Wednesday, September 21, 2022

Annette Feels Free - a review 9.21.22

A woman who championed women's rights, who had a disability and said "I can do this anyway", and was a swimmer?  Annette Kellerman is definitely a woman I wanted to know more about!

Annette Feels Free:
The True Story of Annette Kellerman, World-Class
Swimmer, Fashion Pioneer, and Real-Life Mermaid
by Katie Mazeika
published by Beach Lane Books

Annette was a fierce and joyful young girl, but after an illness, she suffered muscle loss in her legs and needed to wear braces for support.  Feeling constricted left Annette feeling quiet and sad and she wasn't the happy girl from before.  It was her father's idea to bring her into the water and see what she can do.  It was there that her freedom to move returned.  Annette could dance, kick, and move about in the water and it brought joy back into her life.  As she continued to grow, she found new ways to show her artistry in the water by putting on water dance shows, and ways to show her athleticism by swimming - and winning - in swim races across her homeland of Australia.  But there was one thing holding her back - what she had to wear in the water.  Annette was swimming during a time when women not only had to be covered in their attire, but it was also appropriate for their swim attire to be loose and flowy.  Hard to win when your material is causing a lot of drag!  Annette solved her own problem by creating her own swim attire, more similar to what a man would wear, but that was not ok with law enforcement!  Annette pleaded her case in court, and won!  Not only a pioneer for a women's right to wear appropriate swimwear, but also a pioneer of sport.  From competitive swimming to the sport now known as artistic swimming, Annette Kellerman lead the way!

Too often I hear people saying how "inspiring" people with disabilities are.  I've heard from many disabled athletes, including my own, who hate being described as that.  From what I understand, it makes them feel that their accomplishments are only looked at as inspiring because of their disability.  I think creator Katie Mazeika has done a wonderful job showcasing Annette's amazing accomplishments first, with a smaller note of how they came about.

I really love how Annette was described in the backmatter as, "a woman who pushed boundaries and advanced women's rights.  And we can all thank Annette for the freedom of wearing what we feel best in at the beach."  In a time when we question the rules, who makes them, who benefits from them, here is a great story of the person who helped women to the place we are now.

More accolades for Annette Feels Free:

A Junior Library  Guild Selection

Annette’s legacy in competitive, artistic, and recreational swimming is undeniable, and Mazeika’s text deftly balances her subject’s varied career. . . . Swim-pressive!”—Kirkus Reviews

“An enthralling introduction to a remarkable woman.”Booklist

About creator Katie Mazeika:

Katherine Mazeika is an author and illustrator with a BFA from the Columbus College of Art and Design. When she isn’t in the studio, she likes to spend time at the theater, in her garden, or getting lost in a good book. She lives in Ohio with her husband, two kids (Lillian and Jack), and two dogs. To learn more, and download a free curriculum guide, visit her website at

Twitter: @kdmaz

Instagram: @kdmazart

Facebook: Katie Mazeika Illustration

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

Wednesday, August 31, 2022

New graphic novels for middle grade readers - 8.31.22

This past school year, graphic novels have been the most popular and widely read format.  I expect to see that trend continue this year.  Earlier this summer I shared some graphic novels for readers who are just starting their independent journey.  Today are some new graphic novels for middle grade readers.

Just Roll with It
Just Roll With It
by Veronica Agarwal and Lee Durfey-Lavoie
Meet Maggie.  She's heading into middle school and worried about the same kinds of things that most kids are.  It doesn't help that she has two older sisters who, in her eyes, seem to have everything figured out.  To cope with her worries, Maggie's carries a d20 dice (20 sides).  She rolls the dice to help her make decisions.  Anything above 10 is good.  Luckily on her first day of school, Maggie meets Clara who is a friend I wish everyone had.  Clara sees Maggie's anxieties and accepts them and helps Maggie.
With all that is going on in our world, kids today have so much more to worry about and new anxieties that form.  Mental health is an important topic that needs to be addressed and discussed with students.  I appreciated that this graphic novel also shows attending therapy as a way to help cope with these big feelings.  The storyline also features two moms and has a sibling that is in a same-sex relationship.  Both are just parts of the story, yay for including same-sex relationships!

