Posted in Adventure, Fantasy, Fiction, Fiction, Graphic Novels, Intermediate, Middle Grade

A new heroine rises: Gum Girl!

gumgirl_2Gum Girl: Chews Your Destiny (The Gumazing Gum Girl #1), by Rhode Montijo, (Aug. 2013, Disney-Hyperion), $14.99, ISBN: 9781423157403

Recommended for ages 6-10

Gabby Gomez LOVES bubble gum. She will chew it any time, anywhere, much to her mother (and dentist father!)’s chagrin. Gabby also gets her gum all over everything, which makes a huge mess! Gabby’s mom lays down the law and tells her NO MORE GUM, which really doesn’t work for Gabby, who sneaks a little piece on the way to school one day. What’s one little piece, right? She blows a bubble – the biggest bubble EVER – and it pops all over her! How is she supposed to go to school, looking like this? But wait! Someone needs help! Gabby answers the call, and discovers that she’s been transformed into The Gumazing Gum Girl, a superheroine with super sticky, super stretchy, bubble gum powers! Now, she just needs to keep enough peanut butter on hand to help her get all the gum off and transform back into Gabby, before her family finds out!

 

The Gumazing Gum Girl is too much fun! She’s a superhero for intermediate and middle grade readers, adorably written and drawn by Rhode Montijo, who creates a graphic novel/chapter book hybrid that kids love. Kids will love her Latinx family, who lovingly speak Spanglish to one another, and they’ll love how the seemingly ordinary power of bubble gum transforms a girl into a superheroine. Plus, they’ll see that Gabby is a good kid, who struggles with keeping a secret from her parents: her superpowers come from her breaking the rules and chewing gum. There are fun villains and the art is super kid-friendly; combinations of pink, black and white, with bold lines and expressive fonts will catch and hold any reader’s attention.

When I was at ALA Midwinter last month, I found myself lucky enough to get hold of the NEXT Gum Girl Adventure: Gum Luck! A colleague shrieked when she saw me with it (and she does collection development for my library system, so, whoo hoo!), and another colleague read it the day I got back to the library after Midwinter. To say this is an anticipated sequel is putting it mildly.

gumgirl_1The Gumazing Gum Girl: Gum Luck (The Gumazing Gum Girl #2, by Rhode Montijo, June 2017, Disney-Hyperion, $14.99, ISBN: 9781423161172) introduces readers to a new villain, and readers will see Gabby continue struggling with her big secret. She’s torn between doing the right thing by telling her parents the truth about her alter ego and her gum-chewing habit and between… well, doing the right thing with her superhero activities.

If readers love Chews Your Destiny, they’ll love Gum Luck. Start booktalking Gum Girl now, and get them ready: Gum Luck hits shelves in June, just in time for summer reading! (Hmm… the theme for CSLP’s Summer Reading is Build a Better World… can we use gum for that? Wait, no… not in the library. Please.)

Visit Rhode Montijo’s author webpage for more info about his books, a peek at his portfolio, and his web store.

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Posted in geek, geek culture

Summertime programs: Captain America Turns 75

Summer Reading strikes fear into the hearts of librarians everywhere. Okay, maybe I’m exaggerating, but it is the time of year when everything ramps up. Keeping the kids interested AND reading is a 24/7 job, and I have the Pinterest boards to prove it. Being a children’s librarian in my community, where I regularly have up to 100 kids in my room every day, Summer Reading was going to be a challenge this year. I decided to go with weekly themes, to switch it up, give myself some more programming variety, and celebrate some pop culture birthdays in the process.

readingrainbowNot actually my library.

Since NYC schoolkids are stuck in their 90+ degree classrooms until the bitter end of June, I start my Summer Reading programming in July. This year, what better way to kick it off than with Captain America’s birthday party? Cap turns 75 this year, and Steve Rogers’ birthday falls on July 4th. Talking this up to kids for the last month, between my after-school regulars and all the class trips that packed into the library those last few weeks of school, I was psyched by the reception it received. I wasn’t disappointed!

sohelpful

I turned to the Internet for help in making Cap’s birthday a blast. Luckily, last year’s superhero themed Summer Reading program meant that I still had my superhero photo booth masks, so I printed out a fresh set, laminated them, and the kids went nuts. I even had parents and kids showing up in costume, which had to be the biggest boost. They were really excited! We colored pictures, made paper plate Cap shields, and made little Cap figures out of wine corks.

