Mom Read It

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

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.

 

The Stone Heart takes a deeper look at The Nameless City’s turmoil February 6, 2017

stone-heart_1The Stone Heart, by Faith Erin Hicks, (Apr. 2017, First Second), $14.99, ISBN: 9781626721586

Recommended f0r ages 10+

Picking up shortly after the events in The Nameless City, The Stone Heart throws readers right back into the turmoil within the Dao as the General of All Blades seeks to form a Council of Nations that will bring peace to the City. The general’s son is furious at being denied his perceived birthright to rule. Kaidu, meanwhile, believes he’s discovered a text that describes how to create a devastating weapon used by the City’s founders. Kept in the archives by the Stone Heart monks – where his friend Rat lives – Kaidu is torn between betraying his friend and bringing the solution to his father’s attention, should war break out.

The Stone Heart is one of those sequels that shines just as brightly as the original story. We get more character development, deeper story progression, and an ending that left me with clenched fists, waiting for the next chapter in this series. Kaidu’s father and the General of All Blades are tired warriors who just want peace in their time, and both struggle with their relationships to their sons. Where Kaidu’s frustration lies with an absentee father, Erzi, the general’s son, has been raised in a foreign land, with entitled expectations, and finds his father stripping away everything he’s ever known. Rat and Mura are two street urchins, both cared for by the Stone Heart monks at some point in their lives, but have become two very different people. These character parallels add so much more to the overall story and really invest readers. Even seemingly peripheral characters, like Rat’s friends from the City, enrich the overall story and illustrate how different Kaidu’s life has been thus far.

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The Stone Heart is one of the first must-read books of 2017. Add it to your graphic novel collections and booktalk this series hard. Get your copies of Amulet, Avatar, and Legend of Korra back out on display shelves for this one. An author note provides background on the author’s influences, and a lovely shout-out to libraries. There’s also a great sketchbook at the end.

Check out Faith Erin Hicks’ author webpage for info, including interviews, webcomics, and art.

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Back to Stately Academy for Secret Coders: Secrets and Sequences February 3, 2017

secret-coders_1Secret Coders: Secrets and Sequences, by Gene Luen Yang/Illustrated by Mike Holmes, (March 2017, First Second), $10.99, ISBN: 9781626720770

Recommended for ages 8-12

The third installment of the Secret Coders series picks up right where Paths and Portals leaves off: our heroes, Hopper, Eni, and Josh have to code their way out of trouble with Principal Dean, who’s not only a creep, but a creep who’s thrown in with a super-bad guy, Professor One-Zero, who was also one of Professor Bee’s best students way back when. There are more codes to program, more turtles to run, and an evil plot to foil.

This has been a fun STEM series; explaining coding through the graphic novel format is a great idea, allowing kids to help reason out how things work and run. Readers are invited to download activities to expand their learning. This series makes for a great computer club activity and a great comic book club discussion group topic. Put this one with your Scratch and Ruby programming books, and if you have the chance to get the kids in your life, library, or classroom coding, do it! You will be happy you did.

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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.

 

Introducing Pops and Branwell, an all-ages teamup!

shortcon_1The Short Con, by Pete Toms/Illustrated by  Aleks Sennwald, (Feb. 2017, Alternative Comics), $9.95, ISBN: 9781681480084

Recommended for ages 8-12

In the first installment of a new mystery teamup, Pops and Branwell – two orphans in an orphanage that’s a cover for a full-scale detective operation run by kids – take on their first mystery: who killed Branwell’s parents, and what does her Uncle Lamb know?

This is an all-ages graphic novel that’s too much fun; taking on the hard-boiled detective genre with kids. Branwell is the new kid, the only survivor of the fire that destroyed her life. “Pops” is the seasoned detective that takes her under her wing, with a smart comment and nickname for everyone around her. (My favorite was “Sylvia Plath” for the disconsolate Branwell.) Being assigned the new girl doesn’t sit right with Pops, who prefers to work alone, but it creates a hilarious relationship between polar opposites. The supporting cast includes a nun who wonderfully apes the frustrated boss, and a John Watson-type fangirl, who writes fanfiction adventures where she inserts herself and a “hot guy” into the detectives’ adventures. The conclusion is laugh-out-loud hilarious, and the ending left me happily waiting for another installment.

