Tuesday, May 3, 2022

Dragons and Gaming books part 2! 5.03.22

Last year I shared some middle grade titles about dragons (here).  Dragons are a hot topic and I always have readers who are looking for more.  Another topic that readers are always on the lookout for are books about gaming.  Here are some new titles for your collections!

Dragon Ops by Mari Mancusi
Dragon Ops: Dragons vs. Robots
by Mari Mancusi
I really enjoyed the first Dragon Ops book.  This series combines gaming and robots so I feel like readers have found their book glory with this one!  The first book found our main characters, siblings Ian and Lilli, stuck in a game where the only way out is to defeat the big baddie, the dragon Atreus.
In book two, Ian keeps seeing and hearing Atreus in his head no matter where he goes.  But when he finds out his friend Ikumi, who only lives online, needs help, Ian knows he has to face his fears and Atreus again.  
Book two has Ian and Lilli inside a new game with new obstacles, so while the premise may sound familiar, it does feel different than the first book.
After I finished book one, I knew it would have a sequel.  Book two certainly leaves the door open, but I have not seen anything about a book #3.

Dragon Legend by Katie Tsang
Dragon Legend
by Katie and Kevin Tsang
Another sequel, and this one leaves you breathless!  This series follows four friends: Billy, Dylan, Charlotte, and Ling-Fei and their bonded dragons as they try and find the evil Dragon of Death and the special missing pearls.  This one picked up right where book one left off and then didn't stop until the cliffhanger at the end.  Luckily, book three publishes today!  I enjoyed the theme of friendship and how being there for each other is its own kind of protection.  These stories really make you want to have your own dragon!  But be warned, there are some surprising twists in this one, so don't put your guard down!
I like the length of this series and the trim size of the books.  Perfect for dragon enthusiasts who are looking for an amazing adventure and a book they won't be able to put down!

Dino Trouble by Nate Bitt
Arcade World: Dino Trouble
written by Nate Bitt
This new graphic novel series introduces us to Travis and Journey.  They are two friends who love gaming.  They play of games of all kinds (there's even a little mention about doing a lot of online gaming while everyone had to stay apart for awhile) but when a mysterious new arcade opens up - where all the games are free to play - Travis and Journey think they found a new favorite hangout!  But when scenes from a favorite game start coming to life and they find their lives in danger, they have to figure out who is behind it and how will it end.  With books 2-4 already planned for this year, I know readers are going to enjoy this series!

City of Thieves by Alex London
Battle Dragons: City of Thieves
by Alex London
If you have readers who love dragon stories, this is a must have!  It's fast-paced and high on adventure!
Abel lives in Drakopolis where dragons have been domesticated to suit the purposes of humans, as transportation, garbage-burners, and more.  However, the kins, or local gangs, use the dragons for battling and other purposes that benefit their kin.  Abel finds himself in the midst of a kin battle, and one he must win in order to save his family.
I'm looking forward to later this summer for book 2!

The Awakening Storm by Jaimal Yogis
City of Dragons: The Awakening Storm
by Jaimal Yogis and Vivian Truong
This graphic novel is perfect for intermediate and middle school readers.  If you enjoy dragons and manga, this has a touch of both.  The first in what will surely be a series, it introduces us to Grace.  We find out right away that she has experienced a family tragedy with the loss of her father.  Jump forward a few years, and she has now moved with her mom and stepfather to Hong Kong.  While trying to fit in, she ends up on an unapproved excursion and gains a dragon egg from a mysterious woman.  Grace and her new friends go on a mission to find out about Nate, their newly named dragon and find themselves in the depths of a mystery that brings past and present together.
The story had a few loose transitions that left me a little confused.  I had to take my time reading it to avoid any confusion.  I think it's a story that would have benefitted from some chapters to break it up a little.  However, graphic novel and dragon aficionados will enjoy this one and be anxious for book 2!

Hope you found a new book or series to pick up for your readers!

Friday, April 22, 2022

Kid Scientist series - 4.22.22

Calling all future scientists!  Would you like to know more about the scientific world?  There is a new series that is letting young readers dive (or dig) into the science fields!

Marine Biologists on a Dive by Sue Fliess     Archaeologists on a Dig by Sue Fliess
Kid Scientist series
Marine Biologists on a Dive
Archaeologists on a Dig
written by Sue Fliess
illustrated by Mia Powell
published by Albert Whitman

In the first two books of the Kid Scientist series, young readers get to explore the field of marine biology and archeology.  So whether you want to dig or dive, author Sue Fliess and illustrator Mia Powell have you covered!

Both texts feature fictional scientist teams that are in the field for a specific purpose.  In the marine book, the scientists are studying a whale pod.  Each diver has a specific task they are working on and studying.  Some studies include whale sounds and communications, others are behaviors of the whales in the pod, and the health of the food the pod is eating.  Animal conservation is also mentioned because the biologists even help a young whale that has been entangled in a fishing net.

The archaeologist book has readers visiting one of the world's biggest religious temples, Angkor Wat in Cambodia.  Sam's team is looking for artifacts to learn more about the people and history from that time period.  The author shows us step by step the process archaeologists take when searching for artifacts in an area, and then what happens once items are discovered.  I loved learning about a process scientists use to figure out how old an artifact is by using a machine that uses thermoluminescence lighting.  A piece of the artifact is crushed and added to the machine.  It is heated up and based upon the amount of light it gives off, the machine can calculate how old it is.  So cool!

I like that each book mentions the scientific method.  Readers get a feel for how scientists might use it in that field of study.  The steps of the scientific method are included in the backmatter.  And speaking of backmatter, each book has even more information about the scientific fields at the end of the book.  Between additional sources, a deeper explanation of that particular scientist, and how to become a scientist in that field, readers will leave with a new sense of understanding of that scientific career!

These texts are perfect for a read aloud and will absolutely inspire some young scientists in your classroom!

