Recently Read: Great Picture Books from Lucy Cousins, Mary Sullivan, Aaron Blabey & more!

Another spate of recently read wonderful picture books- with a board book tossed in for good measure! Everything from the new and terrifically vibrant, active read alouds, to cheeky and funny rhyming stories to the quietly gorgeous and interactive picture books. As ever ,I am in awe of the talent and innovation in picture books (and board books). I’ve starred the ones which I have used (and were a big hit!) at one of my storytimes.

Hooray for Birds! by Lucy Cousins*
Publication: March 28, 2017 by Candlewick Press

Treat by Mary Sullivan
Publication: March 1, 2016 by HMH Books for Young Readers

Pig the Pug by Aaron Blabey*
Publication: July 1, 2014 by Scholastic

Hello, Mr. Dodo! by Nicholas John Firth
Publication: January 31, 2017 by Arthur A. Levine Books

Not Quite Narwhal by Jessie Sima*
Publication: February 14, 2017 by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers

Tree: A Peek-Through Picture Book by Patricia Hegarty, illus. Britta Teckentrup
Publication: February 9, 2016 by Doubleday Books for Young Readers (this edition)

Chicken Story Time by Sandy Asher, illus. Mark Fearing*
Publication: December 13, 2016 by Dial Books

Charlotte and the Rock by Stephen W. Martin, illus. Samantha Cotterill
Publication: March 14, 2017 by Dial Books

Bunnybear by Andrea J. Loney, illus. Carmen Saldana*
Publication: January 31st 2017 by Albert Whitman Company

Tickle My Ears by Jörg Mühle (board book)*
Publication: September 2016 by Gecko Press (this edition)

Must Read Monday (65): Children’s titles from Lisa Thompson, Rachel Vail, Mike Lawrence & more!

Welcome to another edition of Must Read Monday!

This feature is where I spotlight older, recent, or upcoming releases I am looking forward to. The lists will include all genres I like to read, everything from picture books to comics, children’s lit to adult fiction!

This week: children’s fiction and graphic novels! First up, a unique-sounding middle grade mystery novel called The Goldfish Boy by Lisa Thompson. I have been reading very strong reviews for this one and cannot wait to read it. Next up is Well, That Was Awkward by Rachel Vail; another contemporary middle grade title which sounds great- and two reviewer friends have recently rated this title very highly. The next four titles on the docket this week are wonderful looking and sounding graphic novels: Star Scouts by Mike Lawrence; Drew Brockington‘s beyond adorable-looking CatStronauts; a new Pets on the Loose graphic novel by Roller Girl author-illustrator Victoria Jamieson; and last but not least, the incredibly unusual and delightful looking Lint Boy by Aileen Leijten.

 

The Goldfish Boy by Lisa Thompson
Publication: February 28, 2017 by Scholastic Press

Matthew Corbin suffers from severe obsessive-compulsive disorder. He hasn’t been to school in weeks. His hands are cracked and bleeding from cleaning. He refuses to leave his bedroom. To pass the time, he observes his neighbors from his bedroom window, making mundane notes about their habits as they bustle about the cul-de-sac.

When a toddler staying next door goes missing, it becomes apparent that Matthew was the last person to see him alive. Suddenly, Matthew finds himself at the center of a high-stakes mystery, and every one of his neighbors is a suspect. Matthew is the key to figuring out what happened and potentially saving a child’s life… but is he able to do so if it means exposing his own secrets, and stepping out from the safety of his home?

 

Well, That Was Awkward by Rachel Vail
Publication: February 28, 2017 by Viking Books for Young Readers

Gracie has never felt like this before. One day, she suddenly can’t breathe, can’t walk, can’t anything and the reason is standing right there in front of her, all tall and weirdly good-looking: A.J. It turns out A.J. likes not Gracie but Gracie’s beautiful best friend, Sienna. Obviously Gracie is happy for Sienna. Super happy! She helps Sienna compose the best texts, responding to A.J. s surprisingly funny and appealing texts, just as if she were Sienna. Because Gracie is fine. Always! She’s had lots of practice being the sidekick, second-best. Its all good. Well, almost all. She’s trying.

 

Star Scouts by Mike Lawrence
Publication: March 21, 2017 by First Second

Avani is the new kid in town, and she’s not happy about it. Everyone in school thinks she’s weird, especially the girls in her Flower Scouts troop. Is it so weird to think scouting should be about fun and adventure, not about makeovers and boys, boys, boys? But everything changes when Avani is “accidentally” abducted by a spunky alien named Mabel. Mabel is a scout too—a Star Scout. Collecting alien specimens (like Avani) goes with the territory, along with teleportation and jetpack racing. Avani might be weird, but in the Star Scouts she fits right in. If she can just survive Camp Andromeda, and keep her dad from discovering that she’s left planet Earth, she’s in for the adventure of a lifetime.

