Posted in Fiction, Graphic Novels, Middle Grade, Science Fiction, Tween Reads

Sanity & Tallulah are a STEAM Dream Team!

Sanity & Tallulah, by Molly Brooks, (Oct. 2018, Disney-Hyperion), $21.99, ISBN: 9781368008440

Ages 8-12

Life aboard a space station is never boring, especially when you have to cobble things together to keep things running. Sanity Jones, and her best friend, Tallulah Vega-Davisson, certainly know how to keep things interesting aboard Wilnick Station: their latest experiment is Sanity’s project; a three-headed kitten named Princess Sparkle Destroyer of Worlds (one name for each head, naturally!). Princess Sparkle is discovered, but the kitten escapes into the duct system. As the girls go on the search for their pet, before she can get hurt or caught, Dr. Vega, the station’s senior scientist and Tallulah’s mom, has bigger problems on her hands: Wilnick Station is experiencing some big-time glitches that could put the station at risk. While some of the crew point their fingers at Princess Sparkle Destroyer of Worlds, Sanity and Tallulah find evidence of something else in those ducts. They’ve got to solve the mystery and save their kitten, and they may just have to rescue the whole space station!

This is such a positive, fun read. The cast is diverse, with our two heroines coming from African-American and biracial (Latinx-white) families of prominence: Sanity’s dad is Wilnick’s station director, Tallulah is the daughter of the senior scientist. Her white dad rocks a man bun, prosthetic leg, and context clues allude to his being a celebrity heartthrob at some point in the past. There’s humor and technospeak that kids will love. The three-color white, purple, and pink artwork has bold lines and gives a real feel for the sheer size and scope of a space station.  Molly Brooks gives readers a vision of a diverse future where strong female characters are valued. A must-add to graphic novel collections – put this with your Zita the Spacegirl and Star Scouts books!

Sanity & Tallulah has starred reviews from Kirkus and Publisher’s Weekly.

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Posted in Fantasy, Fiction, Fiction, Graphic Novels, Intermediate, Middle Grade, Teen, Tween Reads, Young Adult/New Adult

October graphic novels have something for everyone!

There are some solid graphic novels hitting shelves in October: LGBTQ+ positive stories and a dystopian adventure for tweens and teens, and for tweens and teens, Art Baltazar’s adorable artwork for kids are just a few of the books you can look forward to. Let’s dive in!

 

Gillbert, Vol. 1: The Little Merman, by Art Baltazar, (Oct. 2018, Papercutz), $14.99, ISBN: 9781545801451

Ages 6-10

If you have readers who get a kick out of Joey Weiser’s Mermin books, they’ll love Art Baltazar’s Gillbert: The Little Merman! He’s the son of King Nauticus and the prince of Atlanticus, and he’s surrounded by cool friends, like his turtle buddy, Sherbert, and his starfish buddy, Albert. One day, he meets playful mermaid named Anne Phibian, who takes him to a rocking party at WeWillRockTropolis. Meanwhile, aliens invade Earth, but quick action by Queen Niadora and her alien friend, Teeq, save the day.

Art Baltazar creates art that kids love: Tiny Titans; Grimmiss Island; DC Super Pets, and countless more comics have his signature bold, bright artwork and zest for zany adventure. He’s got kid-friendly artwork, storylines, and humor that kids eat up. When my library kids are too young for the DC comics on “the other side of the library” (the teen collection), but still want superheroes, I give them Art Baltazar’s books, and they’re thrilled.

Gillbert’s first outing looks like it’s the start to a fun new under-the-sea series. Papercutz won’t steer you wrong; add this one to your graphic novel shelves.

Lost Soul, Be at Peace, by Maggie Thrash, (Oct. 2018, Candlewick), $18.99, ISBN: 9780763694197

Ages 13+

Acclaimed Honor Girl author Maggie Thrash’s latest book is a continuing memoir with a touch of fiction. A year and a half after the events of Honor Girl, Maggie is spiraling into a deep depression. She’s failing 11th grade; her stuffy, image-consumed mother is baffled, and her workaholic father, a federal judge, pays no attention to her. The only thing Maggie cares about is her cat, Tommi, who seemingly disappears in her rambling home. While searching for Tommi, Maggie discovers a ghost named Tommy, who leads her to peel back layers of her father’s life and see him through new eyes.

Maggie Thrash beautifully captures the tedium and angst of adolescence and the hopelessness of depression. The feeling of shouting into the void is poignantly captured when she opens up about coming out… and being ignored, regardless. She maintains a bitter sense of humor through her journey, making her likeable and relatable, and her watercolor artwork intensifies the feeling of being not-quite-there.

