Must Read Monday (79): Children’s Titles from Angela Dominguez, Tae Keller, Jarrett Lerner, Dana Simpson & 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, including graphic novels and middle grade fiction! We have the Zoey and Sassafraas series by Asia Citro and Marion Lindsay; Susan Tan and Dana Wulfekotte’s Cilla-Lee Jenkins: Future Author Extraordinaire; Angela Dominguez’s Stella Diaz Has Something to Say— I have been hearing and reading terrific things about these titles from authors and illustrators I follow on Twitter! Next up are children’s fiction titles EngiNerds from Jarrett Lerner, and The Science of Breakable Things by Tae Keller. Last but definitely not least, we have new entries into series I adore: Judd Winick’s HiLo, Dana Simpson’s Heavenly Nostrils, Elise Gravel’s Olga, and the third and final entry in Chronicles of Claudette by Jorge Aguirre and Rafael Rosado.

Dragons and Marshmallows (Zoey and Sassafras #1) by Asia Citro, illus. Marion Lindsay
Publication: March 14, 2017 by The Innovation Press (paperback)
Book Description:

With magical animals, science, mystery, and adventure — the brand new series Zoey and Sassafras has something for everyone! Easy-to-read language and illustrations on nearly every page make this series perfect for a wide range of ages.

In the first book of this series, Zoey discovers a glowing photo and learns an amazing secret. Injured magical animals come to their backyard barn for help! When a sick baby dragon appears, it’s up to Zoey and Sassafras to figure out what’s wrong. Will they be able to help little Marshmallow before it’s too late?

 

Cilla Lee-Jenkins: Future Author Extraordinaire by Susan Tan, illus. Dana Wulfekotte
Publication: March 28, 2017 by Roaring Brook Press
Book Description:

Priscilla “Cilla” Lee-Jenkins is on a tight deadline. Her baby sister is about to be born, and Cilla needs to become a bestselling author before her family forgets all about her. So she writes about what she knows best—herself! And Cilla has a lot to write about: How did she deal with being bald until the age of five? How did she overcome her struggles with reading? How do family traditions with Grandma and Grandpa Jenkins differ from family traditions with her Chinese grandparents, Nai Nai and Ye Ye?

Cilla Lee-Jenkins: Future Author Extraordinaire is a novel bursting with love and humor, as told through a bright, irresistible biracial protagonist who will win your heart and make you laugh.

 

EngiNerds by Jarrett Lerner
Publication: September 12, 2017 by Aladdin
Book Description:

Ken is an EngiNerd: one of a super-smart group of friends—all nerds—who have been close since kindergarten.

They may be brainiacs, but they’re just like everyone else: they fight with one another, watch too much TV, eat Chinese food, and hate walking their dogs. Well, maybe not just like everyone because Ken’s best friend Dan has been building robots. He then secretly sent one to each of the EngiNerds, never letting them know he’s the mastermind.

At first Ken is awed and delighted: what kid hasn’t dreamed of having a robot all their own? Someone who can be their friend, clean their room, walk the dog, answer homework questions…how amazing is that?

But be careful what you wish for: Dan’s robot, Greeeg, may look innocent, but his ravenous consumption of food—comestibles—turns him into a butt-blasting bot. And once the other robots ‘come alive’ it’s up to the motley crew of EngiNerds to not only save the day, but save the planet!

 

HiLo Book 4: Waking the Monsters (HiLo #4) by Judd Winick
Publication: January 16, 2018 by Random House Books for Young Readers
Book Description:

DJ and Gina are TOTALLY ordinary kids. But Hilo isn’t! Has Hilo finally met his match? Not if D.J. and Gina can help it! ALERT! ALERT! ALERT! Mega Robot Monsters are suddenly waking up all over and they’re TOO BIG and TOO STRONG for Hilo to fight on his own! Luckily, he doesn’t have to! He has GINA and some brand new SUPER POWERS on his side! Being heroes can be super fun-but it can also be SUPER dangerous! And the closer Hilo and Gina get to saving their world from the monsters–the closer Hilo gets to the dark secret of his past. Does he really want to know? Do WE?!

