All Together Now by Hope Larson, 192 pp, RL 5

All Together Now by Hope Larson Review Copy from FSG

All Summer Long, Larson's first in this trilogy, ended with middle schooler Bina opening her locker, a flood of responses to her DIY flier reading, "Hey, You! Join My Band! We Will Be Terrible and We Will Rule!" All Together Now finds Bina in eighth grade, with a new friend, Darcy, a keyboard-playing transplant from Brooklyn, and the nucleus of a band. When the drumming prodigy Enzo joins Darcy and Bina, there is friction almost immediately. Dacry's attempts to smooth things out end up with her and Enzo dating, forming their own band AND rewriting one of Bina's songs! As Bina tries to deal with this musical (and friend) betrayal, things with Austin, her next door neighbor and longtime best friend take an unexpected turn.
While I definitely appreciated Bina's efforts to understand and accept the seemingly crappy choices Dacry makes (isn't middle school when friendships start to get really challenging?) what …

Neighbors by Kasya Denisevich

Neighbors by Kasya Denisevich Review copy from Chronicle Books

Kasya Denisevich describes her debut picture book as a, "story about knowing your new address by heart. About curiosity and courage to meet your neighbor. About the inexhaustible variety of life." With that superb description and her stunning illustrations here, I am tempted to end my review now! However, there are a few more magical moments and and details to share, starting with the copyright page where I learned that Neighbors is typeset in "Kasya Hand, a font created from the author's handlettering"! With illustrations rendered in ink, Denisevich uses a black and grey palette, with sparing touches of red, throughout the book. Near the end of the book, her thoughtful, restrained addition of colors shifts the emotional tone in a beautiful way.
Neighbors begins with the narrator telling readers, "I know my new address by heart: 3 Ponds Lane. Building 2. Apartment 12. And I finally have a room to …

Poesy the Monster Slayer by Cory Doctorow & Matt Rockefeller

Posey the Monster Slayer by Cory Doctorow and Matt Rockefeller Review Copy from :01 Books Poesy the Monster Slayer feels like the best possible culmination of something that has been a long time coming. This picture book with occasional word bubbles begins with adorable, brown-skinned Posey in a nightgown with a pink bow at the neck, getting the "bedtime" call from her pj-ed mom. Dad comes in to read the Monster Book, with Poesy anxiously awaiting the end. She has been MAKING PLANS and is ready to go, once Dad is gone and the lights are off. What follows is page-after-page of serious monster slaying that is one part cute and one part kick-ass. Knowing that werewolves hate silver and fear the light, Poesy waves her wand, the light stunning the werewolf that has crawled through her window, just before she collars him with her "Princess Frillypants silver tiara." He "scampers off with his tail between his legs. Victory!" But the noise brings dad, bursting throu…

The Witches: The Graphic Novel by Roald Dahl, illustrated by Pénélope Bagieu, 304 pp, RL 3

The Witches: The Graphic Novel  by Roald Dahl, illustrated by Pénélope Bagieu Review Copy from Graphix

Confession: Despite being a reader of many books by Roald Dahl, as a child and adult, I have never read The Witches. Or seen the 1990 movie version starring the stellar Angelica Huston. Which means that, along with no knowledge of this book, I also bring none of the childhood baggage that comes with an adaptation of a beloved classic. I also bring a preexisting appreciation for the work of Bagieu, especially her graphic novel biography anthology, Brazen: Rebel Ladies Who Rocked the World
I read all my Roald Dahl books before Sir Quentin Blake became his official illustrator so I don't immediately associate Blake's style with Dahl's works. That said, I do feel like Dahl's writing is perfectly paired with a loose, frenetic illustration style, especially one that looks a bit like it is from previous decades. Bagieu brings this, and more to her illustrations for The Witches

The Little Kitten by Nicola Killen

The Little Kitten by Nicola Killen Review Copy from Simon & Schuster The Little Kitten the kind of holiday picture book I adore - it evokes the event, but can be enjoyed any time of the year. Killen's gentle, kindhearted story - with just the right amount of suspense - is made even better by special touches that add magic to the already charming illustrations. A palette of greys and black is accented with two shades of orange, including orange foil on just the right amount of autumn leaves and perfectly placed cut-outs that draw the story along.
Ollie, in her cat suit, heads outside with Pumpkin, her cat, to play on an autumn morning. A pile of leaves reveals a little black kitten and new playmate. After a while, Pumpkin curls up for a nap while Ollie and the kitten run father and farther into the woods. There, she finds trees plastered with missing cat posters and a very familiar looking cat. "I need to take you home," Ollie whispers to the kitten. A gust of wind and a …

Max Meow: Cat Crusader by John Gallagher, 240 pp, RL 2

Max Meow: Cat Crusader by John Gallagher Review Copy from RH Graphic
I never want to start a review by enthusiastically comparing one book to another, but, considering the unstoppable juggernaut that Dav Pilkey's Dog Man series has been for the last four years, I am surprised that Gallagher's new graphic novel series aimed at the same audience is the first book to curl up next to it on the shelves! With bold colors, tons of action, monsters, robots, mini golf and meteoric meatballs, Max Meow will satisfy fans of Pilkey and well beyond. Even better, while there is a funny, fuzzy hero, the costar of Gallagher's series is a human! Max's friend, Mindy Microbe, girl scientist (with brown skin and curly hair) - spoiler! - transforms into Science Kitty after an explosive experiment with the meteor-meatball that turned Max into the Cat Crusader. While it's definitely fun seeing the Cat Crusader go up against baddie Agent M (a mouse, whose alter ego is Pep Svenson, feline gol…

Our Little Kitchen by Jillian Tamaki

Our Little Kitchenby Jillian TamakiDigital Review Copy from AbramsKids

Tamaki's bright, boisterous illustrations swirl, unfurl and burst off the pages of this deliciously uplifting, inspiring picture book. Drawing from her own experience volunteering at a community kitchen for many years (see her Author's Note), Tamaki takes readers through the Wednesday experience of a diverse group of people who come together in the kitchen, exploring the pantry, the garden and the donations, then turning them into a meal for those in need. Donated day-old bread is perked up in the oven, older carrots are turned into soup and bruised apples are made into a crumble - with the illustrated recipes for vegetable soup and apple crumble as endpapers! As the volunteers prepare the meal, their voices add to the chopping, sizzling music of the kitchen. The perspective of the illustrations changes with every page turn, zooming in and out, up close, overhead and even a cut away, all perfectly capturing …