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

July graphic novels: A Hawking bio and a witchy middle grade noir

Hawking, by Jim Ottaviani/Illustrated by Leland Myrick, (July 2019, First Second), $29.99, ISBN: 9781626720251

Ages 12+

If your science and biography sections don’t have an Ottaviani/Myrick section yet, you may want to get to work on that. This is the second collaboration the two have worked on; the first being Feynman, a graphic biography on physicist and Nobel laureate Richard Feynman.

Hawking is in parts biography and science comic for teens and adults, moving easily back and forth between Stephen Hawking’s life story and explanations of physics, black holes, and the universe at large. The story begins with Hawking’s birth, 300 days to the day after Galileo’s death, wanders through his early adolescence as a teen who speaks “Hawkingese” and appears socially awkward; his marriage to Jane Hawking and his diagnosis with motor neurone disease, also known as ALS; his research and ultimate pop culture fame, and his later years, second marriage, and the degenerative path of his disease. First and foremost, this is a story about science; there are pages devoted to discussions between defining voices, including Newton, Faraday, and Einstein, about cosmology, light, and gravity. Jim Ottaviani captures Hawking’s voice – the graphic novel is narrated by a fictional Hawking – and shows up a glimpse of the man behind the legend. Award-winning illustrator Leland Myrick‘s artwork is unfussy, providing scientific sketches as easily as he captures Stephen Hawking’s wry smirk and his ability to disappear into a cloud of physics, even in a crowded room. The end of Hawking’s story will catch readers right in the feelings – I choked up a bit. An author’s note discusses how graphic novels are a good medium for narrative nonfiction, and I couldn’t agree more. Jim Ottaviani is an New York Times-bestselling author whose graphic biographies also include The Imitation Game (Alan Turing) and Primates (Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey, and Biruté Galdikas), so the man knows how to plot out a graphic biography. There is a nice list of references that will give interested readers even more material to look through.

I love graphic novel bios – they’re a great way to get tweens, teens, and adults interested in reading biographies, and the graphic medium allows for great explanations of topics that may be difficult in solid print (like physics!). If you have readers who have aged up from Science Comics, hand them Hawking. A definite must-add to your (growing!) graphic novel biographies.

 

Grimoire Noir, by Vera Greentea/Illustrated by Yana Bogatch, (July 2019, First Second), $17.99, ISBN: 9781626725980

Ages 12+

This beautifully illustrated graphic novel has a few plots going on at once: set in a town called Blackwell, where all the girls are witches, a teen named Bucky yearns for power of his own – despite the fact that no witch can leave the town. Ever. Bucky’s younger sister, Heidi, is kidnapped, and Bucky joins forces with his estranged friend, a teen girl named Chamomile, to look for her. Within this main story are threads of other plots; the hostility Chamomile’s father, Blackwell’s deputy, has toward Bucky (who also happens to be the sheriff’s son); a coven of Mean Girls/The Craft witches called The Crows, who want to set plans in motion that will set them free to leave Blackwell, and a ghost of the very first witch, a child named Griselda, whose death at the hands of witch hunters set the curse on Blackwell’s daughters into motion.

The storyline has moments where the storyline becomes confusing to follow, but has some touching relationship bits that I’d like to have seen more about. The relationship between Chamomile and her father runs deep, and we only get a surface glimpse, for instance. Will we get more Blackwell stories from Vera Greentea and Yana Bogatch? We can sure hope so; I think there’s a lot more to tell in a town with a history like theirs. Tween and young teens will enjoy this human, paranormal tale with a twist.

 

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Posted in picture books

Blog Tour and Giveaway: Spiky, by Ilaria Guarducci

Spiky, by Ilaria Guarducci/Translated by Laura Watkinson,
(June 2019, Amazon Crossing Kids), $17.99, ISBN: 9781542040433
Ages 4-8

If you haven’t checked out Ilaria Guarducci’s book, Spiky, now is the time. Originally published in Italian as Thorny, Spiky is one of the first titles published through Amazon’s imprint for kids’ books in translation, Amazon Crossing Kids. It’s the story of a bully who learns to become a little less… prickly, and open himself up to friendship, and it’s got some good entry points for a discussion.

Librarians! If anyone’s heading to ALA this year, Amazon is giving away copies of Spiky and the other Amazon Crossing Kids titles! Stop by Booth #1362 for a look at the giveaways and book signings!

Want a chance at winning your own copy of Spiky? Check out this Rafflecopter giveaway!

