Monthly Archives: July 2018

Be Prepared by Vera Brosgol

Be Prepared by Vera Brosgol. April 24,  2018. First Second, 256 p. ISBN: 9781626724440.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 3.2; Lexile: 360.

In Be Prepared, all Vera wants to do is fit in—but that’s not easy for a Russian girl in the suburbs. Her friends live in fancy houses and their parents can afford to send them to the best summer camps. Vera’s single mother can’t afford that sort of luxury, but there’s one summer camp in her price range—Russian summer camp.

Vera is sure she’s found the one place she can fit in, but camp is far from what she imagined. And nothing could prepare her for all the “cool girl” drama, endless Russian history lessons, and outhouses straight out of nightmares!

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Body humor, Bullying; Sexual harassment

 

Book Trailer

Reviews

Booklist starred (April 15, 2018 (Vol. 114, No. 16))
Grades 6-9. Vera feels too Russian for her friends in Albany. She can never quite get the hang of sleepover birthday parties, and she’ll never have expensive toys like they do. So when she hears about a summer camp just for Russian American kids, she’s sure she’s finally found her place. But she’s much younger than her tent-mates, and—impossibly—she’s not Russian enough to fit in. She stumbles over the language, doesn’t know all the songs, and generally can’t quite get a handle on roughing it. But what’s more Russian than suffering? With fantastic pacing and poignant emotional turns, Brosgol’s winsome graphic memoir hilariously captures the lengths kids go to in order to fit in as well as the author’s growth from a girl desperate for a place to belong into someone confident enough to stand up for herself. Brosgol’s pitch-perfect art varies between serene, contemplative snapshot-like images of nature and comedic scenes between Vera—cartoonishly drawn with huge, goggle-eyed glasses—and her friends and campmates, all of whom appear in a relatively realistic style. Even though it’s rendered only in black, white, and olive green, Brosgol’s artwork has immense depth, from the facial expressions and gestures to the spot-on visual gags, and she strikes a perfect balance between heartfelt honesty and uproarious, self-deprecating humor. Perfect for fans of Shannon Hale’s Real Friends (2017), this will easily lodge a place in readers’ hearts, even as it has them rolling in the aisles.

Horn Book Magazine (May/June, 2018)
“This book is a true story. And also made up.” Brosgol’s (Anya’s Ghost, rev. 7/11; Leave Me Alone, rev. 9/16) fictionalized graphic memoir captures the ups and downs (let’s be honest—mostly downs) of a stint at a Russian Orthodox summer camp. Feeling like an outsider at school, Russian American preteen Vera is initially thrilled to attend camp with other Russian kids. Once there, however, she struggles to adjust to the strict rules, lack of modern electricity and plumbing, and drama involving her significantly older tentmates. The story’s visual narrative, exposition, and dialogue are in balance as inky illustrations fill smartly placed panels. The tone is accessible, vulnerable, and hilariously kid-centric (there are plenty of potty references). Angle brackets in the speech bubbles indicate dialogue spoken in Russian, and untranslated words and signs build atmosphere. A monochromatic palette using shades of army green reinforces the natural setting, and a cliffhanger ending leaves the door open for a sequel. Gaps between fiction and reality are clarified in an author’s note, which also includes primary documents: real-life photographs and a letter written by Vera to her mom (“Love, and homesick and crying, Vera. P.S. My stomach hurts every night. It does right now, too”). The story, both culturally specific and universal, is a welcome addition to the growing canon of comics by talented women cartoonists (Raina Telgemeier, Tillie Walden, Zeina Abirached, Cece Bell, and many others) based on their own lives. elisa gall

About the Author

Vera Brosgol was born in Moscow, Russia in 1984 and moved to the United States when she was five. She received a diploma in Classical Animation from Sheridan College, and currently works at Laika Inc. in Portland, Oregon drawing storyboards for feature animation.

She has done illustration work for clients such as Nickelodeon, Sony Computer Entertainment, and Simon & Schuster. Her first graphic novel, Anya’s Ghost, was published in 2011 by First Second Books.

She loves knitting, baking, and trying not to kill her plants. She hopes you are enjoying looking at her drawings!

Her website is verabee.com

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Be Prepared on Amazon

Be Prepared on Goodreads

Be Prepared Publisher Page

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Archival Quality by Ivy Noelle Weir

Archival Quality  by Ivy Noelle Weir. March 6, 2018. Oni Press, 280 p. ISBN: 9781620104705.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 380.

After losing her job at the library, Cel Walden starts working at the haunting Logan Museum as an archivist. But the job may not be the second chance she was hoping for, and she finds herself confronting her mental health, her relationships, and before long, her grasp on reality as she begins to dream of a young woman she’s never met, but feels strangely drawn to. Especially after she asks Cel for help…

As Cel attempts to learn more about the woman, she begins losing time, misplacing things, passing out—the job is becoming dangerous, but she can’t let go of this mysterious woman. Who is she? Why is she so fixated on Cel? And does Cel have the power to save her when she’s still trying to save herself?

