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

Makers… Get Tinkering!

Forgive the stretch between updates, all; I’m home this week, with my little guy, who’s on Midwinter Recess. He’s currently got a Lego stronghold of army men fighting across two rooms, so I used the break to get some writing in.

Did you know that this week is National Engineers Week? It is, and with many of us facing looming Science Fair deadlines, I’ve got a book for you. NatGeo, lifesaving publisher of all the things my own kids and library kids have needed for reports and projects, now has a book called Make This! Building, Thinking, and Tinkering Projects for the Amazing Maker in You

Make This! Building, Thinking, and Tinkering Projects for the Amazing Maker in You,
by Ella Schwartz/Photos by Matthew Rakola,
(Feb. 2019, National Geographic Kids), $16.99, ISBN: 9781426333248
Ages 8-12

This is a perfect book to start off a basic maker program, or a book to add to an already robust program. Most of the materials needed are already in your home: I did three projects today with my first grader! (Pencil Pusher, Silly Noisemaker, and Kazoo, if you’re curious.) The basics of tinkering are here; you can take all of these projects to different levels with questions about the process of making and considering results (we talked briefly about the scientific method as we made predictions about using pencils as wheels, for instance, to propel a pile of books across a table).

Projects are broken down into 8 areas: Simple Machines; Materials; Systes; Optics; Energy; Acoustics; Forces; and Motion. Each area has a spread explaining the concept, followed by several projects further exploring each area. There are questions to consider, fast facts, a list of materials, and a step-by-step of what to do to complete your project. Each project also has a difficulty level and maximum number of people to work on each project.

A foreword explains the nature of making, and sections on makers and makerspaces assure every kid that there is no “maker profile”: you make something, you’re a maker! There are some handy suggestions on materials to keep handy if you want making to be a regular activity in your home, library, or classroom, and there are some spreads dedicated on using the book and starting with a toy challenge. Safety is always paramount, so there’s cautionary messages about having an adult nearby to help out; really, we’re just window dressing, though: kids can easily make these great projects. Afterwords have some info on more complex, advanced making (3-d printers and robotics), and introduce readers to real-life makers: scientists, conservationists, and photographers are makers, too!

This one is yet another win for my Science Projects section and a guaranteed “program in a book” add to my STEM shelf.

Advertisements
Posted in Fantasy, Fiction, Middle Grade, Science Fiction, Steampunk, Tween Reads

The Adventure Begins with Cogheart – plus, a giveaway!

Can you believe the buzz on this book? Could this finally be the book that gets the kids in my library asking me for steampunk recommendations?

Cogheart, by Peter Bunzl/Illustrated by Becca Stadtlander (Cover design by Kath Millichope),
(Feb. 2019, Jolly Fish Press), $12.99, ISBN: 9781631632877
Ages 8-12

 

Cogheart has been the topic of almost every book roundup email I’ve been getting over the last few weeks, and it sounds like there’s a bunch of good reasons. Originally published in the UK in 2016, the book has been winning a slew of awards, including the Awesome Book Award (2018) and Waterstones Children’s Book of the Month (2016). This is one instance where I’m crowing about the book but haven’t read it yet, but as a steampunk fan, I’m excited. Here’s a peek at the plot, straight from author Peter Bunzl’s website:

“Lily’s life is in mortal peril. Her father is missing and now silver-eyed men stalk her through the shadows. What could they want from her?

With her friends – Robert, the clockmaker’s son, and Malkin, her mechanical fox – Lily is plunged into a murky and menacing world. Too soon Lily realizes that those she holds dear may be the very ones to break her heart…

Murder, mayhem and mystery meet in this gripping Victorian steampunk adventure story, featuring two friends, murder and mayhem, airships and automata, and an over-opinionated mechanical fox!”

So we have automatons, airships, clockwork, and Victorian England. The gears of my steampunk heart are chugging with joy! I’ve also done a bit of digging and discovered that Cogheart is the first in a trilogy, so, yay!! Author Peter Bunzl and Jolly Fish have made this a book club gold pick by coming up with free, downloadable activities and discussion prompts, and Cogheart Puppets. Check them out, print them out, and get kids talking.

And just maybe, my kids won’t wonder what the heck is fascinator is anymore, or why I wear one.

 

Want a shot at winning your own copy of Cogheart? Check out this Rafflecopter giveaway!

 

Peter Bunzl grew up in London and lives there with his partner Michael. He is a BAFTA-award-winning animator, as well as a writer and filmmaker. To learn more, visit his website, peterbunzl.com.

