Graphics, comics, series for kids

knifes edgeI love learning that something new from a favorite author has come out without me noticing, because that means I can get it right away, and I don’t have to wait weeks or months for it.  Knife’s Edge was my bonus this week, and it’s a nice follow-up to Compass South.  Track them both down if you don’t know this series.

When you’ve got a super-reader on your hands, it can be hard to constantly come up with new things for them.  Enter the series.  Whether you’re looking at early chapter books like Magic Treehouse or something for older kids like the Wimpy Kid, multiple books with the same characters can be a lifesaver.  Some parents and teachers still resist graphic novels/comics, because they aren’t seen as “real” reading.  Well, if a kid’s reading anything these days, I don’t care what it is.  I just want them reading more.

After finishing Knife’s Edge, I got to thinking about how many fun series there are for kids who like more visual reading, giving me an excuse to make a collage.  Yay, graphics!

Knife’s Edge by Hope Larson and Rebecca Mock

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Bucket lists and burdens

trail meikaMore than one book for kids and teens has taken a bucket list and spun a story.  Sometimes, as in The Trail, a character is finishing a list they’ve started with someone else, someone who is no longer around to finish it with them.  The dramatic results are enough to make you wonder if bucket lists are such a great idea.

Toby is working through the final thing on a list, to hike part of the Appalachian Trail.  If you think it’s a spectacularly bad idea for a 12 year old to do this on his own without telling anyone he’s doing it – well, you’re right.  He’s carrying a lot of sadness and anger with him, but fortunately, he’s got some money, a little experience, a few smarts, and some people on the trails who will help him, too.

Figuring out where he’s going from one moment to the next is less about using a compass and more about who he is and who he’s going to become, but for kids who liked Hatchet by Gary Paulsen, this might be a nice follow-up.

The Trail by Meika Hashimoto

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Intensity can be illuminating

I’m sure Dr. K doesn’t remember this, some thirty years on, but while discussing personal essays in class one day, he talked about the intensity of living and how when you are young, you feel things so powerfully that the feelings consume you in a way that they never will again.  I remember thinking that I hoped I never lost that intensity about life and what was important to me, but, of course, I did, since to operate in the adult world successfully, you kind of have to calm down, plow through, and let things go sometimes.  And thank goodness, really, because living with that level of feeling is exhausting if you try to do it all the time.  Most of us just can’t maintain that.

The main characters in Turtles All the Way Down and The Love Letters of Abelard and Lily are dealing with that intensity, plus the added challenges of being on the spectrum, ADD or OCD.  The anxiety is high here, made worse by the feeling that so much is new and uncharted and frightening, even though the characters know themselves and their challenges exceedingly well.  In fact, what is so illuminating and wonderful (although difficult at times) is how clearly their feelings and thoughts speak out to us readers in ways we can relate to and empathize with, even if we are not on the spectrum, ADD or OCD ourselves.

Love Letters struck me as a sweeter young love story, partly because the ending ties the characters together in a more positive way, but both are windows into the paths we walk when we are young, the opportunities we take and leave behind, and the mistakes we make while we are trying to move forward.

The Love Letters of Abelard and Lily by Laura Creedle

Turtles All the Way Down by John Green

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Opening your eyes to the possibilities around you

Today we meet a bear, a sheep and an inventor-explorer—what could be better?

Mostly, Bunnybear’s a bear, but while there are a lot of great things about being a bear, Bunnybear also feels like a bunny – bouncy, light, happy.  The other bears find this a little weird, to say the least, and then when real rabbits actually appear, they don’t seem to appreciate the bunny in Bunnybear, either.  Well, phooey.  Then Grizzlybun shows up.  It turns out that the larger world of bunnies have some preconceived notions that don’t include loud and burly, so Bunnybear and Grizzlybun have something in common.  Finding each other means they have a friend and a path to a less limiting world of bunnies and bears.  Nice.

Lily Wool is whimsical in the same way Bunnybear is, although she bucks the conventions of sheep-dom by skipping through meadows, becoming a gymnast, learning to lasso, and playing Cupid.  The other sheep, however, are not so happy with Lily’s explorations into creativity with wool.  Does Lily give up?  She does not.  She even uses her new skills to open a business.  So there, boring sheep!

