Today I Read…Ms. Marvel

MM No NormalToday I read Ms. Marvel: No Normal, Generation Why, and Crushed (issues 1-15).

Kamala Khan is totally normal. You know, for a Muslim American teenage girl, who isn’t allowed to date. Or go to parties with boys. Or eat bacon cheeseburgers. Or wear revealing clothing. Or ride in cars with boys she’s not related to. Okay, so she’s not so normal, and it’s not bad, she loves her family and her culture but sometimes it’s really hard being different from everybody else in Jersey City. But Kamala is about to become even more different from everybody else, when she suddenly gets superpowers! And if you have superpowers, and you’re obsessed with superheroes and the Avengers and especially Captain Marvel, aren’t you obligated to help other people? (But she’s not wearing the bathing suit, who cares that it’s a classic, it’s cold and drafty and it’s giving her a wedgie.)

MM Generation WhySo, superpowers, secret identity, costume that doesn’t give her wedgies, sidekick, secret hideout (the Circle Q counts, right?), definitely NOT telling her overprotective parents that she’s sneaking out to fight bad guys (is being mad at her their superpower? Must investigate), a giant teleporting dog for a pet…does she need anything else? How about a supervillain brainwashing kids into doing his bad-guy-bidding-stuff? Not in Kamala’s city! Now if only she knew how to fight…

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MM CrushedThis series has been getting great reviews, so I was curious to read it. And it’s sooooo good! Kamala is a great fangirl, who dreams of how cool it would be to be an Avenger, until she actually gets superpowers and there are more problems than she had anticipated. Like the fact that she doesn’t actually know how to fight, or how to use her powers, or just how hard it is to come up with a costume that works with her powers that doesn’t constantly get destroyed or is too uncomfortable to wear. Flowing hair looks cool, but it gets in your face, and wedge heels are impressive until you trip in them, and bathing suits get really cold when you’re fighting. And lying to your parents about where you’ve been and what you’ve been doing? Not that easy, especially when you know they really do just want you to be safe and happy, even if their rules make you different from all of your friends. And keeping a secret identity is hard, and sometime fighting means you have to hurt people.

But despite the problems, Kamala always keeps her belief in superheroes and the good they can do, She has a collection of superhero-themed shirts that she wears in her civilian life, for Captain Marvel and Captain America, she writes fanfic and gets excited when people upvote it, she tells Wolverine that he was her first pick in her fantasy hero team-up bracket.

She also has to deal with the usual issues facing young people, like what happens when a really cool, smart, good-looking guy turns out to be a total jerk (who wants to take over the world). And figuring out how to make a difference in the world when older people keep telling you that young people are selfish and superficial and only interested in their cell phones.

Marvel has really been working on improving the diversity of their better-known heroes lately, making Thor a woman, and a black Captain America, and a Muslim Ms. Marvel. It’s nice to see, and it gives some interesting story opportunities to show how hard it can be to combine multiple worldviews–Kamala has been raised by fairly strict religious immigrant parents who want her to be a part of their culture, but she is also American and wants to be a part of American teenage culture, and now she has to include the Inhumans and superheroes into her life and worldview. Finding out you’re part alien and can change your shape may not happen too often in real life, but feeling like you’re torn between two worlds, between what your parents and your friends tell you to be? Yeah, that happens.

I really like the series, and I’m looking forward to my local library getting in the next trade.

Today I Read…If You’re a Monster and You Know It

If You're a Monster and You Know ItToday I read If You’re a Monster and You Know It by Rebecca Emberley and Ed Emberley.

If you’re a monster and you know it, show it! Snort and growl, smack your claws, stomp your paws, twitch your tail, give a ROAR! Show everyone what a great monster you are! And then do it all again!

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I found this book in the public library while I was looking for a story to read for a job interview. It didn’t end up being the one I used, but it was a strong contender. It’s a monster version of If You’re Happy and You Know It, using Ed Emberley’s distinctive, creative, and brightly coloured illustrations. I wish I’d had this one at the school I was working at last year– I had some trouble finding a Hallowe’en story for the kindergarteners that was short and holiday-themed and not at all scary (some of the parents didn’t approve of witches or monsters or ghosts, which makes it really hard to pick a good Hallowe’en story). The monsters in this book are bizarre but more funny than scary, and younger children would have fun dancing along to the actions in the song. You could also use this as part of a library program and include a craft, by getting kids to draw their own monsters or to cut out different monster body parts from construction paper and get kids to glue them together however they want, to make a real monster mash. Tentacles and claws and extra eyes, oh my!