Born to Be Bad (Mischief and Mayhem, #1)
Mischief and Mayhem: Born to be Bad
by Ken Lamug
All Missy (and her cat Gizmo) want is to be included in the Heroes group at Superhero Camp, but she was not born with her powers, unless you call her awesome brain power!  But it's after meeting Melvira, a fellow camper, that they realize that being a hero is not what it's cracked up to be - it's being a villain that puts them in control.  However, Missy and Melvira have different opinions on being bad.  Missy likes to cause trouble as her alter-ego "Mischief".  But Melvira just likes being bad.  But when Melvira goes too far, will Missy step up and actually be a hero?
Book #2 in the series is also available.

The First Cat in Space Ate Pizza
The First Cat in Space Ate Pizza
by Mac Barnett and Shawn Harris
This story was concocted during the pandemic between these two creator-friends.  The plot... the moon is being eaten by rats and it's up to a cat to save the moon.  Cat quickly teams up with a princess and a robot to save the day.  Sound crazy?  It really is.  There are some catchphrases by a captain in the story that are silly and will for sure elicit some giggles.  Otherwise, it's a bit crazy and definitely out of this world!

Borders by Thomas King
story by Thomas King
illustrated by Natasha Donovan
When you hear "border", my thoughts, anyway, go to the US/Mexico border.  Of course, we also have our Northern border with Canada.  And that is where this one takes place.  The narrator is a young boy, who is telling the story of going to visit his sister.  He lives with his mom in Canada.  Through flashbacks, we slowly get the story of how his sister, Laetitia, and his mom would fight and how Laetitia eventually left for Salt Lake City.  Enough time has passed, and his mom wants to go visit her.  However, upon reaching the border, the boy's mother will only give her Native American citizenship, Blackfoot, when the border official asks.  He's looking for an answer of Canadian or American.  However, she holds steadfast to Blackfoot, which is not recognized as an official citizenship.  The problem is, now they cannot move on to the United States, or go back to Canada.  After days of staying in this limbo, the news agencies are alerted of this and come to share their story.
I thought it was an interesting small moments story, as the present day part of the story really is about their time within the borders.  Seeing as I thought it was going to be about the US/Mexico border, it helped me understand that there are border issues in many locations that I'm unaware of.  
Great graphic novel for middle school libraries.

Spy School the Graphic Novel (Spy School Graphic Novels, #1)
Spy School: the Graphic Novel
written by Stuart Gibbs
illustrated by Anjan Sarkar
This will probably be a familiar book for many since the Spy School series (and Gibbs' Fun Jungle and Moon Base Alpha and Charlie Thorne series) are very popular.  I really like the graphic novel version.  The illustrations pull in some of the visuals that can be hard for some readers to picture.  There are parts that don't transition as well as they do in the stories (fairly typical of books that are turned into graphic novels), but it's still relatively smooth.  Looking forward to more in the series being put into this format.

Andy Warner's Oddball Histories: Pests and Pets
Andy Warner's Oddball Histories: Pests and Pets
by Andy Warner
A nonfiction graphic novel for you!  Ever want to know about the history of animals?  Particularly those that are considered pests or even our pets!  This book is divided up into three sections - Creatures We Find Cute (like dogs, cats, rabbits), Creatures We Find Useful (like cows, bees, sheep), and Creatures That Find Us Useful (like raccoons, cockroaches, pigeons).  For each animal, Warner gives us the history of how the animal came about, populated, and eventually found their way to us.  Warner uses nonfiction text features within his graphics for further information.  Each section starts with a layout that has all of the animals covered in that section and what page to find it on.  Then in that animal's section, there are page numbers and headings if you want to go to a specific topic.  There is a box with animal specifics on it.  And usually some frames that highlight some unique information.  Backmatter includes an index, a map of origins, and other info.

written by Christina Diaz Gonzalez
illustrated by Gabriela Epstein
This is a powerful realistic fiction graphic novel.  It's The Breakfast Club for kids.  What happens when you put together a mix of students that seemingly have their language in common?  Well, lots of inaccuracies and assumptions for one.  But that is what happens, a group of students are put together to do some school mandated community service.  The students, who were not friends before this, make assumptions about each other, as do the adults who are in charge.  But slowly this group of kids learn more about each other and how they each feel invisible.  It's through this common bond that they end up reaching out and helping someone else in need.
Told in English and Spanish, this graphic novel will reach across languages to tell a truly unique story.

