Posted in Graphic Novels, Middle Grade, Non-Fiction, Non-fiction, Tween Reads

Science Comics takes to the skies with Flying Machines

Science Comics: Flying Machines, by Alison Wilgus/Illustrated by Molly Brooks, (May 2017, :01First Second), $12.99, ISBN: 9781626721395

Recommended for readers 8-12

This latest installment of Science Comics introduces readers to Katharine Wright, sister to Wilbur and Orville Wright. When their mother died, Katharine stepped in to take over running the family household, which included corresponding with Wilbur and Orville as they traveled, both in the process of getting their first flight airborne and later, as they traveled through America and Europe. Here, she serves as the reader’s guide through the history of aviation. We learn about European aviation enthusiasts, and the race for funding and progress between the Wright Brothers – owners of a bicycle shop in Dayton, Ohio – and the titled European men working toward the same cause.

Readers gets detailed names and statistics on the Wright brothers’ flyers, and a look at the frustrating mechanical failures and serious injuries, including one fatality, leading up to that first historic flight. Readers also meet historic aviators who came after the Wright Brothers, including Frank Whittle, inventor of the turbojet engine, and who came There’s an incredible amount of detail in this volume- aviation enthusiasts will love it.

An appendix with short biographies on other aviation pioneers, a biography on Katharine Wright, a glossary of aviation terms, and a list of further reading round out this volume. Providing readers with a look into history and aviation technology, Science Comics: Flying Machines is a solid add to STEM collections and reinforces the fact that comic books DO belong in the classroom.

 

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

Alien invasion and rebellion: Shattered Warrior

Shattered Warrior, by Sharon Shinn/Illustrated by Molly Knox Ostertag, (May 2017, :01FirstSecond), $17.99, ISBN: 9781626720893

Recommended for ages 14+

It’s been eight years since Colleen Cavanaugh’s world was invaded, her people enslaved. The Derichets, a warlike alien race, have human slaving in mines and factories, mining and refining minerals to power their weapons and their technology. Colleen, who lost most of her family in the invasion, discovers that her young niece, Lucy, is alive, and bribes the Derichets to get her back. Along with Jann, a member of a gang called the Chromatti, Colleen, Lucy, and Jann try to stay off everyone’s radar and live quietly, a small family of their own. But Colleen is also helping a rebel group that’s causing big problems for the Derichets. When a chance for a big strike against the aliens presents itself, Jann and Colleen have to take it – even if there are dire consequences.

Sharon Shinn is a bestselling sci-fi author; Shattered Warrior is her first graphic novel, illustrated by Molly Knox Ostertag, best known for her Strong Female Protagonist webcomic. Shattered Warrior is the first volume in this story of love amidst rebellion; Shinn and Ostertag certainly have come together to give us a strong female protagonist in Colleen. She’s strong, having endured the invasion of her world and enslavement of her race; the deaths of her family; and now, the discovery of her niece. She keeps her household going in the face of an utterly bleak future, but refuses to open herself to love because she can’t deal with the pain of losing. As the novel progresses, she ultimately realizes that love provides the power to keep going, and falls in love with Jann. The novel ends on a cliffhanger, ensuring that we’ll all be waiting for the next installment.

We don’t know much about the Derichets. We know they’re a warrior race that relies on Colleen’s world’s natural resources and that they appear to be brutal in their methods. We know that some of them have an eye for human women. The Chromatti are barely a step up from a street gang, attacking humans and Derichets alike. The Shattered Warrior characters live in a savage world where survival is the primary directive; everything else comes second, but the main characters still find a way to find small joys where they present themselves. It’s an interesting character study and a story that readers will enjoy. Booktalk this one with War of the Worlds for a new book/classic read pairing.

 

 

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

Middle Grade Mermaid Stories!

Mermaid stories are insanely popular. Debbie Dadey’s Mermaid Tales series is always out over here; I have early readers and middle graders constantly asking me where they can find more mermaid books, and YA has a whole category of mermaid books. If you’re of a certain age (or your parents are), like me, you remember the movie, Splash, which is getting a reboot with Channing Tatum as a mer-guy now. There’s something fascinating about the world under the sea.