 

CatStronauts: Mission Moon (CatStronauts #1) by Drew Brockington
Publication: April 18, 2017 by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

When the world is thrust into darkness due to a global energy shortage, the Worlds Best Scientist comes up with a bold plan to set up a solar power plant on the moon. But someone has to go up there to set it up, and that adventure falls to the CatStronauts, the best space cats on the planet! Meet the fearless commander Major Meowser, brave-but-hungry pilot Waffles, genius technician and inventor Blanket, and quick thinking science officer Pom Pom on their most important mission yet! In this graphic novel, debut author and illustrator Drew Brockington breathes life into a world populated entirely by cats, brimming with jokes, charm, science, and enough big boxes and tuna sandwiches for everyone!

 

The Great Art Caper (Pets on the Loose #2) by Victoria Jamieson
Expected publication: June 13, 2017 by Henry Holt and Co. (BYR)

Things at Daisy P. Flugelhorn Elementary School have been quiet―too quiet. Cuddly yet calculating class hamster GW spends his days in second grade and his nights poetry slamming and jigsaw puzzling with his friends, Sunflower and Barry. GW has even started warming up to the second-grade students. Could he be making human friends? When the school art show is announced, GW learns of a dastardly plot―Harriet and her many minions are planning to ruin it! Once again, it’s up to GW, Sunflower, and Barry to stop to Harriet’s mousey madness.

 

Lint Boy by Aileen Leijten
Expected publication: June 27, 2017 by Clarion Books

Lint Boy and Lint Bear live in their cozy dryer home, carefree and happy—until the day Lint Bear is snatched away by a cruel woman with a vendetta against dolls! Can Lint Boy unite a group of lost dolls to vanquish the villain and save his brother?This magical story is showcased in the stunning full-color art of this young graphic novel. A gently gothic, age-appropriate blend of Roald Dahl and Tim Burton, Lint Boy is a compelling tale of good vs. evil that will leave readers spellbound.

 

Spotlight & Giveaway: Happy Dreamer by Peter H. Reynolds!

Welcome to a special post featuring Peter H. Reynolds’s Happy Dreamer and a giveaway, courtesy of Scholastic!

Read on to find out more about Happy Dreamer, my thoughts on the picture book, and how you can enter to win a copy. Thank you to Scholastic for sending me a copy for review.

About the Book

Happy Dreamer by Peter H. Reynolds
Release: March 28, 2017, recommended for ages 4-8

In the same spirit as OH, ALL THE PLACES YOU’LL GO!, the beloved, worldwide bestselling creator of The Dot and Ish inspires readers of every age to find their own unique path to happy, and to always follow their dreams with HAPPY DREAMER.

Picture book and creativity guru Peter H. Reynolds brings us a universally poignant celebration of the colorful spectrum of what it means to dream and the many ways to find happy!

While the world tells us to sit still, to follow the rules, and to color inside the lines, Happy Dreamer celebrates all those moments in between when the mind and spirit soar and we are free to become our own true dreamer maximus! In Peter’s signature voice and style, this empowering picture book reminds children of how much their dreams matter, and while life will have ups and downs, he enlists readers to stay true to who they are, to tap into their most creative inner selves, and to never ever forget to dream big!

Peter H. Reynolds’ latest inspirational book is a perfect gift for graduations, new babies, milestone moments, and any happy occasion throughout the year for any age!

Peter H. Reynolds has quite the number of acclaimed (and loved) picture books on his roster: everything from The Dot, Sky Color, Ish, to his illustrative work for the Judy Moody series, Someday and Tess’s Tree. Reynolds’s work encapsulates a kind of lovely positivity- always gently uplifting but not saccharine- and I consider myself quite a fan! Happy Dreamer is an ode to the ones who dream (excuse the La La Land nod!); the quiet dreamers, the loud dreamers, the colourful dreamers, the individuals who don’t fit and don’t feel right when forced into a tidy box. A broad theme in Reynolds’s work is that of expression and staying true to one’s self: that message carries across in Happy Dreamer with a lovely missive that the ‘best way to be a happy dreamer’ is to be one’s self. It is tricky to balance sweetness, guidance, praising individuality and proffering hope without veering off into a lane of moralizing, but Reynolds keeps the line firmly in the corner of encouragement.In the description above, comparisons are made to Oh, the Places You’ll Go!– a longtime staple (and standard) of gifts-to-grads. I personally have not reached the high levels of affinity for this particular Dr. Seuss title as many other readers have, but I would still like to content that Happy Dreamer is indeed as wonderful an inspirational bookish treat, just the right thing to hearten and show love and appreciation. The heartening, compassionate nature of his picture books often reminds me of work by authors such as Alison McGhee, as well as the work of Amy Krouse Rosenthal and Patrick McDonnell. Any readers who have already read and enjoyed Reynolds’ previous work or have enjoyed work by the aforementioned authors might especially appreciate Happy Dreamer.

About the Author

Peter is a New York Times bestselling children’s book author and illustrator of many books for children, including the Judy Moody series, written by Meghan McDonald; The Dot; Ish; Sky Color; and Allison McGhee’s Someday, selling more than two million books in over 25 languages around the globe. In 1996, he founded FableVision with his brother Paul as a social change agency to help move the world to a better place by creating “stories that matter, stories that move.” He lives in Dedham, Massachusetts, with his family.

