Mom Read It

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

Little Blue Chair: the power of sharing, the power of home March 9, 2017

Little Blue Chair, by Cary Fagan/Illustrated by Madeline Kloepper, (Jan. 2017, Tundra Books), $16.99, ISBN: 978-1-77049-755-9

Recommended for readers 3-7

A little boy outgrows his favorite blue chair, so his mother puts it on the curb with a sign reading, “Please take me”. From there, Little Blue Chair follows the chair as it’s passed from hand to hand: it’s used as a replacement seat on a plant stand; a ferris wheel; a bird feeder; a throne, and a chair for elephant rides. It travels to amusement parks, houseboats, and beaches, ultimately coming full-circle as it arrives back where it began. It’s a sweet story about a favorite belonging – it could easily be a toy, as in Kate DiCamillo’s The Mysterious Journey of Edward Tulane – and the power of home, but it’s also a story about the permanence of objects. The chair is never thrown in the trash; it’s used again and again, serving different purposes for different people, all of whom love the chair while they have it. It’s a journey home.

Madeline Kloepper’s ink and pencil illustrations, finished digitally, a soft and gentle, calming to the reader. The palette of opaque greens, reds, dark yellows, and gray-blues gives the story almost dreamlike feel; a child’s imagination realized, from one boy using the chair as a tent, to another using it as a throne, his stuffed toys as subjects. Everything in this world has a story; everything has a value. Read this with your little ones and talk about the stories their toys hold. If you’re in a school, talk about the desks: what stories could they tell?

courtesy of Madeline Kloepper’s website

I’d love to pair this with Mirielle Messier’s The Branch and compare the two stories. They’re both books about reusing and repurposing; one, a child’s chair; the other, a branch from a favorite tree.

Cary Fagan is an award-winning children’s author. See more of Madeline Kloepper’s illustration at her website.

 

Narwhal & Jelly: Besties under the sea! February 28, 2017

narwhalNarwhal: Unicorn of the Sea, by Ben Clanton, (Dec. 2016, Tundra Books), $7.99, ISBN: 9781101918715

Recommended for ages 5-8

Narwhal is a happy-go-lucky narwhal is a wild imagination. Jelly is… not. That’s okay by Narwhal, they both bond over a mutual love of waffles, parties, and having adventures! Together, the two friends recruit other sea friends into their own little group and read the best book ever – so what if it doesn’t have words or pictures? They have imagination!

This hybrid intermediate novel/graphic novel is perfect for beginning readers (psst… and grown-ups) who love silly jokes, adorable art, and fun. Kids will enjoy this Odd Couple under the sea, and learn that friends don’t have to enjoy all of the same things to get along. The art is squeal-worthy adorable, and the dialogue between the two friends is light and fun. Narwhal: Unicorn of the Sea has hit it big with readers, too: the book has received multiple awards and praise, including a starred Kirkus review, designation as the Best of the Year in 2016 by both Amazon and Kirkus, and was put on the Texas 2×2 Reading List.

 

If you lovsupernarwhaled Narwhal’s first book, get ready: Super Narwhal and Jelly Jolt (May 2017, Tundra, $12.99, ISBN: 9781101919194) is coming in May! In their second outing, the two best friends become super heroes – now, if they could just figure out what their powers are… As with the first book, Super Narwhal and Jelly Jolt features three short stories connected by the overall plot thread: in this case, being a superhero and a friend. Friendship, imagination, and self-esteem are enduring themes.

Ben Clanton has some fun extras available online. His website links to his Instagram, if you want to see even more of his art as he posts it; the site hosts his blog, which spotlights even more of his artwork, including this awesome “Jellin'” piece:

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There’s also a Narwhal and Jelly site, with comics, printables, jokes, and early art mock-ups. This is a super-fun set to add to your graphic novels and intermediate books, and you can display with the veritable plethora of narwhal-related books coming out, like Jessie Sima’s Not Quite Narwhal and Wendell the Narwhal by Emily Dove. Make a display and feature some non-fiction narwhal and jellyfish-related books, or get a whole sea life shelf up, featuring fiction and nonfiction for some related reads.

