Tuesday, December 11, 2018

12 Days of Giving: Great Graphic Novels

I'll be posting themed book lists with book giving ideas for a variety of ages and interests every day Dec. 1 - 12. Check the label Twelve Days of Giving for all the lists. Shopping for someone specific? Drop me a comment with ages/interests (including adults!) and I'll be happy to make some suggestions. Don't forget your local indie bookstore and if you don't have a favorite indie, might I suggest ordering from The Bain Lair Bookstore

It's hard to go wrong with graphic novels. They have wide appeal and kids and teens who like to read them often can't get enough. My oldest niece has been into graphic novels for years, so I always know I can pick out my favorites for her for Christmas. Here are some of my favorite graphic novels for young readers. 

For elementary readers...

Comics Squad series edited by Jennifer Holm and Matthew Holm (Random House). These compilations include a bunch of comics written by today's hottest comic authors around a central theme. They are a great choice for comic enthusiasts who are new to graphic novels or for kids that you're not certain what kind of comics they would like (since each includes many different styles). 

The Great Pet Escape by Victoria Jamieson (Henry Holt, 2016). This super cute and funny graphic novel features a trio of class pets determined to break out of school and regain their freedom... until the 4th and 5th grade pets come up with a dastardly plan to prank the students. There are tons of cute and funny details in the pictures that kids will enjoy looking for. This is an early chapter book graphic novel, perfect for the younger elementary set, though older kids may well enjoy it as a quick read. Hand this to your animal lovers. 

Narwhal: Unicorn of the Sea by Ben Clanton (Tundra Books, 2016). My goal is to get everyone to buy the Narwhal and Jelly books this holiday season. They are so super cute and funny and a hit with a wide range of ages. This adorable friendship tale will appeal to kids who love to laugh and kids who enjoy friendship stories. And also everyone. 

Peter and Ernesto: A Tale of Two Sloths by Graham Annable (First Second, 2018). This is an adorable graphic novel about two best sloth friends who are very different - Ernesto has a very adventurous soul and he decides that he wants to see "all the sky" and sets off on a journey. Peter misses his friend and worries that something will happen to him, so eventually he sets off in search of Ernesto. They both end up having adventures and they both end up right where they belong.

For middle grade readers...

All's Fair in Middle School by Victoria Jamieson (Dial, 2017). Victoria Jamieson presents a story about navigating middle school but with a twist. Imogene's grown up spending summers with her Renaissance Faire family. Now she's starting middle school (her choice) after years of being homeschooled. Middle school, it turns out, is trickier than Imogene had anticipated. This is a character-driven story with lots of great Ren Faire details woven throughout. It's great for readers who like stories about girls navigating middle school life. 

Be Prepared by Vera Brosgol (First Second, 2018). Vera, daughter of Russian immigrants, feels like she never fits in, especially when all the kids in her neighborhood go away to summer sleepaway camp. Vera wants desperately to go away to camp, but when she finally gets to go, the Russian culture camp is nothing like she thought. From outhouses and the threat of bears in the woods to the very real threat of mean girls in her tent, Vera may have gotten into more than she can handle. This autobiographical tale is a great choice for fans of Raina Telgemeier and El Deafo. 

Hilo series by Judd Winick (Random House). This is one of my favorite graphic novel series, a science-fiction story with tons of humor and adventure. When DJ's best friend moves away, he's feeling left behind when a new friend literally falls from the sky. Hilo crashes to earth with no idea who he is or what he's supposed to be doing. He'd better figure it out quick because there's something on the way to Earth, something bad. 

Sanity and Tallulah by Molly Brooks (Disney-Hyperion, 2018). Sanity and Tallulah are best friends who live on a space station. When Sanity is caught doing a science experiment she shouldn't be doing, she's forbidden from continuing it. Unfortunately Princess Sparkle Destroyer of Worlds, the three-headed cat Sanity biologically engineered, escapes and starts to wreak havok on the ship. Can Sanity wrangle her experiment or is there something else going on? This is a fun science fiction adventure story with two strong girl heroines, perfect for young scientists. 

For teens..

The Best We Could Do by Thi Bui (Abrams, 2017). This graphic novel memoir details one family's escape from war-torn Vietnam and their journey to America. Author Thi Bui, born in Vietnam and fleeing to the United States as a small child with her family, tells the story of her parents, their life in wartime Vietnam and their subsequent immigration to the United States. Bui examines how events in her parents' pasts have shaped who they are and who she turned out to be, issues she's reflecting on since she is now a parent herself. This is a great choice for readers of memoirs or anyone interested in refugee stories. 