Ilaria Guarducci studied at Accademia Nemo, in Florence. She illustrated her first book, A Ride with Aliens, for Camelozampa in 2012. After that, she published with Fatatrac (Giunti Group) and several other Italian and foreign publishers. She has also written and illustrated Mr Moustache’s Amazing Machines, and Whatabore!, and her books are translated in eight languages.

 

 

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

LOKI YA IS HERE!

Loki: Where Mischief Lies, by Mackenzi Lee, (Sept. 2019, Disney Book Group), $17.99, ISBN: 9781368022262

Ages 12+

Disclaimer: I am a rabid Marvel and Loki fangirl. When I heard that Loki was getting his own YA novel, I shrieked just a little bit, and camped out on NetGalley and Edelweiss until the DRC gloriously appeared. In short, I’ve been really, really, flipping excited for this book! So let’s get the show on the road.

Loki is Thor’s younger brother, and still hoping that his father, Odin, will see that he’s just as capable of heroism – and possibly, the throne of Asgard – as his older, golden brother. He and his best friend, the sorceress-in-training Amora, find themselves in deep trouble when they accidentally destroy a powerful artifact. Amora takes the blame for Loki and finds herself banished to Earth; essentially a death sentence for a magical being, because her powers will wither and die slowly. Fast forward some years later, and Loki is sent to Earth to investigate a series of murders in Victorian London. He joins forces with a watchdog organization that believes otherworldly magic is involved in the murders. Dare Loki hope that Amora is still alive and in London? And if she is… is she connected to the murders? Our (well, my) favorite son of Asgard is at a crossroads in this first adventure.

I thoroughly enjoyed Where Mischief Lies. Mackenzi Lee has given us a delightful mix of Marvel/Tom Hiddleston Loki with a sprinkling of gender-fluid Norse myth Loki. He prefers high-heeled boots, sees Midgardian (Earth) society and its concern with binary sexuality and relationships ridiculous, and he’s got a wonderfully snarky way of interacting with people, especially those he sees as below him, which is… basically, everyone. He is also a vulnerable, often fragile, young man coming into his powers and frustrated by the lack of attention from his father, who prizes only traditional masculinity and strength rather than magic and wisdom. You can see Loki’s trajectory from this story to Earth’s favorite villain in years to come.

The writing is page-turning, with witty dialogue, a creepy whodunit, and slow-burn heartache throughout. My head spun a little bit as I tried to connect the dots from myth Loki to present-day Loki (What about Sigyn? His monstrous children? That whole situation with the cave and the venom?), but Mackenzi Lee deftly maneuvers around these questions with an interesting explanation that works for me.

I’m a fan of Mackenzi Lee’s God of Mischief. I’m looking forward to seeing who else she takes on in the Marvel Universe. A solid must-add to collections.

Posted in Intermediate, picture books, Preschool Reads

Monsters and Mermaids bring fantasy fun!

Two fun picture books are coming up in August and September! If you’re looking for books for your late Summer/early Fall shopping carts, give these a spin.

Alfred’s Book of Monsters, by Sam Streed, (Aug. 2019, Charlesbridge), $15.99, ISBN: 9781580898331

Ages 5-8

Alfred is a little boy who loves monsters, not boring old tea times. Aunty thinks monsters are dreadful, and constantly interrupts Alfred’s precious reading time by calling him to tea. Alfred decides to invite the monsters he reads about: the Nixie, the Black Shuck, and the Lantern Man, to tea time; when they take him up on the invitation, they have a fabulously terrible time! Poor Aunty never knew what hit her.

This is the picture book for the kids who enjoy a good, morbidly amusing story. Have Neil Gaiman or Lemony Snicket fans? Do you have storytime kids who giggle time and again at I Want My Hat Back? Do you just want a fun Halloween read in your back pocket? This is the book for you and your readers. Baby goths and kids who love monsters will get a kick out of this story, which has a lovely Victorian vibe going for it, with bold, black lines and brown and black artwork, occasionally punched up with washed out greens, pinks, yellows, and blues for effect. The story alternates between Alfred’s monster stories and tea time, letting you switch voices back and forth to get your readers squealing with monstrous delight. The artwork was created by scanning and combining old paper, ink splotches, and spooky sketches, and was influenced by antique books and Victoriana; the endpapers sport a dark brownish-red rose wallpaper with framed photos of Aunty, Alfred, and an assortment of pets, people, and tea sets.

Less spooky than humorous, this is a fun book for storytime. Make some puppets and bring your own monsters to tea!