The Tryout by Christina Soontornvat
The Tryout
written by Christina Soontornvat
illustrated by Joanna Cacao
publishes next week!
Here's another GN that you will want multiple copies of in order to meet your demand!  This one is a memoir from the author about her experience of growing up in a small town in Texas, being one of the only students of color in the school, and her experience of trying out for the middle school cheerleading team.  But it's also about family culture and how that ties into your identity.  And about best friendship and how to keep it going even when your interests change.  And about fitting in and what popularity is like and the impact it makes.  All themes that readers will relate to today!

I have more GNs in my pile.  I'll have another post this fall!

Wednesday, July 27, 2022

Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday - 7.27.22

I know, it's been awhile for a nonfiction post!  I've got some books in my lap so I figured I would take a moment and share them.  

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Happy Sloth Day!
by April Pulley Sayre and with Jeff Sayre
I've had this book in my pile for a long time, but have felt very bittersweet about reading it since April's passing this past spring.  I've always loved her poetry and the way she and her husband worked together (photos for her books), always made me smile.
This book also made me smile because with April's trademark poetry, it was such a joy to read.  Of course reading about sloths is always fun but you can just stretch out the lines in the poetry and make it so fun!  Full of additional facts spread throughout the book and in the backmatter, this book is one you'll really want to read slowly... you know, like a sloth!

Honeybee Rescue: A Backyard Drama
Honeybee Rescue: A Backyard Drama
written by Loree Griffin Burns
photos by Ellen Harasimowicz
A couple of years ago I fell in love with Burns' You're Invited to a Moth Ball.  I've used it every year with students and have found them to be fascinated with the sequencing of the story.  This one is definitely one to add to my collection and I hope you find it too!  With the honeybee population lowering in numbers, this is a perfect book to teach young readers what to do if they find a swarm of bees.  They can be habitat heroes and help the bee population!  I read this book cover to cover and then had more questions that I quickly had to research.  This is a must have for your nonfiction collection.

One Turtle's Last Straw: The Real-Life Rescue That Sparked a Sea Change
One Turtle's Last Straw: The Real-Life Rescue That Sparked a Sea Change
written by Elisa Boxer
illustrated by Marta Alvarez Miguens
If you ever wanted to get a child (or adult!) to stop using plastic straws, this is the story to read!  It might be a bit much for younger readers, but it certainly will make everyone think twice about what happens to those plastic straws you throw away!  This is the story about a true rescue of a sea turtle that got a plastic straw stuck in its nostril.  Without the rescue from some marine biologists, this animal probably would not have survived.

Blue: A History of the Color as Deep as the Sea and as Wide as the Sky
Blue: A History of the Color as Deep as the Sea and as Wide as the Sky
written by Nana Ekua Brew-Hammond
illustrated by Daniel Minter
Never really thought about the history of a color before.  Because, you know... colors are just always there, right?  But they have a history, and I never really thought about how fascinating they could be!  Brew-Hammond not only brings the history of the color to light, but also talks about connections to common blue phrases.  
And the illustrations?  Well, let's just say there's a chance we'll be hearing this one mentioned during award season.

Solitary Animals: Introverts of the Wild
Solitary Animals: Introverts of the Wild
written by Joshua David Stein
illustrated by Dominique Ramsey
So often we teach groups of animals, but what about those animals that choose to be alone?  An interesting look at a few of them.   Be sure to read the Q&A at the end of the book because it most likely answers questions that aren't in the text.

Footprints Across the Planet
written by Jennifer Swanson
A beautiful poem about the footprints we leave across the planet - both physically and metaphorically.  With poetic lines, Swanson leaves us with some big ideas about the footprints we leave all around us.  Beautiful, full-layout photos go along with the lines that will leave readers thinking about these big ideas.  Going from animal footprints to human, to those we see on the ground (for long and short times), to the footprints we are leaving on this earth that show we are here (some good, some bad).  The backmatter has additional information about the photographs and ideas in the layouts.  Whether you share this book around Earth Day or at any point in the year, it's a great springboard for talking about the environment.

