Posted in Adventure, Animal Fiction, Fantasy, Fiction, Fiction, Intermediate, Middle Grade

Snazzy Cat Capers introduces a new super team-up!

Snazzy Cat Capers, by Deanna Kent/Illustrated by Neil Hooson, (Sept. 2018, Imprint Reads), $13.99, ISBN: 978-1-250-14343-3

Ages 7-10

Ophelia von Hairball V is the world’s greatest cat burglar; she’s a celebrity among her peers at the FFBI (Furry Feline Burglary Institute), the bane of the Central Canine Intelligence Agency (CCIA), and the envy of her cousin and FELLOW FFBI cat burglar, Pierre. Her next challenge: steal a rare Himalayan diamond from the Belle Mew-seum in Paris for the FFBI’s Annual Purr-fect Heist Competition! There’s only one hairball: Oscar Fishgerald Gold. He’s the newest in a series of inventors the FFBI wants Ophelia to work with, but Ophelia is a one-feline show. Oscar is persistent, though, and finagles his way onto the mission. Can this cat-and-fish combo snag the diamond and win the top spot again? Will the CCIA finally catch up to Ophelia? Or will Ophelia’s scheming cousin, Pierre, outsmart Ophelia and win the diamond and the top spot for himself?

Snazzy Cat Capers is the first in a fun new intermediate/middle grade series, and it is too much fun. Ophelia von Hairball V is a fabulous diva with an eye for the good life, and even though she’s a thief, she’s not all bad: the FFBI just encourages cat burglary to keep their skills sharp; the heisted goods are always returned. Eventually. There are black and white graphic novel panels and artwork throughout the story, breaking up the narrative by communicating a chunk of story visually and giving reluctant readers a nice bridge into linear reading. Oscar is a sweet, smart sidekick who won’t give up his chance to be taken seriously – he’s kind of like James Bond’s Q. Every chapter starts off with a life quote from Ophelia that provides some wink-nudge insight into her divahood: “You can’t possibly be your best if you haven’t had a manicure. Or if you’re a dog”; “They say humility is the key. Thankfully, I can pick any lock”; “When all hope seems lost, check the last handbag you used. It might still be there”. There are a lot of laughs, some fun action and adventure, and a whodunit showdown that kids will love. The next installment is out next year, so talk this one up and get your readers on board. And show them some Kim Possible – not an animal show (except for the naked mole rat, Rufus), but still fun to watch. Booktalk and display with Jonathan Bernstein’s Bridget Wilder trilogy or Stuart Gibbs’ Spy School series.

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Posted in Adventure, Fantasy, Fiction, Fiction, Middle Grade, Tween Reads

Join NatGeo’s Explorer Academy!

Explorer Academy: The Nebula Secret, by Trudi Trueit, (Sept. 2018, National Geographic), $16.99, ISBN: 9781426331596

Ages 9-13

Twelve year-old Cruz Coronado has lived with his dad in Hawaii ever since his mom died in a work-related accident when he was little. Now that Cruz is 12, though, he’s got a big future: he’s been accepted into the prestigious Explorer Academy, which will take him to Washington, DC. The Explorer Academy is no joke: they accept only 24 kids from around the world every year; the students train to become the next generation of great explorers. But someone doesn’t want Cruz at the Academy: there’s an attempt on his life before he even leaves for the school! When he arrives at the Academy, he learns that his mother’s history is tied into his – and this could endanger his life, and the lives of his new friends. But who’s out to get Cruz?

Explorer Academy: The Nebula Secret is the first in a new NatGeo adventure series, and I loved it. It’s action-packed, fast-paced, and features a good cast of diverse, interesting characters with loads of cool tech and devices, like Mell, Cruz’s honeybee drone. There are copious tech and nature facts and information found throughout the story, with scientist and technology profiles in a “Truth Behind the Fiction” section at the end of the book. Color illustrations and maps throughout the book make this a solid hit for tweens and early teens. I’m looking forward to The Falcon’s Feather – the second book in the series – in March. Cruz is a likable hero who has a talent for code-breaking and a good relationship with his dad and his aunt, who also happens to be a professor at the Academy. Cruz’s best friend, Lani, isn’t a student at the Academy (yet), and serves as an anchor to home for Cruz. She, and Cruz’s friend and Academy roommate, Emmett, are the gadget masters here: the Q of the series, for you James Bond fans. Talk them up to your STEM/STEAM kids!

