Faults and Aftershocks: A Review of Odessa

odessa-9781620107898_lg.jpgOdessa
Written and illustrated by Jonathan Hill
Published by Oni Press
Available November 10, 2020
Ages 13+

Eight years ago, Vietnamese-American Ginny Crane’s earth shattered—and not just because an earthquake ripped the West Coast apart, tearing apart the land and communities. No, Ginny’s world was shaken when her mother left her family, taking off without a word. In the years that followed, Ginny and her dad took care of her two kid brothers, acclimating to a new way of life. Now, on her eighteenth birthday, Ginny receives a package from her mother, Odessa. Ginny knows this is her chance to find her mother. Ginny takes off in the middle of the night, leaving her family behind. Her brothers, Harry and Wes, however, tag along on her journey; they miss their mother, too. As the trio bushwhack their way through a post-apocalyptic America, they struggle with who they can and cannot trust. They encounter rival gangs—all bent on keeping their territory intact—and join forces with an enigmatic man called Four Dollars. Jonathan Hill’s images in Odessa are salmon-saturated and filled with exquisite detail. The landscape is decimated, and the population is weary. Hill’s drawings capture the fatigue and manic energy that is integral to their survival. The Crane family is full of love and secrets: the mysterious Four Dollars is actually the siblings’ long-lost Uncle Hank. Uncle Hank, in turn, is deeply connected to the warring factions that plague the Crane’s journey. As family mysteries are unearthed, the Cranes encounter violence and death. Hill ends the story with a new beginning: the remaining Cranes must set forth into Middle America to find the truth. This new #OwnVoices graphic novel from Oni Press is a taut and exciting exploration of perseverance, truth, and unbreakable bonds.

Butler Bookshelf

This week on Butler Bookshelf: What happens when a group of “distinguished” lemmings encounter a bear? In Julie Colombet’s witty picture book, the lemmings learn to shake off their fastidiousness and take notes from their new bear friend. For more information on The Society of Distinguished Lemmings and other great picture books, check out the list below!

Bunnies on the Bus
Written by Philip Ardagh and illustrated by Ben Mantle
Published by Candlewick
Available now!

The Secret Life of Trees: Explore the forests of the world, with Oakheart the Brave
Written by Moira Butterfield and illustrated by Vivian Mineker
Published by words & pictures
Available August 18, 2020

The Society of Distinguished Lemmings
Written and illustrated by Julie Colombet
Published by Peachtree Publishing Company
Available now!

Happy: A Beginners Book of Mindfulness
Written by Nicola Edwards and illustrated by Katie Hickey
Published by Rodale Kids
Available now!

Pearl Goes to Preschool
Written and illustrated by Julie Fortenberry
Published by Candlewick
Available now!

The Secret Life of Spies
Written by Michael Noble and illustrated by Alexander Mostov
Published by Wide Eyed Editions
Available now!

Dog Meets Boy: A review of I Always Wanted One

I Always Wanted One cover artI Always Wanted One
Olivier Tallec
Quarto
August 18, 2020
Ages 4-8

Dog has always wanted a boy of his very own, but quickly learns that it’s not all fun and games. Having a boy is a big responsibility—training, feeding, grooming, and figuring out where he wanders off to all day with his bag of books. But even after all the work and all the years, where the boy has “grown bigger and takes up all the room on my couch,” Dog is proud of his boy, and they “remain the best of friends in the world.”

In this twist on the age-old friendship between a boy and his dog, Tallec flips the script and the prescribed emotions of each. Dog has the duties of responsible ownership, and his dry humor and droll observations illustrate that it can be work. But his thoughtful reflections on their evolving relationship demonstrate his devotion to boy. Tallec’s subtle pencil and watercolor illustrations complement the understated text while adding a layer of visual humor to Dog’s opinions. The sight of boy hiding under the dresser or his freshly brushed hair will surely get a giggle from young readers. The horizontal orientation of the book mimics the twisted theme. Both the orientation and detailed illustrations lend themselves to one-on-one reading. A perfect pick for a child who needs to learn what it’s like to belong to a pet.

Butler Bookshelf

This week on the Butler Bookshelf, we’re looking ahead to Fall’s newest releases. There are plenty of scary and mysterious choices! We’re especially looking forward to The Rembrandt Conspiracy by Deron R. Hicks, which dives into the famous art heist at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. For more great reads, check out the list below!

