The Wild City: A Review of Animal City

61UGpFi7QrL._SX393_BO1,204,203,200_

Animal City
Joan Negrescolor
Chronicle Books,
November 2018

Animal City depicts a place overrun by unrestrained animals and plants, which Nina explores. Each day she returns to tell the animals their favorite stories. Some animals love to hear tales about myths and monsters or traveling to outer space while others prefer poems about sailors. The story shows Nina traveling through the forgotten city, emphasizing themes of curiosity and exploration of nature. Negrescolor’s text is simple, yet conveys a powerful message that stories have the ability to enthrall and capture the attention of anyone or anything. The digitally-created illustrations use vibrant and bold shades of red, blue, yellow, black, and green to create their jungle. By using digital art in this medium, Negrescolor depicts a chaotic wilderness, reflecting the mood of the story. The book simulates our curiosity because it is not clear what happened to humanity. The narrative allows for imagination to fill in the missing pieces here. Since there is not a lot of writing, this gives an opportunity for the pictures to tell the story and fully represent this ruined city.

Slight Frights and Daring Scares: Nine Spooky Books for Middle Grade Readers

October is here, and with it come ghosts, goblins, witches, and monsters. Today we’re looking at a few of this year’s spooky reads for middle grades – books with slight frights that won’t give you nightmares.

sgirllockedThe Girl in the Locked Room: A Ghost Story by Mary Downing Hahn
Clarion Books, September 2018
Cover: 👻👻👻👻
Content: 👻👻

The cover and title of this story make it seem far scarier than it is in reality. Narration shifts between Jules, whose family has just moved into an abandoned house, and the “Girl,” Lily, whose family lived in the house decades ago. Both girls are curious about each other, and of their respective time periods, and their friendship might be just what Lily needs to find her final resting place. This is gentle ghost story, for readers want to ease into the season.

sturnkey
The Turnkey of Highgate Cemetery by Allison Rushby
Candlewick Press, July 2018
Cover: 👻👻👻
Content: 👻👻

Less a ghost story, and more historical fiction featuring supernatural characters, The Turnkey of Highgate Cemetery’s scariest features are the German soldiers and the threat of a bombing looming over the action of the tale. In London during World War II, young ghost Flossie Birdwhistle is in charge of keeping the cemetery’s buried souls at rest, but a mysterious soldier – also a ghost – draws Flossie into England’s war efforts. Readers who prefer their ghosts to act with integrity and honor will find it easy to support Flossie and her ghostly friends.

scityghosts
City of Ghosts by Victoria Schwab
Scholastic Press, August 2018
Cover: 👻👻👻👻
Content: 👻👻👻👻

In this first novel of a new supernatural fantasy series, Schwab creates a world similar to ours: a reality TV show featuring two “ghost hunters” travels to Scotland to film their pilot episode. They are faking it: though the “Inspectres,” as they call themselves, truly believe in and want to see ghosts, they just don’t. Their daughter, Cass, does – and has even befriended the ghost who saved her from a near-death experience several years ago. The ghosts of Scotland aren’t nearly as friendly, and it will take another young “In-betweener” to help Cass realize her full powers as someone who can cross the Veil. There’s plenty of good versus evil in this ghost-hunting adventure, with humor and heart to balance out the action.

spoplar
The House in Poplar Wood by K.E. Ormsbee
Chronicle Books, August 2018
Cover: 👻👻👻
Content: 👻👻👻

Lee and Felix Vickery are twins, but the only thing they do together is travel to town on Halloween, the one night that Death allows. For the rest of the year, they go about their lives in Poplar Wood, on opposite sides of their house, as the Agreement states. Felix helps his father, who is an apprentice to Death, and Lee does the same for his mother, who is Memory’s apprentice. It’s not the best life, but they make it work – until the daughter of Passion’s apprentice is killed, and Gretchen Whipple, the mayor’s daughter, and sworn enemy of the Vickerys, decides to get to the bottom of a feud that has controlled the lives – and deaths – of everyone in their small town for years. Lee, Felix, and Gretchen form a friendship as strange as their living arrangements to set things right. Poetic descriptions give this book a contemplative feel, though the action ensures it’s never bogged down in too much detail.

