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.

 

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.

 

Two kids discover an uncommon society below modern-day London January 25, 2017

uncommonThe Uncommoners #1: The Crooked Sixpence, by Jennifer Bell, (Jan. 2017, Crown Books for Young Readers), $16.99, ISBN: 9780553498431

Recommended for ages 9-12

Ivy Sparrow and her big brother, Seb, are worried about their grandmother Sylvie when she has a fall. Their parents are away on business, and it’s just the two of them, so when they discover that Grandma Sylvie’s home has been ransacked, and a strange, toilet brush-wielding policeman tries to arrest them, they have the feeling that strange things are afoot. They manage to escape, via suitcase – no, not carrying one, IN one – to a secret, underground city called Lundinor, where seemingly everyday objects can hold fantastic powers. They’re uncommon, and so are the people with a gift for wielding them. Healing buttons, weaponized drumsticks and yo-yos, almost anything can be uncommon in Lundinor. But Ivy and Seb don’t have the luxury of time; an evil force wants something that Grandma Sylvie has, and they’re willing to do anything to get it back from them. In trying to figure out what they want, Ivy and Seb will meet new friends and discover things about Grandma Sylvie’s past that they never could have imagined.

The Uncommoners is the first in a new middle grade fantasy series by debut author Jennifer Bell. In parts, reminiscent of Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere, The Crooked Sixpence is a good beginning with worldbuilding and character creation, but was missing the spark that made this book – for me – truly unputdownable. Ms. Bell is at her best when she brings us her Lundinors: Ethel, the proprieter of a bell shop and Scratch, the bell; Violet, who trades in magical buttons, and Erebus and Cerebus, hellhounds who can be summoned with a specific bell and by yelling, “WALKIES!”, stole my heart and made me fall in love with Lundinor, much as I adore Gaiman’s London Below. The horrific selkies made for delightfully skin-crawling reading.

This is a promising start to a new fantasy series. Give this to your middle grade fans who enjoy some British wit (Roald Dahl, David Walliams) and fans who enjoy a little magic in their reality.

 

 

 

Explore The Matchstick Castle January 17, 2017

matchstickThe Matchstick Castle, by Keir Graff, (Jan. 2017, GP Putnam & Sons), $16.99, ISBN: 9781101996225

Recommended for ages 9-13

Brian is on track to having the worst summer EVER. His widowed dad has the chance of a lifetime, doing research at the South Pole. His brother is staying with a friend while his dad’s away. Brian’s being shipped off to Boring, Illinois, to stay with his Uncle Gary, Aunt Jenny, and know-it-all cousin, Nora. To add insult to injury, Uncle Gary’s developed a summer school computer program, Summer’s Cool, and is making Brian and Nora keep actual school hours to prevent the dreaded “summer slide”. Just when Brian wants to tear his hair out from boredom, he and Nora discover a house in the woods beyond Uncle Gary’s property. Cosmo van Dash, the boy who lives there, calls the house The Matchstick Castle, and he lives there with his eccentric family – explorers, writers, thinkers, dreamers – and invites Brian and Nora on adventures where they’ll explore the house to recover a lost uncle, run from wild boars and trap giant Amazon bees. A fanatically boring bureaucrat wants to tear the Matchstick Castle to put up another – well, boring – housing development, but Brian, Nora, and the van Dash family will fight to secure their castle.

This story is way too much fun. Told in the first person from Brian’s point of view, we get a narrator who is having the worst summer ever. He’s a sympathetic character: we get only enough information about his family to know that his mother has died, his father is a very permissive parent, and he’s put into a situation that threatens to squash all the fun and creativity out of his life in favor of being safe and predictable. Boring, just like the Illinois town where he’s enduring the summer. The Matchstick Castle and the family that lives there helps bring color and life back to Brian’s world and, in doing so, brings him closer to his cousin, Nora, while also giving Nora permission to let loose and have fun. Tweens will love the van Dashes. It’s a good opportunity to share fun and crazy family stories as a writing or collage exercise, too. I hope this one shows up on summer reading lists; it’s a perfect summertime read.

 

 

 

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.

animal-crackers_2

animal-crackers_3

animal-crackers_4

animal-crackers_5

 

There’s a Section 13 loose in the Lost Property Office! December 27, 2016

lost-propertyThe Lost Property Office, by James R. Hannibal, (Nov. 2016, Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers), $16.99, ISBN: 9781481467094

Recommended for ages 10-14

Thirteen year-old Jack Buckles is usually pretty great at finding things, but that doesn’t extend to his father, who’s disappeared in London. His mother goes out to search for him, leaving Jack in charge of his younger sister, Sadie. All they need to do is stay in the hotel room until their mom gets back, but Sadie manages to nudge Jack into going for breakfast – and then she swears she sees their dad, and takes off. Before Jack knows what’s going on, he’s learned that his father was a member of a secret society of detectives, and Jack is next in line for membership – maybe. He also learns that a villain calling himself the Clockmaker is holding his dad hostage in exchange for the Ember, an artifact linked to the Great Fire of London. Jack and Gwen, a young clerk at the Lost Property Office, dive into adventure that takes them through the history of London in order to save Jack’s father and her uncle, who worked with Jack’s dad.

The Lost Property Office stumbled a bit for me because I had trouble unraveling exactly what the Lost Property Office was. Was it the secret headquarters of the secret society? Was it a more amorphous concept that I wasn’t getting? The action kicks in quickly and the pace doesn’t let up, but a bit more exposition would have given me a more helpful grasp on the story; I found myself getting lost trying to relate all the subplots and elements. I wasn’t a big fan of Gwen, who I found more obnoxious than a foil/humorous frenemy.

This one’s an additional purchase for your puzzle and mystery/espionage fans. Pair this with Gitty Daneshvari’s League of Unexceptional Children, and James Ponti’s Florian Bates series. The Alex Rider series is always a good pick for adventure fans, too.

 

Block and Jam! Trish Trash: Rollergirl of Mars! December 8, 2016

trish-trash_1Trish Trash #1: Rollergirl of Mars, by Jessica Abel (Nov. 2016, Papercutz), $14.99, ISBN: 9781629916149

Recommended for ages 10+

About 200 years from now, Trish “Trash” Nupindju lives with her aunt and uncle on a Mars-based moisture farm. Mars is colonized, but settlers live and work under brutal conditions and live in abject poverty. Trish cuts school one day try out for the Novas, a hover derby team – think roller derby, but a little more off the ground – because she wants to become a star and leave this red rock already. She finds herself on the wrong side of hover diva Hanna Barbarian, but she lands a spot as team intern. Life’s starting to look up, until Trish discovers a weak and injured Martian, whom she takes in.

Rollergirl of Mars is the first in a new science fiction trilogy by Harvey Award-winning author Jessica Abel. It’s a promising beginning, but I’ve got a few questions; the biggest one being, does living on Mars age humans differently? Trish is supposed to be 7 1/2 years old, but looks and acts like a teenager. I hope this gets fleshed out in future issues. I love the idea of hover derby (I’ve mentioned being a frustrated derby girl when I’ve reviewed derby books here in the past), and the match in the first issue has energy that readers will enjoy. We’ve got a diva conflict setting up, and some family drama on the horizon, so there are quite a few elements set up here to move future narratives forward. I love the diversity reflected here, too. Give this to your Roller Girl readers who are ready for some more realistic, gritty art and storytelling, and talk this up with your teens. There’s a great Trish Trash section on Jessica Abel’s author page, too.