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Getting to know you

20 Aug

Earlier this year, I joined a book club. It might surprise you that I’ve never belonged to one. This group is devoted to children’s & YA literature. Instead of reading, then discussing one book a month, we have a list of 10 or more. One of the books from our July meeting was Yours Sincerely, Giraffe by Megumi Iwasa. and illustrated by Jun Takabatake.

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Publisher’s Summary:It’s hard to imagine someone you’ve never seen. Giraffe is bored, as usual. He’d love a friend to share things with. So he writes a letter and sends it as far as possible across the other side of the horizon. There he finds a pen pal – Penguin. Giraffe knows nothing about penguins and his letters are full of questions. What does a penguin look like? Where is a penguin’s neck? And so the letters begin to fly from horizon to horizon. Yours Sincerely, Giraffe is a funny tale of mistaken assumptions and friendship.

There is a lot to like here, especially when there is so much talk about how we treat people who are other. Misunderstandings and assumptions happen, but the new friends work through the problem to come to a deeper understanding.

On a somewhat related theme, I just saw this video of Grace Lin talking about racism in favorite childhood books. It is worth watching.

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What is it with Narwhals?

10 Aug

I feel like a salty sailor when I say narwhal. Try it. Can you say narwhal and NOT want to sound like a pirate? Maybe we should write narghwhal instead. A little narwhal humor for you.

It seems as though narwhals are everywhere! It started last year with Ben Canton’s Narwhal, Unicorn of the Sea.

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Publisher’s Summary: Narwhal is a happy-go-lucky narwhal. Jelly is a no-nonsense jellyfish. The two might not have a lot in common, but they do they love waffles, parties and adventures. Join Narwhal and Jelly as they discover the whole wide ocean together.
A wonderfully silly early graphic novel series featuring three stories. In the first, Jelly learns that Narwhal is a really good friend. Then Narwhal and Jelly form their own pod of awesomeness with their ocean friends. And finally, Narwhal and Jelly read the best book ever — even though it doesn’t have any words…or pictures!
Ben Clanton showcases the joys of friendship, the benefits of working together and the power of imagination in the delightful Narwhal: Unicorn of the Sea.

This year already has two narwhal books, a sequel to Narwhal, Unicorn of the Sea  entitled Super Narwhal and Jelly Jolt , and a poignant picture book by Jessica Sima called Not Quite Narwhal.

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Happy-go-lucky Narwhal and no-nonsense Jelly find their inner superheroes in three new under-the-sea adventures. In the first story, Narwhal reveals his superhero alter-ego and enlists Jelly to help him figure out what his superpower is. Next, Narwhal uses his superpower to help a friend find his way back home. In the third story, Jelly is feeling blue and Narwhal comes to the rescue. Ben Clanton showcases the joys of friendship and the power of believing in yourself and others through this irresistible duo.

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Publisher’s Summary: Growing up in the ocean, Kelp has always assumed that he was a narwhal like the rest of his family. Sure, he’s always been a little bit different—his tusk isn’t as long, he’s not as good of a swimmer, and he really doesn’t enjoy the cuisine. Then one night, an extra strong current sweeps Kelp to the surface, where he spots a mysterious creature that looks just like him! Kelp discovers that he and the creature are actually unicorns. The revelation leaves him torn: is he a land narwhal or a sea unicorn? But perhaps, if Kelp is clever, he may find a way to have the best of both worlds.

Told with heartwarming illustrations and spare, sweet text, Jessie Sima’s debut picture book is about fitting in, standing out, and the all-encompassing love of family.

It is hard to say why two authors are suddenly thinking narwhal thoughts, but it doesn’t matter; the books are fantastic.

Fans of Narwhal and Jelly can look forward to a third book in April 2018.

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Veni, Vidi, Vomit

25 Jul

Nothing makes me move faster than that URP URP URP sound of a dog about to vomit.

Louie used to find and eat all sorts of nasty things. He vomited often and help speed up my reaction time.

Fiona was less opportunistic.

Lucy, like my first basset Clara, rarely vomits. And yet, it happened yesterday.

There we were, curled up on the sofa on a hot summer afternoon, enjoying the cool of the air-conditioned house. I was engrossed in the book I was reading. Lucy was curled up sleeping deeply – until she wasn’t.

In a flash she was off the sofa and the URP URP URP began.

I threw aside my book (Posted by John David Anderson) and leapt to action. I grabbed the paper towels, a trash can, and the Nature’s Miracle spray. By the time I returned, Lucy had finished, but had not yet begun the canine “ritual” that often follows. I was that quick.

Although I am a gagger, I have mastered the art of cleaning dog vomit without gagging. It mostly involves lots of paper towels and turning my head to one side. And lots of breath holding.