Official Site + Social Media

Visit the official site
Follow Scholastic on Twitter and Instagram
Like Scholastic on Facebook
#HappyDreamer

Trailer + Activities:

*Watch the Happy Dreamer trailer
*Download the Happy Dreamer Guide, a fun kit complete with activities to share with your readers!

Peter H. Reynolds Interview

*Learn more in this podcast featuring the author!

Giveaway Information:

Happy_Dreamer_Cover_3fe71e22fcOne (1) winner receives:

  • a copy of Happy Dreamer

Giveaway open to Canadian AND US addresses. Prizing provided by Scholastic.

The giveaway will run from April 20th to April 27th, 2017 and is open to Canadian and US addresses. The winning entry will be randomly selected via Rafflecopter. All entries will be verified. Winner will have 48 hours to respond to me via email at fabbookreviews[at]gmail[dot]com OR DM’ing me via Twitter with their mailing address, or a new entry will be drawn.

To enter, click on the Rafflecopter link below and follow the instructions:

Enter to win the Happy Dreamer giveaway!

 

A copy of Happy Dreamer was provided courtesy of Scholastic in exchange for an honest review and for the purposes of this giveaway. Review comments and opinions are my own.

Top Ten Tuesday: Things That Will Make Me Instantly Want to Read A Book!

Welcome to Top Ten Tuesday! Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created by The Broke and the Bookish. This week’s topic: things that will instantly make us want to read a book!

Ah, this is slightly tricky, I find, because though there are factors that drive me to read a title, I feel like there is a lot of serendipity, feeling and luck in how I find and read books! That being said, I’ve compiled some motivating factors (but perhaps not guaranteed reasons) I pick up a book.

Here they are, in no particular order:

  1. Review journal recommendations…I have the great luck of getting to read numerous review journals as part of my work as a children’s librarian. I pore over School Library Journal, Kirkus, Publisher’s Weekly, Bulletin for the Center for Children’s Books and find a lot of my picks come from these established journals and their respective reviewers
  2. Author and reviewer feedback…I have particular authors I tend to follow for picks (Vikki VanSickle and Robin Stevens are but two!), as well as bloggers whose perspectives I trust. This is not to say I will not pick up a book without their recommendations, but their positive  feedback hugely increases the chance I will read it! It also helps if an author I adore has blurbed a book I’m on the fence about- that will usually lead me to pick that book right up!
  3. Design/cover art…I feel this to be a stronger pull for children’s titles and YA. I try and keep myself to the ‘don’t judge a book by it’s cover rule’, but I have to say that I really appreciate a well-designed, compelling, stand-out cover. From board books to picture books and beyond.
  4. Previous track record…these are is the must-read, go-to authors! The authors I’ve been reading and enjoying for years OR something by a new author I’ve just read and loved usually indicates that whatever they have brewing next will be an instant read.
  5. Genre…Ooh, genre! There are many genres I read, to be sure, but certain genres or angles usually indicate whether I will likely read something. Character-driven YA, contemporary or historical middle grade, British crime novels, suspense, Canadian lit in children’s, teens and adult, etc.
  6. Element of the unusual…I love the out of the norm and/or unexpected and/or oddball FUNNY kinds of read! It’s what drew me to pick up books by authors such as Claire Legrand, Louise Rennison, Don Calame, Susin Nielsen, Teresa Toten, Elinor Lipman, Brenna Yovanoff, Susan Juby, Kate Beaton, Matthew Inman, Julie Halpern…some favourites!
  7. Draws comparisons to bookish loves of my childhood…books that make me think back to Katherine Paterson, Lois Lowry, Louise Fitzhugh, Roald Dahl, Enid Blyton, Judy Blume, Gordan Korman, are on to my must-read, whatever the genre may be.
  8. Compelling protagonist or voice…Promise me a protagonist I can root for and want to follow, or a character whose voice is strong, distinct and unforgettable, and I am there.
  9. Publishers…in the interest of transparency, I have a number of publishers with whom I work regularly, but this did not impact their place here! Some choice picks: Chronicle Books; First Second Books; Scholastic Graphix; Andrews McMeel (for comics!); Crooked Lane Books; House of Anansi/Groundwood Books; Kids Can Press; Tundra Books; Sourcebooks; Penguin Random House Canada; and more! (You’ll notice a lot of Canadian-focused publisher’s here!!)
  10. Hook in the description…There needs to be that certain something in the book description that immediately captures my attention and imagination. It’s an imprecise science, to be sure, but I oftentimes will read a description and whammo!- will know instinctively it’s something I need to read. Be it a twisted murder mystery, sweeping family saga, or contemporary Canadian coming-of-age, something has to stand out.

What’s on your top ten this week?

Giveaway for Loryn Brantz’s Feminist Baby Board Book & Prize Pack!

Welcome to a special post featuring Loryn Brantz’s Feminist Baby board book and a fabulous giveaway, courtesy of Disney-Hyperion!

