Mom Read It

If the kids are reading it, chances are I have, too.

Science Comics explores Volcanoes September 30, 2016

volcanoesScience Comics: Volcanoes-Fire and Life, by Jon Chad, (Oct. 2016, First Second), $12.99, ISBN: 9781626723603

Recommended for ages 8-12

Earlier this year, we got a look at First Second’s two Science Comics, Coral Reefs and Dinosaurs. There’s great science and fun art wrapped up in each of these comics, so I was super-psyched when I met a First Second rep at the PLA Conference this year, and she told me that there were more Science Comics coming. True to her word, we’re getting Volcanoes in just a couple of weeks.

Similar to Coral Reefs, Volcanoes wraps information about volcanic activity into a story: there’s been some sort of environmental cataclysm, and Earth is freezing. A tribe is scanning books when Aurora, one of the kids, discovers a book about volcanoes; she is HOOKED. She’s saved her tribe! The power to warm the planet is right underneath their feet!

From there, Aurora becomes the reader’s guide through a look into the activity bubbling under the earth’s crust: there are magma vents, shifting tectonic plates, and volcanic eruptions. Volcanoes create just as much as they destroy: there are entire land masses that owe their existence to a volcanic eruption, just as there are entire cities that have been wiped out by them.

 

Disney Princess: Dream Big is a hit! September 29, 2016

Back in July, I had a cover reveal for one of the latest books in the Put Me in the Story series, Disney Princess: Dream Big! I’m really excited, because I just received my copy in the mail, and it’s a beauty.

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Since I’d gotten softcover copies of the NatGeo books for my son back in June, I decided to check out the hardcover for my niece, who is just discovering Disney Princesses. I’m thrilled with the quality of the book! It’s a gorgeous, sturdy hardcover with quality pages that will stand up to repeated readings.

Dream Big puts readers on a mission: visit each Princess in the book; discover their dream; and check off the Princess’s name on the back of a passport that’s included in the book. You can cut out the passport – treat the book like a journal!

There are 11 Princesses in all to visit, from Ariel to Tiana. Each spread spotlights one Princess, gives a little bio on the Princess, and ends with a mention of the Princess’s dream, and an invitation to the reader to share her/his dream, too. For instance, Belle loves her books, and each one takes her on a new adventure. There’s a list of Belle’s favorite book genres, and a space for your reader to list her favorite books.

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The art is beautiful, colorful, and inviting. Kids are engaged by the direct invitation to connect through the text and activities in the book.

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A final spread sums up the Princesses’ strengths and dreams, and asks readers to connect the Princess with her big dream. Readers are also invited to write or draw their own special dreams and how to make them come true. It’s a fun way to capture a moment in time that kids will look back on and smile at one day. Think of it as bullet journaling for the preschool set.

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As with all Put Me in the Story books, you upload pictures of your little one and give the site the name you’d like to use; they will generate a story featuring your little one that becomes a keepsake. Dream Big is a great gift, and I can’t wait to give this to my little Princess. You can get your own copy of Dream Big at the Put Me in the Story site, and seriously, look around the site; they have some great books, both fiction and non-fiction, that kids will love.

Full disclosure, I received a copy of this book free in exchange for an honest review. But I plan on adding a few Put Me in the Story books to my Christmas shopping list, because I love them and think they’re beautifully done.

 

Tales from the Backlist: Christy Hale’s Dreaming Up September 28, 2016

dreamingup_1Dreaming Up: A Celebration of Building, by Christy Hale, (2012, Lee & Low Books), $18.95, ISBN: 9781600606519

Recommended for ages 5-10

When I started at my current library last year, the younger kids were in the middle of a school project on architecture. I was able to give them books like the most current picture book retelling of Robert Louis Stevenson’s poem, Block City and Byron Barton’s Building a House, but after I exhausted the fiction section, I was stumped. Luckily, a quick tour of my nonfiction section brought me to Christy Hale’s beautiful book, Dreaming Up: A Celebration of Building.

Dreaming Up combines illustrations of multiethnic children at work on their own constructions, with rhyming text building and swirling in construction of its own, and pairs each illustration with a photo and description of a notable work of architecture. Kids will experience the works of Frank Lloyd Wright and Antoni Gaudi, and they’ll see such masterpieces as the open-air church in Cartegena, Columbia, inspired by Gothic cathedrals; a temporary Chinese school constructed by students and teachers from plywood and recycled paper tubes, and New York City’s Gugghenheim Museum. It’s an exciting way to experience the world and emphasizes the importance of play in the creative process.