Would you like to add a copy of these books to your library?  Publisher Albert Whitman has generously donated a copy of each book for giveaway!  Enter by Friday, April 29th for your chance to win (US residents).

Tuesday, April 19, 2022

Being a Dog - a review - 4.19.22

Want a story that will draw readers in?  Just find a good dog story!  But this new dog story is more than just that.  It's a love letter to dogs and the way that they go through life, just BE-ing!  It's a book about mindfulness and reminding ourselves that it's important to just BE.

Being a Dog: A Tail of Mindfulness
Being a Dog: A Tail of Mindfulness
written by Maria Gianferrari
illustrated by Pete Oswald
published by HarperCollins

The story opens up with the reminder that dogs just live their lives.  They go through their day just being a dog.  Whether it's stretching, or eating, or playing, they go through their day, enjoying it.  Whether it's nice weather or wet weather or snowy weather.  As we go through the book, readers understand that dogs have emotions too and when they feel them, they show them.  Especially when they are happy.  Sometimes they use their whole body to show that!  

What a beautiful metaphor to talk through with young readers.  Think about the mindfulness in the life of a dog and how can that be important to their own lives?  How can they just BE and what lessons can we learn from the dogs in the story?  It's a powerful idea when you dig deep and think about it.  I know I definitely need reminders to BE instead of always thinking about the next things on my list!

I really love the mindfulness ideas included in the backmatter.  Tips to help us be mindful, no matter what the season is!  Dogs don't worry about the seasons, they find ways to just BE any time of year!  

Now, this book could not just be written by anyone, it has to be someone who has had many dogs to love.  Someone who knows just how dogs can BE and loves their dog for those reasons.  I asked author Maria Gianferrari to tell us more about one of her beloved dogs, Becca.  Thanks for stopping by, Maria!  Take it away!

My late, very beloved and much missed rescue dog, Becca, was the inspiration for Being a Dog and for all of my canine “tails.” The Penny & Jelly books were based on her bond with our daughter, Anya—Becca was like her dog sister, since Anya’s an only child. I call this the “best friends” photo (Anya was 6, and Becca was 1). Becca’s initial separation anxiety led to the structure of Hello Goodbye Dog, and Operation Rescue Dog was loosely based on her own transportation rescue story.

Becca was my furry, faithful friend and writing companion. I am so grateful to have had her as a family member for almost 14 years. Not surprisingly, when Becca died in November 2019, I was devastated and deeply depressed for a couple of months. I couldn’t work, and I cried all the time—her absence was so present and palpable. When I finally sat down to write again, I wanted to feel all of the joy and calm and love that I felt in her presence. I got to thinking about how dogs live in the moment, and what we as humans can learn from that.

I love the Ted Lasso quote, “Living in the moment is a gift. That’s why they call it the present.” Writing
Being a Dog, being present, reliving those times, helped me to find joy again. I think of the book as Becca’s gift to me, because it was one of those rare books that wrote itself and flowed out, and that doesn’t happen very often. But when we’re open to things, magic happens.

And now I get to “be a dog” with our new rescue mutt, Maple.

Thank you, Maria, for sharing this very special story!

More about author Maria Gianferrari:
Maria Gianferrari is a community scientist, self-taught naturalist, and bird nerd who holds an M.A. in Creative Writing and a Ph.D. in English. She is the author of narrative nonfiction picture books which celebrate urban ecosystems, the natural world and our wild neighbors. She also writes engaging expository nonfiction. And as a lover of dogs, Maria’s fiction picture books star dogs as main characters and explore the human-canine bond. She writes from her light-filled, book-lined study in Massachusetts with rescue dog, Maple at her side.

Be sure to find your copy of this special book today! Want to try your luck and win a copy? Maria and HarperCollins are generously giving away a copy of the book to a blog reader (US residents only). Enter below and a winner will be selected on Tuesday, April 26th.

Monday, April 18, 2022

A book for Earth Day! 4.18.22

 While Friday may be Earth Day, it's really something we should be thinking about everyday!  Here's a perfect book for your celebration:

Be Thankful for Trees by Harriet Ziefert
Be Thankful for Trees:
A tribute to the many and surprising ways trees relate to our lives
written by Harriet Ziefert
illustrated by Brian Fitzgerald
published by Red Comet Press

Author Harriet Ziefert tells us many reasons why we should be thankful for trees - a tree is food, is comfort, is recreation, and so much more!  Divided up by the reasons we should be thankful and some great examples for each one, this story is told in a rhyming format.  I love that there is minimal text on each page, usually just an example per page (two per layout) which makes it a great read aloud and it's accessible to all readers.  The examples are wonderful springboards for further conversation, such as, did you ever think about how trees give us music since it makes so many musical instruments?  Or, maybe talk about the surprise when we figure out that trees give us so many recreation objects, like baseball bats or paper kites!  By the end of the book readers understand that while trees help us so much with our everyday lives, we also need to remember to conserve this valuable resource!

Looking for more Earth Day stories?  Click here for more posts and more books!

Wednesday, April 6, 2022

This is a School blog tour - 4.06.22

If you were writing a love letter about all that a school can be, what would you include?  I imagine learning would be a central part.  Maybe a welcoming community?  How about the people that fill it?  If you're looking for that book, look no further, because AUTHOR John Schu has written it for us!

This Is a School
written by John Schu
illustrated by Veronica Miller Jamison
published by Candlewick Press

This timeless book is an ode to all the things we hope and want our schools to be.  This book invites readers in to a beautiful setting where learners are welcomed, encouraged, and supported.  The illustrations by Veronica Miller Jamison are filled with bright and inviting colors.  

This school community is one we all want to be a part of and belong to.  Mr. Schu has captured the emotions, hopes, and dreams all of us have for our learning communities!