 

A rabbit mother and child find The Way Home in the Night February 26, 2017

the_way_home_in_the_nightThe Way Home in the Night, by Akiko Miyakoshi, (Apr. 2017, Kids Can Press), $16.95, ISBN: 9781771386630

Recommended for ages 4-7

A mother bunny carries her little bunny home at night. Narrated in the first person by the young bunny, readers see what he sees from the its vantage point in bunny’s mother’s arms. Shops are closing; phones ring; bunny smells a pie. Neighbors have parties, watch television, and say goodbye, all visible through their open windows. As the father bunny tucks the little one into bed, little bunny wonders about all the neighbors: are the party guests saying goodnight? Is the restaurant cook taking a bath, and is the bookseller reading on the couch?

Children love being out at night. It’s a magical thing; everything looks different. The bunny’s descriptions of the sights, sounds, and smells of night time, carried in mother’s arms, will appeal to readers who have had the same experience. The story also provides an opportunity for interactivity – ask kids to think of a time they, like the bunny, were carried home, and what they remember. Take your own kids outside at night for a walk down the street – what do you see together?

Akiko Miyakoshi’s black and white pencil, charcoal, and acrylic gouache artwork adds gently placed color for emphasis, and the hazy look to the artwork makes the story almost dreamlike; like the young bunny’s sleepy memory. Invite kids to draw their neighborhood at night – what are the neighbors doing? Do they hear cars, people talking, a train rumbling by, a dog bark, or silence?

The Way Home in the Night received a starred review from Publisher’s Weekly. The original Japanese release received a 2016 Bologna Ragazzi Award. Miyakoshi’s first picture book, The Storm (2016), won the Nissan Children’s Storybook and Picture Book Grand Prix.

 

What is it that Lou can’t do? February 10, 2017

louThe Thing Lou Couldn’t Do, by Ashley Spires, (May 2017, Kids Can Press), $17.95, ISBN: 9781771387279

Recommended for ages 3-7

Lou and her friends are adventurers! They run faster than airplanes, build mighty fortresses, and rescue wild animals. One day, though, Lou’s friends decide to make a nearby tree the location of their pirate ship, and Lou balks. She’s never climbed a tree before. She likes her adventures to be down, on the ground. Her friends scurry up the tree, but Lou’s not going. What will it take for Lou to get up that tree?

Kids will recognize themselves in Lou, whose got a vibrant imagination, a great group of friends, and a healthy fear of a climbing a tree, which – let’s be honest – can be a pretty scary thing. Like most kids, Lou tries to divert her friends’ attention by suggesting “not-up-a-tree games” and stalling (changing her shoes, claiming an injury, spotting an asteroid heading right for them). With her friends’ encouragement, Lou does attempt that climb – and when she doesn’t make it, her friends are right there for her, heading for a playground to continue their game. Is Lou defeated? Nope. She’s going to try again, maybe even tomorrow. Showing a child overcome her fear and her self-reliance when she doesn’t succeed the first time sends a positive message to kids who may struggle with anxiety over new situations; surrounding her main character with supportive friends sends a message to all kids, to support one another and to compromise.

The digital art is fun and will appeal to all kids; the group of friends is diverse and no one is relegated to “girl” or “boy” roles here – they’re all pirates, race car drivers, or deep sea divers. They’re kids, playing together, like kids do.

I loved Ashley Spires’ award-winning book, The Most Magnificent Thing, and her Binky the Space Cat series has been a winner at any library I’ve worked at. I love her positive messages of self-reliance and the power of imagination, and I can’t wait to get this book on the shelves next to my other Spires books. A great book for elementary collections and kids who are learning that it’s okay to be scared sometimes.