Display and booktalk with the Nick and Tesla series from Quirk; the HowToons comic series, and the Book Scavenger series by Jennifer Chambliss Berman. And talk up the Explorer Academy website! There are character profiles, book trailers, a chapter excerpt, gadget talk, and a crack the code challenge. It’s a good series to wrap a program around… just sayin’.

Posted in Adventure, Fiction, Middle Grade, Science Fiction, Tween Reads

Art takes on a new dimension in The Maker

The Maker, by D.F. Anderson, (Jan. 2018, Underdog Books), $14.95, ISBN: 9780991800346

Recommended for readers 9-13

Thirteen-year-old Nate loves to draw. It’s one of his lasting connections with his father, who’s been gone for months, with no word. His mother’s boyfriend, Ted, goes at Nate whenever he gets a chance, insulting his artwork and attacking his grades; his mother is no comfort. Things change rapidly for Nate when a group of aliens show up at his window one night, telling him that he and his father are Makers: artists with the talent to bring their drawings to life. Nate’s father hasn’t abandoned them, he’s been kidnapped, and the aliens from the planet Meer are relying on Nate to help them save his father and the other kidnapped Makers before a cruel alien race wipes them out – and then heads for Earth.

The Maker has a great concept: using living beings as 3-D printers, when you think about it. By channeling their talents, Makers can give life to their drawings to create starships, cities… the sky’s the limit. The Makers connect with an energy source, mica, to give shape to their ideas; they can collaborate on large projects, or work individually to create small, detailed pieces. Readers will get into the sci-fi adventure story and relate to Nate, a kid who’s been put down to the point where he doesn’t believe in his own talent until put to the test – and then exceeds his wildest dreams. The evil parent/boyfriend situation is addressed in a neatly wrapped-up plotline. There are warring alien races, planet-eating machines to stop, and strong relationships that sci-fi and fantasy fans will enjoy, plus some moments of humor, including an evil alien who can be tortured… by pulling on his toe. Made you smile!

Add this to collections where you have sci-fi readers. Display this with some maker titles, and have a booktalk ready when kids come over and ask why it’s there.

 

Posted in Adventure, Animal Fiction, Early Reader, Fantasy, Fiction, Fiction, Middle Grade, Tween Reads

Nocturnals for every reader!

My favorite group of nighttime dwellers, The Nocturnals, have two adventures to enjoy! Let’s see what mouthy Bismark, thoughtful Dawn, and sweet Tobin have been up to since we last met.

The Nocturnals: The Hidden Kingdom, by Tracey Hecht and Sarah Fieber/Illustrated by Kate Liebman,
(Feb. 2018, Fabled Films Press), $15.99, ISBN: 978-1944020118
Recommended for readers 8-12

The Nocturnals assemble in their fourth adventure to locate the source of a drought that’s ravaging their forest. The water is disappearing, animals are sick and possibly dying, and animals are convinced there’s an evil spell at work: tumbleweeds attack, sticks seemingly run away, and there’s no water to be found! Dawn, the fox, doesn’t believe in magic and knows there’s something afoot, and Tobin is desperate to save his friend, Cora, a sick wombat who needs water… FAST. What the friends discover is a hidden kingdom – right in front of their very eyes! Can they save the day, and the lives of their forest friends, once again?