Blips on a Screen: How Ralph Baer Invented TV Video Gaming and Launched a Worldwide Obsession
Blips on a Screen
written by Kate Hannigan
illustrated by Zachariah Ohora
Video gaming is well-known by young readers, but how did it get its start?  This biography goes step by step of how Ralph Baer started with the idea of gaming on television to making it happen.  The backmatter gives loads of more information, including that Baer also invented the game of Simon - that's one that provided lots of gaming time in my youth!

The Mystery of the Monarchs: How Kids, Teachers, and Butterfly Fans Helped Fred and Norah Urquhart Track the Great Monarch Migration
The Mystery of the Monarchs
written by Barb Rosenstock
illustrated by Erika Meza
This was a fascinating story!  The monarch is Illinois' state insect, and I always make sure to plant some flowers and plants to attract monarchs to my backyard every year.  
We know that monarchs migrate south every year, even know that many make the trek all the way to Mexico.  But how did we discover that?  That's Fred Urquhart's story!  Rosenstock tells us about Fred's love for these winged insects and his curiosity about where monarchs went when it got cold.  It's really interesting to read about all the steps and travels they took to find the answer to the mystery!

My Blue-Ribbon Horse: The True Story of the Eighty-Dollar Champion
My Blue-Ribbon Horse: The True Story of the Eighty-Dollar Champion
written by Elizabeth Letts
illustrated by Kayla Harren
There seem to be quite a few books written lately about true stories of horses and this one will be a welcomed addition!  It's the story of a horse that was saved from being sent to the slaughterhouse.  Never thought to be more than a horse students could ride, this special horse went on to be a champion jumper!

The Rise (and Falls) of Jackie Chan
The Rise (And Falls) of Jackie Chan
written by Kristen Mai Giang
illustrated by Alina Chau
I know who Jackie Chan is, I've seen him in some movies.  I mostly know him by his fighting in movies and those faces he makes!  I loved being able to dive into his past and learn more about him.  I'm glad he is someone who knew who he was and wasn't going to change that to fit into the mold others wanted!

Moving Forward: From Space-Age Rides to Civil Rights Sit-Ins with Airman Alton Yates
Moving Forward: From Space-Age Rides to Civil Rights Sit-Ins with Airman Alton Yates
written by Chris Barton
illustrated by Steffi Walthall
This is fascinating and equally frustrating to read.  It's about Airman Alton Yates' life - going from the work he did in the Air Force, including putting his body through crazy stunts all to improve safety for those protecting the country's freedom.  Then going back home to segregated Florida and not be served at counters or be given the same rights as whites.  Then Yates put his body through new rigors - some physical, some verbal and mental.  All to protect basic freedoms.  

Hope you found some new nonfiction books to add to your collection this fall!

Tuesday, July 26, 2022

Pigeon and Cat - a review 7.26.22

A story about compassion, about gift-giving, and about letting others in.  A character who changes.  Characters who know just what the other needs.  This is a beautiful story for young readers today.

Pigeon & Cat
by Edward Hemingway
published by Christy Ottaviano Books

Cat has always lived on his own, in an old abandoned lot.  He has just what he needs and doesn't need anything to change.  But when he finds an egg that is so beautiful he can't even eat it, and he decides to bring it home is when his character starts to change.  For once Pigeon hatches, they form an unbreakable bond.  Communicating through cat-speak and pigeon-emojis (it's really cute), the two help each other out and grow as characters.  Cat gives Pigeon the unconditional love that allows him to flourish and explore.  On Pigeon's explorations, he brings home little gifts for Cat that allow him to explore his artistic side in his abandoned lot.  But when Pigeon doesn't come home after a storm, Cat must venture outside his little area to find his BFF.  While searching for his friend, Cat befriends other community members and shares his artistic side, something he's only shown Pigeon.  Cat learns that the outside world isn't quite as scary as he thought and lets new people into his world. I love that the strays of the world get so much love in this story! But does Pigeon find his way home?  No spoilers, but after all, it is a picture book :)

Just take a look at these beautifully illustrated layouts by creator, Edward Hemingway!  I love the urban colors and the busy-ness of the city!  Hemingway shares he created the illustrations during the height of the pandemic, and just like Cat, he's sharing it now with the wider world!  Kind of a neat parallel!  I love all of the chalk messages throughout the book and it did remind me of what we saw during the pandemic.  It is a beautiful way of sharing a message of positivity and hope with others in your community.

