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Per ardua ad astra

24 Jul

Once a week, Mr. Glaesner, my high school Latin teacher, taught us Latin mottos and phrases. I have forgotten much, but these have stuck.  One such expression is per ardua ad astra…through hardship to the stars. It would be a great motto for the CatStronauts,  the heroes of a graphic novel series by Drew Brockington.

We met the heroes in April, with the release of CatStronauts: Mission Moon.

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Publisher’s Summary: 

CatStronauts, you are needed!

When the world is thrust into darkness due to a global energy shortage, the Worlds Best Scientist comes up with a bold plan to set up a solar power plant on the moon. But someone has to go up there to set it up, and that adventure falls to the CatStronauts, the best space cats on the planet! Meet the fearless commander Major Meowser, brave-but-hungry pilot Waffles, genius technician and inventor Blanket, and quick thinking science officer Pom Pom on their most important mission yet!
In this graphic novel, debut author and illustrator Drew Brockington breathes life into a world populated entirely by cats, brimming with jokes, charm, science, and enough big boxes and tuna sandwiches for everyone!

 

Volume 2, CatStronauts: Race to Mars came out at the same time.

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Publisher’s Summary: 

Fresh off of their heroic mission to save the world, the CatStronauts–Major Meowser, Pom Pom, Blanket and Waffles–are taking a well deserved victory lap. Parades and fancy awards dinners are the new norm!
But around the world, other cat space programs are watching–in particular the CosmoCats, the first cats to go to space! With national pride and scientific research on the line, the world’s space programs rush to be the first cats to Mars, and the CatStronauts are starting months behind! Can they catch up and prove their first mission was no fluke?
In this graphic novel, debut author/illustrator Drew Brockington takes the CatStronauts further than they’ve every gone, adding in mounds of jokes, charm, science, and enough yarn and scratching posts for everyone!

 

 

October will see the release of the third book, CatStronauts: Space Station Situation.

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Publisher’s Summary: 

When chief science officer Pom Pom rejoins the CatStronauts on the International Space Station, she has to get to work right away–the Hubba Bubba Telescope isn’t working, and CATSUP is losing funding by the day!
But as the CatStronauts and Mission Control race to find answers, the unthinkable happens and pilot Waffles is forced to orbit the Earth in nothing but his space suit. Even though he’s no scaredy cat, Waffles has a hard time staying out in space. When disaster on a global scale rears its head, will a fractured CatStronauts team be enough to save the day?
In this full color graphic novel, debut author/illustrator Drew Brockington takes the CatStronauts to the brink, adding in mounds of jokes, charm, asteroid showers, and enough tuna for everyone!
If you have young readers who love to laugh, they might enjoy spending some time with the CatStronauts.

The Dynamic Duo

22 Jun

First, they gave us Extra Yarn.

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Then, they gave us Sam and Dave Dig a Hole.

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And now, Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen have given us Triangle.

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See how the cover ha no title and doesn’t list the author or illustrator? The back cover tells us more.

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Between the covers zaniness of the Laurel and Hardy variety ensues.

Publisher’s Summary: Meet Triangle. He is going to play a sneaky trick on his friend, Square. Or so Triangle thinks. . . . With this first tale in a new trilogy, partners in crime Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen will have readers wondering just who they can trust in a richly imagined world of shapes. Visually stunning and full of wry humor, here is a perfectly paced treat that could come only from the minds of two of today’s most irreverent — and talented — picture book creators.

This is the first book in a picture book trilogy. You can learn more in this video from the publisher.

 

A Magical Place

25 May

Recently, tired and ready for summer break, a student asked me the point of learning, school and the whole pursuit of academics. I answered his question the best that I could.

In Elise Primavera’s Ms. Rapscott’s Girls, the eponymous students at Great Rapscott School for the Daughters of Busy Parents often wonder the point of her lessons in Getting Lost on Purpose.

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Publisher’s Summary:  Fans of Mary Poppins will love this whimsical tale of a boarding school for children of very busy parents, where an extraordinary headmistress teaches them life lessons about courage, adventure, friendship . . . and the importance of birthday cake.

This is a quirky story is an excellent book for 2nd & 3rd graders ready for chapter books, Delightful and ridiculous, it might be too sweet for adults, but it is just right for girls with a sense of whimsy.

A place for everyone

11 May

I was never the coolest kid. Maybe that’s why I like the quirky kids in class. Maybe they are just really interesting. Like the kids in Erin Entrada Kelly’s Hello, Universe.

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Publisher’s Summary: In one day, four lives weave together in unexpected ways. Virgil Salinas is shy and kindhearted and feels out of place in his crazy-about-sports family. Valencia Somerset, who is deaf, is smart, brave, and secretly lonely, and she loves everything about nature. Kaori Tanaka is a self-proclaimed psychic, whose little sister, Gen, is always following her around. And Chet Bullens wishes the weird kids would just stop being so different so that he can concentrate on basketball. They aren’t friends, at least not until Chet pulls a prank that traps Virgil and his pet guinea pig at the bottom of a well. This disaster leads Kaori, Gen, and Valencia on an epic quest to find the missing Virgil. Sometimes four can do what one cannot. Through luck, smarts, bravery, and a little help from the universe, a rescue is performed, a bully is put in his place, and friendship blooms. The acclaimed author of Blackbird Fly and The Land of Forgotten Girls writes with an authentic, humorous, and irresistible tween voice that will appeal to fans of Thanhha Lai and Rita Williams-Garcia.

