Saturday, April 27, 2019

Spring Reading 2019 Changeling (The Oddmire #1 )


After the wonderful introduction to the world of Jackaby (which was perfect for YA and adult readers), now William Ritter has begun a new middle grade series within that world of magic and monsters. After a goblin changeling is placed in a crib next to a human baby, no one can tell the two youngsters apart. For twelve years their mother raises them as human twins, but everyone in their small town knows that one of them is actually not her biological son. The boys are watched and whispered about, and they both wonder which of them is the changeling. When they receive a message to travel into the Wild Wood to save everyone they know, they set out to find the truth.

This story has wonderful fantasy elements with goblins, witches, shapeshifters, and even hinkypunks. There is also the dark Thing at the center of the Wild Wood, wrapped in shadows and plotting evil. But what makes the book such a wonderful read is the relationship between the boys and their mother and the discussions the boys have about what makes a monster. The tension of waiting to find out who is the changeling and what will happen to the family will keep readers turning the pages long past bedtime.

I had the pleasure of meeting the author at ALA Midwinter this year and picked up an ARC of the book. I can't wait for the second book of the series.

Sunday, April 21, 2019

Spring Reading 2019 Girls with Brush and Canvas: Georgia O'Keeffe, American Artist


Carolyn Meyer did a wonderful job of describing the life of photographer Margaret Bourke-White in Girl with a Camera. Now she has done it again with the life of artist Georgia O'Keeffe. Taking inspiration from biographies, books of O'Keeffe's artwork, and visiting key locations, she brings Georgia onto the page in an engaging story of a woman determined to be an artist. Although this is a fictionalized account of her life, the details of social expectations and opportunities available to women of her generation are correct.

Descriptions range from the various techniques she experimented with as she developed her own style, to details about the different schools she attended and jobs she took. Clothing, foods, and pastimes of the era make the setting a large part of the reading experience, just as it would have been a large influence on O'Keeffe herself.

One of the thoughts the author imagines her protagonist having captures the essence of an individual trying to find her own way, a way that did not always match the expectations of others. "I was not rebellious, exactly, but the rules felt like a dog-collar attached to a leash, and I looked for ways to wiggle out of it." It is the touches like that which make the story so captivating and believable.

I received a copy from the publisher for review purposes.

Saturday, April 20, 2019

Spring Reading 2019 I Was an Outer-Space Chicken


When friends Lamar and Lexie accuse each other of being chicken, they have no idea that they will be overheard by an alien who is collecting animals for her planet's zoo. Once on board the alien ship, the kids have to use their math skills to prove to their captor, Fooz, that they are not chickens. Solving the problem of how much to feed the other specimens Fooz has collected may prove their intelligence level, but they will still need to help refuel the ship to make it back to Earth. There are encounters with creatures that resemble Bigfoot, a lake of fludge that can disintegrate what it touches, and even talking green rabbits! But with each encounter, their math skills help them survive and continue their trip home.

For math teachers looking for ways to incorporate fun challenges into their classes, this series offers stories with a dash of excitement, danger, and plenty of chances to flex math muscles. I read an ARC provided by the publisher for review purposes. The book will be released in July 2019.

Spring Reading 2019 Drew Pendous and the Camp Color War


Based on a popular YouTube character, this book series begins with a typical scenario - competition between two rival summer camps. Drew and his friends are at Camp Cool School, while the kids at Camp Cruel School include Drew's evil twin Ray Blank. When the two teams have a Color War, Drew's friends on the Blue Team have to work hard to overcome the cheating of Ray's Red Team. There are tug-of-war, arm wrestling, and dodgeball competitions which keep everyone working to come out on top. But then Grace Cale shows up to steal all the color from both teams. Can they come up with a plan to defeat her and keep her color vacuum from leaving them all grayed out, or will their rivalry allow Cale to win the day?

Fans who are familiar with the characters will enjoy the chance to see Drew and others in new adventures. Other books in the series have the group facing off against pirates, experiencing time travel, and confronting their worst enemies.

I read an ARC provided by the publisher for review purposes. Official publication date was April 8, 2019.

Spring Reading 2019 Brown: My Alter Ego Is a Superhero #1

This is the first book in a series that is popular in Norway. Rusty is a boy who has trouble with bullies - one of whom is the minister's son (who really ought to know better). His family has moved to the country, his grandfather has died, and the bullies have destroyed the fort he and his friend Jack were building. Things aren't going really well. But after watching a movie about a superhero, he gets an idea. With the help of Jack, their classmate Lou, Grandpa's old pocket watch, and a giraffe's ear, Rusty might be able to settle things with the bullies and come to terms with his Grandpa's death, too.

Rusty is dealing with several situations that are common in childhood - the death of a grandparent, being the new kid after a move, and bullies. It doesn't help that his mother is not coping well with Grandpa's death and doesn't want any trouble, or that the minister seems oblivious to his son's antisocial behavior. But the friends stick together and sometimes a few friends is all you really need to get over a rough spot.

I read an ARC of the English translation of the book. Publication date is set for June 4, 2019.

Thursday, April 11, 2019

Spring Reading 2019 Science Comics: Wild Weather


Join the crew at Action News - Chase McCloud, Connie Trales, Randi Billows, and Stormin' Norman Weatherby as they find out all about weather and climate. When Snowpocalypse 20XX hits, the entire TV station is excited about the forecast, although Chase thinks that snow days prove there is no such thing as global warming. That gets Stormin' Norman a bit hot under t he collar and he decides to educate Chase and their viewing audience about how weather on Earth actually works. Lucky for us - because we get to share in the knowledge.