Bingo Love by Tee Franklin (Image Comics, 2018). Hazel and Mari meet at church bingo in 1963 and fall for each other, but in 1963 it's impossible for them to be together the way they want to be. They connect years later when they can finally really be together in this sweet f/f love story. Hand this to teens looking for love stories. 

Hey, Kiddo by Jarrett Krosoczka (Graphix, 2018). This powerful graphic memoir is an important story as Krosoczka writes from his experience as the child of a drug addict, raised by his grandparents. This book is a testament to the power of art to save. This is one of the most talked-about graphic novels of the year - a good choice for teens who like intense family stories. 

Speak: The Graphic Novel by Laurie Halse Anderson and Emily Carroll (Farrar, Straus, & Giroux, 2018). This graphic novel adaptation, published on the classic YA novel Speak's 20th anniversary, introduces this powerful novel to a new generation. It's really well done with intense, black and white art that reflects the mood of the story. For readers who have read and love Speak or teen readers who are new to it, this is a great choice. 

If you are shopping for graphic novel readers this year, I hope you'll find something on here for the reader on your list. 

Monday, December 10, 2018

12 Days of Giving: Social Justice Tweens & Teens

I'll be posting themed book lists with book giving ideas for a variety of ages and interests every day Dec. 1 - 12. Check the label Twelve Days of Giving for all the lists. Shopping for someone specific? Drop me a comment with ages/interests (including adults!) and I'll be happy to make some suggestions. Don't forget your local indie bookstore and if you don't have a favorite indie, might I suggest ordering from The Bain Lair Bookstore

If you're shopping for socially conscious tweens or teens this year, there are lots of great choices for books that will make young readers think and that make for great discussions. 

For middle graders:

Amal Unbound by Aisha Saeed (Nancy Paulsen Books, 2018). When Amal has a run-in with a powerful man at her Pakistani market, she finds herself in debt to him. Her family is poor and the only way she can pay off the debt is by working in indentured servitude at the Khan estate. For kids who are interested in the plights of kids in other countries or reader's of Malala's book, this is a super choice. 

Ghost Boys by Jewell Parker Rhodes (Little, Brown, 2018). Narrated by the ghost of a boy shot and killed by a police officer, this is a middle-grade novel for kids interested in The Hate U Give but not quite ready for teen novels. The only person who can see Jerome's ghost is 12-year old Sarah, the daughter of the officer that shot him, so we see how that tragic mistake has affected her family, too. This is a heart-wrenching book for kids ready to enter into some heavy discussion or who are concerned about stories they're seeing on the news.

P.S. I Miss You by Jen Petro-Roy (Feiwel & Friends, 2018). Evie misses her big sister Cilla. Cilla did what no good Catholic girl does: she got pregnant and her parents sent her away to have the baby. Evie misses her sister and doesn't understand why Cilla won't write her back. Evie could really use Cilla's advice... because Evie's got her first crush... and it's on a girl. This middle-grade novel deals with a lot of big issues and I especially appreciated how Evie deals with all of it in light of the faith she's been raised in. 

Refugee by Alan Gratz (Scholastic, 2017). Told in multiple perspectives, this novel shows refugee journeys from three different time periods in history. It's a riveting adventure story and a heart-wrenching drama that will appeal to kids who like action-filled stories or kids who have been hearing about refugees on the news. 

For teens:

Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi (Henry Holt, 2018). This is a riveting fantasy story that's great for fans of magical stories, but with its focus on class and oppression, this is also a great choice for teens noticing oppression in the world around them. When the magic disappeared from their world, the monarchy attacked the maji, making them into the lowest class. Zelie has a chance to bring the magic back to her world, but it's going to take a harrowing journey to make it happen. 

Give Me Some Truth by Eric Gansworth (Scholastic, 2018). All Carson really wants to do is win Battle of the Bands and get a start on his music career. But when his brother has an altercation at the local, racist restaurant Custard's Last Stand (a particularly offensive name to the Indians living on the nearby Tuscorora reservation), Carson finds himself getting involved and his actions have repercussions beyond what he could have imagined. This is a particularly good choice for young musicians and fans of classic rock, but hand this to any teen interested in activism. 

