Friday, October 29, 2010

Magic Trixie, by Jill Thompson (ages 7 - 10)

Magic Trixie is a treat for 3rd and 4th graders who love playful stories, graphic novels and fun characters. The graphic novel section is the most popular section at our library, and so I'm always seeking out new titles. I was delighted to find this series, with its vibrant colors and fun stories, and it's been a hit with kids so far.
Magic Trixie
by Jill Thompson
NY: Harper Trophy, 2008
ages 7 - 10
available on Amazon and at your local library
Magic Trixie is a little witch who has growing pains just like all kids. At home, she's frustrated that she can't do anything fun, while her baby sister gets away with everything. And then at school, all her friends seem to have the coolest tricks to share. So when her teacher tells them it's share and tell day, Magic Trixie knows she has to find a really special trick to impress all her friends.

Magic Trixie is bursting with color, action and emotion. The illustrations are bright and energetic, full of details that make you laugh. The text is simple enough to be read independently by a 3rd grader, so it will appeal to kids who have moved beyond the Babymouse books. Best of all, while the stories are definitely full of magic and fantasy, they're grounded in kids' every day experiences: friendships, family life, and struggles all kids go through.

Take a look at the book on HarperCollin's website. You can see the first 20 pages and get a real feel for the book.

Jill Thompson has written two other books featuring Magic Trixie and her friends: Magic Trixie Sleeps Over and Magic Trixie and the Dragon. She is an established comic book illustrator and writer, and I'm so happy she's writing for this age group. Her Scary Godmother comics have just been collected into a hardcover book that will be great for libraries!

The review copies came from my local public libraries. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this page, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books (at no cost to you). Thank you for your support!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Jimi: Sounds Like a Rainbow, by Gary Golio (ages 9 - 14)

Many kids these days dream of being rock musicians, and yet I wonder what the childhood of many famous rock musicians was like. Are they born with a true gift, or did they practice and practice their music? I do know that some children are drawn to music from an early age - it resonates with them, fills them. If your child is drawn to rock music, they will be fascinated by the new book Jimi: Sounds Like a Rainbow, written by Gary Golio and illustrated by Javaka Steptoe. It is absolutely worth seeking out.
Jimi: Sounds Like a Rainbow
by Gary Golio
illustrated by Javaka Steptoe
Boston: Clarion Books, 2010
ages 8 - 14
available on Amazon or your local library
Jimi: Sounds Like a Rainbow: A Story of the Young Jimi Hendrix
Jimi Hendrix was a child who soaked in the world around him, noticing sounds of the rain, the rushing water, truck engines and siren wailing. "With every sound, a color glowed in Jimmy's mind. Blue was the whoosh of cool water, splashing over rocks. Orange and red, the crackling of a campfire. Green, the rustle of a thousand leaves... He wondered: Could a person use music like chalks and colored pencils? Could someone paint pictures with sound?" These questions will resonate with students, speak to their hearts and make them think about how they see and hear the world around them.

Javaka Steptoe's artwork is full of color, as he uses mixed-media collage to show the impression of Jimi's childhood world. He steeped himself in Jimi's world and neighborhood, painting on plywood from a store in a Seattle neighborhood.  As Steptoe writes in the illustrator's note, "I thought about the depth and texture of his (Hendrix's) music, so I layered and used bright colors: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple - rainbow colors."

I asked author Gary Golio to reflect on what reading meant to him during his childhood, and he responded with this wonderful essay:

Superhuman Reading
by Gary Golio

I was a voracious reader as a kid—but rarely of anything that would be considered literary or classic.

For me, the long-awaited ritual each month consisted of pulling a dollar from my miniature “safe” (a toy bank), and walking down to the center of my suburban 60’ s town on a lovely spring, fall, summer, or even winter day. Once I reached my destination—the nondescript delicatessen-stationery store that smelled of roast coffee seasoned with the aromas of frying bacon and newsprint—I ambled over to the wall display of magazines and felt like I had entered Paradise. There, calling out to me in their crisp, colorful covers, were the only reading materials I needed to fire up my imagination, inspire moral rectitude, and keep me out of trouble—the newest editions of DC and Marvel comics.

