Posted in Fantasy, Fiction, Middle Grade

Bad Mermaids Make Waves!

Bad Mermaids Make Waves, by Sibéal Pounder/Illustrated by Jason Cockcroft, (May 2018, Bloomsbury USA), $13.99, ISBN: 9781681197920

Recommended for readers 8-12

What happens when you’re a mermaid, spending a summer on land with your temporary legs and feet, and you have to go back under the sea early because someone fishnapped the Mermaid Queen? That’s what besties Beattie, and twin sisters Zelda and Mimi have to do in this first middle grade mermaid adventure by Witch Wars author Sibéal Pounder. The mermaids arrive back under the sea to discover everyone acting… strange. A new queen who hides her face and calls herself The Swan is making everyone go back to wearing shell tops, and piranhas patrols are keeping things in check. The threesome steal a clamshell car and investigate who could be behind this fishy plot!

Mermaid stories are HUGE here. Heck, they’ve been huge at every library I’ve been at, from picture books, through YA. You’ve got three best friends who work really well together, a mystery to solve, and humorous villains and mean mermaids (all genders are referred to as mermaids), a café set inside an actual whale, plus black and white illustrations throughout. There are loads of in-jokes poking fun at mermaid tropes, like the clamshell tops and hair-combing, and the characters’ speech is full of fishy references like the exclamation, “Oh cod!”

This is an automatic add to my shelves. Give this to your Mermaid Tales and Mermaid S.O.S. fans who are ready for higher leveled books, and your Emily Windsnap fans.

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Posted in Fiction, Fiction, Graphic Novels, Intermediate, Middle Grade, Teen

Three new graphic novels coming your way in May!

There are some good graphic novels coming out in May. There’s manga-influenced work, an animal tale that brings Watership Down to mind, and a gripping story about being an undocumented immigrant. Let’s see what’s up!

 

Snails are Just My Speed!, by Kevin McCloskey, (May 2018, TOON Books), $12.95, ISBN: 9781943145270

Recommended for readers 3-7

The latest in Kevin McCloskey’s Giggle and Learn series of graphic novels takes a look at snails! They live in their shells! They like to eat together! They make a LOT of mucus! (So. Much. Mucus.) This latest easy reading, nonfiction graphic novel is perfect for pre-k and Kindergarten science groups and animal lovers. It’s loaded with fun facts, much of it mucus-related, which will make this a guaranteed hit with kids who love to squeal and shriek at “gooey” stuff. I love the infographic, built into the story, of all the animals that are faster – and slower! – than a snail, and the different types of snails that exist, including a hairy snail and a “glass” snail with a see-through shell. There’s a quick drawing lesson at the end – great way to end a storytime or science group session! – and the TOON website always has great teacher’s resources available for download. Kevin McCloskey is aces in my book!

 

Animus, by Antoine Revoy, (May 2018, First Second), $16.99, ISBN: 9781626721838

Recommended for readers 12+

This is a creepy ghost tale/mystery surrounding a ghost destined to haunt a playground. Schoolmates Hisao and Sayrui meet Toothless, a ghost who tells them that the playground is magic: the swings let you look into people’s dreams; the sandbox brings your worst fears to life, and the slide has the power to give or take years from your life, depending on the direction you go. When another friend goes down the slide, rapidly ages, and develops dementia, the two friends must save him – and to do that, they must discover who Toothless really is, and how he came to haunt the playground.

Heavily influenced by Japanese and French comics, this black-and-white graphic novel is eerie and unsettling; a strong noir story with ghostly elements woven throughout to create a story that will stay with readers.

 

Chasma Knights, by Boya Sun & Kate Reed Petty, (May 218, First Second), $17.99, ISBN: 9781626726048

Recommended for readers 8-12

Beryl is a Neon Knight in the fantasy land of Chasma, where toys “catalyze” with a touch and come to life, merging with their owners and imbued with special abilities. But the thing is, in Chasma, being a Neon Knight isn’t that great – it’s kind of a joke. Neon Knights can’t catalyze; Oxygen Knights do. But Beryl has a talent all her own: she’s an inventor that can repurpose broken toys into new creations. Coro, an Oxygen Knight, meets Beryl at the Toy Market, and the two strike up an initially cautious friendship.

I’ll be honest, this one left me scratching my head – I didn’t always quite get what was going on, but I did appreciate the kid-friendly artwork and storyline: who wouldn’t want to read about toys coming to life? I booktalked this to a few of my library kids – all big manga fans – and they seemed to have a better grasp on the concept than I did, so go them! My best advice? It’s a fun, bright, kid-friendly graphic novel. Let your audience be your guide.

And two that are already out, but that I just read…

Chloe, Vol. 1: The New Girl, by Greg Tessier and Amandine, (May 2017, Papercutz), $9.99, ISABN: 9781629917634

Recommended for readers 10-12

Originally published in French, the Chloe graphic novels are fun stories about a fashion-fabulous teen named Chloe as she navigates high school, friendships, and relationships. Her family mortifies her, and the mean girl fashionistas at school are mean to her – in other words, she’s totally relatable. In this first issue, Chloe starts high school and tries to get in with the in crowd. The artwork is fun and the subject matter is light.