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Alcohol, Negative attitudes toward differing mental abilities, Harsh realities of asylum life

 

Reviews

Booklist (February 15, 2018 (Vol. 114, No. 12))
Grades 9-12. The Logan Museum is creepy, but Cel is desperate for a job since she lost her old library position under ambiguous circumstances. Despite an awkward interview, Cel becomes the archivist and spends the night shift cataloging materials from the Logan’s collections. But bumps in the night and weird dreams of a girl in an asylum set Cel on edge, especially since she’s worried about her own mental health. But the ghost girl’s hints that something suspicious is going on with the secretive board are hard to ignore. With the help of librarian Holly and curator Aba, Cel sets out to solve the mystery of the girl and perhaps get to the heart of the museum’s purpose. Steenz’s blocky, thick-lined artwork depicts a refreshingly diverse cast of characters in a wide variety of skin tones and body shapes. Though the pace drags in the middle, and the mysterious origins of the museum are disappointingly underdeveloped, Cel’s ultimate decision to finally seek out professional help for her mental illness is satisfying.

Kirkus Reviews starred (January 15, 2018)
In another time and in different societies, librarians and people with psychosocial disabilities held similar positions: namely guardians of human knowledge. The author, one of the American Library Association’s 2015 Emerging Leaders, reclaims this in Celeste “Cel” Walden, a woman of color fired from her library assistant job due to her multiply diagnosed mental illness. She interviews—and is hired—for an archivist gig at the Logan Museum, an 83-year-old institution housing “one of the largest collections of antique medical photographs, documents, and books,” according to the museum’s exceptionally groovy purple-and-blue–haired librarian, a black woman named Holly Park. With the job comes an apartment that archivists are strongly encouraged to live in due to the overnight hours. The museum also has an aloof, black chief curator named Abayomi Abiola, a history of use as a health facility of many sorts, and a mysterious board of directors…and a ghost connected to the time when the museum served as an asylum for people diagnosed with mental illness. The ghost spurs Celeste to seek justice for her and, in the process—with help from Holly and eventually Abayomi—helps Celeste seek wholeness for herself in terms of her condition. The author and illustrator bring a warm honesty, visually and narrativewise, to the characters, who are mostly people of color, as they navigate the complexities of mental illness, sexuality, love, and social responsibility. In their appealing protagonist, Weir and Steenz return both librarians and people with mental and emotional distress to their original, esteemed roles as keepers of truthful history. (Graphic fantasy. 12-adult)

About the Author

Ivy Noelle Weir has been writing stories for her entire life, and her essays on art, pop culture and librarianship have appeared in a variety of outlets. In addition to her writing, Weir is a visual artist and former librarian who studied photography at Parsons the New School for Design, art history at Goddard College, and holds an MLIS from Clarion University of Pennsylvania. A native of Philadelphia, she currently works in publishing and lives on a crooked old street in an apartment full of Halloween decorations with her partner and tiny dog.

Her website is www.ivynoelleweir.com.

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Archival Quality on Amazon

Archival Quality on Goodreads

Archival Quality Publisher Page

Nadya Skylung and the Cloudship Rescue by Jeff Seymour

Nadya Skylung and the Cloudship Rescue by Jeff Seymour. May 15, 2018. G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers, 320 p. ISBN: 9781524738655.  Int Lvl: 3-6; Rdg Lvl: 5.9; Lexile: 760.

From debut author Jeff Seymour and bestselling illustrator Brett Helquist (Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events) comes this breathtaking fantasy adventure, starring an extraordinary new heroine and set in an unforgettable world where ships can fly.

It takes a very special crew to keep the cloudship Orion running, and no one knows that better than Nadya Skylung, who tends the cloud garden that keeps the ship afloat. When the unthinkable happens and pirates attack, Nadya and the other children aboard–all orphans taken in by the kindhearted Captain Nic–narrowly escape, but the rest of the crew is captured. Alone and far from help, only Nadya and her four brave and loyal friends can take back the Orion and rescue the crew. And she’ll risk life and limb to save the only family she’s ever known. But . . . this attack was no accident. What exactly are the pirates looking for? Could it be Nadya they’ve been after all along?

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Violence, Alcohol

 

Reviews

Booklist (April 1, 2018 (Vol. 114, No. 15))
Grades 6-8. Nadya and the others aboard the cloudship Orion are orphans taken in by Captain Nic until the day they can run their own ships. Nadya dreams of one day leaving the security of the cloud garden and becoming first mate, until the ship is attacked by pirates. When the crew is taken hostage, Nadya and her friends must risk their lives to save them. This brilliantly characterized debut features heroes who are well-rounded and layered; each come from tragic circumstances, but their connection is genuine and emotional as they deal with realistic conflicts and daily life aboard the ship. Opinionated Nadya often fails to see others’ perspectives, but as she learns to put aside their differences in order to honestly understand her teammates, it’s easy to form a real connection with her. An impressive read that explores ideas of what bravery means though rich writing, vivid descriptions, and a strong voice. Readers will be eager to explore this breathtaking and dangerous steampunk world set in the sky.