The next day, I had a viewing of Captain America: The First Avenger. The next day, we had a craft: This is My City! Every superhero needs a city to protect, right? I’ve got a bunch of empty tablet boxes in my meeting room that were dying to be turned into a city for superheroes to protect. I was blown away by the kids’ creativity! I put out materials and superhero stickers, and they went to work. We had 99 cent stores, chocolate factories, and brightly colored apartment buildings. We had a great time, got to talk about graphic novels and books, and I felt pretty darn great about the kids in my community that day.

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Superhero training camp was up next, and I owe a huge debt of gratitude to many pinners on Pinterest for this. We began training camp by getting our superhero names, using the Superhero Name Generator; then, it was over to the table, where kids created their masks and emblems. Taking inspiration from The Little Sewing Shop and this Superhero Academy pin, I was able to put together a task list that would work in the library. I put down a masking tape maze that took my trainees through the stacks, and led them to a table, where a bunch of beanie babies awaited, behind a “brick” wall (more tablet boxes), to be rescued. Once the trainees rescued the beanie babies, they had to lift the Rock of Power (taped together wads of newspaper), and then bench press a 500 pound barbell (two balloons taped to three toilet paper rolls). Upon finishing their tasks, they received a Superhero Training Certificate.

Friday was the big finish: a Captain America & Friends treasure hunt, which is something I’ve instituted as a weekly thing here at the library. I take about 8-10 different pictures along a theme, number them and hide them throughout the children’s room, and create a key that I hand out to the kids. They have to find the pictures, write down the numbers for each one, and color a little spot in where I’ve colored the picture, so I know they’ve done the search. I’ve got tons of little prizes for these weekly hunts; Oriental Trading is great for individually bagged little crafts that kids love. I’ve included a link to the Cap treasure hunt pictures on my Google Drive, and here’s the link to the key. It looks wonky when you open it via Google Drive, but it looks fine in Word, so if you use it, try to open it in Word and see if that helps at all.

I had about 30-50 kids take part in the Captain America week’s festivities, which I consider a pretty big success; I had a lot of repeat kids, and I had some new kids, and everyone was really enthusiastic and got into the spirit of the week.

The next week was Spy Week – I’ll share that soon, and this week, I’ve got Harry Potter’s Wizard Week (Harry’s birthday is July 31st). Stay tuned!

Posted in Fiction, Guide, Middle Grade

DC’s Backstories: Digest-sized origin stories for your fave superheroes!

supesSuperman: Man of Tomorrow, by Daniel Wallace/Illustrated by Patrick Spaziante (Jan. 2016, Scholastic), $5.99, ISBN: 9780545868181

Wonder Woman: Amazon Warrior, by Steve Korté/Illustrated by Marcus To (Feb. 2016, Scholastic), $5.99, ISBN: 9780545925570

Recommended for ages 7-10

Just in time for the Batman vs. Superman movie, Dawn of Justice, Scholastic is giving us the Backstories series: digest-sized origin stories of our favorite DC superheroes, including a list of friends, foes, and family; a chronology of the characters’ origins; a short biography in chapters; timelines; glossaries; fast facts, and indexes.

 

Superman: Man of Tomorrow, by Daniel Wallace tells the story of how farm boy Clark Kent discovered that he was more than just the farm boy son of Martha and Jonathan Kent, graduated from college with a degree in journalism, and went to work in the big city of Metropolis, where he found a job at the Daily Planet. The biography, told through pictures, newspaper excerpts (with a Lois Lane byline!), and artwork, also touches on Clark Kent’s Kryptonian heritage, both sets of his parents, and his first big feud with Lex Luthor. We learn a little bit about Superman’s allies on the Justice League and his biggest foes.

wondyWonder Woman: Amazon Warrior tells the story of Wonder Woman’s childhood on Paradise Island, also known as Themiscyra; her warrior training and the Amazons’ war with the Greek god, Ares, and the origin of her name, Diana, after Diana Trevor, the mortal woman who crash landed on the island and fought with the Amazons against the creature, Cottus. We learn about Steve Trevor’s – Diana Trevor’s son – arrival on the island, and how Diana won a contest of skill to be the one to take him back to America, where she would defend the human race against Ares. We also learn about Diana’s allies, foes, and armor – did you know that her tiara’s edges are razor sharp and can be thrown like a chakram? Me, either!

