Monthly Archives: July 2017

Suit Your Selfie Review

suit_your_selfieSuit Your Selfie: A Pearls Before Swine Collection by Stephan T. Pastis

Andrews McMeel Publishing, 2017. 978-1449483753

Synopsis: Gather ‘round the smartphone, kids! Stephan and the Pearls gang are back with a whole album’s-worth of jokes, jabs, and cringe-worthy puns. – from Amazon.com

Why I picked it up: I’ve been enjoying the middle grades selections of syndicated comics.

Why I finished it: This collection features a number of off the wall puns and true-to-life conundrums that had me cracking a smile in no time. Pastis doesn’t even seem to care that so many of the puns are really, really bad and his characters aren’t afraid to tell him so. My favorite features Pig taking care of his pillow because it’s down. Another favorite was a strip in which Pig is riding an invisible bicycle because Pastis can’t draw bicycles. There’s also a bit in which Rat creates a historical tour featuring a telephone booth, a mail box, a book, and a rock star who appears to be homeless. Yes, a lot of the jokes are pretty cringe worthy, but that’s part of the fun. We need to be able to laugh at terrible humor every once in a while because it’s good for us to laugh. Laughter helps lift us up when we’re sad and it helps us stay young. This is a perfect short read for when you might need a little pick-me-up or even if you don’t and it’s even better when shared with those people in your life who still remember phones that plugged into the wall.

Other related materials: Beginning Pearls: A Pearls Before Swine Collection by Stephan T. Pastis; The Croc Ate My Homework: A Pearls Before Swine Collection by Stephan T. Pastis; When Crocs Fly: A Pearls Before Swine Collection by Stephan T. Pastis Skip School, Fly to Space: A Pearls Before Swine Collection by Stephan T. Pastis; The Mutts Autumn Diaries by Patrick McDonnell; The Mutts Winter Diaries by Patrick McDonnell; Timmy Failure  books by Stephan Pastis; Big Nate books by Lincoln Peirce; Diary of a Wimpy Kid books by Jeff Kinney; Captain Underpants books by Dav Pilkey; Stick Dog series by Tom Watson; The Essential Calvin and Hobbes by Bill Watterson; The Indispensable Calvin and Hobbes: A Calvin and Hobbes Treasury by Bill Watterson

 

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Welcome to Camp Woggle Review

oodlethunks_3The Oodlethunks: Welcome to Camp Woggle by Adele Griffin, illustrations by Mike Wu

Scholastic Press, 2017. 978-0545732918

Synopsis: School is out for the summer and Oona and her brother Bonk can’t wait to help their dad over the vacation. But now that the kids aren’t in school, Stacy, their pet stegasaurus, is bored. So Oona and Bonk decide to create a summer camp for their pet and the pets of the other kids – Camp Woogle!

Why I picked it up: I loved the idea of having a dinosaur for a pet.

Why I finished it: Clearly I have a thing where I start series not on the first book, which I have referenced before, but that didn’t keep me from enjoying this prehistoric adventure. Oona and Bonk are clever, entrepreneurial young cave people with a can-do spirit and big hearts. They see that Stacy is driving their mom crazy and tearing up the cave, and so the two put their heads together in order to solve the problem of keeping their pet entertained and keeping themselves occupied during the school break. Oona wants to be able to include all of the community’s pets, but runs into a problem when she realizes that one of the newcomers has a pet T-Rex that could potentially eat the other campers. Her ability to create and enforce rules as well as compromise on an effective punishment for rule-breakers shows younger readers that they themselves are capable of creating solutions to everyday dilemmas. Oona and Bonk show a positive attitude in the face of some adverse situations that at first seem discouraging, but in the end turn out okay. Wu’s art reminds me a lot of the animation for the film Inside Out, which seems appropriate since he has done work for Disney. It has a realistic yet whimsical quality that adds to the fun of the story, helping Oona, Bonk, and rest of their friends and family come alive. I’d recommend this book for those of you like me that love strong female characters and for kids who have dreamed of having a dinosaur for a pet – it’s a enjoyable and inspirational story about how we face challenges and overcome setbacks.

