Posted in Fiction, Intermediate, Realistic Fiction

Shai and Emmie dance their way into a new adventure!

Shai and Emmie Star in Dancy Pants!, by Quvenzhané Wallis with Nancy Ohlin/Illustrated by Sharee Miller, (Jan. 2018, Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers), $15.99, ISBN: 9781481458856

Recommended for readers 6-9

This is Academy Award-nominated actress Quvenzhané Wallis’ second outing in her Shai & Emmie series. This time, the two third graders and their friend Rio are getting ready to strut their stuff for a dance competition – but Shai’s frenemy, Gabby, decides to make things more competitive by challenging Shai to a bet: whoever’s team “wins” will bring the other a cupcake every day for a whole month. Shai’s determined to win, but Emmie and Rio don’t even know they’ve been sucked into this bet, so when Shai becomes a taskmaster about practice, things get a little interesting. Can the friends work it all out?

This is an enjoyable series for kids ready to graduate from simple chapter books and easy readers – Jasmine Toguchi readers, the Ivy and Bean audience, and Whoopi Goldberg’s Sugar Plum Fairies fans will dive right in. Shai has supportive, loving parents and a big family, with siblings and pets aplenty; there’s always something going on in Shai’s bustling world. Her group of friends are diverse, as illustrated in the black and white illustrations throughout. This is a highly readable series for newly confident chapter book readers.

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

Last Minute Shopping? No worries, find a bookstore!

I saw a piece on the news today that said today – December 23rd – is the second biggest holiday shopping day of the year.

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via GIPHY

If you still have kids and teens on your shopping list, I humbly offer a few more suggestions to make the season bright.

Brooding YA Hero: Becoming a Main Character (Almost) as Awesome as Me, by Carrie Ann DiRisio and Broody McHottiepants/Illustrated by Linnea Gear,
(Oct. 2017, Sky Pony Press), $17.99, ISBN: 9781510726666

Recommended for readers 13-17

You know him. You may have loved him. He’s the EveryBroody – that dark, brooding bad boy main character that shows up in darned near every YA novel. He’s got a deep, dark history; he has trust issues; he may be an intergalactic prince, a scoundrel smuggler, or… dare I say? a sparkly vampire. Here, we get the scoop – straight from the Broody’s mouth – on what it’s like to be a Brooding YA Hero. It’s a writing guide with a wink and a nudge to YA tropes, with some straight talk – in the form of nemesis Mean Girl Blondi DeMeani – about smashing the patriarchy and recognizing the value of diverse characters. Give this to your fanfic writer, your feminists, and anyone who loved Jennifer Mathieu’s Moxie. And if you’re not already following the @broodingYAhero account on Twitter, you are doing yourself a disservice.

 

Hey, Baby! A Collection of Pictures, Poems, and Stories from Nature’s Nursery, by Stephanie Drimmer,
(Nov. 2017, National Geographic Kids), $24.99, ISBN: 978-1426329319

Recommended for ages 4-12 and beyond

It’s an entire book of baby animal pictures. The cutest, funniest, littlest baby animals. This is a win-win for everyone! Added to the pictures are the sweetest companion folktales, stories, and poems, to make this a great gift for new moms and moms-to-be, kids who love their baby animals, and middle-aged librarians who follow accounts like @emergencykittens and @fluffsociety on Twitter. Add a copy of NatGeo’s Animal Ark, for more beautiful photos and poetry by Newbery award winner Kwame Alexander.

 

A World of Cookies for Santa, by M.E. Furman/Illustrated by Susan Gal,
(Oct. 2017, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt),$16.99, ISBN: 9780544226203

Recommended for readers 7-10

Take a tasty sleigh ride around the world and find out how children across the globe celebrate Christmas, from the different names Santa goes by (Papai Noel, Father Christmas, Christmas Baba, to name a few) to the tasty treats left out for Santa and his reindeer to enjoy on their journey. Try your hand at a multicultural Christmas with nine recipes for holiday cookies, included at the end! Pair with a copy of Clement Moore’s classic The Night Before Christmas and add a few cookies.