Booktalk this with your Nancy Drew, Hardy Boys, and Encyclopedia Brown series. It would also work nicely with the Series of Unfortunate Events, which is getting renewed interest thanks to the Netflix series. Display with any Adventure Time graphic novels you have around; artist Aleks Senwald is a writer and storyboard artist for the series.

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A girl tries to bring her family back together in The Haunted House Project January 30, 2017

haunted-houseThe Haunted House Project, by Tricia Clasen, (Oct. 2016, Sky Pony Press), $15.99, ISBN: 9781510707122

Recommended for ages 8-12

When Andie’s mom died in a tragic accident, she left a huge hole in her family. Andie’s dad drifts from job to job, spending more time drinking and gambling away their insurance money. Andie’s older sister, Paige, holds down a diner job in addition to being a high school student, just to make sure there’s food on the table. Andie’s having a harder time holding it together at school, and teachers are starting to notice. Seemingly left on her own most of the time, Andie  comforts herself with ghost stories; she wants desperately to believe that there’s a way she can reach out to her mother, somehow. When Isaiah, her science partner, suggests they study paranormal activity for their project, Andie gets a spark of inspiration: what if she were to haunt her family’s home, making them believe her mother was reaching out to them? Would it bring them back together? She sprays perfume, leaves objects and writes messages around the house, hoping to get a reaction from her father and sister. Whether or not it will be the reaction she wants remains to be seen.

The Haunted House Project is a touching story of grief and loss, and one girl’s attempt to bring her mother back the only way she knows how.  She grieves not only for her mother, but the normalcy of everyday life. It’s an honest look at a girl coming of age under difficult circumstances; it’s a look at how friendships can change, and it’s a story about one child trying to repair her broken family. Readers will feel sympathy for Andie; some will, empathize with her, and most readers will understand the desperation of wanting. This is a strong yet gentle work of fiction that will go well with Counting by 7s by Holly Goldberg Sloan and Cynthia Rylant’s Missing May.

 

Star Scouts gets the merit badge for fun reading! January 26, 2017

starscouts_1Star Scouts, by Mike Lawrence, (March 2017, First Second), $14.99, ISBN: 9781626722804

Recommended for ages 8-12

Avani Patel is not feeling this new scouts Flower Scouts troop her parents signed her up for. She’s the new kid, her parents figured it would be a new way to make friends, but the Flower Scouts are so lame. All they talk about are boys and makeovers; it’s totally out of line with her interests, like rodeos and adventure. Things change for the better when Avani is accidentally picked up by an alien named Mabel, who happens to be a scout – a Star Scout – working on one of her badges. The two girls hit it off, and Avani finds herself an unofficial Star Scout! She’s zooming around on a jetpack, working on teleportation, and avoiding the xenoscatology lab; she’s made some out of this world friends, and she’s happy. When Star Scouts announce their yearly camping trip, Avani manages to fib her father into signing off on the trip – she’s going away to camp, she doesn’t need to mention that it’s not exactly on the planet, right? But shortly after arriving at Camp Andromeda, Avani finds herself on the wrong side of a rival group of aliens; Avani, Mabel and their friends are in for a heck of a week, if they can work together to get through it.

Star Scouts is a fun outer-space adventure for middle graders. It’s scouting with a little more adventure added in, and lots of hilarious bathroom humor (look, I raised three boys, I find poop and fart jokes funny) to keep readers cracking up. There are positive messages about friendship and working together that parents and caregivers will appreciate, and the two main characters are spunky girls that aren’t afraid to take on an adventure.

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If you want to go the sci-fi way with displays and booktalks, you have to pair this with Zita the Spacegirl and Cleopatra in Space. You can revisit this book when you’re getting ready for Summer Reading by booktalking this with camp books like Camp Midnight, Beth Vrabel’s Camp Dork, and Nancy Cavanaugh’s Just Like Me.

Check out more of Mike Cavanaugh’s illustration at his website.

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