Where Do You Fit In? A Review of Click

Click

Click by Kayla Miller
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, January 2019
Ages 10-13

In Kayla Miller’s Click, the variety show is coming up at school and outgoing Olive has not been asked to join a group. This leaves her feeling outcast and alone when she is unable to find her own “click.” Olive refuses her mom’s help to find a group, instead turning to her Aunt Molly. She decides the best choice is to become a host, the talent show announcer. In her words, “It would be a way that I could help all of my friends with their acts by introducing them” (p.132). This story was heartfelt and cute with bright colored pastel artwork which suggest that the tone is cheerful. The digital medium conveys the lively tone through expressive faces and flat simplistic backgrounds with bold highlight lines. The novel does a wonderful job touching on family relationships, specifically mother and daughter. At first, Olive’s mom oversteps her boundaries in trying to help her. By the end of the novel, a balance is achieved between allowing Olive to be independent and encouraging her to follow through. Olive also learns that, in friendships, growing apart and having different interests is okay. Her friends even encourage her in her choice to become a host. The novel has a solid plot portraying realistic issues for friendship and family. Miller shows these serious middle school themes in a lighthearted way that doesn’t take away from the tension.

New Children’s Fiction Alert!: Tight by Torrey Maldonado

Tight by Torrey Maldonado

Tight
Torrey Maldonado
Nancy Paulsen Books, September 2018
Ages 8-12/Grades 3-7

If Bryan could be any superhero, he’d be Batman. Or Black Panther. They’re smart, they think 10 steps ahead, and they’re tough. Bryan’s dad and his older sister, Ava, both say he should be tough: “don’t be soft” they tell him, but his mom keeps him cool and level-headed. She also introduces him to Mike, who is in 7th grade – one year older than him in school – and Bryan thinks he’s pretty tight. Mike loves comics and drawing superheroes just like Bryan, and he doesn’t let school get in the way of having fun.

Slowly, Mike starts asking Bryan to take more and more risks: climbing up to the rooftop of a neighborhood building, ducking the subway turnstiles to take the train for free, skipping school to get the newest Luke Cage comic. Bryan doesn’t feel so good about lying to his parents, especially his mom, but he loves the feeling of freedom that comes with hanging out with Mike.

Bryan’s internal struggle to make the right choices is grounded in Tight’s contemporary Brooklyn setting and in his genuine interactions with strong secondary characters. He genuinely wants to do the right thing, while also wanting to give his friend a chance to choose better as well. Maldonado’s dialogues present a variety of perspectives on peer pressure and the difficulties of navigating friendships as a young person, making it easy to empathize with Bryan.

Back to School with Historical Fiction: A Review of Finding Langston

Finding Langston by Lesa Cline-Ransome

Finding Langston
Lesa Cline-Ransome
Holiday House, August 2018

Langston doesn’t like much about his new life in Chicago – not the small apartment he shares with his father, or the noisy streets and sidewalks, and definitely not his new school, where classmates call him “country boy” and make fun of how he speaks. Langston misses Alabama, where his mother died and where his Grandma still lives, though his father sends her part of his paycheck each week in the hopes of helping her move up north with them. It’s only when Langston discovers George Cleveland Hall Library, open to all Chicago residents, that he starts to feel at home.

In the safety of the library, Langston also discovers his namesake, a poet who seems to have inspired a few of the love letters written by young Langston’s mother to his father. Reading the poetry of Hughes helps Langston work through his grief at losing his mother, but it’s a new friend who recognizes that reading poetry “is a way of putting all the things you feel inside on the outside” (p 99).

Cline-Ransome mixes poetry and history in this slim fiction novel for elementary and middle school children. The post World War II era of the Great Migration is explored through the story of one family, and Langston (the character) also learns a great deal about Langston Hughes and other African American poets and writers of the time. Chicago’s Bronzeville neighborhood and Chicago Public Library’s Hall Branch are both highlighted and given extra detail in an Author’s Note at the end of the book. Told with heart and thoughtfulness, Finding Langston belongs in personal libraries and on classroom shelves alike.