The Little Mermaid, by Metaphrog, (Apr. 2017, Papercutz), $13.99, ISBN: 9781629917399

Award-winning graphic novelists and Eisner Award nominees Metaphrog – aka Sandra Marrs and John Chalmers –  are award-winning graphic novelists who have crafted a graphic novel retelling of Hans Christian Andersen’s The Little Mermaid.  For those of you who only know the Disney version, heads up: this is not that version. There’s no happy singing crab, Bette Midler is not a fabulous underwater witch with killer vocal cords, and the ending is very different than you may expect. The Mermaid – unnamed here – falls in love with a young prince whom she saves from drowning, and makes a bargain with a witch in order to grow legs and be with him, but the price is high.

Metaphrog create beautiful art to tell the mermaid’s tale. With shades of blues and greens, they weave magic, loneliness, and mystery into their story. The waves seem to lap off the cover, beckoning the reader to come in and read their tale. This adaptation beautifully translates this powerful tale. Pair this one with Metaphrog’s graphic adaptation of Anderson’s The Red Shoes and Other Tales.

Fish Girl, by Donna Jo Napoli/Illustrated by David Wiesner, (March 2017, Clarion), $17.99, ISBN: 978-0547483931

Another Little Mermaid retelling, Fish Girl tells a different, slightly darker tale. The Fish Girl is an attraction in a seaside exhibit; the proprietor refers to himself as Neptune, god of the oceans. As the story progresses, it becomes apparent that Neptune isn’t all that he claims to be, and the circumstances under which he keeps Fish Girl in captivity are unsettling, bordering on menacing. A girl visits the exhibit one day and catches a glimpse of the fish girl; the two strike up a secret friendship as Mia – the name Fish Girl’s friend bestows on her – wants more than life in a tank, and begins pushing her boundaries.

This is a more modern update of the classic fairy tale, with unsettling implications. Neptune is not a benevolent sea god; he’s not a loving father figure, and I found myself fighting a panicky feeling – most likely reacting as a parent – because I wanted Mia to get away from him. The story is intriguing, and will draw readers in, keeping them riveted until the last page is turned.

While I normally love David Wiesner’s artwork – Art & Max, Flotsam, Tuesday, you name it – this isn’t his usual artwork, where the colors blend and shade to provide depth and dimension. It’s still beautiful artwork, but it’s more flat here, really letting the story take center stage. His use of sea colors is lovely, and he creates a loving relationship between Mia and her guardian, the octopus.

I’d suggest these for higher middle graders – 5th and 6th graders – because the overall content may be upsetting to younger readers. Would I let my kids read them at that age? Yes, but that’s me. Read these first, and let that be your guide; make sure your younger readers know that these are different ways of telling the Disney story they may be familiar with.

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

Have visual vocabulary fun with Wordplay!

Wordplay, by Ivan Brunetti, (May 2017, TOON Books), $12.95, ISBN: 978-1-943145-17-1

Recommended for readers 3-8

Kids learn about compound words – two words that come together to form a whole new word, like housework – in this visual feast for the eyes. Ever see a house vaccuming? A moon in an easy chair, reading under a bright light? You will here, as the kids in the story think up and visualize compound words that will make kids (and you) laugh and think.

This book is made for classrooms and programs. Ask your kids what compound words they can come up with – then draw it! Make a bookmark for one of the easiest compound words: Bookworm! The fun, bold art leaps off the page, and bright white word balloons make for dialogue that you can ask kids to read out loud, turning the book into a performance. Display Wordplay with other fun word books, like Lynne Truss’ younger readers’ version of Eats, Shoots and Leaves and Patricia Byers’ One Sheep, Two Sheep: A Book of Collective Nouns. Wordplay is a TOON Level 1; Levels E-J in Guided Reading. Teachers’ Resources are forthcoming.

Wordplay received a starred review from Kirkus.