 

Five Little Mermaids, by Sunny Scribens/Illustrated by Barbara Vagnozzi, (Sept. 2019, Barefoot Books), $16.99, ISBN: 9781782858317

Ages 3-7

This adorably rhyming story is an underwater take on the popular counting tale. A multicultural group of five little mermaids decide to go swimming to “see what they could see”, each of them leaving the group when they meet with various turtles, penguins, giant squid, and jellyfish. Together, the group travels through the world’s oceans, then comes together back home to talk about what they’ve seen. It’s a soothing, familiar rhyme scheme with cheery, bright art that uses vivid colors and brings readers through a lovely underwater world. Back matter includes spreads on the world’s oceans and their properties; notes about mermaid legends from different cultures (Greece, Japan, Central America, New Zealand, and West, Central and Southern Africa); marine life that appears in the book, and finally, sheet music for the song. There will be a CD and downloadable copy available, read by jazz vocalist Audra Mariel.

Barefoot Books always puts a great message out there in such a fun way. The mermaids play alongside their ocean friends and come from all around the world. The back matter provides interesting mermaid and ocean information using a one world, many cultures approach, taking myth examples from cultures including African, Asian, and Central American.

If you want to explore some videos from Barefoot Books, their YouTube channel is a good place to start. I find some of their mindful and diverse kidlit videos good professional development, and I’m sure Five Little Mermaids will have a book trailer up as the release date gets closer.

Posted in Animal Fiction, picture books, Preschool Reads

Picture Book Roundup: Cats and Dogs, Bears, Birds, and Dinosaurs!

I’m still going through my BookExpo bags (okay, I’ve moved them from one area of my room to another), but in the meantime, I’ve got picture books to talk about! Some are available, some are up-and-coming, all are a pleasure to read. Let’s take a look at what’s good!

SumoKitty, by David Biedrzycki, (Aug. 2019, Charlesbridge), $18.99, ISBN: 9781580896825

Ages 5-9

A stray cat hangs around a sumo training center, hoping for some food. He’s about to be thrown out by the manager when one of the sumo shrieks: a mouse! Looks like the kitty has a new job and a new home, which he quickly becomes accustomed to. But the good life makes him lose his edge: he’s gained weight and the mice come back with a vengeance. Tossed back out into nature, Kumo, a kind sumo, lets the cat back in, but levels with him: the mice have humbled the cat like the sumo’s main opponent, the yokozuna, has humbled him. From there, SumoKitty starts a faithful training routine, inspired by Kuna’s disciplined regiment. When a mouse dares show up in the dojo next time, SumoKitty is there, pushing and tossing the mouse and his friends around until they clear out for good. He’s rewarded by not only being welcomed back to the dojo, but he’s given a sweet topknot haircut, too. He also gets a front row seat at the next sumo tournament, where he watches his friend Kumo face his own demons and takes on his longtime opponent.

A sweet story about overcoming challenges, SumoKitty is loaded with Japanese sumo terms and wise observations like “Fall down seven times; get up eight” and “Even monkeys fall from trees”. Adorable SumoKitty is cartoonish with large, expressive eyes and exaggerated facial expressions, while the sumo artwork appears inspired by Japanese woodblock paintings. The black and white endpapers give readers a before-and-after glimpse into the story, with a mouse running in a Zen garden as someone maintains the area; later, SumoKitty is fast asleep on a rock in the same Zen garden, no maintainer, and no mouse present. It’s a sweet peek into sumo culture and an all-around fun read. Jon J. Muth’s Zen Shorts, Zen Ties, and Zen Happiness are nice readalikes to SumoKitty; for a good giggle and a more madcap take on sumo, you can’t go wrong with David Wisniewski’s Sumo Mouse, which has been a favorite in my home since my eldest (now 20) was in Kindergarten and continues to be required reading with my first grader.

 

Hey, Dog, by Tony Johnson/Illustrated by Jonathan Nelson, (June 2019, Charlesbridge), $16.99, ISBN: 9781580898775

Ages 4-8

A boy finds a dog hiding in a bush. The dog is afraid, runs, but the boy returns, time and again, to care for the dog, leaving him food, water, even an umbrella propped up to cover him in the rain. The boy confides in his mother that the dog is skinny and has scars; he refuses to give up on Dog, determined if not to earn his trust, then to care for him.

Hey, Dog crushed me. It’s just gorgeous writing that packs an emotional punch. The boy’s relationship with his mother, who is nervous – her son is trying to care for a strange dog that could very well bite him, right? – but supports her empathetic child, helping him in any way she can and the boy’s quiet resilience in the face of Dog’s fear and mistrust will make you have hope for people after all. The boy is written so wonderfully, whether he’s asking a shopkeeper if his dog food “is the most luscious” or when he drops to his knees, tears “warming his face”, as he tries to comprehend how anyone could have it in them to hurt an animal. Dog is illustrated to provoke another emotional gut punch; his cringing and reticence come through so viscerally, it’ll bring tears to your eyes. Seeing this poor pup, single paw raised, ribs poking through his coat, and trusting once more to lick the boy’s hand make this story a powerful, must-have book for you collection. Read this, hand this to kids, talk about the need for empathy in our world.