Kirkus Reviews (March 15, 2018)
Nadya Skylung, an orphan, was rescued by the cloudship Orion’s captain, Nic, as were the other orphans who are in the crew: Tam, Tian Li, Pepper, and Salyeh. In the cloudship’s garden, Nadya helps fellow skylung Mrs. Trachia take care of the special plants and animals that help keep the vessel aloft. As the book opens, Nadya hopes to be named first mate. Then the worst happens: Pirates attack the Orion. They are looking for skylungs, and Nadya fears they are looking for her. The action’s both nonstop and circular: The adults sacrifice themselves so that the children can escape, and then the children execute a daring rescue to save them. Nadya gets some but not all of her questions answered, leaving room for a sequel. The built world is complicated, with elaborate biological mechanisms that power the cloudship and humans with special properties to run it. With geography and naming conventions vaguely analogous to our own, Seymour constructs a racially diverse cast around Nadya, who presents white. The language he uses to describe his characters of color is sometimes poorly chosen: Tian Li is rather opaquely described as having “sandstone-colored skin,” and, worse, Salyeh is described as having skin “the dark brown of burning paper.” While the worldbuilding can be heavy-handed and confusing at times, readers who love action-adventure stories will enjoy reading about Nadya and her friends. (Fantasy. 8-12)

About the Author

Jeff Seymour writes hopeful, heartfelt fantasy that blends modern characters with timeless plots and offers something new and fantastic on every page. His debut middle-grade novel, Nadya Skylung and the Cloudship Rescue, will be published by Putnam Young Readers in 2018, and his epic fantasy Soulwoven got over a million reads while being featured on Wattpad. In his day job as a freelance editor, Jeff helps shape and clean up stories for a talented roster of bestselling sci-fi and fantasy authors as well as newcomers to the business. In his free time, he plays more video games than he should, serves as support team to a wife with an incredible career of her own, pretends he knows anything about raising children, and gathers ideas for stories everywhere he goes

His website is jeff-seymour.com

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Nadya Skylung and the Cloudship Rescue on Amazon

Nadya Skylung and the Cloudship Rescue on Goodreads

Nadya Skylung and the Cloudship Rescue Publisher Page

The World Cup by Matt Doeden

The Negro Leagues: Celebrating Baseball’s Unsung Heroes by Matt Doeden. January 1, 2016. Millbrook Press, 64 p. ISBN: 9781512427530.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 7.0; Lexile: 1030.

After the Civil War (1861-1865), the earliest seeds of professional baseball began to sprout. While racism was rampant, some early teams featured black and white players competing side by side. But by 1900, segregation forced African Americans to form their own teams. Black players traveled around the country on barnstorming tours, taking on all challengers. In 1920, baseball’s Negro leagues started, and for more than three decades, they offered fans a thrilling alternative to Major League Baseball. Explore the riveting history of the Negro leagues, including some of baseball’s greatest (and most unheralded) players, biggest games, and wildest moments.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: None

 

Reviews

Booklist (November 1, 2016 (Vol. 113, No. 5))
Grades 5-8. After WWI, the competitive Negro leagues emerged, along with some of the greatest and most entertaining players in baseball history. This informative volume offers a thoughtful introduction to the players, teams, and leagues, which were formed in response to the segregation of professional baseball in the U.S. during the late 1800s. From the Spectacular Sports series, which includes Doeden’s The World Series (2014) and The College Football Championship (2015), the book has a large, square format that offers ample space for text and sidebars as well as archival photos of teams, players, and managers. Presenting a concise and very readable history of the Negro leagues, Doeden’s account is particularly strong in placing events within the broader social context of racial intolerance, segregation, and gradual integration, and his chapter on legendary players is not to be missed. The many well-chosen quotes are sourced in the back matter, which also includes a short list of books for further reading. This well-researched book will be a worthwhile addition to any baseball collection.

Kirkus Reviews (November 1, 2016)
A broad survey of African-Americans in baseball, from the end of the Civil War to the era of Jackie Robinson and the last of the barnstormers.Though far from “unsung” considering Kadir Nelson’s soaring We Are the Ship (2008) and the plethora of both general histories and individual biographies available, black players from Robinson, Satchel Paige, and Josh Gibson to less-prominent ground breakers such as Moses Fleetwood Walker, Rube Foster, and Toni Stone certainly merit another tip of the cap. Unlike Nelson, Doeden doesn’t pull readers out onto the field of dreams. Instead, mixing in notable games and spotlight player profiles, plus plenty of team and individual photos, Doeden offers a fluent if standard-issue chronicle of the rises and falls of significant Negro Leagues and independent teams in the wake of professional baseball’s exclusion of African-Americans. (Other minorities get no more than a few references and an intriguing group portrait of a diverse “All Nations” team from around 1915.) Also, in a closing “Legacy” chapter, he brings his account up to the present by analyzing, albeit in a superficial way, the modern decline in the percentage of African-Americans in the ranks of the modern major leagues. It’s conventional fare, but it’s systematic and at least a little broader in scope than older titles. (notes, further reading, index) (Nonfiction. 10-13)

About the Author

Matt Doeden was born in southern Minnesota and lived parts of his childhood in Golden Valley, Minnesota, and Madison, Minnesota. He studied journalism at Mankato State University, where he worked at the college newspaper for three years. In his senior year, he served as the paper’s Sports Editor, which put him in charge of the entire sports section, the sports writers, and the photographers. He covered mostly college sports, but also the Minnesota Vikings, who held training camp at MSU.

