, and the girl – also the more knowledgeable of the two – is a lovely, brown-skinned young lady who’s too happy to teach her friend about the sport!

My First Book of Soccer is a light-hearted, informative introduction to the sport, featuring photos of current soccer stars (with silly word bubbles providing funny commentary) and the Rookies alike, interacting from the sidelines. The fonts are big and bold, with key words and ideas in capital, larger size. Scoreboards in the upper left- and right-hand corners keep track of the quarter and game time, giving kids a breakdown of what goes on during each part of a game.

Kudos to Sports Illustrated Kids for adding female players AND a female child of color Rookie! A must-add to sports bookshelves and collections for early readers, My First Book of Soccer joins previous Rookie books on football, baseball, and hockey. Put these out for a great sports-themed display and add them to a sports-themed storytime. I’d pair these with the Dino-sports series by Lisa Wheeler for a fun fiction/non-fiction pairing. Add some printables, courtesy of Sports Illustrated, for even more fun – check out My First Book of Soccer activity sheets.

Check out this giveaway! Get a copy of My First Book of Soccer plus two Rookie buttons! Enter this Rafflecopter giveaway!
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Posted in Preschool Reads, Toddler Reads

Cuddle-worthy books for Mother’s Day

Sunday is Mother’s Day! Happy Mother’s Day to all the moms, grandmothers, godmothers, and caregivers! I’ve come up with a short list of cuddle-worthy books to snuggle and read with your little ones.

 

Counting Kisses, by Karen Katz Baby is cranky and tired! Mom knows the way to soothe baby: with kisses! Ten little kisses on teeny, tiny toes, nine laughing kisses on busy, wriggly feet… leading all the way to the last sleepy kiss on baby’s head. Kiss along with this one and watch your little ones giggle and squirm, especially when you throw a tickle or two in for good measure.

Mama Mama, by Jean Marzollo/Illustrated by Laura Regan “Mama, Mama/Play with  me/Carry me/So I can see”.  One of the sweetest, beautifully illustrated baby books I’ve ever read, Mama Mama pairs animal babies and their loving mothers. This has been one of my favorites since my eldest was a baby; I can still feel my chin on his cheek as I’d read it to him.

Mummy’s Always Right, by Joe Mulvey Never let it be said that we don’t have a sense of humor in my home. I backed this Kickstarter last year and my youngest and I still read it all the time. A little mummy named Gaws (get it? Gauze!) plays with his monster friends while his Mummy provides rhyming advice about hygiene, nutrition, and safety always reminding her little lovey that Mummy’s always right. There are lots of laughs to be had here, especially when meeting some of Gaws’ friends: the cranky Frankenmine, the tentacular Cthu-Lou, and the ghostly Ghoulia. There’s nothing scary about this book – Sesame Street has monsters that are cute; so does Joe Mulvey.

Someday, by Alison McGhee/Illustrated by Peter H. Reynolds It’s every mother’s dream for her little ones to live their life to the fullest; to have everything good come to them, to grow, explore, and live. I’m not going to promise you that you’ll finish this book dry-eyed, but you will hug your sweetie a bit longer than usual. The child in the story is female, but you can easily talk to your sons about their milestones they will reach, with you cheering them on every step of the way.

Mamasaurus, by Stephen Lomp Babysaurus and Mamasaurus are eating tender leaves in the jungle one day, when whoops! He slips off her back and finds himself alone. Similar to PD Eastman’s classic Are You My Mother, Babysaurus meets other dinosaurs on his search for Mamasaurus: Does she run fast? Does she have a long horn, or have wings? No, but she knows how to find her Babysaurus, and she’s the best Mamasaurus in the whole jungle. This is my little guy’s and my favorite cuddle book; it’s perfect for reading and snuggle time.

Runaway Mummy: A Petrifying Parody, by Michael Rex Margaret Wise Brown’s Runaway Bunny is (deservedly) on so many lists, I thought I’d give a little love to the equally sweet and very funny Runaway Mummy. A little monster tries on different monster personas to get away from Mummy, but just like the Bunny’s mother in Runaway Bunny, Mummy is never too far behind, even when he transforms into the unthinkable: A BOY. This book gets as much love during a Mother’s Day storytime as it does during a Halloween storytime; give it a shot.

 

Posted in Early Reader, Non-Fiction

Clavis non-fiction picture book series: Want to Know

Clavis Books’ non-fiction picture book series, Want to Know, introduces non-fiction concepts for younger readers, providing information in a light-hearted, fiction-meets-non-fiction way. With cut-out pages, foldout illustrations, and facts and quizzes throughout each book, each topic provides opportunities to learn and do.

