Thursday, March 23, 2017

Arc Review: Henry and the Chalk Dragon by Jennifer Trafton


Henry and the Chalk Dragon by Jennifer Trafton. Illustrated by Benjamin Schipper. 220 p. Rabbit Room Press, April 28, 2017. 9780986381881. (Review from arc courtesy of Blue Slip Media)

Henry is an artist and a bit of an oddity at La Muncha Elementary School. His teachers and classmates don't know what a great artist Henry is because he does not share his art - not even with his very best friend. When he refuses to color a ridiculous bunny template for his class' entry into an "Eat Your Vegetables" art show in the cafeteria, a note is sent home. His parents are supportive of Henry's talents. His mother allows him to draw on his bedroom walls. Indeed, she created a surface upon which Henry can draw, erase and draw again to his heart's content. They encourage him to take part in the school project but Henry absolutely cannot. He gets quite angry, in fact. He's also angry about a few other things. The kids at school don't treat him kindly and he recently got angry with his very best friend, Oscar and there's a ripped up something under his bed to prove it.

As Henry reluctantly gets ready to go to school, the magnificent dragon that he drew on his wall slips off and into his backpack. Henry has no choice but to bring him to school. He dons a suit of armor because that's what knights do and boards the school bus, where he is ridiculed. His ally, the bus driver, who sees Henry for what he is, isn't able to help Henry. 

Once inside school, the dragon slips out of the backpack and magical mayhem ensues. It's all explained away by the clueless adults who cannot "see" the dragon. It's up to Henry to subdue his work of art who seems to be able to change into anything Henry has drawn in his secret sketchpad. He is joined by Oscar and Jade, the new girl at school. Jade is fierce. She is a poet along the lines of traveling minstrels and has been watching Henry very closely. She sees Henry's potential. If only Henry would recognize the ally that she is!

This book is quirky with a capital Q. I will admit that quirky sometimes rubs me the wrong way. When I read the back jacket and saw that the name of the town was Squashbuckle, I was ready to be rubbed. Thankfully, my edges were smoothed on the first page by the wonder of Henry's door and the lovely, evocative writing. There are lots of italics and the occasional odd capitalization for emphasis that lend charm, like "Work of Art." Speaking of art, the cover, with it's slate feel and chalk writing, is perfect; as are the bits of spot art that were available in the arc I read.

I cannot wait for the book to come out so that I can get it into the hands of a variety of readers - my artists, my quiet kids, my kids who want adventure, my kids who want funny (because many of the scenes are laugh-out-loud funny), ...any of my kids really.

Visit the author's site for a terrific curriculum guide








Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Waiting on Wednesday: The Wild Robot Escapes by Peter Brown


The Wild Robot Escapes by Peter Brown. 288 p. Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, October 3, 2017. 
9780316382045.
Publisher synopsis: Shipwrecked on a remote, wild island, Robot Roz learned from the unwelcoming animal inhabitants and adapted to her surroundings--but can she survive the challenges of the civilized world and find her way home to Brightbill and the island?

From bestselling and award-winning author and illustrator Peter Brown comes a heartwarming and action-packed sequel to his New York Times bestselling The Wild Robotabout what happens when nature and technology collide.

I learned about this a couple of weeks ago on Fuse#8. I must confess, when I saw the words, "Cover Reveal" and Fuse#8 come up on my feeder, I thought, "Wow, she's doing a lot of cover reveals lately." Then, chuckled as I read the introduction. Yes, Betsy, you're right. There's no way you could pass this up. This news thrills and delights me. Keep up the good work!

Monday, March 20, 2017

Blog Tour Review: I am (Not) Scared by Anna Kang. Illustrated by Christopher Weyant


I am (Not) Scared by Anna Kang. Illustrated by Christopher Weyant. unpgd. Two Lions/ Amazon Publishing, March 21, 2017. 9781503947451. (Finished copy courtesy of Blue Slip Media)

Happy book birthday tomorrow to I am (Not) Scared! The husband and wife team who brought us the delightful, Geisel Award winning You are (Not) Small and the equally delightful That's (Not) Mine, are back with the perfect book about conquering fear. 