Twitter: @peterbunzl

Instagram: @peter_bunzl

Praise for COGHEART:

“With great style and panache, the novel deftly winds through the intricacies of friendship and moral choice while maintaining a fun edge.” —Publishers Weekly

“An exciting, fast-paced adventure.”  —Booklist

“Introduces dastardly villains, friendly mechanicals, and thrilling airship action. . . . with hair-raising and cinematic charm.” —Kirkus Reviews

Download activities and see the book trailer at jollyfishpress.com/cogheart!

 

Posted in Fiction, Fiction, Middle Grade, Middle School, Realistic Fiction, Teen, Tween Reads

March graphic novels look at the power of relationships

The Breakaways, by Cathy G. Johnson, (March 2018, First Second), $12.99, ISBN: 9781626723573

Ages 8-12

This Bad News Bears of Soccer story stars Faith, a child of color who joins her school team at the urging of Amanda, one of the school’s popular girls. Thinking it’s a great way to make new friends, Faith signs up, only to discover that there are different soccer teams, and she’s been put on the Bloodhounds, which is made of up the lousiest players in the school. They may be horrible at soccer, but the group gradually comes together to form a tight friendship unit, and that’s the heart of the story.

There’s a fantastic diversity among the group. There are queer characters, including one who’s transitioning, and characters of color. The storyline is moved forward by each character’s quest for identity and acceptance within their families and the group, making for some deeply heartfelt moments. It’s a book about friendship, self-awareness, and acceptance, set in a middle school – often a battleground for kids who want to stand out without being “different”.

This one’s a must-add to your shelves. Talk this one up to your Lumberjanes fans.

The Mary Sue has a great write-up and preview of The Breakaways, and you can visit author/illustrator Cathy G. Johnson’s website for more info.

Kiss Number 8, by Colleen AF Venable/Illustrated by Ellen T. Crenshaw, (March 2018, First Second), $17.99, ISBN: 9781596437098

Ages 12+

Mads is a Catholic school teen who whose dad is her best friend. They go to minor league baseball games together, watch TV shows together, and generally just hang out together. It rocks her world when she discovers that her dad is hiding a secret, and it couldn’t have come at a harder time: Mads is also discovering that she may be attracted to her friend, Cat.

Kiss Number 8 looks at a sexual awakening within a close Catholic family. Mads tries out different kisses with different guys, trying to feel something, because her wilder friend, Cat – the archetypal Catholic school bad girl – encourages it, and it’s because what Mads feels like she’s supposed to do. While she torments herself over what she thinks her father’s hiding, she and Cat fall out, and the rumor mill goes wild, leading Mads to admit to her feelings and attractions to herself, and to Cat. Once Mads accepts herself, she has to deal with her father’s secret, his reaction to her emerging identity, and his overall mindset; luckily, she has support from a place she never dreamed of.

I really enjoyed Kiss Number 8. The characters are real, and Mads’ struggle with her own identity and sexuality works seamlessly with the family secret, revealed in all of its emotional pain. Mads has to come to realizations about herself, her relationships, and her own father, in order to move forward, but she’s a smart heroine that navigates these challenges to come out on top. Kiss Number is an exploration of teen sexuality, families, and relationships. A necessary book for your collections.

Colleen AF Venable and Ellen T. Crenshaw‘s websites both offer some sneak peeks at Kiss Number 8 and their additional work.

Posted in Graphic Novels, Realistic Fiction, Teen, Young Adult/New Adult

February Graphic Novels bring big feelings

PTSD, by Guillaume Singelin, (Feb. 2019, First Second), $24.99, ISBN: 9781626723184

Ages 16+

A veteran home from an unpopular war, Jun is an outsider whose fate is similar to many of our own vets in the here and now. She’s mentally and physically broken, finding relief in the drugs she’s addicted to. When she connects with a single mom running a food booth, and a fellow vet and his dog, Red, Jun begins to heal and works toward helping her fellow vets heal.

Set in a fictional, Hong Kong-inspired city, PTSD chooses a gritty, urban futuristic landscape to tell the story of a veteran who went off to fight a war, and came home to indifference. Jun gives us a chance to glimpse into a vet’s psyche: beaten down, haunted by her memories, and physically broken, she’s been left behind by the people she thought she went off to defend. She’s angry, she’s in pain, and the only thing that seems to take the edge off is drugs. Basic human kindness angers her – she initially rebuffs the woman who runs a food stand, because she’s so unused to humane gestures. Readers will see our vets reflected in Jun and her fellow homeless vets.