The phrase "we learn" is a repeated phrase in the story, but I love that the word "learn" encompasses more than just facts and information.  It's about learning to be a friend and empathetic person.  It's about the interpersonal skills we gain in conversation with each other at school.  It's about helping each other grow and learn!

Of course, as many of you know, this book is such a special one for so many of us because it's written by our very own, Mr. Schu!  We all know John Schu as a champion of books, authors, illustrators, and creators everywhere.  It's so exciting to see his name on this book and celebrate it with him.  I'm very excited to welcome Mr. Schu and talk more about This Is a School!  Welcome, John!

Hi, Mrs. Knott! Thank you for all you do to help connect readers with stories. I’m grateful for your kind comments about This Is a School.

When did this book first take shape in your mind?

I wrote This Is a School, illustrated by Veronica Miller Jamison, after I wrote This Is a Story, illustrated by Lauren Castillo, even though This Is a Story comes out next year. This Is a Story is an ode to the power and importance of story. This Is a School is my love letter to students, homeroom teachers, school librarians, reading specialists, guidance counselors, custodians, social workers, principals, art teachers, school secretaries, music teachers, coaches, school nurses, volunteers, helpers, and everyone who helps make school a place of connection. The book took shape in 2019 as I reflected on the life-changing experiences I had in schools as a teacher, as a teacher-librarian, as a student, and as the former of Ambassador of School Libraries for Scholastic Book Fairs.

I love the line, "Some people see what we're good at, and that helps us to know it, too."  I bet there has been an influential person for you since you've been on your author journey - either when you were young and just beginning to craft your stories to now.  Tell us about someone who has influenced you and helped you see what you're good at!

Oh, thank you so much for asking this question, Michele! The first name that popped into my mind was Dr. Mary Margaret Reed, my fifth-grade teacher. I write about her in The Creativity Project, edited by Colby Sharp.

This book feels so timeless!  I can see teachers and librarians reading this to children year after year.  As this book goes out into the world, what are your hopes for it?

Thank you for your confidence in the story. It means so much to my heart! I hope it makes people smile. I hope they pore over Veronica’s beautiful and colorful illustrations. I hope they feel seen. I hope it helps facilitate meaningful conversations.

I love so many of the words used to describe a school.  Which word did you really make sure you included and explored in this book?

You’re asking so many amazing questions that I’ve never been asked before! Thank you for opening up this space to me. There are two words I had to include in This is a School: HEAL and LIBRARIANS. I think librarians can help heal hurts through the stories they add to their collections. Through the stories they booktalk. Through the stories they introduce to students’ hearts. In The Gift of Story: Exploring the Affective Side of the Reading Life, I write: Books can be the perfect prescriptions that let us know we’re going to be OK. We give students access to these lifelines and leave room for the magic.

Veronica Miller Jamison's artwork is fantastic and makes your words come to life!  The bright colors just invited you into the school!  And I loved watching the same children learn and explore and grow on each page!  I'm going to take a "Mr. Schu" prompt from your amazing blog and have you respond to "Veronica Miller Jamison's illustrations...."

Yes! Yes! Yes! Veronica’s artwork is fantastic! Her art is magnificent! She brings such energy and love to every page. 

Yay! I get to finish one of your sentences. Thank you! 

Veronica Miller Jamison’s illustrations make my heart smile.

Thanks for stopping by, Mr. Schu!

Thank you, Mrs. Knott! I hope we see each other one day soon!

Have you see the book trailer yet?  Be sure to share it with your young readers!

Candlewick Press has generously offered two copies of This Is a School for giveaway!  Enter by Friday, April 15th for your chance to win (U.S. residents)!

Thursday, March 24, 2022

Wave - a review - 3.24.22

When you think about waves, lots of visuals may come to your mind.  The waves in the ocean - at times quiet, other times volatile.  Maybe you think of sound waves hitting your ears as you listen to music that makes you want to move.  Movement is key to waves, and that is kind of what life is, right?  It's constantly moving.  Sometimes it's quiet, other times volatile.  Sometimes it makes you move, sometimes it can move you to tears.  This book is all of that and more.

by Diana Farid
published by cameron kids
publishes March 29, 2022

I'll give it to you straight.  This is a beautiful, but heartbreaking story.  There were tears.  But it's a story that will live inside me for awhile.  This is absolutely the middle grade story I would have loved to read as a middle schooler - first love, beautiful friendships, and a story that makes you feel deep into your heart.
We meet Ava in this story.  It's the 1980s, Ava is a Persian American living in SoCal with her single mother, father is in Paris... somewhere with his new family.  Ava has a beautiful soul, but she is a character that also has flaws.  She definitely has some OCD tendencies that interrupt her day.  She also can be full of self doubt and needs reassurance from those around her.  Ava loves surfboarding and music.  She enjoys being with her BFF, Naz, who is also Persian American and understands what it's like having two feet in two cultures.  Ava's other longtime BFF, Phoenix, lives across the way and she's known him forever.  Ava's been friends with him through his bout with lymphoma, and is just becoming aware of some new feelings she has for him.  But when Phoenix's lymphoma comes back with a vengeance, Ava really learns what it means to ride the waves.
This beautiful story is told in verse with gorgeous bold line drawings by artist Kris Goto sprinkled through the pages.  I could sense the additional movement through the illustrations that come with the lyrical words.  I love the choice of it being a novel in verse because it flows so well with the idea of waves and Ava's love of music.  The different 80s music references and mixtape playlists that are included at the end of the story are perfect for the way this story reads.  It is also infused with poetry by the great Persian poet, Rumi, and they add another layer of thought into the storyline.
I highly recommend this book for middle school libraries.  This novel in verse will reach so many readers and the way it delves into the reader's heart will make it a book that will be passed around by readers!

