Reviews

Sunshine and rainbows: Sunny Side Up by Jennifer L. Holm and Matthew Holm

Holm, Jennifer L., & Holm, Matthew. Sunny Side Up. Graphix, 2015. 216 pages. Hardcover $20.44, ISBN 978-0-545-74165-1; PLB $17.56, ISBN 978-1-48988-011-6; TR $11.09, ISBN 978-0-545-74166-8

TL;DR: Do I recommend this? Yes

Genre: Realistic Fiction (Graphic Novel)

Part of a Series? No.

Plot Summary:

Sunny Lewin is sent to spend August with her grandfather in a retirement community. This shatters Sunny’s summertime dreams of beach lounging and fun having. Instead, her grampa’s “big plans” for each day tend to include going to the post office or the grocery store. Only one other person at the community is her age, and while Buzz and his comics are a fun distraction, they aren’t enough to stop Sunny from thinking about her big brother Dale. What is happening with Dale, and is it Sunny’s job to fix it?

Critical Evaluation/Reader’s Comments:

This is a super sweet and poignant story. The material is a bit intense, but it’s written well for a third through seventh grade audience. Some kids don’t know how to respond to the reveal, but I don’t think this is necessarily a problem.

Trigger Warnings:

  • substance abuse

Curriculum Ties/Library Use:

n/a

Grade Level: 3-7

Awards and Starred Reviews: n/a

Reviews

Seafaring sorts: Compass South

Larson, Hope. Four Points Book One: Compass South. Illustrated by Rebecca Mock. Margaret Ferguson Books/Farrar Straus Giroux, 2016. 224 pages. Hardcover $15.34, ISBN 978-0-374-30043-2

 

TL;DR: Do I recommend this? Yes

 

Genre: Historical Fiction/Adventure Story (Graphic Novel)

 

Part of a series? Yes — the Four Points series

 

Plot Summary:

Cleopatra and Alexander are twins living in New York in the 1800s. Their father, a jack-of-all-trades who takes work whenever and wherever he can find it, has disappeared. When it looks like they are on their own, they join the Black Hook Gang, only to find themselves forced to turn them in when police catch Alex and Cleo. After some double-dealing adults and an assisted escape, the twins decide to impersonate a rich San Franciscan’s missing twin boys so that they can win the reward money. Cleo shears her hair, and they set off for San Francisco. In New Orleans, they meet another pair of red-headed twins bound for the same man. After a scuffle, one twin from each pair ends up together and on two separate boats headed round the Cape for San Francisco. Can Alex and Cleo (“Pat”) escape Luther of the Black Hook Gang? Will they find their father?

 

Critical Evaluation/Reader’s Comments:

This was a solid historical fiction/adventure graphic novel. The period felt very well-researched but not dry, and the moments on the sea were exciting. It was sometimes tough to know which set of twins was being featured, but it could be figured out as the chapters went on.

 

Curriculum Ties/Library Use:

This book would be a great recommendation for kids looking for a solid adventure story. This is also a fun book to hand to kids who are twins; while it is true that it can be tough to tell which set of twins is talking when, each twin is also very different, and their personalities set them apart clearly. This could also be a solid book club choice, but be prepared for readers to want to know what happens after this volume! (Ideas from myself)

 

Grade Level: 4-8 (Titlewave says 5-8, but I agree with SLJ’s assessment that 4th and up are a good fit)

 

Awards and Starred Reviews:

Booklist starred 5/15/16

School Library Journal starred 6/1/16

 

Reviews referenced:

Kirkus Reviews. (2016, March 30). Compass south (Review of the book Compass South). Kirkus Reviews. Retrieved from https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/hope-larson/compass-south/

Publishers Weekly. (2016, April 25). Compass south (Review of the book Compass South). Publishers Weekly. Retrieved from http://www.publishersweekly.com/978-0-374-30043-2

Trischitti, J. (2016, June 28). Compass south by Hope Larson  |  SLJ review (Review of the book Compass South). School Library Journal. Retrieved from http://www.slj.com/2016/06/reviews/books/compass-south-by-hope-larson-slj-review/

 

 

Reviews

Shake, rattle, and roll: Bone: Out from Boneville

Smith, Jeff. Bone: Out from Boneville. Graphix, 2005. 138 pages. 2005 Hardcover $22.99, ISBN 978-0-439-70623-0; 2015 Hardcover $12.79, ISBN 978-0-545-80070-9; Tr. $11.09, ISBN 978-0-439-70640-7; PLB $17.61, ISBN 978-1-41557-850-6

