Mom Read It

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

Dance like your life depends on it: Spin the Sky March 17, 2017

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.

 

Duck and Hippo brave the rain together! March 14, 2017

Duck and Hippo In the Rainstorm, by Jonathan London/Illustrated by Andrew Joyner, (March 2017, Two Lions/Amazon), $17.99, ISBN: 978-1-5039-3723-9

Duck and Hippo are the best of friends, and want to go for a walk in the rain. But the umbrella isn’t big enough for them both! Luckily, the two friends find a solution and go off on a rainy day walk, filled with adventures, until a strong gust of wind sends one of them up in the air!

Jonathan London is best known for his Froggy series, most of which end up on my library kids’ summer reading lists every year. Booktalking Duck and Hippo will be a breeze – the author already has a tremendous fanbase. Then, we have Andrew Joyner’s brush and ink illustration, with wash and pencil, then digitally colored; which it makes me happy just looking at it. It’s classic illustration; hearkening to timeless books like Frog and Toad and Danny and the Dinosaur. colors are soothing with bright touches, like Duck’s red jacket and yellow umbrella, which matches Hippo’s yellow rain boots. The definitive outlines make each piece, each character, step off the page. Sound effects are in playful font sizes and colors, swirling along like the water in a creek or coming down with the rain.

This book is a fun read-aloud about friendship and sharing. Read and display with Frog and Toad, James Marshall’s George and Martha, or Sue Gallion’s Pug Meets Pig. Hand out a Duck and Hippo coloring sheet, courtesy of Andrew Joyner’s website – and give your bigger readers Joyner’s How to Draw Duck and Hippo instructions!

About the Author and Illustrator

Jonathan London is the author of more than one hundred children’s books, including the bestselling Froggy series, illustrated by Frank Remkiewicz. Many of his books explore nature, among them Flamingo Sunset, illustrated by Kristina Rodanas, and Little Penguin: The Emperor of Antarctica, illustrated by Julie Olson. He is currently writing a middle-grade series, which started with Desolation Canyon, illustrated by his son Sean London. Jonathan lives in Graton, California. Learn more online at www.jonathan-london.net.

Andrew Joyner is an illustrator, author, and cartoonist based in South Australia. He has illustrated a number of picture books, and he wrote and illustrated a chapter book series about a warthog named Boris. He has also illustrated for newspapers and magazines, including the Wall Street Journal, Reader’s Digest, and Rolling Stone magazine, among others. Learn more online at www.andrewjoyner.com.au.

Enter this Rafflecopter giveaway for a chance to win your own copy of Duck and Hippo in the Rainstorm!

 

Noodleheads See the Future… Is there cake? March 9, 2017

Noodleheads See the Future, by Tedd Arnold, Martha Hamilton, & Mitch Weiss/Illustrated by Tedd Arnold, (Jan. 2017, Holiday House), $15.95, ISBN: 9780823436736

Recommended for readers 6-10

Noodlehead brothers Mac and Mac return for a second round of goofy fun in Noodleheads See the Future. The empty-headed brothers (no, really, they’ll show you their hollow pasta heads) are a bit gullible, which leaves them open to pranks by their cousin, Meatball. The Noodleheads head to the woods to get firewood for their mother so she can bake them a cake; where Meatball tricks them and steals their firewood. The joke’s on Meatball, though; the Noodleheads still manage to get the job done for Mom, who bakes them a cake!

Think of the Noodleheads as a first step toward Amelia Bedelia. The brothers take everything literally, like looking up when being told, “heads up”. This is a fun graphic novel to give to emerging independent readers; the text is brief and bold, the panels show events in sequence, and the three chapters are short enough to keep a reader’s attention. Plus, the illustrator and one of the authors is Tedd Arnold, whose Fly Guy series is an Easy Reader favorite. An explanation of the myths inspiring the stories told in Noodleheads of the Future will interest kids and grownups.

This is the second Noodleheads book. The first, Noodlehead Nightmares, was released in 2016. The series is a Guided Reading level L, according to the publisher’s website, and received starred reviews from School Library Journal and Kirkus.

 

 

 

Fairy Tale Reform School’s seeing some changes in Tricked March 6, 2017

Tricked, by Jen Calonita, (March 2017, Sourcebooks Jabberwocky), $15.99, ISBN: 9781492637950

Recommended for ages 8-13

Gilly and friends return in Tricked, the third installment of Fairy Tale Reform School, but things are very, very different now. Gilly’s in school to be a cobbler, like her dad, but she really isn’t into it. Her sister, Anna, is falling in with a bad crowd: Hansel and Gretel are jerks, causing trouble all over town. They go too far with one prank that lands the three of them in – you guessed it – Fairy Tale Reform School, but the school has been through some big changes: Flora, Cinderella’s formerly wicked stepmother, is no longer headmistress; instead, the master dealmaker, Rumpelstiltskin, is in charge now, and the classes seem to encourage the kids to be more villain than hero. Gilly, Jax, and Maxine need to get back on the inside to find out what’s going on in those hallowed halls, get to the bottom of Rump’s treachery, and save Anna while Gilly’s at it: if Anna even wants to be saved.

I’ve been a Fairy Tale Reform School fan from the beginning, and Tricked is every bit as good as the first two. I love the way Jen also manages to address some of the very real things going on in the news today through FTRS, with a trickster who excels in the art of the deal (ahem) pulling the strings and making everyone in that school either blindly follow him or disappear. When things came together for me as I read, I realized how brilliant Tricked is in every respect, and I admire Jen Calonita for taking such a timely message on and communicating it to the kids who need to understand that when something doesn’t seem normal, it really isn’t.