The story is strong, although I struggled with the artwork. The manga-inspired artwork is dark and often muddy. It’s atmospheric, but often left me struggling to figure out what was going on and where. Manga fans will snap this up, and booktalk this with books like Elizabeth Partridge’s National Book Award nominee, Boots on the Ground. This is a young adult and up-level graphic novel with language and content that may be too rough for middle grade readers.

Bloom, by Kevin Panetta/Illustrated by Savanna Ganucheau, (Feb. 2019, First Second), $24.99, ISBN: 9781250196910
Ages 13+

This YA/New Adult graphic novel is a gentle love story. High school is over, and Ari can’t wait to move out of his hometown. He and his bandmates are planning on a big move to the city, where they can get more gigs and make their names – now, all Ari needs to do, is convince his dad to let him quit his job at the family bakery. At the same time, Hector comes to town to wrap up his deceased grandmother’s affairs and sell her house. He loves to bake as much as Ari is sick of it, and he ends up being the perfect replacement for the struggling bakery: even Ari’s dad loves Hector! But as Ari works side by side with Hector, getting him up to speed on the bakery, the two fall in love… until disaster hits, in more ways than one. Can Ari’s family recover when their business and home burns to the ground, and can Hector and Ari ever work out their relationship?

Created with soft blue and white artwork, Bloom is a sweet story of first love, identity, and independence. Ari can come off as pretty whiny, but his friends are even worse. Hector is the strong, silent type that pulls Ari out of himself and helps him discover who he is – and that he doesn’t need his friends in order to give him an identity. Bloom also explores consequences: Ari has to make big choices in this book, and not every choice is going to be the best one for him. It’s part of growing up, and growing up can be painful. It’s how you work through it that matters. Bloom is a good add to your YA/New Adult graphic novel collections and a love story that will give readers the warm fuzzies.
Posted in Animal Fiction, picture books, Preschool Reads

Get down with Bear Moves!

Bear Moves, by Ben Bailey Smith/Illustrated by Sav Akyüz, (Oct. 2018, Candlewick), $15.99, ISBN: 9780763698317

Ages 3-7

This companion to I Am Bear (2016) gets kids up and dancing along with our favorite big, purple bear. Bear has some moves to tell you about, and this rhyming story has a beat that invites you to slip right into a rap/read. Bear – at first appearing in a white skinny tank and tidy whities – is here to dance. His squirrel and bunny assistants don’t seem too excited about the situation, but Bear won’t be denied. Hit the music and watch him bust a move; whether he’s Furry Breaking, holding a stance, doing the Running Bear, or the Robot. He finds a lady partner to tear up the floor with, but before too long, Bear is tuckered out, to the chagrin of his lady.

Big, bold colors and thick black lines make this an instant eye catcher, and the infectious rhyme makes this a storytime must. I just read this at a Saturday storytime, and the kids shrieked and giggled. You can’t sit still reading this book! Get the kiddos up and dancing; show them how to do a robot, and get them to pose in their best stance. Hilarious moments abound, including a quick snack break that takes Squirrel by surprise, and a trio of shaking booties twisting to the beat. This book is a workout and a storytime hit in one volume. An irresistible add to storytime and picture book collections.

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

Maker Comics: DIY your life!

First Second has a new line of nonfiction graphic novels debuting in February: Maker Comics is a perfect DIY companion to their Science Comics series, adding a more hands-on component to the science behind everyday things. The first two titles to hit shelves are Bake Like a Pro! and Fix a Car! With the tag line, “Who Can? You Can!”, these books are ready to take readers step-by-step into the world of making and hands-on STEAM.

Maker Comics: Bake Like a Pro!, by Falynn Koch, (Feb. 2019, First Second), $12.99, ISBN: 9781250150066

Ages 10-14

Written and illustrated by Science Comics alum Falynn Koch, Bake Like a Pro! follows a young wizard in training, Sage, as she’s apprenticed to baking master mage Korian. Sage is not thrilled with this turn of events, because she thinks baking is boring. Where’s the pyromancy? Where’s the transfiguration? But what Sage doesn’t realize yet is that baking is a magic and science all its own: it’s a delicious form of alchemy! Korian and a group of enchanted ingredients teach Sage all about the science behind baking: how to combine different proteins, fats, and liquids to craft incredible pies, cookies, breads, cookies, dough, and more.

