Showing posts from June, 2018

CatStronauts Quartet by Drew Brockington, 160pp, RL 3

CatStronauts by Drew Brockington is a standout graphic novel series that is always checked out in my school library. There are so many graphic novels and series that have outer space a setting, from Jake Parker's Missile Mouse to Zita the Space Girl and Cleopatra in Space and Red's Planet, as well as stand-alones like Earthlingand Space Dumplins, but few that portray travel from Earth to outer space destinations with a bit of real space science here and there as well as a little NASA history as well. In fact, Brockington even went to Space Camp (for adults) to get a firsthand experience in the world of space exploration. To all this, Brockington adds adorable, hilarious cats and fantastic cat puns administered in just the right doses.
In the first book in the series, Mission Moon, we meet the CatStronauts - Major Meowser; Waffles, a brave but always hungry pilot; Blanket, the genius inventor of the lovable Cat-Stro-Bot, and the quick-thinking science officer Pom Pom. The book b…

I Really Want to See You, Grandma by Tarō Gomi

I love Tarō Gomi, the prolific 72-year-old Japanese author/illustrator of picture books (over 400 in Japanese, if the internet is to be believed). I don't love every single book that he writes, but that's the case with every artist, isn't it? I do love, gleefully love, is newest book, I Really Want to See You, Grandma. This is Gomi at his best, simple, perfectly predictable (kids love this) and laugh-out-loud funny. Yumi lives on a hill in a house with a pink roof and Grandma lives on a mountain in a house with an orange roof. Like a map to the story, the first two-page spread of I Really Want to See You, Grandma sets the stage. Yumi decides that she really wants to see her grandma, and with a beautiful, joyful freedom, she heads off to the bus stop. At the same time, Grandma has the same idea and hops on a train. The two meet with shared surprise when, reaching their destination, they learn of the mix-up. They cross paths and miss each other using a few more modes of trans…

Tiny Perfect Things by M.H. Clark, illustrated by Madeline Kloepper

tiny, perfect things by M. H. Clark and illustrated by Madeline Kloepper is a book about noticing and connecting, something that is increasingly more rare in our culture where children are given screens to occupy them instead of learning to be comfortable with waiting and being bored and experiencing what bubbles up when you allow yourself to be bored and to wait without distraction.
Published by Compendiumtiny, perfect things is a beautifully designed book. With a debossed (the opposite of embossed - it's a real thing!) paper-over-board cover and Kloepper's hectic, jumbled, joyful illustrations in a fall palette with rich, dark greens, you want to hold this book and pore over it again and again, especially the four-page-gatefold at the end of the book that invites readers to search for their own tiny, perfect things on the page.
Clark's text is sparse but lyrical, just barely rhyming as a young girl and her grandfather set off on a walk. Looking for tiny, perfect things …

Ocean Meets Sky by the Fan Brothers

In Sunday's New York Times Book Review, actor and author John Lithgow reviewedfour picture books about grandparents. One of the books, the magnificent Drawn Togetherby Minh Lȇ and Dan Santat, I had reviewed earlier in the month, but the other three I had scheduled or waiting to be reviewed, so I decided to bundle them like Lithgow did! Look for reviews of the other two books this week.
Ocean Meets Sky is the second picture book authored and illustrated by The Fan Brothers, who have an illustration style that evokes the work of Shaun Tan and David Wiesner. Their work is lush with imagination and creativity, inviting readers to see around and beyond what is right in front of them. Missing his grandfather, Finn remembers stories he told him about a place, "far away where the ocean meets sky." To honor him on what would have been his 90th birthday, Finn builds a boat out of found objects and prepares to set sail, but first he takes a nap. Setting sail in his dreams, Finn begins…

Next Best Junior Chef: The Winner Is . . . by Charise Mericle Harper, illustrated by Aurélie Blard-Quintard, 180 pp, RL3