Lost Soul, Be at Peace is a beautifully thoughtful graphic memoir and a must-add to upper middle school and YA collections. Download an author note (also included in the back matter) and Maggie Thrash’s Top 10 Songs for Lost Souls playlist here; view a sample chapter here. Lost Soul, Be at Peace has starred reviews from School Library Journal and Kirkus.

 

Last Pick, by Jason Walz, (Oct. 2018, First Second), $17.99, ISBN: 9781626728912

Ages 10+

Last Pick is the first in a new dystopian trilogy. Three years ago, aliens invaded earth, taking everyone between the ages of 16 and 65: everyone they deemed “useful”. The survivors left behind live under cruel rule. Too young, too old, too disabled, they’re seen as worthless, receiving slim food rations and living under constant threat. But Sam and Wyatt, a twin brother and sister, are about to change all that. Sam’s the rebel, distributing food and fomenting revolution; Wyatt, her special needs brother, is the brains of the operation: he’s cataloging the aliens, and knows how to work with their technology. They start disrupting the aliens’ plans and making themselves a general nuisance until the aliens decide they’re too much of a threat, right on the eve of their 16th birthday.

Last Pick is SO GOOD. I tore through this one during a lunch hour; it’s compulsive reading with a tight storyline and characters you want to root for. Aliens appear to be enthralled with earth culture and are played in part as comic relief, from the overlord who seems to be influenced by American Westerns, affecting a cowboy-type flavor of speech, to the gooey creature that shares a love of Ultraman with Wyatt. There’s some intrigue going on among the aliens, too; I’m looking forward to learning more in the next installment. Sam and Wyatt are a solid sister-brother unit; Wyatt’s special needs appear to place him on the autism spectrum, and Sam acts as his partner and protector. An underground radio broadcaster, a Latinx who refers to herself as La Sonida, offers moments of retrospection and I hope we get more of her, too.

Adventure, science fiction, and dystopian fans are going to love this. If you have readers who love Spill Zone and Mighty Jack, hand them this one. Last Pick has a starred review from Kirkus.

 

On a Sunbeam, by Tillie Walden, (Oct. 2018, First Second), $21.99, ISBN: 9781250178138

Ages 14+

Eisner Award winner Tillie Walden’s On a Sunbeam collects all the installments of her webcomic. It’s a science fiction adventure in a universe that embraces all relationships. Mia is a young woman on a reconstruction crew that travels through space, restoring buildings and structures. The narrative shifts between the present and Mia’s past, where she fell in love at boarding school with a girl named Grace; a girl who was taken away by her family before Mia could say goodbye. Mia learns more about her crewmates and their own stories as they travel through space, ultimately creating a family of their own.

The cast is incredibly, wonderfully, diverse. There’s Char, the co-captain; she’s an African American woman who shares captain duties with her Caucasian wife, Alma: “Char may have the degrees, but Alma knows how to yell”, according to one character, Jules. Jules should know: she’s Alma’s niece, taken in when her mother – Alma’s sister – died. Jules seems to be the youngest member of the crew; she’s most likely a teen, loves playing games, and is the happy optimist of the crew. Ell/Elliot is a Caucasian nonbinary person who prefers they/them/their pronouns – and the crew vociferously defends their right to those pronouns, as Ell is nonverbal. Grace, Mia’s lost love, is African American.

As the narrative shifts between Mia’s past and present, we see Mia and Grace’s relationship develop, right up until Grace’s departure from the school. The color palette shifts with the narrative: cooler colors like blues and purples dominate the flashbacks, while warmer colors creep during the present day. Mia is the central character, but every character in this novel has a story to tell. This is a book I had to move back and forth with during the first few chapters; not having read the webcomic, I wasn’t altogether sure I was reading a connected story until I got the hang of the shifts, and of Mia’s place in them. Stick with the story: it’s an wonderful work of queer speculative fiction that deserves a spot on your shelves. On a Sunbeam is good for young adult/new adult readers.

Posted in Fantasy, Fiction, Graphic Novels, Middle Grade, Tween Reads

The Nameless City saga comes to a close with The Divided Earth

The Nameless City: The Divided Earth (The Nameless City #3), by Faith Erin Hicks (Sept. 2018, First Second), $14.99, ISBN: 9781626721609

Ages 8-13

Faith Erin Hicks’ epic graphic novel trilogy, The Nameless City, comes to a phenomenal close with The Divided Earth. Dao prince Erzi now has control of The Nameless City, but the city is under siege by Dao and Yisun forces who want the war for the Nameless City to come to an end. The Named – the people of the city – are caught in between. Rat and Kaidu (Kai), the two main characters, plan to sneak into Erzi’s palace and steal back the ancient text containing the formula for napatha, an ancient weapon that Erzi plans to unleash on the city.