More about author Diana Farid:
Diana Farid is the author of When You Breathe, named a 2021 Notable Poetry Book by the National Council of Teachers of English; it was also awarded the California Reading Association's 2021 EUREKA! Gold Award for nonfiction children's book.  She is a poet and a physician at Stanford University.  Wave is her first middle grade novel.  For more information, visit dianafarid.com.

Twitter and Instagram: @_artelixir

Thank you to Barbara at Blue Slip Media and cameron kids publishing for the review copy!

Wednesday, March 23, 2022

Bobcat Prowling - a review - 3.23.22

I bet you have some touchstone texts that you use year after year.  Those mentor texts that have more than just the story inside the cover in them.  One of mine is Coyote Moon by Maria Gianferrari.  We use it every year and I love how the story and the information draws in readers with every read.  Now the creators are back with another story that I'm sure will be a new favorite!

Bobcat Prowling by Maria Gianferrari
Bobcat Prowling
written by Maria Gianferrari
illustrated by Bagram Ibatoulline
published by Roaring Brook Press

This time we follow Yearling Bobcat.  He's just been pushed out of his territory by his mother because it's time for her to mate and raise a new litter.  Yearling must find his own territory now.  As he travels the area, multiple children get a view of Yearling as he hunts for food and searches for a new home.  Similar to Coyote Moon, we learn about an animal's hunting style, predators of the animal, and how the animal lives.  There is excitement as we hope Yearling finds something to eat, yet also hope the prey gets to see another day!  After some time, Yearling is now an adult Bobcat, and we eventually get to see him find his own territory (and a meal)!

I love Gianferrari's lyrical tone to these books.  While readers are gaining lots of information, you can't help but be enthralled with the way the words seem to dance as you read.

Ibatoulline's illustrations are just fantastic.  Readers always note the realistic drawings, and they really do feel like you can reach in and touch the animal's silky, soft fur!

I think one of my favorite parts of these books is in the backmatter.  Gianferrari adds an "All About" section that contains some fascinating facts and information!  Each fact adds to something Gianferrari has in the main text - for example, we know Yearling stays with his mom for a certain amount of time, but in this section Gianferrari tells us that yearlings (1-2 year old bobcats) typically leave their mother anywhere from nine months to two years old.  Of course my favorite fact is when Gianferrari asks us what a bobcat's favorite activity is?  It's inactivity!  Sometimes that doesn't seem like such a bad idea!

Within the first several pages, I thought we were going to learn more about the mother bobcat and her child.  But very quickly, we end up learning that we would be following Yearling's story.  I thought that was a great choice and asked Maria to tell us more about it.  Welcome, Maria!

A few years ago I gave a workshop on revision at my then local SCBWI chapter in Maryland. One of the ways I invited attendees to think about revising their projects was in terms of theme—what are the themes that they frequently explore, and how can amplifying those themes enrich their current WIPs? 

For me, the idea of home—as a place of comfort and safety, as a feeling of calm and community, is one which threads throughout all of my projects, both fiction and nonfiction. When I began to write the manuscript, I knew that having a young bobcat main character who’s searching for a home would blend drama, excitement, tension, and that finding that space would be the ultimate satisfying resolution, so it made sense to tell the story from the yearling’s perspective. In fact, the working title of the book was A Home for Bobcat, though during the revision process we decided to make it more active to emphasize the search for home, and prey, and to have it complement its companion predator books, Hawk Rising and Coyote Moon.

I love hearing more from an author.  It always gives me a new perspective of the story.  Framing it by the idea of home makes so much sense.  I need another read now to think about that theme that runs through the story!

Thank you so much for stopping by!  I hope you pick up a copy of Bobcat Prowling for your readers!

More about author, Maria Gianferrari:
Maria Gianferrari is a community scientist, self-taught naturalist, and bird nerd who holds an M.A. in Creative Writing and a Ph.D. in English. She is the author of narrative nonfiction picture books which celebrate urban ecosystems, the natural world and our wild neighbors. She also writes engaging expository nonfiction. And as a lover of dogs, Maria’s fiction picture books star dogs as main characters and explore the human-canine bond. She writes from her light-filled, book-lined study in Massachusetts with rescue dog, Maple at her side.

Would you like to win a copy of Bobcat Prowling?  Maria Gianferrari and Roaring Brook Press have generously offered a copy for giveaway (US Residents only).  Winner will be selected on Wednesday, March 30th.

Wednesday, March 16, 2022

Women's History Month, part 3 - 3.16.22

Welcome to the third and last Women's History Month post!
Don't miss:

Today we're focusing on space and food!

Like a Diamond in the Sky: Jane Taylor’s Beloved Poem of Wonder and the Stars
Like a Diamond in the Sky:
Jane Taylor's Beloved Poem of Wonder and the Stars
written by Elizabeth Brown
illustrated by Becca Stadtlander
I think "Twinkle, twinkle little star" is probably one of the first songs I sang to my daughter when she was born.  This is the story of the author of that song, that was first published as a poem.  Jane Taylor was always attracted to the stars and poems seemed to be all around her.  But in a time when women were not published, both Jane and her sister had to publish under pen names.  Not one to give up, Jane continued writing her entire life, eventually being able to see her name in print!

How to Hear the Universe: Gaby González and the Search for Einstein's Ripples in Space-Time
How to Hear the Universe:
Gaby Gonzalez and the Search for Einstein's Ripples in Space-Time
written by Patricia Valdez
illustrated by Sara Palacios
What a fantastic STEM book for Women's History Month!  We've all heard of Einstein and his work on gravity, which is actually based on movement through space and time.  He also wondered about ripples - specifically if colliding stars could create ripples in space-time.  It wasn't until fifty years later that young Gaby Gonzalez started wondering about stars and space.  Years later, with her work on a machine named LIGO, and with other scientists, did she prove that these ripples do exist!
Written by the author of Joan Procter, Dragon Doctor, Patricia Valdez, and illustrated by one of my favorites, Sara Palacio, this book is a joy to read.

