Reviews

Aca-Awkward

Chmakova, Svetlana. Awkward. Yen Press, 2015. 210 pages. Hardcover $20.45, ISBN 978-0-316-38132-1; Tr. $9.40, ISBN 978-0-316-38130-7

 

TL;DR: Do I recommend this? Yes!

 

Genre: School story (Graphic Novel)

 

Part of a series? No.

 

Plot Summary:

This graphic novel explores what it is like to be new in school, how to make friends, and how to cooperate. Peppi is new in school, and when she accidentally runs into a nerdy boy (making her drop all of her things), the popular kids refer to her as “Nerder’s girlfriend” as he helps her clean up. She is later mortified by the fact that she shoves him away and runs. As a member of the Art Club, her mortification increases when Jamie (“Nerder”) turns out to be a really good guy … and a member of the Science Club. These two clubs hate each other, and when a competition to earn the last spot at the school’s club fair gets ugly, due to an awkward circumstance, Peppi might ruin everything!

 

Critical Evaluation/Reader’s Comments:

I have not said “Squee!” out loud since high school, but here I am, squeaking (or should that be “Squee-king?”). The characters in this book are well-rounded, realistic, and diverse. Ms. T is a fantastic science teacher (I wish I had had her class!), and the background cast includes some well-defined nerds, popular kids, and artists.

 

Curriculum Ties/Library Use:

This would be a fantastic book club book, and it could be used to start a multi-club collaboration. Perhaps the book club could, for this unit, partner with a sports team to create a multimedia arts project (so, rather than “scientists working with artists,” this could be a “bookworms working with athletes” collaboration). (Idea from myself)

 

Grade Level: 5-8

 

Awards and starred reviews:

School Library Connection starred 4/1/16

 

Reviews referenced:

Pawuk, M. (2015, July 20). Review of the day: “Awkward” by Svetlana Chmakova (Review of the book Awkward). School Library Journal. Retrieved from http://blogs.slj.com/goodcomicsforkids/2015/07/20/review-awkward-by-svetlana-chmakova/

Vail, A. M. (2015, June 20). Svetlana Chmakova’s Awkward is anything but, and you need to read it (blog post). The Mary Sue. Retrieved from http://www.themarysue.com/awkward-comic-review/

 

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Reviews

Late to the show: The One and Only Ivan

Applegate, Katherine. The One and Only Ivan. Harper, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers, 2015. 341 pages. Hardcover $21.29, ISBN 978-0-06-242524-9; Tr. $6.84, ISBN 978-0-06-199227-8; PLB $13.71, ISBN 978-1-48983-627-4

 

TL;DR: Do I recommend this? Yes

 

Genre: Animal stories

 

Part of a series? No.

 

Plot Summary:

This story, told by Ivan the gorilla, relates Ivan, Stella the elephant, Bob the “wild” dog, and Ruby the baby elephant’s tale of woe, stress, and victory. Their “victory” is bittersweet as not everyone can survive the cruelty that humans perpetrate upon animals. As Ruby says, however, not all humans are bad, and it’s up to Ivan to find a way to persuade good people to help him and his friends find a better life outside of cages.

 

Critical Evaluation/Reader’s Comments:

Be prepared to cry your eyes out! This is a sweet, beautiful, and extremely poignant book. I cried several times while reading it (reinforcing my “no books with animals on the cover” rule!). It’s definitely a worthy read, but have some tissues handy if you use it for a book club.

 

Curriculum Ties/Library Use:

This would be a great book club book. There are many topics that come up throughout the novel that would lead to powerful group discussions — animal rights, art, and humanity could all be fruitful topics. A book club activity could be finger painting or watercoloring like Ivan does. (Ideas from myself)

 

Grade Level: 3-6

 

Awards and Starred Reviews:

ALA Notable Children’s Book, 2013

Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books starred 2/1/12

Kirkus Reviews starred 10/15/11

Newbery Medal 2013

School Library Journal starred 1/1/12

 

Reviews referenced:

Eisenhart, M. (n. d.). The one and only Ivan (Review of the book The One and Only Ivan). Common Sense Media. Retrieved from https://www.commonsensemedia.org/book-reviews/the-one-and-only-ivan

Bird, E. (2012, March 7). Review of the day: The one and only Ivan by Katherine Applegate (Review of the book The One and Only Ivan). School Library Journal. Retrieved from http://blogs.slj.com/afuse8production/2012/03/07/review-of-the-day-the-one-and-only-ivan-by-katherine-applegate/

Publishers Weekly. (2011, Nov. 14). The one and only Ivan (Review of the book The One and Only Ivan). Publishers Weekly. Retrieved from http://www.publishersweekly.com/978-0-06-199225-4

 

Does anyone die? :  YES. Stella dies and it is very sad. Ivan survives.

 

 

Reviews

Nerd desserts: The Nerdy Nummies Cookbook

Pansino, Rosanna. The Nerdy Nummies Cookbook: Sweet Treats for the Geek in All of Us. Atria Books, 2015. 256 pages. Hardcover $25.64, ISBN 978-1-50110-401-5

Interest Level: AD

Cuisine: Desserts

“Nerdy Nummies” is a popular YouTube cooking channel and show. While the recipes in this book are a bit beyond most tweens’ baking skills, this is a good title to consider for the adult collection, as it has quite a bit of “flip through” value for younger bakers. The pictures are stunning, and the attention to detail that Pansino displays in her recipes and process are good skills for young chefs to aspire to! Recipes include Apple Pi Pie (the apple pieces are cut with number-shaped cookie cutters before being seasoned and placed in the pie to make for even more mathematical fun!), Moon Phase Macarons (each phase of the moon is displayed on the top of each macaron, one phase per cookie!), Chemistry Lab Cake, and more.

Reviews

Retelling Time! The Jumbies

Baptiste, Tracey. The Jumbies. Algonquin Young Readers, 2015. 234 pages. Hardcover $13.61, ISBN 978-1-61620-414-3; Tr. $5.96, ISBN 978-1-61620-592-8

 

TL;DR: Do I recommend this? Yes

 

Genre: Folktale Retellings

 

Part of a series? No.

 

Plot Summary:

An intricate tale, Baptiste’s novel adapts a Haitian folktale into a middle grade novel. Corinne isn’t afraid of anything … not the dark, not the bullies, and certainly not the Jumbies that everyone else fears in the forest. As her father says, Jumbies are nothing but a fairytale…until, of course, the day a Jumbie follows her out. Will Severine, the Jumbie woman, steal Corinne’s father from her? Will the Jumbies destroy Corinne’s village? Or will Corinne harness the power within herself to save her family and her people?

 

Critical Evaluation/Reader’s Comments:

A novel about friendship, bravery, and empathy, this story is a powerful addition to any library’s middle grade collection, particularly with a focus on folktale retellings. When so many retellings nowadays reflect Western versions of Snow White, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Beauty and the Beast, and other “Disney” topics, this exciting Haitian story (based on “The Magic Orange Tree”) really offers something new. The development of the novel is a bit slow, but once the Jumbies creep out of the forest, the story launches forward, full steam ahead! Hand this one to your readers who want to read fairy tales in a new light.

 

Curriculum Ties/Library Use:

A fun book club exercise would be to talk about stewardship of the earth. Green activities such as planting something on campus (a tree! Or, if not possible, maybe some flowers or other small plants), holding a recycling drive, or other eco-friendly activity would be a great way to act upon the message of stewardship that runs throughout the novel. (Ideas from myself)

 

Grade Level: 3-6

 

Awards and Starred Reviews:

n/a

 

Review referenced:

Bird, E. (2015, Apr. 28). Review of the day: The jumbies by Tracey Baptiste (Review of the book The Jumbies). School Library Journal. Retrieved from http://blogs.slj.com/afuse8production/2015/04/28/review-of-the-day-the-jumbies-by-tracey-baptiste/

Kirkus Reviews. (2015, Jan. 20). The jumbies (Review of the book The Jumbies). Kirkus Reviews. Retrieved from https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/tracey-baptiste/the-jumbies/