Posted in Fantasy, Fiction, Fiction, Graphic Novels, Intermediate, Middle Grade, Tween Reads

Humans can be such a pain: The Creepy Case Files of Margo Maloo returns!

The Creepy Case Files of Margo Maloo: The Monster Mall, by Drew Weing, (Sept. 2018, First Second), $15.99, ISBN: 9781626724921

Ages 8+

The intrepid duo of Margo Maloo and Charles Thompson is back in their second adventure! Margo Maloo is on a new case, and she needs Charles and his journalistic talents to help. The situation in Echo City is getting tougher on monsters. Humans are encroaching on their environment, and the Monster Code states that NO monster can let themself be seen by a human. Thank goodness, kids don’t count, but teenagers do, and there’s a group of teens hanging out at an abandoned mall. Some monsters are sick of hiding, and want to fight. Other monsters just want to be left alone. Tensions are running high, and it’s up to Margo and Charles to help keep the monster community in status quo!

The Monster Mall is a great follow-up to 2016’s The Creepy Case Files of Margo Maloo. The dynamic between Margo and Charles is fun and light, with smart dialogue and loads of humor. Margo has some wise insights, like one of my favorite lines, “…the older people get, the less they can be trusted”; Charles believes that kids and monsters can learn to trust one another. After all, Marcus and Kevin, Charles’ monster buddy in the basement and his friend, play Battlebeenz together, right? An epilogue teases the future of human-monster relations, and I can’t wait for the next installment. Cartoony monster art, witty dialogue and a diverse cast of characters that bring up some smart questions about diversity make this a book you want in your graphic novel collections.

Posted in Graphic Novels, Intermediate, Non-Fiction, picture books

Fall means back-to-school, and new BOOKS.

Here in NY, most of the kids start school tomorrow, but the bigger news is that there are amazing books lined up for Fall!

Magnificent Birds, by Narisa Togo, (Sept. 2018, Candlewick), $20, ISBN: 9781536201697

Ages 7-12

Linocut artist Narisa Togo presents readers with a gorgeous book on birds from all over the world. Fourteen beautifully colored spreads feature the familiar, including the bald eagle, flamingos, penguins, and pelicans and the exotic, such as the greater bird of paradise and the kakapo. Each spread includes the genus and species, range and habitat, and two brief, informative paragraphs about each species. The linocuts are striking, with muted colors that allow the texture of the cuts to speak. A wonderful gift for bird lovers, and a nice add to nonfiction collections. Create a beautiful display with Britta Teckentrup’s Birds and Their Feathers, Drawn from Nature, and Magnificent Creatures.

A Dog Named Haku: A Holiday Story from Nepal, by Margarita Engel, Amish Karanjit, & Nicole Karanjit/Illustrated by Ruth Jeyaveeran, (Sept. 2018, Lerner Publishing Group), $19.99, ISBN: 978-1-5124-3205-3

Ages 4-8

Two brothers search the streets of Nepal for a stray dog to feed during the festival of Kukur Tihar, a special day honoring dogs. The festival is also a remembrance of the search and rescue dogs that saved lives after the devastating 2015 earthquake. Award-winning author Margarita Engle, her daughter, Nicole Karanjit and son-in-law Amish Karanjit, come together with illustrator Ruth Jeyaveeran to create a touching story of empathy, memory, and celebration. It’s a glimpse into Nepali culture, enhanced by a glossary, further reading, and activities, and a story that emphasizes empathy and love for all creatures, great and small. Ruth Jeyaveeran’s illustrations further this study in culture, with brown-skinned people wearing Nepali clothing and animals wearing vermilion paste, a sign of holiness and blessing, on their foreheads during the celebrations.

Get this one in your libraries and classrooms, and read it for Diwali – while you hit Pinterest for some Diwali crafts. I love this accordion fold paper diya craft.

