Posted in Graphic Novels, Intermediate, Middle Grade, Non-fiction, Non-Fiction

Join Elise Gravel’s Mushroom Fan Club!

The Mushroom Fan Club, by Elise Gravel, (May 2018, Drawn & Quarterly), $17.95, ISBN: 978-1-77046-322-6

Recommended for readers 6-12

Artist and author Elise Gravel’s newest book, The Mushroom Fan Club, is its own little science comic! Elise Gravel and her family love going mushroom hunting, and The Mushroom Fan Club shares that sense of fun and adventure with readers. Beginning with an illustration of Gravel, her daughters, and cats heading out to explore, Gravel narrates why she’s fascinated with mushrooms: they look like aliens from outer space! They come in all different sizes and shapes! She proceeds to teach readers what she’s learned about mushrooms, from biology (parts, reproduction, environment) to the different types of mushrooms. She exercises caution, exhorting readers NOT TO EAT mushrooms they may encounter on their own, as many are poisonous; even illustrating mushrooms warning readers that they can “make you very, very sick! And even worse!” The Mushroom Fan Club is loaded with fun facts, bright illustrations in Elise Gravel’s immediately recognizable style, and fun mushroom-related art activities.

I’m a big Elise Gravel fan, so if she illustrated a box of cereal, I’d eat it and suggest it for literary honors. I love this fun twist on earth science nonfiction; she makes graphic nonfiction interesting and memorable. If you haven’t read her biography on The Great Antonio, I highly recommend it. Check out an excerpt of The Mushroom Fan Club on the Drawn and Quarterly website, and visit Elise Gravel’s author webpage for free printables of all sorts. Read The Mushroom Fan Club in a science program, read it at dinner time, just read it and have fun with it!

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Posted in Graphic Novels, Non-fiction

Two more Science Comics coming your way this Summer!

Science Comics is adding two more titles to their line this summer, just in time for Summer Reading!

Science Comics: Rockets – Defying Gravity, by Anne Drozd & Jerzy Drozd, (June 2018, First Second), $12.99, ISBN: 9781626728257

Recommended for readers 8-12

In June, we get a deeper look at Rockets. Readers get a guided tour by an early rocket prototype in the form of a pigeon (nope, no joke) and take a trip through the history of gravity, force, acceleration, Newton’s Laws of Motion, and the history of rockets past, present, and possible future. Readers are going to love seeing the evolution of rockets from steam-powered to jet-fueled and beyond. The many animals that have been part of our space programs get their say, here, too: from bears, to chimpanzees, to dogs, and more, there are full-color spreads loaded with colorful illustrations and packed with information. Resources at the end of the book are ready to guide interested readers.

If you haven’t enjoyed Jerzy Drozd’s comics before, you are in for a treat. His work for the Marvel Superhero Squad game is great, and he’s got a kid-friendly webcomic, Boulder and Fleet, on his page. Anne Drozd is a librarian and space enthusiast, so you know she’s got the goods.

 

Science Comics: Trees, by Andy Hirsch, (Aug. 2018, First Second), $12.99, ISBN: 9781250143105

Recommended for readers 8-12

In August, we meet a little acorn on his journey to become a mighty oak in Trees. Kids interested in nature and ecology will love this brightly illustrated, fact-filled journey through nature, learning about different types of trees and how they are living, breathing beings that work with and contribute to their environment. This volume has a fun sense of play about it, with a spunky little friend to follow through nature. I just wish this one were out earlier, so I could feature it when I start my planting program in a few weeks – the illustration and discussion on how seeds always know which way to grow is amazing!

If you enjoyed the Dogs Science Comic, or read Varmints, you may recognize Andy Hirsch’s work. You can also visit his website, A for Andy, for more illustrations.

 

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

Eoin Colfer’s Illegal is a powerful statement on behalf of refugees

Illegal, by Eoin Colfer & Andrew Donkin/Illustrated by Giovanni Rigano, (Aug. 2018, Sourcebooks), $19.99, ISBN: 9781492662143

Recommended for readers 10+

The Artemis Fowl graphic novel team assembles to bring readers a powerful, emotional story about the struggles of undocumented immigrants: in this story, three African siblings. Ebo’s alone. Orphaned and living in squalor, his sister set out months ago to find her way to Europe and a better life, promising to send for Ebo and their brother, Kwame, when she gets settled. But the boys can’t wait any longer, and Kwame sets out next. Ebo follows Kwame, and the brothers endure a journey across the Sahara Desert to find their way to the sea. The journey is inhumane, often unbearable, but Ebo will not be denied. He deals with loss, hunger, and thirst; filthy living conditions; and brutal treatment by nature and man, but he holds out hope to be reunited with his sister, and the promise of a better life somewhere else.

