Posted in Early Reader, Fiction, Fiction, Graphic Novels, Intermediate, Preschool Reads

Have visual vocabulary fun with Wordplay!

Wordplay, by Ivan Brunetti, (May 2017, TOON Books), $12.95, ISBN: 978-1-943145-17-1

Recommended for readers 3-8

Kids learn about compound words – two words that come together to form a whole new word, like housework – in this visual feast for the eyes. Ever see a house vaccuming? A moon in an easy chair, reading under a bright light? You will here, as the kids in the story think up and visualize compound words that will make kids (and you) laugh and think.

This book is made for classrooms and programs. Ask your kids what compound words they can come up with – then draw it! Make a bookmark for one of the easiest compound words: Bookworm! The fun, bold art leaps off the page, and bright white word balloons make for dialogue that you can ask kids to read out loud, turning the book into a performance. Display Wordplay with other fun word books, like Lynne Truss’ younger readers’ version of Eats, Shoots and Leaves and Patricia Byers’ One Sheep, Two Sheep: A Book of Collective Nouns. Wordplay is a TOON Level 1; Levels E-J in Guided Reading. Teachers’ Resources are forthcoming.

Wordplay received a starred review from Kirkus.

 

Posted in Adventure, Fantasy, Fiction, Middle Grade, Tween Reads

Fairy Tale Reform School’s seeing some changes in Tricked

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.

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

Isabella’s for Real – Honest!

isabellaIsabella for Real, by Margie Palatini/Illustrated by LeUyen Pham, (Oct. 2016, HMH Books for Young Readers), $16.99, ISBN: 9780544148468

Recommended for ages 9-13

Isabella Antonelli has a BIG problem. Her cousin made a documentary about her real, slightly wacky, New Jersey Italian-American family for a class. He uploaded it to YouTube, and it’s become a viral sensation. The problem? Isabella’s friends at her new school have heard a very different story, and she’s about to be exposed, BIG TIME.

The book goes back and forth between past and present to give readers the full story, narrated by Isabella. It’s a quick read, a fun, often cackle-worthy, comedy of errors with family members you’ll love as much as your own crazy family. LeUyen Pham’s black and white graphic novel-type interludes take the story off the page, giving us visuals for some of the most hilarious interactions between Isabella, her friends, and family.

This one’s a fun read for middle graders who love some good, humorous writing, and who enjoy a gentle, loving poke at our quirky families. I’d booktalk this with Emma Shevah’s books, Dara Palmer’s Major Drama and Dream On, Amber, which also have fun, dramatic main characters and their multigenerational, multicultural families.

Margie Palatini’s got a fun author website with information about her books, some activities, and contact info.

Posted in Fiction, Fiction, Humor, Intermediate, Middle Grade, Realistic Fiction

A boy tries to find his defining talent in Just One Thing!

just-one-thingJust One Thing!, by N. Viau/Illustrated by Timothy Young, (Sept. 2016, Schiffer Books), $12.99, ISBN: 9780764351624

Recommended for ages 8-12

Anthony Pantaloni has GOT to get a better nickname. The class bully christened him with Antsy Pant, and he needs to get rid of that name before they start middle school, or he’ll be stuck with it for the rest of his LIFE. He needs to find his One Thing – the thing that will define him. His buddy Marcus is Mr. Athletic; Alexis is really smart; Bethany is obsessed with horses, and Cory – the bully – is the toughest kid in school. Every time he tries to develop a new talent, it just doesn’t stick. What’s a kid to do? He can’t be Antsy Pantsy forever, he just can’t! To make matters worse, his cousin, who’s living with them while her parents are deployed, drives him crazy, and his dad is dating one of his teachers! Anthony doesn’t want THAT to be what he’s known for, either! This kid needs help!

I got a kick out of Just One Thing. It’s a fun book about growing up and self-exploration; trying to figure out what you’re good at, and trying to define yourself. Anthony is funny and genuine; he’s frustrated by things around him, but tries to be sensitive to everyone around him at the same time. It’s a nice balance to Diary of a Wimpy Kid. Pages at the end of each chapter let kids journal, doodle, or draw; a nice added touch that makes the book more personal for kids trying to figure out their One Thing. The book is told in the first person from Anthony’s point of view, and various words get fun font treatment for emphasis, and it works – you hear the tone as you read. There are doodles – Anthony’s doodles – and lists, so the journal feel is there.just-one-thing_2

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I would absolutely give this as a gift, but it would be wrecked in circulation. Yes, the text says to doodle or draw if it’s YOUR copy of Just One Thing, but that’s not going to fly in my library. I do have an extra copy to give as a prize in my upcoming Winter Reading Challenge, and I am going to feature this book in a Read-Aloud book club that I’m starting this month. More on that in a future post.