sbegone
Begone the Raggedy Witches by Celine Kiernan
Walker Books, February 2018
Cover: 👻👻👻
Content: 👻👻👻

This first book in an forthcoming trilogy creates a world where witches live across an invisible border and live by a set of ancient rules. Mup, her mam, and her brother cross this border to save her her dad after he is kidnapped by the creator of these rules – her grandmother. Reminiscent of other fantastical journeys taken by young women to rescue those they love and get back home, Begone the Raggedy Witches gives its readers characters to care for and a magical world to explore. The villains are just cruel enough to resent, but good witches abound as well, and Mup’s fight becomes more than just a rescue mission – she must save Witches Borough itself from her grandmother’s control.

sfakeblood
Fake Blood by Whitney Gardner
Simon & Schuster, September 2018
Cover: 👻👻
Content:👻👻

Nia Winters likes vampires. AJ likes Nia, but since he isn’t a vampire, he can’t seem to catch her attention – until he decides to become a vampire himself. Then he realizes it’s not that Nia likes vampires – she slays them. Suddenly his great idea could be the death of him, if he can’t convince Nia it was all a ploy, and that a real vampire of Spoons Middle School is still out there. This graphic novel is more silly than scary, with all of its parodying of other well-known vampire tales. The illustrations add a level of fun, and the relationships between AJ and his sister and AJ and his friends are sweet with plenty of goodnatured needling. For readers who would rather laugh at monsters than be terrified by them, Fake Blood will satisfy.

scryptid
The Cryptid Catcher by Lija Fisher
Farrar Straus Giroux, August 2018
Cover: 👻👻
Content: 👻👻

Clivo Wren is only taking up the family business when he becomes a cryptid hunter at age 13, after his father’s death, but he may have taken on more than he knows how to handle. After all, he just found out cryptids really do exist – is he really ready to track and catalog them? Humanity as we know it may be on the line if Clivo isn’t up for the task of finding the rumored “immortal” cryptid, so with the help of several trustworthy friends, and a few more less-than-trustworthy colleagues, he sets out to catch whatever cryptids he can. Teenagers with plenty of dry humor and monster-hunting lore make this a delightful read that’s less scare and more dare.

scarlett
Scarlett Hart: Monster Hunter by Marcus Sedgwick and Thomas Taylor
First Second Books, April 2018
Cover: 👻👻👻👻
Content: 👻👻👻

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, Mrs. White, and plenty of hunting gadgets, 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. Hand drawn illustrations bring the monsters and Scarlett to life and help to build intensity as she escapes each dangerous situation.

smallspaces
Small Spaces by Katherine Arden
G.P. Putnam’s Sons, September 2018
Cover: 👻👻👻
Content: 👻👻👻👻👻

For having a rather tame cover (though it gets creepier the closer you look), this story is shockingly scary. A field trip to a local farm turns terrifying as the bus breaks down on the way back to school and the bus driver smilingly says, “Best get moving. At nightfall they’ll come for the rest of you.” Eleven-year old Ollie and two of her classmates are the only ones who take the driver’s advice, choosing to try their luck in the surrounding forest. They aren’t sure if they’ve made the right choice, or who (or what) exactly is coming for them, but they’ll soon find out. Excellent pacing and well-timed cliffhangers, along with a smart and courageous heroine make this a treat for brave readers.

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!

 

 

 

 

Two of a Kind: Fiction in Verse

With National Poetry Month coming to an end, here are two new novels in verse featuring young teens navigating difficult situations:

ebbandflow

Ebb & Flow – Heather Smith
Kids Can Press
April, 2018

Jett has not had a great year – after his father goes to jail for his involvement in a drunk driving accident, he and his mother move away for a “fresh start” that doesn’t go the way either of them wanted. Now, Jett is back on the Eastern coast to spend the summer with his Grandma Jo, who speaks in puns and tells him stories about herself at his age, a young Joanna. Slowly, Jett tells his own story, and struggles with wanting things to go back to how they were while also hoping the summer will help him move on from the mistakes of the past year.

As Grandma Jo says:
“…life is like the tides.
In, out.
Back, forth.
Push, pull.
High, low.
You just have to go with the flow, you know?” (p. 177)

Told in verse from Jett’s perspective, Ebb & Flow mimics the tides it refers to – swelling with emotion, pulling back, and surging again as Jett reveals his truths and secrets.