This book is a real family project–Ed Emberley did the illustrations, his daughter Rebecca Emberley wrote the words, and her daughter Adrian Emberley recorded a sung version which can be downloaded for free from Scholastic here.

 

Today I Read…Dinosaur vs

DInosaur vs SchoolToday I read three of Bob Shea’s Dinosaur vs books, Dinosaur vs School, Dinosaur vs the Library, and Dinosaur vs Bedtime.

Dinosaur likes to ROAR! Dinosaur is the best at ROARING! But what about when Dinosaur has to do things and NOT ROAR? Can he do it?

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This is a great series for the kindergarten and under set. The words are simple and repetitive, mostly variations of “Dinosaur vs *something*”and “Dinosaur wins!” Dinosaur stories are always a safe bet for little ones–they’re pretty much universally adored by small children, boys and girls, and Bob Shea’s colourful illustrations are great. And these books are terrific for story time because you get to ROAR along with Dinosaur! Currently there are 6 in the series, Dinosaur vs Bedtime, Dinosaur vs the Potty, Dinosaur vs the Library, Dinosaur vs Santa, Dinosaur vs School, and Dinosaur vs Mommy. They’re good books for teaching behaviour. For example, in Dinosaur vs the Library, Dinosaur has fun roaring at lots of things, but he has to use his “inside roar” (great phrase!)  when he’s in the library, and then he can’t roar at all during story time. But if he doesn’t roar during the story, then everyone can hear it so they all win!

Dinosaur vs the Library

The layout of the books is well set up for increasing excitement when reading aloud. There are usually 4 pages devoted to each thing that Dinosaur roaring against. A right-hand set up page saying “Dinosaur versus…”, and then you have to turn the page to see what he is up against, such as meeting new friends, talking grown-ups, or a shy turtle. The accompanying right-hand page shows the reaction of whatever he is roaring about, and then you turn the page again to the next left-page to see that “Dinosaur wins!” It means that when you read it’s easy to build up mini-climaxes and increase the tension before you turn the page.

Just remember, not even Dinosaur can defeat Bedtime!

Roar, roar, snore…
DInosaur vs Bedtime

Today I Read…I’m Bored

I'm BoredToday I read I’m Bored by Michael Ian Black, and illustrated by Debbie Ridpath Ohi.

“Everything is boring. Boring. Booorrrrrr-iiinnnnngggggg…Hey, a potato! But why are you calling me boring, potato? Kids are fun! And I’ll prove it!”

Michael Ian Black and Debbie Ridpath Ohi bring to life this charming tale of a girl and a potato and a challenge to prove that kids are not boring, even if they aren’t flamingos.

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This is another great read aloud I found in my school’s library last year. A little girl is completely bored with everything, until a potato calls her boring and she has to prove to it that kids are really interesting. Along the way, she reminds herself that she is creative and imaginative and smart and active and way more interesting than a mean old potato. It’s fun to read out loud to kids for story time, especially the monotonous “bored, bored bored” part and when the girl loses her temper with the potato and tells it off that being a kid is great. Debbie Ridpath Ohi’s simple illustrations do a great job of showing off the expanse of the little girl’s imagination, and the cranky potato and how it is included in each imaginative scene is very funny. I especially like that the little girl covers a wide range of occupations, from fairy princess to pirate to mad scientist to lion tamer to rock star to monster, and not just girly dreams. I’m Bored reminds readers that imagination lets you be anything and not to listen to people or potatoes who try to put you down. And it’s a pretty good answer to the next time your little one tells you “I’m bored!”

 

GirlWritingWithPotato

Today I Read…The Book With No Pictures

The Book With No PicturesToday I read The Book With No Pictures by B.J. Novak.

You might think that The Book With No Pictures is a terrible name for a picture book. Well, it is, because this book has no pictures, and how can it be a picture book if it has no pictures? So The Book With No Pictures is a bad picture book.

This book is a trick. A trick by clever children to make grown-ups say silly things. But I’m smarter than that! You can’t trick ME into saying “Boo-Boo Butt!”…what do you mean I just said “Boo-Boo-Butt?” I never said “Boo-Boo Butt.”…why are you laughing?

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I first heard about this book at the OLA Super Conference this year, when a couple of the panels I was attending recommended it. I found it in the OLA Store, and it was so funny I knew I had to buy it for my library. There are some books that you just know as soon as you read them they’ll be hilarious to read out loud at story time.