 

 

Bear’s Book, by Claire Freedman/Illustrated by Alison Friend, (May 2019, Templar Books), $16.99, ISBN: 9781536205718

Ages 4-8

Bear loves to read, but his favorite book of stories has been read to bits! He decides to create his own story, but holy writer’s block, he can’t think of anything! He decides to go for a stroll and see if inspiration hits, and meets several friends along the way. When he returns home and goes over his day, he realizes that the best inspiration comes from one’s own adventures!

This is an adorable story of inspiration and friendship, and fits nicely with Small Moments writing prompts. Bear’s adventure is a series of small moments, pulled together to create a lovely adventure. He’s inspired by his friends, and they have all enjoyed their friend’s company for a day. A fold-out spread publishes Bear’s story for his friends – and our – enjoyment. Mixed media illustrations are gently rendered with soft earth tones.  This one is a sweet storytime pick, and good inspiration for a Summer Reading creative writing program.

 

 

My Name Isn’t Oof!: Warren the Warbler Takes Flight, by Michael Galligan/Illustrated by Jeremiah Tramell, (May 2019, Little Bigfoot), $17.99, ISBN: 9781632171931

Ages 4-8

A little bird tries to fly after watching his siblings take off, but he falls, landing with a giant, “Oof!” Naturally, every animal in the forest has an opinion, and to add insult to injury, they all call him “Oof”! The chipmunk says he forgot to jump; the Mouse says he needs to spread his wings; Squirrel says he has to flap. While they all have feedback aplenty on Warren’s flying prowess, they manage to bonk, push, and trip one another up, but Warren – who keeps protesting this new nickname – finally takes to the sky, to everyone’s cheering!

A cute story of perseverance with some hilarious physical comedy, My Name Isn’t Oof! will have younger readers giggling during a read-aloud, especially if you move around and act out the story. The repeated phrase, “My name isn’t Oof!” is a good discussion point to get kids talking about how unwanted nicknames can stick; you can also point out that while all the animals jump to find fault with Warren’s first flight, they’re just as clumsy as he is: no one is perfect! Back matter includes a paragraph on the Townsend Warbler, the kind of bird our star Warren is, and what readers can do if they find a baby bird fallen from a nest. Suggest Charlie Alder’s Daredevil Duck as a readalike for more humorous stories of overcoming obstacles.

 

 

How To Take Care of Your Dinosaur, by Jason Cockcroft, (May 2019, Nosy Crow), $15.99, ISBN: 9781536205688

Ages 3-6

Taking care of your very own dinosaur is a very big job! How to Take Care of Your Dinosaur is here to help. Written similar to a handy-dandy manual, the book takes a look at some of the more light-hearted moments in pet parenting a dinosaur. Taking your dino for a walk? Bring a bucket and a shovel, there’s no pooper scooper that’s built for this job. Dinos can be a little tough on sharing, so make sure to get them around new people and encourage them to make friends! The book stresses the importance of routine when caring for your dinosaur; something parents and caregivers will appreciate!

Digital illustrations are adorable and feature soft colors. The endpapers add to the fun: the front endpapers show a mailman struggling under the weight of a gigantic package (the egg); the back endpapers show a brick wall, papered with “Dino Sale” flyers, and feature the poor mailman laboring with two giant packages this time.

A fun storytime addition. Pair with Dragons Get Colds, Too for a fun, wacky pet-related storytime.

 

 

Posted in Fiction, Graphic Novels, Historical Fiction, Middle Grade, Teen, Tween Reads

Queen of the Sea: Re-imagined History

Queen of the Sea, by Dylan Meconis, (June 2019, Candlewick Press), $24.99, ISBN: 9781536204988

Ages 10-14

Inspired by Queen Elizabeth’s exile when her sister Mary I ascended the throne, Queen of the Sea begins with the banishment of Queen Eleanor, a young monarch of an embattled kingdom, to an island where nuns live, pray, garden, and sew. Margaret is a young girl who has spent her entire life on the island in the care of the nuns and finds herself drawn to Eleanor. Margaret learns about the island and the reasons behind her presence there, and quietly begins planning with Eleanor and a mysterious man who washes up on the island one stormy night.