 

Stella Diaz Has Something to Say by Angela Dominguez
Publication: January 16, 2018 by Roaring Brook Press
Book Description:

In her first middle-grade novel, award-winning picture book author and illustrator Angela Dominguez tells a heartwarming story based on her own experiences growing up Mexican-American.

Stella Diaz loves marine animals, especially her betta fish, Pancho. But Stella Diaz is not a betta fish. Betta fish like to be alone, while Stella loves spending time with her mom and brother and her best friend Jenny. Trouble is, Jenny is in another class this year, and Stella feels very lonely.

When a new boy arrives in Stella’s class, she really wants to be his friend, but sometimes Stella accidentally speaks Spanish instead of English and pronounces words wrong, which makes her turn roja. Plus, she has to speak in front of her whole class for a big presentation at school! But she better get over her fears soon, because Stella Díaz has something to say!

Stella Díaz Has Something to Say introduces an infectiously charming new character with relatable writing and adorable black-and-white art throughout. Simple Spanish vocabulary is also integrated within the text, providing a bilingual element.

 

The Science of Breakable Things by Tae Keller
Expected publication: March 6, 2018 by Random House Books for Young Readers
Book Description:

How do you grow a miracle?
For the record, this is not the question Mr. Neely is looking for when he says everyone in class must answer an important question using the scientific method. But Natalie’s botanist mother is suffering from depression, so this is The Question that’s important to Natalie. When Mr. Neely suggests that she enter an egg drop competition, Natalie has hope.

Eggs are breakable. Hope is not.
Natalie has a secret plan for the prize money. She’s going to fly her mother to see the Cobalt Blue Orchids–flowers that survive against impossible odds. The magical flowers are sure to inspire her mother to love life again. Because when parents are breakable, it’s up to kids to save them, right?

An extraordinary story about the coming-of-age moment when kids realize that parents are people, too, and that talking about problems is like taking a plant out of a dark cupboard and giving it light. Think THE FOURTEENTH GOLDFISH meets THE THING ABOUT JELLYFISH.

 

Monsters Beware! (Chronicles of Claudette #3) by Jorge Aguirre, illus. Rafael Rosado
Expected publication: March 13, 2018 by First Second
Book Description:

Claudette is back AGAIN, and she’s ready to kick major monster butt!

She’s fought giants, clobbered dragons, and now Claudette faces her biggest challenge yet… herself! Well, that and a gang of vile monsters. It all begins when Claudette’s town hosts the annual Warrior Games. After some sneaky maneuvering, Claudette manages to gets herself, Marie, and Gaston chosen as her town’s representatives. But none of Claudette’s past battles has prepared her for this. And to make matters worse, they must stop the vicious Sea Queen and her evil children from using the Warrior Games to free the dark Wizard Grombach and conquer the world!

In Monsters Beware!, the third and final book of the Claudette graphic novel series, Claudette is put to the ultimate test. With her honor on the line will she learn that there’s more to a fight than just winning?

 

Olga: We’re Out of Here! by Elise Gravel
Expected publication: March 13, 2018 by HarperCollins
Book Description:

Animal lover and kid scientist Olga is back! Great for fans of the acclaimed graphic novels Real Friends and Invisible Emmie.

In this second installment of a series Franny K. Stein creator Jim Benton called “great, kooky, monstrous fun,” Olga wants to leave earth in search of Meh’s home planet, but first she’ll have to discover why Meh is acting so strange.

Olga: We’re Out of Here is jam-packed with facts and fun: Elise Gravel’s classic comic illustrations, hilarious word bubbles, space travel facts, and a diverse cast of memorable characters.

 

Unicorn of Many Hats (Heavenly Nostrils #7) by Dana Simpson
Expected publication: March 20, 2018 by Andrews McMeel Publishing
Book Description:

In this installment, Phoebe decides to start the school year off right by offering a peace treaty to frenemy Dakota, Marigold Heavenly Nostrils becomes the unlikeliest of babysitters, and Phoebe is totally surprised to find out that her Secret Santa isn’t Dakota or Max!