There’s been quite a bit of attention focused on undocumented immigrants, and it’s a conversation we need to continue. War, disease, poverty, and hunger are global problems that force men, women, and children to undergo unthinkable scenarios for the sole purpose of cultivating a better life. Illegal, while fictional, is inspired by true events: just pick up a newspaper or turn on the news. Ebo’s story is one story of millions: the United Nations records 65.6 million people are forcibly displaced worldwide. Told in Ebo’s voice, readers will feel like they are reading a private journal. His voice is strong and clear, and evokes anger, grief, and the desire to do more. The artwork supports the text, laying out the slums of an African neighborhood; the devastating stretch of desert, and the terrifying expanse of the ocean. Ebo’s face will stay with readers long after they finish the book.

(Images courtesy of Entertainment Weekly‘s article)

Illegal should be on every middle school and/or high school’s Summer Reading list, and needs to be discussed in our classrooms and in our homes. The book is currently out in the UK, and there are teaching materials online, including this downloadable one from the U.S. publisher, Sourcebooks. Author Andrew Donkin has articles about Illegal on his website, and Eoin Colfer has the US and UK covers on his website. Entertainment Weekly has a featured excerpt and The Guardian made it the Children’s Book of the Week when it was published in the UK in October 2017.

Illegal was shortlisted for the 2017 Irish Book Awards and was chosen for EmpathyLabUK’s Read for Empathy List (a downloadable copy of which can be found here). I’ve embedded the trailer below:

 

Booktalk and display Illegal with Michel Chikwanine and Jessica Dee Humphreys’ Child Soldier and Barron’s Children in Our World books (Refugees & Migrants, Poverty & Hunger, Racism & Intolerance, and Global Conflict).

 

Posted in Fiction, Fiction, Graphic Novels, Intermediate, Middle Grade, Teen

Three new graphic novels coming your way in May!

There are some good graphic novels coming out in May. There’s manga-influenced work, an animal tale that brings Watership Down to mind, and a gripping story about being an undocumented immigrant. Let’s see what’s up!

 

Snails are Just My Speed!, by Kevin McCloskey, (May 2018, TOON Books), $12.95, ISBN: 9781943145270

Recommended for readers 3-7

The latest in Kevin McCloskey’s Giggle and Learn series of graphic novels takes a look at snails! They live in their shells! They like to eat together! They make a LOT of mucus! (So. Much. Mucus.) This latest easy reading, nonfiction graphic novel is perfect for pre-k and Kindergarten science groups and animal lovers. It’s loaded with fun facts, much of it mucus-related, which will make this a guaranteed hit with kids who love to squeal and shriek at “gooey” stuff. I love the infographic, built into the story, of all the animals that are faster – and slower! – than a snail, and the different types of snails that exist, including a hairy snail and a “glass” snail with a see-through shell. There’s a quick drawing lesson at the end – great way to end a storytime or science group session! – and the TOON website always has great teacher’s resources available for download. Kevin McCloskey is aces in my book!

 

Animus, by Antoine Revoy, (May 2018, First Second), $16.99, ISBN: 9781626721838

Recommended for readers 12+

This is a creepy ghost tale/mystery surrounding a ghost destined to haunt a playground. Schoolmates Hisao and Sayrui meet Toothless, a ghost who tells them that the playground is magic: the swings let you look into people’s dreams; the sandbox brings your worst fears to life, and the slide has the power to give or take years from your life, depending on the direction you go. When another friend goes down the slide, rapidly ages, and develops dementia, the two friends must save him – and to do that, they must discover who Toothless really is, and how he came to haunt the playground.

Heavily influenced by Japanese and French comics, this black-and-white graphic novel is eerie and unsettling; a strong noir story with ghostly elements woven throughout to create a story that will stay with readers.

 

Chasma Knights, by Boya Sun & Kate Reed Petty, (May 218, First Second), $17.99, ISBN: 9781626726048

Recommended for readers 8-12

Beryl is a Neon Knight in the fantasy land of Chasma, where toys “catalyze” with a touch and come to life, merging with their owners and imbued with special abilities. But the thing is, in Chasma, being a Neon Knight isn’t that great – it’s kind of a joke. Neon Knights can’t catalyze; Oxygen Knights do. But Beryl has a talent all her own: she’s an inventor that can repurpose broken toys into new creations. Coro, an Oxygen Knight, meets Beryl at the Toy Market, and the two strike up an initially cautious friendship.