Teacher Resources

Lesson plans from the Negro Leagues Baseball eMuseum

Around the Web

The Negro Leagues: Celebrating Baseball’s Unsung Heroes on Amazon

The Negro Leagues: Celebrating Baseball’s Unsung Heroes on JLG

The Negro Leagues: Celebrating Baseball’s Unsung Heroes on Goodreads

 

 

Calling All Minds by Temple Grandin

Calling All Minds: How to Think and Create Like an Inventor by Temple Grandin. May 15, 2018. Philomel Books, 240 p. ISBN: 9781524738204.  Int Lvl: 3-6; Rdg Lvl: 6.7; Lexile: 1060.

From world-renowned autism spokesperson, scientist, and inventor Temple Grandin — a book of personal stories, inventions, and facts that will blow young inventors’ minds and make them soar.

Have you ever wondered what makes a kite fly or a boat float? Have you ever thought about why snowflakes are symmetrical, or why golf balls have dimples? Have you ever tried to make a kaleidoscope or build a pair of stilts?

In Calling All Minds, Temple Grandin explores the ideas behind all of those questions and more. She delves into the science behind inventions, the steps various people took to create and improve upon ideas as they evolved, and the ways in which young inventors can continue to think about and understand what it means to tinker, to fiddle, and to innovate. And laced throughout it all, Temple gives us glimpses into her own childhood tinkering, building, and inventing.

More than a blueprint for how to build things, in Calling All Minds Temple Grandin creates a blueprint for different ways to look at the world. And more than a call to action, she gives a call to imagination, and shows readers that there is truly no single way to approach any given problem–but that an open and inquisitive mind is always key.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: None

 

Book Trailer

Reviews

Booklist (April 15, 2018 (Vol. 114, No. 16))
Grades 4-7. Grandin, renowned as a scientist, author, and adult with autism, has created a miscellany in which she claims to share “the soul of invention.” To do this, she integrates anecdotes from her life as a curious tinkerer with stories of important inventions and activities, such as pairing the history of paper and scissors with instructions for making paper snowflakes. Organized by broad categories (“Things Made of Wood,” “Things That Fly,” etc.), the book touches on ideas such as the Fibonacci sequence and optical illusions, encourages creativity by making a water bomb or a plant stand, and provides short background on additional inventions from crayons to hydraulic jacks. Famous inventors are profiled, from Gutenberg to the Wright brothers, who she thinks “might today be diagnosed as somewhere on the autism or Asperger’s spectrum.” To all of that, she tosses in references to the Flying Nun and golf ball dimples. The design is dull, dated, and distant, with reproductions of patents and portraits of dead white men, but the myriad topics and personal text are certainly mind-expanding.

Kirkus Reviews starred (March 1, 2018)
Celebrated inventor Grandin shares her experiences and insights into her processes of tinkering and building, offering excellent advice to aspiring young inventors for realizing their own innovative ideas. Grandin explores the history of inventions from the ancient to the contemporary, the science behind them, and the steps various people took to create and improve upon ideas as they evolved, and she also suggests ways in which young inventors can think about and understand what it means to innovate. What makes Grandin’s narrative particularly engaging are the many anecdotes she shares about her own childhood fascination with questioning, investigating, building, and inventing. She shares how her autism enabled her to see things in unique ways, paving the way for her innovative work in animal behavior. Grandin describes herself as a visual, “bottom-up thinker,” the type of scientist who gathers data and then arrives at a hypothesis. She passionately encourages young people to use their imaginations, stressing inquisitiveness and open-mindedness as the keys to problem-solving as well as the importance of tactile experiences and hands-on experimentation. Included in the text are 25 kid-friendly projects to help develop those skills. Mixing history, science, and memoir makes for an occasionally digressive narrative that is sometimes unwieldy but never boring. An impassioned call to look at the world in unique ways with plenty of practical advice on how to cultivate a curious, inquiring, imaginative mind. (diagrams, photos, bibliography) (Nonfiction. 8-12)

About the Author

Temple Grandin, Ph.D., didn’t talk until she was three and a half years old, communicating her frustration instead by screaming, peeping, and humming. In 1950, she was diagnosed with autism and her parents were told she should be institutionalized. She tells her story of “groping her way from the far side of darkness” in her book Emergence: Labeled Autistic, a book which stunned the world because, until its publication, most professionals and parents assumed that an autism diagnosis was virtually a death sentence to achievement or productivity in life.