This latest Nocturnals adventure has even more illustrations throughout, adding great resting points and visual interest for readers. I love the little touch of insect art throughout the book, directly tying into the storyline. Tobin, my favorite pangolin, gets some nice character development, and yes, fear not: there are fart jokes to be had, making for a laugh out loud reading selection. The theme of friendship continues to be the uniting thread in this series, and Hidden Kingdom also explores the frustration of being ignored and overlooked. There are minor consequences for acts that could have resulted in serious harm to others, but there is a concerted effort to emphasize positive solutions versus punitive measures; I think that’s an important discussion to have with kids. Were they happy with the outcome? What could have been done before the drought, to address the hurt feelings? Animal adventure fans will dig in and enjoy this latest chapter in the Nocturnals saga, and, as always, there are many opportunities for discussion here. Good characters, great humor, and a nonstop sense of adventure will keep kids coming back for more.

The Nocturnals: The Slithery Shakedown, by Tracey Hecht/Illustrated by Josie Yee,
(April 2018, Fabled Films Press), Paperback, $5.99, ISBN: 978-1-944020-16-3 OR Hardcover, $12.99, ISBN: 978-1-944020-17-0
Recommended for readers 5-7

The next Nocturnals Easy Reader is coming in April! I was so happy to see The Moonlight Meeting debut last year, because I always felt like younger audiences would get a kick out of these characters; particularly Bismark, the sugar glider with the larger-than-life personality! In The Slithery Shakedown, Bismark is menaced by a snake, who wants to snack on him! Thank goodness Dawn and Tobin are there to show the bully that no one messes with their friend. The Slithery Shakedown opens up the chance to talk about bullies, the importance of taking a stand, and the strength found in numbers. I’d even pair this with a reading of Kathryn Otoshi’s brilliant book, One, as part of a respect for all/anti-bullying storytime and discussion.

Josie Yee’s art makes the trio of friends adorable and soft for younger readers, and with deep colors and strong outlines to define her characters. A section about nocturnal animals and nighttime fun facts adds some nonfiction to this Level 2 reader (for grades 1 and 2). Having these books available in easy reader and novel formats also introduce the chance to have older readers and younger readers enjoy different Nocturnals stories and workshops together.

So… when do we get Nocturnals board books? Just sayin’…

Posted in Adventure, Fantasy, Fiction, Science Fiction, Teen, Young Adult/New Adult

Invictus violates the Prime Directive and it’s brilliant!

Invictus, by Ryan Graudin, (Sept. 2017, Little, Brown Books for Young Readers), $17.99, ISBN: 9780316503075

Recommended for readers 13+

I’m a big Doctor Who fan, so when I saw Ryan Graudin talking about her then-upcoming book, Invictus, at BookExpo earlier this year – and talked about Doctor Who‘s influence on the show – I knew this was going on my TBR. I was not disappointed.

Farway Gaius McCarthy is born outside of time, the son of a time-traveling Recorder (think researcher with a video camera) and a Roman gladiator from 95AD. All Far’s wanted to do is explore history, but someone’s set him up, and he fails his final time-traveling exam. He’s contacted by a shady operation with a offer he can’t refuse: he gets his own ship, puts together his own crew, and gets to travel through history to steal treasures from the past. He recruits his cousin, Imogene, as historian: the brains of the operation, putting together costumes and researching historical eras; his girlfriend, Priya, as the medic; and his friend and game fiend, Gram, as navigator. They get a cut of the payday and vacations in between missions. It’s all good – until a mission on the Titanic puts Far up against the very woman that caused him to fail his final exam. Eliot is a woman with secrets, but she needs Far, for some reason. She cajoles her way onto his crew, leading them on a mission back in time that will have huge consequences not only for Far and his crew, but for the universe.

I loved Invictus! Not only is is loaded with amazing little Doctor Who references – don’t worry, if you’re not a fan, you won’t miss out on anything – it’s a space opera with humor, adventure, and a devil-may-care hero who could have DNA from Captain Kirk and Han Solo. Far is a brash swashbuckler who hates not having all the info, but he also knows how to play his cards right. He’s got his own demons: his mother’s disappearance haunts him, as does his expulsion from the academy, and he takes the responsibility of protecting and keeping his crew safe and happy very seriously. Eliot is a colossal monkey wrench thrown into his works, and he has no choice but to stick with her and get to the bottom of things. There are wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey subplots (that’s a Doctor Who reference) and intrigue that will keep sci-fi fans turning pages. Prime Directive? (That’s a Star Trek reference.) Pfft, what’s that? That’s for academy kids.

