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

Click’d: Coding, apps and friendship drama!

Click’d (Code Girls #1), by Tamara Ireland Stone, (Sept. 2017, Disney-Hyperion), $16.99, ISBN: 9781484784976

Recommended for readers 8-12

Sixth grader Allie Navarro is SO excited about the friendship app she built at CodeGirls summer camp. Click’d collects data about user interests and sends users on a scavenger hunt to find other users with similar interests. It went over big at camp, and now Allie is going to show it to her BFFs at school. She’s also presenting her game at the big Games for Good competition, but she’s going up against her nemesis: Nathan Frederickson, who wins EVERY science fair and drives her crazy.

The app goes over in a big way, but it’s not as great as Allie thought it would be. People are upset about their standings on friendship leaderboards, and a technical glitch ends up embarrassing one of her best friends. Things start spiraling out of Allie’s control; even with Nathan’s help, she’s not sure if she can make things right in time for the competition.

I’m excited about the new coding fiction trend that’s emerging in light of Girls Who Code’s nonfiction/fiction releases! Click’d is great to hand to readers who may be ready to move on from the Girls Who Code series fiction, or readers who may not be ready for Lauren Myracle’s TTYL books just yet. There’s friendship drama for sure, as well as positive messages about resilience and friendship. Each chapter contains screenshots of the Click’d app, adding to the fun; readers can watch Allie’s user count change, and monitor different leaderboards to better envision how the app works (and maybe get some ideas of their own). Tamara Ireland Stone gives us realistic characters and an interesting storyline and builds an extended universe of CodeGirls – girls who all met through a Girls Who Code-type camp – that will work for future novels.

Make sure to check out the Click’d teacher’s guide on the author’s website!

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Posted in Fiction, Fiction, Middle Grade, Tween Reads, Young Adult/New Adult

Diversity Reading Challenge 2017 – Checking In

This year, I accepted The Unconventional Librarian’s Diversity Reading Challenge, and I’ve been… okay. Let’s take a look:

(The center Diversity Reading Challenge 2017 graphic is from An Unconventional Librarian’s website.)

Book featuring a Hispanic character – Wild Beauty, by Anna Marie McLemore

Book featuring an LGBTQ character – Spinning, by Tillie Walden

Graphic Novel – Pashmina, by Nidhi Chanani

Book featuring a character with mental illness – Lighter Than My Shadow, by Katie Green

Book featuring an Asian character – Warcross, by Marie Lu

Book by an illustrator of color – Nina: Jazz Legend and Civil Rights Activist Nina Simone, illustrated by Bruno Liance

Book with an African-American young male character – Goodnight, Boy, by Nikki Sheehan

Book with an African-American female character – An Unkindness of Ghosts, by Rivers Solomon

Book with a Muslim character – Lost Boys, by Darcey Rosenblatt

Book with a character on the Autism spectrum – Mighty Jack and the Goblin King, by Ben Hatke

Book featuring a character with a physical disability – Super Max and the Mystery of Thornwood’s Revenge, by Susan Vaught

 

Don’t get me wrong, I’m happy with my reading, but it could be better. I see little spots where I need to read more deeply. Goodnight, Boy is amazing; brilliantly written, but I should also be reading African-American characters written by African-American characters. I need to finally get Ghost, by Jason Reynolds, off the TBR and on my nightstand, you know? Ditto for my Muslim character choice. I love Lost Boys; it’s a heart-wrenching novel that darn near brings me to tears, but I need to stop saying I want to read Amina’s Voice and just read it. (If you’re struggling to find Muslim authors, by the way, I found a list on GoodReads that may help.)

I am happy that there’s some crossover on the list. I have several graphic novels on the list; while reading graphic novels is never an issue for me, I’m happy to see that the medium is a great place to explore different cultures and identities. Spinning, Lighter Than My Shadow, Pashmina, and Mighty Jack and the Goblin King are all graphic novels; each is its own journey of exploration. Wild Beauty and An Unkindness of Ghosts have female, main characters of color that explore their sexuality.

In sum, I need to read one more book (a Holocaust victim) to complete my challenge. Pragmatic Mom has a list that I think I’ll use as my guide here. Milkweed, by Jerry Spinelli, sounds compelling; it may also be time to to finally pick up Jane Yolen’s Devil’s Arithmetic.  I’ll keep you posted. In the meantime, thanks to Pam at Unconventional Librarian for keeping me honest.

Posted in Preschool Reads, Toddler Reads

Size matters not… Small, by Gina Perry

Small, by Gina Perry, (Aug. 2017, Little Bee Books), $17.99, ISBN: 978-1-4998-0401-0

Recommended for readers 3-7

Sometimes it’s a drag being small. It can be intimidating. In Small, a little girl goes through a day in the crowded city feeling small and overwhelmed. When ducks snatch her hot dog, she feels helpless… until a trip to a playground helps her turn it around by allowing her to embraces the positives in her life and how they make her feel big. The love of her family; her drawing ability; her fierce game – all of these and more make her big, brave, and loved.