Even though she was considered “weird” in her young school years, she eventually found a mentor, who recognized her interests and abilities. Dr. Grandin later developed her talents into a successful career as a livestock-handling equipment designer, one of very few in the world. She has now designed the facilities in which half the cattle are handled in the United States, consulting for firms such as Burger King, McDonald’s, Swift, and others.

Dr. Grandin presently works as a Professor of Animal Science at Colorado State University. She also speaks around the world on both autism and cattle handling.

Her website is www.templegrandin.com/

Around the Web

Calling All Minds on Amazon

Calling All Minds on Goodreads

Calling All Minds Publisher Page

What the Night Sings by Vesper Stamper

What the Night Sings by Vesper Stamper. February  20, 2018. Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers, 272 p. ISBN: 9781524700393.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 720.

For fans of The Book Thief and The Boy in the Striped Pajamas comes a lushly illustrated novel about a teen Holocaust survivor, who must come to terms with who she is and how to rebuild her life.

After losing her family and everything she knew in the Nazi concentration camps, Gerta is finally liberated, only to find herself completely alone. Without her Papa, her music, or even her true identity, she must move past the task of surviving and onto living her life. In the displaced persons camp where she is staying, Gerta meets Lev, a fellow teen survivor who she just might be falling for, despite her feelings for someone else. With a newfound Jewish identity she never knew she had, and a return to the life of music she thought she lost forever, Gerta must choose how to build a new future.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Discrimination, Violence, Mild sexual themes

 

Book Trailer

Reviews

Booklist (November 1, 2017 (Vol. 114, No. 5))
Grades 9-12. Before Nazis dragged Gerta Rausch and her father to the Theresienstadt ghetto and, ultimately, to Auschwitz, Gerta was different. Literally. According to her Ahnenpass, a certificate of Aryan lineage, she was Gerta Richter. She had no knowledge of her Jewish heritage; she also had a white-hot passion for all things music. Now, her familiarity with viola—and enrollment in the Women’s Orchestra of Auschwitz—has saved her life, but Gerta has yet to salvage her greatest love from the rubble: her singing voice. But one boy may be dead set on helping her find it. Sifting through the war’s aftermath, Stamper’s debut spotlights a multitude of oft-overlooked topics, from postwar pogroms and the Bergen-Belsen displaced-persons camp where Gerta resides, to the budding Zionist movement. Stamper’s ethereal sepia-toned illustrations, teetering between black-and-white and full color, beautifully convey Gerta’s dilemma as a girl on the brink of both adolescence and adulthood, friendship and romance, silence and song. A well-researched, elegant, and fittingly melodic exploration of reclaiming one’s voice—and the many kinds of faith it can spark.

Horn Book Magazine (May/June, 2018)
This moving, beautifully illustrated novel begins with the 1945 liberation of Bergen-Belsen, when adolescent survivor Gerta is relocated to a displaced persons camp. The time Stamper spends on Gerta’s postwar story, a somewhat unusual focus for a Holocaust novel, allows for thoughtful exploration of the particular challenges of rebuilding a life after the Holocaust’s devastation. Gerta, still healing emotionally and physically, finds herself making decisions about her romantic, religious, and artistic future that seem startling in their speed. A long flashback gives context for the peculiar assortment of memories influencing her now: she grew up a promising musician and learned of her Jewish background and real last name (Rausch, not Richter) only when her father revealed the truth on the train to Theresienstadt. The flashback traces Gerta’s experiences from the fear and starvation of the ghetto to the even more horrific conditions of Auschwitz-Birkenau (her father is immediately sent to his death; Gerta survives largely because her musical ability places her in the Women’s Orchestra, where she is forced to serenade women and children on their walk to the gas chamber). Dreamlike prose and digitally toned black-and-white illustrations in ink wash, white gouache, and graphite, ranging from spot art to spacious full-bleed wordless spreads, combine with thick, creamy paper to create a volume with the feel of an art object. Back matter includes an author’s note about Stamper’s inspiration and her research visits to concentration camps, a glossary, a map, and resources. shoshana flax

About the Author

Vesper Stamper was born in Nuremberg, Germany and raised in New York City. Her family was an eclectic mix of engineers, musicians and artists who didn’t think Voltaire too tough for bedtime reading, Chopin Valses too loud for wake-up calls, or precision slide rules too fragile as playthings. She married filmmaker Ben Stamper right out of college, and together they have two wildly creative children. When Vesper earned her MFA in Illustration from School of Visual Arts, Ben gave her an orange tree. She illustrates and writes under its leaves and blossoms at her grandfather’s old drafting table, in the pine woods of the Northeast.

Her website is www.vesperillustration.com

Around the Web

What the Night Sings on Amazon

What the Night Sings onGoodreads

What the Night Sings Publisher Page

Thrilling Thieves by Brianna DuMont

Thrilling Thieves: Liars, Cheats, Double-Crossers Who Changed History by Brianna DuMont. October 3, 2017. Sky Pony Press, 192 p. ISBN: 9781510701694.  Int Lvl: 3-6; Rdg Lvl: 6.0.

Caution: don’t look for the good guys in here.