Blast Off!: How Mary Sherman Morgan Fueled America Into Space
Blast Off! How Mary Sherman Morgan Fueled America Into Space
written by Suzanne Slade
illustrated by Sally Wern Comport
I love that we are hearing so many amazing women who are actually behind so many science accomplishments!  Who knew that the rocket fuel that astronauts and rocket scientists relied on was actually concocted by a woman?  Yup, it was Mary Sherman Morgan who worked at all the equations needed to put this dangerous, yet needed, fuel together. 
I love the illustrations by Sally Wern Comport, they absolutely radiate the feel from that time period!

Now on to the foodies!

Born Hungry: Julia Child Becomes "the French Chef"
Born Hungry: Julia Child Becomes "the French Chef"
written by Alex Prud'homme
illustrated by Sarah Green
I apparently did not know anything about Julia Child!  I thought she was French, had no idea she was American!  I also thought being a chef was something she just always was.  I loved learning more about this dynamic woman!  Although I still don't think there is any hope for me becoming a cook in my later years :)

Alice Waters Cooks Up a Food Revolution
Alice Waters Cooks Up a Food Revolution
written by Diane Stanley
illustrated by Jessie Hartland
If you've ever had your own garden, you know first of all the taste of your food is so different than what you get at the store.  You also know that the food lasts way longer; it's definitely more fresh!
All of these facts are things Alice Waters discovers.  And when she travels and lives and studies in France, Alice finds out this is how the French always eat.  When she gets back to California, it takes a few years of figuring things out, but eventually she opens her own French restaurant.  Filling it with people who want to be there and try new things, her restaurant blossoms and then thrives.  Alice eventually travels to local farms and starts buying produce that is fresh and serving whatever she has on hand - just like when she was younger and just like in France.
Definitely a fun book for the foodies in your school!

Hope you have found some new books over the past three weeks to share with readers this month.  Let's go mighty women and continue to learn and grow!

Wednesday, March 9, 2022

Women's History Month, part 2 - 3.09.22

It's Women's History Month!  What stories are you sharing with readers?
Last week I shared the book Breaking Through the Clouds which features the first woman meteorologist, Joanne Simpson.  It's a great book to share this month.  Here are 5 more picture book biographies featuring some amazing women in history.

Revolutionary Prudence Wright: Leading the Minute Women in the Fight for Independence
Revolutionary Prudence Wright: 
Leading the Minute Women in the Fight for Independence
written by Beth Anderson
illustrated by Susan Reagan
A story I had not heard and I absolutely stood up and cheered for this brave woman!  Talk about cheering on a mighty woman, everyone needs to hear the story of Prudence Wright.  A woman who helped on all fronts - by doing work that was expected of a woman during the time of the Revolutionary War and rising up and doing whatever was needed - whether it was considered gender appropriate or not - to help fight for the independence our country needed.
Great research information in the backmatter.  Don't miss it.

To the Front! by Claudia Friddell
To the Front! Clara Barton  Braves the Battle of Antietam
written by Claudia Friddell
illustrated by Christopher Cyr
I've read books about Clara Barton, but I think most of them focus on her starting the American Red Cross.  This particular book focuses on how she helped the wounded at the Battle of Antietam during the Civil War.
Something that stands out about this book is how it was written.  Friddell writes half of the narrative in repetitive lines poetry.  The other half is Barton's own words.  Friddell tells us at the beginning that Barton's own words are written in specific colors and are italicized.  This is important because so many picture book biographies that have spoken lines that are fabricated or imagined, which really makes the book historical fiction.
Backmatter that gives even more information about the life of Barton.

Ida B. Wells, Voice of Truth: Educator, Feminist, and Anti-Lynching Civil Rights Leader
Ida B. Wells, Voice of Truth
written by Michelle Duster
illustrated by Laura Freeman
I was fortunate to listen to author Michelle Duster talk about her great-grandmother, Ida B. Wells.  This story is a fantastic picture book biography that shows the reader that there are many ways to use your voice to affect change.  Ida B. Wells used spoken word and written word.  She also acted and always tried to create change for equality for all.

Nellie vs. Elizabeth: Two Daredevil Journalists' Breakneck Race Around the World
Nellie vs. Elizabeth: Two Daredevil Journalists' Breakneck Race Around the World
written by Kate Hannigan
illustrated by Rebecca Gibbon
I am sure I've heard this story before but it played out with more suspense in this fun picture book!  I loved how Hannigan really laid out the difference in the two women's personalities and how they took on this race.  It's a great compare and contrast story!

Because Claudette
Because Claudette
written by Tracey Baptiste
illustrated by Tonya Engel
When we think about the bus boycott in Montgomery, AL, we usually think about Rosa Parks.  However, before Rosa refused to give up her seat, there were others who did it first, including Claudette Colvin, who was only 15 years old.  Ms. Colvin, as young as she was, ended up having a big part of the boycott.  Not only did she help it begin, but she participated in it, and even participated in court proceedings about it.  
I really liked the cause-effect structure of this book.

When the Schools Shut Down: A Young Girl's Story of Virginia's Lost Generation and the Brown V. Board of Education of Topeka Decision
When the Schools Shut Down:
A Young Girl's Story of Virginia's "Lost Generation" and the Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka Decision
written by Yolanda Gladden, as told to Dr. Tamara Pizzoli
illustrated by Keisha Morris
This is Yolanda Gladden's account of her family's history that leads up to the Brown v. Board of Education decision and how it ended up affecting her once she was school-aged.  For five years, the public schools in her county, Prince Edward County in Virginia, closed down rather than integrate the schools.  Yolanda continued learning in church basements, people's homes, and other community-created Black schools.  Finally, the Supreme Court determined the shutdown was unconstitutional and ordered all schools to reopen.

All of these picture book biographies would be perfect to use this month!  