Publishers Weekly. (2015, Feb. 9). The jumbies (Review of the book The Jumbies). Publishers Weekly. Retrieved from https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/tracey-baptiste/the-jumbies/

Reviews

Running with Rat: The Nameless City

Hicks, Faith Erin. The Nameless City. First, Second, 2016. 232 pages. Hardcover $18.74, ISBN 978-1-62672-157-9; Tr. $12.79, ISBN  978-1-62672-156-2

TL;DR: Do I recommend this? Yes

Genre: Fantasy (Graphic Novel)

Part of a series? Yes — The Nameless City series

Plot Summary:

Kaidu is a brand-new trainee in the Nameless City (aka Daidu, aka Yanjing, aka Monkh, aka DanDao, and so on, as each conquering group has renamed the city as they go). Kaidu, a Dao teen, has finally made it from his tribe at home to the city where his father works. He is excited to finally meet his father, but he is not looking forward to fighting. When he meets Rat, a Named girl who lives in the city, he sneaks out of the palace so that she can teach him how to run. Rat refuses to befriend or trust him because the Dao are not to be trusted, and the Dao traditionally view all non-Dao as Skral, “anyone not Dao […] anyone not a person” (36). Kaidu, however, does not share this view. Will he be able to get to know Rat and the city? Or are the Dao truly in for the end of their time ruling the Named?

Critical Evaluation/Reader’s Comments:

This was a really cool graphic novel, and the theme of judging Other people rather than getting to know them ran strong in the text. The Dao characters judge the Named, and the Named judge the Dao just as harshly. Including a tomboyish girl and a bookish boy help to make this readable for all readers, and Hicks’s action scenes are gorgeous.

Curriculum Ties/Library Use:

This would be a fantastic book circle book. Just as Rat reaches Kaidu to run, members of the book club could take turns teaching each other a skill that they are proud of (i.e., how to draw a face, how to make an origami figure, how to tie a certain knot, etc.). (Idea from myself)

Grade Level: 5-8

Awards and Starred Reviews:

Booklist starred 3/15/16

Kirkus Reviews starred 2/15/16

Publishers Weekly starred 1/11/16

Voice of Youth Advocates (VOYA) starred 4/1/16

Reviews

Super Adventures: The Adventures of Superhero Girl

Hicks, Faith Erin. The Adventures of Superhero Girl. Dark Horse Books, 2013. 106 pages. Hardcover $14.49, ISBN 978-1-61655-084-4

TL;DR: Do I recommend this? Yes, for older kids (6th-8th)

Genre: Superhero (Comic Strip Compilation)

Part of a series? Not at this time.

Plot Summary:

This book appears to be a compilation of comic strips into a “trade” paperback. I had gone into this one anticipating a graphic novel, so I was a little bit disappointed to lack a cohesive storyline, but Superhero Girl is readable enough that I wasn’t too badly upset. (I would love to follow her in a long-form arc, though!)

Critical Evaluation/Reader’s Comments:

Superhero Girl definitely skews on the older side; I was surprised that it was so readable and that it’s picked up by young kids due to Superhero Girl’s focus on finding a job, leaving college, and trying to attend parties or date. I don’t think it’s kid-unfriendly, but it does include things such as alcohol, dating, and the like.

Curriculum Ties/Library Use:

If a superhero unit was already in place, I would add this in as recommended reading. Otherwise, I would perhaps have students study a few panels of Hicks’s work and create a comic imitating her style in terms of art and tone. This way, Superhero Girl could be a library-only unit or get incorporated into an art class. (Idea from myself)

Grade Level: 5-8

Awards and Starred Reviews:

n/a

Nonreview

New Year, New Idea …

Happy 2017!

 

As I look ahead to the spring semester, I am realizing that I will not be reading Middle Grade/Tween books at the same volume that I could during the fall and winter. For that reason, I’m going to stop posting my reviews from the fall daily and instead post a review or two a week. That way, this blog can keep updating while I work on other projects for my coursework.

The pace of posts might slow a bit, but I promise that they’ll keep coming through!