Going Places, by Peter and Paul Reynolds

Published September 17, 2015 by Dagmar

I’m a rule follower, excellent at following directions and getting things done on time, but I’ve always admired people that take a different path – who have minds so creative, ingenious and unafraid that they feel comfortable completely departing from the norm to create something new.  I think the best projects take a combination of rule followers and dreamers to be successful.
going places

In Going Places, Rafael is just like me. He is so excited when his class receives go-cart kits.  All the students are to build the kit and then have a race.  Rafael goes home and builds the kit, following the directions to the letter.  His go-cart looks exactly like the picture.  He decides to check on his friend and next door neighbor, Maya to see how she is progressing.  He sees her sitting in her yard staring at a bird on a tree and then at a bird flying.  When she builds her go cart, it doesn’t look at all like the picture on the kit.  It looks more like an awkward flying machine. When Rafael asks Maya why she didn’t building a go-cart, she says that no one said she had to build a go-cart. Rafael sees where Maya is going with her project and asks if they can team up. Nothing in the rules says that they can’t team up.

The result?  A plane!  As they roll up to the start line, other kids laugh.   It’s clear that everyone else in the class has followed the directions exactly, just as Rafael had. When the race starts, the go-carts take off.  The plane doesn’t move; but, then it does move…past all those go-carts.  Rafael and Maya fly to the finish line well ahead of their competitors.  As they roll to a stop, Maya sees a frog jumping off a rock in the lake. She turns to Rafael and smiles. He smiles back. Guess what they build next? 🙂

This is a wonderful book that makes you cheer for all your dreamers and the rule followers can spot a great idea and help bring it to reality.

Squish, Super Amoeba, by Jennifer L. Holm and Matthew Holm

Published July 4, 2015 by Dagmar

You might not have realized that there is a whole world within our world – the world of the Amoeba, one-celled organisms that go to school, trade lunches and even read comic books during class.  My students know all about Squish. In fact, this is one series that iSquishs always mentioned when I ask them about their favorite graphic novels.

Squish is just such an amoeba. He has friends, Pod and Peggy. Peggy is an extremely nice paramecium. She’s actually a little too nice sometimes. In fact, one day, after Squish and his friends sit in detention, Peggy chats away to the school’s bully, Lynwood. Lynwood is a “scary amoeba” that loves to eat paramecium. Squish sees Peggy talking to Lynwood and fears that Lynwood will actually eat Peggy right there in detention. Squish has a decision to make. Should he do the right thing and step in to save Peggy, just as his hero, Super Amoeba, would? Or, should he walk in the other direction.

Find out what Squish decides to do and how a little slime mold can be a good thing to have around.

My students absolutely love this series. The Squish series currently has 6 books, with book 7 due to be released on August 25, 2015.  Jennifer Holm and Matthew Holm also write the Babymouse graphic novel series.

Zita the Spacegirl, by Ben Hatke

Published July 2, 2015 by Dagmar

This graphic novel might just rank with Amulet as my favorite in my library.  Zita the Spacegirl has characters you’ll love, evil villians, wonderful drawings and a plot full of suspense.  It is a huge favorite with my students.

Zita the SpacegirlZita and her friend Joseph are surprised when a small meteor hits the earth where they are playing. Zita is adventurous.  She goes into the small crater and finds an interesting object that looks like a button. As all adventurous girls are wont to do, Zita pushes the button. Off goes Joseph onto another planet. Zita quickly presses the button again and finds herself on the same strange planet, just in to see Joseph kidnapped.

Zita meets new creatures that soon become friends, a large creature she names Strong Strong, another called Mouse and Piper.  She learns that this new planet is just about to be destroyed by an enormous asteroid.  Everyone is trying to get off the planet before the asteroid hits.  Zita is determined to find her friend.  She learns that he has been taken prisoner by the original creatures to inhabit the planet, Scriptorians.  The Scriptorians think that sacrificing Joseph will stop the asteroid.

Zita sets out with her new friends to find Joseph and save him. Will they be successful? Who will try to stop them? Will the planet survive? Read Zita and the Spacegirl to see how one strong, adventurous girl can team up with friends and make things happen.

Don’t miss the next two books in this trilogy, Legends of Zita the Spacegirl and Return of Zita the Spacegirl. Look for Ben Hatke’s new book, Little Robot, to be released on September 1, 2015.

Big Nate, by Lincoln Peirce

Published June 30, 2015 by Dagmar

The Big Nate series shares three things in common with Diary of a Wimpy Kid and Dork Diaries: it flies off the library shelf, it appeals to all Big nate 4types of readers and is written with text and pictures.