What a treasure those books were (and yes, I consider those Silver Age comics to be books, or at least the abbreviated graphic novels of their time). There was: Iron Man—to spark ideas for new electronic gadgets that I’ d invent in my home workshop for deterring would-be crooks; SpiderMan—to console my tortured pre-adolescent psyche that Peter Parker actually had a worse social life than I; Superman—to inspire visions of the Earth and other planets seen from outer space, for voyage there one day; and Dr. Strange—Master of the Mystic Arts, who humbly saved the human race and all manner of sentient beings from unimagined threats and evils, without our knowledge or gratitude.

These were my heroes, and they existed between the pages of comic books.

In addition—and people laugh when I first say this—comic books were overflowing with fantastic vocabulary words: invulnerable (from Superman); gossamer (from Dr. Strange); transistorized, from Iron Man; and rhetorical from SpiderMan, to name just a few. In fact, I credit my love of new and unusual words to these stories, whose characters often spoke with an archaic diction: “ This bastion of evil and its inhabitants shall see horrific ruination at my hand!” (Thor, Prince of Asgard).

Most of all, though, comic books instilled in me the joy and purposefulness of reading—to look outside of oneself, and to learn from other men and women (even if they were make believe) how to survive this sometimes wild ride that we call Life.

[Gary Golio, an artist and clinical social worker, is the author of Jimi: Sounds Like a Rainbow: A Story of the Young Jimi Hendrix, illustrated by Javaka Steptoe (Clarion Books), and the forthcoming When Bob Met Woody: The Story of the Young Bob Dylan, illustrated by Marc Burckhardt (Little, Brown).]

Thank you, Gary, for a wonderful essay about the power of reading and the way all types of reading can speak to us - just like all types of music can speak to us.  You won't be surprised that comic books and graphic novels are the most popular books in our library today! They still grab kids and fill their imaginations.

For more reviews of Jimi: Sounds Like a Rainbow, check out other stops on the blog tour:

Picture Book of the Day
Mitali's Fire Escape
The Brown Bookshelf
Original Content
Tales from the Rushmore Kid 
The Fourth Musketeer

There's also a great interview on NPR's Weekend Edition from last weekend - I really enjoyed hearing Gary Golio and Javaka Steptoe, along with some of Hendrix's music.

The review copy was kindly sent by the publishers. If you make any purchases using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion will go to Great Kid Books (at no cost to you). Thank you for your support.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Some Kind of Love: A Family Reunion in Poems, by Traci Dant (ages 8 - 12)

My children are definitely excited about Halloween, but my thoughts are turning toward Thanksgiving. I'm especially looking forward to our family reunion this year, as our extended family grows bigger and bigger. Both of my brothers have had new babies in the past year, and my oldest niece is now 16 and taller than her mother! Family reunions are full of chaos, cooking and laughter. Some Kind of Love, a collection of poems by Traci Dant, captures all of these feelings perfectly.
Some Kind of Love:
A Family Reunion in Poems

by Traci Dant
illustrated by Eric Velasquez
NY: Marshall Cavendish, 2010
ages 8 - 12
available on Amazon and at your local public library
Some Kind of Love: A Family Reunion in PoemsEvery summer, relatives (old and young, big and small) come together from all over the country for a huge family reunion with cousins, brothers, sisters, grandmas and grandpas, aunts and uncles. All have one thing in common: their love for each other. This African American family gathers every summer at their grandmother's house, with folks sleeping wherever there is room.
"Must be some kind of love
that moved my grandma to say,

Always come home.
Come home so I can see your faces."
Kids and grownups eat and laugh and tell stories and remember. There are sleepovers, days spent fishing, cousins riding bikes, and men telling stories that "make my work-hard Daddy laugh like / he'll never have to janitor all night and farm all day again." Told through the eyes of a nine-year old boy, this set of poems captures the moments of a family reunion - from the laughs to the heart-felt tender moments.

Traci Dant dedicated this book to her father, Melvin Dant Jr.. He "inspired me to write the poems in Some Kind of Love. He is the one who grew up attending every Mother's Day reunion in Hannibal, Missouri. He is the one who told stories about aunts and uncles and cousins I'd never met."
I adore Eric Velasquez's paintings - he is one of my favorite illustrators, especially for capturing emotion in people's faces. Here, he creates oil paintings that capture the warmth and depth of feelings in each family member.He's chosen to make the paintings soft and warm, almost like memories. I miss some of the clarity that I sometimes see in his work, but appreciate the feelings that come through.