 

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

She’s full of glitter, she’s wielding a glue gun… She’s The Amazing Crafty Cat!

crafty-cat_1The Amazing Crafty Cat, by Charise Mericle Harper, (Apr. 2016, First Second), $13.99, ISBN: 9781626724860

Recommended for ages 7-10

Bridie is a little girl who loves, loves, LOVES to craft: so much, that she has an alter ego: the Amazing Crafty Cat! Crafty Cat can craft anything, anytime! Crafty Cat becomes Bridie again so she can go to school; she’s excited because it’s her birthday and she’s got special panda cupcakes for everyone during birthday break – even Anya, the class bully. She just knows these cupcakes will make her the school star… and then, Bridie falls, sending the cupcakes flying. She gets stains on her dress trying to pick up the cupcakes. Grandpa is supposed to come to the rescue, bringing something to hand out snack time, but that’s just a disaster. Things aren’t supposed to go wrong on her birthday! What is Bridie going to do? She’s got hungry classmates! Looks like a job for… THE AMAZING CRAFTY CAT.

The first book in the Fashion Kitty/Just Grace author’s new trilogy is just too much fun. There’s a great message about teaching kids resiliency and how to fall back on Plan B… and Plan C, if necessary. Plus, there are craft ideas and template at the end of the book! You know what I’m going to say… it’s a program in a book! Make Crafty Cat your next book talk/activity; do your scanning and photocopying ahead of time, and let your kids work on the crafts as you talk about things that went wrong for them (and you), and how you all bounced back from them. Such a fun addition to graphic novel and intermediate collections, you’ll never keep them on the shelf.  Now, we just need a Crafty Cat website with some videos…

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Posted in Early Reader, Fiction, Fiction, Graphic Novels, Humor, Intermediate

Noodleheads See the Future… Is there cake?

Noodleheads See the Future, by Tedd Arnold, Martha Hamilton, & Mitch Weiss/Illustrated by Tedd Arnold, (Jan. 2017, Holiday House), $15.95, ISBN: 9780823436736

Recommended for readers 6-10

Noodlehead brothers Mac and Mac return for a second round of goofy fun in Noodleheads See the Future. The empty-headed brothers (no, really, they’ll show you their hollow pasta heads) are a bit gullible, which leaves them open to pranks by their cousin, Meatball. The Noodleheads head to the woods to get firewood for their mother so she can bake them a cake; where Meatball tricks them and steals their firewood. The joke’s on Meatball, though; the Noodleheads still manage to get the job done for Mom, who bakes them a cake!

Think of the Noodleheads as a first step toward Amelia Bedelia. The brothers take everything literally, like looking up when being told, “heads up”. This is a fun graphic novel to give to emerging independent readers; the text is brief and bold, the panels show events in sequence, and the three chapters are short enough to keep a reader’s attention. Plus, the illustrator and one of the authors is Tedd Arnold, whose Fly Guy series is an Easy Reader favorite. An explanation of the myths inspiring the stories told in Noodleheads of the Future will interest kids and grownups.

This is the second Noodleheads book. The first, Noodlehead Nightmares, was released in 2016. The series is a Guided Reading level L, according to the publisher’s website, and received starred reviews from School Library Journal and Kirkus.

 

 

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

Map of Days is a fable woven into a boy’s story

map-of-days_1Map of Days, by Robert Hunter, (March 2017  Nobrow), $18.95, ISBN: 9781910620298

Recommended for ages 10+

Originally published in 2013, Map of Days follows a clock-obsessed boy, who wonders where his grandfather goes when he disappears into a door on his grandfather clock. One night, the boy steps into the clock and discovers a fantastic world, where the face of Earth, the Sun, and the love story that joins the two. It’s a fable contained within a narrative, beautifully illustrated for readers of all ages. Children under the age of 10 will enjoy the colorful art, but may be lost by the story, which isn’t always linear and can be confusing.

The artwork is beautiful, and the fable of the Earth and the Sun is bittersweet. Art fans will want this book on their shelves for the sheer beauty within; fantasy fans will happily follow the boy on his journey.

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Robert Hunter is a graphic novelist and illustrator who also wrote The New Ghost (2011). Find more of his illustration work at his website.

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