 

TL;DR: Do I recommend this? Yes

 

Genre: Fantasy (Graphic Novel)

 

Part of a series? Yes — the Bone series

 

Plot Summary:

Fone, Phoney, and Smiley Bone find themselves stuck in a desert. Smiley and Fone have helped their cousin Phoney escape from the mob that ran him out of town. Phoney, enraged by the townspeople’s attitude towards his wealth, refuses to accept the situation while Fone tries to stay on task and Smiley tries to keep everyone calm (these opening actions help readers to know how each will handle the adventure ahead!). The cousins end up separated, and Fone winds up in a magical valley in uncharted territory. There, he meets big bugs, rat creatures, a dragon, and more. Will he be able to make it home, or does something have it out for him?

 

Critical Evaluation/Reader’s Comments:

This one is mega-popular at my library. Volumes are either checked out or being perused in-library constantly. Since I’ve also heard that it’s one of the most challenged books in schools, I wanted to know how those two things lined up. As I read, I really couldn’t see why it has been challenged as often as it has, so I turned to Google. Apparently, Smiley and Phoney’s smoking and drinking were the source for a lot of parental concern, as was “violence or horror” (“Case Study: Bone,” n. d.). I was surprised that Thorn’s depiction has not yet garnered enough complaints to count … if anything was going to jump out at me, it was how Thorn is illustrated. In any case, I don’t really “get” why this was banned, and I think it’s a fun adventure for readers. While I don’t plan to continue reading the series just yet, I was so sad that it ended on the cliffhanger that it did! The adventure is nonstop, and the intrigue unfolds slowly enough (but excitingly enough) to maintain tension throughout the book.

 

Curriculum Ties/Library Use:

This would be a great book to hand off to a student who enjoys fantasy and historical fiction. While the Bones are clearly not realistic characters, the setting of the novels is reminiscent of a late 1800s or early 1900s town; Phoney’s schemes and plots sound like an Industry Baron’s attempts to scam his town out of money. It would be fun to read this alongside a unit on the Industrial Era if only to make those connections. I also think this is a great recommendation for any kid who is looking for another fantasy read after finishing Land of Stories or Gregor the Overlander. (Idea from myself)

 

Grade Level: 3-6

 

Awards and Starred Reviews:

n/a

 

References:

Comic Book Legal Defense Fund. (n. d.). Case study: Bone. CBLDF. Retrieved from http://cbldf.org/banned-comic/banned-challenged-comics/case-study-bone/

John (screen name). (2013, March 1). Bone — parent content review (Review of the book Bone: Out from Boneville). The Eclectic Dad. Retrieved from http://eclecticdad.com/2013/03/01/bone-review/

Neary, L. (2014, Sept. 24). Too graphic? 2014 Banned Books Week celebrates comics. NPR. Retrieved from http://www.npr.org/2014/09/24/350881667/too-graphic-2014-banned-books-week-celebrates-challenged-comics

Reviews

Monsters at Midnight: Amulet Book One: The Stonekeeper

Kibuishi, Kazu. Amulet Book One: The Stonekeeper. Graphix, 2008. 185 pages. Hardcover $21.29, ISBN 978-0-439-84680-6; Tr. $11.09, ISBN 978-0-439-84681-3; PLB $17.61, ISBN 978-0-329-65428-3

 

TL;DR: Do I recommend this? Yes

 

Genre: Fantasy (Graphic Novel)

 

Part of a series? Yes — the Amulet series

 

Plot Summary:

The Stonekeeper tells the story of the story of the Hayes family. When Emily and Navin lose their father in a tragic car accident, their lives are changed forever. The children and their mother must move to an old family home far away … one that has not been lived in for many years due to the rumor that it is haunted. The rumor, based on the story of Emily’s great-grandfather who locked himself somewhere in the house and was never seen again, does not prevent the Hayes family from starting extreme renovations. On their first night, they hear a mysterious sound in the basement, and find carnivorous creatures who snatch Mrs. Hayes and take her to a mysterious world. Will Emily and Navin be able to save their mother? What is the necklace that Emily found in the library? Will they ever be able to be a whole, safe family again?

