“New kid” by Jerry Craft

Rated 5 stars ***** 2019. HarperCollins Children’s Books. 249 p.

New kidJordan’s parents, especially his mom, feel that sending him to an expensive private school will be the ticket to his having a “leg up,” which will open doors in his life. Jordan loves drawing and wants to go to art school, but is sent to become Riverdale Academy Day School’s (RAD) newest financial aid student – one of only a few students of color.

Having to negotiate a new world of rich, almost all white kids, feeling judged by the color of his skin, enduring subtle (and not-so-subtle) racism, and a seeming inability to bridge the gap between Washington Heights and Riverdale make it seem as if Jordan and his schoolmates are worlds apart. He wonders how to find commonality and friendship with them without sacrificing the life he knows in Washington Heights. But, through the eyes of his twelve-year-old experiences, Craft’s humor and colorful illustrations depict Jordan’s predicaments in ways that will evoke thought provoking responses from his readers. “New kid” will make an excellent Book Club book.

Awarded the prestigious Newbery Medal at the January 2020 American Library Association’s Youth Media Awards in Philadelphia, “New Kid” will go down in history as being the first graphic novel to receive this award. It was also the recipient of the Coretta Scott King Author Award.

Highly recommended for ages 9-14.

“Trees make perfect pets” by Paul Czajak; pictures by Cathy Gendron

Trees make perfect pets

Rated 4 stars **** ARC. Sourcebooks. To be published March 2020.

On Abigail’s birthday she announced that she wanted a pet. Agreeably her family came up with different types of pets for her to get, but Abigail wanted a tree. Despite their arguments that trees can’t be pets, she reminds them that trees help us breathe and insists on getting a dogwood tree.

Abigail carts the tree around the neighborhood, listening to others talk about its unsuitability as a pet. Despite the naysayers Abigail loves her tree, and is reluctant to give it an outdoor home until it grows too big. Once its planted all sorts of animals make it their friend, prompting Abigail to say, “A tree is everyone’s best friend!”

Full-page colorful illustrations describe Abigail’s quest to make the tree her pet, and remind readers of why trees are important to everyone.

Recommended for ages 5 to 10.

I received an advance copy of this book by the publisher in exchange for an honest review

“Wedgie & Gizmo” by Suzanne Selfors

Rated 5 stars ***** ebook. 2017. Katherine Tegen Books (HarperCollns). Wedgie & Gizmo #1.

Wedgie & GizmoIn this laugh out loud book, young readers are introduced to Wedgie, a superhero dog, and Gizmo, a guinea pig evil genius. Gizmo is not happy his loyal servant Elliott took him to a new place and abandoned him to Jasmine, who is not a good servant. He is not happy because he has to live in a very pink Barbie dollhouse, and he’s REALLY not happy that Jasmine dresses him up in pink tutus. All these things are interfering with his evil genius plans for an Evil Lair and world domination. He’s also not happy with the dumb canine.

Wedgie knows he has superpowers because Jasmine gave him a red cape. Now he’s Super Wedgie! When he runs in circles around and around near the door, it opens and he takes someone for a walk. Only wearing his super cape lets this happen! He loves taking Elliot’s mom, sister and dad for a walk. They’re his pack and he loves them. He loves his stick and loves Squirrel Tree. He ESPECIALLY loves the Furry Potato who just came to live in Jasmine’s pink dollhouse. He’s sure the Furry Potato loves him too. He really, really loves the Furry Potato.

In alternating voices Gizmo and Super Wedgie tell readers their views of the world and each other. Their conversations and actions are especially funny, with Wedgie being my favorite. Young readers, especially reluctant readers, will enjoy following their antics and will look forward to future books in the series.

Highly recommended for ages 8-12.

 

 

“The Titanic” by Katrina Charman

The TitanicRated 5 stars ***** 2018. Hachette Book Group. Survival Tails #1. Includes “Timeline,” Titanic facts, “Animals on the Titanic,” “Animal facts,” Glossary,” and a “Further reading” section which includes books, websites, and a documentary.

Almost everyone knows the story of the Titanic, the so-called “unsinkable ship” which struck an iceberg and sank in the early morning of April 15, 1912. However, did you know there were animals on board? Though those animals couldn’t tell us their stories, Katrina Charman will tell you the story of three specific animals who were on the Titanic and who COULD talk.

Mutt, a mangy dog, met up with King Leon, a wily rat, when he was trying to sneak aboard to search for his human. He knew she was in third class with her father, but didn’t know how to find her. King Leon helped him figure out how to get on the ship but Clara, the captain’s cat, discovered Mutt and put him in charge of three motherless kittens she’d found hiding in a lifeboat.