History-hopping, time-jumping, big drama, a sense of humor, and a diverse cast of characters make Invictus such good sci-fi reading. More, please! Invictus has starred reviews from Publishers Weekly and VOYA.

Ryan Graudin is an award-winning YA author. Her Wolf by Wolf duology was a 2017 Carnegie Medal nominee and won the 2017 Sequoyah Book Award. Check out her author page for more information her books, her appearances, and sign up for her newsletter.

Posted in Adventure, Fantasy, Fiction, Fiction, Middle Grade, Tween Reads

The World’s Greatest Adventure Machine will take you on the ride of your life

The World’s Greatest Adventure Machine, by Frank L. Cole, (Aug. 20017, Delacorte Press), $16.99, ISBN: 9780399552823

Recommended for readers 9-13

Take a little bit of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, toss in elements of Jurassic Park and The Matrix, and add a dose of Inception, and you have Frank L. Cole’s newest book, The World’s Greatest Adventure Machine. Four kids with varying physiological complexities – Trevor, the daredevil; Cameron, the genius; Devin, the video game master/burgeoning Internet sensation; and Nika, shy and sheltered by her overprotective grandfather – are chosen to test out The Adventure Machine, a ground-breaking new adventure ride from CastleCorp. They set out for the ride of their lives while their guardians watch, but no one expects what happens when the ride breaks down, and they discover that they’re stuck in the middle of a plot that threatens them and their families – or are they?

The World’s Greatest Adventure Machine is a big adventure for middle graders who love twisting plots, action, and a smidgen of conflict. As the kids’ adventure progresses, they grow as individuals and as a team; Trevor and Cameron learn to be aware of the impact their actions have on others, and they all learn the importance of self-advocacy.  It’s a fun read with characters that grow on you, with lots of thrills to keep pages turning.

Posted in Adventure, History, Teen, Young Adult/New Adult

The League of American Traitors gives us a glimpse at darker American history

The League of American Traitors, by Matthew Landis, (Aug. 2017, Sky Pony Press), $16.99, ISBN: 978-1510707351

Recommended for readers 13+

Seventeen year-old Jasper is an orphan, losing both parents in under a year. His father was never much of a father to him, so when a lawyer approaches Jasper at his father’s gravesite, he ignores his offer of help: there’s no money involved, and that’s what he needs, now that he’s on his own. But when he’s attacked by unknown assailants, he learns that he’s the sole surviving descendant of Benedict Arnold: possibly the most infamous traitor in American History. Like an American Revolution-era Percy Jackson, Jasper discovers that descendants of history’s traitors belong to a group called The League of American Traitors, and that the True Sons of Liberty – a militant Sons and Daughters of the American Revolution – holds a heck of a grudge. Every time a traitor’s ancestor turns 18, they’re challenged to a duel by one of the Libertines, as the League calls them. The League kids go to a special school that teaches them the survival skills they’ll need in a duel, but Jasper’s case is special. His father was researching his ancestor, and he was onto something. Something that the Libertines will do anything to keep secret. Cyrus, his father’s lawyer and member of the League, urges Jasper to continue his father’s research; it will give all of the League families a new lease on life. Jasper has new friends that stand ready to help, but the Libertines have spies everywhere.

The League of American Traitors is a fun thrill ride through American history. A little bit Percy Jackson, mixed with some National Treasure and a dash of Hamilton, teens will enjoy this look at America, where our heroes’ hands may be a little dirtier than we imagined. The author knows how to keep a book moving, and once introductions are made, supporting characters come with their own rich backstories. This one’s a fun add to fiction collections, especially for fans of realistic intrigue and adventure with a twist.