Friday, May 04, 2018

The Scorpion Rules

If you don’t like post-apocalyptic stories, or stories about princesses, or stories with love triangles, then you’ll absolutely LOVE this book about all three! The Scorpion Rules by author Erin Bow is from the point-of-view of Greta—Princess of a post-apocalyptic Canada-- who is in a love triangle with her two best friends (Don’t worry though; this is one of the best teen romances you’ll ever read!)

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"It was never going to have been a fairy tale for us.
There are no fairy tales about two princesses.” 
This book is set far in the future, after the planet has been devastated by drought and war-- and after it has been saved from those troubles by an evil robot overlord. 

Rogue A.I. Talis has figured out that global war, death, and destruction is kind of a hindrance to the continuation of the human race, so he decides to take things into his own global satellite death-rays. One of his most effective methods is by holding the children of world leaders hostage. Should their families ever declare war on another country, their children’s lives are forfeit.

Image result for erin bow
Erin Bow-- A sweet-looking
lady capable of Great Evil
and Many Feels
Still, life is decent enough for these children of peace, even with the threat of death looming over them 24/7 (Literally-- See: Global satellite death-rays). They live in a compound where they are taught how to eventually run their countries, as well as how to sustain themselves with activities such as cider-making and goat wrangling. Things are almost pastoral and peaceful; that is, until the grandson of a new president makes a rather chaotic appearance, bringing the threat of a new war with him. When the adults cause trouble that could bring about the total annihilation of pretty much everyone, it’s up to the children to clean up the mess.

This book is suspenseful, complex, and chock full of wonderful characters. A.I. Talis is a delightful villain who really steals the spotlight with his humorous wit and mystery, while main character Greta is a great companion through the story, bringing the viewpoint of this wild neo-fairy-tale down to earth. Recommended for anyone looking for a book that will make them cry and laugh in the space of 5 minutes.

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Space, check
Pirates, check
A great read, double check
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All I can say is:
Bring your tissues

For another great book with a fun yet practical female protagonist, check out Katya’s World; and you won’t want to miss Erin Bow’s stand-alone debut, Plain Kate.

Thursday, May 03, 2018

Wings of Fire

     People always say, "Don't judge a book by its cover!" However; while I have found that this sentiment extends to pretty much everything (People, vegetables, etc.) the one thing it doesn’t (Usually) apply to is books. A cover can tell you a lot about a book. I will always choose a book with a nice custom illustration with heart and soul over something with a bland, boring, and badly-photo shopped cover. That is what made me pick up this series illustrated by Joy Ang; with its bright colors, great character illustration, and rich backgrounds it was just BEGGING to be read. I'm so glad I listened!

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     Wings of Fire: The Dragonet Prophecy is the first book in the ten-book-and-counting series (Plus four novellas, one super edition, and one graphic novel) written by Tui T. Sutherland. The series is about the land of Pyrrhia, a continent ruled by dragons and torn apart by a war of succession for the throne of the SandWings. There is a prophecy that says that five dragonets will hatch on the brightest night and choose the new queen to end the fighting and save all 7 dragon tribes; much to the chagrin of those benefiting from the war. An outlaw group known as The Talons of Peace are bound and determined to make sure this prophecy comes true… No matter what.

     This series is a lot of fun and full of suspense. It’s easy to lose track of time and read the whole book in one day, because you just HAVE to know what happens! These books also have a good moral about peace and unity, and do not shy away from the harsh consequences of the war. It gets pretty intense; so sensitive readers be cautious.

     If you like these books, then you’ll probably love Warriors by author team Erin Hunter (Who Sutherland has written for), as well as their other animal-based stories Seekers, Survivors, and Bravelands.

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Cover image for Cover image for Cover image for

Wednesday, May 02, 2018

Earth Before Us: Dinosaur Empire!

Fifth-grader Ronnie has one more chance to make up for her flunked quiz on dinosaurs; but she’s going to have a tough time of it, since she can’t figure out the difference between a T-rex and Godzilla. Luckily on her walk home from school she bumps into Ms. Lernin, her former Paleontologist neighbor with an eccentric personality and a yard full of dino bones. With the help of Ms. Lernin (And a little Science Magic) Ronnie is transported back in time to learn all about Mesozoic era and the critters living in it.