Check out what others had to say about the book:

“A satisfying story exploring heart and home."  The Horn Book

"A sweet tale celebrating the joys of both personal and communal togetherness." Kirkus Reviews

Edward Hemingway is the acclaimed creator of many popular books: Tough Cookie: A Christmas Story, Field Guide to the Grumpasaurus, and Bad Apple: A Tale of Friendship. His writing and artwork have been published in the New York Times and GQ Magazine, among others. The youngest grandson of Ernest Hemingway, he lives in Bozeman, Montana. He invites you to visit him at

Twitter: @EdwardHemingway

Instagram: @edwardhemingway

A charming video on the backstory behind Pigeon & Cat:

This would be a beautiful story to share with young readers at the beginning of the year.

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

Thursday, June 23, 2022

Rosa's Song, a review - 6.23.22

When you think back to your childhood, what are the things that made you truly happy?  Perhaps at the top of the list would be good friends and a strong imagination.  For young Jae, these are the things that keep him going after immigrating to a new country.  And it's within this shared experience, other children may relate and then learn from young Jae.

Rosa's Song
written by Helena Ku Rhee
Pascal Campion
published by Random House Studio

The story starts out, "Jae was new to the country, the city, the building."  He misses the comforts of his home and is sad without all that is familiar to him.  It's after his mom suggests he meets other children in the building and he meets Rosa and her parrot, Pollito.  Rosa helps Jae open up his imagination and see things with fresh eyes and a new perspective.  Pollito's song brings a smile to Jae's face and makes his heart happy.  But suddenly Rosa is gone and has left Pollito to Jae's keeping.  Although Jae is sad, it's through Pollito's song and the gifts of imagination that Rosa left that allow Jae to open his heart and meet new friends.

The story ends with a note from the author about the immigration experience and the transience it can bring, whether due to financial situations or immigration status.  Friendships can be disrupted, which is hard for young children to understand.  Author Helena Ku Rhee's previous collaboration with illustrator Pascal Campion, The Paper Kingdom, is similar to this one as it helps children understand and value all experiences that humans may experience.

I love the possibilities of using this book with young children.  First of all, the discussions about imagination would be so powerful.  I would love to hear children's ideas on how using their imagination is helpful to them.  Look deeper at Campion's illustrations - how did Rosa and Jae use things around them as a tool for play?  The theme of friendship is also important in this story.  How did Rosa's friendship leave a lasting impact on Jae even after she left?  While the idea of immigration or moving may be new to some readers, for others this may be a powerful story that lets children feel seen and heard.

This is a beautiful book that I recommend being on your library shelves this fall.  Booklist had wonderful things to say too:
★ "Striking and raw…. Readers will share the sadness of Jae's loss, but only after seeing Rosa and Jae's joyful playing—a happiness that's distinct to childhood." —Booklist, starred review

More about the creators of this book:

Helena Ku Rhee grew up in Los Angeles, but has also lived in various parts of the U.S., Asia and Europe. She has a soft spot for small, stout animals and loves to travel far and wide across this beautiful planet, counting among her favorite journeys a camping trip in the Sahara Desert, a swim with elephants in Thailand and a horseback-riding tour of Easter Island. She is also the author of The Paper Kingdom, which was included on many year-end Best Books lists, including NPR, BookPage, Kirkus, Parents Magazine, the Los Angeles Public Library, and Amazon, among others. Helena works at a movie studio by day, and dreams up story ideas in her spare time. She currently lives in Los Angeles. Visit her at

Instagram: @helenakurhee

Twitter: @HelenaRhee

Pascal Campion is a prolific French-American illustrator and visual development artist whose clients include: DreamWorks Animation, Paramount Pictures, Disney Feature, Disney Toons, Cartoon Network, Hulu, and PBS. Working in the animation industry for over 15 years, he has steadily posted over 3,000 images of personal work to his "Sketches of the Day" project since 2005. He lives and works in Los Angeles, CA. Follow him on Instagram @pascalcampionart or Twitter @pascalcampion.

