Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Someone New shows students welcoming new friends

Someone New, by Anne Sibley O’Brien, (July 2018, Charlesbridge), $16.99, ISBN: 9781580898317

Recommended for readers 4+

I’m New Here (2015) explored immigration from the points of view of three young newcomers: Maria, Jin, and Fatima. Someone New now flips the dialogue and shows us how new classmates perceive – and eventually befriend – these new kids in town. At first, Maria, Jin, and Fatima are shy, a bit withdrawn, and their classmates don’t know how to work with that. Understandable; these are kids we’re dealing with. Strong and honest statements like, “I feel uncomfortable”; “I don’t know what to do”; and “I can’t figure out to help” give kids words to put to the new feelings they may experience when meeting kids they don’t know.

Since kids are so much smarter than we are, though, they figure it out quickly: Jesse, a blonde white boy, invites Maria to play soccer with his group and discovers that she’s really good! Jason, a dark-skinned boy, can’t read what Jin writes, but smiles, prompting Jin to smile back; eventually, Jin teaches Jason how to write his name in Korean – it’s like a secret code! – and they draw comics together. Emma, a blonde white girl, draws a picture of her classmate, Fatima, and her together, giving Fatima the comfort and safety she needs to open up to Emma about her family. Each of these new children have things to share; they just needed the safety of that first effort. As Jason learns, when Jin smiles at him, “Maybe a smile is like a superpower.” The watercolor and digital illustrations stand out against the plain white space to make these characters stand out.

Someone New tells its story in brief, eloquent sentences with word balloons that allow characters to communicate in their own words. It is a book that needs to be on every shelf in every library and school. You’ll notice I recommend this book for ages 4+; I think it’s a book that all adults should be reading right now. Pick up the award-winning I’m New Here and make sure you tell these stories to anyone within earshot. Someone New has a starred review from Kirkus.

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

Graphic Novels coming your way in July

Yeah, you’ve got the summer reading lists (which, thank you teachers, have been getting better!), but you have to make time for pleasure reading, too! Check out some of the cool graphic novels coming out in July – perfect for sitting in the shade (or the sun, just wear your SPF) and enjoying the day.

Cottons: The Secret of the Wind, by Jim Pascoe/Illustrated by Heidi Arnhold, (July 2018, First Second), $19.99, ISBN: 9781250157447

Recommended for readers 10-14

Watership Down was one of those novels that changed my life when I was a kid. I first read it at about 9, after seeing the animated movie a year before, and it just blew my mind with its beautiful, yet brutal, story. I’ve returned to the book and movie several times throughout the years, and it remains one of my favorite books. Reading this first story in Jim Pascoe and Heidi Arnhold’s new graphic novel series, Cottons: The Secret of the Wind, reminds me of Watership Down, taking place in a more magical world.

We meet Bridgebelle, a rabbit working in the carrot factory by day, caring for her sick aunt by night. She’s always on the watch for the cruel foxes who prey on the rabbits

To her neighbors in the Vale of Industry, Bridgebelle is an ordinary rabbit. All day long, she toils at the carrot factory. After a hard day, she returns home to care for her ailing auntie. Bridgebelle also has a secret talent: she uses cha, the fuel that powers the rabbits’ world, to create magical artwork called thokchas. Bridgebelle must keep her magic secret, lest other rabbits in power try to use her and her power to create weapons; she also has to beware of the cruel foxes who hunt her kind.

There is a lot of storytelling here that makes the story hard to follow at times, but stick with it: it’s worth the journey. Heidi Arnhold’s beautiful artwork blends realistic animal art with fantasy and magic. Jim Pascoe sets a firm foundation to his universe here, and introduces several plots that will power readers through this new series. There is some violence – the foxes aren’t known for their mercy – so I’d recommend this one for middle grade and up. This is a nice companion to the Longburrow novels by Kieran Larwood and David Wyatt (the second book is due out in August!), for fans of animal fantasy, particularly starring rabbits.

Pop!, by Jason Carter Eaton/Illustrated by Matt Rockefeller, (July 2018, First Second), $17.99, ISBN: 9781626725034

Recommended for readers 4-8

A young boy sits, relaxed, blowing bubbles on a sunny day. His favorite part about blowing bubbles is popping them – naturally! – but one bubble has other plans! The bubble takes Dewey – yes, that’s his name – on a quest that will take him to new (literal) heights via trampoline, jungle gym, even a moon shuttle. Because, like the cover says, “Every last bubble must… POP!”