Wednesday, March 2, 2022

Women's History Month - featuring Meteorologist Joanne Simpson - 3.02.22

Breaking Through the Clouds:
The Sometimes Turbulent Life of Meteorologist Joanne Simpson
written by Sandra Nickel
illustrated by Helena Perez Garcia
published by Abrams Books for Young Readers

When you think about women who have made a difference in our world, there are some adjectives that just don't fit:  quiet, demure, follower.  Take Joanne Simpson.  In her own words she would have said, you have to be stubborn.

I found the world "turbulent" in the subheading of this book to be so interesting.  That's, of course, a word I use to describe something that is unpredictable, something that might shake things up.  But after reading this picture book biography, I understand why that word was selected.  Take the very first line of the book, "By the time Joanne was five, she had discovered her mother didn't much care where she was."  This tumultuous relationship continued and left Joanne with alone time, often spent in her boat or flying a small plane, getting lost in the clouds.  Clouds became Joanne's obsession and lead her to her adult career.  Studying under renown meteorologist Carl-Gustaf Rossby. Joanne got a "crash course" in meteorology and then taught officers getting ready to fight in WWII.  However, she still wanted to know more about those clouds.  

Joanne had to make many concessions in order to continue her studies, but finally after a breakthrough study of cumulus clouds, Joanne received her doctorate of meteorology.  

You would think that would be enough to convince everyone to always give Joanne a chance, but this was the 1950s, which meant Joanne still had to persuade and convince, in other words be stubborn, in order to continue to learn and study.  It seemed that every time she figured something out, her plans were shot down.  Up and down.  But like cumulus clouds that keep returning, so did Joanne.  Finally, she was able to convince Rossby to allow her to have access to his large computers and she was able to complete a cloud model that scientists were able to use that now give us the terminology we hear on weather reports today: "partly sunny skies, showers in the morning, expect blue skies in the afternoon."

I enjoyed the backmatter and gaining additional information about Joanne's life in the author's note and included photographs.  There is a timeline that helps readers visually plot out some of Joanne's greatest achievements.  Also included is a selected bibliography.

Whether you have students studying the weather or you want to turn the spotlight on someone new for Women's History Month, Joanne Simpson would be an excellent person to study!

Thank you to Barbara at Blue Slip Media for the review copy!

More about author Sandra Nickel:

Sandra Nickel says that story ideas are everywhere; you just have to reach out and grab them.  She holds an MFA in writing for children and young adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts. Her first book, Nacho’s Nachos: The Story Behind the World’s Favorite Snack, was awarded a Christopher Award and was a Golden Kite Award finalist. Sandra lives in Chexbres, Switzerland, where she blogs about children’s book writers and illustrators at whatwason.com. To learn more, visit https://sandranickel.com/


Twitter:  @senickel

Facebook: @sandranickelbooks

Instagram: @sandranickelbooks


Check out the trailer and other cool resources here!

Tuesday, March 1, 2022

Middle Grade books that build stamina, part 2 - 3.01.22

I am a reader.  I love reading.  I've seen myself as a reader for as long as I can remember.  I have many positive memories of reading from when I was younger.  I get excited by the challenge of a longer book.  I read across genres.  Page count, chapter count, white space, font size, page thickness (I feel like that has a name, but I'm not sure what it is), none of that matters to me.  Even throughout this pandemic, while my reading has ebbed and flowed, and I've been met with reading challenges that are very new (attention, time, desire), I have continued to read.
For many readers, their experiences are very different.  Page count matters.  Chapter count matters.  White space, font.... all of it matters.  And then put a pandemic on the plate. 
And while we're at it.  Let's talk about equity.  I've always had access to a public library and two parents who were always willing to take me there and to the bookmobile.  And I could check out books from my school library.  I know many many readers can't say that.
When I was growing up and I was bored, I read.  There wasn't cable until I was older.  My parents never handed me a phone or a tablet to keep me occupied.  Video games?  Nope, not until I was older.  And even then, my remote was tethered to a box.  In this digital age, books and stories have a level of competition that younger readers never had.  Even the kids I taught two decades ago.... even a decade ago, read differently than kids do today.

As a consumer of books, I love watching social media and sites like the Nerdy Book Club, and reading magazines like The Horn Book, to see what is out and what is being said about those books.  I read and review those books.  And what gets marketed and what is "seen", is not always what reaches all readers.  And I want to make sure to reach all readers.  So I'm always on the lookout for books where the page and chapter count isn't overwhelming.  And yes, there might be more white space.  I look for these books in different formats and genres.  But these books.... they are sometimes hard to find.  They aren't always publicized as much.  Even us nerdy adults might look over them for one reason or another.  But I know they are needed by readers so I search for them.  Which is why I started this series, so other people can know about these titles and get them into hands of readers.

All books should be celebrated.  This series is celebrating the leaner texts.

Almost There and Almost Not by Linda Urban
Almost There and Almost Not
by Linda Urban
224 pages
Linda Urban's books come to mind when looking for a solid middle grade story that is not long in page count.  They appeal to readers who are looking for a character driven novel who want to dive into the character's feelings and learn what motivates them.
This story introduces us to California - or Callie, as she eventually is called - who is going from house to house, guardian to guardian, eventually landing at her great Aunt Monica's house.  Her father is back in Alaska, figuring things out and trying to earn more money for him and Callie.  Once Callie gets to great Aunt Monica's, she's immediately thrown into a project.  The two of them are researching a dead relative, who just so happens to be a ghost that Callie can see and talk to.  Along with a ghost dog who delivers long ago written letters, Callie learns more about herself and what it means to be part of a family.
Perfect middle grade novel for 5th grade and up.