Chloe, Vol. 2: The Queen of High School, by Greg Tessier and Amandine, (October 2017, Papercutz), $9.99, ISBN: 9781629917634

Recommended for readers 10-12

In this second volume, Chloe is back for her second year of high school and taking things by storm. She’s got a cute new boyfriend, a fashion blog, and a group of friends to call her own. She’s still got embarrassing parents and mean girls at school, but she’s taking it all in stride.
There are four Chloe volumes in total available. These would be good for Summer Reading groups, maybe even in conjunction with a blog project for tweens!
Posted in Fantasy, Fiction, Humor, Middle Grade, Tween Reads

The Problim Children: Seven kids, seven days of the week, and an age-old mystery

The Problim Children, by Natalie Lloyd/Illustrated by Julia Sarda, (Jan. 2018, Katherine Tegen Books), $16.99, ISBN: 9780062428202

Recommended for readers 8-12

The Problim Children is the first in a new middle grade series about seven… different siblings, each born on a different day of the week, and their adventures. We have Mona, Monday’s child, who may be fair of face, but she’s a bit macabre… Toot, Tuesday’s toddler, who has a catalog of farts for all occasions; Wendell and Thea, twins born on Wednesday and Thursday, who spend all of their time together; Friday’s child, Frida, speaks in rhyme; Sal, Saturday’s child, loves to work in his garden; and Sundae is the eternal optimist. Their parents are away, and the Problims manage to blow up their bungalow in the Swampy Woods, necessitating a move to their Grandpa Problim’s abandoned mansion in Lost Cove. The only problem? The Problims have a history with Lost Cove, and neighborhood busybody Desdemona O’pinion is determined to keep them out at all costs.

Are the Problims magic? Maybe. Are they a family with secrets? Definitely! There’s a history between the O’pinions and the Problims, and the kids get caught up in the shenanigans – while planning plenty of their own. The Problim Children is funny enough – Toot’s ability to communicate solely by fart will make this a home-run with some readers – and readers will love the idea of being left to their own devices as their parents travel the world for work. There are circus spiders, a pet pig, an intriguing mystery, and a villainess who’s right up there with the best of the mustache-twirlers. It’s a little over the top at times, but it’s fun and silly and readers who like a lighter Lemony Snicket will like this one. The Problim Children received a starred review from Booklist.

Posted in Graphic Novels, Teen, Young Adult/New Adult

Alien abduction, or something… more? Losing the Girl has questions.

Losing the Girl (#1), by MariNaomi, (May 2018, Lerner Publishing Group/Graphic Universe), $29.32, ISBN: 9781512449105

Recommended for readers 13+

A 14 year-old girl disappears, leaving questions and rumors in her wake. She’s the topic of conversation at her school, Blithedale High, but a group of teens have their own daily drama to work through, too. Nigel is desperate for a girlfriend who will laugh at his jokes, but Emily, the object of his affections, decides to pursue a relationship with heartthrob Brett, who doesn’t really seem to emotionally invest himself in anything. Emily undergoes a major life shake-up, which gives her friend – or frenemy – Paula a chance to steal what she perceives to be Emily’s spotlight.

Losing the Girl is about lives intersecting, with the main focus – the “lost” girl – being the common thread. She’s the character the conversation drifts back to, the reader’s focal point as we glimpse into the lives of four teens. This first installment didn’t quite grab me, but I think teens who want real-life storytelling will give this one a shot.

MariNaomi is an award-winning writer and illustrator; she’s an Eisner award nominee, and a podcaster. You can find out more by visiting her website.

Posted in Graphic Novels, Teen, Young Adult/New Adult

Archival Quality is SO GOOD, and not just because I’m a librarian.

Archival Quality, by Ivy Noelle Weir/Illustrated by Steenz, (March 2018, Oni Press), $19.99, ISBN: 9781620104705

Recommended for readers 14+

First, the scoop: Cel Walden is a young woman who loves working with books. But she loses her library job, because she’s also dealing with crippling anxiety and depression. She finds another job, this time as an archivist, at the Logan Museum, where she’s responsible for putting records in order and digitizing them. Sounds pretty cool, right? (You know it does.) She meets Abayomi, also called Aba, the secretive curator, and the fabulous Holly, librarian extraordinaire. Cel starts scanning and archiving, but notices strange things afoot at the library and the archivist’s apartment on library property; she also starts having some strange dreams about a young woman who needs Cel’s help. Cel becomes consumed with finding out this woman’s identity and what happened to her, which puts her job, relationship, and possibly, her mental health, at risk.

Now, the raving: Archival Quality is a great story on so many levels. It’s a ghost story; it’s got secrets; it takes place in a library – where better to have a ghost story?!; and it takes a strong and sensitive look at mental health and takes an hard look at mental health treatment in the past. Cel is on a mission to find out what happened to the ghostly girl who shares her initials and her mental health challenges. The ghost’s story gets under Cel’s skin because she empathizes; she understands, and she wants to help put an uneasy, persecuted spirit to rest: and that certainly has a double meaning, as we see the toll this takes on Cel through the story.