This is perfect fun for a summer read. If you’re outside, break out the bubbles and let the kiddos pop them! If you’re inside, maybe just hand some out (I worry about slippery floors, but if it’s not an issue for you, go for it). The semi-realistic art gives way to shiny flights of fancy; the bubble’s sheen seems to shine right off the page. The text is simple, easy to read, and great for newly confident readers. Kids and grownups alike will enjoy the simple joy of a little boy and his quest to pop the bubble.

Geeky F@b 5: It’s Not Rocket Science! (Geeky F@b 5 #1), by Lucy & Liz Lareau/Illustrated by Ryan Jampole, (July 2018, Papercutz), $12.99, ISBN: 978-1545801222

Recommended for readers 7-11

Papercutz has another fun, original graphic novel for intermediate readers; this time, they’re going STEM with the Geeky F@b 5: 5 girls who love science and are using their skills to make Amelia Earhart Elementary School better. Lucy, a fourth grader, and her older sister, Marina, a sixth grader, have just moved to the area and are ready to start school. Lucy, who loves the environment and animals, gels with her classmates right away: AJ, who wants to be an engineer like her dad; Sofia, a glitter girl who loves coding and making apps; and Zara, forever on her headphones, and a math whiz. Lucy gets hurt in the school’s outdated playground that first day, and the principal and nurse shut the playground down: but the girls have plans! Together with their teacher, they come up with a great idea: put together a series of fundraisers to get the money to rebuild the playground! Every one of the girls has a job to do; now, if they could just get the bullying older kids on their side, things would be perfect.

Geeky F@b is the first in a new STEM-focused graphic novel series form Papercutz; Volume 2 is due in December. The book is easy and fun to read, with a reasonable plot and goal that can empower readers to be forces for positive change in their own communities. The characters are diverse and relatable; I enjoyed spending some time with them and am pretty sure they’ll be popular reading at my library. This would pair nicely with Bob Pflugfelder and Steve Hockensmith‘s Nick and Tesla series (novels, not graphic) from Quirk, the Girls Who Code chapter book series, and the Howtoons graphic novels. Fun for summer!

Posted in Intermediate, Non-Fiction, picture books

Happy Pride! Pride: The Story of Harvey Milk and the Rainbow Flag

Pride: The Story of Harvey Milk and the Rainbow Flag, by Rob Sanders/Illustrated by Steven Salerno, (Apr. 2018, Random House), $17.99, ISBN: 9780399555312

Recommended for readers 5-8

The story of Harvey Milk, gay rights activist and the man behind the rainbow flag, gets to shine in this picture book biography. Written in short, readable sentences with quotes from Harvey Milk throughout, this is an inspirational story about a movement propelled by love. That’s it. Love, and the right to love, is at the heart of the gay rights movement, and while Harvey Milk dreamed of a world where we could all love whoever we choose, he also put that dream into action by speaking out, becoming involved in politics to help change laws, and finally, to rally the world behind a flag that is beautiful and bright and sends a message that reverberates to this day.

Pride is about the creation of the rainbow flag, and how the movement is still strong, even after Harvey Milk’s assassination. He shared his pride with the world, and gave us an icon.  In 2015, the day that the United States Supreme Court ruled in favor of gay marraige, the White House was awash in the colors of the flag, and you can find that flag in cities and countries all over the world: New York; Chicago; London; Singapore; Turkey; Russia. Biographical notes on Harvey Milk and Gilbert Baker, who actually designed the flag, timelines for both Harvey Milk’s life and the rainbow flag, and further research resources are available at the end of the book, as are photos of Harvey Milk, the Rainbow White House, and gay pride parades.

This is a strong picture book biography that speaks respectfully to readers and provides solid information on the gay rights movement, Harvey Milk’s role in it, and the origin of the iconic rainbow flag. It’s a must-have for picture book biography collections. Pride: The Story of Harvey Milk and the Rainbow Flag has a starred review from Shelf Awareness and rave reviews from School Library Journal, Out.com, Kirkus, and Gay Times magazine, among others.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Goodbye Brings Hello gets kids ready for life’s big moments!