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I put this book out during a storytime for my preschoolers, and just read the rhyming text. After storytime, I brought out stacking cups, blocks, and foam building pieces, and let the kids go to work. Watching the little ones work with their parents was amazing; there were walls, buildings, and winding roads by the time they were done. This is a great book for school-age kids, but you can easily modify it for younger ones. Booktalk it, let them draw or work with their hands, and see what the kids can create for you.

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Dreaming Up has received multiple awards and honors, including Boston Globe-Horn Book Award Honors, the International Reading Association (IRA) Children’s and Young Adult Book Award Honor, and the 2012 California Book Award. It has been designated a Notable Children’s Book by the American Library Association (ALA) and was included on the Read! Build! Play! Summer Reading list of Books that Inspire Play, ALSC (Association for Library Service to Children) and LEGO.

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Quirk’s Quest: Journey to Crutonia!

into-the-outlands_1Quirk’s Quest: Into the Outlands, by Robert Christie & Deborah Lang, (Oct. 2016, First Second), $16.99, ISBN: 9781626722330

Recommended for ages 8-12

Much like Star Trek’s Starship Enterprise, the crew of the H.M.S. Gwaniimander is on a mission to explore the outlands of Crutonia. Led by Captain Quenterindy Quirk, a captain whose overconfidence far outpaces his competence, the crew finds their voyage cut short by disaster when giants attack the ship and try to eat the crew! The survivors make their way to land, and Quirk – when not bemoaning his terrible luck – tries to keep his crew to their royal mission. After all, what better land to map than completely unknown territory? There’s danger all around, but Quirk’s crew seems to be more on the ball than he is.

This is the first book in the Quirk’s Quest series by longtime friends Robert Christie and Deborah Lang, who created the woirld of Crutonia back when they were dodging food fights in school. It’s a fun fantasy story, with cartoony, Muppet-like characters (I kept thinking of Fraggle Rock while I read) and some wild ups and downs, including secret plots, Crutonian-eating giants, and one arrogant captain determined to complete a mission in the face of failure. Kids will love it, tweens and teens will get a kick out of it. There’s a roster of important characters, a guide to the Sxervian Frog Bridge, and a mission map of the Outlands to guide readers through this new world.

Yes, I’m a First Second fangirl, but with good reason: the publisher consistently puts out great graphic novels, fiction and nonfiction, for all ages. I get parents in my libraries who tell me their kids don’t enjoy reading, but balk when I lead them to the graphic novel section, because we were all told for years that comic books were junk food for the brain. Not true, and publishers like TOON Books and First Second are prime examples of graphic novel publishers who bring on the best writers and artists to make reading exciting and informative.

If you want a sneak peek at some of Quirk’s Quest, check out the Tumblr, where you can read the first 55 pages of the adventure. I’ve also got a little sneak peek here, courtesy of Macmillan, who distributes for First Second. Make sure to visit Crutonia.com for more news about Crutonia and its inhabitants.

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Hilda’s newest adventure: The Stone Forest! September 27, 2016

hilda-and-the-stone-forestHilda and the Stone Forest, by Luke Pearson, (Oct. 2016, Flying Eye Books), $19.95, ISBN: 9781909263741

Recommended for ages 6-12

The blue-haired adventure-seeker is back in her sixth installment! The time out, Hilda’s grounded, but that’s not stopping her. The only problem is that when she sets out for her latest adventure, her mom catches her and ends up along for the trip. Hilda and her mom are at each other while lost in Trolberg, the land of the trolls, and Hilda has to figure out how to get them both home safely – as a troll!

The Hilda series is such a good graphic novel series for all-ages readers. There’s fun, adventure, and a strong Scandinavian influence that draws readers right in, takes hold of their imaginations, and doesn’t let go. The cartoony art is fun and vibrant and Hilda’s sense of adventure is great. I love that Mom got into the act in this adventure, and I love that she and Hilda bicker through a good portion of this adventure, because it’s fun and yet it’s real. Yes, you’re in a land of trolls with your daughter, but she was grounded is disobeyed you, and now you’re both in this mess? I’d be giving my son grief all the way home.

I met Hilda when I found her first adventure on the shelves at the first library I worked at about two years ago. I need to catch up on more Hilda, though; she’s great fun, and I love introducing graphic novel fans to her adventures. Booktalk this with your other Hilda books, plus other great girl-power graphic novels like Zita the Spacegirl, Cleopatra in Space, and Phoebe and Her Unicorn. For tween readers , talk up the Zaria Fierce books, which also incorporate Scandinavian myths (trolls!) and stars another strong, smart heroine.