Check out Ashley Spires’ website for more of her artwork and information about her books.

 

Let your imagination run wild with your Fablehaven guide! November 7, 2016

book-of-imaginationFablehaven Book of Imagination, by Brandon Mull, (Oct. 2016, Shadow Mountain), $14.99, ISBN: 978-1-62972-241-2

Recommended for ages 7-12

Fablehaven Fans, get ready! If you’ve ever wanted to draw your own magical preserve map, mix your own potions, or make an origami Olloch, the Fablehaven Book of Imagination is for you! It’s an activity book that has recipes, origami, writing prompts, and coloring pictures all through the book – anything to spark your creativity and imagination. There are quotes about imagination and creativity throughout the book; I was thrilled to see quotes from Neil Gaiman, JK Rowling, and JRR Tolkien, who may well be considered my personal trinity. Fans who are waiting patiently (or impatiently) for Dragonwatch, the new sequel series to Fablehaven, can track down a secret message from Brandon Mull, hidden throughout the book. A note at the beginning explains how.

Make this book yours – color in it, cut out and make the beasties, color and frame the quotes. This is your journal: you even get to write your name on it. Librarians already know that this isn’t the type of book we can put in circ, but we can have entire programs using this book as a guide – hello, summer reading in Fablehaven! – let your kids create codenames, place classified ads for help with their magical preserves, make magical webs – everything you need to run a successful Fablehaven program is in here if you’re a librarian, and it’s a great stocking stuffer for anyone whose imagination likes to run wild. (I’m totally coloring Neil Gaiman’s quote page to frame at my desk.) There are games online at the Fablehaven Preserve; there are also downloadable educators’ guides, and videos to prompt discussion.

 

 

Blog Tour: Kid Crazy and the Kilowatt King rocks out! November 3, 2016

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Kid Crazy is a kid living in a desert, dying to go on adventures in the dazzling City of Ever. When he encounters a droid named Denunzio, who overhears him wishing he could visit the City, the droid tells him that the king is rude and sour – a real creep, really. Kid Crazy doesn’t want to hear it – as soon as Denunzio admits that he can get Kid inside the castle, he’s off. They head off in a car made of bread and travel to the castle where, sure enough, the king is rude as all get out. He demands that Kid Crazy sing him a song, but Kid’s not having it. He decides it’s time the king learned some manners! He tells the king a riddle that brings home how rude he’s been, then teaches him the power of one simple word: Please.

 

KKC_jacketKid Crazy and the Kilowatt King, by Claudio Sanchez/Illustrated by Arthur Mask, (Oct. 2016, One Peace Books), $24.95, ISBN: 978-1-944937-03-4
Recommended for ages 5-8

A wild ride through a retro-futuristic, tech-y landscape and a rhyming story about a kid teaching a monarch manners – this book is too much fun! The 80-page length may give younger readers some pause – my 4 year old fizzled out about halfway through – but school-age kids  and independent readers will get into this fun fantasy tale with a great message. Arthur Mask’s illustrations give life to the text, and you can tell that our author, Claudio Sanchez, is a musician, because the text flows beautifully; they’re lyrics in a song about a better world beginning with one person: you. Mask lets his imagination run wild on the pages and it’s to the reader’s benefit, because there’s so much to see. The landscapes, the droids in the City (I love the teddy bear bot), the king with his floating crown and electric beard – it’s a book you experience.

I’d add this to my collections and booktalk it to my school-age kids and parents. I may try to read an abbreviated version at my all-ages storytime, which brings in a lot of preschoolers and kindergarteners, and I think I’ll write up a discussion guide to be able to talk this one up at school visits. When I get it written, I’ll post it here.