At once a science lesson, a fantasy tale, and a recipe book for new bakers, Bake Like a Pro! is perfect for middle schoolers and upper elementary readers who are ready to take on some next-level making. There are step-by-step explanations of how ingredients come together – and what happens when ingredients go wrong (always sift the flour!), plus an illustrated walk-through for 8 different recipes, including chocolate chip cookies, cheesy biscuits, pizza dough, and sponge cake with buttercream frosting. At the end of the story, Sage proudly serves up her delicious treats to her fellow novice mages, proudly proclaiming, “Every step in baking is magic!”

Like Science Comics, there’s a quick reference at the end that puts all the major info in one place. Here, we get some helpful reminders on the six baking methods, effects of ingredients and conversion tables, bread techniques, and continued reading (including one of my favorites, I’m Just Here for the Food, by Alton Brown).

Maker Comics: Fix a Car!, by Chris Schweizer, (Feb. 2019, First Second), $12.99, ISBN: 9781250150042

Ages 10-14

Next up is Fix a Car! by Crogan’s Adventures and The Creeps author and illustrator Chris Schweizer. A group of tweens and teens meet up when they join Car Club, overseen by auto whiz Ms. Gritt. Lena, Mason, and Abner are teens with their own wheels, and twin siblings Rocky and Esther are seventh graders who  love cards and want to learn all they need to know so they can be ready when they are old enough to drive. They’re different kids with different lives and circumstances, but the one thing they have in common is a love for automobiles, and Ms. Gritt is happy to show them all they need to know.

The story smoothly moves between each character’s life outside of car club, building a relationship between characters and readers and giving kids background that they can relate to, from a stressed out teen determined to excel in all the things, to the kids working through grief over a parent. Car Club gives them all a landing place, a place to belong, and place to come together and get their hands dirty.

Fix a Car! is incredible in its detail: Ms. Gritt teaches her group how to check the oil and how often to check it; how to check the pressure in their tires, and how to change a tire; how to investigate a squeaky noise. Full-color diagrams introduce readers to the complex systems and inner workings of autos, and safety is paramount, with Ms. Gritt providing smart advice on how to be safe while changing a tire including how to locate a spare tire in your car and the difference between spare tires and donuts (not of the Dunkin’ variety). There are instructions on 10 different parts of auto care, including creating a portable tool kit, changing the oil, replacing a drive belt or pulley, and washing and detailing a car (bonus: adding a racing stripe). There’s a wealth of resources at the end of the book, including an author’s note on how Chris Schweizer learned to take care of his car and some further reading.

Because of the hands-on subject matter, I’d definitely include Maker Comics in my middle school collections, but the reading level works for middle grade as well. With adult supervision, I’m all for teaching younger kids to bake and learn their way around a car, so I’d consider it for either collection in a public library – many of the middle schoolers in my library go between Juvenile and YA collections – and a solid choice for middle school libraries. Create a solid graphic novel nonfiction section, and the kids will love you for it.

Posted in Humor, picture books, Preschool Reads

Whatever you do, DON’T give the puffin a muffin!

If You Give the Puffin a Muffin, by Timothy Young, (Sept. 2018, Schiffer Publishing), $16.99, ISBN: 9780764355523

Ages 4-7

If you enjoyed Timothy Young’s The Angry Little Puffin (2014), you’re going to laugh out loud at this sequel, which takes aim at some of our favorite kids’ books. With text that starts like another popular series out there – “If you give the puffin a muffin…”, the book is a vehicle for the Puffin’s dilemma. He doesn’t want a muffin; he doesn’t eat muffins; and he certainly hasn’t agreed to be the star of another book! He turns to another familiar character in the Timothy Young universe for some advice: the boy who starred in I Hate Picture Books, and Do Not Open This Box!, who suggests a magic crayon. We get laugh-out-loud visual jokes, including some suspiciously familiar children’s book icons, including penguins dressed as mice, pigs, and moose; crayons that run away; a magic door opening into a forest, where a surprised little girl drops her red crayon, and a mysterious little boy peeking out of a purple-shaded door that seems to have come from… well, nowhere. Timothy Young turns the joke on himself as the Puffin meets his author, and gives him a piece of his mind. And a muffin.

If You Give the Puffin a Muffin is funny, witty, and just plain smart.  The visual jokes make the book, and the curmudgeonly Puffin is too much fun to read and follow. The endpapers – naturally, all different types of muffins – let readers in on the joke early on. This one’s a good storytime book, and offers a fun chance to have readers spot characters and moments they recognize from other books. A fun add!