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Best of 2017, Part 1: Children’s Lit, Young Adult, Adult Fiction & more!

Hope everyone is having a wonderful, safe and lovely holiday season, whatever your celebrations may be!

I am rather late in posting this, but I wanted to get in my 2017 reading highlights before the end of the year. In no particular order, here are my book selections for part one, hope you enjoy!

 

Children’s Fiction/Middle Grade:
The Goat by Anne Fleming
Family Game Night and Other Catastrophes by Mary E. Lambert
The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street by Karina Yan Glaser
Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus by Dusti Bowling
Greetings From Witness Protection by Jake Burt
Karma Khullar’s Mustache by Kristi Wientge
Greenglass House (Greenglass House #1) by Kate Milford
Some Kind of Happiness by Claire Legrand
Howard Wallace, P.I. by Casey Lyall
Shadow of a Pug (Howard Wallace, P.I #2) by Casey Lyall
Ghost (Track #1) by Jason Reynolds
The Cat Stole My Pants (Timmy Failure #6) by Stephan Pastis
Royal Crush (From the Notebooks of a Middle School Princess #3) by Meg Cabot
Roll by Darcy Miller
The World’s Greatest Detective by Caroline Carlson
Jolly Foul Play (Murder Most Unladylike #4) by Robin Stevens
Mary Anning’s Curiosity by Monica Kulling
The Swallow: A Ghost Story by Charis Cotter
Olga and the Smelly Thing from Nowhere (Olga #1) by Elise Gravel
Catstronauts series by Drew Brockington (graphic novel)
Wallace the Brave by Will Henry (graphic novel)
Lint Boy by Aileen Leijten (graphic novel)
Bird and Squirrel on Fire (Bird & Squirrel #4) by James Burks
Real Friends by Shannon Hale, illus. LeUyen Pham, color by Jane Poole (graphic novel)
Phoebe and Her Unicorn in the Magic Storm (Heavenly Nostrils, #6) by Dana Simpson (graphic novel)
Grandfather and the Moon by Stéphanie Lapointe, illus. Rogé, translated by Shelley Tanaka

 

Young Adult:
The Agony of Bun O’Keefe by Heather Smith
The Fashion Committee by Susan Juby
Optimists Die First by Susin Nielsen
Everything Beautiful Is Not Ruined by Danielle Younge-Ullman
Last Seen Leaving by Caleb Roehrig
Short for Chameleon by Vicki Grant
Piecing Me Together by Renée Watson
The Other F-Word by Natasha Friend
You Know Me Well by Nina LaCour & David Levithan
Well, That Was Awkward by Rachel Vail (YA/MG crossover)
The Dead Inside by Cyndy Etler (YA non-fiction)

 

Adult Fiction & Mysteries:
Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman
Nine Lessons (Josephine Tey Mystery #9) by Nicola Upson
Hunting Hour (Timber Creek K-9 Mystery #3) by Margaret Mizushima
Everything You Want Me to Be by Mindy Mejia
On Turpentine Lane by Eleanor Lipman
Forgotten City (A Claire Codella Mystery #2) by Carrie Smith
The Boy is Back (Boy #4) by Meg Cabot

 

Adult Non-Fiction, Humour and Other:

Big Mushy Happy Lump (Sarah’s Scribbles #2) by Sarah Anderson
It’s All Absolutely Fine by Ruby Elliot
I Hate Everyone Except You by Clinton Kelly
Texts From Dog II: The Dog Delusion by October Jones
Fowl Language: Welcome to Parenting by Brian Gordon
Onward and Downward: The Twenty-Second Sherman’s Lagoon Collection by Jim Toomey

 

Note: Some titles appearing on this list may have been published in previous years; titles on this list are ones that I read in 2017. Some titles appearing on this list may also have been provided by publishers in exchange for honest reviews; this has no bearing on making this list. These are my personal selections.

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.

Best of 2016: YA, Adult Fiction & Non-Fiction

Now it’s time for part two of my ‘Best of 2016’ reads: this post’s focus is all about young adult and adult fiction. I feel that, while my reading year was overwhelmingly picture books and middle grade lit, there was so much depth and matter in the contained selection of YA and adult fiction I had the chance to read. You’ll notice a number of Canadian titles on here as well!