 

Top Elf, by Caleb Zane Huett, (Sept. 2017, Scholastic Press),
$14.99, ISBN: 978-1-338-05212-1

Recommended for readers 9-12

Santa’s ready to pass on the Big Red Suit. The call to competition goes out across the North Pole, and Ollie the Elf decides to go for it. Thing is, he’s up against Santa’s kids, a bullying elf named Buzz, Ramp, who swears he’s a kid, but looks and smells suspiciously grown-up, and even his best friend, Celia. How’s Ollie going to prove he’s the Top Elf for the job? This middle grade story is pure Christmas fun and adventure with a touch of Christmas magic. Stick this in a stocking for readers who love a good giggle, and add a couple of candy canes and some hot cocoa mix – maybe with a Minecraft or Lego mug. 

 

Ultimate Dinopedia, Second Edition, by “Dino” Don Lessem/Illustrated by Franco Tempesta,
(Oct. 2017, National Geographic Kids), $24.99, ISBN: 978-1426329050

Recommended for readers 8-13

It’s the ULTIMATE dinosaur encyclopedia! This updated edition is one of the most comprehensive dinosaur references going, with profiles on favorite dinos like the T-Rex and Velociratpr, to new finds like the Anzu, Kosmoceratops, and Yi. There are maps, comparison renderings to show kids how they stack up against different dinos, and descriptions of dino diets, geographic areas, and eras. There are over 600 dinosaurs in this volume, with profiles for 10 newly discovered dinos, and a comprehensive dino dictionary. Full-color illustrations from dinosaur artist Franco Tempesta come right off the page – look at that T-Rex on the cover! – and “Dino” Don Lessem – a world-renowned dinosaur presenter who also happened to be the dinosaur adviser for the first Jurassic Park movie – writes in a language that respects, but never speaks down, to readers. Kids love dinos. They’ll love this book. Tuck a tube of dino toys in the stocking and call it a holiday.

 

The Witch Boy, by Molly Ostertag, (Oct. 2017, Scholastic Graphix),
$12.99, ISBN: 978-1-338-08951-6

Recommended for readers 8-13

Aster is a 13-year-old, raised in a society of of supernatural beings. The girls are raised to be witches, the boys, to be shapeshifters. That’s the way it is, and anyone who falls outside those lines faces exile. Aster waits for his ability to shift to kick in, but is fascinated by magic, despite the disciplinary action and ridicule he faces. Aster befriends a non-magic neighbor named Charlotte, who goes by Charlie, who has her own frustrations with gender lines at her school; neither can figure out what the big deal is, saying, “You should just be allowed to do it!” Charlie discovers Aster’s magic abilities, and tries encouraging him to continue practicing magic; Aster will need that support when a mysterious force threatens his community; he may be the only one able to save them. A brilliant story about smashing gender expectations, The Witch Boy is a brilliant, compelling story about finding one’s place and speaks volumes to every kid out there who feels, at some point, like she or he doesn’t fit in. Molly Ostertag is the writer/artist on Shattered Warrior and the webcomic Strong Female Protagonist. The Witch Boy has starred reviews from Kirkus and School Library Journal, and Fox Animation has feature film rights. Bundle this one up with Victoria Jamieson’s All’s Faire in Middle School.

 

Bet You Didn’t Know!, by National Geographic Kids, (Aug. 2017, National Geographic Kids),
$19.99, ISBN: 978-1426328374

Recommended for readers 8-13

Kids love fact books; when they’re accompanied by amazing photos and include facts like, “A storm on Neptune was a wide as THE ENTIRE EARTH”, “Chewing gum can make your heart beat faster”, or “The Bahamas once had an undersea post office”, this becomes GOLD. Pair this one with NatGeo’s Weird But True Christmas, and you’re set.

 

The World of the Bible: Biblical Stories and the Archaeology Behind Them, by Jill Rubalcaba,
(Nov. 2017, National Geographic Kids), $14.99, ISBN: 978-1426328817

Recommended for readers 9-13

More than a book of Bible stories, The World of the Bible is a great reference for budding history buffs and archaeologists, going deeper into the text to study the time periods and geographic locations where these stories took place, to learn more about human history. Stories like Moses and the Ten Commandments and the Garden of Eden get a closer look, accompanied by classic paintings, photos, and illustrations of the lands where the events in the Bible took shape. Give to your budding young Indiana Jones or Lara Croft.