I love being able to share with my children and students this African American family full of love for each other. As we head toward Thanksgiving and the winter holidays, it's the love I feel for family and friends that I want to celebrate. And I think children really understand this. As Traci Dant writes,
"What love you must feel
for your family. Those folks

who nutured you in the garden
of their hearts. What a special

special something it must be
when you all get together."
Many thanks to the publisher for sending a review copy. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this page, a small portion will go to Great Kid Books (at no cost to you). Thank you for your support.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Takeshita Demons, by Cristy Burne - exciting fantasy with Japanese mythology (ages 9 - 12)

I'm always looking out for books that bring in mythology or settings from other cultures, but that are exciting and fun to read. The Percy Jackson series grabs kids because it's exciting and fun, but it fascinates them because it introduces them to a whole world of Greek mythology. Takeshita Demons is an exciting adventure story that introduces children to Japanese spirits and demons.
Takeshita Demons
by Cristy Burne
illustrated by Siku
London: Frances Lincoln Children's Books, 2010
ages 9 – 12
available on Amazon and at your local library
Takeshita DemonsThis exciting adventure features Japanese supernatural demons – yokai – and a young girl’s fight to protect her younger brother. Yokai are well known in Japan and still an important part of Japanese folklore, but they are little known outside of Japan. Twelve-year-old Miku Takeshita has recently moved to London, but she misses her grandmother terribly. In Japan, her grandmother taught her about the secrets of the spirit world, including Zashiko, the child-ghost who protected them from hostile spirits and demons. But Miku’s grandmother has died and it is up to Miku to remember these traditions and secrets. Every day, Miku tries to remember to check that the cedar leave is still placed above the door to protect her family from evil spirits. But her mother thinks this is all nonsense.

One winter day, Miku arrives at school to find that they have a substitute teacher who turns out to be an evil, child-eating nukekubi demon. That night, strange events start happening and Miku’s little brother disappears while she is watching over him. A breathless adventure follows, with Miku and her friend Cait battling the nukekubi, with her flying head and supernatural powers.

This is a fast-paced story that will appeal to readers who are looking for a scary story with a Japanese Manga twist. It is smaller in scale than the Percy Jackson series; Takeshita Demons is just under 150 pages long, while Rick Riordan's novels regularly weigh in at 400 pages plus. I think this is a huge advantage for many readers. I would gladly hand this to a 4th grader, or perhaps even a 3rd grader who likes action and is okay with some scary confrontations.A little brother is kidnapped and threatened by the demon, but no harm comes to him.

Takeshita Demons was original published in the UK, and won the inaugural The Frances Lincoln Diverse Voices Childrens Book Award for diversity in children's fiction, for a middle grade novel by a previously unpublished author. Author Cristy Burnes spent many years in Japan and became fascinated with folklore about the yokai, Japanese spirits and demons.

For another review, check out the always-excellent Paper Tigers. "Cristy Burne has created a fast-paced story full of suspense that is further intensified by Miku's matter-of-fact narration.  Cait’s incredulity at Miku’s initial explanations, and then her own involvement in subsequent events allow Western readers to be pulled into the Japanese spirit world that Miku so takes for granted."

The review copy was kindly sent by the publisher. If you make a purchase on Amazon using the links on this page, a small portion will go to Great Kid Books (at no cost to you). Thank you for your support!

Friday, October 15, 2010

Bay Area great author events

Just a quick note - if you live in the Bay Area, there are some fabulous author events coming up.

Vampire Boy's Good NightLisa Brown has several events for her new book: Vampire Boy's Good Night. I love this sweet Halloween tale, perfect for young kids (ages 2 - 5).

 Sunday, October 17th
11:00 am
A Great Good Place for Books

6120 LaSalle Avenue, Oakland, CA
Tel: (510) 339-8210
This is a great neighborhood bookstore in the Montclair neighborhood of Oakland.