In no particular order, I present my picks for best of YA, adult fiction, and non-fiction of 2016:

Young adult:

Flannery by Lisa Moore
Dan Vs. Nature by Don Calame
Watching Traffic by Jane Ozkowski
The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner

Exit, Pursued by a Bear by E.K. Johnston
Lucky Few by Kathryn Ormsbee
If I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo
Speed of Life by J.M. Kelly

Boys Don’t Knit series by Tom Easton
Julia, Vanishes (Witch’s Child #1) by Catherine Egan
The Scorpion Rules (Prisoners of Peace #1) by Erin Bow
Into the Dim (Into the Dim #1) by Janet B. Taylor

 

Adult fiction:

The Break by Katherena Vermette
The Best Kind of People by Zoe Whittall
My Last Continent by Midge Raymond
We’re All in This Together by Amy Jones

The House Between Tides by Sarah Maine
Lily and the Octopus by Steven Rowley
The Widow by Fiona Barton
Missing, Presumed by Susie Steiner

 

Non-fiction (including memoir, comics, humour):

Boy, Erased by Garrard Conley
Sex Object by Jessica Valenti (audiobook)
The Book of Memory Gaps by Cecilia Ruiz
I Must Say: My Life as a Humble Comedy Legend by Martin Short (audiobook)
Adulthood is a Myth: A Sarah’s Scribbles Collection by Sarah Anderson

Molly and the Bear Collection by Bob Scott
Your Grandma Rocks, Mine Rolls: A Grand Avenue Collection by Steve Breen
Happy as a Clam: A Sherman’s Lagoon Collection by Jim Toomey
I’m Only in This for Me A Pearls Before Swine Collection by Stephan Pastis
Gross!: A Baby Blues Collection by Rick Kirkman & Jerry Scott

 

Note: Some titles appearing on this list may have been published in previous years; titles on this list are ones that I read in 2016. Some titles appearing on this list may also have been provided by publishers in exchange for honest reviews; this has no bearing on making this list. These are my personal selections.

Comic Strip Review: Molly and the Bear by Bob Scott

mollyandthebear27040044Review: Molly and the Bear by Bob Scott
Source: Hardcopy courtesy of the author and publisher. Thank you!
Publication: March 8, 2016 by Cameron + Company
Book Description:

It can be tough on a family when someone new has moved in, especially if it’s a 900-pound scaredy-bear so terrified of wilderness life that he’s fled to the burbs. Fortunately Bear was found by Molly, a fearlessly optimistic 11-year-old can-doer who has taken him firmly in hand, devoted to seeing her hirsute BFF cope with modern life. Molly’s Mom is happy with the new sibling — Bear’s an excellent conversationalist and loves her homemade cookies. But Dad is having a harder time, his role as center of the universe now shared with an ursine behemoth who, unfortunately, adores him.

One thought that kept running through my mind as I read Bob Scott’s Molly and the Bear was, I wish I had known about this comic strip earlier. Having grown up reading (and re-reading) Peanuts, Calvin and Hobbes, Garfield, FoxTrot, Herman, Hagar the Horrible (and many more favourites!), comic strips have been a major part of my life since I was a kid. Molly and the Bear would have easily slotted into that mix back then- as it also fits into my reading today. Artist, animator, illustrator Bob Scott, who has worked on projects including Pixar’s The Incredibles, brings a wonderful level of madcap charm and endearing nostalgia with his web comic Molly and the Bear.