The characters are wonderful. Cel stands on her own as a fully realized character, and her friends: the mysterious Aba has his own fears and frustrations to work with, and Holly is strong and witty. Holly and Aba are characters of color and Holly’s got a girlfriend whose family has its own ties to the Logan Museum, giving us a tertiary character that has a realistic connection to the story and isn’t just there to be window dressing for Holly. Archival Quality is a solid story that works to bash away at the stigma of depression and anxiety. I love it, and I can’t wait to get it into the hands of the readers at my library. I’d hand this off to my upper-level middle schoolers and high schoolers, and keep copies handy for the college kids.

Ivy Noelle Weir and Steenz also happen to be former librarians. See? LIBRARIES ROCK. Check out Ivy Weir’s webpage for more webcomics (with Steenz) and general awesomeness. Check out Steenz’s Tumblr for more art.

 

Posted in Fantasy, Fiction, Middle Grade, Tween Reads

Discover the secrets of Winterhouse!

Winterhouse, by Ben Guterson/Illustrated by Chloe Bristol, (Jan. 2018, Henry Holt & Co), $16.99, ISBN: 9781250123886

Recommended for readers 8-12

Elizabeth Somers is an 11-year-old orphan, living with her awful aunt and uncle. She has vague memories of the accident that took her parents’ lives, and a pendant around her neck, given to her by her mother. But a mysterious benefactor has paid for Elizabeth’s aunt and uncle to go on vacation over winter break, and she’s sent off to the Winterhouse Hotel, owned by the odd but kind Norbridge Falls. There, Elizabeth makes her first real friend – an inventor named Freddy, whose family sends him off to Winterhouse every winter break – and discovers a strange book in the library. She learns that the Winterhouse has some very deep secrets, but she’s not the only one trying to discover them: there’s a very creepy married couple that seems to be trying to figure things out, too. And why are they inviting her to tea? Mysteries abound in the first story of a new trilogy.

Winterhouse is loaded with puzzles for readers to piece together as they go. You’ve got a bookish heroine, a kid inventor who loves word puzzles almost as much as our heroine does, and a mystery code that will make or break our characters. There’s an awesome librarian, if I may say so myself, and a quirky proprietor whose secrets run deep: in short, a wonderful and group of characters that readers will enjoy adventuring with and discovering more about. Angular black and white illustrations by Chloe Bristol add interest to the book’s surroundings, and the beginning of each chapter provides a word ladder to introduce readers to a fun pastime that comes up throughout the novel. Other word games include anagrams, ambigrams, and a Vigenere Square – a code that holds the mystery to the story. Author Ben Guterson explains the puzzles and codes on his webpage. There are some great book references in Winterhouse, too: some of Elizabeth’s favorites include good readalike suggestions, like The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart and Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library by Chris Grabenstein. (I’d also add Jennifer Chambliss’ Book Scavenger and Greenglass House by Kate Milford.)

 

A fun beginning to a new middle grade series. Give this one to your code breakers, for sure.

Posted in Fiction, Middle Grade, Middle School, Realistic Fiction, Tween Reads

Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus is amazing!

Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus, by Dusti Bowling, (Sept. 2017, Sterling Children’s Books), $14.95, ISBN: 9781454923459

Recommended for readers 9-12

I was lucky enough to attend a children’s author dinner at BookExpo this past year, and got to hear several authors, including Dusti Bowling, talk about their upcoming books. As Ms. Bowling spoke about the work she put into her book, Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus, you could just see the passion she poured into her story of Aven, a kickass middle grade heroine of a new kind: she’s an adoptee, so, yay!; she’s headstrong, smart, focused, and she’s witty. And she happens to have been born without arms. She loves to tell people wild stories of how she lost her arms: an alligator wrestling match is my favorite, but she’s got a few doozies.

Aven starts the novel as the new kid in town. Her parents have moved to Arizona, where her dad accepted a job running a floundering western theme park called Stagecoach Pass. Now, Aven gets stared at. She’s different. She relies on her feet like most people rely on their hands. She’s eating lunch in the bathroom, because she can’t stand to have anyone stare at her eat with her feet. But she meets Connor, a boy with Tourette’s, and Zion, who’s shy about his weight, and things start looking up. The friends lean on one another, drawing and giving strength to each other.

That alone would be a great storyline, but throw in a mystery – a BIG mystery – at Stagecoach Pass that Aven is determined to unravel, and you have an incredible book in your hands. Aven, Connor, and Zion are kids that I want to know; Bowling breathes beautiful life into them and makes readers care about them. She provides positive, complex, realistic portrayals of kids living with disabilities and how they meet those hurdles every day, every hour, every minute. Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus has numerous accolades and received starred reviews from School Library Journal, Booklist, and Shelf Awareness.

I adored this book and can’t believe it took me this long to finally get to it. Give this to your Wonder fans, display and booktalk with books starring smart middle grade heroines, like Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson, Rain Reign by Ann M. Martin, and of course, Beverly Cleary’s Ramona and Roald Dahl’s Matilda.

Check out Dusti Bowling’s author webpage for a free, downloadable discussion guide and to read up on news and updates.