My Beijing: Stories of Everyday Wonder, by Nie Jun, (Sept. 2018, Lerner Publishing Group), $30.65, ISBN: 9781512445909

Ages 8-12

This graphic novel contains four stories of Yu’er, a young girl who lives with an unnamed disability, and her grandfather, in a small Beijing neighborhood. Yu’er want to swim in the Special Olympics, but she and grandpa need to find a pool for her practice. Another story takes Yu’er and a friend to a place filled with musical insects; in one story, Yu’er learns a story about her grandparents; finally, Yu’er and her grandfather teach a painter a lesson about enjoying life. The watercolor artwork is quiet and soothing, with a storytelling style manga fans will recognize and enjoy. It’s a positive look at the relationship between grandchild and grandparent, and the colorful characters in their neighborhood illustrate the adage that it takes a village to raise a child. Display and booktalk with Atinuke’s Anna Hisbiscus books, Saadia Faruqi’s Meet Yasmin!, and Debbie Michiko Florence’s Jasmine Toguchi books for illustrated chapter books that introduce readers to world cultures.

Kitten Construction Company: Meet the House Kittens!, by John Patrick Green, (Sept. 2014, First Second), $17.99, ISBN: 978162672830

Ages 7-10

Marmalade is the best architect you’d ever want to meet – but she’s also an adorable kitten, too! How can she get anyone to take her seriously? By teaming up with an adorable group of similarly skilled kittens to form the Kitten Construction Company, of course! Sampson, an electrical engineer, Bubbles, a skilled (and easily distracted) plumber, and Professor von Wigglebottom, a carpenter with a lot of contacts, decide to build their own mansion for Mewtown’s mayor. This graphic novel is the first in a new series and it’s too much fun for younger readers. There are great sight jokes, crisp, kid-friendly cartooning, and a smart story about being taken seriously, no matter how cute you are. I can’t wait to see more of this series!

Posted in Early Reader, Graphic Novels, Intermediate, Non-Fiction, Non-Fiction, Preschool Reads

Two from TOON: Fun ways of looking at Math and Science

TOON’s doing it again: promoting authors and illustrators who know how to take abstract concepts and craft them into something exciting, beautiful, and fun. The two Fall graphic novels TOON has coming out: 3×4, by Ivan Brunetti, and We Are All Me, by Jordan Crane, play with multiplication, sorting, and sets; creation, DNA, and our relation to the planet and beyond. Sounds like weighty stuff, right? It is, but here’s the best part: these books are for kids, ages 3 and up. Let’s take a deeper look.

3 x 4, by Ivan Brunetti, (Sept. 2018, TOON Books), $12.95, ISBN: 9781943145348

Ages 3+

A teacher gives his class an assignment: draw 12 things, but in sets. Everything else is up to them: how many sets, what to draw, what colors to use. Annemarie, one of the girls in class, thinks deeply about what to create, as we see her classmates get to work on their sets. The book introduces readers to the beginning principles in multiplication; sorting; and thinking outside the box, as we see through the kids’ assignments. The book is so meta – it’s a math assignment within a math assignment – that teachers can easily use this as a math storytime.

Ivan Brunetti’s previous TOON book, WordPlay, played with language and compound words, and also starred Annemarie, a child of color in a diverse classroom of friends. As an art teacher, he has a gift for seeing things differently, and has the talent to make his ideas fun and relatable to a young audience. My 6-year-old read 3×4 to me, cover to cover, one night, after I read it to him and we worked through all the similarities between events in the book and what he’d done in his Kindergarten classroom the past school year. I’d love to try a math challenge for the kids in my library, asking them to start with 3 x 4, and go from there: make an art gallery and keep switching up the numbers. Have stickers and stamps and other creative materials handy!

3 x 4 has a starred review from Kirkus. As with all TOON books, a free, downloadable teacher’s guide is forthcoming.

 

We Are All Me, by Jordan Crane, (Sept. 2018, TOON Books), $12.95, ISBN: 9781943145355

Ages 3+

A dot forms and takes readers on a visual journey through existence. As it moves through bodies, nature, DNA, and space, readers experience evolution, our relationship to the Earth, and consciousness, all in vibrant, pulsing, day-glo pen, ink, and tablet artwork. Spare text reads lyrically, almost mantra-like, as we – via the dot – progress through time and space. The visual confirmation that we are connected to this world, and to one another, is exciting and humbling all at once; for young readers, it’s mind-blowing and beautiful. This is one of those books that left me speechless when I first read it, because it’s breathtaking and uses such brief, eloquent verbiage to explain… everything. A stunning must-have for all collections. Own it, and read it. Often.

We Are All Me has a free, downloadable teacher’s guide forthcoming.

Posted in Fantasy, Fiction, Graphic Novels, Intermediate, Middle Grade, Teen, Tween Reads

Graphic Novels coming your way in July

Yeah, you’ve got the summer reading lists (which, thank you teachers, have been getting better!), but you have to make time for pleasure reading, too! Check out some of the cool graphic novels coming out in July – perfect for sitting in the shade (or the sun, just wear your SPF) and enjoying the day.