The Puppet’s Payback and Other Chilling Tales
Written by Mary Downing Hahn
Published by Clarion Books
Available September 1, 2020

The Rembrandt Conspiracy (The Lost Art Mysteries)
Written by Deron R. Hicks
Published by HMH Books for Young Readers
Available December 1, 2020

Under Shifting Stars
Written by Alexandra Latos
Published by HMH Books for Young Readers
Available September 29, 2020

No Place for Monsters
Written by Kory Merritt
Published by HMH Books for Young Readers
Available September 15, 2020

The Boy, the Wolf, and the Stars
Written by Shivaun Plozza
Published by HMH Books for Young Readers
Available November 17, 2020

Sherlock Bones and the Natural History Mystery
Written by Renee Treml
Published by HMH Books for Young Readers
Available September 22, 2020

Poetry is My Superpower: A Review of Isaiah Dunn is My Hero

41TdgcCewtL._SY346_Isaiah Dunn is My Hero
Written by Kelly J. Baptist
Published by Crown Books for Young Readers
Available August 18, 2020
Ages 8-10

Ten-year-old Isaiah Dunn loves to write poetry. He doesn’t anymore, though, not since his father passed away. Everything is different now that his father is gone. His mother, Lisa, stopped going to work and barely talks, and his little sister Charlie keeps calling their motel room “home.” The only thing Isaiah wants to do is spend time with his best pal, Sneaky, or read his dad’s journals. They are filled with stories about Isaiah Dunn, Superhero, who gets his special powers from eating rice and beans. He feels connected to his father when reading the stories and wishes he could be a superhero himself. Things are getting more complicated, though. Isaiah keeps getting in trouble at school for reacting to his classmate Angel’s name-calling. When he and Angel get paired up for a class project, it could not get any worse. Things start to improve when a school counselor mediates between Angel and Isaiah; Angel reveals that Isaiah hurt her feelings when he made fun of her hair. Angel and Isaiah discover they have a lot in common and create a poetry business together. After losing her job, Isaiah’s mom enters a rehabilitation program; while she is away Isaiah and his sister stay at a family friend’s home.  Isaiah spends more time at the library. He comes up with an idea to have a writing room in an old storage space, and the library approves the idea. Isaiah’s mother returns home and the family celebrates the Fourth of July all together. Kelly J. Baptist’s novel explores Isaiah as a budding young poet while struggling with the loss of a parent and home insecurity. Baptist breaks up the story by days, as if writing in a journal, and populates the middle-grade novel with poetry and snippets of short stories. Baptist depicts Isaiah’s and his family’s grief as the complex entity it is. Lisa’s grief-induced alcoholism and depression are layered and multi-dimensional. Sneaky and Angel are complicated individual characters who go beyond their supporting role. While this is a book about grief, this is a hopeful novel—and a great addition to a middle-grade collection.

Butler Bookshelf

This week, we’re yearning for sports stories. We’re looking forward to reading We Are the Wildcats, a novel by Siobhan Vivian about a girls’ varsity field hockey team who comes to terms with their toxic coach. For more reads, check out the list below!

Fire in the Star (The Unicorn Quest)
Written by Kamilla Benko
Published by Bloomsbury
Available now!

A Delayed Life: The True Story of the Librarian of Auschwitz
Written by Dita Kraus
Published by Feiwel & Friends
Available now!

We Are Blood and Thunder
Written by Kesia Lupo
Published by Bloomsbury
Available now!

Miss You Love You Hate You Bye
Written by Abby Sher
Published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux Books for Young Readers
Available now!

The Karate Kids
Written and illustrated by Holly Sterling
Published by Candlewick
Available now!

We are the Wildcats
Written by Siobhan Vivian
Published by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Available now!

What Do You See?: A Review of The Last Mirror on the Left

Last Mirror on the LeftThe Last Mirror on the Left
Lamar Giles, illustrated by Dapo Adeola
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt/Versify
October 20, 2020
Ages 8-12

The Legendary Alston Boys of Logan County are back for a second adventure to help solve another problem they may have had a hand in creating. When Otto and Sheed took mirrors from the Rorrim Mirror Emporium to fight Mr. Flux (The Last-Last-Day-of Summer, 2019), they inadvertently set free some dangerous criminals jailed inside the mirrors. Now they must travel through mirrors and the Multiverse to bring order back to the Multiverse Justice System. But stepping through the mirror into the Warped World of alternate-Fry will have consequences—like Otto slowly turning to stone and Sheed to a skeleton—that aren’t as random as they seem. With the help of an alt-Grandma (and her flying hat), the Epic Ellison twins (of course!), and some unjustly-jailed giant spiders, the Alston boys will save Fry once again and their future selves in the process.