Small is loaded with positivity. It’s a good book for preschoolers and kindergarteners on self-esteem, filled with moments kids recognize all too well: feeling like second banana to a younger sibling; fears about being lost in a crowd; of not being heard; of just feeling plain helpless. It also taps into positive moments that kids feel: the invincibility of being on a slide or the monkey bars; the power of sidewalk chalk, the power that comes from doing something for someone else. I read this to my toddler/preschooler storytime group, and they loved it! Two of my QH kiddos were captivated by the sidewalk chalk art, so we spent a couple of minutes letting everyone look at the spread and point to the different drawings. The story and the pictures resonated with them.

Author/Illustrator Gina Perry’s webpage has a free, downloadable butterfly craft and activity kit that I’ll definitely use – especially since I just saw a sidewalk art page! This is a great book for letting little ones know what a big space they take up in your life.

Posted in Intermediate

Nina introduces a new generation to Nina Simone

Nina: Jazz Legend and Civil-Rights Activist Nina Simone, by Alice Brière-Haquet/Illustrated by Bruno Liance, (Dec. 2017, Charlesbridge), $16.99, ISBN: 9781580898270

Recommended for readers 6-10

She is a legend in music and civil rights history. Author Alice Brière-Haquet and illustrator Bruno Liance introduce Nina Simone to new audiences with this beautifully written and illustrated book. Written as a story to Simone’s daughter, who’s having trouble falling asleep, Alice Brière-Haquet weaves a tale of achievement in the face of racism, using stunning imagery: the 52 white teeth “trapping” the 36 black teeth in the keyboard, and the white keys being whole notes while the black keys are half notes: “White was whole. Black was half. It was that way everywhere and for everyone.” Music was made by “important men in powdered wigs from past centuries”. Simone recalls her anger during a recital, when her mother was expected to give up her seat in the front, to white people who came to see her play; Simone refused to play until her mother resumed her rightful spot in the front row. She speaks of Martin Luther King, and his dream being her symphony – but the dream is fragile.

This book is gorgeous. The words are beautiful and strong, and using piano keys as an illustration of endemic racism is simply brilliant. Bruno Liance’s black and white illustrations are soft, dreamlike, beautiful. This spread is my absolute favorite; I’d love to give this print as a baby shower gift.

“Dream, my baby, dream, until you spread your wings…” (from Bruno Liance’s website)

Do kids know who Nina Simone is? Probably not, unless their parents are fans. Does that matter? Absolutely not – this is a gorgeous introduction to Nina Simone, and to activism, for all ages. This book is going on my shelves, in my storytimes, and in displays for social conscience, activism, and African-American history. If you’re so inclined, you can play Simone’s lullaby, “Hush Little Baby“, in your storytime or for your little one.

Nina was originally published in France in 2015. You can find more of Bruno Liance’s artwork at his (French/English) website, Pirate des Caramels, and you can follow Alice Brière-Haquet at her (French) blog, Alice in Wonderblog. Nina has starred reviews from Foreword Reviews and Booklist.

Posted in Fiction, Fiction, Intermediate, Middle Grade, Realistic Fiction

A Chesapeake Fable: Wind and Oyster Jack

Wind and Oyster Jack, by Marcia G. Moore/Illustrated by Heather Crow, (Nov. 2017, Schiffer Publishing), $14.99, ISBN: 9780764354229

Recommended for readers 6-10

Oyster Jack is a Chesapeake Bay waterman, out on his boat, Dinah, harvesting oysters. Their friend, Wind, helps them by lifting Dinah’s sails and allowing the boat to move. The weather is getting chilly, though, and Wind is cold. She asks Oyster Jack to share his coat and his blanket, but he can’t – he needs them for himself! – so Wind goes off to find a coat of frost, and a blanket of snow, that she hears about on Jack’s radio. They don’t fit Wind, and Oyster Jack and Dinah are stuck without Wind. Finally, Oyster Jack comes up with a solution that will make everyone happy.

This sweet story, set in the Chesapeake Bay area, is a nice way to introduce different areas of the States to readers, and a good way to talk about the different careers that flourish in different areas and environments. There’s an explanation of the skipjack – the type of boat watermen use when they go out harvesting – at the end, and the Chesapeake Bay Foundation has a good section on the area’s geography and facts; the Maryland Sea Grant website has a section on the oyster trade and current restoration efforts. The narrative sounds much like a modern-day fable, with the Wind interacting as a living being with Oyster Jack; the resolution explains the windsock’s origin.

This is a text-heavy story, making it a good choice for older readers who can process deeper and longer text. The artwork appears to be watercolor and has an Impressionist feel. The wind has a visible face, and breathes in swirls that cascade through each spread. The light glimmers on the water, and the snow softly blankets the town. Most pages are full-bleed; a few exceptions for large blocks of text are plain, bright white. Bunches of oysters set the tone on the endpages.