What do Mother Theresa, Honest Abe, and Mahatma Gandhi have in common? They’re all too good for this book, that’s what.

Sure, you’ll find some familiar faces like Queen Elizabeth I and Thomas Edison in here, but you’ll learn that behind their angelic smiles were cunning con artists who stole their way to gold and greatness.

Follow the trail of twelve troublemakers to learn what really made the Mona Lisa the most iconic painting in the world, meet the most powerful pirate from history (it’s probably not who you’re expecting), and watch empires rise and fall with the theft of a simple tea plant. Turns out our world owes a lot to those who dabble on the dark side.

If you’re not scared of crooks and criminals, take a peek at this new side of history . . .

Potentially Sensitive Areas: War, Violence, Drugs, Racism, Irreverent humor

 

Reviews

Booklist (July 2018 (Vol. 114, No. 21))
Grades 4-8. Just as she did in Fantastic Fugitives (2016), DuMont offers another exciting look at criminals—this time, thieves—throughout history. Beginning with the Venetians, she continues chronologically with 11 individuals, including Chinese pirate Madame Cheng, Thomas Edison, and spy Klaus Fuchs. In a conversational style, emphasized by over-the-top humor, each profile relates the time period, the thief’s conquest, and the thievery’s impact on history. For instance, when Vincenzo Peruggia stole the Mona Lisa from the Louvre in 1911, the painting was only a “B-list celebrity.” Its incredible return years later made it the star it is today—and, of course, influenced art museum security around the world. (Its first thief, Napoleon, is also featured in the book.) The term thief is used loosely with other individuals, such as Englishman Robert Fortune, who “stole” the tea trade from China in the 1800s and gave it to British-controlled India. And helping to steal the show in this rousing read are funny cartoons, period photos, reproductions, and interesting sidebars. Even reluctant nonfiction readers will become history buffs.

Kirkus Reviews (June 1, 2018)
Thieves of the highest magnitude—think Napoleon—get a good tattling from DuMont in a continuation of her Changed History series. These are thieves who really did change history by moving the stolen items around the globe, sometimes in a small span, around Paris, for example, and sometimes from one continent to another. DuMont starts with the Venetians, who not only stole St. Mark’s body, but made alarming gains during the Crusades. She moves on to Francisco Pizarro and his conveyor belt of gold and silver from the Incan Empire to Spain. It took Francis Drake six days to empty one of King Philip’s Spanish treasure ships of its gold and silver. That is the same Drake to whom Queen Elizabeth gave “more ships to cram more Africans aboard to sell in the West Indies.” DuMont can come off as glib, but for the most part she is just throwing sauce in the face of egregious greed. There is also one heroic con man: Robert Smalls, an African-American pilot who ran the Confederate blockade of Charleston to take freedom for himself and a good number of slaves. DuMont also names secondary characters, which is particularly satisfying, as in introducing Vivant Denon, Napoleon’s choice to direct his growing art hoard and inventor of the modern museum. A sassy, historically sound visit with some of the more (mostly) rudely audacious characters who have taken what wasn’t theirs. (Nonfiction. 11-16)

About the Author

Brianna DuMont is the award-winning author of numerous nonfiction books for middle grade readers and enjoys exposing the forgotten bits in history. She lives in Chicago, Illinois with her husband, two kids, and two cats.

Her website is www.briannadumont.com

Around the Web

Thrilling Thieves on Amazon

Thrilling Thieves on Goodreads

Thrilling Thieves Publisher Page

How You Ruined My Life by Jeff Strand

How You Ruined My Life by Jeff Strand. April 3, 2018. Sourcebooks Fire, 304 p. ISBN: 9781492662020.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 660.

A new hilarious novel from the author of The Greatest Zombie Movie Ever and Stranger Things Have Happened.

Rod’s life doesn’t suck. If you ask him, it’s pretty awesome. He may not be popular, but he and his best friends play in a band that has a standing gig. Yeah, it’s Monday night and they don’t get paid, but they can turn the volume up as loud as they want. And Rod’s girlfriend is hot, smart, and believes in their band―believes in Rod. Aside from a winning lottery ticket, what more could he ask for?

Answer: A different cousin. When Rod’s scheming, two-faced cousin Blake moves in for the semester, Rod tries to keep calm. Blake seems to have everyone else fooled with good manners and suave smile, except Rod knows better. Blake is taking over his room, taking over his band, taking over his life! But Rod’s not about to give up without a fight. Game on. May the best prankster win…

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Violence

 

Reviews

Booklist (March 1, 2018 (Vol. 114, No. 13))
Grades 8-11. Rod is pretty satisfied with his life. Sure, his dad left, but he’s got a fun band and a great girlfriend. Then his mom announces that Rod’s cousin, Blake, is coming to stay for three months. Rod’s not thrilled about sharing his room for a semester, but he supposes it could be worse—and as soon as he picks up Blake from the airport, it is. Entitled, lazy Blake is a pain in the ass, but only to Rod; in front of everyone else, he’s completely charming. After a few days of this gaslighting, Rod’s starting to go a little crazy. But even if no one else believes it, he knows Blake is trying to take over his life, and Rod is about to start fighting back. Strand (Stranger Things Have Happened, 2017) imbues Rod’s downward spiral with plenty of wacky humor, and if Rod’s outbursts are a bit overly dramatic at times, readers will be too busy sympathizing with him to care. A family drama guaranteed to keep readers laughing.