With colorful and entertaining illustrations, "Normans_Middle_School_Presentation" explains basics like the water cycle, various cloud formations, and how the Fujita scale measures the speed of tornadoes. But this meteorologist goes beyond those basics to spell out how air pressure, jet streams, pressure fronts, and yes...he does explain the idea of climate change to Chase. (Chase is also very worried about the possibility of a sharknado.)

Clear explanations combined with the illustrations make the information very easy to understand. Back matter includes a glossary, an explanation of weather tools, and a section that debunks quite a few wild weather myths. This series has the double advantage of appealing to those who already have an interest in the subject while also drawing in those who enjoy graphic novels of all sorts.

I read an e-book provided by the publisher for review purposes.

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Spring Reading 2019 Lion of the Sky: Haiku for All Seasons

New books to help introduce students to poetry are always a welcome find. This book has the added benefit of excellent artwork to enhance the presentation of the poems. A combination of haiku and mask poems, each one is a riddle told by a nonhuman narrator that the reader can guess from the clues within the lines. As if that were not enough, the poems also move through the seasons with descriptions of things experienced at each time of the year.

The acrylic illustrations capture the beauty of dandelion seeds drifting across a summer sky, the bustle of a school hallway, or the twinkle of stars in a clear winter night. Along with the seasonal scenes, each picture also shows the answer to the riddle-ku on each page. This would be a fun book to share with a friend, taking turns to read a poem aloud and let the friend guess the answer to the riddle, then reveal the illustration to see if they were correct in their answer. (It could also work well in a classroom read-aloud in the same way.)

For those wishing to use it as a poetry mentor text there is an author's note that explains about mask poems, haiku, and the use of the haiku form to create riddle-ku. There are also suggestions for further reading with books of haiku, riddle poems, and a few about the seasons. An answer key for each riddle is also provided.

A great addition to school library and classroom collections -  a fresh and thought-provoking collection.

Spring Reading 2019 Home for a Penguin, Home for a Whale

Perfect for read-alouds or individual exploration, Home for a Penguin has a gentle rhyming text that introduces 23 different marine animals. The text undulates across the pages as if carried on ocean waves, while the words describe the appearance and behaviors of the various creatures. Crab, albatross, penguin...all are depicted in their own habitats, whether that happens to be a coral reef or an ice floe.

The digitally created art is colorful and friendly enough to draw young readers in, but has enough accuracy to make the illustrations helpful for learning about ocean life. Some of the pictures also show a human presence with details like houses on the beach, ships passing by, or a child gathering shells. For readers who enjoy an extra challenge there is an image of a sea snail hidden in each illustration.

The back matter  makes the book especially useful for classroom use. Each animal is shown along with a paragraph about its home and characteristics. Readers will learn that crabs use their pincers to communicate or that starfish are not really fish at all. A double spread features a map of the world with the oceans labeled and text boxes with facts about each of them. There are also descriptions of 4 different ocean habitats. A discussion of the effects of climate change on the oceans and about the problems of plastic pollution finish off this enjoyable book.

This is an entertaining and educational nonfiction picture book for elementary school readers.

Saturday, April 6, 2019

Spring Reading 2019 Biomes: Discover the Earth's Ecosystems


Part of the Build It Environmental Series from Nomad Press, Biomes takes readers on a tour of the major life zones on planet Earth. As each biome is introduced, its major characteristics are described, as well as some of its more prominent flora and fauna. Photos show pink fairy armadillos, corpse flowers, and pygmy tarsiers, while the text explains the effects of  climate change and human actions on the biomes. 

The books has many useful features, including: essential questions to encourage critical thinking during reading, "Words to Know" defines vocabulary (also included in the glossary), QR codes offer access to videos and helpful websites, and there are also "Did You Know?" sidebars with interesting facts about word origins, statistics, etc.

Perhaps the most helpful feature are the activity guides. After each section there are directions on how to make recycled paper, create a food chain flipbook, bake honey wheat bread, and other hands-on experiences that bring the learning to a practical application.

Between the interesting projects, the riveting photos, and informative text, there is an amazing amount of information. The addition of comic panels that show youngsters discussing the various biomes adds the allure of entertainment to the mix. 

This is an excellent resource for science classes looking for activities to balance out more sedentary learning.

Friday, April 5, 2019

Spring Reading 2019 Game of Stars (Kiranmala and the Kingdom Beyond #2)


Kiran has been transitioning from being a princess in the Kingdom Beyond back to being another middle school student. It's hard to return to everyday life after fighting demons and traveling to another dimension. She is also frustrated with the lack of contact from her friends in the Kingdom Beyond (picture Harry Potter when he doesn't hear from his friends all summer at the beginning of The Chamber of Secrets). So when her friend Neel's mother shows up spouting riddles and what seems like rhyming nonsense, Kiran is a bit aggravated.

Still, it seems that her friends are in trouble. There is something strange going on in a new reality TV show from the Kingdom Beyond, as well as something odd in the behavior of her friend Lal. Why isn't he rescuing his brother? And what is going on between Lal and Mati - who used to be inseparable? And what is up with the rebels in pink saris and riding skateboards? Curiouser and curiouser.

Full of characters from Indian mythology and folklore, as well as references to astrophysics and pop culture, this series continues to entertain with loads of action, humor, and battles of wits. If you haven't read the first book, go back and start at the beginning - you don't want to miss any of the fun.