I like the voices of these kids – they ring true. You can tell when an author really gets how kids think, and Erin Entrada Kelly really gets it. This is a lovely story of friendship that celebrates the differences in all of us.

Dancing Around Yggdrasil

24 Apr

In case you don’t know, Yggdrasil is the ash tree that lies at the center of the Norse conception of the cosmos. It is also a pattern for a blanket  I’d like to knit some day.

It would be the perfect blanket to snuggle under while you immersed yourself in Neil Gaiman’s Norse Mythology.

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Publisher’s Summary: Introducing an instant classic—master storyteller Neil Gaiman presents a dazzling version of the great Norse myths.

Neil Gaiman has long been inspired by ancient mythology in creating the fantastical realms of his fiction. Now he turns his attention back to the source, presenting a bravura rendition of the great northern tales.

In Norse Mythology, Gaiman stays true to the myths in envisioning the major Norse pantheon: Odin, the highest of the high, wise, daring, and cunning; Thor, Odin’s son, incredibly strong yet not the wisest of gods; and Loki—son of a giant—blood brother to Odin and a trickster and unsurpassable manipulator.

Gaiman fashions these primeval stories into a novelistic arc that begins with the genesis of the legendary nine worlds and delves into the exploits of deities, dwarfs, and giants. Once, when Thor’s hammer is stolen, Thor must disguise himself as a woman—difficult with his beard and huge appetite—to steal it back. More poignant is the tale in which the blood of Kvasir—the most sagacious of gods—is turned into a mead that infuses drinkers with poetry. The work culminates in Ragnarok, the twilight of the gods and rebirth of a new time and people.

Through Gaiman’s deft and witty prose emerge these gods with their fiercely competitive natures, their susceptibility to being duped and to duping others, and their tendency to let passion ignite their actions, making these long-ago myths breathe pungent life again.

I listened to the  audiobook, narrated by the author. I love that fact that Neil Gaiman is the best reader of his own books and deigns to read them for us.

Before I began, I wondered how much  license Gaiman would take with the traditional tales, but I need not have worried. He retells the tales the way a long ago skald might have done it. He tells the tale in his own style, but sticks very close to his source material.

If you know any kids reading Rick Riordan’s Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard series, this would be an excellent source to understand all the deities, creatures and characters Magnus encounters in his adventures.

1 Feb

True confession time.

There are a number of “classics” that I’ve never read. One of these is Lord of the Flies.

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The funny thing is, even though I haven’t read it, I know enough about it to say that Dan Gemeinhart’s newest novel, Scar Island,  reminded me of this novel I’ve never read.

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Publisher’s Summary: Jonathan Grisby is the newest arrival at the Slabhenge Reformatory School for Troubled Boys, an ancient, crumbling fortress of gray stone rising up from the ocean. It is dark, damp, and dismal. And it is just the place Jonathan figures he deserves. Because Jonathan has done something terrible. And he’s willing to accept whatever punishment he has coming. Just as he’s getting used to his new situation, however, a freak accident leaves the troubled boys of Slabhenge without any adult supervision. Suddenly the kids are free, with an entire island to themselves. But freedom brings unexpected danger. And if Jonathan can’t come to terms with the sins of his past and lead his new friends to safety, then every boy on the island is doomed. Dan Gemeinhart’s most gripping novel yet, this is a tale of misfits and outcasts at odds and in peril, and a redemption story that shines a light on dark truths to reveal that the strongest prisons of all are the ones we build for ourselves.

The author is coming to my school on February 9th and I am planning to attend the session during my plan time. I’ll let you know how it goes.

Companion Books

30 Jan

In 2009,   Grace Lin gave us Where the Mountain Meets the Moon,  which was a 2010 Newbery Honor book.

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In 2012, she gave us Starry River of the Sky.

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Late last year, grace Lin gave us another companion, When the Sea Turned to Silver.

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Publisher’s Summary:Pinmei’s gentle, loving grandmother always has the most exciting tales for her granddaughter and the other villagers. However, the peace is shattered one night when soldiers of the Emperor arrive and kidnap the storyteller.

Everyone knows that the Emperor wants something called the Luminous Stone That Lights the Night. Determined to have her grandmother returned, Pinmei embarks on a journey to find the Luminous Stone alongside her friend Yishan, a mysterious boy who seems to have his own secrets to hide. Together, the two must face obstacles usually found only in legends to find the Luminous Stone and save Pinmei’s grandmother–before it’s too late.
All three books are a testament to the power of storytelling. And maybe this is just the sort of light we need these days.
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