If you want to introduce readers to the Chesapeake Bay area, this is a good place to start.

Posted in Early Reader, Non-Fiction, Preschool Reads, Toddler Reads

Night Creepers: nonfiction that goes from toddler to school-age

Night Creepers, by Linda Stanek/Illustrated by Shennen Bersani, (Sept. 2017, Arbordale Publishing), $9.95, ISBN: 978-1-607-183235

Recommended for readers 3-7

Night Creepers is both a rhyming tale about night time animals for toddlers and preschoolers and a nonfiction text on nocturnal animals for first and second graders. Each spread introduces a new nocturnal animal: foxes and wolves, bats and flying squirrels, skunks, possums, and more. On the left hand side of the spread, we have short, rhyming text about animals who wake up when the rest of the world starts getting ready for bed. On the right hand side, we have short paragraphs, constructed with simple sentences, containing information about each animal. Shennen Bersani’s realistic illustrations are beautiful, with vibrant and deep colors coming together to give readers an exciting reading experience. As with all Arbordale books, there is a “Creative Minds” section at the end, with activities and resources for further learning; they are free to photocopy and hand out for educational, non-commercial use.

I read Night Creepers in my toddler storytime this past week, and the little ones enjoyed it. One of my QH Kids excited pointed out animals she knew, and we all repeated the names of the animals on each spread. The rhyming, brief text was just the right length for a short story.

I was able to see author Linda Stanek speak at a non-fiction panel at KidLitCon, and look forward to adding more of her books – particularly, award-winner Once Upon an Elephant. Arbordale has a great website, releasing Spanish editions concurrently with English editions of their books, e-book access (and one free read-aloud e-book a month), and free resources for educators. Linda Stanek’s author website has more info about her books, and about school and library visits.

I’m always on the lookout for good nonfiction – my library’s collection needs constant updating, and animal books are big here. Night Creepers‘ appeal to different age groups means I can get this book in front of a larger group of kids, getting more bang for my budget’s buck. A nice add to primary nonfiction/easy nonfiction collections.

Posted in Preschool Reads, Toddler Reads

Bring a book (or three) for the kids at Thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving is NEXT WEEK. How did that sneak up so fast? If you’re spending the holidays with family, you don’t want to show up empty-handed, right? And if you have kids in your family, you may be that sort of guest that likes to bring a book. (It’s not just me, is it?) Here are a few holiday books to get kids ready for Christmas:

 

The Twelve Days of Christmas (Panorama Pops), Illustrated by Grahame Baker-Smith,
(Sept. 2017, Candlewick Press), $8.99, ISBN: 978-0-7636-9485-2
Perfect for ANY age!

 

How adorable is this itty bitty gift book? It comes in its own little slipcase, and opens to a pop-up, beautifully illustrated panoramic reading of the classic Christmas carol. There’s a brief explanation of the 12 days in the beginning of the book, which was news to me. I’ve spent the last *cough cough* decades thinking my birthday kicked off the 12 days of Christmas, but the days are actually from the 25th, Christmas Day, to the Epiphany, on January 5th. (I bet my parents are thrilled about that Catholic school tuition money.) There’s a note about the song’s origins; the words dating back to 1780, the music to 1909. Sing along with the kiddos, and then sing a fun take on the carol, like my son’s favorite, The Twelve Bots of Christmas! This one will take a beating in a public library – this one is great for storytime reference, but you’re taking matters into your own hands if you put this in circulation.

 

We’re Going on a Bear Hunt (Snow Globe Edition), by Michael Rosen/Illustrated by Helen Oxbury,
(Oct. 2017, Candlewick Press), $16.99, ISBN: 9781536200294
Great for all ages, but perfect for readers 3-7

This is such a fun update of a storytime classic! The cover is a 3-D, plastic-encased snow globe, with little styrofoam balls to shake up and down and all around.  This version of the story features die-cut and pop-up that will add to all of your splashing and sploshing, squelching, and squerching. I’m reading this one, along with Over the River: The Turkey’s Tale at my Thanksgiving storytime next week, and I can’t wait to see the kids’ faces when I show off the snow globe. Again, this one is great for gifts and storytime reference, but circulating librarians, be ware.

 

We Wish You a Merry Christmas (Sing Along With Me!), Illustrated by Yu-hsuan Huang,
(Sept. 2017, Nosy Crow/Candlewick), $8.99, ISBN: 978-0-7636-9612-2
Great for all ages, but the board book is perfect for 2-5

Another illustrated Christmas carol, this time in board book form! Sing along with adorable animal friends as they get ready to celebrate Christmas, and scan the QR code in the book for a free, downloadable version of the song. There are five fun sliders, one on each spread, that let little hands peek at little buddies hiding behind a Christmas tree, pop up snowmen, slide a cat and mouse team down a hill, open a home to visiting friends, and watch Santa fly by. This book is way too much fun, and it’s nice and sturdy: built to last repeated uses. Put this one in your board book collections, you’re all good!