There are strong subplots, addressing the frustration of being in a sibling’s shadow, making your own dreams happen versus living up to others’ expectations.

Tricked is all-around fun reading with big messages for young readers.

 

Percy, Dog of Destiny – What Ho! March 4, 2017

percyPercy, Dog of Destiny, by Alison McGhee,/Illustrated by Jennifer K. Mann, (March 2017, Boyds Mill Press), $16.95, ISBN: 978-1-59078-984-1

Recommended for readers 3-6

Percy is so excited for his trip to the park. After finding his special ball, he and his human head out, meeting his friends along the way. Molly, the poodle, has her ladylike kerchief; dachshund Oatmeal Raisin Cookie has her frisbee, and giant Fluffy has his bone. With a hearty “What ho!”, the friends run to the park and play. While the group acts as one: racing along the fence, digging holes, peeing on the tree, Fluffy marches to the beat of his own drummer, garnering an “Oh, Fluffy”, from Percy. After a run-in with some squirrels puts Percy’s ball at risk, Fluffy shows just what he’s made of.

I picked this advanced reader copy up at ALA Midwinter because Percy looks like my doggie, Chester. When I opened it, and saw that “What ho!” was the second sentence in the book, I knew I needed to read this. This book is laugh-out-loud hilarious and works perfectly as a read-aloud. I read this with my little guy, and we took turns shaking our heads and saying, “Ohhhhh, Fluffy”, each more dramatic than the last. Surround yourself with fun stuffed doggies and let the kids mimic Percy and his friends, and hand out dog coloring sheets to finish up a fun storytime. What ho!

Alison McGhee is an award-winning author whose book Someday will bring any parent to tears. Jennifer K. Mann is an author and illustrator; you can see more of her artwork at her site.

 

From California Girl to Cemetery Girl: Sydney MacKenzie Knocks ‘Em Dead March 3, 2017

25446348Sydney MacKenzie Knocks ‘Em Dead, by Cindy Callaghan, (March 2017, Aladdin Books), $17.99, ISBN: 978-1481465694

Recommended for readers 9-13

California almost-in crowder Sydney MacKenzie just got the worst news: her father sold his failing sporting goods retail business, and they’re moving to Buttermilk River Cove, Delaware: population 800. Her dad’s inherited the Lay to Rest cemetery, and they’ll be living in a Victorian house on the cemetery grounds. As if! Desperate to be the cool girl, Sydney tries putting on her best California Girl airs, but the Delaware kids are remarkably unimpressed – but they are impressed by her new digs. Movie-obsessed Sydney starts out making up a creepy history of the house, but quickly discovers that her house has some real history of its own, and sets out, with the help of her new friends, to investigate.

I just didn’t love this one. I’ve liked Cindy Callaghan’s Lost in…” series, which is light and fun, but that vibe didn’t translate as well for me here. Sydney comes off as a largely vapid social climber, even as the kids around her try to teach her that it’s not about what’s on the surface. An Underground Railroad subplot feels awkwardly attached to the book to give it more depth. It’s a quick, easy read that tween girls will likely check out for the fun cover and title, but for me, this one’s an additional purchase. I’d rather add another “Lost in…” set to my collection.

 

Can you escape Monsterville? March 1, 2017

monstervilleMonsterville: A Lissa Black Production, by Sarah S. Reida, (Sept. 2016, Sky Pony Press), $16.99, ISBN: 9781510707337

Recommended for readers 9-13

Jumanji meets Goosebumps in this fun and unexpectedly touching novel. Lissa Black is not happy with her family’s decision to move out of their Manhattan apartment to a house in Freeburg, Pennsylvania, inherited when her great-aunt passes away. She’s away from her friends, her school, and the conveniences of living in New York City; she’s only got the neighbor kid, Adam, who’s set on making her appreciate life outside of the city, and this weird game, Monsterville, that she found in her aunt’s basement. Just as Lissa is set on languishing in the wilds of PA, she discovers a sad, shape-shifting goblin she calls Blue, who’s escaped from Down Under. Blue’s so sad that Lissa and Adam feed him and check in on him, but when Lissa discovers he can shape-shift, she decides to make a documentary starring Blue. But an interview with the goblin uncovers secrets that put Lissa’s family at risk. When her little sister is kidnapped and taken Down Under on Halloween, Lissa and Adam have to go in after her, and the Monsterville game is their only hope of making it back.

Lissa is hard to like at first: she’s a great older sister, but largely self-centered and snobbish at the novel’s outset. As the story progresses, and the urgency not only of Blue’s situation, but her sister’s, hits home, though, Lissa rises to the occasion and grows into a strong female character that I was rooting for. I liked her supportive, loving family and I really liked the glimpse we got of her mysterious aunt. I think a Monsterville prequel is in order, to tell her story! There was great world-building Up Above and Down Below, with Adam acting as Lissa’s – and the reader’s – guide to rural life, and the Monsterville game laying out Down Below for us before we even get there. I ended up loving this book and can’t wait to booktalk this. A film glossary at the end introduces readers to film terms, most of which show up in Monsterville – Lissa is a filmmaker, after all.

Challenge your readers to make up their own version of Monsterville! What monsters would inhabit their Down Under? What would counteract the monsters and help humans escape? This could be a great summer reading group program, just saying…

Monsterville is Sarah S. Reida’s debut novel. Find teacher resources at LissaBlackProductions.com, which also links to Sarah’s author blog and appearances.