Each book provides a foreword from the hero, leading us into their story, introducing themselves to us. Artwork in my advance reader copies are black and white, but I’m hoping there will be some color illustration, too. These books are a good addition to a juvenile library; in my library system, the superhero trade paperbacks are largely in the teen area for content. When the kids ask for superhero stories – and they do! – I have to make sure that I’ve got a rich set of offerings for them! I’ve got easy readers and chapter books; solid little origin stories like this will really round out my superhero collection.

Posted in Fiction, Humor, Intermediate

Are you ready for The Study Hall of Justice?

Young Bruce Wayne is excited to be accepted into the Ducard Academy in Gotham City, a prep school for gifted middle school students. Almost immediately, though, Bruce feels like something is off. The kids aren’t that friendly. The teachers encourage the kids to behave badly; even reward them for it! He teams up with two other misfit students – a farmboy named Clark Kent and an exchange student named Diana Prince – to figure out what’s really going on at Ducard Academy.

studyhall

Study Hall of Justice (DC Comics Secret Hero Society #1), by Derek Fridolfs/Illustrated by Dustin Nguyen (Jan. 2016, Scholastic), $12.99, ISBN: 9780545825016

Told using Bruce Wayne’s online journal, texts and messages between Bruce, Clark, and Diana, other digital media, Study Hall of Justice is a great way to create a new chapter book series to introduce younger readers to some of our most famous superheroes. The storytelling is fun, light, and fast-paced, and uses communication methods kids use nowadays. I’m a big fan of the superhero chapter book to get kids reading, and this series looks like a good one for intermediate readers.

There’s a great pedigree attached to this series, too – the writer and artist behind the DC comic, Lil’ Gotham, is at the controls for this first book in the DC Secret Society.

lilgotham_cover_rvsdSeriously, how cute is Lil’ Gotham?

I’m looking forward to more books in this series, and you should, too. The book is due out in just shy of two weeks, so you won’t have long to wait!

Posted in Adventure, Espionage, Teen, Young Adult/New Adult

Marvel YA gives us Black Widow: Forever Red

black widowBlack Widow: Forever Red, by Margaret Stohl (Oct. 2015, Disney Book Group), $17.99, ISBN: 9781484726433

Recommended for ages 12+

After releasing two YA/new adult romances centering on the X-Men’s Rogue and She-Hulk in 2013, Disney/Marvel upped the ante by tapping YA phenom Margaret Stohl (writer of the Icons series, and co-writer of the Beautiful Creatures series with Kami Garcia) to give readers a story about Black Widow: S.H.I.E.L.D. agent, assassin extraordinaire, and Avenger.

The main story centers on a teen, Ava Orlova, rescued from the infamous Red Room that created Black Widow. Left to languish in a S.H.I.E.L.D. safehouse for years, she escaped and lived on her own in New York until she met Alex Manor – a boy who had been showing up in her dreams – at a fencing competition in New Jersey. When Agent Romanov – the Black Widow – appears on the scene with the news that Ava’s being hunted by her brutal Red Room instructor, Ivan Somodoroff, who has plans for her – and Black Widow, too. As the three go on the run, we learn that Ava and Alex have more to them than meets the eye; we also peel back some of the mystery wrapped around one of the most mysterious of Avengers.

I loved this book. I love Margaret Stohl’s writing style, and she nails Black Widow’s cool, detached exterior, matched with a deep well of memories and emotions inside. We’ve got a similar character in Ava, who’s learning to control her emotions and frustrations, channeling her past into creating a persona of her own. Poor Alex, who’s been dragged along for the ride, finds himself getting answers to questions he’s never known to ask. Both Ava and Black Widow have wonderfully sarcastic tones in their words and even their actions, and Ms. Stohl manages to subtly shift the tone from an agitated adolescent to a battle-tested Avenger with ease. The debriefing sessions between the Department of Defense and the Black Widow break up heavier scenes in the story and move the pacing and narrative along. We also get some cameo appearances from other figures in the Avengers series that provide familiarity and some humor, and they made my Marvel fangirl heart beat that much faster.