Read on to find out more about Feminist Baby, my thoughts on the board book, and how you can enter to win a prize pack! Thank you to Disney-Hyperion for sending me a copy and providing a prize pack  for review.

Board Book Details

Feminist Baby by Loryn Brantz
Publication:  April 11, 2017, recommended for ages 0 – 2

Synopsis

LOUD AND PROUD FEMINIST!

Meet the irrepressible Feminist Baby in this refreshing, clever board book about a girl who’s not afraid to do her own thing, and wants to make as much noise as possible along the way!

Feminist Baby likes pink and blue.
Sometimes she’ll throw up on you!
Feminist Baby chooses what to wear
and if you don’t like it she doesn’t care! 

A bright, cheeky, and funny board book with a positive message for all babies, Loryn Brantz’s Feminist Baby is a board book winner. Blurbed by feminist writer and professor Roxane Gay, Feminist Baby broadly takes on feminism and wonderfully turns the concept into an affirmative board book that babies/kids and adults will like. In the last few years, there appears to be an increase in the number of concept board books (concepts beyond ABC and counting, etc.). For example, Ruth Spiro and Irene Chan have collaborated on a Baby Loves series featuring aerospace engineering, quarks, and more, giving STEM a place in early childhood literature. Other board books series such as Cozy Classics and BabyLit have taken on themes or concepts in classic literature and adjusted them to suit babies and toddlers. Loryn Brantz’s Feminist Baby now joins the oeuvre, and it is wonderful to see and read. While concepts- such as feminism- can be complex, and you might wonder, what can a baby get from this?…The answer is: an introduction to vocabulary! It’s all about learning and exploring, and having the pleasure and option to read something as encouraging and aware like Feminist Baby to a wee one is just fantastic.

About the Author

Loryn Brantz is a two-time Emmy Award-winning author, illustrator, and design professional. Her picture book Harvey the Child Mime was the recipient of the 2010 Moonbeam Children’s Book Award for Best First Picture Book. Loryn lives in New York City, where she is on staff at BuzzFeed writing and illustrating about feminism and body image. Find her online at www.lorynbrantz.com or www.facebook.com/LorynBrantzBooks.

Official Site + Social Media

Visit the Official Site
Follow @DisneyHyperion on Twitter
Follow @DisneyBooks on Instagram
Follow @LorynBrantz on Twitter and Instagram
#FeministBaby

Giveaway Information:

One (1) winner receives:

  • copy of Feminist Baby
  • branded tote bag and pin

Giveaway open to Canadian AND US addresses. Prizing provided by Disney-Hyperion.

The giveaway will run from April 17th to April 24th, 2017 and is open to Canadian and US addresses. The winning entry will be randomly selected via Rafflecopter. All entries will be verified. Winner will have 48 hours to respond to me via email at fabbookreviews[at]gmail[dot]com OR DM’ing me via Twitter with their mailing address, or a new entry will be drawn.

To enter, click on the Rafflecopter link below and follow the instructions:

Enter to win the Feminist Baby Prize Pack!

 

A copy of this title and prize pack was sent courtesy of Disney-Hyperion for the purposes of this post and giveaway. Disney-Hyperion is also providing a prize pack for one winner from my site. Review opinions and comments are my own.

 

Hopping Into Easter with Picture Books and a Giveaway!

As a children’s librarian, part of the build up to Easter weekend at the library includes fielding a lot of questions about Easter books or Easter-themed books, preparing songs and stories about bunnies and other cute creatures…and, did I mention, finding lots and lots of cute stories about anything Easter-themed? I now have two more charming Easter titles to add to the list!

My lovely friends at Raincoast Books recently sent me two perfect-for-Easter picture books: Bunny Bus by Ammi-Joan Pacquette, illustrated by Lesley Breen Withrow, and Margret and H.A. Rey’s Happy Easter, Curious George. Bunny Bus is quite the adorable story featuring a bunny-shaped bus, resplendent with rosy cheeks and bunny teeth. A rhyming story with bounce and a fun repetition of ‘hop’ and ‘stop’, Bunny Bus is perfect for toddlers and preschoolers (or any bunny-hop loving kid!). The story is short, simple and sweet, with just a brief moment of trouble (when the bunny bus tires out), followed by quick problem-solving and a happy turnaround to an Easter Parade. Happy Easter, Curious George (with sparkly stickers!) is, as one can expect from the franchise, a light and sweetly silly story featuring George’s antics that always go slightly awry, leading to some confusion followed by a happy conclusion. In this tale, George joins Easter celebrations at a park, where he excels at Easter egg juggling and decorating, and gets into a slight mix-up with how Easter egg hunts work! I adored Curious George growing up, and am always happy and comforted to see George and read about his adventures. R.P. Anderson and Mary O’Keefe Young, the author and illustrator, respectively, of this title have done very well in keeping the charm of the original series.

