Mom Read It

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

Rescuers play a Hiding Game with the Nazis February 18, 2017

The Hiding Game, by hiding-game-coverGwen Strauss/Illustrated by Herb Leonhard, (Feb. 2017, Pelican Publishing), $17.99, ISBN: 9781455622658

Recommended for ages 7-10

A young girl and her family settle into a new home in the Villa Air-Bel in France. They’re used to hiding things: the radio, a cow, anything of value that the Nazis could seize. Aube Breton – the daughter Dada pioneer Andre Breton – even learns to hide herself in case of a raid. You see, Villa Air-Bel was a safe place for refugees during World War II, a place where those on the run could await passage to safety. Aude spends her days with luminaries like artists Marc Chagall and Max Ernst; helping hold art sales to raise money for transport out of occupied France, and playing, as a child should.

A very different experience from Anne Frank and the families ensconced in the Secret Annex, Aude’s story is no less powerful. She witnesses a Nazi raid and hides while her father and other men are rounded up and taken in for questioning, and she faces her situation with love and laughter. The stories of the Villa Air-Bel refugees is a lesser-known part of World War II France, and The Hiding Game is a strong introduction to younger readers. Its message is as strong today as ever.

Herb Leonhard’s illustrations and subdued color palette are gentle on the eyes in some spreads, more powerful in others, enhancing the story with strong images that will lead to deep discussions with school-age readers.

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A historical note and further resources round out this story, and the author explains that her uncle was one of the men who risked his life to bring refugees to safety.

hiding-game-layout-lowres-17-1A recommended addition to history collections.

 

A new heroine rises: Gum Girl! February 14, 2017

gumgirl_2Gum Girl: Chews Your Destiny (The Gumazing Gum Girl #1), by Rhode Montijo, (Aug. 2013, Disney-Hyperion), $14.99, ISBN: 9781423157403

Recommended for ages 6-10

Gabby Gomez LOVES bubble gum. She will chew it any time, anywhere, much to her mother (and dentist father!)’s chagrin. Gabby also gets her gum all over everything, which makes a huge mess! Gabby’s mom lays down the law and tells her NO MORE GUM, which really doesn’t work for Gabby, who sneaks a little piece on the way to school one day. What’s one little piece, right? She blows a bubble – the biggest bubble EVER – and it pops all over her! How is she supposed to go to school, looking like this? But wait! Someone needs help! Gabby answers the call, and discovers that she’s been transformed into The Gumazing Gum Girl, a superheroine with super sticky, super stretchy, bubble gum powers! Now, she just needs to keep enough peanut butter on hand to help her get all the gum off and transform back into Gabby, before her family finds out!

 

The Gumazing Gum Girl is too much fun! She’s a superhero for intermediate and middle grade readers, adorably written and drawn by Rhode Montijo, who creates a graphic novel/chapter book hybrid that kids love. Kids will love her Latinx family, who lovingly speak Spanglish to one another, and they’ll love how the seemingly ordinary power of bubble gum transforms a girl into a superheroine. Plus, they’ll see that Gabby is a good kid, who struggles with keeping a secret from her parents: her superpowers come from her breaking the rules and chewing gum. There are fun villains and the art is super kid-friendly; combinations of pink, black and white, with bold lines and expressive fonts will catch and hold any reader’s attention.

When I was at ALA Midwinter last month, I found myself lucky enough to get hold of the NEXT Gum Girl Adventure: Gum Luck! A colleague shrieked when she saw me with it (and she does collection development for my library system, so, whoo hoo!), and another colleague read it the day I got back to the library after Midwinter. To say this is an anticipated sequel is putting it mildly.

gumgirl_1The Gumazing Gum Girl: Gum Luck (The Gumazing Gum Girl #2, by Rhode Montijo, June 2017, Disney-Hyperion, $14.99, ISBN: 9781423161172) introduces readers to a new villain, and readers will see Gabby continue struggling with her big secret. She’s torn between doing the right thing by telling her parents the truth about her alter ego and her gum-chewing habit and between… well, doing the right thing with her superhero activities.