Sugar and Spite by Gail D. Villanueva
Sugar and Spite
by Gail D. Villanueva
208 pages
An #ownvoices novel that takes place on a fictional island in the Philippines.  
Jolina has recently moved to this island and she very much feels like an outsider.  It doesn't help queen bee Claudine puts her in her place every chance she gets.  Jolina is learning her family's magic and she quietly uses it to create a love potion.  She puts this in a treat for Claudine so she can make Claudine be a friend, not a bully.  Before Jolina realizes what she's done, Claudia wants to be BFFAE (best friend forever and ever).  However, after spending time with Claudia, Jolina finds there is a kind person under that rough exterior.  Can Jolina remove the potion without removing the new friendship?
I enjoyed the magical realism of the story and the integration of Philippine culture throughout the story.  The friendship conflict will feel very real to readers and there is one exciting scene at the end.  
I would say the sweet spot for this book is with 3rd-5th gr readers.

Fast Pitch
Fast Pitch
by Nic Stone
192 pages
I love that Nic Stone can write for a variety of ages, and in this second middle grade novel, she shows that power again.
Staying with the same community she gave us in Clean Getaway, this time she focuses on Scoob's friend, Shenice.  Shenice comes from a long line of baseball (or as her brother says, batball) players.  She's currently playing for the first all Black female softball league in her county and they are doing their best at winning and going all the way to state.  But breaking Shenice's concentration is the new information that her (never met) great-grandfather's name was brought through some bad baseball mud.  In fact, his days of playing the game were brought to an end because of a racial crime that he was never able to clear his name from.  But with some new information from a newly-met relative, Shenice has to race against the clock to clear his name and win that softball championship!
I love that this middle grade novel is a quick read - comes in at under 200 pages - yet delves into a racial conversation that readers today are looking to have.  We need more books like this and I'm glad Nic Stone is adding her voice for middle grade readers today!

When Winter Robeson Came
When Winter Robeson Came
by Brenda Woods
160 pages
Not only is this on the leaner side for page count, it's also a novel in verse, which means lots of white space on the pages.  While I easily read this in one sitting, it won't take readers who still need to sit for shorter readings to get through this one.  And it's another historical fiction novel from Ms. Woods, so it will also take the reader to a place in time.  As always, I learned so much from reading one of her books.
It's summertime 1965 and Eden is ready for some fun.  But when her cousin, Winter, comes for an extended visit, she gets fun in the shape of a mystery.  Winter is on the search for his missing father but needs to do his sleuthing on the sly.  Eden agrees to help and it brings the two of them to the Watts neighborhood.  And in the summer of 65, the Watts neighborhood is home for an uprising that puts Winter and Eden right in the middle of history.

Once Upon a Tim by Stuart Gibbs
Once Upon a Tim
written by Stuart Gibbs
illustrated by Stacy Curtis
152 pages
Stuart Gibbs is well-loved for his series like the Fun Jungle series or the Spy School series.  Now he's trying his hand at a new hybrid series.  This first book definitely is on the leaner side coming in at around 150 pages and lots of illustrations in each chapter.  It's a quest story so it's full of action and adventure and since it's Stuart Gibbs, it also has loads of laughs!
Tim is a peasant, like all of the generations ahead of him in his family.  Yet, unlike everyone else in his family, he wants more than just a life of dirt, gruel, and living in a hut.  When he sees there are "tryouts" to become a knight and join the prince and the castle wizard on a quest, Tim decides this is how he changes his station in life.  Along with his friend Belinda and trusty fr-dog (it'a a thing in the book...), Tim finds out that not everything is as it seems on this quest.
I love the "IQ boosters" Gibbs includes.  It's a longer word that he throws in and then follows it up with a definition and using it in another funny sentence.
Looking forward to seeing where this series takes us and Tim!

Hoping you found a book for one of your readers.  I'll be continuing this series and looking for more books to help these readers continue to grow!

Tuesday, February 22, 2022

A Reading Trend - graphic novels!

It's been an interesting year for reading at my school.  I've been watching what the 3rd and 4th graders read and it has been a big shift from years past.  Graphic novels have always been a hit, but this year, it's almost exclusively what they want.  And just in case you think book talking and book passing by the kids isn't happening, I can tell you it's alive and well!  Towards the beginning of the year it was the HiLo series.  I couldn't keep track of who had what book.  All I know is between my library and the school library, our HiLos were gone!  Next it was Amulet.  I hadn't seen a resurgence of that series for about seven years.  It's not that they hadn't been read in that time, I just haven't had the same amount of holds on those books since then.  Now Bird and Squirrel is taking off.  Other fantasy series that have also been popular this year are 5 Worlds and Plants vs. Zombies.  Over on the realistic fiction side, my Babysitter Club and Babysitters Little Sisters books are always gone.  The Click series is super popular.  New Kid and Class Act are always gone.  And lots of the non-series titles are getting love too - Roller Girl, Twins, Measuring Up, and Pawcasso.
I also have been noticing the trend in publishing of graphic novels for the younger crowd too.  Lots of new graphic novels for readers have been published.  Perfect for readers who are working on stamina and need a shorter read.  Many of these books have more decodable words which means younger readers can start with graphic novels at a younger age!
So whenever I see a new graphic novel, I  am much more likely to purchase it right now.  Keeping readers reading!

Here are some newer titles you may want for the readers in your life!  Let's start off with some fantastic sequels.  If any of these series are new to you, make sure you find all of them, they are crowd favorites!

Hilo Book 8: Gina and the Big Secret
HiLo: Gina and the Big Secret
by Judd Winick
This is my absolute favorite graphic novel series.  I've said it before and I'll say it again.  The stories have so much heart, so much humor, so much fun, such good stories!
While it's hard to follow up my favorite (HiLo: Gina the Girl Who Broke the World) this one does a great job.  Gina has recently discovered she has magic, HiLo is a real boy (or is he??) and together, the crew needs to right the Earth back to normal.  Easy task for them, right?  I love the twists and turns and surprises that happen along the way.
The hold list is already very long for this one!  Make sure you have extra copies!