Now for some (more!) excitement:

I have new (just read once by me) hardcover editions of these titles and I would like to find them a new happy bookish home! One winner will have a chance to win both Bunny Bus and Happy Easter, Curious George. You won’t get them in time for Easter, I’m afraid, but you’ll still get some fun picture books, so it’s all win-win!

If you’d like to enter, here’s what you need to know:

You must be a Canadian resident, 18 years of age or older. The giveaway will run until April 18, 2017.

One winner will be randomly selected at the end of giveaway via Rafflecopter. The winner will have 48 hours to respond by emailing me at fabbookreviews[at]gmail[dot]com OR DM’ing me on Twitter @fabbityfab confirming their name and their mailing address. If there is no responses from the winner within 48 hours, a new name will be drawn.

The giveaway is now closed!

Congratulations to MELINDA P.!

Please email or DM in the next 48 hours to confirm your address!

To enter, click on the Rafflecopter link below and follow the instructions:

Enter the Hopping into Easter Book Giveaway

Copies of Bunny Bus and Happy Easter, Curious George were provided courtesy of Raincoast Books in exchange for honest reviews. All opinions and comments are my own.

Top Ten Tuesday: Unique Books I’ve Read…

Welcome to Top Ten Tuesday! Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created by The Broke and the Bookish. I have not been doing a great job with keeping up and participating, but I have been inspired this week’s topic: the most unique books we’ve read!

With the caveat that I have probably/most likely missed a number of unique titles here, I’ve picked ten titles- mostly all children’s titles- that, to me, stand out. Are unusual. Out of the ordinary. Seriously unexpected and seriously unforgettable. Perhaps even peculiar. In no particular order, here are my picks:

 

 

Du Iz Tak? by Carson Ellis
A picture book written all in imagined bug language (yes, indeed!), with gorgeous artwork…

The Liszts by Kyo Maclear, illus. Júlia Sardà
Kyo Maclear is up there as one of my favourite wordsmiths/storytellers. The Liszts is a newer title: a story about a list-making family that is beyond one’s expectations and imaginings. Sardà’s illustrations are…extraordinary…

Lost & Found by Shaun Tan
I am rather obsessed with Tan’s work. This was one of my first introductions to his work, and I haven’t stopped reading and poring over his incredible work since…

Bera the One-Headed Troll by Eric Orchard
The combination of Orchard’s unusual and beautiful style of artwork with the darker fairy-tale feel- a stand-out graphic novel…

The Sleepwalkers by Viviane Schwarz
Ah, The Sleepwalkers! I read this graphic novel after falling in love with Schwarz’s picture books. A genuinely unusual, offbeat but lovely and hypnotic story about a team of heroes who rescue children from nightmares…

A Child of Books by Oliver Jeffers & Sam Winston
A feat in storytelling, visuals and typography, this picture books is also a love letter to the power of books and words…

Press Here by Hervé Tullet
One of the first interactive perfect-for-storytime picture books I remember reading and arguably still one of the best…I would argue this was a game-changer and paved the way for more delightful interactive picture books to follow…I can’t imagine storytime with interactive books…

Art & Max by David Wiesner
David Wiesner, as with many authors and artists on this list, is a favourite. While most anything and everything by Wiesner is breathtaking and innovative, I must confess to a particular soft spot for Art & Max: a picture book about art, art styles, and two friends who test and bend art between the pages of this book that cemented Wiesner’s place on my roster of favourites.

Shadow by Suzy Lee
One of the first wordless picture books where I had a serious ‘aha’ moment about the beauty and signficance of the genre…Also: why isn’t everyone just as bananas about her work as I am?!?

Milk Teeth by Julie Morstad
This is a small book/collection of Morstad’s artwork. Surreal, dreamy, so strange and so beautiful…As with Shaun Tan’s work, I could forever be breathing in Morstad’s exquisite work…

Bonus mentions:

Virginia Wolf by Kyo Maclear, illus. Isabelle Arsenault

They All Saw a Cat by Brendan Wenzel

What titles are on your top ten this week?

Must Read Monday (64): YA from Vicki Grant, Alice Kuipers, Susan Juby & more!

Welcome to another edition of Must Read Monday!

This feature is where I spotlight older, recent, or upcoming releases I am looking forward to. The lists will include all genres I like to read, everything from picture books to comics, children’s lit to adult fiction!

This week: all young adult! There are new YA titles coming out from always-read Canadian authors (and personal favourites) Susan Juby and Alice Kuipers; Canadian author Vicki Grant has a fantastic-sounding contemporary YA called Short for Chameleon that has been recently released; Mackenzi Lee’s The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue– which is getting rave reviews- is coming out in June; and last, but not least, two new-to-me authors, Mary O’Connell and Karen McManus, have very intriguingly described titles coming out soon. Let’s take a closer look!

 

Short for Chameleon by Vicki Grant
Publication: March 7, 2017 by HarperTrophy

Embarrassed by your brother? Estranged from your uncle? Then you might need some help from Almost Family Surrogate Agency. Cam Redden and his dad are rent-a-relatives, available for hire to anyone looking to upgrade.