Hearts Unbroken by Cynthia Leitich Smith (Candlewick, 2018). Not only is this a great character-driven story about a teen figuring out what she wants in relationships and life, but I love how protagonist Louise stands up to the microagressions she experiences as a Muscogee (Creek) woman. This is a great choice for readers who like strong characters to identify with or books about contemporary teens figuring life out. 

How It Went Down by Kekla Magoon (Henry Holt, 2014). When 16-year-old Tariq is shot, different people have different ideas of how it went down. This novel is told from multiple perspectives and will really get teens thinking about how the same event can look different to different people as Tariq's community struggles to deal with the tragedy. 

A Very Large Expanse of Sea by Tahereh Mafi (HarperTeen, 2018). Set in 2002, just post 9/11, this book is about a Muslim-American teen Shirin navigating high school in a hostile world. She knows exactly how cruel people can be, which is why she usually tunes them out, taking advantage of her hijab to hide her earbuds. But her new lab partner Ocean is impossible to tune out and before long Shirin wonders if she could actually be falling for him. But Shirin knows that it could never work out between her and a white guy. Even if her parents would accept him, she'd be putting him in the crossfires of racism that he's never experienced before. This is a good choice for readers who like love stories, but not necessarily romance. 

Any of these might make great choices if you're buying for tweens or teens interested in current events, social justice, and improving their world. 

Sunday, December 9, 2018

12 Days of Giving: Laugh Out Loud

I'll be posting themed book lists with book giving ideas for a variety of ages and interests every day Dec. 1 - 12. Check the label Twelve Days of Giving for all the lists. Shopping for someone specific? Drop me a comment with ages/interests (including adults!) and I'll be happy to make some suggestions. Don't forget your local indie bookstore and if you don't have a favorite indie, might I suggest ordering from The Bain Lair Bookstore

When I was on the library front lines at the Children's and Teen desks, I can't tell you how many requests I got for funny books. Here are some of my favorites!

The Bad Guys by Aaron Blabey (Scholastic, 2017). I'm cheating because I've already mentioned this series over in the Chapter Books list, but this series is funny enough that it deserves more than one mention. It's easy enough for young readers, but has broad appeal for a wide range of ages and it's laugh-out-loud funny. 

Harriet the Invincible (Hamster Princess) by Ursula Vernon (Dial, 2015). This series is a super funny, highly illustrated fantasy adventure starring a hamster princess who sets out to have adventures before facing the curse placed on her at her birth. Each volume in this fun series retells a different fairy tale, so these are great for readers who like fractured fairy tales. 

It Ain't So Awful Falafel by Firoozah Dumas (Clarion, 2016). Zomorod and her family immigrated to the US from Iran and all she wants is to fit in. So she gives herself a new American name (Cindy) and tries to explain trick-or-treating to her parents (they find it hard to believe that Halloween is about children begging throughout the neighborhood), but fitting in becomes even harder when Iran starts to make headlines for its protests, revolution, and taking of American hostages. This one is definitely a mix of funny and serious, a story with a lot of heart. 

Narwhal: Unicorn of the Sea by Ben Clanton (Tundra Books, 2016). This is a super cute, short graphic novel that's a sure crowd pleaser. It's almost picture-book length, but the format is smaller and thicker than a typical picture book. Narwhal is happy-go-lucky and his friend Jellyfish is pretty serious. They might not have a lot in common, but they have lots of adventures together. This is a fun take on your friendship stories, perfect for fans of Bink & Golly or Frog & Toad. 

The Perilous Princess Plot by Sarah Courtald (Feiwel and Friends, 2015). This one's a laugh-out-loud funny book about a girl obsessed with becoming a princess and her practical sister who has to rescue her when plans go awry. It's a quick, easy read with lots of cartoony illustrations and wacky, witty humor that reminded me of Monty Python and/or Cressida Cowell's dragon books.

Skinnybones by Barbara Park (Yearling, 1982). So, first let me confess that this book had me laughing out loud when I WAS A KID. So, yes, IT'S OLD. But it's one of the best readalikes for Diary of a Wimpy Kid that I have read. And it was recently rebranded with a new, much more modern cover. Alex Frankovitch has one desire: not to win the Most Improved trophy on his baseball team this year. Because he keeps winning that one. And he has figured out that if you KEEP winning Most Improved every year, it just means you must have been pretty stinky to begin with. His big mouth keeps getting him into trouble, but he can talk himself out of anything... can't he? 