Fleeing from the fearsome dangers of the wilderness, Bear- similarly to Goldilocks- sneaks into a house. There he finds a best friend in Molly, an eleven-year-old girl who is thoughtful and brave, and most of all, loves him through and through. The contrast between Bear, a high-strung nine-hundred pound creature, with that of a petite, enthusiastic young girl is ripe for comedy from the get-go, but Scott makes it even richer and sweeter (and funnier) as he draws out and grows their genuine friendship and affection for each other. Bear, though arguably happier in civilization than the wild, comes up against constant obstacles in his new residence. Namely, an obstacle known as Molly’s father. Reminding me a little of a Hanna-Barbera character in nature and appearance, Molly’s father is a bit of a curmudgeon- an ornery and proud man of the house (…like Fred Flinstone…) who is often at odds with Molly and his wife about the fact that he would much prefer Bear to go back to the wilderness. Bear and Dad’s relationship is one feature of the strip that makes for great comedy: while Molly’s dad typically blows a gasket at Bear’s minor accidents and major mistakes, it is a lot of fun to see their ups and downs and how Dad’s fondness of Bear grows begrudgingly.

I find Molly and the Bear to be at its funniest, most surprising and most genuine when it does not insert more contemporary pop culture and/or modern references the mix. To be fair, this doesn’t occur too often- but as an example, there are moments in the strip when characters send text messages, or when Slash from Guns ‘N Roses and Angelina Jolie are mentioned. For various reasons, Molly and the Bear has the fantastically evocative and joyful feel of a more classic, if not retro comic strip that doesn’t need to focus on trend, which is why some of the more current references feel slightly discordant. I feel that Scott’s writing and thus the gags work at their strongest and sharpest when the focus is on the main characters and their interplay rather than when its trying to place itself in contemporary time.

In all, I had a whale of a time reading through the collection of Molly and the Bear strips. While easily found online as a web comic, I would like to note that the hardcover edition is quite beautiful: the larger page layouts are conducive to easy reading, and it includes an introduction, a welcome to the main characters- in full colour-, as well as a special ‘Behind the Ink’ section. Comic strip book aficionados might particularly appreciate those features! Any readers who have read and/or enjoy comic strips such as Mother Goose & Grimm, Dennis the Menace, Red and Rover, or any of the comics mentioned above, might especially take to the classic comedy and heart in Molly and the Bear.

I received a copy of this title courtesy of Bob Scott and Cameron + Company in exchange for an honest review. All opinions and comments are my own.

Review: The Book You’re Not Supposed to Have (Timmy Failure #5) by Stephan Pastis

timmyfailure528686922Review: The Book You’re Not Supposed to Have (Timmy Failure #5) by Stephan Pastis
Source: Hardcopy courtesy of Penguin Random House Canada/Candlewick Press. Thank you!
Publication: September 27, 2016 by Candlewick Press
Book Description:

Banishment from his life’s calling can’t keep a comically overconfident detective down in the latest episode by New York Times bestseller Stephan Pastis.

This book was never meant to exist. No one needs to know the details. Just know this: there’s a Merry, a Larry, a missing tooth, and a teachers’ strike that is crippling Timmy Failure’s academic future. Worst of all, Timmy is banned from detective work. It’s a conspiracy of buffoons. He recorded everything in his private notebook, but then the manuscript was stolen. If this book gets out, he will be grounded for life. Or maybe longer. And will Timmy’s mom really marry Doorman Dave?

“Do you love others, Timothy?”

“I dunno. Do you?”

Oh, Timmy.

Five books into the eccentric and comical Timmy Failure series by Stephan Pastis and mysteries and misunderstandings are still running amok. In a previous post, I talked about my love of the series- the weirdness, laughter and strange sweetness of Timmy’s world. The aforementioned mix of traits are still alive and well with The Book You’re Not Supposed to Have; but in this title, we meet a few new great characters that show just how helpless, in denial (and extremely obstinate!) Timmy can be.

In The Book You’re Not Supposed to Have, a big change is looming for Timmy: his mom is set to marry Doorman Dave. Now, those familiar with Timmy’s great skill in avoiding big, personal issues, will know that Timmy will focus his attention on everything but the major issue at hand. Rather than face the impending wedding and life changes,  Timmy turns his attention on continuing detective work (surreptitiously) in the midst of being banned from doing any detective work. Throwing further wrenches into his plan to operate his spy work on the sly are cousins Merry and Larry- staying with the Failures and in Timmy’s room- before the big wedding. So, Timmy does the rational thing and decides to take over a garden shed at the Home Despot to continue his operations… Of course, being Timmy, he is waylaid by focusing on spurious dead-end cases and by the fact that his best friend Rollo Tookus is becoming chummy with (gasp!) Merry and Larry. Standing fierce by Timmy’s side through all of his mistakes (both small and…HUGE), though, is Molly Moskins- the tangerine-scented girl who loves Timmy. Pastis throws in a little surprise courtesy of Molly at the end, which I especially adored, as Molly Moskins has become a series favourite for me!