Other related materials: Oona Finds an Egg (Oodlethunks, Book 1) by Adele Griffin, illustrations by Mike Wu; Steg-O-Normous (Oodlethunks, Book 2) by Adele Griffin, illustrations by Mike Wu; The Dino Files books by Stacy McAnulty, illustrated by Mike Boldt; Dino-Mike series by Franco; Dinosaur Boy by Cory Putman Oakes; Dino Detectives books by Anita Yasuda, illustrated by Steve Harpster; Haggis and Tank Unleashed series by Jessica Young, illustrated by James Burks; Mad Scientist Academy: The Dinosaur Disaster by Matthew McElligott; Who Would Win? Tyrannosaurus Rex vs. Veliciraptor by Jerry Pallotta, illustrated by Rob Bolster

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Listening Now: Brains On!

logo_taglineBrains On!: A Podcast for Kids & Curious Adults hosted by Molly Bloom, produced by Marc Sanchez, writing and reporting by Sanden Totten

http://www.brainson.org/; Available on iTunes, Apple Podcast, Stitcher, iHeartRadio, TuneIn, Spotify, and NPR One

Synopsis: Brains On! is a podcast featuring science and kids produced by American Public Media. We ask questions and go wherever the answers take us. Sometimes that means talking to a food scientist or a snake handler, other times that means putting on a play about sound waves or writing songs about sleep. A different kid co-hosts each episode. We talk to them about the interesting stuff they’re doing and the things they think about. It’s a science lesson for your ears – so join us and turn your brains on! – from the website

This podcast is another one of many that has helped to support the STEM movement, helping kids and adults alike get in touch with hard science (psychology is considered a soft science). The hosts tackle things from farts to how airplanes fly to why mosquitoes are so annoying to how our brains read books – and so much more! I also think it is unique to have different kid co-hosts each show that come on and talk a little bit more about their experiences with the topic. One of the episodes even featured some kid inventors that have won national awards for helping to tackle issues that they notice in their everyday lives. It was inspiring to me because there was never anything quite this big when I was growing up and I’m always so excited to hear about how kids are going out and exploring and interacting with the world around them. I remember science fairs being a huge deal when I was in school and in some school districts around the country they still are a big deal. You can also sign up for a monthly newsletter that gives some extra special bonus content to go along with the episodes. It’s a great way to get inspired to get out there – here are so many things to do and explore and showcase their smarts – you just have to know where to look.

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Owly, Vol. 2: Just A Little Blue Review

owly_2Owly, Vol. 2: Just A Little Blue by Andy Runton

Top Shelf Productions, 2005. 978-1891830648

Synopsis: Best friends Owly and Wormy meet a bluebird who nests with its family in a rotting tree while out gathering apples. When the pair learn that the bluebird’s home is in danger, they decide to build their neighbor a new home. Blue thinks the new house is a trap and threatens Owly and Wormy. Discouraged, the friends pack away the little house in a closet. Months later, when a fierce storm threatens the bluebird’s tree, Owly and Wormy come to their rescue.

Why I picked it up: I read the series for a reader’s advisory class in library school and this wordless comic series has become one of my absolute favorites.

Why I finished it: Owly is a kind but somewhat shy owl always looking for new friends and adventures, much like many of the readers. Even though the characters are animals, Runton humanizes them, giving the story a sort of sweetness and simplicity. The little quirks they demonstrate are really what endears them to the readers. Owly and Wormy display an optimism throughout the story that helps them continue to move forward despite Blue being mean and rejecting their house; plus, I loved that Owly serves tea when they go home to help cheer Wormy up. They show us that it is okay to be saddened by setbacks, but that we all have the power to move on to something even better. It was heartbreaking to see the pair sacrifice their beloved wheelbarrow to build the birdhouse, but it teaches us that there are both easier and hard sacrifices to be made for the sake of friendship. It demonstrates the value of being a good neighbor and caring for the ‘person’ rather than the place. Runton’s art has as much personality as his characters, using curves to create softened edges and an upbeat feeling even when things are sad. It’s a fun, fast read for persons of any age and reading level that shows us the kindness is a universal language.