Valuable Reminders: A Review of The Dollar Kids

dollar kids

The Dollar Kids
Jennifer Richard Jacobson
Illustrations by Ryan Andrews
Candlewick (August, 2018)
Ages 10-14

When his family wins the chance to buy a house for just $1, twelve-year-old Lowen sees it as a chance to hit the reset button — Mum can open her own restaurant, Dad can follow his dream of working in a clinic in an underserved community, his brother Clem can finally be the star athlete, and his sister Anneth — well, she’ll need convincing. And sensitive, artistic Lowen can work through his grief over the death of a friend and guilt over believing he caused it. But moving to a small town isn’t easy on any of them, leading everyone to question whether the Dollar House program was such a good idea after all. Dubbed the “Dollar Kids” by hostile new neighbors skeptical of the program and “whether it’s a help or drain on the town” (p. 328), Lowen and the other new kids in town struggle to make a place for themselves, rehab houses, and rebuild community.

The idea of home, be it a building, a community, a family, or a feeling creates a strong backbone for this plot, helping to pull the reader through the slightly slow start to the one year the book covers. By mid-book, the pace picks up in both action and time (the progress noted with each new chapter). While slightly awkward, the change of pacing mirrors the changes Lowen experiences as he processes his grief and settles into life in Millville. Scenes from Lowen’s comic book drawing layer in additional elements of his grieving process, questions of faith, and ultimately his healing.

Diversity (of age, gender, and cultures) among the characters in this story provide a varied range of coping mechanisms for dealing with uncertainty, insecurity, and change by both the new families settling in and Millville residents dealing with the decline of their small, but proud town. The inclusion of parents and other community members as active players in the story is a refreshing change from books that often leave you wondering “What happened to all the adults?” and provides a subtle reminder that communities need all types of diversity to thrive.

Happy Birthday, Harry Potter!

If you’re looking for a fun way to celebrate Harry Potter’s birthday next week (and who isn’t?), you might check out one of these awesome local library programs taking place in the Chicago area over the next few days:

  • Naperville Public Library- July 28
  • Forest Park Public Library- July 29
  • Brookfield Public Library- July 31 (Harry’s actual birthday)
  • Oak Park Public Library- August 4

*I’d advise checking the library’s website for details, times, and residency requirements.

But if you’re not in Chicago, or your local library isn’t having a birthday bash, how about picking up a book guaranteed to bring you back to the world of wizardry, magic, adventure, and friendship that J.K. Rowling’s books created. One of these magical 2018 releases might be just like a ticket for the Hogwarts Express.

 

The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton (Freeform, February 2018)

the belles

The Belles

Camellia Beauregard and her sisters are the Belles of Orleans, creators of all beauty for the cursed grey citizens of their world. In competition with her sisters to become the palace favorite, Camellia must navigate the intrigues and dangers of court life, while trying to stay connected to her sisters, her magic, and her own identity.

Harry Potter fans will love:

  • the detailed world-building
  • complex relationships
  • characters struggling with the ethics of magic

 

Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi (Henry Holt, March 2018)

children of blood and bone

Children of Blood and Bone

Child of a murdered Maji Reaper, Zélie Adebola will fight against a powerful and oppressive monarchy bent on destroying her people and magic forever. With the help of her overbearing brother, a renegade princess, and the last remaining magic she can find, Zélie struggles to save herself and a society that is nearly a memory. This dark and detailed story is closer in mood to the later books in the Harry Potter series.

Harry Potter fans will love:

  • the unlikely heroes
  • magical creatures
  • community building

 

The Forgotten Book by Mechthild Gläser (Feiwel and Friends, January 2018)

the forgotten book

The Forgotten Book

Emma Morgenroth is a woman of action. When she finds a seemingly magical book in her boarding school’s all but abandoned west wing library, she decides to solve its mysteries herself. The book doesn’t reveal its secrets that easily, though, and the consequences of using its magical powers aren’t always predictable. Emma may need the help of the intriguing, yet aloof, Darcy de Winter to set things right. Jane Austen fans will recognize nods to Emma and Pride and Prejudice in this YA novel translated from German.

Harry Potter fans will love:

  • set in a boarding school complete with abandoned wings and secret passageways
  • book with magical properties that hides its more dangerous effects
  • secret student club
  • strong friendship of diverse personalities coming together to make things right.