The Book With No Pictures is just that–it has no pictures, only words, and yet I’m still going to file it under Picture Books in my categories. The idea is that it is filled with nonsense that the clever kid has tricked the adult into reading, and the adult is reluctant to sound so silly. Simple, yet entertaining when read right. Kids always love pulling one over the adult’s head, and the “Boo-Boo Butt” line is always a huge hit with the kindergartener crowd. Seriously, say it to a five-year-old and dare them not to laugh, they just can’t do it. And they laugh harder if you repeat it incredulously. This book ended up being extremely popular after I read it to my story time classes, and afterwards was out just about every week. I started thinking about buying a second copy, and I might have if I wasn’t pinching my budget so hard.

It’s also a good example to use when you’re teaching older kids about narrative voices. There is the story itself, and then there are the interjecting complaints from the narrator about being forced to read silly things.

This book is clever and funny and fun to read. I think it was one of my favourites from story time last year.

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WARNING!

This book looks completely serious, but it is actually COMPLETELY RIDICULOUS!

If a kid is trying to make you read this book, the kid is playing a trick on you. You will end up saying SILLY THINGS and making everybody LAUGH AND LAUGH!

Don’t say I didn’t warn you…

(from the back cover)

Today I Read…Here Come Destructosaurus!

Here Comes DestructosaurusToday I read Here Comes Destructosaurus! by Aaron Reynolds, with illustrations by Jeremy Tankard.

Destructosaurus! What a naughty monster you’re being today! Stop destroying the city and terrifying the people at once, or someone’s going to have a very sore tail!

Why is Destructosaurus rampaging through the city? Find out in this hilarious picture book that will sound very familiar to the parents of any toddler who has monster-sized tantrums.

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I found this one at my local public library, and I knew I wanted to write about it. This clever and colourful reimagining of Godzilla frames the terrible legendary monster as a toddler having a temper tantrum, and is told from the perspective of the frustrated and impatient. but ultimately well-meaning, adult civilian.

I love the satire, and my Tiny Niece is well into her Terrible Twos, so I can definitely sympathize with the Narrator and their efforts to get Destructosaurus to be a good monster. I may call Tiny Niece a Destructosaurus the next time she hears “Time to clean up and go home!” and interprets it as “Let’s empty the toy box all over the floor and run away so Auntie can’t put my shoes on!” Still, I think I’d hold off on reading it to her, despite the wonderful illustrations. She’s a little too young to understand the story. This book would be perfect for a teacher talking about appropriate behaviour and how to deal with frustration, and why parents sometimes get angry with what you’ve done.

I also really like that the Narrator apologizes for yelling and getting frustrated when they find out what Destructosaurus wanted. It shows that both of them were in the wrong–Destructosaurus should have used his words instead of destroying the city, but the Narrator should have asked what  wrong instead of just yelling.

Destructosaurus does have a reason for destroying the city, but I won’t spoil it here–go read the book to find out! The Narrator uses the usual phrases frustrated parents use and weaves them into the tale of destruction, such as “Don’t you take that tone with me, Destructosaurus! Whatever you’re saying must seem awfully important to you, but I could do without the attitude. Besides, everyone here is a little busy at the moment. Screaming. And running away. And stockpiling bottled water.” Or “What do you think you are doing, Destructosaurus? Stop throwing around buildings that don’t belong to you. You’ve been brought up better than that, you naughty monster! Look with your eyes, not with your claws.”

Jeremy Tankard does a wonderful job of making Destructosaurus an adorable ball of fire-breathing tantrum. The illustrations are large and bright, and a wonderfully child-like version of the classic Godzilla movies, complete with helicopters and biplanes trying to corral Destructosaurus.

I’d recommend this book for more like a kindergarten-grade 1 audience. Or for the annoyed parent of a toddler who will definitely recognize themself in the harassed Narrator dealing with a real monster having a bad day.

 

Destructosaurus p1

Today I Read…The Cat, the Dog, Little Red, the Exploding Eggs, the Wolf, and Grandma

The Cat, the Dog, Little RedToday I read The Cat, the Dog, Little Red, the Exploding Eggs, the Wolf, and Grandma by Diane and Christyan Fox.

Cat is trying to tell Dog the story of Little Red Riding Hood, but Dog has a lot of questions. Like, if Little Red wears a cape, what’s her superpower? Why doesn’t Little Red know the difference between her grandmother and a wolf? And do the eggs in her basket explode so she can use them to fight crime?

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I loved this one when I saw it at a publishers’ sale for librarians, and I instantly bought it for my school library. I really enjoyed doing this one as a read-aloud. I always did storytime by myself, but this book could be a great performance story for two storytellers, since Cat and Dog each have their own lines. Alternatively, you can just use different voices if you’re reading it by yourself.