The Terrible Two by Mac Barnett and Jory John (Abrams, 2015). Miles Murphy was the prank king at his old school and he's eager to make a name for himself at his new school. Only trouble is, his new school already has a master prankster. And so begins an epic prank war. Hilarious. Highly illustrated, so you'll want the book, but I have to say that the audiobook is great on this one, too. 

I hope this lists brings you lots of giggles this holiday season!

Saturday, December 8, 2018

12 Days of Giving: Fantasy Fanatics

I'll be posting themed book lists with book giving ideas for a variety of ages and interests every day Dec. 1 - 12. Check the label Twelve Days of Giving for all the lists. Shopping for someone specific? Drop me a comment with ages/interests (including adults!) and I'll be happy to make some suggestions. Don't forget your local indie bookstore and if you don't have a favorite indie, might I suggest ordering from The Bain Lair Bookstore

If you're shopping for fantasy fans this holiday season, this list is for you! Depending on the type of fantasy your reader loves, you may also want to check out the Mythology Mania list - there are some great Percy Jackson readalikes on there.


Akata Witch and Akata Warrior by Nnedi Okorafor (Viking, 2011 and 2017). Buy this for your middle school Harry Potter readers looking for a magical fantasy. I just love the world-building and the magical community set in modern day Nigeria. Sunny was born in America but her family has returned to Nigeria where Sunny discovers that she is part of a magic community known as leopard people. Her magical training can't start soon enough because she and her friends will be facing a super magical baddie, a serial killer who kills children. Don't skimp on this one - buy 'em both for greater reader satisfaction (we had to wait SIX YEARS for the sequel!). 

The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill (Algonquin, 2016). Every year, the villagers put out a baby as a sacrifice to the witch who lives in the woods. And every year, the witch sets out on a quest to save the baby that the villagers abandon for some reason. But when the witch accidentally feeds one of the babies moonlight instead of starlight on the journey, magic begins to grow inside the child. To protect Luna, the witch binds the magic tightly, but now Luna's coming of age and it's time for her to start protecting those who have always protected her. This is a rich, compelling magical story with wonderful, endearing supporting characters. This standalone is a sure bet for middle grade fantasy fans. 

Harriet the Invincible (Hamster Princess series) by Ursula Vernon (Dial, 2015). This series is so cute and great for fans of funny fantasy adventure, particularly fans of fractured fairy tales and/or highly illustrated books. When Harriet's parents tell her about the curse placed on her at birth - she will prick her finger on a hamster wheel on her twelfth birthday and fall into a deep sleep - Harriet is thrilled. She knows that curses are powerful magic and this one guarantees that she will live until her 12th birthday, so she sets off to live the life of adventure she's always wanted. Each book in this series gives a fresh take on a classic fairy tale and they're laugh-out-loud funny. 


Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi (Henry Holt, 2018). Zelie lives in a world without magic, a world where her people were persecuted after the magic disappeared. But now she has a chance to bring the magic back. She'll only have to risk everything. This is an absorbing fantasy novel that will please fans of epic fantasy adventure. 

The Reader (Sea of Ink and Gold trilogy) by Traci Chee (Speak, 2016). Set in a world without reading, Sefia discovers a magical, forbidden object - a book - that helps her on her quest to find her kidnapped aunt, the only surviving member of her family. This is a richly imagined fantasy that will definitely appeal to teens who appreciate the magic of the written word. The last book in the trilogy is out now, so scoop up all three to prevent cliffhanger desperation. 

Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik (Del Ray, 2018). Naomi Novik is a must-read for me and her latest fantasy novel is a great bet for readers who love fairy tales. This richly imagined retelling of Rapunzel features a kick-ass heroine and a detailed, absorbing wooded setting. Miryem is the daughter of the moneylender, but her dad's too soft-hearted to be any good at it and her family lives in poverty until Miryem takes matters into her own hands. It turns out that Miryem is really successful as a moneylender. Maybe too successful, as she attracts the attention of the creatures that haunt her wood and start demanding that she turn silver to gold for them. Readers who love a detailed tapestry of a book will love this one. It'll make for great fireside reading this winter. 

Make your holiday giving magical this year for your favorite fantasy fans!

Friday, December 7, 2018

12 Days of Giving: For Nonfiction Lovers

I'll be posting themed book lists with book giving ideas for a variety of ages and interests every day Dec. 1 - 12. Check the label Twelve Days of Giving for all the lists. Shopping for someone specific? Drop me a comment with ages/interests (including adults!) and I'll be happy to make some suggestions. Don't forget your local indie bookstore and if you don't have a favorite indie, might I suggest ordering from The Bain Lair Bookstore

Many young readers gravitate towards nonfiction and love reading to learn things. Today I've got a bunch of my favorite nonfiction series and standalones for your nonfiction fan.