Abby Howard is the writer and illustrator of this informative, fun, and funny graphic novel. The author studied evolutionary biology prior to becoming a full-time cartoonist, and she marries the two beautifully with her detailed yet accessible explanations of her prehistoric subjects and her marvelous full-color comic pages. Her style is partially cartoony, balanced with accurate depictions of our understanding of dinosaurs (Yes! The T-rex here has feathers!)

Exploring the Mesozoic

Kids of all ages who love dinosaurs will love reading Earth Before Us: Dinosaur Empire! and will take away a lot of knowledge from it, too. The pages are packed with fun creatures to learn about, and pronunciation guides are provided for each one so you can easily learn their names.

Want more dinosaurs? Try the Smithsonian’s ‘Dinosaur!’

For more historical comic books, check out books by Nathan Hale, such as ‘Underground Abductor’.

Tuesday, May 01, 2018

The Wasp That Brainwashed the Caterpillar

Evolution's Most Unbelieveable Solutions
To Life's Biggest Problems

How did the Pistol Shrimp get its name? Why are Naked Mole Rats naked? What in the world is a Tongue-Eating Isopod??

There are answers to these questions and many more that you didn’t necessarily need (Or want) to know in ‘The Wasp That Brainwashed the Caterpillar’ by Matt Simon.

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Image result for the wasp that brainwashed the caterpillar

This fun and episodic book examines the quirky traits of some of the quirkiest critters on the face of the Earth. You’ll meet the caterpillar-turned-bad-hairpiece Asp Caterpillar, the creative communicator the Lowland Streaked Tenrec, and the rather adorable Pink Fairy Armadillo. (You’ll also see a number of gross and creepy creatures; the less said about zombie ants, the better!)

This is a read packed full of facts and snarky commentary, with many different kinds of evolutionary weirdos gracing its pages. There are over 35 featured animals, with a fungi or two thrown in for color.

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Whether you’re a huge biology buff or your animal interests stop at knowing what a Zebra is, you’ll be sure to find some interesting facts and laugh-out-loud quips in this handy little book.

If you like animal facts, try 'The Illustrated Compendium Of Amazing Animal Factsby Maja Säfström.

And for an epic series about the natural world, check out 'Planet Earth'. 

(And don’t forget to share this book with an easily grossed-out friend.)

Monday, April 30, 2018

Junji Ito's Cat Diary: Yon & Mu

Junji Ito is a Japanese manga artist infamous for his tales of terror and demented drawings. His work is very influential in the realm of horror entertainment, with many of his comics being adapted into film, and he has worked with some familiar names in spooky storytelling like Hideo Kojima and Guillermo Del Toro. He is famous for his themes of body horror, the breakdown of society, and mortality.
What Adorable Terrors

But this is a book about kittens.

Despite being penned by one of the biggest names in Japanese horror, Junji Ito’s Cat Diary is actually a lighthearted slice-of-life comic about his family and their adventures when they adopt two adorable cats. Ito starts the book being very resistant to the idea of adding new feline family members as he worries about them scratching the walls and making a mess. But at his wife’s insistence, the cats come anyway, and he finds himself falling in love.

The Resident Escape Artist
The book chronicles many aspects of cat ownership that will likely be familiar to those that have been owners themselves: playtime, nap time, and a harrowing account of a kitty jailbreak. In many places, the everyday situations paired with the over-the-top illustrations create moments of unique comedy that only a book like this could provide.

This book would be perfect for any cat owner or manga enthusiast; but anyone looking for a good distinctive book of humor or for a good example of genre fusion would enjoy this as well.

If you’d like a different horror manga, check out Death Note by Tsugumi Oba.

    If you’re interested in other books involving humorous cats, take a look at Simon’s Cat.