 

The Language of Spells by Garret Weyr, illustrated by Katie Harnett (Chronicle, June 2018)

the language of spells

The Language of Spells

Grisha, a dragon who has spent his long life hiding in plain sight and Maggie, a girl who has spent her short life feeling invisible become fast friends over hot chocolate, late night conversations and the ability to truly see each other. But this ordinary girl could become a hero by giving up something she loves (the price of magic) to save a group of Grisha’s fellow dragons. This charming and graceful story is gentler than Rowling’s books, but with familiar themes of friendship and magic.

Harry Potter Fans will love:

  • the magical creatures
  • unlikely heroes
  • complexities of good and evil

 

Saint Philomene’s Infirmary for Magical Creatures by W. Stone Cotter (Henry Holt, January 2018)

st philomenes

Saint Philomene’s Infirmary for Magical Creatures

A habitual limit-tester, and occasional hole-digger, Chance Jeopard has not only discovered an underground hospital for magical creatures, but also a plot to destroy it. Chance is followed on his quest to save St Philomene’s Infirmary by his skeptical big sister, who’s out to rescue him from his rescue mission. Together they will evade a cast of magical creatures, from the common demon to the very rare Sowlth and endangered Wreau, while they chase the man bent on threatening the infirmary and 1.8 million inhabitants.

Harry Potter fans will love:

  • the magical creatures
  • unlikely heroes
  • adversity helping the characters to mature

 

Wizardmatch by Lauren Magaziner (Dial Books, March 2018)

wizardmatch

Wizardmatch

When the Prime Wizard de Pomporromp decides it’s time to retire, all of his grandchildren are invited to compete for his title in Wizardmatch. Lennie Mercado wants nothing more than to be Prime Wizard, and to hold the unlimited magical powers that come with the job, but finds out the deck may just be stacked against her. Written for a younger crowd, Wizardmatch leans into its silliness and takes a more irreverent approach to magic and spells, though it’s not without a deeper message of acceptance and equality.

Harry Potter fans will love:

  • the wizarding families and competitions
  • a light story with an underlying message of acceptance and belonging
  • power imbalances.

 

Having fun exploring these books for the magic that drew you to Harry Potter in the first place, while you raise a butterbeer to Harry on his 38th birthday!

 

 

 

 

2018 Graphic Novels and Nonfiction

Consider this your periodic reminder that graphic novels, graphic memoirs, and other graphic nonfiction are 100% real books! We think that if you enjoy them, you should keep on reading them, and if you are a caring adult (teacher, parent, librarian), you should encourage the kids in your life to read them as well. Visual literacy is an important and valuable skill to have, and reading graphics helps foster it. Plus they’re just plain fun to read.

 

The City on the Other Side

City on the Other Side
Mairghread Scott & Robin Robinson
First Second, April 2018

Isabel learns the strength of her convictions in this human world/fairy world adventure set in early 1900s San Francisco. This was a beautiful and beautifully told tale of friendship, loyalty, and doing what’s right, even if it scares you. Full page maps and detailed and vibrant illustrations elevate the story. Ages 8 and up.

 

Be Prepared

Be Prepared
Vera Brosgol
First Second, April 2018

What happens if you beg to go to summer camp, and then you hate it (and it hates you)? Brosgol creatively remembers a summer of her youth with all its ups and downs in this funny and bittersweet graphic novel for middle grades and up.

 

Scarlett Hart: Monster Hunter

Scarlett Hart: Monster Hunter
Marcus Sedgwick & Thomas Taylor
First Second, April 2018

Part Sherlock Holmes-ian detective, part Lara Croft action-adventure hero, and all quippy one-liners, Scarlett Hart doesn’t shy away from danger as she follows in her late parents’ footsteps. With the help of Napoleon and Mrs. White, she tracks down and hunts various monsters – from gargoyles springing to life to zombies terrorizing the theatre – hoping to catch them before the conniving Count Stankovic catches her. Ages 10 and up.

 

All Summer Long

All Summer Long
Hope Larson
Farrar Straus Giroux, May 2018

When Bina’s best friend, Austin, goes to soccer camp for the summer, she’s left to befriend Austin’s older sister and fears growing apart from Austin. A love of listening to and creating music keeps Bina occupied, but when Austin returns, things don’t go back to normal. This middle grade story of the growing pains of friendship hits all the emotional notes without getting melodramatic, and a bright color palette and bold artwork keep it fresh and fun.