If readers love Chews Your Destiny, they’ll love Gum Luck. Start booktalking Gum Girl now, and get them ready: Gum Luck hits shelves in June, just in time for summer reading! (Hmm… the theme for CSLP’s Summer Reading is Build a Better World… can we use gum for that? Wait, no… not in the library. Please.)

Visit Rhode Montijo’s author webpage for more info about his books, a peek at his portfolio, and his web store.

 

Black History Month: The Youngest Marcher, by Cynthia Levinson

youngest-marcherThe Youngest Marcher: The Story of Audrey Faye Hendricks, a Young Civil Rights Activist, by Cynthia Levinson/illustrated by Vanessa Brantley Newton, (Jan. 2017, Atheneum Books for Young Readers), $17.99, ISBN: 9781481400701

Recommended for ages 5-10

In May 1963, children in Birmingham, Alabama, trained in peaceful, civil disobedience, marched to protest segregation. Nine year-old Audrey Faye Hendricks was the youngest marcher, fully invested in civil rights and aware that she would likely go to jail. She spent a week in juvenile hall with flimsy blankets and no toothbrush, but she persevered and made history. Nonfiction author Cynthia Levinson tells the story of the youngest marcher, with illustrations by Vanessa Brantley Newton, here for younger audiences, assuring children that no one is too small, too young, to make a difference in the world.

I’ve been handing this book to kids coming in, looking for African-American biographies for their Black History Month reports for just this reason. I want children to see that they are important. They count. At a time when many feel marginalized, books like The Youngest Marcher, with its powerful words and images, offer representation and affirmation. Children have a voice, and with support and encouragement, they can use them and be heard.

Cynthia Levinson’s author website offers links to further resources, including curriculum guides and videos. Illustrator Vanessa Brantley-Newton was spotlighted by the WeNeedDiverseBooks initiative, for which she also created original artwork. For more information about the 1963 Birmingham Children’s Crusade, visit Biography.com or the Zinn Education Project, offering information about the award-winning documentary, Mighty Times.

 

 

Tabletop Gaming: Monsters in the Elevator February 8, 2017

I may have mentioned once or twice that I’ve developed a bit of a tabletop addiction. Since my last post about gaming in the library, I’ve Kickstarted… well, lot; and I’ve discovered great games by going to the Boston Festival of Indie Games every September. This past time around, we discovered yet another game that provides for laughs, smack talk, and great family time.

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Jason Wiser created Monsters in the Elevator with his 7 year-old daughter, and the premise is simple and hilarious: there’s an elevator going up and down in a building. Monsters are getting on and off the elevator. Elevators have weight limits, right? Each monster has its weight listed on a card, and you have to work together to keep that elevator from getting overloaded and crashing! There’s help along the way – certain monsters get off at certain floors; some monsters get sick and have to leave the elevator, or even better, some monsters let loose some gas that clears the elevator pretty darned fast (there is no end to the joy a card like that brings when my family plays).

It’s a math game, and it’s FUN. The fact that it’s cooperative makes it a great game for younger kids; my 4 year-old is even able to play with our help. We all work together to keep the elevator from falling. My husband got to meet Jason Wiser at BFIG last year and had nothing but great things to say, and I love that he created a family game with his own kid. It’s kid-tested, parent-approved, and now, librarian approved: my Corona Kids and I had some intense gaming sessions with my deck, and I’ll be introducing it to the Elmhurst kids very soon.

Monsters in the Elevator is available for the next five days through IndieGogo, where there are some nice backer gifts, including stickers (because seriously, monster stickers, who doesn’t love that?), and it’s also one of the five games featured on Hasbro’s Next Great Family Game Challenge. If you enjoy and want to support indie gaming, this is a fun, educational one to add to your game pile.

 

A Boy Called Bat is gentle and kind February 1, 2017

boy-called-batA Boy Called Bat, by Elana K. Arnold/Illustrated by Charles Santoso, (March 2017, Walden Pond Press), $16.99, ISBN: 9780062445827

Recommended for ages 8-12

Bixby Alexander Tam – Bat, for short – loves animals. Fortunately, his mom is a veterinarian, so he gets to be around them quite a bit, and he knows how to handle them, too. One day, his  mom brings home an orphaned baby skunk that needs to be nursed and cared for until he’s big enough to go to a wild animal shelter, and Bat falls in love. He just knows that the kit, who he names Thor, is meant to be his pet. Now, he just has to convince his mom!