 

Critical Evaluation/Reader’s Comments:

This is the first in a series of graphic novels that never stay on the shelf long in my library. Students are forever wanting the next book on hold; while we have duplicates of many of the volumes, the whole series is usually checked out by different patrons. After spending a full week fielding requests for various volumes from the series, I decided to check out the first one for myself. It’s a fast-paced story, and the book itself is a quick read, leaving me with a third of my bus ride with nothing to read! The stakes are high, and while some plot developments feel a little too convenient, the story is extremely engaging and ends on a major cliffhanger (now I understand my students’ anguish when the second Amulet is not available!).

 

Curriculum Ties/Library Use:

The action never stops, so this is a great one for readers who want intense adventuring. This is a great book to hand to a reluctant reader due to its action-packed storyline in such a slim volume. It is also a great book for those readers who just want to immerse themselves into some thrilling fantasy. If this were a book club book, the club could have puzzles be our main activity for the book, including a focus on “escape” puzzles (see this post from Teen Librarian Toolbox, referenced in an earlier entry of mine). (Idea from myself)

 

Grade Level: 3-6

 

Awards and Starred Reviews:

Voice of Youth Advocates (VOYA) starred 12/1/07

 

Reviews referenced:

Berry, M. (n. d.). The stonekeeper: Amulet, book 1 (Review of the book The Stonekeeper). Common Sense Media. Retrieved from https://www.commonsensemedia.org/book-reviews/the-stonekeeper-amulet-book-1

Hogan, J. (2008, Jan. 1). Amulet, book one: The stonekeeper (Review of the book The Stonekeeper). Kidsreads. Retrieved from http://www.kidsreads.com/reviews/amulet-book-one-the-stonekeeper

 

Tags for my blog: graphic novels, amulet, magic, monsters, elves, puzzles, different worlds, grief and loss, fantasy

Reviews

Rock and Roll! Roller Girl

Jamieson, Victoria. Roller Girl. Dial Books for Young Readers, 2015. 239 pages. Hardcover $17.89, ISBN 978-0-525-42967-8; Tr. $11.09, ISBN 978-0-8037-4016-7; PLB $17.06, ISBN 978-1-48988-662-0

 

TL;DR: Do I recommend this? YES ABSOLUTELY

 

Genre: Sports story (Graphic Novel)

 

Part of a series? No.

 

Plot Summary:

Once again, I find myself wishing that I could do roller derby (alas, I am terrified of falling over and breaking my glasses, and my balance on skates of any kind is laughable). Jamieson’s protagonist Astrid discovers roller derby one night when her mother takes her and her best friend Nicole out for an Enlightening Cultural Experience (ECE). Unlike previous ECEs when Astrid has been forced to watch an opera, go to a modern art museum, or otherwise improve herself, Astrid instead gets to watch women on roller skates slam into each other to win points. She immediately plans to attend the Rose Bud roller derby summer boot camp with her best friend Nicole … until Nicole’s dance class friend (and Astrid’s number one enemy) Rachel starts talking about plans for dance camp. Confident in the knowledge that Nicole won’t desert her for Rachel, Astrid is shocked when Nicole ditches her and roller derby for a summer of dancing on pointe. Astrid’s summer doesn’t get much better when she finds out that roller derby is HARD … falling more often than she actually skates, Astrid feels lost, until her favorite jammer Rainbow Bite replies to her anonymous notes asking for advice. Could Astrid make new friends? Can she become a superstar roller derby girl? Or is she just a Rose Dud?

 

Critical Evaluation/Reader’s Comments:

I could not put this graphic novel down. I raced through it, eager to read more roller derby names, follow more plays, and get to know Astrid and Zoe (her musical-obsessed roller derby friend) better. I further appreciated Jamieson’s nod to the intense athleticism required for ballet, too. While it is awkward that Nicole chose Rachel and dance over Astrid and roller derby, Nicole’s preferred activity is not painted with the “girly girl” brush that her other choices are. Instead, Jamieson shows the painful side effects of dancing on pointe — bloody toes and bandaged feet, not unlike Astrid’s roller derby injuries. While Nicole’s interest in boys and shopping are more typically feminine than Astrid’s pursuits, their sports are not as different as one might assume. Readers will also appreciate the diversity on the page and the excitement of the sport.

 

Note: This didn’t affect my reading of the graphic novel, but one parent reviewer on Common Sense Media was appalled by the use of profanity in the rude nickname Astrid is given by the school bully (who refers to her as “Ass-Turd.”) While I didn’t find this to be a huge problem, it might be for some folks, so I should remain aware of the potential reactions to the nickname.