Queen of the Sea is gorgeously created historical fiction with fully realized characters and a solidly constructed plot filled with intrigue; revelations; world-building, even light romance. Dylan Meconis’ pen, ink, and gouache artwork will appeal to Raina Telgemeier and Victoria Jamieson fans; the characters are softly realistic with period costuming and soothing earth and sea colors. I particularly love the back-and-forth between present moment storytelling and Margaret’s narration of history and myth, rendered to appear as stone or stained glass. The character growth is a joy to witness: Eleanor, from a taciturn exile to an embattled young woman embracing her feelings, and Margaret, a naïve child to a young woman coming into herself and her own intelligence make this a wonderful read. An author’s note discusses Elizabeth I’s inspiration of Eleanor. Graphic novel gold.

Queen of the Sea has starred reviews from Kirkus, Publisher’s Weekly, Booklist, and School Library Journal. You can read an excerpt at Candlewick’s website.

Posted in Middle Grade, Non-fiction, Tween Reads

STEAM into Summer!

Summer Reading is the best – and craziest – time for librarians. We’re planning intense levels of programming, ordering books and putting lists together like mad, and just waiting for that last day of school, when the kids will storm the library like… well, let the Avengers tell you.

It’s real.

NatGeo Kids was kind enough to send some books my way to check out and talk up for my STEM programs this summer. Let’s take a look!

 

This Book is Cute! The Soft and Squishy Science and Culture of Aww, by Sarah Wassner Flynn,
(March 2019, National Geographic Kids), $12.99, ISBN: 9781426332944
Ages 5-12

Can you believe there’s a science to cuteness? Of course NatGeo Kids would get to the bottom of this! Cute foods! (More attractive to eat!) Cute (human and animal) babies! (Trigger emotions in us that make us protect and care for them!) Cute clothes and toys! (We can’t get enough of ’em!) This Book is Cute is 112 pages of high-pitched squealing, science, and lists of cute animals, cutest jobs ever (I would like to apply for the Cat Cuddler spot, please), even appliances. Put up a bulletin board and see how many cute animals or food your kids can identify, or test their Cute IQ using the quiz in the book. This Book is Cute! is absolutely adorable; kids will go crazy for it and so will you.

Ages 8-12
A companion to Dr. E’s Super Stellar Solar System and Dirtmeister’s Nitty Gritty Planet Earth, Awesome Ocean takes readers underwater exploring with cartoon superhero Captain Aquatica and her hammerhead shark sidekick, Finn. Shark researcher and marine conservationist Jess Cramp is the real-life version of Captain Aquatica, and leads readers through chapters on the ocean; waves, tides, and water; sharks and marine life; underwater technology; ecosystem engineering, and the critical importance of conservation. Moving back and forth between a comic book adventure and factual explanation, the book is loaded with incredible photos, fact boxes, and easy experiments that kids and families can do at home. There are scientist profiles – I love these, because they introduce readers to even more scientists than they’ll meet in our biography aisles – a glossary, index, and book and website resources for more exploration. NatGeo books are amazing because they always make sure to empower kids to make the world a better place, providing ways to get involved and start making changes. Their photos are consistently fantastic, and I love having as many of their books as possible in my library. If a parent or kid comes in looking for nonfiction about the natural world or animal book suggestions, I bring them to NatGeo books first. Display this set together, if you have them, and direct your readers to a series that looks at the big picture: earth, ocean, and space.
Luna: The Science and Stories of Our Moon, by David A. Aguilar,
(June 2019, National Geographic Kids), $17.99, ISBN: 9781426333224
Ages 8-12
NatGeo wouldn’t let a Summer Reading theme go by without a book for us to give to the kiddos! Luna is all about our friendly satellite, the Moon. It’s a compact volume, at 64 pages, packed with all the info a middle grade space enthusiast could want. There are beautiful photos, callout quotes and facts, and full-color diagrams, and thought-provoking chapters cover topics including moon myths and hoaxes; the famous “dark side” of the moon; how our moon stacks up against other moons; lunar phases, and – naturally! – the 1969 lunar landing. There’s a fun make the moon activity (get your old t-shirts on; this one involves Plaster of Paris), a viewing guide, and tips on drawing the moon. There’s an index and a list of additional resources. This is one of the best middle grade volumes on the moon that I’ve read since Elaine Scott’s Our Moon (2015), and a solid add to your 520s. Mine are always in high demand (along with my dinosaurs), and with the outer space theme for this year’s Summer Reading, I imagine I’ll need a second copy of my own to use for programming.
Thanks again to NatGeo for always keeping nonfiction interesting and fun!