Neither furry creature looks particularly happy on the cover. Our Mutt and Jeff bear friends are headed to the amusement park. Little purple bear looks happy and big brown bear does not. Little bear announces, "You are scared." Big bear denies this and asks, "Are you?" Little bear asserts that he is brave and states, "You look scared."

Big bear admits, "...maybe a little." We learn that the two are waiting to ride the LOOP OF DOOM. Little bear says there are much scarier things than rides...like snakes. The two friends imagine other scary things before coming face-to-face with the car they need to ride the roller coaster in. What's in the car? A snake! He's just ridden the roller coaster and wants to go again!

Simple sentences, plenty of white space and adorable pen and ink and water color illustrations convey the thrilling terror that a ride on a roller coaster, as well as other fears, can bring. The kids I read this to were unfamiliar with the two previous books. They were so taken by our two furry friends that they immediately demanded that I order the first two for their next read aloud. A spontaneous discussion of fears arose in a natural and comfortable way. 

Visit the author's website or click here for an activity guide. Visit the illustrator's website here.

All three books are adorable, hilarious and absolutely first-purchases! 





Sunday, March 19, 2017

What's New? Stacking the Shelves


Stacking the Shelves is a weekly meme hosted by Tynga's Reviews. Hop on over there to ogle what other bloggers got this week.

Purchased: I finally got to [words] bookstore for an author event Saturday. I was a bit worried that the weather would make traveling treacherous but it cooperated and I found the store easily enough.

They were hosting a middle grade panel featuring Sally J. Pla, Holly McGhee, Barry LygaDonna Jo Napoli and David Wiesner! There was quite a crowd so I'm glad I got there early. I purchased all the author's books for signing afterward and of course a couple more.



The Someday Birds by Sally J. Pla. 328 p. Harper/ HarperCollins Publishers, February, 2017. 9780062445766.

Publisher synopsis: Charlie’s perfectly ordinary life has been unraveling ever since his war journalist father was injured in Afghanistan.


When his father heads from California to Virginia for medical treatment, Charlie reluctantly travels cross-country with his boy-crazy sister, unruly brothers, and a mysterious new family friend. He decides that if he can spot all the birds that he and his father were hoping to see someday along the way, then everything might just turn out okay.
Debut author Sally J. Pla has written a tale that is equal parts madcap road trip, coming-of-age story for an autistic boy who feels he doesn’t understand the world, and an uplifting portrait of a family overcoming a crisis.



The Secret Sea by Barry Lyga. 434 p. Feiwel and Friends, August, 2016. 9781250072832.

Publisher synopsis: Twelve-year-old Zak Killian is hearing a voice. Could it be a guardian angel? A ghost? No, that's crazy. But sometimes the voice is so real. . . . It warns him of danger.

One day Zak is standing on the subway platform when the tunnel starts to fill with water. He sees it before anyone else. The voice warns him to run. His friends Moira and Khalid believe this is more than a premonition, and soon all three find themselves in an alternate universe that is both familiar and seriously strange. As Zak unravels the mystery behind the voice, he faces decisions that may mean the end of their world at home—if they can even get home!
In his most propulsive and heartfelt book yet, acclaimed author Barry Lyga explores the depths of friendship, the bonds of family, and the nature of the universe itself.



Matylda, Bright & Tender by Holly McGhee. 210 p. Candlewick Press, March, 2017. 9780763689513.

Publisher synopsis: Sussy and Guy are best friends, fourth-graders who share their silliest thoughts and deepest hopes. One afternoon, the two of them decide they must have something of their very own to love. After a trip to the pet store, they bring home a spotted lizard, the one with the ancient face and starfish toes, and they name her Matylda (with a y so it’s all her own). With Guy leading the way, they feed her and give her an origin story fit for a warrior lizard. A few weeks later, on a simple bike ride, there is a terrible accident. As hard as it is, Sussy is sure she can hold on to Guy if she can find a way to love Matylda enough. But in a startling turn of events, Sussy reconsiders what it means to grieve and heal and hope and go on, for her own sake and Matylda’s. By turns both devastating and buoyant, this story is a brave one, showing how far we can justify going for a real and true friend.