This is a blog tour, so I’d be remiss if I didn’t have links for you, to show where you can get a copy of Kid Crazy and the Kilowatt King. There are several exclusive book bundles Sanchez’s own Evil Ink Comics website, www.evilink.com; one wild collectible is a Kid Crazy Limited Coke-Bottle-Green 7″ Vinyl, featuring an original song and the Kid Crazy and the Kilowatt King audiobook read by Claudio Sanchez. You can also get copies on Indiebound, Merchnow, and Amazon.

About the Creators

csanchez_creditmanelcasanova_13Claudio Sanchez (author) is the front man for the conceptual rock band Coheed and Cambria, with over 3 million albums sold worldwide. He is also the creator of several comic books, including The New York Times best-selling series The Amory Wars, and the critically acclaimed titles Translucid, Key of Z and Kill Audio, co-written with his wife, Chondra Echert. He is on tour in 2016 for Coheed and Cambria’s latest album, “The Color Before the Sun: Deconstructed.” He lives in Brooklyn with his wife and their son, Atlas. You can find him on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. EvilInk is on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. You can see his video, “A Friend to Enemies”, written for Kid Crazy and the Kilowatt King, on Facebook.

 

Arthur Mask (illustrator) illustrates books, magazines, games and comics. An eclectic mix of passions inspire him: from horror movies and music to retro video games. His mother says his first drawing was of a mosquito, but now he prefers to draw monsters. He lives in Sao Paolo, Brazil.

Chondra Echert Sanchez (editor) is a comic book writer and the creative co-director of Evil Ink Comics. She is also co-founder of The Social Co., a social media agency. She writes about life on the road with her husband, Claudio Sanchez, and their 2-year-old son, Atlas, at http://www.ourtransientlife.com.

You can find the publisher, One Peace Books, on Facebook.

 

 

Isabella is a Girl in Charge as she channels historic women November 1, 2016

isabella_covIsabella: Girl in Charge, by Jennifer Fosberry/Illustrated by Mike Litwin, (Oct. 2016, Sourcebooks Jabberwocky), $16.99, ISBN: 9781492641735

Recommended for ages 4-8

Isabella, the little purple-haired girl with the big imagination, is back in her fourth adventure: this time, she’s going all the way to the nation’s capital! Isabella wakes her parents up bright and early; they’ve got a big day ahead of them and Isabella doesn’t want to miss a second. As she and her family get ready to head out, Isabella imagines she’s different females politicians, first in their fields, from the first mayor to the first Supreme Court Justice. Isabella and her family have an important day to be part of: history is being made!

A good idea in theory, younger readers may need some prompting when first hearing the story; these names will largely be unfamiliar to them. Anyone reading the story out loud should mention beforehand that the women Isabella names are the first women in politics and what office they held. Kids will be better able to pick up subtle in-jokes in the text, too; for instance: When Isabella claims to be “Susanna, mayor of this here town,” her mother responds, “I don’t think we’re in Kansas anymore.” If the children understand that Susanna Salter was the first female mayor, and she was mayor in Kansas, it’ll be more fun for them. Isabella’s adorable stuffed friend is with her, dressed in period clothing, in each spread – see if your readers can spot him (or her, if they like)!

isabella_1

Mike Litwin’s art, done with blueline pencil and Adobe Photoshop, is fun and emphasis on key words like names and identifying characteristics adds some punch. Brief biographies, quotes, and a timeline of women in politics, along with a list of books and websites for further reference, round out Isabella’s latest adventure.

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The book is a good start for introducing younger readers to women in politics, and how long we’ve been around! It’s more of a companion volume to a lesson rather than a standalone. I haven’t seen an educator’s guide or activity kit yet, but there are some great resources about women and politics online, including printouts at Time for Kids. Most of the available information is branded for Women’s History Month, but we’re at a historic crossroads in history – celebrate women in politics NOW!

isabella_3Jennifer Fosberry and Sourcebooks both offer links to Educator Guides for other books in the Isabella series and the companion book, My Name is Not Alexander. Illustrator Mike Litwin has samples of his artwork and animation on his site.