Have a look at some of the art from Hilda and the Stone Giants, courtesy of the Nobrow website.

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More great news! Hilda is coming to Netflix in 2018!

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Add Labyrinth Lost to your TBR NOW.

labyrinthLabyrinth Lost (Brooklyn Brujas #1), by Zoraida Cordova, (Sept. 2016, Sourcebooks Fire), $17.99, ISBN: 9781492620945

Recommended for ages 13+

Alex lives in Brooklyn with her mom and her sisters. Her dad disappeared a few years ago, and she’s taking it hard, feeling responsible. She’s about to turn 16, so the family is planning her big party. Her Death Day party. Alex and her sisters are Brujas – witches – and they’re the very real thing. But Alex doesn’t want this power. In fact, she suppresses it as much as she can – but keeps that from her family – because she’s afraid of what would happen if she were to let it go. Again.

At her Death Day party, Alex thinks she’s going to cast a spell that would leave her powerless, but something goes haywire, and her entire family vanishes right before her eyes. Now, she’s forced to get help from a Brujo named Nova; they have to travel to the in-between world of Los Lagos to bring her family back, but can Alex even trust Nova? He’s got a lot of secrets and seems to be working from his own playbook.

I loved, loved, LOVED Labyrinth Lost: it’s easily one of the best books I’ve read this year. The story is narrated in Alex’s voice, and she is hilarious. She’s full of snark – “resting witchface” is now a term I need to put into regular rotation – and she wields it like a weapon, guarding herself from the fears that plague her. Unchecked, her power makes her the most powerful witch in her family, and it frightens her, because she’s seen that power loosed once. Zoraida Cordova has a gift for breathing life into her characters; every single character in Labyrinth Lost is amazing. I love the interactions between Alex and her sisters and between Alex and her mother; the Lady and Nova; the characters she meets as she travels through Los Lagos, everyone. Cordova gives us wild fantasy with a realistic tale of a young woman struggling with adolescence. Her adolescence comes with dead relatives, portals to limbo, and witchcraft, but still, adolescence. Steeped in Latin American knowledge and tradition and filled with rich characters, Labyrinth Lost draws you into a world you won’t want to leave. Thankfully, it’s the first in a new series, so hopefully we’ll be visiting with the Brujas again sooner rather than later.

If you haven’t already added this to your YA collections, WHY? If you haven’t picked this up and read it yourself, stop reading this review immediately and go get a copy.

Zoraida Cordova has a great webpage where you can sign up for her newsletter, read interviews and learn more about her books, and follow her on social media.

 

 

A microraptor’s adventure; Neffy and the Feathered Dinosaurs September 26, 2016

neffy_1Neffy and the Feathered Dinosaurs, by Joe Lillington, (Oct. 2016, Nobrow), $17.95, ISBN: 9781909263895

Recommended for ages 4-10

Neffy the Microraptor is about to go for her first flight – but she doesn’t know what to do after she spreads her wings! Her brothers and sisters have flown ahead, and she needs to catch up! Join Neffy on her adventure, as she meets other dinosaurs and tries to figure out how to get airborne.

This is such a fun combination of fact and fiction. We have Neffy’s fictional story, where a young microraptor tries to learn how to fly and meets feathered dinosaurs along the way. Each dinosaur she encounters has a profile at the bottom of the page, where readers learn the dinosaur’s name and scientific name, size and weight, habitat, diet, family of dinosaurs it belongs to, geographic location and era in which the dinosaurs lived. An author’s note mentions that this isn’t supposed to be a linear book – eras are mixed and matched for fun and to introduce a number of feathered dinosaurs to readers.

Neffy is a good book for a wide range of readers. Kids love dinosaurs, and feathered dinosaurs are a fairly recent discovery, so it’s exciting to read. Younger readers will enjoy Neffy’s story and the bright, fun artwork. Older readers will also enjoy going a little deeper an learning more about these dinosaurs, thanks to the additional information on such dinos as the sinosauropteryx, troodon, and gallimimus. A spread at the end of the book shows readers the scale of a range of dinosaurs – and some humans!

neffy_6Image courtesy of Nobrow Press

Display this one with Brenda Z. Guiberson’s Feathered Dinosaurs, and show off some more feathered dinos at the American Museum of Natural History’s site. Older readers will get a kick out of the Time for Kids article, “Fuzzy, Was He?”, that discusses the T Rex’s feathered relatives.

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Joe Lillington is a UK-based author and illustrator. Check out more of his illustration at his website.