I’ll be honest, this one left me scratching my head – I didn’t always quite get what was going on, but I did appreciate the kid-friendly artwork and storyline: who wouldn’t want to read about toys coming to life? I booktalked this to a few of my library kids – all big manga fans – and they seemed to have a better grasp on the concept than I did, so go them! My best advice? It’s a fun, bright, kid-friendly graphic novel. Let your audience be your guide.

And two that are already out, but that I just read…

Chloe, Vol. 1: The New Girl, by Greg Tessier and Amandine, (May 2017, Papercutz), $9.99, ISABN: 9781629917634

Recommended for readers 10-12

Originally published in French, the Chloe graphic novels are fun stories about a fashion-fabulous teen named Chloe as she navigates high school, friendships, and relationships. Her family mortifies her, and the mean girl fashionistas at school are mean to her – in other words, she’s totally relatable. In this first issue, Chloe starts high school and tries to get in with the in crowd. The artwork is fun and the subject matter is light.

Chloe, Vol. 2: The Queen of High School, by Greg Tessier and Amandine, (October 2017, Papercutz), $9.99, ISBN: 9781629917634

Recommended for readers 10-12

In this second volume, Chloe is back for her second year of high school and taking things by storm. She’s got a cute new boyfriend, a fashion blog, and a group of friends to call her own. She’s still got embarrassing parents and mean girls at school, but she’s taking it all in stride.
There are four Chloe volumes in total available. These would be good for Summer Reading groups, maybe even in conjunction with a blog project for tweens!
Posted in Fiction, Fiction, Graphic Novels, Intermediate, Middle Grade, Tween Reads

Cuentos populares de latinoamérica en español e ingles!

            

The Dragon Slayer: Folktales from Latin America/La matadragones: cuentos de latinoamérica, by Jaime Hernandez, (April 2018, TOON Graphics), $16.95, ISBN: 9781943145287 (English)/9781943145300 (Spanish)

Recommended for readers 6+

TOON Graphics has a great collection of folktales from Latin America, simultaneously published in English and Spanish. Three tales starring intelligent female characters make up this volume; as with most folk and fairy tales, each one imparts its own wisdom using the story as a vehicle. The title tale, The Dragon Slayer, sees a young woman betrayed by her two horrible sisters; an act of kindness brings a boon in the form of a magic wand, which leads her to employment at a king’s palace, where she falls in love with a prince, who she must save. Twice. It’s got the best parts of a fairy tale: dragons, magic wands and rings, ogres, and a happily ever after; it’s got a strong, smart young woman who can stand toe to toe with mythical monsters and real-life intolerance, and she saves the day AND gets the boy.

Martina Martinez and Pérez the Mouse stars Ratoncito Pérez, a popular character in Latinx folktales. This version, told by Alma Flor Ada, comes from another book, Tales Our Abuelitas Told”, and is the story of a pretty but shallow young woman, Martina, who marries Pérez after turning down other animal suitors (Martina often shows up as a cockroach in other versions of the tale). When she runs to the store to get salt for a soup, Pérez tries to sneak a taste of onion and falls into the pot! Martina discovers him in the pot and runs sobbing around the village, where birds, a fountain, and a young girl all grieve for her in various ways. It takes a wise old woman to discover that no one has actually tried to save Pérez , and rushes over to put things right again. Always respect your elders, kids! And seriously, use some common sense and try to keep your head in a situation.

Tup and the Ants is a fun little story about the power of being smart and lazy. Tup is the youngest and laziest of three brothers, who marry three sisters. Tup’s in-laws are not thrilled with their lazy son-in-law, so when they send the three brothers out to clear the land for cornfields, they send Tup with less food to show their displeasure. Doesn’t matter: Tup finds a place to snooze, ends up meeeting a group of ants, and trades his food for their labor. This is a sweet little partnership, and pays off as the two not-so-bright brothers are hopelessly out of their league in clearing and planting a cornfield, and Tup builds his own little empire by continuing to trade food for labor. The moral of the story may be a bit ambiguous, since the lazy guy gets the accolades, but there is something to be said for knowing how to get the job done. And, as a later explanation points out, it’s a story that teaches listeners and readers about planning and undertaking a planting season.

A foreword from F. Isabel Campoy explains the power of folktales and the Latin American tradition, and features beautiful Aztec and Mayan pictograms and popular animals, like jaguars, monkeys, and dogs. An afterword goes into more detail about the origins of these three folktales, with photos and illustrations. A section on the oral tradition invites readers to personalize and create their own tales, with prompts to help them along. A strong bibliograpy includes books and online resources that will strengthen diverse folk and fairy tale collections and provide nice online resources for further research.