I’m thrilled that Natasha Romanov gets to star in her own novel: the “Where’s Natasha” online movement showed merchandisers that women and girls DO read comics and consume pop culture, and we WANT our female superheroes on t-shirts, notebooks, action figures, and perhaps most importantly, in our stories. I would love to read a story about Natasha’s Red Room experiences, or even her assassin days, before S.H.I.E.L.D. Hey, Marvel, I know a really good author with a great YA track record… oh, and so do you.

 

Posted in Fantasy, Fiction, Fiction, Intermediate, Middle Grade, Uncategorized

LEGO DC Superheroes: Justice League Vs. Bizarro League!

justice leagueJustice League vs. Bizarro League (LEGO DC Super Heroes: Chapter Book #1), by JE Bright (Aug. 2015, Scholastic), $4.99, ISBN: 9780545867986

Recommended for ages 7-10

These new LEGO chapter books from Scholastic are great! First, we had the LEGO Elves, now we’ve got LEGO DC Superheroes. The kids in my libraries are going to lose their minds; when I started bringing in the Capstone chapter books, they flew off my shelves. Now, combining superheroes and LEGO? I will be doubling up on these in my book order for sure!

In this first DC Super Heroes chapter book, Bizarro’s home planet, Bizarro World, is under threat from Darkseid. He seeks out the Justice League for help, and creates his own “Bizarro League” of superheroes just like himself! The writing is light, fast-paced, and funny, and the characters are LEGO characters, with mentions of blocks and building throughout, so kids will know that they’re enjoying a LEGO adventure. There’s full-color art for the kids to enjoy, and if you’re feeling particularly generous, there’s also a companion DVD.

 

Posted in Fiction, Humor, Puberty, Realistic Fiction, Tween Reads

The Incredible Three and A Half Superheroes is a silly superhero story… kinda.

titaah_superheroes_side_crThe Incredible Three and a Half Superheroes, by Frank Schmeiβer/Illus. by Jörg Mühle, Translated from German by David H. Wilson, (April 2015, Little Gestalten), $19.95, ISBN: 978-3-89955-740-4

Recommended for ages 10+

Imagine if Doug, the Wimpy Kid, his buddy, Rowley, and Fregley, the weird kid, started their own superhero group. Now you’ve got an idea of what to expect with The Incredible Three and a Half Superheroes. Headed by Sebastian Appleby-Krumble, aka The Brain, the three middle school friends and classmates are a quirky group of kids from class 6A, taught by the lovely Mrs. Daffodil. Their nemeses, class 6B (for bums, among other things), are taught by the awful Mr. Devill. Things have gone missing from Mrs. Daffodil’s class, and the school administration thinks that she may not be able to control her class. To save her teaching position and reputation, the Incredible Three and a Half (the half being Martin “The Chameleon’s invisible friend, a shy chicken) must find out exactly who the real culprit(s) are.

If that wasn’t enough on its own, Sebastian also has his awful – but wealthy – Aunt Boudicea – staying with them for her birthday festivities. Sebastian’s mother is going crazy trying to feed the woman and her husband, and create an entertaining birthday song and dance routine for Sebastian to perform to entertain her at her birthday party!

The book is written in middle grade style, but the language tends toward a slightly higher level. There’s more profanity than I expected in a middle grade book, so this may be an issue for some families. Written in first-person from Sebastian/The Brain’s point of view, and illustrated with black and white line drawings throughout, this will appeal to fans of The Wimpy Kid, Big Nate, and other books in the diary/journal genre. There’s a lot of running back and forth between plot and subplot, and the writing becomes hectic, but kids will likely get a kick out of the craziness of planning a party for Sebastian’s crazy aunt and shrugging off the constant indignities she – and his classmates – toss his way.

Not a bad purchase for home and public libraries, but school libraries will likely be turned off by the language.