Cam’s job is all about being whoever other people want him to be. Then two new clients come along. Albertina is an old lady with a big mouth, a bigger wig and a serious mission. Raylene is a beautiful girl with a nose ring, a wonky eye and a painful secret. Now to get to the bottom of the tragic mysteries that fuel them both, Cam may finally have to be himself.

 

Me and Me by Alice Kuipers
Expected publication: April 11, 2017 by HarperTrophy

It’s Lark’s seventeenth birthday, and although she’s hated to be reminded of the day ever since her mom’s death three years ago, it’s off to a great start. Lark has written a killer song to perform with her band, the weather is stunning and she’s got a date with gorgeous Alec. The two take a canoe out on the lake, and everything is perfect—until Lark hears the screams. Annabelle, a little girl she used to babysit, is drowning in the nearby reeds while Annabelle’s mom tries desperately to reach her. Lark and Alec are closer, and they both dive in. But Alec hits his head on a rock in the water and begins to flail.

Alec and Annabelle are drowning. And Lark can save only one of them.

Lark chooses, and in that moment her world splits into two distinct lives. She must live with the consequences of both choices. As Lark finds herself going down more than one path, she has to decide: Which life is the right one?

 

Dear Reader by Mary O’Connell
Expected publication: May 9, 2017 by Flatiron Books

For seventeen-year-old Flannery Fields, the only respite from the plaid-skirted mean girls at Sacred Heart High School at is her beloved teacher Miss Sweeney’s AP English class. But when Miss Sweeney doesn’t show up to teach Flannery’s favorite book, Wuthering Heights, leaving behind her purse, Flannery knows something is wrong.The police are called, and Flannery gives them everything—except Miss Sweeney’s copy of Wuthering Heights. This she holds onto. And good thing she does, because when she opens it, it has somehow transformed into Miss Sweeney’s real-time diary. It seems Miss Sweeney is in New York City—and she’s in trouble.

So Flannery does something very unFlannery-like: she skips school and sets out for Manhattan, with the book as her guide. But as soon as she arrives, she meets a boy named Heath. Heath is British, on a gap year, incredibly smart—yet he’s never heard of Albert Einstein or Anne Frank. In fact, Flannery can’t help thinking that he seems to have stepped from the pages of Brontë’s novel. Could it be?

With inimitable wit and heart, Mary O’Connell has crafted a love letter to reading, to the books that make us who we are. Dear Reader, charming and heartbreaking, is a novel about finding your people, on the page in the world.

 

The Fashion Committee by Susan Juby
Expected publication: May 23, 2017 by Viking Books for Young Readers

Charlie Dean is a style-obsessed girl who eats, sleeps, and breathes fashion. John Thomas-Smith is a boy who forges metal sculptures in his garage and couldn’t care less about clothes. Both are gunning for a scholarship to the private art high school that could make all their dreams come true. Whoever wins the fashion competition will win the scholarship–and only one can win.

Told in the alternating voices of Charlie’s and John’s journals, this hilarious and poignant YA novel perfectly captures what it’s like to have an artistic drive so fierce that nothing–not your dad’s girlfriend’s drug-addicted ex-boyfriend, a soul-crushing job at Salad Stop, or being charged with a teensy bit of kidnapping–can stand in your way.

With black and white art custom-created by fashion and beauty illustrator Soleil Ignacio, the book is a collector’s item, perfect for anyone with a passion for fashion.

 

One of Us Is Lying by Karen McManus
Expected publication: May 30, 2017 by Delacorte Press

The Breakfast Club meets Pretty Little Liars, One of Us Is Lying is the story of what happens when five strangers walk into detention and only four walk out alive. Everyone is a suspect, and everyone has something to hide.
Pay close attention and you might solve this.
On Monday afternoon, five students at Bayview High walk into detention.
Bronwyn, the brain, is Yale-bound and never breaks a rule.
Addy, the beauty, is the picture-perfect homecoming princess.
Nate, the criminal, is already on probation for dealing.
Cooper, the athlete, is the all-star baseball pitcher.
And Simon, the outcast, is the creator of Bayview High’s notorious gossip app.
Only, Simon never makes it out of that classroom. Before the end of detention Simon’s dead. And according to investigators, his death wasn’t an accident. On Monday, he died. But on Tuesday, he’d planned to post juicy reveals about all four of his high-profile classmates, which makes all four of them suspects in his murder. Or are they the perfect patsies for a killer who’s still on the loose? Everyone has secrets, right? What really matters is how far you would go to protect them.

 

The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee
Expected publication: June 27, 2017 by Katherine Tegen Books

An unforgettable tale of two friends on their Grand Tour of 18th-century Europe who stumble upon a magical artifact that leads them from Paris to Venice in a dangerous manhunt, fighting pirates, highwaymen, and their feelings for each other along the way.

