Mom Read It

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

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)!

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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.

 

Maggie McGillicuddy’s got an eye for trouble… do you? August 2, 2016

maggie mcgillicuddyMaggie McGillicuddy’s Eye for Trouble, by Susan Hughes/Illustrated by Brooke Kerrigan, (Oct. 2016, Kids Can Press), $16.95, ISBN: 9781771382915

Recommended for ages 4-8

This fun look at imagination appeals to a kid’s sense of play, but also teaches them to be aware of their surroundings. Maggie McGillicuddy sits on her porch, knitting away, and sees things a little differently. When she sees a shadow on the wall, she just knows it’s a hungry tiger! She clacks her knitting needles and scares that wildcat away. That’s no tree branch behind the pizza delivery girl’s bike, it’s a snake! She whacks her walking stick and scares that slippery snake right off. But when Charlie, her next door neighbor, is about to run into the street while chasing a ball, Maggie springs into action – this is no figment of her imagination!

This is such a great story about imagination and playing little games with yourself, but it makes a point about being aware, too. When Maggie sees that Charlie’s in danger, there’s no clacking of knitting needles or whacking a walking stick, she yells and gets Charlie’s attention – she makes him very aware of his surroundings! And playing games with your imagination is a fun way of being aware of what’s around you, too. Charlie and Maggie bond over their active imaginations, and invite the reader in, with repeated wink and nudge phrases like, “you see it there, don’t you?”

The artwork is rendered in watercolor, pencil crayon, gouache and collage, all coming together to give a light, fun tone to the book. Kids will recognize the places where Maggie’s and Charlie’s imaginations take root: tree roots that become snakes, shadows that become wild animals, herds of elephants out on the horizon and a dinosaur lurking behind a bush. I love the movement in illustrator Brooke Kerrigan’s work, too; Maggie’s scarf sways gently until she jumps to action: then, it swings outward, almost at attention. When all is well, the scarf gently relaxes at Maggie’s feet. Throughout the book, the scarf gets longer until both Maggie and Charlie are wearing it, looped around their necks.

Read this and talk to kids about being safe: from looking both ways before crossing a street to knowing street signs and where you are. Maybe even link this story to a book on community helpers, so kids know who to turn to if they need assistance. Have kids draw pictures of what they see in their imaginations when they look outside and make up a story of their own about what’s in the hallway!

Very good for Pre-K and elementary collections. The fun of imagination is contagious.

 

The Branch gets a new lease on life after a storm July 15, 2016

thebranchThe Branch, by Mireille Messier/Illustrated by Pierre Pratt (Sept. 2016, Kids Can Press), $16.95, ISBN: 9781771385640

Recommended for ages 3-7

A little girl’s favorite tree branch comes clattering down during an ice storm. A neighbor teaches her how to repurpose the branch, to create new memories.

What a great book to communicate so many ideas! First, we have the imagination of the tree branch. As the little girl says, the branch,”was my castle, my spy base, my ship…”, and she experiences the grief of losing the branch when she spies it on the sidewalk. She doesn’t want to part with it right away, so her mother allows her to hold onto it for a little while – long enough for the girl to encounter her neighbor, who tells her that the branch is “full of potential! …it means it’s worth keeping”, and we learn that he builds things from salvaged wood, and encourages the little girl to think about what the branch could become. When she uses her imagination and reaches into herself to reimagine the branch, she and the neighbor work together to give the branch new life.

In addition to imagination, we’ve got reusing/recycling, which is great for the environment; showing a child unwilling to discard a tree branch as a casualty of the storm, and finding ways to recreate it will get kids thinking about what they could create with objects in the world around them: cereal boxes could become robots or cities for superheroes to protect; old cans can become pencil holders; soda bottles can become terrariums. There are thousands of ideas on the Internet, so there’s no need to wait for Earth Day to come around again to make kids aware of the fun things they can make when they reduce/reuse/recycle.

Finally, we’ve got making: the whole creative process is here: sketching out plans, sawing, planing, drying the wood, waiting, waiting, waiting. It’s a great book to feature with The Most Magnificent Thing, HowToons, and fun nonfiction books, like those in the Make series. Encourage kids and parents to work together on anything from paper airplanes (great use of catalog paper) to repurposing a tree branch – large or small – of your own.

Mireille Messier is a Toronto-based author who’s had over a dozen books published in French. She’s also one of the French reviewers for the National Reading Campaign. Her website is available in English or French and offers information about her books, school visits, and her blog. Pierre Pratt is an award-winning illustrator of over 50 books for children. He lives and works in Montreal, Quebec, and in Lisbon, Portugal.

 

 

A little boy learns to tell A Squiggly Story July 1, 2016

squigglyA Squiggly Story, by Andrew Larsen/Illustrated by Mike Lowery (Sept. 2016, Kids Can Press), $16.95, ISBN: 9781771380164

Recommended for ages 3-6

A little boy wants to write a story, just like his big sister, but he’s got one problem: he doesn’t know that many words! Big sister knows just what to tell him: start with what you know. Every word starts with a single letter, after all! When he writes the letter “I”, he’s on his way; with his sister to help guide his thought process, he’s on his way to creating an exciting adventure!

What a great way to encourage new learners to create their own stories! The little boy is unsure about himself at first, but his sister quickly allays his fears by empowering him to just go with what he knows, guiding him through the stages of writing a story: the beginning, the middle, and the end. When he proudly brings his finished story to school, his teacher encourages him to think even more deeply, and turns the story into a class project. It’s a great storytime concept and a great way to introduce creative writing and art to new learners.

Mike Lowery’s cartoony art is filled with interesting styles to capture a young readers’ attention. There are word bubbles, emphasis on words like BIG and small, comic-style panels, and callout sketches that invite readers into the characters’ imaginations. The children are multiethnic, making the story accessible for all.

This is a good addition to creative picture book collections. Pair A Squiggly Story with Written and Drawn by Henrietta for a creative storytime and crafternoon.