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.

 

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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Barbie and her sisters are having a puppy party! December 24, 2016

barbieBarbie Puppies #1: Puppy Party, by Danica Davidson, (Dec. 2016, Papercutz), $7.99, ISBN: 9781629916088

Recommended for ages 6-10

Barbie’s got another graphic novel out, and this time, she’s having a puppy party! She and her younger sisters are planning an adoption event for the local shelter, and it’s also their puppies’ birthday! The puppies are worried they’ll be forgotten about, but would Barbie and her sisters let that happen? No way!

This is an adorable addition to Papercutz’s Barbie graphic novel line. The art is sweet, colorful and bright, the story is all about doing good for others and shines a light on pet adoption.

A good buy for Barbie fans and large graphic novel collections – I know I’ll be getting this for my library!

 

Little Knight and Edward return: Hocus Focus! December 23, 2016

hocus-focus_1Hocus Focus, by James Sturm, Alexis Frederick-Frost, and Andrew Arnold, (Jan. 2017, First Second), $14.99, ISBN: 9781596436541

Recommended for ages 7-12

I love the Little Knight graphic novels from First Second! The latest adventure has Little Knight and her ever-present and faithful steed, Edward, learning magic. Well, right now she’s peeling turnips, but the wizard swears it’s teaching her patience! When the wizard turns his back for just a second, Little Knight steals his magic wand and spell book to learn some magic on her own, and gets much more than she bargained for when her spell merges Edward with a worm to create a giant, hungry, horseworm!

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If you’ve never picked up a Little Knight graphic novel, there are a bunch to choose from, but don’t worry – you don’t need to read them in any kind of order. Each story has a young knight, her faithful horse, and a fun adventure. That’s all you need to know! The lesson in this book is all about patience; something Little Knight learns about after rushing her magic lessons. The art is cartoony and fun, bright and bold. The endpapers have the usual goofy how-to-draw tutorials, including Little Knight as a tuba player, Edward busting some sweet dance moves, and the Wizard’s Magical Mix-‘Em-Up Cauldron of mashups.

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