Henry “Monty” Montague was born and bred to be a gentleman, but he was never one to be tamed. The finest boarding schools in England and the constant disapproval of his father haven’t been able to curb any of his roguish passions—not for gambling halls, late nights spent with a bottle of spirits, or waking up in the arms of women or men. But as Monty embarks on his grand tour of Europe, his quest for a life filled with pleasure and vice is in danger of coming to an end. Not only does his father expect him to take over the family’s estate upon his return, but Monty is also nursing an impossible crush on his best friend and traveling companion, Percy. Still it isn’t in Monty’s nature to give up. Even with his younger sister, Felicity, in tow, he vows to make this yearlong escapade one last hedonistic hurrah and flirt with Percy from Paris to Rome. But when one of Monty’s reckless decisions turns their trip abroad into a harrowing manhunt that spans across Europe, it calls into question everything he knows, including his relationship with the boy he adores.

Witty, romantic, and intriguing at every turn, The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue is a sumptuous romp that explores the undeniably fine lines between friendship and love.

Picture Book Review: Over and Under the Pond by Kate Messner & Christopher Silas Neal

Review: Over and Under the Pond by Kate Messner, illus. Christopher Silas Neal
Source: Hardcopy courtesy of Raincoast Books. Thank you!
Publication: March 7, 2017 by Chronicle Books
Book Description:

In this gorgeous companion to the acclaimed Over and Under the Snow and Up in the Garden and Down in the Dirt, Kate Messner and Christopher Silas Neal bring to life a secret underwater world. In this book, readers will discover the plants and animals that make up the rich, interconnected ecosystem of a mountain pond. Over the pond, the water is a mirror, reflecting the sky. But under the pond is a hidden world of minnows darting, beavers diving, tadpoles growing. These and many other secrets are waiting to be discovered… over and under the pond.

The water’s a mirror, reflecting the sky.
Sunshine and clouds- then a shadow below.
“What’s down there?” I ask.
“Under the pond?” Mom says.

Award-winning author Kate Messner has a number of writing credits to her name, including the Marty McGuire series and the highly-praised middle grade novel The Seventh Wish. Christopher Silas Neal is an award-winning artist, who has multiple- gorgeous- picture books to his illustrative credit, including Lifetime and two other picture books with Kate Messner. Over and Under the Pond is the third collaboration by Messner and Neal in a series of brilliant information-filled picture books: Over and Under the Snow (a personal favourite) and Up in the Garden and Down in the Dirt.

As a big fan of the first two picture books in this sequence, I was delighted to get a chance to pore over (and I mean: pore over!) this latest entry. Over and Under the Pond is, as its companions, a wonderful experience in visuals and text. Poetic, lyrical and educational all at once, the splendid mix of Messner’s words and Neal’s full page colour illustrations- which are outstanding- take informational picture books to a place of excellence. In Over and Under the Pond, our guides for exploration are a young boy and his mother: paddling, lifting and dipping, and drifting in their canoe, mother and son survey the wide breadth of life found above the water of a pond and under the water of a pond. From cattails to tadpoles, herons to minnows and moose, Messner and Neal highlight the incredible scope of animal and plant life that can be found in a particular ecosystem. ‘An Author’s Note‘ provides even more information on a pond’s ecosystem,  and the inspiration behind this story; there is also a beautiful and convenient ‘About the Animals’ section matching animal image to descriptions; as well as a ‘Further Reading‘ recommendations list of print and online resources.

Overall, Over and Under the Pond is superb; another must-read collaboration from the author and illustrator. This title (as well as the others in the series), is a terrific picture book to use for a more specific environmental-themed storytime, or for any readers looking for a lovely, lyrical and educational picture book.

I received a copy of this title courtesy of Raincoast Books in exchange for an honest review. All opinions and comments are my own.

Recently Read: Great Children’s Titles from Elise Gravel, Dana Simpson, Ben Hatke & more!

Admittedly, there are indeed a number of book genres that I love- but children’s graphic novels hold a special spot in my reader’s and librarian’s heart. I cannot even count the number of times I’ve had a caregiver or self-described reluctant reader come ask me for reader’s advisory help and graphic novels (or comics) have been a huge (HUGE) ray of hope for both kid and adult. It breaks my heart if I hear an adult- or heaven forbid, a teacher- say they don’t ‘count’ graphic novels as reading. NOOOOO!!! I want to scream. In a roundabout way, I guess what I’m trying to say is: graphic novels for children (and all-ages) rock and definitely count as reading. These are ones I’ve recently read, enjoyed tremendously and would recommend:

 

Olga and the Smelly Thing From Nowhere by Elise Gravel
Publication: March 14, 2017 by HarperCollins

I have spoken/written about my love of Elise Gravel‘s work a few times before. The Montreal-based author/illustrator is the force behind the wonderful non-fiction Disgusting Creatures series, as well as the terrifically fun picture books I Want a Monster! and The Cranky Ballerina. Gravel’s foray into longer format graphic novels starts off wonderfully with Olga and the Smelly Thing for Nowhere. Bringing together her signature style of bold, bright illustrations and kooky characters and a love of science/creatures, this graphic novel tells the story of what happens when aspiring zoologist Olga finds a supremely cute and stinky creature (possibly from another planet?) she names Meh. Funny and a little subversive, with the promise of MORE Olga and Meh to come in future entries! Animal enthusiasts, or fans of Ashley Spires’ Binky series or Fluffy Strikes Back, or Victoria Jamieson’s Pets on the Loose might especially LOVE this graphic novel.