Other related materials: Owly, Vol. 1: The Way Home & The Bittersweet Summer by Andy Runton; Owly, Vol. 3: Flying Lessons by Andy Runton; Owly, Vol. 4: A Time to be Brave by Andy Runton; Owly, Vol. 5: Tiny Tales by Andy Runton; Owly & Wormy: Bright Lights and Starry Nights! by Andy Runton; Owly & Wormy: Friends All Aflutter! by Andy Runton; Bone comics by Jeff Smith; Little Robot by Ben Hatke; Korgi series by Christian Slade; Hildafolk books by Luke Pearson; Stinky: A Toon Book  by Eleanor Davis

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One Trick Pony Review

one_trick_ponyOne Trick Pony by Nathan Hale

Harry N. Abrams, 2017. 978-1419721281

Synopsis: In the future, Earth has been overtaken by a race of blob-like aliens that ‘eat’ anything resembling technology. Digital rescuers, like Strata’s family and their caravan, are intent upon saving and carefully archiving any surviving technology to preserve the memory of the human race. Out searching an area with her brother and a friend, Strata discovers a special robot pony that she hopes to be able to save. But when the aliens find them, it becomes a race to see who will survive.

Why I picked it up: I really enjoyed the short story about Hugh Glass in Guys Read: True Stories and I’ve been eager to pick up more of Hale’s work.

Why I finished it: What first drew me in to the story was its simplicity. Yes, there are a lot of different threads, but Hale relies on the intelligence of the reader to piece together a history rather than just giving it to us outright. There’s obviously some explanations at the climax about how the aliens came to Earth, but we’re focusing more on a battle than the war. Strata, her family, friends, and the other members of the caravan might not remember what the old Earth looked like, but they have a vested interest in preserving their way of life so that future generations can have knowledge of the past. To me, Kleidi (the titular one trick pony) represents a sense of hope that humanity can restore itself, using our own manpower to pick ourselves up. Kleidi also shows the reader that technology has the potential to both harm and help us, which we can see playing out in our modern world daily. Strata can use Kleidi to outrun the aliens, but each time they are able to hide they are found again, and the group continues to mass until the aliens capture the pair and take them to their leaders. Strata’s perseverance is a point of contention with the little group of travelers – they believe it would be safer to dismantle Kleidi so that they can escape – but her courage is what really wins the day. She has enough faith in her own abilities and trusts Kleidi to be a loyal companion; she believes that she will be able to save herself and her family with Kleidi’s help and that is what she seeks to do over the course of the story. Hale’s art is realistic yet imaginative as he paints for the reader a desecrated landscape of oddly convex buildings to juxtapose what little natural elements of the Earth are left. I appreciated the muted yellows contrasting with the greyscale, highlighting Kleidi in particular as special and unique. It’s a fast-paced, though provoking ride through a futuristic world that is sure to engage readers of all ages and levels.

Other related materials: Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales books by Nathan Hale; Guts & Glory books by Ben Thompson; Rapunzel’s Revenge by Shannon and Dean Hale, illustrated by Nathan Hale; Calamity Jack by Shannon and Dean Hale, illustrated by Nathan Hale; Nathan Hale: Revolutionary Spy by Nathan Olson, illustrated by Cynthia Martin and Brent Schoonover; The Nameless City by Faith Erin Hicks, color by Jordie Bellaire; The Stone Heart by Faith Erin Hicks, colors by Jordie Bellaire; Cleopatra in Space books by Mike Maihack; Compass South by Hope Larson, illustrated by Rebecca Mock

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