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

Wednesday, June 22, 2022

Before Music, a review - 06.22.22

Musical instruments - I bet we've all had the opportunity to play one at some time in our lives.  Maybe it was a school instrument - from the wooden sticks and blocks to the triangle to the recorder in music class.  Or maybe we tried our hand at an instrument as a child in band or orchestra.  I bet many of us have had the opportunity to see professionals play at a concert, or even in a worship choir.  But have you ever thought about where those instruments got their start?

Before Music by Annette Bay Pimentel
Before Music:
Where Instruments Come From
written by Annette Bay Pimentel
illustrated by Madison Safer
published by Abrams Books for Young Readers

Author Annette Bay Pimentel explores that idea and take a look at some different instruments.  Each section starts with a narrative that begins with, "Before music..." and she tells us a little story about the early starts of an instrument.  In the following pages, the reader gets more information.  Maybe it's about the history of the instrument - and spoiler alert - an instrument did not usually start in the form we know it as.  Pimentel gives us the history behind the instrument and details perhaps the science behind it, or the creativity in its early beginnings, or how a person lent their talent to use this instrument in a new way.  Next, we see a variety of instruments that use a similar fashion of being played.  Some of these instruments are familiar, many are historical and are not used in the same way.  I took my time looking at the different instruments and where they were originally used.  Pimentel says early in the book, "humans are makers" and it is evident in the vast number of instruments included in this book!

Beautifully illustrated by Madison Safer, the bright illustrations done in watercolor, gouache, and colored pencils stand out on each page.  Another stand out is the size of the book - it stands at 14 1/2inches tall!  But with all of the information it covers, I love that there is more room on the page to tell and show the information.

The backmatter contains sources and information about how instruments are classified called organology (I would not have guessed that's what the word meant!).  And if the book has called you to play an instrument, well, there are some ideas for making your own in the backmatter!

I am grateful that author Annette Bay Pimentel agreed to answer some questions about her book.  Thanks, Annette!

1.  I love the perspective of thinking about how instruments got their start.  What gave you the idea to write from this perspective?
My kids play string instruments, and I always loved hearing our violin teacher talk about how violins are made. In fact, years ago I wrote a rhyming text about the natural materials in violins. But this book really took off when I attended a session about geography at the conference of the National Council of Social Studies. I started thinking about how each culture is connected to the ecosystem of a particular place. I realized that it's not just violins that have an interesting origin story. Every instrument starts with a creative person figuring out how to shape natural materials to make music. To me, the most awe-inspiring thing is that we humans, throughout the entire world and for even longer than we have records, have always made music with whatever is at hand.

2.  I'd love to know more about the research for this!  How did you find the information and then how did you decide to structure the writing?
I can't write or even research effectively until I have an idea of the structure I'm building. So I started by reading about organology, which is the science of classifying musical instruments. I already knew the Western classification system--string instruments, brass, woodwind, etc.--but I discovered that other cultures have classified musical instruments in startlingly different ways. The organization of my book is inspired by the classical Chinese system of organizing instruments by the material they're made of, and by Indian and Javanese systems that organize instruments by the action the musician takes to make music, plucking, rubbing, striking, or whirling, etc..

Once I had a framework for my idea, I started looking for instruments. I live near two universities, so I spent a lot of time in their libraries (thankfully most of the research was done before the libraries closed during the pandemic!), but I also used online databases of musical instruments. I spent a lot of time exploring The Grinnell College Musical Instrument Collection and the Metropolitan Museum of Art's Musical Instruments Collection. 

3.  There are lots of instruments mentioned in the book.  Which one would you like to play, if you had your choice?
I love the idea of making music by whirling stuff around. In fact, I was so intrigued by the idea that I bought both whirling pipes and a thunder tube. They're really fun to play, and I'm excited about sharing them with kids when I do author visits.