 

Curriculum Ties/Library Use:

A fun book club activity for this book could be designing a roller derby team — names for players, team names, and a logo. We could also potentially watch clips on YouTube from a roller derby bout, after I’ve had a chance to preview some to ensure there aren’t any inappropriate signs in the crowd or language caught on the microphones. (Ideas from myself)

 

Grade Level: 5-8

 

Awards and Starred Reviews:

Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books starred 4/1/15

Horn Book Guide starred 10/1/15

Horn Book Magazine starred 3/1/15

Kirkus Reviews starred 12/15/14

Newbery Honor 2016

Publishers Weekly starred 1/26/15

School Library Journal starred 12/1/14

 

Reviews referenced:

Beach, A. (n. d.) Roller girl (Review of the book Roller Girl). Common Sense Media. Retrieved from https://www.commonsensemedia.org/book-reviews/roller-girl

Natsmom22 (screen name). (2016, Feb. 12). Profane and inappropriate for its target audience (blog comment). Common Sense Media. Retrieved from https://www.commonsensemedia.org/book-reviews/roller-girl

Kirkus Reviews. (2014, Dec. 6). Roller girl (Review of the book Roller Girl). Kirkus Reviews. Retrieved from https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/victoria-jamieson/roller-girl/

Publishers Weekly. (2015, Jan. 26). Roller girl (Review of the book Roller Girl.) Publishers Weekly. Retrieved from http://www.publishersweekly.com/978-0-8037-4016-7

 

Reviews

Superheroes I love: El Deafo

Bell, Cece. El Deafo. Amulet Books, 2014. 233 pages. Hardcover $18.71, ISBN  978-1-41971-020-9; Tr. $9.36, ISBN 978-1-41971-217-3; PLB $14.41, ISBN 978-1-48984-422-4

 

TL;DR: Do I recommend this? Yes

 

Genre: Biography/Memoir (Graphic Nonfiction)

 

Part of a series? No.

 

Plot Summary:

This graphic “novel” tells the true story of Cece Bell’s childhood, and her experience with meningitis that took away her hearing. With characters drawn as rabbits in order to emphasize how different Cece’s ears were to those of her family, friends, and classmates, El Deafo explores what it is like to feel so different — and how that difference can set you apart in painful and cool ways.

 

Critical Evaluation/Reader’s Comments:

Bell’s book (writing and illustrations) work together to tell this extremely engaging story. Deaf and hearing readers will have something to learn and enjoy in reading this story, and Bell makes it clear in her afterword that one d/Deaf person’s story is not the same as another’s.

 

Curriculum Ties/Library Use:

This would be a fantastic book club book. I think that the major thing I would want to focus on is a discussion of what it means to have different abilities; perhaps we could watch a documentary on Deaf culture. We can also make superhero versions of ourselves based on the things that make us different. (Idea from myself)

 

Grade Level: 3-6

 

Awards and Starred Reviews:

ALA Notable Children’s Book, 2015

Horn Book Magazine starred 11/1/14

Kirkus Reviews starred 9/1/14

Newbery Honor 2015

Publishers Weekly starred 7/7/14

School Library Journal starred 9/1/14

 

Reviews referenced:

Berry, M. (n. d.). El Deafo (Review of the book El Deafo). Common Sense Media. Retrieved from https://www.commonsensemedia.org/book-reviews/el-deafo

Kirkus Reviews. (2014, July 22). El Deafo (Review of the book El Deafo). Kirkus Reviews. Retrieved from https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/cece-bell/el-deafo/

Publishers Weekly. (2014, July 7). El Deafo (Review of the book El Deafo). Publishers Weekly. Retrieved from http://www.publishersweekly.com/978-1-4197-1020-9


Warnings: Vomit appears three times in the novel and is drawn as the act of vomiting (i.e., it happens “on the page” rather than “offstage”)

 

Tags: Deaf culture, hard of hearing, graphic novels, vomit, memoir, rabbits, imagination, superheroes

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

Catch-up Post: The Lunch Witch by Deb Lucke

All I can say is, “YUCK!” and “When can I read more about Grunhilda?!”

Lucke creates a fantastically disgusting protagonist here, and I cannot recommend it enough to fans of gross-out humor, dark comedy, and snarky readers. It’s yucky, it’s funny, and it might make you feel a little green. (The detail on the background paper is TOO MUCH sometimes, and I mean that in the best way).

Genre:

  • Graphic novel

Major Things:

  • Witches
  • Magic
  • Gross!
  • Fitting in