Last summer I gobbled up Lights, Camera, Cook!, the first book in the Next Best Junior Chef trilogy by Charise Mericle Harper, illustrated Aurélie Blard Quintard. Besides loving any kid's book that is about food, I love to cook and I love to watch competitive cooking shows. So, to get to read a book about kid's competing on a cooking show is pretty darn perfect! And this trilogy by Harper is also pretty darn perfect! She clearly knows how to cook (each book contains cooking tips and facts for kids) and how cooking competition shows work. As a prolific author (and illustrator) of picture books, middle grade novels and graphic novels, Harper brings an experience and understanding when it comes to bringing the creative and emotional lives of children to the page. Lights, Camera, Cook! introduced us to the four young chefs competing to win a food truck and the chance to accompany judge and celebrity Chef Gary Lee on a trip to Italy to film his show, Adventures in Cooking. With one…

All Summer Long by Hope Larson, 176pp, RL5

While I am 20+ years older than Hope Larson, I did spend my formative summers growing up in Los Angeles (Santa Monica versus Eagle Rock) and reading her newest graphic novel, All Summer Long, transported me immediately to my summer after seventh grade. From the long, hot days and unsupervised freedom to the not-especially awful boredom to the pleasure of being creative and being alone to the challenges of friends changing and changing friendships, I could relate to Bina. When her best friend and neighbor Austin heads off to soccer camp and her parents, after a week of binge watching a British Teen Private Eye, block her streaming privileges, Bina is left with assigned summer reading - The Odyssey - and her electric guitar. Bina is surprised by a friendship that blossoms with Charlie, Austin's older sister who has been sidelined from her summer job lifeguarding due to a broken arm. However, a secret boyfriend and a few jerk moves make it seem like Charlie is using Bina. Larson does …

We Don't Eat Our Classmates by Ryan T. Higgins

Hopefully you already know Ryan T. Higgins from his quartet of books about Bruce, the curmudgeonly bear who heads out looking for a meal and ends up with four goslings imprinting on him. Higgins's illustration style is cinematic and dramatic and his characters are completely engaging. His storytelling is wryly charming. That said, I wasn't sure I could open my heart to a non-Bruce character from Higgins when I first read We Don't Eat Our Classmates. While she may be a little T. rex wearing pink overalls and an expression of worry on her face, Penelope has a fierce appetite. Whether it's ponies or the 300 tuna sandwiches her dad packs for her lunch, Penelope cannot resist a delicious morsel, especially when it comes to children. On her first day of school, Mrs. Noodleman firmly lets Penelope know that we, "DON'T EAT OUR CLASSMATES," instructing her to spit them out immediately. The following two-page spread of a room full disgruntled of children covered in …

Dear Substitute by Liz Garton Scanlon and Audrey Vernick, illustrated by Chris Raschka

Dear Substituteby Liz Garton Scanlonand Audrey Vernick with illustrations by the inimitable Chris Raschka is a joy to read, although if you are not a kid, a teacher or a substitute teacher, you may not embrace it as readily. As an elementary school librarian, I get to play the "grandma" role: I see classes once a week for a short time and the kids come over to play games and check out books at recess. I don't do the heavy lifting of classroom teaching and disciplining; mine is a more gentle, but firm lifting. But, I do see plenty of classes arriving with substitutes and I can tell by the way a class walks into the library what kind of substitute they have.
A change in the person you spend your day with is a struggle no matter what the temperament and preparation a substitute brings to the classroom. Scanlon and Vernick capture this perfectly with their poems that build on each other, telling the story of a day without Mrs. Giordano. Raschka's two page illustrations a…

Speak: The Graphic Novel by Laurie Halse Anderson, artwork by Emily Carroll, 387pp, RL: MIDDLE SCHOOL

In 1999 Laurie Halse Anderson published the groundbreaking young adult novel about rape, Speak. Controversial, Speak is banned a often as it is part of high school curriculum. It was assigned reading for my older children when they were in high school and was the driving reason why I read it. I'm not proud of it, but I often shy away from books on difficult topics. And Speak: The GraphicNovel sat on my desk for months before I was able to read it, despite my appreciation for the work of Emily Carroll, who wrote and illustrated the creepy graphic novel Through the Woods and illustrated the superb graphic novel Baba Yaga's Assistant by Marika McCool. Of course, I am very glad I finally read it. For me, the story of freshman Melinda and how she copes with being raped at a party by a popular senior, particularly through art, was even more powerful in this format. And, reviewing now meant that I could also share this newsthat was revealed this week: Laurie Halse Anderson has writte…