A Boy Called Bat is a sweet story about a gentle boy who also happens to be on the autism spectrum. It’s never outwardly addressed – no giant, neon arrows here – but Elana Arnold alludes to it in her text, and rather than concentrating on a label for the boy, gives us a well-rounded story about a special boy and the special animal that comes into his life. At only 96 pages, with black and white illustrations, it’s a great book for all kids (and adults!) to read; it also would  make for a great classroom read-aloud. It helps further understanding, showing Bat doing the same things most kids do: not loving shuttling back and forth between his divorced parents’ homes; wanting a pet and learning how to take care of it; navigating friendships at school.

This is a solid addition to diversity collections. Booktalk this with Daniel Stefanski’s How to Talk to an Autistic Kid and Ben Hatke’s Mighty Jack; graduate readers to books like Ann M. Martin’s Rain Reign.

 

A boy and his friend must act fast to save The Last Tree January 20, 2017

last-treeThe Last Tree, by Ingrid Chabbert/Illustrated by Guridi, (April 2017, Kids Can Press), $17.95, ISBN: 9781771387286

Recommended for ages 4-7

A boy listens to his father describe running and playing in the grass as a child, but has only a concrete playing area with a diminishing patch of grass available to him. One day, the boy and his friend discover a baby tree – a sapling, really – hidden behind a wall and are amazed: it’s the first tree they’ve ever seen up close. The boy goes home and discovers, to his horror, that a luxury condo complex is scheduled to begin construction right in the very spot where the tree is growing, and the boys spring into action to save the last tree.

This is a powerful look at how lack of green spaces affects children. Ingrid Chabbert’s narrator is an adult, looking back on his childhood, and how important saving that tree was to him and his friend. It sends a message about the importance of conservation and preservation today, and offers some hope for tomorrow. Artist Guridi communicates this message using charcoal, gravure ink, gouache, pencil, and digital art to create a spark of hope in the grey, bleak future that faces us as we see more green spaces disappear under development.

A strong addition to collections for Earth Day, conservation units, and to empower kids who may not understand that they can have a long-lasting impact on the world with the smallest and kindest of acts. The Last Tree invites a discussion on empathy by examining the boys’ actions and asking children to contribute by sharing a time when they took action to help someone or something that needed it.

 

 

Animal Crackers – a circus like you’ve never seen! January 14, 2017

animal-crackers_1Animal Crackers: Circus Mayhem, by Scott Christian Sava/Illustrated by Mike Holmes, (March 2017, First Second), $15.99, ISBN: 9781626725041

Recommended for ages 7-11

Seven year-old Owen’s parents drop him off for a visit at Buffalo Bob’s Rootin’ Tootin’ Animal Circus. Uncle Bob’s his great-uncle, but he’s really not looking forward to this visit, no matter how cool these animals are supposed to be. A knife-throwing elephant? A jump-roping giraffe? They HAVE to be people dressed up as animals, right? Pfft. When Owen and his family arrive at the circus, they find chaos: Uncle Bob’s missing, and so are the animals. The number one suspect is Bob’s nemesis, Contorto, and his henchcreeps. Stuck in Uncle Bob’s office while the staff try to find Bob and calm the angry masses of circus-goers waiting to see animals, Owen discovers a box of magical animal crackers. Maybe this circus thing isn’t going to be so bad, after all, especially if he can help save the day with a little help from the magical cookies.

Animal Crackers is a fun story to give to younger readers. It’s a great way to turn kids onto graphic novels and sequential storytelling. Mike Holmes, the artist on Gene Luen Yang’s Secret Coders series, illustrates the wacky, fun hijinks going on in the circus. His characters, particularly Owen and his animals, have wonderfully exaggerated facial expressions and movements to match the story’s pacing. Scott Sava creates a fun intermediate tale that kids will enjoy, and with an Animal Crackers movie coming in March, this is going to be a hot book on shelves and on wish lists.

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