Overall, the Timmy Failure series, five books in, continues to surprise with Pastis’ particular brand of offbeat, very funny writing, and new characters who prove to be a real hoot. While Timmy himself is an ongoing puzzle, sometimes infuriatingly stubborn and oblivious, Pastis manages to balance those less-than-beguiling characteristics by matching Timmy against family and friends who push Timmy to show his vulnerabilities. Any readers who have enjoyed the previous titles in the series or Pastis’ other work with comic Pearls Before Swine will likely enjoy The Book You’re Not Supposed to Have. Readers who like series such as Diary of a Wimpy Kid, The Terrible Two, Big Nate, or Tom Gates, might especially be interested in giving Timmy Failure a read.

I received a copy of this title courtesy of Penguin Random House Canada/Candlewick Press in exchange for an honest review. All opinions and comments are my own.

Top Ten Tuesday: Favourite Comic Strips!

toptentuesday2Welcome to another Top Ten Tuesday! Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created by The Broke and the Bookish.

This week’s focus is all about our top ten favourites of a particular genre. I have decided to go with comic strips, as it’s a big bookish love of mine and something I don’t talk about too often here! My picks range from the classic to critically acclaimed, to series that just delight me to no end. So much wonderfulness in these strips, I highly recommend any of these strips to any humour/comics reader!

Here are my top ten- with the first two arguably tied for my all-time number one favourites:

Sherman’s Lagoon by Jim Toomey. I first started reading Sherman’s Lagoon about…15 years ago or so, and haven’t stopped or missed any of the collections. Zany, belly-laugh inducing, and consistently good. It is also a shared bookish favourite of my dad and I!
Cul de Sac by Richard Thompson. A superb comic strip: a deeply funny, wise and incredibly illustrated and written comic from the late Richard Thompson. All I can say about this one is to try it if you haven’t yet. A little taster of the strip is below.
Pearls Before Swine by Stephan Pastis. Out of any authors on this list, I think I have referred to Pastis the most, if not mostly for my love of his children’s series Timmy Failure. Pearls, as I probably mentioned in another post is sharply written, often caustic, but balanced with moments of sudden, intense thoughtfulness and consideration. And of course, it is a hoot as well.
FoxTrot by Bill Amend. I have loved this comic for years and years now! As with Sherman’s Lagoon or Baby Blues, this is go-to comfort reading (well, re-reading!). Amend does family dynamics so well, and makes the characters (who, as with the Simpson’s lot, don’t age) and their well-formed habits into fresh, just about limitless storylines.
Baby Blues by Rick Kirkman and Jerry Scott. Long, long before I became a parent, I was a huge fan of Baby Blues. Kirkman & Scott make a strip generally about becoming parents and parenting (and the frustrations and utter joy of kids) so readable, crazily likable and relatable. I’ve read and reread the collections numerous times and they still make me laugh out loud.
Peanuts by Charles M. Schulz. The main characters are so utterly familiar to me, I can’t imagine growing up without knowing them and their quirks! Sally is one of my stand-out characters- so unexpectedly hysterical, I think, that she doesn’t get enough credit. And who cannot, at one time or another, relate to Charlie Brown’s ennui and agony, or Lucy’s temper and misplaced affections?
Calvin and Hobbes by Bill Watterson. So much has been said and written about this critically acclaimed, beloved comic strip. I have grown to appreciate the wonder of this series- and the writing– even more as I get older.
Grand Avenue by Steve Breen. I wish the entirety of this series was available in print, but alas, only the first collection! Pulitzer Prize winning cartoonist Breen does a fantastic job in this series; a great premise with standout and very funny characters, this is a consistent delight to read.
Herman
by Jim Unger. We’ve all read at least a Herman comic at one point or another, haven’t we? I remember seeing dental-related Herman comic strips at my dentist’s growing up! (I always thought they were funny and true). So very dry and so very funny, Herman is a kick in the pants.
The Far Side by Gary Larson. Another critically acclaimed, much lauded, beloved comic strip series! I’ve been revisiting some of the collections this year; so consistently weird, dark and riotous.