I absolutely love this introduction to Latin American folktales, and can only hope there’s a volume 2 somewhere down the line. This is such a great addition to folk and fairy tale collections and diverse, culturally rich collections. This would be great for a storytime for school-age kids – it’s such a fun read! – and a storytelling program.

Posted in Graphic Novels, Teen, Young Adult/New Adult

Alien abduction, or something… more? Losing the Girl has questions.

Losing the Girl (#1), by MariNaomi, (May 2018, Lerner Publishing Group/Graphic Universe), $29.32, ISBN: 9781512449105

Recommended for readers 13+

A 14 year-old girl disappears, leaving questions and rumors in her wake. She’s the topic of conversation at her school, Blithedale High, but a group of teens have their own daily drama to work through, too. Nigel is desperate for a girlfriend who will laugh at his jokes, but Emily, the object of his affections, decides to pursue a relationship with heartthrob Brett, who doesn’t really seem to emotionally invest himself in anything. Emily undergoes a major life shake-up, which gives her friend – or frenemy – Paula a chance to steal what she perceives to be Emily’s spotlight.

Losing the Girl is about lives intersecting, with the main focus – the “lost” girl – being the common thread. She’s the character the conversation drifts back to, the reader’s focal point as we glimpse into the lives of four teens. This first installment didn’t quite grab me, but I think teens who want real-life storytelling will give this one a shot.

MariNaomi is an award-winning writer and illustrator; she’s an Eisner award nominee, and a podcaster. You can find out more by visiting her website.

Posted in Fiction, Graphic Novels, Intermediate

Books for Intermediate Readers – a new Stink!, Monsters, and friendship

Stink: Hamlet & Cheese, by Megan McDonald/Illustrated by Peter H. Reynolds,
(March 2018, Candlewick), $14.99, ISBN: 9780763691639
Recommended for readers 7-10

Judy Moody’s brother is back with his 11th adventure – and he’s going to Shakespeare camp! Stink and his friend Sophie head to camp for spring break, where they’ll learn to sword fight and yell silly curses, like “fat guts” and “stewed prune”. The only problem? Riley Rottenberger is at Shakespeare camp, too, and she’s determined to land a kiss on Stink! Stink does his best to avoid Riley while getting ready to act in the camp’s production of the Scottish play… yes, the Play That Shall Not Be Named (psst… it’s MacBeth). This latest story is loaded with black and white illustrations, callout boxes of Shakespeare insults and fun facts, and a good story for Stink and Judy Moody fans.  For readers who want to learn a little more about Shakespeare, a copy of Where’s Will? Find Shakespeare Hidden in His Plays (Kane Miller, 2016) combines Shakespeare with Where’s Waldo; the Stratford Zoo graphic novel series depicts zoo animals putting on Shakespearean plays with loads of backstage hilarity.

 

Cody and the Heart of a Champion, by Tricia Springstubb/Illustrated by Eliza Wheeler,
(Apr. 2018, Candlewick), $14.99, ISBN: 9780763679217
Recommended for readers 7-10

Cody’s fourth adventure has her dealing with life’s changes. Her friendship with Pearl is changing, especially now that she’s playing soccer and “in” with the “in crowd”, and she’s not sure why her friend Spencer is acting so weird. His mom is having a baby, and he’s become more quiet and withdrawn. Cody joins the soccer team, to try and stay close with Pearl, but the resident mean girl doesn’t make things easy. She’s determined to stay upbeat and try to roll with the changes, but when so much is changing all at once, it’s really hard. Readers will understand and empathize with Cody and how hard it is when everything seems to hit at once: friendships shift, seasons change, and families expand. There are black and white illustrations throughout and the upbeat tone of the book should help kids as they deal with their own transitions.

 

Simone: Even More Monstrous! (Simone, Vol. 2), by Rémy Simard,
(Apr. 2018, OwlKids), $16.95, ISBN: 9781771473002
Recommended for readers 6-10

This graphic novel is loaded with brief, one-page comics about Simone, a little blond girl, who travels into a world of monsters. If anyone remembers The Munsters (totally dating myself here), the running joke was that cousin Marilyn, the pretty blonde, was the “poor girl” for being so unattractive in The Munsters’ society; that joke holds here. Cute, little Simone is the monster in the monsters’ world, but they seem to enjoy her company, nonetheless. The graphic novel is loaded with independent stories, all one page, with a punchline at the end. They’re downright silly, sometimes surreal, and will get laughs out of readers. The first volume, Simone: The Best Monster Ever!, released last year.