Cottons: The Secret of the Wind, by Jim Pascoe/Illustrated by Heidi Arnhold, (July 2018, First Second), $19.99, ISBN: 9781250157447

Recommended for readers 10-14

Watership Down was one of those novels that changed my life when I was a kid. I first read it at about 9, after seeing the animated movie a year before, and it just blew my mind with its beautiful, yet brutal, story. I’ve returned to the book and movie several times throughout the years, and it remains one of my favorite books. Reading this first story in Jim Pascoe and Heidi Arnhold’s new graphic novel series, Cottons: The Secret of the Wind, reminds me of Watership Down, taking place in a more magical world.

We meet Bridgebelle, a rabbit working in the carrot factory by day, caring for her sick aunt by night. She’s always on the watch for the cruel foxes who prey on the rabbits

To her neighbors in the Vale of Industry, Bridgebelle is an ordinary rabbit. All day long, she toils at the carrot factory. After a hard day, she returns home to care for her ailing auntie. Bridgebelle also has a secret talent: she uses cha, the fuel that powers the rabbits’ world, to create magical artwork called thokchas. Bridgebelle must keep her magic secret, lest other rabbits in power try to use her and her power to create weapons; she also has to beware of the cruel foxes who hunt her kind.

There is a lot of storytelling here that makes the story hard to follow at times, but stick with it: it’s worth the journey. Heidi Arnhold’s beautiful artwork blends realistic animal art with fantasy and magic. Jim Pascoe sets a firm foundation to his universe here, and introduces several plots that will power readers through this new series. There is some violence – the foxes aren’t known for their mercy – so I’d recommend this one for middle grade and up. This is a nice companion to the Longburrow novels by Kieran Larwood and David Wyatt (the second book is due out in August!), for fans of animal fantasy, particularly starring rabbits.

Pop!, by Jason Carter Eaton/Illustrated by Matt Rockefeller, (July 2018, First Second), $17.99, ISBN: 9781626725034

Recommended for readers 4-8

A young boy sits, relaxed, blowing bubbles on a sunny day. His favorite part about blowing bubbles is popping them – naturally! – but one bubble has other plans! The bubble takes Dewey – yes, that’s his name – on a quest that will take him to new (literal) heights via trampoline, jungle gym, even a moon shuttle. Because, like the cover says, “Every last bubble must… POP!”

This is perfect fun for a summer read. If you’re outside, break out the bubbles and let the kiddos pop them! If you’re inside, maybe just hand some out (I worry about slippery floors, but if it’s not an issue for you, go for it). The semi-realistic art gives way to shiny flights of fancy; the bubble’s sheen seems to shine right off the page. The text is simple, easy to read, and great for newly confident readers. Kids and grownups alike will enjoy the simple joy of a little boy and his quest to pop the bubble.

Geeky F@b 5: It’s Not Rocket Science! (Geeky F@b 5 #1), by Lucy & Liz Lareau/Illustrated by Ryan Jampole, (July 2018, Papercutz), $12.99, ISBN: 978-1545801222

Recommended for readers 7-11

Papercutz has another fun, original graphic novel for intermediate readers; this time, they’re going STEM with the Geeky F@b 5: 5 girls who love science and are using their skills to make Amelia Earhart Elementary School better. Lucy, a fourth grader, and her older sister, Marina, a sixth grader, have just moved to the area and are ready to start school. Lucy, who loves the environment and animals, gels with her classmates right away: AJ, who wants to be an engineer like her dad; Sofia, a glitter girl who loves coding and making apps; and Zara, forever on her headphones, and a math whiz. Lucy gets hurt in the school’s outdated playground that first day, and the principal and nurse shut the playground down: but the girls have plans! Together with their teacher, they come up with a great idea: put together a series of fundraisers to get the money to rebuild the playground! Every one of the girls has a job to do; now, if they could just get the bullying older kids on their side, things would be perfect.

Geeky F@b is the first in a new STEM-focused graphic novel series form Papercutz; Volume 2 is due in December. The book is easy and fun to read, with a reasonable plot and goal that can empower readers to be forces for positive change in their own communities. The characters are diverse and relatable; I enjoyed spending some time with them and am pretty sure they’ll be popular reading at my library. This would pair nicely with Bob Pflugfelder and Steve Hockensmith‘s Nick and Tesla series (novels, not graphic) from Quirk, the Girls Who Code chapter book series, and the Howtoons graphic novels. Fun for summer!