THE LAST KIDS ON EARTH by Max Braillier, illustrated by Douglas Holgate

June 24, 2018

The Last Kids on Earth by Max Braillier, illustrated by Douglas Holgate

If the tweens in your life like graphic novels with adventure, thrills and chills, zombies, and great characters–not to mention lots of humor and fun–look no further.  The Last Kids on Earth series is a sure-fire hit. The premise is an apocalypse in the town of Wakefield, brought on by a monster attack.  Not only has the town been destroyed, but it is now filled with gigantic–and gross–slime-filled creatures.  Not only that, almost the whole population has been turned into zombies!  Thirteen-year-old Jack is an exception.  He struggles to survive, and ultimately finds a couple of fellow students  who team up to  rescue a classmate they believe is trapped in their decimated school.  Lots of crazy creatures give their adventures some zest:  a rolling ball of zombies, a revenge-filled creature with bad eyesight called BLARGH, and a monster-dog name Rover.  These inventions add both humor and excitement to the plot.  The characters seem like true-to-life teens in their humorous dialogue, and also in their emotional depth.  The pencil drawings are superb and little touches also add to the humor.  Best of all, it’s the start of a series, so your readers will have a summer of novels ahead of them.


POSITIVELY IZZIE by Terri Libenson: Tween Graphic Novel Recommendation

June 16, 2018

Positively Izzie by Terri Libenson

Terri LIbenson is one of my favorite new graphic novel authors.  Her work is perfect for tweens, especially those in middle school.  She captures the age so well, understanding the culture as well as how different kids enter the ebb and flow of daily life at that age. We (and I mean all of us, especially 11-year-old Molly), loved Libenson’s first book, Invisible Emmie, as you can see from our review. In her latest book, Libenson looks at how labels become a central feature in middle school–and what happens when two very different girls become friends as they move beyond labels’ restrictions.  Izzie is the dreamer, while Brianna is the brain.  Their lives seldom cross, until they both take the drama of middle school to the stage: the school talent show.  The characters ring true, as do the many levels of drama in the middle school years, with crushes, jealousies, cliques, families, self-discoveries. . .and even growing confidence.  The illustrations are a delight, and include lots of comedy for the discerning reader.  It’s also a great companion novel to Invisible Emmie.  A delightful read.

THEY SAY BLUE by Jillian Tamaki: Stunning Picture Book for Early Childhood Sharing

June 9, 2018

They Say Blue by Jillian Tamaki

I’m sure you know the feeling when you encounter a new book and turning the pages gives you chills.  The images as well as the lyrical philosophical words drew me in immediately and made me eager to share this book, especially with the kindergarten and first-grade children in my life.  I especially appreciate the subtle sophistication in the thinking and the respect for your children’s incredible intellectual abilities.  The picture book lets us in on the thinking and world view of a young girl as she goes through the seasons–or the day–examining the colors in the world around her. It’s about color, but also perspective:  what can we see, and what can we speculate about. And what is color?  The frame “They say. . .” invites us into the wonderings about what we are told and the ways we make sense of these “hard truths.”  For example, the book begins with: “They say blue is the color of the sky….Which is true today! They say the sea is blue, too.”  But when you hold sea water in your hand, it doesn’t look blue at all: “It’s clear as glass.”  She wonders if a blue whale is blue–but she doesn’t know because she hasn’t seen one.

The book is thoughtful, sensitive, and joyful. The pictures are really indescribable, like this field of grass that she imagines as a golden ocean.  Or the incredible images the little girl pictures the red blood inside her body or the orange yolk of an egg.  A magical book that allows readers of different ages and experiences to enter into a reading experience together in wonder and delight.  

La La La: A Story of Hope by Kate DiCamillo Kim: A New Nearly Wordless Picture Book/Pre-Graphic Novel

June 2, 2018

La La La:  A Story of Hope by Kate DiCamillo, illustrated by Jaime Kim

While this addition to your Kate DICamillo bookshelf is usually described as “nearly wordless,”  I like viewing it as the perfect introduction to graphic novels for young readers pre-K through Grade 2. Kate DiCamillo writes in an afterword that she envisioned a small lonely circle and in her mind, the story unfolded of the power of the little circle viewing a larger one from a distance and dreaming of how to connect.  “Finally,” DiCamillo writes, “I figured that what the small circle needed to do was sing. Because even if we are small and alone and afraid, if we sing, sometimes someone answers us back.”

The book, gorgeously illustrated by Jaime Kim, shows a little girl, standing alone and singing, but no one responds. Armed with her curiosity and considerable courage, she ventures out into the world singing to nature:  trees, ponds, the darkness, and the moon–but still no response.  In an endearing ending, the little girl is awakened in the dark night by a singing response.  She has been heard! The book is so full of heart, and perfectly captures the need for understanding and the wish for someone to join using our songs.  A sweetly inspiring book.


May 27, 2018 Rick Riordan

Remember how Zeus is punishing his son, the god Apollo by turning him into a mortal and sending him down to Earth? (If you need a recap, here are our reviews of Book 1 and Book 2.)  It’s really a tough punishment for such a glorious and vain God; he returns as an awkward and gawky teenager, and without his powers, to boot.

I love this series, and Book 3 may be my favorite yet.  The characters we have come to care about–like the demigod Meg, Grover, and many of the demigods we are familiar with from Camp Jupiter and Camp Half-Blood. The humor is delightful, with puns about Artificial Intelligence, jokes about Southern California, and hilarious “insider” stories about the other gods from Apollo.  I also appreciate the weaving in of the horrors of climate change and devastation of forests.  If you are like me, you will grow to appreciate the complexities of the characters as the book progresses.  If you are like Molly and Jacob–not to mention Meghan, you’ll read it every spare moment you have.  Highly recommended!


SQUARE by Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen

May 19, 2018

Square by Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen

I love the new shape trilogy that Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen have created.  Triangle was the first and we adored it, as you can tell from our post.  Square is equally good, but very different.  Square is a hard worker, but a bit of a plodder.  Every day, he moves a heavy bock from below ground to above ground, creating a new pile.  Circle, Square’s friend, is mightily impressed when she sees his “artistic” work.  She declares him a genius!  This is troubling to Square, as he loves Circle, and wants to create something to please her, so he tries something a bit different.  Does he succeed with his new creation–or not?  What does it mean to be creative?  The story ends on an ambiguous note that begs discussion.  The wry humor these authors bring to their children’s books is in evidence here.  Can’t wait for the third book–about our new friend, Circle!

THE WIZARDS OF ONCE by Cressida Cowell: Recommended for the Tweens in Your Life

May 12, 2018

The Wizards of Once by Cressida Cowell

Magic?  Wizards?  Warriors?  Adventure? A couple of lovable main characters created by best-selling author Cressida Cowell?  Yes to all–and best of all, it’s the start of a new series. As in her previous series (How to Train Your Dragon), Cowell creates a believable world with its own internal rules. Readers will root for Xar, son of the King of Wizards (Xar’s magic, sadly, has not yet kicked in) and Wish, daughter of the Warrior Queen, (who has her own issues with magic).  There’s lots of humor, too, in the tongue-in-cheek dialogue and funny alternatives to “swearing.”  The illustrations are both quirky and delightful, and definitely add to the charm of the book.  A great read for lovers of magic–a bit lighter than the Harry Potter series, but a wonderful read all the same.  Can’t wait for the next in the series!