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Just One Thing! is a lot of fun for middle graders who love Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Big Nate, and Lenore Look’s Alvin Ho series. I may write a discussion guide for this book if I can get my group talking about it – if I do, I’ll post it here.

Posted in Non-Fiction, Tween Reads, Young Adult/New Adult

Quiet Power: Power to the introverts!

quiet powerQuiet Power: The Secret Strengths of Introverts, by Susan Cain, Gregory Mone, & Erica Moroz/Illustrated by Grant Snider (May 2016, Dial Books), $17.99, ISBN: 9780803740600

Recommended for ages 10+

Susan Cain’s groundbreaking book, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking, sparked a movement. Introverts are among you in the workplace, and surprise! We’ve got a lot to say! Written with the workplace in mind, Quiet Power got people talking and thinking about how to tap into the power of introverts, who are just as intelligent and productive – and yes, as driven – as extroverts, but who operate very differently. Now adapted for tweens and teens, with extra resources and notes for the parents and educators who love them, Quiet Power: The Secret Strengths of Introverts, talks to middle and high school kids about  meeting the challenges of school, extracurricular life, family life, and friendship. The book is packed with anecdotes and advice from fellow young introverts and famous figures in sports, media, and the arts, and straightforward, straight talk from Susan Cain. Each chapter lays out a plan for meeting the demands in each of these spheres, and two-color cartoon illustrations are eye-catching and provide helpful visuals to use as anchors. Quiet Power empowers tweens and teens to succeed while never compromising their own comfort zones to do it, and recognizes that yes, introverts and extroverts may work differently, but neither are they all the same: there are introverts comfortable with different levels of extroversion, and we all have different needs.

I’d recommend parents, caregivers, and educators pick up a copy and read it to see, for yourself, how educators are transforming the landscape to get the best performance out of their introverted students and how new media is helping more introverted students interact better within a group setting. (It’s not always about selfies!) Great addition to YA collections and the Parenting section.

Make sure to check out the Quiet Revolution webpage for advice, stories, and articles.

Take a look at Susan Cain’s lauded TED Talk (almost 5 million views on YouTube alone!). Her anecdote about summer camp is in the book!:

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

Kick Foot Academy is back in session: Joey and Johnny, the Ninjas: Epic Fail

epic failJoey and Johnny, The Ninjas: Epic Fail, by Kevin Serwacki/Illustrated by Chris Pallace, (Apr. 2016, Balzer+Bray), $12.99, ISBN: 9780062299352

Recommended for ages 8-12

Things are finally getting back to what passes for normal at the Kick Foot ninja academy: Joey and Johnny’s shoddy reconstruction of the school is saved by a dragon attack (of sorts), leading to a proper rebuilding, and classes are back underway. Joey and Johnny learn, however, that their friend and fellow student, Peoni, is planning a secret tea ceremony – one of the most dangerous things a ninja can attend, let alone plan – to appease the spirits of ninjas who didn’t survive previous tea ceremonies. Joey and Johnny have found their new mission: help Peoni assemble a flawless ceremony while keeping it a secret from the headmaster – the only survivor of a tea party in recent memory – who has forbidden so much as a mention of the event.

This is the second book in The Ninjas series; the first, Joey & Johnny, The Ninjas: Get Mooned, hit stores last year. The series is great for readers who love a frenetically-paced, humorous story. There’s a lot of storytelling thrown in here: pirates vs. ninjas; sentient forests; a fellow student on his own quest, and the determined messenger bird who keeps following him; and a tea ceremony. There are a lot of subplots to keep in the air, but younger readers who like action-packed stories with lots of laughs will gravitate to this series.  Black and white drawings throughout will keep them interested.

The best part of the book for me was the actual tea ceremony: who doesn’t love a tea ceremony, with ghosts, that’s begging to break out in chaos?

A good additional purchase for summer reading, especially; display this with your Big Nate, Bad Kitty, and Timmy Failure books.