Goodbye Brings Hello, by Dianne White/Illustrated by Daniel Wiseman, (June 2018, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt), $17.99, ISBN: 9780544798755

Recommended for readers 3-5

Goodbye Brings Hello is all about those little goodbyes we experience as kids: the favorite shirt that fit just fine over the summer is just a little snug in the winter; moving from crayons to pencils; going from Velcro to shoelaces; and the big one: going from a small pre-k to elementary school. The book comforts to kids who may be a little nervous, or stressed, about these new milestones by illustrating a valuable point: for every goodbye, there’s a new hello. For every snug shirt, there’s a new jacket waiting to grow into. Leaving crayons to the realm of coloring books means that you’re learning to write with a pencil. Those Velcro-covered toes are now rocking in a new pair of cool sneakers! And as you move from preschool or kindergarten to elementary school, you’re getting ready to meet new friends, have new experiences, and share many, many hellos.

Simple, colorful art shows children going through their “goodbyes” and “hellos”, with rhyming text leading the reader through each scenario. There are diverse faces, smiling faces, and pensive expressions, all mirroring kids’ emotions at growing up and out of the familiar. The text is encouraging and upbeat, and the digital artwork is joyful, light, almost childlike in its presentation, opening the door to invite kids to draw their own hello/goodbye. This is a great end-of-year read for graduating pre-k and kinders, and a wonderful way to welcome new students in September: a nice, new Hello.

I’m adding this to my school year collection, and will make sure to booktalk this one to the teachers when they look for books to read to their new classes in September. This would be cute, paired with Adam Rex and and Christian Robinson’s School’s First Day of School.

 

When she was five, Dianne White said goodbye to her house and her teacher, Mrs. Dunlap, and hello to a new school, and her newest favorite teacher, Mr. Loop. She has an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts and is the award-winning author of Blue on Blue. She lives in Arizona, where she writes full-time. For more information, and to download a free activity kit, visit diannewrites.com.
Twitter @diannewrites

 

Daniel Wiseman remembers saying goodbye to the training wheels on his bike, and saying a great big hello to skinned knees and elbows. But the freedom of rolling on two wheels was well worth the bumps and bruises. He still rides his (slightly larger) bike almost every day. Daniel loves to draw, and has illustrated several books for children. He lives in St. Louis, Missouri. Visit him at danieldraws.com.
Instagram @d_wiseman
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Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Happy Pride! And Tango Makes Three!

And Tango Makes Three, by Justin Richardson & Peter Parnell/Illustrated by Henry Cole, (April 2005, Simon & Schuster), $17.99, ISBN: 9780689878459

Recommended for readers 4-8

And Tango Makes Three is a classic in children’s and LGBT literature. It’s based on the true story of two penguins at the Central Park Zoo, Roy and Silo, and the little penguin they hatched together. Roy and Silo were (are?) are pair of penguins that discovered each other in 1998; they walked together; bowed to each other, swam together, even built a nest together. But no egg was forthcoming until their keeper, a nice man named Mr. Gramzay, put a fertile egg in their nest. The two penguins cared for the egg until it hatched, and Mr. Gramzay named him Tango, because “it takes two to make a Tango”. Could you squeal from the adorableness? So Tango made three; a happy little penguin family.

This sweet story about family caused an uproar you wouldn’t believe, because – GASP – two male penguins were depicted in a loving relationship AND as parents! Could you even? (It’s like… adoption never existed, amirite?) Poor little Tango and his dads made a lot of people nervous, and as a result, And Tango Makes Three has topped the 10 Most Challenged Books List between 2006 and 2010, and still gets people riled up 13 years later. That said, And Tango Makes Three also received a lot of awards, including designation as an American Library Association Notable Children’s Book (2006); the ASPCA’s Henry Bergh Award (2005); The Gustavus Myer Outstanding Book Award (2006); Nick Jr. Family Magazine’s Best Book of the Year (2006); Bank Street College’s Best Book of the Year (2006); the Cooperative Children’s Book Council choice, and Notable Social Studies Trade Book (2006); and it was a Lambda Literary Award finalist (2006). Not too shabby!