Saturday, October 23rd
3:00 pm
Join us for a Halloween party and a Bloody Benefit! Please come in costume!
Storytelling, mask-making and yummy snacks!
With benefit to The Blood Centers of the Pacific.
1644 Haight Street
San Francisco, California 94117

Smile, by Raina Telgemeier
This was one of our family's favorite books this year, and one of the most popular books at the school library.  It is a graphic novel that tells the story of how Raina lost her two front teeth from a simple accident, and her journey to restore her smile and navigate life through middle school.
Here are some of the stops on her tour:

Monday, October 18th
Green Apple Books: Book signing & presentation
506 Clement Street (@6th Ave)
San Francisco, CA
7 PM

Thursday, October 21
Alameda Free Library: Presentation & Workshop
1550 Oak Street
Alameda, CA
3:30 – 4:30 PM

Friday, October 22
Mrs. Dalloway’s Literary & Garden Arts: Signing/Reading
2904 College Ave
Berkeley, CA
7 PM

Saturday, October 23
STORYTIME! Activity Day at the Cartoon Art Museum
655 Mission Street
San Francisco, CA
1 – 3 PM
Come hang out with Raina and a bunch of the creators in the museum’s STORYTIME! exhibit, where you can see a bunch of original pages from Smile on display!

Mockingjay (The Final Book of The Hunger Games)Suzanne Collins, the author of the bestselling teen trilogy: The Hunger Games, will be visiting the Bay Area in November at Kepler's Books in Menlo Park and Hicklebee's in San Jose. This is sure to be a packed event. Call the stores for details to see if you need advanced tickets. For more tour locations for Suzanne Collins, se the Scholastic Site.
Wednesday, November 3rd
7:00 pm
Kepler's Books
1010 El Camino Real
Menlo Park, CA

Thursday, November 4th
7:00 pm
Hicklebee's Books
1378 Lincoln Ave.
San Jose, CA 95125

The Duck and the KangarooJane Wattenberg (aka Mrs. Mustard) will talk about Edward Lear and her vibrant take on Lear's creative poem The Duck and the Kangaroo, with her real live Duck, Edward. The event is at Temple Israel in Alameda, for their Book and Cookie event. Edward will wear a tiny hand-crocheted, duck-size yarmulke for the occasion. Come join us.

Sunday October 17th
12:30 pm
Temple Israel
3183 Mecartney Rd. Alameda CA

Have fun! It's great to share the excitement with your children, and realize that their favorite books are written by people just like them.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Haunted Houses, by Robert San Souci - for kids who want creepy, scary stories (ages 9-12)

My students clamor for really scary stories, especially at this time of the year. They love, love, love Alvin Schwartz's Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark. If your kids like those creepy stories, but are ready for longer short stories, check out Robert San Souci's Haunted Houses - it definitely got under my skin.
Haunted Houses (Are You Scared Yet?)
by Robert San Souci
illustrated by Kelly Murphy
NY: Henry Holt, 2010
ages 9 – 12
available on Amazon or at your local library
It isn’t often that I recommend a book that I haven’t read in its entirety, but I am – I admit it – a scaredy cat! You see, I started this collection, but I just couldn't finish it. And now, I can’t stop thinking about San Souci's creepy stories.

You’ll find ten tales of haunted houses in this collection by Robert San Souci, one of San Francisco’s great storytellers and folklore collectors. In one story, a boy’s family is vacationing in a house that is taken over by spiders. Now, these aren’t your typical garden spiders. They are spiders who want revenge for the damages done to their forest and homes. Danny starts to get worried when he finds the rabbit cage filled with spider webs, and then realizes that the bundles in the corner are the dead rabbits encased in spider webs. The story proceeds to even creepier, as Danny discovers more ways the spiders have wrecked damage on previous owners of the house. Needless to say, every time I walk into a spider’s web now, I jump even higher.

These stories are not for the faint-hearted or those prone to nightmares, but for kids looking for spine-tingling tales, this is your perfect find.

Robert D. San Souci is the award-winning author of the Short & Shivery series of tales, as well as many picture books based on folktales from around the world. He is also the author of Dare to Be Scared, named a Children's Choice for 2004 by the Children's Book Council.

The review copy came from my local bookstore, Mrs. Dalloway's, in Berkeley. They have a wonderful selection of children's books, and staff who can really help you find the right book for your child.

Please note, if you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this page, a small portion will go to Great Kid Books (at no cost to you). Thank you for your support.