Showing posts from January, 2017

Hippopotamister by John Patrick Green, color by Cat Caro, 96 pp, RL: 3

Hippopotamister is the fantastic new (and his first for young readers) graphic novel from the multitalented John Patrick Green. Opening endpapers show a zoo in a sad, sorry state. Green's illustrations remind me of the work of New Yorker cartoonist and picture book illustrator Harry Bliss, with the energy of animation. Colors by Cat Cora are mostly subdued, but pop when needed. Enclosures at the city zoo are rundown, amenities are in disrepair and the inhabitants are lethargic and despondent. Red Panda, neighbor to Hippopotamus, decides to hit the road and find a new gig. Red Panda returns often to visit Hippo, a new job and fresh enthusiasm each time. Finally, Hippo decides to join Red Panda and make a fresh start. Red Panda insists that Hippo, when entering the human world, must become Hippopotamister.

After a few hirings and firings, readers begin to understand why Red Panda has held so many different jobs. Watching Red Panda try and fail at a series of jobs is hilarious. Workin…

Hocus Focus by James Sturm, Andrew Arnold and Alexis Frederick-Frost, 40pp, RL 1.5

Hocus Focus is the fourth in a series of  high interest graphic novels that are perfect for emerging readers and a spinoff of the fantastically funny Adventures in Cartooning series, all of which are by James Sturm, Andrew Arnold and Alexis Frederick-Frost. As always, the endpapers offer drawing lessons for the characters in the story, including the stars, The Knight and his horse, Edward. In Hocus Focus, we find The Knight getting a lesson in magical potions and spells from the Wizard and his phoenix. As usual, The Knight is impatient and impulsive and very unhappy about the amount of turnips, which make Edward sick, that he has to peel before getting on to the serious stuff.

Foolishly, the Wizard leaves The Knight to stew in his bad attitude while he finishes peeling the huge pile of turnips. Of course The Knight and Edward take the opportunity to get into some serious and seriously funny trouble. . .

The Knight & Edward Series

Sleepless Knight

Gryphons Aren't So Great

Ogres Awak…

The Cookie Fiasco: An Elephant & Piggie Like Reading! Book by Dan Santat

As an elementary school librarian, I was definitely sad to read The Thank You Book, the 25th and final Elephant& Piggie book by Mo Willems, to my students. One of the first purchases I made with my book budget when I started two years ago was to get two copies of each and every Elephant& Piggie book on the shelves and they are always checked out. Kids love these books, they actually try to read these books and I love reading them out loud. Kindergarten story time always ends with pleas for one Elephant& Piggie story and I always oblige. I was ecstatic when I walked into the children's section of a bookstore and saw The Cookie Fiasco by Caldecott winner and all around talented funny guy Dan Santat on display, looking very much like anElephant& Piggie book in trim size and format.
However, I was skeptical. Was this just a gimmick to keep selling books by using beloved characters as a hook? Whether it is or not, the fact is there is always more room on the shelf for hi…

I Dissent! Ruth Bader Ginsburg Makes Her Mark by Debbie Levy, illustrated by Elizabeth Baddeley

The challenge of writing a biographical picture book is taking your subject, distilling it and finding a starting point and, if you are lucky, a theme. Debbie Levy, the author of I Dissent! Ruth Bader Ginsberg Makes Her Mark does a superb job with all of these points, illustrator Elizabeth Baddeley perfectly capturing the time period of RBG's early life and emphasizing her opinions, passions and struggles with marvelous hand-lettering that is loud and empowering.
Maybe I've been reading more biographies about women who do or have done great things than usual, but I'm feeling a little depressed by the universal fact that women (still) have the hurdle of being born a woman to contend with and overcome before they go on to any other great things (and, more often than not, while they are going on to great things...) Levy begins her book, "Ruth Bader Ginsburg's life has been . . . One disagreement after another. Disagreeable? No. Determined? Yes. This is how Ruth Bader …

