Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Another new series for young readers

Captain Awesome to the Rescue! by Stan Kirby, illustrated by George O'Connor
Simon & Schuster, April 2012

Captain Awesome has flown onto the shelves of beginning readers. With his sidekick hamster, he just might be able to defeat Queen Stinkypants (his baby sister), but what about school? Eugene (Captain Awesome) is new in town, and new in school, and on the first day of school he's already found a nemesis- Meredith. Captain Awesome may not be able to survive school alone, so when he runs into another superhero, it might be time to form a squad. For readers of The Magic Tree House comes a brand new super-awesome series complete with fun illustrations. The large text and generous spacing will make young readers feel secure in their new reading powers.

Monday, February 27, 2012

A new series for beginning readers

Heidi Heckelbeck Has a Secret by Wanda Coven
Simon & Schuster, March 2012

Junie B. Jones, scoot over, there's a new girl on your shelf. Heidi Heckelbeck has been home-schooled her entire life and is not looking forward to real school. Even her favorite outfit can't give her the courage she needs, especially when Melanie decides to pick on her on her first day! But Heidi Heckelbeck has a secret, a special talent that could help rid her of all her school problems, and it has to do with a spell book hidden under her bed. The first in a new series, Heidi Heckelbeck is sure to win fans. It's great to see a book that deals with the transition from homeschooling to public school, too!

Friday, February 24, 2012

Zorro & Mr. Bud Return

Zorro Gets an Outfit by Carter Goodrich

The delightful doggy duo of Zorro and Mister Bud are back, and this time Zorro has a superhero costume. Unfortunately, Zorro doesn't want a superhero costume. As a good friend, Mister Bud does all he can to cheer up Zorro, but only another outfitted dog will do the trick. Like Say Hello to Zorro, children will see their own friend and sibling relationships mirrored by Zorro and Mister Bud. Carter Goodrich's characters are wonderfully expressive and his dynamic compositions will pull readers from page to page much like a dog eager to get to the park.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Adult Graphic Memoir

Are You My Mother? by Alison Bechdel

The follow up to Bechdel's Fun Home, Are You My Mother? focuses on Bechdel's relationship with her mother, a woman who was raised to believe that boys were more valuable than girls, and who stopped kissing her daughter goodnight at the age of seven. Bechdel combines the work of psychoanalysts with memories of her mother, conversations, and moments from her own therapy sessions. The psychoanalytic passages, and (one is lead to believe) the fact that Bechdel's mother is alive, makes this a denser, more layered book than Fun Home. The reader must wade in and pull apart the many strands of Bechdel's story, piecing together chronology and figuring out terminology. The work is inevitably worth it, and the time spent meditating on the book only increases the reader's emotional experience.

Monday, February 20, 2012

NEW Jasper Fforde!

The Last Dragonslayer by Jasper Fforde

I have loved Jasper Fforde's books since I first discovered The Eyre Affair in high school. I've since gone on to read, and reread, all his novels, not to mention listen to them all on audio book at least a dozen times each. Fforde has the ability to write intelligent humor that feels at once comforting and fun while still intellectual. His books cross genre boundaries, and with The Last Dragonslayer, I'm sure he'll cross age boundaries as well.

16 year-old Jennifer Strange is a foundling now working for Kazam Mystical Arts Managment- actually, since the disappearance of the owner, she's running it, which means taking care of a dozen-odd wizards and all the dull (but vital) paperwork doing magic now requires. But when wizards begin foreseeing the death of the last dragon, Jennifer tries to figure out what's going on. Her investigations thrust her into the spotlight, and a new job that plays a vital role in life and death of the last dragon. Jennifer is intelligent and resourceful, able to navigate strange situations and ever-changing roles. Funny, intelligent, mysterious, and fantastical, Fforde has once again created a bizarre yet believable world just far enough removed from our own that we can laugh at his social and political critiques. Intelligent middle-grade readers who enjoyed The Mysterious Benedict Society will delight in this novel, savvy teens will enjoy Fforde's cultural critiques and fast plot, and adult fans of Fforde's books will not be disappointed. A brilliant book, The Last Dragonslayer should spark conversation and laughs from readers of all ages.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Simple & well-designed

More by I.C. Springman, illustrated by Brian Lies

Spare text and intricate illustrations are artfully designed in this stunning picturebook. When a magpie with nothing is given a marble, he begins to collect things. But collecting soon turns to hoarding and a fateful fall that causes him to realize that maybe he only needs a few things. Though a simple concept, Brian Lies' illustrations expand upon Springman's concise text. The magpie, and the mice he interacts with, are expressive and the myriad of objects the magpie collects are astonishing. Readers will pour over this book as they pick out objects from legos to hairclips, pacifiers to guitar picks. The details and dynamism bring to mind Wiesner's Art and Max, and like Wiesner's books, I wouldn't be surprised to see More considered for a Caldecott.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Beautiful picturebook using panels....