 

Animus

Animus
Antoine Revoy
First Second, May 2018

A haunted playground in Kyoto, Japan seems to hold the key to the mystery of missing schoolchildren. Sayuri and Hisao, themselves children, follow the clues they discover to find their classmates, and to hopefully return “Toothless,” the boy haunting the playground, back to where he belongs. Echoing the atmosphere of the story, Revoy’s illustrations are haunting and fantastical.

 

Making Friends

Making Friends
Kristen Gudsnuk
Graphix, July 2018

Dany is a seventh grader now, and all of her friends ended up in a different cluster – together, without her. In need of a few friends, and armed with a magic sketchbook, she literally makes new friends without worrying about the consequences. With anime and other tongue-in-cheek pop culture references on every page, Making Friends charms and delights. Ages 10 and up.

 

Hey, Kiddo

Hey, Kiddo
Jarrett J. Krosoczka
Graphix, October 2018

With stark honesty and a muted palette, Krosoczka tells the story of his upbringing through his high school years. Raised by his grandparents and never quite sure of his place in his family, or how to mix his school life with his home life, Krosoczka leans into his artistic interests and finds his place in the world. This graphic memoir for young adults echoes themes from Krosoczka’s TED Talk in 2012.

Summer STEM Reads

In honor of National Summer Learning Day here’s a roundup of some new STEM based fiction and picture books guaranteed to spark interest in a deeper dive into their subjects.

stemcrash

Crash! Boom!

Crash Boom: A Math Tale – Robie H Harris, illustrated by Chris Chatterton (Candlewick, 2018)

Elephant wants to stack his blocks as tall as, well, an elephant. He’ll count, stack, evaluate, and build his way to success. With introductory concepts in math, problem-solving, construction, and good old-fashioned perseverance this a great tale for future engineers.

 

stemjamie

The Jamie Drake Equation

The Jamie Drake Equation – Christopher Edge
(Delacorte Press, June 2018)
Jamie Drake knows that each of his family members are like stars, keeping each other in orbit. He’s worked out the equation, and especially with his dad 400 kilometers away on the International Space Station, Jamie needs to make sure everyone and everything is in the right place to keep the Drake family intact. Christopher Edge brings math and science to life in this middle grade novel, giving them heart without sacrificing the integrity of the very real formulas and equations that make space travel possible. A bonus “The Science of The Jamie Drake Equation” chapter goes into more detail about the real-life science in the story, making this an easy tie-in to a solar system or space travel unit.

stempotions

Potions & Parameters

Secret Coders: Potions & Parameters – Gene Luen Yang and Mike Holmes
(First Second, March 2018)
Hopper, Eni, and Josh are back in the 5th installment of the Secret Coders series, which picks up where Robots & Repeats left off: continuing their battle against the evil Dr. One-Zero as he  tries to control their town with his “Green Pop” potion. Luckily, they have Professor Bee and their coding skills to help them. Gene Luen Yang (National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature) and Mike Holmes continue to entertain with their fun characters and comic-style illustrations. Readers interested in basic coding and logic puzzles will want to start this series at the beginning, since both the plot and the concepts build off previous books!

stemnebula

The Nebula Secret

Explorer Academy: The Nebula Secret – Trudi Trueit (National Geographic, 2018)

Cruz Coronado and his classmates will travel the world using science, exploration and conservation practices while training to be the next generation of National Geographic Explorers. All the while trying to evade a secret society that may be the cause of his mother’s mysterious death. The series (launching in September) will be supported by a digital extension (available now on the National Geographic Kids site) with games, videos, and “truth behind” content revealing the science behind the story.

stemmortification

The Mortification of Fovea Munson

The Mortification of Fovea Munson – Mary Winn Heider (Disney-Hyperion, 2018)

Fovea Munson is NOT interested in dead bodies! But spending the summer working in her parents’ cadaver lab is not helping convince her classmates she is NOT gross. While this sweet and funny story isn’t based in fact (have you ever met a partially-frozen, singing head?), there is just enough medical science to get the curious doing their own research into dissection and maybe even medical school.