Fish Girl by David Wiesner & Donna Jo Napoli.

Publisher synopsis: The triple Caldecott winner David Wiesner brings his rich visual imagination and trademark artistry to the graphic novel format in a unique coming-of-age tale that begins underwater. A young mermaid, called Fish Girl, in a boardwalk aquarium has a chance encounter with an ordinary girl. Their growing friendship inspires Fish Girl's longing for freedom, independence, and a life beyond the aquarium tank. Sparkling with humor and brilliantly visualized, Fish Girl's story will resonate with every young person facing the challenges and rewards of growing up.



Double Down by Jeff Kinney. Picked this up because I recently discovered my library's copy had been "borrowed without being checked out."



The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas. 444 p. Balzer + Bray/ HarperCollins, February, 2017. 9780062498533.

Publisher synopsis: Inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement, Angie Thomas’s searing debut about an ordinary girl in extraordinary circumstances addresses issues of racism and police violence with intelligence, heart, and unflinching honesty. Soon to be a major motion picture from Fox 2000/Temple Hill Productions.


Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed.
Soon afterward, his death is a national headline. Some are calling him a thug, maybe even a drug dealer and a gangbanger. Protesters are taking to the streets in Khalil’s name. Some cops and the local drug lord try to intimidate Starr and her family. What everyone wants to know is: what really went down that night? And the only person alive who can answer that is Starr.
But what Starr does—or does not—say could upend her community. It could also endanger her life.

That's what's new with me. What's new with you?

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Waiting on Wednesday: Warcross by Marie Lu


Warcross by Marie Lu. 416 p. Penguin Young Readers Group, October 3, 2017. 9780399547966.

Publisher synopsis: For the millions who log in every day, Warcross isn’t just a game—it’s a way of life. The obsession started ten years ago and its fan base now spans the globe, some eager to escape from reality and others hoping to make a profit. Struggling to make ends meet, teenage hacker Emika Chen works as a bounty hunter, tracking down players who bet on the game illegally. But the bounty-hunting world is a competitive one, and survival has not been easy. Needing to make some quick cash, Emika takes a risk and hacks into the opening game of the international Warcross Championships—only to accidentally glitch herself into the action and become an overnight sensation.
Convinced she’s going to be arrested, Emika is shocked when instead she gets a call from the game’s creator, the elusive young billionaire Hideo Tanaka, with an irresistible offer. He needs a spy on the inside of this year’s tournament in order to uncover a security problem . . . and he wants Emika for the job. With no time to lose, Emika’s whisked off to Tokyo and thrust into a world of fame and fortune that she’s only dreamed of. But soon her investigation uncovers a sinister plot, with major consequences for the entire Warcross empire.
In this sci-fi thriller, #1 New York Times bestselling author Marie Lu conjures an immersive, exhilarating world where choosing who to trust may be the biggest gamble of all.

Marie Lu has some avid fans at my school, including me. I was so impressed with her debut novel, Legend and even more impressed with the sequel, Prodigy. No middle volume blah here! And Champion? Had me sobbing. Her next series, The Young Elites, is quite intriguing and originalFinally, I love that cover!

Saturday, March 11, 2017

What's New? Stacking the Shelves


Stacking the Shelves is a weekly meme hosted by Tynga's Reviews. Hop on over there to ogle what other bloggers got this week.

For review: Two from Animal Planet!



Animal Bites: Animals on the Move by Dorothea DePrisco. 80 p. Liberty Street/ Time, Inc. March, 2017. 9781618931795.

Publisher synopsis: With more than 200 gorgeous photos of animals in their natural habitats, there's action and adventure on every page of Animal Planet Animals on the Move. This fast-moving addition to the Animal Bites series provides kids in the first years of schooling with the perfect bite-sized view of their favorite animals. Arranged thematically with a focus on animal behavior and family relationships, young readers will explore sections about migration, fast and slow, hunting and playing, and animal movement on land, in the air, and in water, Special book features designed for this age group include simple graphics and 'Just Like Me' sidebars with fascinating animal facts for young readers to learn more about themselves and the amazing animals that share our world. 