Honourable mentions:
Mutts by Patrick McDonnell
Heart of the City by Mark Tatulli
Mother Goose and Grimm by Mike Peters
Get Fuzzy by Darby Conley

 

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What’s on your top ten this week? Be sure to check out some of the other great lists!

Top Ten Tuesday: Favourite TV Shows!

toptentuesday2Welcome to another Top Ten Tuesday! Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created by The Broke and the Bookish.

This week is all about honouring fall TV, and I have decided to do a list of my top ten favourite shows.

Now, as with most other Top Ten Tuesdays, I have had a difficult time narrowing things down, but without further adieu, here- in no particular order- are my top ten:

Arrested Development (seasons 1 to 3). Where to even start with the brilliance of this show?! So strange, hysterical, sharp, and all the unforgettable characters including Tobias, Gob, George Michael, and STEVE HOLT! My husband and I both adore this show an insane amount.
Gilmore Girls. I think I was starting university (gah) when this show first aired, and I watched it (rather obsessively) during its run on the WB (then CW). It seemed like a show just tailor-made for everything I wanted and needed in a show. Imminently re-watchable, I have so much love for this show and the characters, and Stars Hollow in general. I am delighted (almost bonkers with excitement) that Amy Sherman-Palladino has returned to the helm for more.
Seinfeld. I have seen most all episodes multiple times and I never get tired of it. Episodes like The Marine Biologist are perfection in TV comedy.
30 Rock. Tina Fey and Alec Baldwin’s timing and chemistry are terrific on this show. This seemed to be a show where casting was just perfect…everyone was spot on, top-notch writing and consistently wacky. And some of the funniest guest-star turns. Remember Jon Hamm? David Schwimmer? Elaine Stritch? Elizabeth Banks?
Freaks and Geeks. This show makes my heart ache and some parts just make me laugh til I cry. If you hadn’t had the opportunity to see it, please go for it!
The Office (BBC). Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant worked some magic on this series. So uncomfortable, awkward, genuinely affecting and funny; written and directly perfectly. A classic.
Brooklyn 99. A recent favourite. I adore this show so much! I didn’t know much about it before starting it, but my love for it has grown! Andy Samberg is so good in his role, and Andre Braugher and Terry Crews are just everything awesome. This is peak comfort/comedy TV watching for me.
The Good Wife. So all the actors on this show are wonderful; Christine Baranski consistently knocked it out of the park as did Josh Charles. Despite a slight slide in some seasons (and, you know, the whole thing with Will), it was consistently taut and well-done.
Friends. Miss Chanandler Bong, anyone? This is another example of epic comfort viewing with huge re-watch value and so much nostalgia.
Sex and the City. When I first heard/read that Candace Bushnell’s novel was going was going to be turned into a series I was intrigued…I started watching mostly due to the hype and praise it was getting at that time- I was just so curious! And then, there was Chris Noth as Mr. Big, so that was a bonus… I ended up watching (pretty religiously) the entire series while it aired on TV.

GOSEEASTARWAR

 

What’s on your top ten this week? Be sure to check out some of the other great lists!

Must Read Monday (47): Looking at Fall 2016 Releases (Part 2)

Continuing on with a Must Read Monday feature on Fall 2016 releases!…

This week’s Must Read Monday is a little bit different. I’ve been looking through various sources (review journals, publisher’s sites, Goodreads, blogs, etc.) as is my norm, but my to-be read pile has grown tremendously in a short span! This is due, in part, to all of the incredible books that are slated for Fall 2016 release! Some favourite authors and/or illustrators are releasing new titles or sequels, and there are new-to-me and/or debut authors with terrific sounding and terrifically reviewed titles.