Katie the Catsitter by Colleen A.F. Venable
Katie the Catsitter: Best Friends for Never
written by Colleen AF Venable
drawn by Stephanie Yue
This is the second book in the series and I'm so happy to hear the creators are already working on more.  Katie is such a fun character for middle grade readers because she is relatable and she gets to help a superhero!  In this second book, Katie's best friend is back from summer camp and the usual growing pains of being apart for a summer, having made new friends, and trying to fall back into your regular friendship occurs.  I like that the old friendship doesn't completely dissolve and we still see Katie grow as a character.  
I already have a hold list for this one too!

Baloney and Friends by Greg Pizzoli
Baloney and Friends: Dream Big!
 by Greg Pizzoli
This early reader graphic novel chapter book is the third in the series, and like its two predecessors, I was cracking up as I read it.  Featuring four friends with very different personalities and voices, you can read just one chapter from the book and capture readers' attention!

Besties by Kayla Miller
Besties Work It Out
written by Kayla Miller and Jeffrey Canino
illustrated by Kristina Luu
Technically, not a sequel, but it's set in the world of the "Click" graphic novels (with Olive - Click, Camp, Act, and Clash).  This time we have BFFs Beth and Chanda who are both trying so hard to save up money for something special.  When they are set up with the perfect job by Beth's older sister, surely nothing can go wrong?  Beth and Chanda are about to get a perfect lesson in responsibility that neither were expecting.
This one will be a huge hit with readers who are already fans of the "Click" series.  We'll get book 2 of the "Besties" series this fall.

Bedtime Jitters by Norm Feuti
Beak & Ally: Bedtime Jitters
by Norm Feuti
I really enjoyed the first book in this series.  Beak (a bird) and Ally (an alligator) seem to be a weird match as far as friendships go, but in reality, alligators and birds have a symbiotic relationship.  
In the second book, Beak is having trouble sleeping due to all the nighttime noises in the swamp.  It's up to Ally to give Beak a little help.  But it's when the two work together do they really feel the power of friendship!
The first book in the series just won a Geisel Honor Award, whoo hoo!

Now let's check out some new(er) stand-alone graphic novels!

Otto by Jon Agee
Otto: A Palindrama
by Jon Agee
A graphic novel that is made up entirely of palindromes.  At times, definitely silly and nonsensical, but many of them move the story along!  
Otto is at home with his parents and dog, when he seems to fall into a scene that is inside his bowl of wontons.  Otto moves from place to place in search of his dog.  Along the way he meets many people who have things to say, forwards and backwards, of course!

The Odds #1 by Matt Stanton
The Odds
by Matt Stanton
Here comes a new series that will be a must have to own.  
Quiet and shy Kip has just woken up to a variety of creatures in her room.  Some have come from the comics her dad draws, others from her imagination, or own drawings.  Some are from books or video games.  No one is quite sure what their purpose is, but when Kip and her dad lock them up in the basement, they get loose and run.  While Kip's dad is fine with them gone, Kip has taken a fancy to them and wants to find them.  Can Kip find them and can they help her out with a problem of her own?
It's a quick read and the story ends in a satisfying way that gets you excited for future stories.

Housecat Trouble: (A Graphic Novel)
Housecat Trouble
by Mason Dickerson
This is a new series but I did not get this one.  Buster the cat's owner has just gone away for a day and he's found their house full of weird, purple, blobby monsters.  Good thing a spirit-sniffing cat has come by to help!  With two new cat friends, Buster is able to conquer his scaredy-cat feelings and take back the house.

Paws: Gabby Gets It Together
PAWS: Gabby Gets It Together
by Nathan Fairbairn
Illustrated/Colored by Michele Assarasakorn
No doubt this will be a series that is loved by readers.  A realistic fiction series that is billed as being a "Babysitters Club" for dogs, fans of the BSC will flock to this one too.  A group of friends from a multi-age classroom bond over their love of animals, especially since none of them can have a pet due to one reason or another.  To help them be around animals without actually owning one, they come up with the idea of being dog walkers.  Of course, nothing goes as planned and arguments happen.  This is the first in the series.  I'm sure it will be popular.
A big problem with the illustrating is the Asian character has half moon eyes when laughing and just black dots for eyes when showing extreme emotion.  This stereotype needs to end.  Now.
Publishes March 8th.

Huda F Are You? by Huda Fahmy
Huda F Are You?
by Huda Fahmy
A book about identity and fitting in.  A memoir graphic novel from Fahmy, growing up as a Muslim.  In this memoir, Huda and her family have just moved to Dearborn, Michigan, a place that has a large Muslim community and Huda and her sisters won't be the only women in hijabi.  But even then she doesn't fit in because Huda still can't find, not only her group, but she needs to also figure out who she is... how does she identify?  This young adult GN is perfect for upper middle grade readers and high school readers.  Huda's humor will resonate with readers and the questions she asks herself are also some of the same questions many of us ask ourselves.

Batpig by Rob Harrell
When Pigs Fly
by Rob Harrell
First appearing in his middle grade book Wink, Batpig now has his own graphic novel.  It will be welcomed by fans of DogMan as it has goofy humor and lots of puns to make readers laugh out loud.  
Gary the Pig was just an ordinary pig with regular friend-type problems, when his friend Brooklyn the Bat accidentally bit him on the nose, which of course gave him super powers!  Gary wrestles with how to handle these powers, and until he figures out exactly how to use them, he keeps them a secret from everyone but Brook.  Which is fine until his other BFF, Carl the Fish, finds out he's been keeping a secret from him!  Can Batpig save the day and his friendships?
Definitely a series you'll want to have multiple copies of!  Looking forward to the next book, coming this June!

Hope you found a new graphic novel or two for your readers.  I know mine are gobbling these new ones up!