Within a few moments, Lucy was curled up again, none the worse for wear. I washed my hands a few times, changed out the paper towels covering “the spot”, and washed my hands a few more times. Then, I, too, was curled up on the sofa, reading as if nothing had happened.

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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.

Lovely Louies

15 May

My Louie loved everyone.

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A cat once followed us home from the park. Fiona wanted to attack but Louie didn’t bat an eye. He was just that kind of guy. Needless to say, in the cat’s best interest, I did not invite it into the house.

Just like my Louie did, the eponymous Louie of Tony Fucile’s Poor Louie has a great life.

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Publisher’s Summary:Louie’s life is great! A walk on the leash every morning, ice cream on Sundays, snuggling in bed at night with Mom and Dad. Even the playdates with Mom’s friends — despite their little crawling creatures who pull Louie’s ears — aren’t all that bad. But then things get weird: cold food on the floor, no room in the bed, and lots of new stuff coming into the house in pairs — two small beds, two little sweaters, two seats in the stroller. Does that bode double trouble ahead, or could there be a happier surprise in store for Louie? With perfect visual pacing, Tony Fucile takes a familiar story and gives it a comic spin.

The expressive cartoon artwork takes and comic look at how childless people (like me) anthropomorphize their dogs , and at the the arrival of a new sibling.  This would be a great book to share with children about to be displaced by a new baby, or a childless couple who’s pet is about to be relegated to the floor, just like Poor Louie.

Fortunately, the ending provides an excellent solution to Poor Louie’s dilemma.

Realistic, with humor and empathy

27 Apr

Some characters just touch your heart. Bixby Alexander Tam, the main character in A Boy Called Bat, is one of those.

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Publisher’s Summary:From acclaimed author Elana K. Arnold and with illustrations by Charles Santoso, A Boy Called Bat is the first book in a funny, heartfelt, and irresistible young middle grade series starring an unforgettable young boy on the autism spectrum.

For Bixby Alexander Tam (nicknamed Bat), life tends to be full of surprises—some of them good, some not so good. Today, though, is a good-surprise day. Bat’s mom, a veterinarian, has brought home a baby skunk, which she needs to take care of until she can hand him over to a wild-animal shelter.

But the minute Bat meets the kit, he knows they belong together. And he’s got one month to show his mom that a baby skunk might just make a pretty terrific pet.

Bat is clearly somewhere on the autism spectrum. He has learned some important lessons and is trying to apply them to real life. He is not good with people, but he is great with animals and longs to be a vet like his mom.

Arnold lets us into the anxieties and worries Bat experiences gently and there are moments when I teared up. Some of the writing about eye contact is that touching. Even though the book is about Bat, I really got a sense of how Bat’s mom must be feeling. This is such a lovely book.

The b&w illustrations by Charles Santoso are fabulous. I was reading the book at school during silent reading and disturbed kids sitting near me to show them the illustrations of Thor, the skunk kit.

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They beautifully capture Bat’s isolation, love for Thor and relationship with his mom.

This book is written for readers younger than those in my class but I might just book talk this one, in case they have younger siblings who would enjoy this one. This is the first book in a series and I look forward to reader more about Bat.

AS goes MG

10 Feb

I have made no secret of the fact that I love A. S. King. I will read (and probably buy) anything she writes. Unfortunately, I cannot put her books in my 6th grade classroom library. Until now.

Yes, Amy Sarig King has written a novel for middle grade readers!!!!

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Like her books for older readers, there is a fantasy element. yes,let’s call it that. The eponymous Marvin Gardens is a plastic eating creature that resembles a cross between a dog and a pig…with amphibian-like skin.

I book talked it yesterday, reading aloud the part about Marvin’s first poop – sixth graders still love that sort of thing – and I had them hooked. I told them about Obe’s problems with his friends, with Marvin, and with his neighborhood; problems they can all relate to. I’m hoping this one won’t spend much time on my shelves.

Publisher’s Summary: Obe Devlin has problems. His family’s farmland has been taken over by developers. His best friend Tommy abandoned him for the development kids. And he keeps getting nosebleeds, because of that thing he doesn’t like to talk about. So Obe hangs out at the creek by his house, in the last wild patch left, picking up litter and looking for animal tracks.

One day, he sees a creature that looks kind of like a large dog, or maybe a small boar. And as he watches it, he realizes it eats plastic. Only plastic. Water bottles, shopping bags… No one has ever seen a creature like this before, because there’s never been a creature like this before. The animal — Marvin Gardens — soon becomes Obe’s best friend and biggest secret. But to keep him safe from the developers and Tommy and his friends, Obe must make a decision that might change everything.

In her most personal novel yet, Printz Honor Award winner Amy Sarig King tells the story of a friendship that could actually save the world.

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