Kirkus Reviews (February 15, 2018)
Two cousins trapped under the same roof engage in psychological warfare.Rod may not be very popular or live in a big house, but he has a tight group of friends, an up-and-coming band, and a perfectly sweet girlfriend. His dad abandoned the family, but Rod is close to his mom, a waitress. All in all, plenty to be thankful for. However, when his wealthy cousin Blake’s parents go on a three-month around-the-world cruise, guess who shows up for an extended visit? Blake and Rod get off on the wrong foot, and the pair’s conflict quickly devolves into a battle of wills and mutual sabotage. As Blake, with his high-handed arrogance, systematically chips away at Rod’s sanity, readers will howl with laughter, cringing as the author twists the screws at perfectly placed intervals. The resolution is a tad disappointing, but Rod’s narration is amusing, with a playful awareness of literary convention that makes for a breezy read. The tertiary characters are thin, particularly Rod’s band mates (readers may have trouble telling them apart), but the book aims for laughs, and it earns them. All major characters are assumed white. A well-paced comedy that doesn’t quite stick the landing. (Fiction. 12-16)

About the Author

Jeff Strand lives in Tampa, Florida, and doesn’t believe in voodoo. But he still thinks you should carry a doll around, go up to people you don’t like, and chuckle while you jab it with pins, just to make them squirm.

His website is www.tinaconnolly.com.

 

Around the Web

How You Ruined My Life on Amazon

How You Ruined My Life on Goodreads

How You Ruined My Life Publisher Page

The Doughnut Fix by Jessie Janowitz

The Doughnut Fix by Jessie Janowitz. April 1, 2018. Sourcebooks Jabberwocky, 298 p. ISBN: 9781492655411.  Int Lvl: 3-6; Rdg Lvl: 5.4; Lexile: 710.

Superfudge meets The Lemonade War in this funny, heartwarming series debut about change, adventure, family, and of course, doughnuts.

Tristan isn’t Gifted or Talented like his sister Jeanine, and he’s always been okay with that because he can make a perfect chocolate chip cookie and he lives in the greatest city in the world. But his life takes a turn for the worse when his parents decide to move to middle-of-nowhere Petersville―a town with one street and no restaurants. It’s like suddenly they’re supposed to be this other family, one that can survive without bagels and movie theaters.

His suspicions about his new town are confirmed when he’s tricked into believing the local general store has life-changing chocolate cream doughnuts, when in fact the owner hasn’t made them in years. And so begins the only thing that could make life in Petersville worth living: getting the recipe, making the doughnuts, and bringing them back to the town through his very own doughnut stand. But Tristan will soon discover that when starting a business, it helps to be both Gifted and Talented, and It’s possible he’s bitten off more than he can chew…

Part of Series: The Doughnut Fix (Book 1)

Potentially Sensitive Areas: None

 

Book Trailer

Reviews

Booklist (April 1, 2018 (Vol. 114, No. 15))
Grades 3-6. Tristan and his sisters can’t believe it when their parents announce that they’re moving from the best city in the world (New York) to barely-a-town Petersville. The only good thing he’s spotted there so far is the general store’s sign reading, “Yes, we do have chocolate cream doughnuts!” Suddenly, Tristan wants a doughnut more than anything in the world, but he’s crushed to learn the store’s owner, Winnie, no longer makes them. Having a chef for a mom, Tristan has grown up baking, and he is sure he could make and sell Winnie’s once-famous doughnuts. The catch? Winnie only agrees to hand her recipe over when Tristan can show her a viable business plan. As Tristan works on his plan (from sourcing ingredients to getting a business license), he finds friendship and a place in his new community. Janowitz accurately portrays the chaotic emotions moving can trigger in this sweet, relatable story. Tristan’s doughnut endeavor will hold wide appeal as a pleasure read, and may inspire young foodies or entrepreneurs to think beyond the lemonade stand.

Kirkus Reviews (February 1, 2018)
Tristan’s family has always loved living in New York City, but all that is about to change.Dad announces that they are moving to a dilapidated, purple house on a hill on the outskirts of the very small town of Petersville in upstate New York. Baby sister Zoe is frightened and confused. Jeanine, two years younger than Tristan and a math genius in gifted and talented classes, is appalled and worried about her educational prospects. Tristan is devastated, for he is a city kid through and through. Because they won’t be starting school for several months, their parents tell Jeanine and Tristan they must complete a project. Jeanine selects a complicated scientific and mathematical study that allows her to remain uninvolved with people. Tristan, who loves to cook, like his chef mom, decides to start a business making and selling the supposedly mind-blowing chocolate-cream doughnuts once famous in Petersville but now no longer made. His business plan leads to adventures, new friends, and a sense of acceptance. Tristan is a charmer; he’s earnest, loving, wistful, and practical, and he narrates his own tale without guile. But he is the only character so well defined—next to him, the supporting cast feels flat. The family is described as Jewish early on, but their Judaism is kept well to the background; the people of Petersville are white by default. A bit disjointed and episodic, but Tristan is a likable companion. (recipes, business plan, acknowledgements) (Fiction. 8-10)

About the Author

Jessie grew up in New York City and still lives there with her family.