Animal Bites: Baby AnimalsDorothea DePrisco. 80 p. Liberty Street/ Time, Inc. March, 2017. 9781618931788.

Publisher synopsis: With more than 200 adorable photos of baby animals and their families, there's serious "aw" factor on every page of Animal Planet Baby Animals. This fun addition to the Animal Bites series provides kids in the first years of schooling with the perfect bite-sized view of their favorite animals. Arranged thematically with a focus on animal behavior and family relationships, young readers will explore sections about life cycles, feeding, play time, conservation, getting around, and much more. Special book features designed for this age group include simple infographics and 'All Grown Up' animal facts to help kids learn more about how young and adult animals differ-just like humans! 
For more Animal Bites books, check out Animal Planet Ocean Animals, Animal Planet Polar AnimalsAnimal Planet Wild Animals, Animal Planet Farm Animals, and Animal Planet Animals on the Move.
A portion of the proceeds from the sale of books in the Animal Bites series benefits the principal partners of R.O.A.R. (Reach Out. Act. Respond.), Animal Planet's initiative dedicated to improving the lives of animals in our communities and in the wild.



Rain by Sam Usher. unpgd. Candlewick Press, March 28, 2017. 9780763692964

Publisher synopsis: Sam and Granddad brave the rain and floods and have the best adventure ever!
Sam wants to go out, but it's pouring rain, so Granddad says they need to stay inside until the rain stops. Sam drinks hot chocolate and reads his books and dreams of adventures while Granddad does some paperwork. When Granddad needs to mail his letter, it’s time to go out—despite the rain and floods—and Sam and Granddad have a magical adventure. The follow-up to the acclaimed Snow, this is the second title in a four-book series based on the weather from creator Sam Usher.



Warren the 13th and the Whispering Woods by Tania del Rio. Warren the 13th Book 2. 237 p. Quirk Publishing, March 21, 2017. 9781594749292.

Publisher synopsis: Warren the 13th is back in another lushly illustrated middle grade adventure.
In the spirit of Edward Gorey and Tim Burton, this fast-paced and beautifully-designed sequel to Warren the 13th and the All-Seeing Eye is packed with nonstop action, adventure, and mystery for middle-grade readers. Twelve-year-old Warren has learned that his beloved hotel can walk, and now it’s ferrying guests around the countryside, transporting tourists to strange and foreign destinations. But when an unexpected detour brings everyone into the dark and sinister Malwoods, Warren finds himself separated from his hotel and his friends—and racing after them on foot through a forest teeming with witches, snakes, talking trees, and mind-boggling riddles, all accompanied by stunning illustrations and gorgeous design from Will Staehle on every page.

I reviewed the first Warren the 13th book here.

That's what's new with me. What's new with you?

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Waiting on Wednesday: Spy School: Secret Service by Stuart Gibbs


Spy School: Secret Service by Stuart Gibbs. 352 p. Simon & Schuster's Books for Young Readers, October 10, 2017. 9781481477826.

Publisher synopsis: Ben goes undercover in the White House to take on a SPYDER operative determined to assassinate the president in this latest addition to the New York Times bestselling Spy School series.

Thirteen-year-old Ben Ripley has had a lot of field success despite only just beginning his second year at Spy School, something graduates rarely experience. But he’d never have survived without the help from experienced agents and his friends.
Now he’s been called in on a solo mission—and the fate of the United States of America is on his shoulders alone.

The Mission: Prevent a presidential assassination by infiltrating the White House, and locating the enemy operative. But when the president’s son is as helpful as a hamster, and a trained SPYDER agent would never appear to be up to something (they’re far too clever for that), Ben may be in over his head this time.

And when everything goes wrong, Ben must rely on his Spy School friends to save his reputation...but even friends can double-cross or be swayed to the enemy’s side.

I haven't yet had the pleasure of reading this series, but I absolutely enjoy the Funjungle and Spacecase books. All of Gibbs' books are popular with my students.