Friday, April 27, 2018

The Grasshopper and the Ants

        Traditional tales sometimes disappear in popular culture, with the appeal of digital storytelling and books based on television shows and movies showing up in book form.All those wonderful stories that delighted generations can somehow seem old hat to younger families, However, when award winning author/illustrator Jerry Pinkney takes a tale, it's sure to become a treasure, a dear old literary friend worth reviving.
       This is a shout out for The Grasshopper and the Ants (2015) by Jerry Pinkney. Now that spring has finally made it possible for children to go out and play, I strongly recommend that you check it out. From the cover art to the end papers, Pinkney's images overflow, spilling with color and detail creating the ecosystem where the insects live in a lush green garden. The title of the book is spelled out in text echoing the living plants populating the book. Even the text of the story is printed with different colors for each line. It's simply a marvel, this telling of the old tale, based on one of Aesop's fables.
       Grasshopper is dressed in a red plaid vest, a blue polka dot bow tie, a straw hat, sitting on a drum near a banjo and a red concertina, a one-man band with a fishing rod in one hand, leafy green umbrella in the other."Why work so hard?" he asks the hard working ants on a beautiful spring day. Of course, the ants are loaded with work ethic, and won't join him in music and dancing, as summer, fall and winter come on. Grasshopper jumps in the leaves, and makes snow angels and " snow-hoppers" in winter while the ants disappear underground. Grasshopper, realizing he is now alone, goes door to door looking for a way in, and the ants won't open up. On a page without text, the ants are pictured spinning yarn, making beds, loading the stove with firewood, preparing food for their little ones, while poor Grasshopper sits on his drum in the snow, banjo over his head. But one kindly Queen Aunt invites him in for a cup of tea, and the ants eventually warm up to him, the kindly artist/entertainer who plays music for him their underground abode.
      In the traditional tale, no mention is made of what happens to the Grasshopper. I love how Pinkney turns the ending to one of kindness and generosity, and at the same time, he provides a clue on the final end paper, that Grasshopper has learned to plan better for the next winter. Look closely to see if you can find it!
      I hope you'll be curious about Jerry Pinkney's many picture books in our collection. He won the Caldecott award in 2010 for another Aesop's fable, The Lion and the Mouse, a mostly wordless book with a few sound effects in text ("squeak, squeak" for mice,"ROARRRRRRR!" for the lion). The Tortoise and the Hare (2013) is another beautiful rendition of an often told story. All of these books and more in our collection feature the work of one of the finest artists in picture books. Pinkney won the 2016  Coretta Scott King/ Virginia Hamilton Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Library Association.If you have never seen his work, now is a very good time. As the Grasshopper would say, "Come play!" 

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Teddy's Favorite Toy

     I love books that upset stereotypes. In a world with more gender fluidity, picture books ought to offer some new windows, and fortunately publishers are beginning to agree.
 Teddy's Favorite Toy is a story about a boy and his favorite doll named "Bren-Da, Queen of Pacifica" who has great manners and " the sickest fighting skills".Teddy dresses her in a variety of amazing and creative costumes, using whatever he has at hand, including socks, his mom's shoe, an astronaut's helmet and a toy dinosaur. But one day, after some energetic play, Bren-Da loses a leg. Teddy does his best to repair her, but it doesn't work. He goes off to school, and his mom finds the broken, wrapped up doll and tosses her in the trash.
   But the story doesn't end here, or with a crying Teddy. moaning about his lost toy. I won't give away the ending, but I will say his mom displays some "impressive moves".
   Author Christian Trimmer was inspired to write this book because he had a Lynda Carter Wonder Woman doll as a boy. Illustrator Madeline Valentine brings the colors,energy and style that make the book playful and satisfying. I love the brevity of the text, the simple narrative that just makes it feel so comforting to see a boy and his mom who loves him as he is, with his yellow print shirt and his love of  many toys,including a doll. There's no drama, just fun.
   If you enjoy other picture books that challenge stereotypes, check out Morris Micklewhite and the Tangerine Dress, about a boy who faces challenges from his peers when he wears a dress, and one of my favorites, Sparkle Boy by the author of Heather Has Two Mommies, Leslea Newman. In Sparkle Boy, the adults give the main character unconditional love, while his older sister is appalled.  I Am Jazz features a transgender child, a child born a boy who knows from a very young age that he is truly a girl.  Jazz Jennings, the author of the book is an advocate for transgender children and teens. The subject is handled with respect; Booklist said it presented " a reassuring message for other different children." Let's hope more books offer this kind of empathy for children who make choices other than those traditional gender roles suggest.