Lamar Giles’ world-building is stellar, as he creates a Logan County both ordinary and extraordinarily weird. Then throws a warped version into the mix too. Otto and Sheed (two African American cousins) are brave, diligent, and funny even when dealing with themes of injustice, illness, greed, and an angry kangaroo creature. And Giles’ secondary characters are so vividly drawn that they could easily stand alone—maybe an Epic Ellisons series? Dapo Adeola again provides illustrations that add a comic touch to highlight the action while perfectly capturing the personalities of Otto and Sheed. Imaginations will run wild with this second installment of the series full of fast-paced adventure, yet grounded in family bonds and Grandma’s wise counsel.

Butler Bookshelf

This week on the Butler Bookshelf, we’re eager to read a picture book on the Queen of Soul herself–Aretha Franklin! Author Katheryn Russell-Brown and illustrator Laura Freeman take readers on a journey back to Aretha Franklin’s childhood and her rise to legendary status in A Voice Named Aretha. For more great reads, check out the list Below!

Arlo Finch in the Kingdom of Shadows
Written by John August
Published by Roaring Brook Press
Available now!

Machines in Motion: The Amazing History of Transportation
Written by Tom Jackson
Published by Bloomsbury
Available now!

Hop Little Bunnies
Written by Martha Mumford and illustrated by Laura Hughes
Published by Bloomsbury
Available now!

A Voice Named Aretha
Written by Katheryn Russell-Brown and illustrated by Laura Freeman
Published by Bloomsbury
Available now!

A Beginner’s Projects in Coding
Written by Marc Scott and illustrated by Mick Marston
Published by Bloomsbury
Available now!

A Way with Wild Things
Written by Larissa Theule and illustrated by Sara Palacios
Published by Bloomsbury
Available now!

 

Stars In Their Eyes: A Review of Smoove City

smoove-city-9781620107812_lg.jpgSmoove City
Written and illustrated by Kenny Keil, edited by Amanda Meadows
Published by Oni Press
Available on September 29, 2020
Ages 12-18

You haven’t heard of Smoove City? They’re the dynamic group reminiscent of Boyz II Men, except even handsomer. Maybe you haven’t heard of them because Smoove City is still a dream. Its members–Ray, Ronnie, Vinnie, and Mikey–are squeezing in music practice between restaurant gigs and rollerblading sessions. When the group pools their money for a demo cut at the mall, they know exactly where they’ll send it: Phat Cat Records, headed by the goddess of hip hop, Ms. Laverne Lavalle. Ray, Ronnie, Vinnie, and Mike barely make it past the front door. When a duplicitous Phat Cat Records intern hoodwinks the group into signing onto his side project, hijinks ensue. Smoove City finds themselves touring around the country and eventually getting thrown into jail for promoting devil-inspired music. The media sensation that follows throws Smoove City into superstardom, but can they ever get out from under their bogus record deal? Kenny Keil’s graphic novel is an ode to early ‘90s R&B. While the story of best friends trying to make it big is a familiar tale, Keil’s saturated pictures and pop culture references give the story a fresh twist. Keil gives readers a double narrative:  the main plotline focuses on the four friends navigating tour buses, run-down motels, and empty audiences; the secondary plot involves Smoove City’s demo tape catching on at house parties and becoming an underground sensation. Smoove City’s plotline is jam-packed with action and wacky jokes, while the underground mixtape provides some subtler humor amidst the group’s gags. This is a fun, nostalgic, and lighthearted read for middle schoolers and high schoolers alike.

Butler Bookshelf

 

This week on the Butler Bookshelf, we’re excited for Sarah Cannon’s newest book, Twist. When Eli, Neha, and Court — all in the same gifted class at school — start seeing their creative inventions come to life, they band together for an action-filled adventure. We cannot wait to begin this middle grade tale! For more great reads, check out the list below!

Jane Against the World: Roe v. Wade and the Fight for Reproductive Rights
Written by Karen Blumenthal
Published by Roaring Brook Press
Available now!

Twist
Written by Sarah Cannon
Published by Feiwel & Friends
Available now!

Alice Across America: The Story of the First Women’s Cross-Country Road Trip
Written by Sarah Glenn Marsh and illustrated by Gilbert 
Ford
Published by Henry Holt and Co
Available now!

Cottons: The White Carrot
Written by Jim Pascoe and illustrated by Heidi Arnhold
Published by First Second
Available now!

Don’t Feed the Coos!
Written by Jonathan Stutzman and illustrated by Heather Fox
Published by Henry Holt and Co
Available now!

Emily Writes: Emily Dickinson and Her Poetic Beginnings
Written by Jane Yolen and illustrated by Christine Davenier
Published by Henry Holt and Co
Available now!