This book is really better for kids who already know the basic version of Little Red Riding Hood, since it’s a retelling and it can get confusing for kids who don’t know the common story. Most kids do know it, so for kindergarten and above you can just ask them “Do you know the story of Little Red Riding Hood? Well, this is kind of like that.” I didn’t have the time to read the original and the retelling during my storytime periods, so just the reminder was fine, but if you have more time than you can certainly do a themed storytime and read different versions. It’s also a good interrupting story, so as the storyteller you can use Dog as a model of how not to behave when someone is telling you a story, and show why Cat is getting frustrated. While I love storytelling, I definitely had a few days when certain classes needed to be reminded of how to behave during storytime.

The illustrations and crisp and simple, usually just Cat and Dog acting out the story instead of Red and the Wolf and Grandma. There is minimal colour and a lot of white space, which makes it easy to focus on the pictures. The title, while long, is fun to say, especially when you get to the part about the exploding eggs. I love the way the Foxes used every part of the book to tell the story, including the front and back cover and the endpapers, especially the illustration on the back when Grandma is knocking on her wardrobe door to come out. I always turn the book around so the kids can see it and knock on the hardcover while I plaintively call out “Hello? Hello?” It’s a crowd pleaser.

The story is hilarious and charming, and fun to read for both the storyteller and the listener. But Dog makes some very good points–are we sure the original is a children’s story? Why doesn’t the Wolf eat Little Red in the forest? And will anyone ever let Grandma out of the wardrobe? Read the book to find out!

 

CatDogLittleRed_Fox_1

Today I Read…Every Day is Malala Day

Everday is Malala DayToday I read Every Day is Malala Day by Rosemary McCarney with Plan International. It won the 2015 Golden Oak award from the OLA Forest of Reading.

Malala Yousafzi’s story is well-known, as the young girl who was shot by the Taliban for trying to go to school. She is now the youngest recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize, and she has become a symbol of the fight for the rights of girls and women and all children to get an education. Every Day is Malala Day is an open letter to Malala from girls around the world, expressing their admiration and their thanks for her continuing advocacy of education and peace. With beautiful photographs of girls from around the world illustrating their message, this book is a wonderful introduction for Western students of the challenges some children face just for trying to go to school.

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Disclaimer first: I was on the selection committee for the 2015 Golden Oak award, and I did recommend it for the list of finalists, which was then read and voted upon by the as a public. The Golden Oak award is for adults who are beginning to learn how to read English, so while I do refer to Every Day is Malala Day as a children’s book in this review, it is suitable for and enjoyed by adults as well.

This is a terrific story and a great introduction for children to some of the barriers that women face in other countries. As a read-aloud, it is more suited to older children. I would probably recommend at least ages 8+, based on the references to Malala being shot and violence against women. However, it’s important to point out that this is something that is actually happening to children, and sometimes there’s a very fine line between protecting children and being honest with them. When I was coaching a children’s literature trivia team, I had to try explain the Holocaust and Nazi propaganda to grade 3s. Not easy, but they asked.

The story itself is based on a short video produced by the young people who took over the UN on the first Malala Day, July 12, 2013. The book also includes a brief description of what happened to Malala and part of Malala’s speech to the UN from that day, advocating for education for all children as a way to help lift them out of poverty and ignorance and warfare. While she isn’t really in the daily news right now, Malala is an important figure for our time and I am certain that we will hear from her again. This book is an excellent introduction to her remarkable work.

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“So let us wage a global struggle against illiteracy, poverty, and terrorism and let us pick up our books and pens. They are out most powerful weapons. One child, one teacher, one pen, and one book can change the world. Education is the only solution. Education first.” -Malala Yousafzai, July 12, 2013

 

Reblog: How to Throw a Coloring Party

How to Throw a Coloring Party

Colouring books for adults are a trend right now, but an enjoyable one. It’s relaxing to just sit and colour (though you really need to get the good pencil crayons, mine are so cheap they don’t work very well). A lot of libraries are starting to run colouring parties for adults, with the idea that it’s creative, relaxing, and a good way to socialize while you’re asking someone to please pass the blue crayon. This link is more for throwing a personal party, but it can be easily adapted to a library. You can get easy colouring books with large, simple designs to colour, or books with more intricate patterns that require more attention to detail. Crayons, pencil crayons, markers, you can use any medium you choose. It’s simple, cheap, and fun–the perfect program!

SLJ SummerTeen 2015

SLJ SummerTeen 2015.

This is a free virtual conference on teen services and collections that School Library Journal is offering next week. I’ve never attended a virtual conference, but this looks really interesting, and a great way to see what some of the trends are. See you (virtually) there!