In between recounting true facts about the Titanic and its final hours, Charman entertains readers with Mutt’s adventures, King Leon’s food conquests, and Clara’s queenly attitudes. Readers are drawn into their stories, which give new meaning to the tears we shed when the Titanic does sink, as it must do.

Highly recommended for ages 9-14.

“Guts” by Raina Telgemeier

GutsRated 4 stars **** ARC. To be published Sept. 17, 2019. Smile #3. 213 p.  (Includes “Author’s note.”)

Raina Telgemeier takes readers into the chaos of her 4th and 5th grade self. She was a nervous child, and afraid of things over which she had no control. At times she’d get so anxious her stomach would be tied in knots. Just the word “vomit” caused bad reactions.

Her best friend announcing she was going to move, the unknown world of puberty, and troubles with a school bully added to Raina’s worries. As her stress level rose Raina’s mother stepped in with a solution, but Raina will have to take the first step to solving her problems.

With humor and sensitivity, Telgemeier reveals a personal side of herself that she details in her Author’s note. Child readers will find they may be suffering some of the same anxieties as little Raina, giving them solutions and hopes for their situations.

Recommended for ages 9-12.

“Alien superstar” by Henry Winkler & Lin Oliver

Rated 4 stars **** ARC. To be published Oct. 1, 2019. Book #1. Amulet Books. 254 p.

Alien superstarCitizen Short Nose (birth name XR 23 Zeta 5466) is escaping from his planet because he turned 13 years old and his sensory enhancer will be deactivated. Without it he’ll become a robot, so he’s on the run. His grandmother knew this time was coming so she built a spaceship, setting the coordinates for Universal Studios in Hollywood.

Short Nose had to leave his grandmother behind, but managed to land in Hollywood. There he comes up with the name Buddy Cheese Burger, landing a role playing an alien on a comedy TV show where his “costume” helps him become a hit. As his fame grows, Buddy worries everyone will realize he really IS an alien. When he begins to lose the ability to transform to a human, his secret is in danger of being revealed. With time ticking away Buddy is desperate to find a solution.

I enjoyed reading about Buddy’s escapades, and the very open ending left no doubt that it’s part of a series. I found a little glitch in the ARC. On p. 141 a little girl is described as having 6 pigtails with ribbons, but the image on p. 146 shows just 2 pigtails and no ribbons. Hopefully that image (or the text) will be corrected in the final copy.

As an alien Buddy takes everything literally, so readers will have fun figuring out his many Buddyisms. Henry Winkler even put in a reference to himself when Buddy meets an actor named Luis whose lunchbox has a picture of Fonzie. Buddy instantly recognizes the guy as being on a show called “Happy Days.” Pretty cool!

Winkler has written many books for children, including his well-known “Hank Zipper” series, but this is his first solid foray into the middle grade world. Buddy is so likable I believe he’ll also be a hit with the younger folk. I’ll definitely have a copy in my elementary library! I got a copy of this ARC at the recent American Library Association’s annual conference in D.C. where I got to meet Henry AND he signed my ARC. I was THRILLED, as I LOVED him as Fonzie when I was a teenager! Below is a pic from that memorable meeting.

I’m not biased, because it really is a good book, so I’m definitely recommending it.

Recommended for ages 8-14.

Henry Winkler

 

 

 

“It’s a wonderful death” Sarah J. Schmitt

Rated 4 stars **** 2015. Sky Pony Press. 306 p.

It'sAWonderfulDeathRJ, Queen Bee and Mean Girl at her high school, never expected life to end at the age of 17. However, the Grim Reaper accidentally takes her soul when a fortuneteller uses her as a shield against him. Highly upset at the consequences of his mistake, RJ refuses to be processed in the afterlife. Instead she insists her soul be returned to her body, and creates a stink about being wrongfully taken to anyone who’ll listen.

A Tribunal of angels is convened to rule on her case, and she is given a task to return to three important occasions in her life that could alter her destiny. IF she manages to change the course of her life, and influence others for the good, they will grant her request. If not, she will be shut away for years until her real death date occurs somewhere in the future.

RJ is determined to ace her tests though the Tribunal doesn’t seem to want her to succeed. Changing the pattern of the selfish life she’d led on Earth is not going to be easy, but if she wants to live in her own body again she’ll have to figure out a way.

Schmitt has a very active imagination, describing Saint Peter, life after death, heaven, hell, and even angels in ways that would never be found in any religious book. Though some conservative types might find her descriptions of RJ’s experiences in the afterlife to be sacrilegious, I found them to be original, highly imaginative and quite humorous.

Recommended for ages 14 and older.