Thank you, Annette, for stopping by!

Would you like to add a copy of the book to your collection?  Annette and Abrams Books for Young Readers have generously donated a copy for giveaway.  Enter below for your chance to win!  Winner will be selected on June 29th.

Wednesday, June 8, 2022

New graphic novels for readers! 6.08.22

Graphic novels are enjoyed by all readers and I'm glad to see so many for different ages and different genres/interests.  Here are some new ones that have caught my eye in the recent months for readers who are starting their independent reading journey!  

I Really Want a Bigger Piece by Harriet Ziefert     I Really Want to Be First! by Harriet Ziefert
A Really Bird Story series:
I Really Want a Bigger Piece!
I Really Want to Be First!
written by Harriet Ziefert
illustrated by Travis Foster
published by Red Comet Press
This series is written entirely in talk bubbles.  It does not have frames and boxes like graphic novels, but just getting used to talk bubbles is helpful for readers who are starting graphic novels.
This series introduces us to Really Bird - that's his name because he has REALLY big feelings.  In these first two books he REALLY wants to be first and have the biggest piece of pie.  In both books he argues with his friends in order to get what he wants.
On the one hand, young readers will relate to his big feelings.  On the other hand (the adult hand), I don't love how Really Bird doesn't always learn a lesson.  Even when what he wants can sound kind of snotty.  

Blippo and Beep by Sarah Weeks     Blippo and Beep by Sarah Weeks
Blippo & Beep and Blippo & Beep I Feel Funny
written by Sarah Weeks
illustrated by Joey Ellis
published by Penguin Workshop
Similar to the series above, this one does not have frames, but the entire story is told through talk bubbles.  Another great introduction to graphic novels for young readers.  Blippo and Beep are robot friends who are silly and show what friendship looks like.  Looking forward to more in this series.

Sir Ladybug (Sir Ladybug, #1)
Sir Ladybug
by Corey R. Tabor
published by Balzer and Bray
Corey Tabor is a master of crafting stories for young readers.  Whether they are early readers, picture books, and now, graphic novels.  Sir Ladybug is a fantastic new hero for young readers because while he may appear tough, it's with knowledge and logic he wins his battles!  With fantastic sidekicks in his herald (Pell, the roly-poly) and squire (Sterling, the snail), I am excited to have this new series on my shelf for young readers.

It's Owl Good by Renee Treml   Wise-Quackers by Renee Treml   Squeals on Wheels by Renee Treml   Bats What Friends are For by Renee Treml
The Super Adventures of Ollie and Bea series
It's Owl Good
Squeals on Wheels
Bats What Friends Are For
by Renée Treml
published by Capstone
Stories that are full of friendship and puns, this series will delight young graphic novel readers.  Ollie the Owl and Bea the Bunny are self-conscientious of their perceived short-comings, but that's what friends are for, to make you feel good about each other and have fun!  Some solid lessons in each story.

Surviving the Wild by Remy Lai     Rainbow the Koala by Remy Lai
Surviving the Wild series
Star the Elephant
Rainbow the Koala
by Remy Lai
published by Henry Holt and Co
This series is based on actual accounts of animals who have survived different kind of environmental issues.  Star the elephant faced deforestation and Rainbow the koala was in a large forest fire.  While the accounts have been fictionalized, even young readers will see the dangers animals are facing in the wild.  With additional information in the backmatter including ways the reader can help the environment, these books are informative and interesting to read.

The Inflatables in Bad Air Day (The Inflatables #1)
The Inflatables in Bad Air Day
written by Beth Garrod and Jess Hitchman
illustrated by Chris Danger
published by Scholastic
Definitely a book to hand to your readers of the Bad Guys series.  The characters are pool inflatables that live at a water park.  When a new  wave pool opens up on the other side, they know they have to get over there and check out all of the new action.  It's goofy and has a lot of "butt" jokes to make younger readers laugh (for adult reviewers, there is just eye-rolling).
I do wish this one had been done in full color.  Not sure why the decision was made to keep it black and white.
Book #2 comes out later this summer.

And one UPCOMING one to have on your radar!