She started making up stories before she was old enough to write them down. She still has one that she dictated to her mother. It’s basically Star Wars but takes place on a planet called Denkofa. Eventually, she came up with more original material. Her debut middle grade novel The Doughnut Fix,  is not at all like Star Wars, but there are doughnuts.

Her website is www.jessiejanowitz.com/

Around the Web

The Doughnut Fix on Amazon

The Doughnut Fix on Goodreads

The Doughnut Fix Publisher Page

Picture Us in the Light by Kelly Loy Gilbert

Picture Us in the Light by Kelly Loy Gilbert. April 10, 2018. Disney-Hyperion, 361 p. ISBN: 9781484726020.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 890.

Danny Cheng has always known his parents have secrets. But when he discovers a taped-up box in his father’s closet filled with old letters and a file on a powerful Silicon Valley family, he realizes there’s much more to his family’s past than he ever imagined.

Danny has been an artist for as long as he can remember and it seems his path is set, with a scholarship to RISD and his family’s blessing to pursue the career he’s always dreamed of. Still, contemplating a future without his best friend, Harry Wong, by his side makes Danny feel a panic he can barely put into words. Harry and Danny’s lives are deeply intertwined and as they approach the one-year anniversary of a tragedy that shook their friend group to its core, Danny can’t stop asking himself if Harry is truly in love with his girlfriend, Regina Chan.

When Danny digs deeper into his parents’ past, he uncovers a secret that disturbs the foundations of his family history and the carefully constructed facade his parents have maintained begins to crumble. With everything he loves in danger of being stripped away, Danny must face the ghosts of the past in order to build a future that belongs to him.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language, Homophobic slurs, Suicide

 

Reviews

Booklist starred (March 15, 2018 (Vol. 114, No. 14))
Grades 9-12. When Danny Cheng’s father loses his job, his parents’ carefully constructed life starts to break apart. His father settles into a depression, and his mother becomes more manic. Both worry constantly about money and Danny’s safety. At the same time, Danny has problems of his own. He keeps deep secrets from those closest to him—about how he might be responsible for the death of his friend, Sandra, one year before, and about his true feelings regarding his best friend, Harry. As Danny struggles to make sense of his parents’ strange behavior, he uncovers evidence of secret lives, of names abandoned, and of a sister he thought had died long ago. Using the metaphor of quantum entanglement—that objects brought together will continue to act in concert even if they are taken apart—Gilbert effortlessly times characters’ present actions with key revelations about their past. With grace and respect, Gilbert manages to address the existential quandaries of both second-generation American teens and their immigrant parents who must make profoundly life-changing choices to give their children the best life possible. The result is both exhilarating and tortuous—Gilbert methodically lays bare her characters’ secrets as if she was slowly pulling a cloth off a fine painting.

Kirkus Reviews starred (March 1, 2018)
Family, art, love, duty, and longing collide in this painfully beautiful paean to the universal human need for connection. Cupertino, California, high school senior Danny Cheng has a tight circle of friends, adoring parents, and a full scholarship to his dream school, the Rhode Island School of Design. But lurking just beneath the surface are secrets and tensions that threaten to tear apart everything he holds dear. Closeted Danny has kept hidden his longtime attraction to his best friend, Harry Wong, who is in a serious relationship with Danny’s close friend Regina Chan. Some of his parents’ oddities also turn out to be more than just eccentricity; they are hiding something dark from their past. Danny knows he had an older sister who died in China, but little beyond that. He stumbles across a mysterious file of papers, but his parents refuse to explain. Meanwhile, some in Danny’s circle of school friends are struggling with demons of their own. Gilbert paints a vivid portrait of a largely Asian-American community, diverse in terms of socio-economic status, ethnicity, and religious faith. While the topics dealt with may be heavy, the book is suffused with the warmth of the characters’ love for one another. Imperfect in their human frailty and noble in their desire to do the best they can, they are universally recognizable and sympathetic. Exquisite, heartbreaking, unforgettable—and, ultimately, uplifting. (Fiction. 14-adult)

About the Author

Kelly Loy Gilbert believes deeply in the power of stories to illuminate a shared humanity and give voice to complex, broken people. She is the author of Conviction, a William C. Morris Award finalist, and lives in the SF Bay Area.

Her website is www.kellyloygilbert.com

Teacher Resources

Picture Us in the Light Reading Group Guide

Around the Web

Picture Us in the Light on Amazon

Picture Us in the Light on Goodreads

Picture Us in the Light Publisher Page