For younger readers...

I love National Geographic Kids Readers for their appealing color photos and well-designed layouts. They have books on a multitude of topics, from animals to robots to weather to trucks. Truly, you can't go wrong with National Geographic Kids. 

You Wouldn't Want To... (Franklin Watts) This funny nonfiction series explores different eras of history and historical events and points out all the crappy (pun intended!) things about them. They're great for 2nd/3rd grade and up and this is a series that has been popular at libraries for years. 

For middle readers...

Who Was... series (Penguin). Here's another perennially popular series at libraries - the Who Was? biography series. Something about these bobble-headed covers and the easy reading level and the fact that they're a series makes it so fun to try to read them ALL. 

Blast Back series by Nancy Ohlin (Simon & Schuster). These books are really accessible chapter books that each explore a different era of history. They're just perfect for getting a basic overview and would be good choices for kids who like general nonfiction. 

You Choose... series (Capstone). Remember Choose Your Own Adventure? These nonfiction books utilize that format to present a variety of topics from historical eras (Revolutionary War, space exploration, etc.) to mythology to survival. This is another series that has been super popular with my elementary age library patrons. 

I Survived True Stories by Janet Tarshis (Scholastic). These true stories by the author of the popular chapter book adventure series I Survived are riveting adventure stories. Each book collects a handful of true stories. Lots of young readers are fascinated by natural disasters and emergencies and this series is for them. 

Nathan Hale's Hazardous Tales by Nathan Hale (Abrams). This graphic novel series explores events in American history with an irreverent, funny tone. This is a great series for avid graphic novel readers who are interested in history and each volume has plenty of adventure. 

Science Comics (First Second). Each volume in this series explores a different science topic. A variety of authors and artists contribute to this series, so styles will vary. If you have a young reader who loves graphic novels and science, this is a sure bet. 

For older readers...

Chasing King's Killer: The Hunt for Martin Luther King, Jr.'s Assassin by James L. Swanson (Scholastic, 2018). This year was a big year for anniversaries, and one of those was the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. This riveting history adventure follows the folks who hunted down MLK's assassin after his murder. This is a great choice for kids who like history or who like adventure stories. And James L. Swanson has several history books along this ilk, all of which are great (Chasing Lincoln's Killer, "The President Has Been Shot!"). 

Mary's Monster: Love, Madness, and How Mary Shelley Created Frankenstein by Lita Judge (Roaring Brook, 2018). This biography of Mary Shelley is written in verse and illustrated with creepy, atmospheric paintings by Lita Judge. If you have a reader who's interested in gothic literature or loves a story with tons of drama (seriously: Mary Shelley's life was like a soap opera with tragedy after tragedy), this is a great choice, especially since 2018 was the 200th anniversary of the original publication of Frankenstein. 

Path to the Stars: My Journey from Girl Scout to Rocket Scientist by Sylvia Acevedo (Clarion Books, 2018). This memoir by the CEO of the Girls Scouts of the USA is a testament to the American Dream and the power of organizations for young people. Sylvia Acevedo was the daughter of immigrants and, through the Girl Scouts, found not only a place to belong but a place where she could learn new skills and  start on her life's path. This would be a perfect gift for those involved in the Girl Scouts or any readers who enjoy reading about real people's lives. 

Spooked! How a Radio Broadcast and the War of the Worlds Sparked the 1938 Invasion of America by Gail Jarrow (Calkins Creek, 2018). This year was the 80th anniversary of this historic radio broadcast that terrified many in America into thinking that aliens actually had landed in New Jersey. Hand this to fans of American history and hoaxes, especially those who think pranking the entire country would be hi-lar-ious. My favorite part of this book is the inclusion of letters that the radio station received, a mix of angry demands that the radio station be more careful and dismay that listeners were dumb enough to believe it was real.

Undefeated: Jim Thorpe and the Carlisle Indian School Football Team by Steve Sheinkin (Roaring Brook, 2017). This is a great choice for teens who are interested in the history of sports. There's plenty of play-by-play football action and I found the entire book to be really compelling reading.

There is so much great nonfiction for young people being published. These are some of my favorites, but I could go on and on and on. Whenever possible, I recommend following your young reader's interests, but if you're ever not sure I think any of these are pretty good bets for lots of readers.