Mimi and the Cutie Catastrophe by Shauna J. Grant
Mimi and the Cutie Catastrophe
by Shauna J. Grant
published by Scholastic
publishes July 19th
Mimi and her magical plushie, Penelope, have some great and magical adventures.  But no matter what she does, Mimi is only seen as being "cute".  She does not want to be identified as cute, so she has Penelope magic her into different outfits so she is not seen as cute.  She tries out being a superhero, teacher, and a cool kid, but no matter what, it doesn't feel right.  Will she ever be ok with her own identity?
Definitely a new graphic novel series to know about since it features an awesome Black girl as the main character!

Yay for lots of new graphic novels!  I know these books are going to hook some readers!

Tuesday, June 7, 2022

Hope Wins, a review - 6.07.22

Hope Wins: A Collection of Inspiring Stories for Young Readers
Hope Wins
A Collection of Inspiring Stories for Young Readers
edited by Dr. Rose Brock
published by Philomel Books

When I first heard about an upcoming book titled Hope Wins, I was intrigued and excited.  Because it feels like we really needed a book about hope right now.  I knew it as a collection of essays about the topic written by middle grade authors.  I was excited to read it and I couldn't wait to know more.  
I know living through the last two and a half years have left many of us clinging to the idea of hope.  But I know there are others who are clinging to it for other reasons.
Which made me think about the word hope.  Is there one singular definition for it?  Is there some way to define it or is it an idea to explain?  I think it may be a very personal idea and thought for each of us.  How I describe it is different than how you describe it.
And then I started reading the book.  I guess for some reason I thought all of the essays on hope were going to be pandemic focused.  Spoiler alert, they aren't.  And while the idea of hope is on my mind more than ever, it's not new.  I've had hope in my life for a long, long time, and it's changed over the decades.   And as each author pens their ideas on the subject, the reader discovers the ideas of hope are always different.  
- sometimes it's an idea that came from their past
- sometimes hope was tied to an event
- sometimes hope was because of a person
- sometimes it's born out of despair
- sometimes it's in the midst of joy
But every story is different and each one made me think a little bit more.  And as I ponder the subject, I think about the readers for this book.  The children growing up today need hope in a different way than I did at that age.  Their definition and idea for it is probably more profound than what I would have come up with at their age.  It's still a big idea.  I think these stories will help them understand it and maybe gain some healing they didn't even know they needed.

About the book (Goodreads summary):
In a collection of personal stories and essays, award-winning and bestselling artists from Matt de la Peña and Veera Hiranandani to Max Brallier and R.L. Stine write about how hope always wins, even in the darkest of times.

Where does hope live?

In your family?

In your community?

In your school?

In your heart?

From a family restaurant to a hot-dog shaped car, from an empty road on a moonlight night to a classroom holiday celebration, this anthology of personal stories from award-winning and bestselling authors, shows that hope can live everywhere, even--or especially--during the darkest of times.

No matter what happens: Hope wins.

Contributors include: Tom Angleberger, James Bird, Max Brallier, Julie Buxbaum, Pablo Cartaya, J.C. Cervantes, Soman Chainani, Matt de la Peña, Stuart Gibbs, Adam Gidwitz, Karina Yan Glaser, Veera Hiranandani, Hena Khan, Gordon Korman, Janae Marks, Sarah Mlynowski, Rex Ogle, James Ponti, Pam Muñoz Ryan, Ronald L.Smith, Christina Soontornvat, and R.L. Stine.

Books like these always have an editor.  Someone who finds the authors of the essays and puts them together.  This particular editor is Dr. Rose Brock.  I did not realize it, but before this book, she edited a book for teens called Hope Nation.  There is an introduction at the start of the book and I hope you read it.  It's in there that Dr. Brock talks about how proceeds from the book will help support the North Texas Teen Book Festival.  I'm glad to see a book festival in Texas that is supporting today's teens.  And don't miss the Nerdy post where Dr. Brock talks more about the book.

And let's take a moment to admire the gorgeous cover illustration by the immensely talented Vashti Harrison.  The muted colors and solemn girl on the cover have a calming and warm effect before even opening the pages of the book!

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

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!