 

knockout

Knockout – K. A. Holt
Chronicle Books
March, 2018

Levi was born prematurely, and as a result he’s smaller than most of his classmates. And while sometimes he needs an inhaler or gets tired easily, he’s still mighty, and wants to prove he’s not as weak as his mom and brother think. When his dad offers to pay for a sport – any sport – he chooses boxing. That will show everyone how strong he is, right?

Shape poetry and Levi’s quick and punchy voice give this novel in verse plenty of heart. Readers will cheer for Levi as he makes his way through seventh grade, trying to avoid drama, keep his friendship with Tam, and impress everyone with his boxing.

A Review of Mabel and Sam at Home by Linda Urban

Mabel and Sam at Home: One Brave Journey in Three Adventures                                           

Mabal and Sam cover art

By Linda Urban, Illustrated by Hadley Hooper, Chronicle Books  (2018)

It’s moving day for Mabel and Sam! How do two creative kids stay out of the way while the grown-ups work? Why a cardboard box and a vivid imagination, of course. In the grand tradition of bossy big sisters everywhere, Mabel leads little brother Sam on a brave adventure; part sea voyage, part museum tour, part space odyssey, and all fun.

The charming and funny text explores a new house as well as some of the anxieties that can come along with a move. Structured as three mini-chapters, each adventure gently delves into one of the possible causes of moving day jitters: the moving crew, finding your familiar things in a new place, and sleeping in a new bedroom. The printmaking techniques used in the illustrations, and the fluidity of the lines in Hooper’s drawings, create a soft and magical backdrop that complements the sweet relationship between the siblings and the emotion behind their adventure.

A fun and reassuring way to help kids process the emotions and uncertainty that can come with a move to a new house.

A Review of Cycle City by Alison Farrell

cycle city cover art

Cycle City by Alison Farrell (Chronicle Books, 2018)

Bear on a bike—check! Turtles on a tandem—check, check! Pigs in a parade—you bet!

The Starlight Parade is tonight, but the invitations haven’t all been sent. Can Mayor Snail make it around Cycle City to find all the guests in time?

Fans of Where’s Waldo and the Richard Scarry Busytown books will be thrilled by this delightful ride through Cycle City street scenes in search of some special residents. The simple plot makes this sweet seek-and-find stand apart from the individual, and often unrelated, vignettes of others in the genre. Action-packed illustrations give plenty for kids to explore as well as a bit of humor for big kid readers in the shop names and conversation bubbles. Be sure to check out the “Hay There” food truck if you’re into Real Food for Herbivores!

While the illustrations may be too detailed for a storytime pick, this would be an excellent choice for a rainy-day couch cuddle. (Ages 3-5)

B3 Butler Book Banter

Wednesday, September 21, 2016, 6-7 p.m.

Exploring Farms and Food

From classic picture books such as Lois Ehlert’s Eating the Alphabet (Harcourt, 1989) and Growing Vegetable Soup (Harcourt, 1987) and Elisha Cooper’s Farm (Orchard, 2010) to more contemporary middle-grade fiction such as Return to Sender by Julia Alvarez (Knopf, 2009) and informational books including the young readers’ edition of The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan (Dial, 2015), food and where it comes from has been a perennial topic in children’s lit.

Fall season is harvest time, and for our first B3 of the year we’ll focus on food, farms, and farmers’ markets. There is a full crop of newly-published foodie books this year, and we’ll focus on these:

Board books: Edible Colors and Edible Numbers, both by Jennifer Vogel Bass (Roaring Brook, 2016)
Picture books: Grow! Raise! Catch! How We Get Our Food by Shelly Rotner (Holiday House, 2016); On the Farm, at the Market by G. Brian Karas (Holt, 2016); and Sleep Tight Farm by Eugenie Doyle, illus. by Becca Stadtlander (Chronicle, 2016)
Informational: The Story of Seeds by Nancy F. Castaldo (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2016)

Whether you’ve read all, some, or none, please join us in the Butler Center to talk about kids books about food, and enjoy some farmers’ market treats. We’ll have the food and, um, books out at 5:30 for perusal and partaking.