This season’s additions to the Want to Know series include The Romans, by Suzan Boshouwers and illustrated by Boshouwers and Veronica Nahmias, and Traveling by Train, by Pierre Winters and illustrated by Tineke Meirink.

The Romans, by Suzan Boshouwers/Illustrated by Boshouwers and Veronica Nahmias, (Apr. 2017, Clavis), $16.95, ISBN: 978-1605373195

Recommended for readers 6-8

The Romans falls under Want to Know’s History category. We meet Theo and his little sister, digging a deep hole in hopes of finding Roman artifacts. Suddenly, Theo, his sister, and we readers are transported back in time to the Low Countries – part of the Roman Empire, where we now call the Netherlands, Belgium, and the Rhine, Meuse, Scheldt, and Ems rivers. We learn where the Romans lived, how they celebrated, the story of Romulus and Remus, and about the Roman gods. Endpapers include a map of the Roman Empire un der Emperor Trajan, and a look at some Roman artifacts recovered near the Netherlands.

The book provides a wealth of information for younger readers, but while the author doesn’t shy away from slavery being a part of Roman life, the slaves are depicted more like servants; they’re pretty happy around their captors. There are other books available, like books by DK and the Step Into Reading series, but if you’re looking for a more picture book-based introduction to Ancient Rome, this is an additional add to collections.

 

Traveling by Train, by Pierre Winters and illustrated by Tineke Meirink, (Apr. 2017, Clavis), $16.95, ISBN: 978-1605373409

Recommended for readers 4-7

Traveling by Train, from Want to Know’s The World section, is a fun addition for transportation fans. From learning about the first trains to trains in other countries, this book is loaded with fun information, quizzes, activities, and rhymes for young readers. Wrapped around the story of a boy named Sam’s first train trip, readers journey through the book, learning fun facts and discovering the story behind how trains run: who works for the railroad, and who does what; what trains look like on the inside; what schedules and connections are, and what a modern train station looks like. Endpapers feature artwork depicting an overcrowded train in India. The artwork kid-friendly, fun, and nicely detailed for its age group. I’d gladly add this one to my train books, and introduce it during a vehicle storytime.

Make this one a centerpiece with Thomas the Tank Engine books, or a host of vehicle-related books, for your readers to love.

 

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

Alien invasion and rebellion: Shattered Warrior

Shattered Warrior, by Sharon Shinn/Illustrated by Molly Knox Ostertag, (May 2017, :01FirstSecond), $17.99, ISBN: 9781626720893

Recommended for ages 14+

It’s been eight years since Colleen Cavanaugh’s world was invaded, her people enslaved. The Derichets, a warlike alien race, have human slaving in mines and factories, mining and refining minerals to power their weapons and their technology. Colleen, who lost most of her family in the invasion, discovers that her young niece, Lucy, is alive, and bribes the Derichets to get her back. Along with Jann, a member of a gang called the Chromatti, Colleen, Lucy, and Jann try to stay off everyone’s radar and live quietly, a small family of their own. But Colleen is also helping a rebel group that’s causing big problems for the Derichets. When a chance for a big strike against the aliens presents itself, Jann and Colleen have to take it – even if there are dire consequences.

Sharon Shinn is a bestselling sci-fi author; Shattered Warrior is her first graphic novel, illustrated by Molly Knox Ostertag, best known for her Strong Female Protagonist webcomic. Shattered Warrior is the first volume in this story of love amidst rebellion; Shinn and Ostertag certainly have come together to give us a strong female protagonist in Colleen. She’s strong, having endured the invasion of her world and enslavement of her race; the deaths of her family; and now, the discovery of her niece. She keeps her household going in the face of an utterly bleak future, but refuses to open herself to love because she can’t deal with the pain of losing. As the novel progresses, she ultimately realizes that love provides the power to keep going, and falls in love with Jann. The novel ends on a cliffhanger, ensuring that we’ll all be waiting for the next installment.

We don’t know much about the Derichets. We know they’re a warrior race that relies on Colleen’s world’s natural resources and that they appear to be brutal in their methods. We know that some of them have an eye for human women. The Chromatti are barely a step up from a street gang, attacking humans and Derichets alike. The Shattered Warrior characters live in a savage world where survival is the primary directive; everything else comes second, but the main characters still find a way to find small joys where they present themselves. It’s an interesting character study and a story that readers will enjoy. Booktalk this one with War of the Worlds for a new book/classic read pairing.