And Tango Makes Three is a story about love, family, and community. No one at the zoo gives a second thought to Roy and Silo’s relationship, and seriously, do you think kids who come to see the animals do? It’s a story of family and how, for one couple, a baby made them complete. Henry Cole captures the spirit of New York’s Central Park with his soft watercolors, and make Roy and Silo come to life with expressive facial and body expressions. If this isn’t on your shelves or in your storytimes – Father’s Day is coming! – please add it. And hug your dad(s).

Posted in Intermediate, Middle Grade, Non-fiction, Non-Fiction

Epic Fails! New series nonfiction looks at the not-so-great moments in history

The Wright Brothers: Nose-Diving into History (Epic Fails #1), by Erik Slader & Ben Thompson/Illustrated by Tim Foley, (July 2018, Roaring Brook Press), $6.99, ISBN: 978-1-250-15056-1

Recommended for readers 7-11

Say the names Orville and Wilbur Wright, and people automatically think of airplanes. They were the first self-taught engineers, after all, to achieve flight. But success didn’t come easy, and there were a lot of fails before their 12-second success. Epic Fails is a new non-fiction series for intermediate and middle grade readers that details some of history’s biggest successes – and the failures that went hand-in-hand with them.

Written with a humorous tone, readers will learn about the previous attempts made before the Wright Brothers were even born; the nosedives and crashes, and the lessons learned from each misstep that led to success. Filled with black-and-white illustrations and photos, a timeline of flight, a bibliography, and an index, this is a handy additional resource for schoolwork, and a fun read that delivers the message that it’s okay if that science project, that school paper, or that great model rocket you were building doesn’t work the first time. Or the second time. Or multiple times. It’s okay to not be perfect, because it really is part of the learning process. That’s a pretty great message to communicate to our kids, isn’t it?

Add to your STEM/STEAM reading lists, and display with the Science Comics volume on Flying Machines, and maybe some instructions for paper airplanes. Fold ‘N Fly is a searchable database of free paper airplane designs, filtered by difficulty, type, and whether or not you want to use scissors to cut them, manipulating air flow. Sweet!

Posted in Fantasy, Fiction, Middle Grade

The Tale of Angelino Brown will make you happy cry.

The Tale of Angelino Brown, by David Almond/Illustrated by Alex T. Smith, (Feb. 2108, Candlewick Press), $16.99, ISBN: 9780763695637

Recommended for readers 8-12

Bert Brown is a tired school bus driver who’s burned out on his job. When he starts feeling chest pains behind the wheel one day, he’s sure he’s having a heart attack – but no! – there’s a little angel in his pocket! The sweet little angel shows a liking for gumdrops, offered by one of the kids on the school bus who notices the little visitor, and Bert brings the angel home to his wife, Betty, who’s thrilled. They name the angel Angelino and Betty sets to work finding foods that he likes, and making clothes for him. Betty decides that Angelino needs to be in school, and since she’s the school cook, he tags along with her for a school day, where he enchants (most of) the teachers and students around him, particularly the expressive art teacher, Ms. Monteverdi. Everyone is just happier, better, when Angelino is around, but two shadowy figures are keeping an eye on Angelino. When the time is right, they kidnap him, hoping to sell him off; what even they don’t realize is Basher, a lifetime bully, is coming for Angelino, too. Can Bert, Betty, and Angelino’s schoolmates save the day?

This story just made me feel happy inside, and not in a goofy, syrupy way. Angelino appears into the lives of a married couple who’ve been going through the motions for a long time, bringing joy to them after a tragedy of their own seems to have had a hand in closing them off. Everything he touches is filled with good and happiness – he’s an angel, complete with little wings, and happy little farts (my kids do love a good fart joke) that will give readers the giggles. The baddies here aren’t completely bad – there’s some interesting character study here for all involved – and the humor takes some amusing pot-shots at the Seriousness of the Education System, which is always good for getting a laugh out of me. Angelino has no memory of who he is and indeed, must learn how to speak, read, and write, but he’s up to the challenge and even advocates for himself when the chips are down. Black and white illustrations throughout add to the fun.

This one is a win for summer reading kids who “don’t know what to reeeeaaaaaad”.  A gentle, sweet fantasy with just a hint of flatulence. The Tale of Angelino Brown has starred reviews from Kirkus and Publisher’s Weekly.