How Things Work: Discover Secrets and Science Behind Bounce Houses, Hovercraft, Robotics, and Everything In Between by T.J. Resler, 208pp, RL 4

This was true with my own children, but especially now that I am an elementary school librarian, I see how much kids love a highly visual non-fiction book with chunks of information scattered across the pages. National Geographic Kids recognizes this as well and has become a go-to publisher of encyclopedic books. With How Things Work: Discover Secrets and Science Behind Bounce Houses, Hovercraft, Robotics, and Everything In Between by T.J. Resler, this format gets an extra layer of (shh! educational material) with features on innovators in their industries and a really cool "Try This!" section in each of the five chapters that gives kids easy experiments and crafts to create at home.

Resler's approach with How Things Work is to grab kids with flashy, fun things like bounce houses, hoverboards and rollercoasters and explore the science related to these marvels. I especially like how Resler begins Chapter 1, Beam Me Up, "Cool gadgets and scientific discoveries don'…

10 Fun Facts About Kier Graff, author of THE MATCHSTICK CASTLE

Ten Fun Facts about Me By Keir Graff, author of 
The Matchstick Castle

My name means “dark one” in Scots Gaelic. (It also rhymes with “ear.”) My parents wanted to honor my mom’s Scottish ancestry and learned the name when they saw Keir Dullea in the movie David and Lisa. Seventeen years after I was born, I played the same role as Dullea in a play at my high school. I have met three other Keirs in my life: one was a boy who lived nearby for a brief time while I was growing up; one was a woman working in a Denver hotel (she upgraded me to a suite; we Keirs stick together); and the third is a fellow fan of my favorite soccer team and also lives in Chicago. I grew up next to a mountain in Missoula, Montana. The neighborhood kids played on the mountain all the time, and when our moms wanted us to come down for dinner, they used different signals. One of them blew a whistle, one of them just yelled, and mine rang a bell. The hospital I was born in and the grade school I attended have both been t…

The Matchstick Castle by Keir Graff, 276pp, RL 4

With The Matchstick Castle, Keir Graff has written the perfect summer read for kids, although anyone who likes adventures with larger-than-life families will love this book no matter what the season. In narrator, soon-to-be-sixth-grader Brian Brown, Graff creates a believable, every-kid voice, drawing you into the story immediately. Instead of a summer filled with soccer tournaments, staying up late and eating junk food, Brian finds himself stuck in Boring, Illinois with his straight-A cousin Nora and his Uncle Gary, who needs subjects to beta-test his educational computer software, Summer's Cool, on. But, a lost soccer ball and a jog into the nearby woods changes Brian and Nora's summer in more ways than they could have imagined.
Hidden in the woods is the Matchstick Castle, a rambling, ramshackle, hazardous seven storey house with a boat perched a top the highest point. Living in the Matchstick Castle are five brothers, the great-grandsons of the architect, Archibald McCulloc…

Giant Days Volume 1, created & written by John Allison, illustrated by Lissa Treiman, colors by Whitney Cogar and letters by Jim Campbell, RL: TEEN

Several months back I started an Instagram account (@books4yourkids) with the intentions of sharing my book reviews there. It turned out to be very time consuming and it has morphed into posts about what I want to read, what I'm deciding between and fun stuff from my school library. Being a very visual person, I have found a few feeds with really stunning pictures of books as well as books and illustrators new to me. I discovered Giant Days by John Allison and Lissa Treiman at Laci Long's feed, @bookpairings, where she listed a character from the series as her fictional crush of 2016. I was feeling a bit tired of kid's books but not wanting to dip a toe into the serious world of adults, and Giant Days hit the spot, precisely. In fact, the moment I finished reading Volume 1, I bought Volumes 2 & 3.

When the graphic novel begins, we meet Daisy Wooton, Esther deGroot and Susan Ptolemy, three weeks into their freshman year at university in England. All different - Daisy was…