 

1,000 Facts About the White House, by Sarah Wassner Flynn, (Sept. 2017, National Geographic Kids),
$14.99, ISBN: 978-1-4263-2873-2

Recommended for readers 8-13

Wild and crazy facts about the most famous house in America: The White House. Learn about White House ghosts, events like the Easter Egg Roll, and presidential pets. Check out photos of the interiors and exteriors of the White House and grounds, and view some of the history-making moments that took place there. Learn about the different people who live and work there, those who keep it safe, and those who built it. There are groups of fun lists, like 25 Rooms That Rock, and there are loads of cutouts and info bits throughout. It’s a fun reference on American History for history fans. Pair with a copy of Weird But True! US Presidents and you’re set.

Posted in Graphic Novels, Non-Fiction, Teen, Young Adult/New Adult

Spinning: a memoir of skating and self

Spinning, by Tillie Walden, (Sept. 2017, :01First Second), $17.99, ISBN: 9781626729407

Recommended for readers 12+

Cartoonist and illustrator Tillie Walden’s graphic memoir looks at her childhood and adolescence as a competitive figure skater and her journey out of the closet. Spinning is Walden’s chance to look back at skating (a key part of her identity for over a decade), bullying, first love, sexual abuse, depression, coming out, and the stress of outgrowing a passion.

Sensitive but visceral, Tillie quietly tells her story. The rigor of her skating routine, the loneliness of practice and traveling without her parents and the stress of competition. She talks about her first love, and the pain of enforced separation. It’s a coming of age story that teenagers will embrace. Tillie speaks plainly, but with powerful emotion underneath the surface. I felt her crushing depression and anxiety as I continued throughout the book; told in two-color artwork, Tillie’s often in the shadows or drawn solitary, alone, speaking volumes to the reader.

Spinning is brilliant and beautiful.  If you’ve ever competed in a sport, played an instrument, or felt alone, Tillie Walden understands you. A strong addition to graphic novel and memoir collections.

Tillie Walden is an Ignatz award winner. You can find her webcomic, On a Sunbeam, online and more of her comics at her website. Spinning has received a starred review from Booklist and mentioned in Entertainment Weekly’s LGBTQ YA Book List for 2017.

Posted in Fantasy, Fiction, Middle Grade, Tween Reads

A Dash of Dragon introduces readers to monster cuisine

A Dash of Dragon, by Heidi Lang, Kati Bartkowski, (July 2017, Aladdin), $17.99, ISBN: 9781481477932

Recommended for readers 9-13

Lailu Loganberry is a 13 year-old master chef, newly graduated from the Academy. Her mentor, Sullivan Slipshod, used to be one of the greats, and Lailu won’t listen to anyone who has a bad thing to say about him – including her best friend, Hannah. But Master Slipshod has accepted a loan from Mr. Boss, an unscrupulous loan shark, whose terms are dire: if they don’t pay back the loan in time, they not only forfeit the restaurant, but they are stuck working for Mr. Boss for the rest of their lives. Lailu’s determined to beat the odds, cook the perfect monster cuisine – which she has to hunt AND prepare – for her customers, protect Hannah from the Elven mafia that’s out to get her, AND navigate the delicate balance she’s found herself walking between Mr. Boss and Elister, the king’s assassin. She also has to join forces with Greg, her obnoxious fellow Academy graduate and rival restaurateur.

A Dash of Dragon is a fun, fantasy middle grade read. Lailu is a strong, smart heroine who keeps her wits about her when everyone else seems to be losing theirs. There’s some mystery, some humor, lots of adventure, and there’s monster cuisine. I love that the Academy trains chefs to hunt their exotic prey – krakens, dragons, and batyrdactyls all make an appearance in the novel – in addition to preparing the cuisine; it adds a nice touch of adventure to the fantasy and fun. Hannah is Lailu’s foil; she’s flighty and seemingly skin-deep compared to Lailu’s determination and focus, but the two have a strong bond that keeps them there for one another. There’s intrigue, double-dealing, and the age-old magic vs. science conflict is alive and well thanks to a rivalry between elves and scientists. The characters are well thought-out and the pace of the book will keep readers turning pages. There’s a somewhat Asian influence in the overall storyline, with references to cookery gods, altars, and dragon cuisine, but Lailu and her friends are not specifically described as such.