Norton and Alpha are inventors and explorers, always on the search for something new to repurpose or investigate.  When they come across a mysterious object, they pluck it from the ground, study it, and even x-ray it, but this thing doesn’t seem like anything they recognize.  And it has these funny roundish objects that fall out of it, too.  Hmmm.  Days pass, rain falls, things heat up, and by the time Norton and Alpha go out to collect again, a whole field of flowers has appeared.  Wonderful!

All would work nicely with younger kids who are starting to see how most everyone doesn’t fit into the expectations their world sometimes has for them.  Be who you are, they say, and don’t be afraid to be different or find something new to love.

Norton and Alpha by Kristyna Litten

Lily Wool by Paula Vásquez

BunnyBear by Andrea J. Loney and Carmen Saldaña

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Some thieves are made of pastry

bandetteSometimes I write things just for me.  That title is one of them.  It’s a reference to a poem my husband wrote some years ago about souls and food.  It doesn’t make any sense here, but it makes me smile, and that’s what I need today.

You might also need a little escape from the usual, and Bandette’s your gal if you do.  One of my favorite librarians suggested I try the series during a long talk about middle grade books and graphic novels, and she is simply superb – both the librarian and Bandette.  Bandette is a thief, but she’s kind of a good guy.  There’s a competitive thing she has going with another thief, but her real focus seems to be taking down bad guys in spectacular and embarrassing ways.  She’s not a superhero exactly, but she is on call with the police department (like Batman) because of her fine detecting skills, and she is most definitely super in other ways.

There are three in the series right now, so start with Bandette: Presto! before reading the other two.  And take a quick trip to Paris and crime-fighting and pastry.  Bon voyage!

Bandette series by Tobin and Coover

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Look at this cover.

afarI don’t even need the planet-traveling, dramatic escapes and family drama.  I just like the pictures.  The story is good, too, but the cover is what got me.  Let it get you, too.

Afar by Leila Del Duca, Kit Seaton and Taneka Stotts

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Love, love, love

lovedelapenaThis little flurry of picture books about love has been wonderful – a reminder that even burnt toast and imperfections can be love and that we carry it with us wherever we go, maybe even picking up new things to wonder and love about as life moves on.  I’ll read this book to kindergartners and give it to the seniors graduating and talk about it endlessly to whoever will listen to me, because even in a world of lovely and special books, this one calls out.

It’s not a loud voice, but it’s one we might all need to hear in troubled times full of angry people and leaders who start with negatives.  We can speak out and march and remember that we live our daily lives and are evidence of the power of what good can do, too, even when it’s the burnt toast or a moment sitting on the couch together.  I know.  I’m a softie about this kind of thing, but read this book.  It will remind you, too, of the people and moments you love in your life and for at least a few minutes, you’ll forget the rest.

LOVE by Matt de la Peña and Loren Long

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Girl power + love = this book

deargirlHaving a tough day?

This might be the book to help you power up if you’re a girl (or a woman).  It covers everything from finding awe in the world to not being afraid to ask questions and decorating your room.  So there!  You can do it, sister!

It might work for the little one having a tough day at school (or learning about women’s rights).  It might work for the millennial who’s been mansplained one too many times  or the graduate about to go out into the world or even for your mom.  Dear girls, all of them.

Also nice for valentines!

Dear Girl, by Amy Krouse Rosenthal, Paris Rosenthal and Holly Hatam

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Another valentine for words

F&F_Words&YourHeart_JKT.inddWords can fill us with joy, but sometimes, words make us sad.

That’s all you need to know about this book.  It’s a way into a conversation with kids about choosing their words carefully and remembering that words can harm or heal.  Our hearts can be strong and fragile at the same time, and mean words hurt.

Words and Your Heart by Kate Jane Neal

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Word nerds unite!

bagelinloveGet ready, young punsters.  You have some work to do.  Work with words and baked goods.  Tough work.  Silly work.  Buttering up croissants.  Doughnuts looking glazed over.  That kind of thing.

Bright and bustling illustrations will spin you along, but this time it’s all about the words.

Nice one for Valentine’s Day?  You betcha.

Bagel in Love by Natasha Wing and Helen Dardik

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