You can take a look at my picks for Part 1 here!

Here, in no particular order, are my picks for Part 2:

 

The Secret Keepers by Trenton Lee Stewart
Expected publication: September 27, 2016 by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

Every Hidden Thing by Kenneth Oppel
Expected publication: September 20, 2016 by HarperCollins Canada

Foxheart by Claire Legrand, illus. Jaime Zollars
Expected publication: October 4, 2016 by Greenwillow Books

Today by Julie Morstad
Expected publication: September 2, 2016 by Simply Read Books

Nanette’s Baguette by Mo Willems
Expected publication: October 25, 2016 by Disney-Hyperion

Mighty Jack by Ben Hatke
Expected publication: September 6, 2016 by First Second

Mooncop by Tom Gauld
Expected publication: September 20, 2016 by Drawn and Quarterly

Razzle Dazzle Unicorn: Another Phoebe and Her Unicorn Adventure by Dana Simpson
Expected publication: September 20, 2016 by Andrews McMeel Publishing

Happy as a Clam: The Twenty-First Sherman’s Lagoon Collection by Jim Toomey
Expected publication: September 20, 2016 by Andrews McMeel Publishing

Stephan’s Web: A Pearls Before Swine Collection by Stephan Pastis
Expected publication: November 22, 2016 by Andrews McMeel Publishing

*For the purposes of these posts, ‘Fall’ will include some August, September and October, possibly some November 2016 releases

Stand-Out Reads of 2016, So Far…(Part 2)

As we are just over the halfway mark of the year, I thought now would be a good time to look back over the stand-out reads of the year, so far…

For part two, I am taking a look at picture books and board books- categories which I not only feel so lucky I get to pore over daily at work, but also categories which I am constantly amazed by. The titles picked here are the reads that have surprised, delighted, impressed, or ones that I feel have done something innovative and fresh. In no particular order, here are my picture book and board book picks:

Out of the Woods: A True Story of an Unforgettable Event by Rebecca Bond
Before I Leave by Jessixa Bagley
Barnacle is Bored by Jonathan Fenske
This Is My Dollhouse by Giselle Potter
One Day, The End.: Short, Very Short, Shorter-Than-Ever Stories by Rebecca Kai Dotlich, illus. Fred Koehler
Teeny Tiny Toady by Jill Esbaum, illus. Keika Yamaguchi
Wild Berries by Julie Flett
Secret Tree Fort by Brianne Farley
Snappsy the Alligator (Did Not Ask to Be in This Book) by Julie Falatko, illus. Tim Miller
My Heart Fills with Happiness by Monique Gray Smith, illus. Julie Flett
The Night Gardener by Terry Fan and Eric Fan
If I Had a Gryphon by Vikki VanSickle, illus. Cale Atkinson
Big Friends by Linda Sarah, illus. Benji Davies
Here Comes Valentine Cat by Deborah Underwood, illus. Claudia Rueda
Dylan the Villain by K.G. Campbell
Please, Open This Book! by Adam Lehrhaupt, illus. Matthew Forsythe
Hamsters on the Go! by Kass Reich
A Midsummer Night’s Dream: A BabyLit Fairies Primer by Jennifer Adams, illus. Alison Oliver
Gryphons Aren’t So Great (Adventures in Cartooning) by James Sturm, Alexis Frederick-Frost, Andrew Arnold
Wild by Emily Hughes
Mother Bruce by Ryan T. Higgins
Dear Yeti by James Kwan
This Book Just Ate My Dog! by Richard Byrne
Lost. Found. by Marsha Diane Arnold, illus. Matthew Cordell
We All Count: A Book of Cree Numbers by Julie Flett
A Perfectly Messed-Up Story by Patrick McDonnell
The Wonderful Habits of Rabbits by Douglas Florian, illus. Sonia Sanchez
Sing a Season Song by Jane Yolen, illus. Lisel Jane Ashlock
Wandering Whale Sharks by Susumu Shingu
A Dog Wearing Shoes by Sangmi Ko