 

A fun and different fantasy selection to add to your collections.

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

Dance like your life depends on it: Spin the Sky

Spin the Sky, by Jill MacKenzie, (Nov. 2016, Sky Pony Press), $17.99, ISBN: 978-1510706866

Recommended for readers 14+

Eighteen year-old Magnolia Woodson and her older sister, Rose, have to live with the sins of their drug addict mother, who abandoned them after a tragedy a year before. Living in a small clamming town in Oregon, everyone knows who they are and what happened; the only folks who seem to think differently are Magnolia’s childhood best friend, George, and his mother, who’s taken care of the girls whenever their mother fell short. To change the way the town sees Magnolia and her sister, she decides she need to win the reality dance show, Live to Dance. She and George head to Portland to audition, but they make it! Now the real work begins: will the competition be too much for Mags? Will her friendship with George survive the stress of the show, and will she be able to live in the fishbowl that is reality television, especially with a secret she doesn’t want made public?

Spin the Sky has a strong premise that isn’t afraid to tackle some hot-button topics like drug addiction, sexuality, abortion, and miscarriage. Some of your more conservative readers may shy away from this one; steer them toward books like Sophie Flack’s Bunheads, Lorri Hewett’s Dancer, or Sarah Rubin’s Someday Dancer. Magnolia is a tough character to crack: she’s consumed with what other people think of her, and obsesses over winning the competition, seemingly just so that the town will accept her and her sister. She has a complicated love-hate relationship with her mother (understandably), and she has an unrequited crush on George, who she thinks is gay – and is really upset when it seems that isn’t the case. The other contestants all have their own issues that the author briefly touches on throughout the novel.

If you have readers who love reading about dance and are interested in reality television, Spin the Sky is a good backup for your shelves.

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

Star Scouts gets the merit badge for fun reading!

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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Posted in Fantasy, Fiction, Graphic Novels, Middle Grade, Tween Reads

The Time Museum has something for everyone – no matter what time you’re from!

time-museum_1The Time Museum, by Matthew Loux, (Feb. 2017, First Second), $14.99, ISBN: 9781596438491

Recommended for ages 8-12

Delia’s the class bookworm, the class nerd… you get the idea. When school’s out for the summer, all her brother wants to do is go swimming, but Delia has found something much more exciting: the possibility of an internship at The Time Museum, courtesy of her Uncle Lyndon! The Time Museum is kind of like the Natural History Museum, but on an Earth-wide basis. All time eras are welcome, as Delia learns when she meets some of the kids she’s competing against for the internship: Michiko, a Japanese girl from 2217; Titus Valerius Marianus, from Ancient Rome; Dex, who’s a Neanderthal, thank you very much, not a caveman; Reggie, a 51st century Canadian boy genius, and Greer, a prickly Scottish girl who’s already been time traveling. As they train for the internship, they must also go through time trials – going back – or forward – in time to find and collect anachronisms. They’ll also learn that working as a team is much harder, but more beneficial, than going it alone.

The Time Museum is a fun middle grade romp for every kid that wants to live Night at the Museum or catches every episode of The Librarians. Whether Delia and her friends are running away from dinosaurs or discovering a robot playing strip poker, there’s something here for everyone to laugh at. There’s a positive message about healthy competition and teamwork going hand in hand, there’s a giant, talking brain, and a super-cool android librarian that uses android cats to fetch books. If I had a library like that, I’d never leave; I’d just hang out at my reference desk, covered in robot kittens.

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The Time Museum is a lot of fun, and maybe it’ll turn even reluctant readers into readers who see the fun in history. Add to your graphic novel shelves, and talk this one up with some good, tried and true Geronimo Stilton, our favorite time-traveling journalist mouse. Get out your Time Warp Trio series to create a fun display for everyone.

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