Laundry Day by Maurie J. Manning
Clarion, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, April 2012

When a little shoe-shine boy finds a red scarf, he tries to return it to its' owner, climbing higher and higher up the fire escape of an apartment building in his search. On his way he meets immigrants from all over the world, and receives a friendly "hello" from each. Manning's use of graphic novel panels perfectly captures the movement of her busy story while dynamic angles allow readers to take in every aspect of the overwhelming city. Young reader's will be charmed by Manning's characters while a helpful "laundry List of Words" in the back of the book will introduce them to words from seven languages. Laundry Day is a wonderful exploration of American people and a celebration of a neighborhood.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

A Novel in Photographs

Chopsticks by Jessica and Rodrigo Crorral
Razorbill, Penguin, February 2012

There's no denying that we live in an increasingly visual culture, but so many of the visuals we're bombarded with are moving at a frenzied pace. Chopsticks is a visual novel, but not a graphic novel. It is a novel in photos and letters, moments captured and still on a page. When Glory, a teen piano prodigy, breaks down and plays Chopsticks at a concert, she's sent away to recover- that is until she disappears completely. Prior to her breakdown, Glory had been moving moments of her life away from music, starting to have a relationship with Francisco, a boy trying to adjust to high school in the US. Through photos, playlists, drawings, and letters, Francisco and Glory's relationship unfolds, revealing some hints as to the nature of Glory's disappearance. Chopsticks is an intimate look at a teen romance, complete with suggestions for musical accompaniment while you linger over the images.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Yet Another Dystopian YA

The Last Princess
Poppy, Hachette, May 2012

Galaxy Craze's new YA is set, like many YA these days, in a dystopian future. England is barren, food is short, the land is barren, oil has run out, and violence is imminent. But instead of focusing on some poor guttersnipe, Craze's protagonist is no one less than a princess, Princess Eliza Windsor. When the Tudor army, a faction of anti-royalists and discontents storm the palace, Eliza's father is killed and her siblings captured. Only Eliza manages to escape into the terrifying streets of London. Thus begins Eliza's mission to save her siblings and restore the crown. The shortages are glossed over, as is the general situation of the country, and, indeed, the world as a whole. Eliza's love interest falls into the story right on cue- and most readers will guess his larger importance in the overall plot. However, dystopian fans may find this an enjoyable read, especially as it features a complete story arc and doesn't leave readers hanging on the edge of a cliff.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

The Sleepy Hollow Family Almanac

by Kris D'Agostino
Algonquin, March 20, 2012

As a 24 year old, I must say that I have a number of friends who identify as lost, annoyed, and deeply in debt. And regardless of the educational experiences of all of us, the job situation is less than good. One might go as far to say that it truly horrible. Due to this, I think The Sleepy Hollow Family Almanac is certain to have an eager audience- especially in college towns.

Like many of my generation, Calvin Moretti thinks his life sucks, but it's actually more than that. Calvin's family members are all facing their own unique problems- from Calvin's father's cancer to his high school sister's unplanned pregnancy to his mother's financial woes. While this story is about Calvin, told from his point of view, it is a family saga more than anything. What makes it unique is the the humor, characters, and the current nature of the story; it just might be the book to link that person living in the basement with the middle-life crisis pair living upstairs.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Squid and Octopus Friends for Always

by Tao Nyeu
Dial Books, Penguin, June 28th, 2012

Tao Nyeu's work is charming and whimsical and her newest picturebook is no exception. Like Mo Willems' Amanda and her Alligator, Squid and Octopus Friends for Always is a beginning reader-influenced pictureboook with short chapters. Squid and Octopus are best friends who support one another in spite of their many differences. This adorable duo (yes, a knitting squid is perfectly adorable) engages in normal activities that seem like new adventures when played out under the sea. The illustrations are playful and Tao's limited palette of blues, greens, yellow, and orange allows her myriad of details and intricate patterns to shine without detracting from the composition as a whole. There are many books featuring a pair of friends, but readers are certain to make room on their shelves for Squid and Octopus.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Time (out) for Monsters

by Jean Reidy, illustrated by Robert Neubecker

Flowers, dinosaurs, monsters, trucks, dessert, and dragons, there's something for everyone in this inventive book. When a little boy is put in time-out, he decides to brighten up his corner with all manner of drawings and imaginings. What was supposed to be a punishment soon turns into an imaginative and fun opportunity. Neubecker's bright, dynamic, and colorful illustrations will catch reader's eyes and inspire them to draw their own colorful imaginings. This entertaining book is sure to please any child who has ever had to endure a time-out chair.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Oh No! Not Again!

(Or How I Built a Time Machine to save History) (Or at Least My History Grade)
by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Dan Santat

Mac Barnett and Dan Santat are back with a fun sequel to Oh No!: Or How My Science Project Destroyed the World. When our brilliant protagonist gets one question wrong on her history text, she does what any ambitious student would- she builds a time machine to make her answer the correct one. But one should never leave a parked time machine unattended, and soon all history breaks loose. Combining action-packed sequences with historical cameos, Oh No! Not Again is a rip-roaring adventure for the precocious child or playful adult.