 

Unicorn Crossing (Heavenly Nostrils #5) by Dana Simpson
Publication: March 28, 2017 by Andrews McMeel Publishing

I have also written about my love of the Heavenly Nostrils series from Dana Simpson before! This series is a go-to suggestion I give to kids (or parents searching on behalf of their children) looking for a funny graphic novel series that won’t intimidate but rather inspire major fun and enjoyment with their reading. Already five (!) books into this great series, Simpson continues to mix her magic blend of humour, heart, and unicorn sparkle. I have previously mentioned that when I first picked up Heavenly Nostrils, I could see a definite kinship to Calvin & Hobbes. The more I read of Simpson’s series the more it wonderfully seems to grow Marigold and Phoebe’s bond (yes, akin to Calvin & Hobbes) in addition to cultivating its own, distinctively beautiful and funny world of magical realism. A must-read for graphic novel and comic strip enthusiasts who enjoy the work of Raina Telgemeier, Victoria Jamieson, Frank Cammuso, Ben Katke, Andy Runton, Sara Varon, James Burks and other similar authors.

 

Mighty Jack (Volume 1) by Ben Hatke*
Publication: September 6, 2016 by First Second

Well, this post is clearly leaning towards authors and series I adore and have mentioned before! Third on the list here we have Ben Hatke’s Mighty Jack, the first volume in the Mighty Jack series. Hatke, author-illustrator of the awesome Zita the Spacegirl series, Nobody Likes a Goblin and Little Robot, returns with another fantastical and magical series. A retelling (and wholly unique) take on the fairytale Jack and the Beanstalk, Hatke- fascinatingly and thoughtfully- incorporates a modern setting, a neuroatypical co-heroine, and mythical elements into his version. I have been sitting on this review for a little while now- why, I am not entirely sure, but thoughts about Mighty Jack have been marinating for a bit. As always, Hatke knocks it out of the park with his gorgeous artwork, female lead characters, and his approach to animating inanimate objects. My initial reaction upon finishing was that I would have liked a bit more text/back story to Jack, Molly and family (the story is so good and I was clamoring for more!), and a few ends were left a bit looser than I would have liked (even with the knowledge that this was just book one!)…and while some points stand upon reread, I enjoyed it more upon reread and consider Mighty Jack to be a highly recommended read- another great addition to Hatke’s roster. The promise of Mighty Jack and the Goblin King has me excited to read even more about Jack, Molly, and Lilly!

 

Bird & Squirrel on Fire (Bird & Squirrel #4) by James Burks
Publication: January 31, 2017 by GRAPHIX

Tom and Jerry. Garfield and Odie. Gerald and Piggie. Pinky and the Brain. Wile E. Coyote and Roadrunner. A lot of characters in shows and books that we tend to love and think of fondly are in pairs. In the children’s graphic novel genre, there is an entry in the prestige pairs group with James Burks’ Bird & Squirrel. Now four books into this funny and adventure-filled series, Bird is, as ever, our stalwart optimist and cheerleader; Squirrel, while having his courage mightily tested a few times over, remains trepidatious and safety-focuses. In this latest entry, Bird and Squirrel come up against a dyspeptic, slightly bonkers giant beaver who wants to keep ALL the water in the forest for himself- all the while planning a party (Bird’s idea), investigating animal disappearances, and Squirrel meeting a new character named Red (who could be the love of his life). As with his previous work in Gabby & Gator (which I love!) and the other Bird & Squirrel titles, Burks combines goofy, wacky characters with hair-raising moments and/or scary creatures- but all toward good endings. I adore Burks’ style of artwork and the storytelling in Bird & Squirrel; I hope we get at least a handful more adventures about this duo!

 

Big Nate: What’s a Little Noogie Between Friends? (Big Nate) by Lincoln Peirce
Publication: February 28, 2017 by Andrews McMeel Publishing

There is a lot of love in the bookish world of the Big Nate series of books by Lincoln Peirce. It is one of those series of books that, like anything Garfield or Raina Telgemeier, is barely in the library before WHOOSH back out it goes! I do not remember reading the Big Nate series when it first came out, but have, over the last number of years, become a big reader (and suggester!) of the books. Nate is one of those middle school protagonists that we love to root for- he’s imperfect, gets into trouble, gets in fights with his friends, has unrequited crushes, has a core of two best friends who tease him and call him out when he’s being ridiculous– I could go on. There is something totally appealing (dare I say, comforting?) about this series and Nate’s world. While I have definitely preferred certain graphic novel entries more than others in the Big Nate series, What’s a Little Noogie Between Friends? has a good share of the silly (more Spitsy and baseball craziness) and somewhat serious (with Nate having to say goodbye to a classmate who is moving).

*I received a copy of Might Jack courtesy of Raincoast Books in exchange for an honest review. All opinions and comments are my own.