Nate Wright is a sixth grader.  He’s not the best student.  In fact, he’s trying to avoid having to go to summer school. He has two best friends and a crush on a girl.  Sounds like he’s 12, right?  Wait until you hear Nate talk about his teachers!  Mrs. Godfrey, his social studies teacher, is the worst. “When a teacher snaps and starts screaming, it’s called a Full Godfrey. (When Mrs. Godfrey does it, it’s called Monday.)”

The day Nate gets a fortune cookie that says he “will surpass all others”, turns out to be the worst day ever.  He tries lots of different things to “surpass all others.” Whether it’s getting caught trying to set the world record in speed-eating green beans (from the school cafeteria – ick!) or wearing Coach John’s shorts stuffed with paper towels (long story), everything seems to earn Nate detention – everything.

Big Nate hits home with so many of my students.  My son read six Big Nate books on one trip.  I think it’s because Lincoln Peirce captures a 12 year old’s snarky voice so well.  It’s sure to be a hit.

If your students like Big Nate, they’ll also love Lincoln Pierce’s Big Nate comic books.

Dork Diaries, by Rachel Renee Russell

Published June 30, 2015 by Dagmar

This fiction series is always in demand in my school library.  I finally sat down to read the first book in the series this summer, right after I replaced all the missing copies from my library shelves and pre-ordered the 9th book in the series, due out on June 2, 2015dork diaries. Dork Diaries has that magic that began with Diary of a Wimpy Kid. Humor + drawings = appeal to just about every kind of reader.  I didn’t think I’d like it, but I loved it.

Dork Diaries is the story of Nikki Maxwell, eighth grader at Westchester Country Day.  She is the daughter of the school’s exterminator, there on scholarship. Nikki is having a tough time. New to the school, she is trying to fit in with the “CCP” (Cute, Cool & Popular) group at school.  The group, led by the impossibly mean and snobby Mackenzie Hollister, has all the best clothes, cell phones and get invited to the best parties.

At first, I worried that I wouldn’t like Dork Diaries.  In the beginning, as Russell sets the scene, the CCP’s mean girl talk is a little much for me.  It is actually really mean.  I didn’t want to read a book where the humor was all self-deprecating and the mean girl has all the power.  Russell seems to know just how far to go, because then Nikki’s humor kicks in.

There are lots of funny parts in the book.  I thought it was funny when Nikki’s parents try to cheer her up by putting positive messages around the house, saying things like “Be you OWN best friend.” and “Invite YOURSELF for a sleepover.”  Unfortunately, those two notes were put in the toaster slot and ended up starting a small kitchen fire. The best part of the book, I think, is when Nikki writes about her interactions with people in her diary. As she describes a scene, she’ll “say” something that makes you say to yourself…”OMG, she did NOT just say that out loud…”. Then, it’s followed immediately by “But I just said that inside my head, so no one else heard it but me.” Those moments totally cracked me up, because even though they happened throughout the book, they always surprised me.

Nikki goes through a lot of trials during her first year at Westchester, but ends up ending the year with grace and with Mackenzie jealous of her.  Go Nikki.

This book is most popular with my tweens and so could fit in an elementary school or middle school library.

Sisters, by Raina Telgemeier

Published June 28, 2015 by Dagmar

Sisters, Telegemeier’s third graphic novel in her autobiographic series that begins with Smile and Drama.  Fans of the graphic novels Smile (click the link to see my review) and Drama, won’t be surprised that Raina Telgemeier has another huge success on her hands.

I had the feeling this would be the case, after loving Smile and Drama, myself, and made sure I had no less than three copies on the shelves when I started the school year.   All three books were, in fact, checked out for the entire year (I replaced lost cosisterspies, twice), leaving me waiting with anticipation for my turn to read the book. When I closed the library on May 15th to finally retrieve all the missing books from my students and take inventory, I was able to check out all the books I’d been wanting to read all year. It was my chance to finally read Sisters.

So, here I sit, curled up on a couch in beautiful Lake Tahoe on summer vacation with a big stack of my students’ recommended books on my end table.  This moment encapsulates one of the best parts of being a school librarian – catching up on a big pile of books that your students have urged you to read.

I just finished Sisters.  What a great read.  Raina Telgemeier takes me right back to middle school, my own relationship with my sister, that middle school feeling of not fitting in – but wanting to – and feeling scared thinking that my parents were going to break up (they did).  Raina Telgemeier writes in an authentic voice that students (from 4th-middle school) can really hear and appreciate.  She touches on real issues, in just the right way.

So, if you’re looking for a sure fire hit, and you’ve managed to find a child that hasn’t already read this book, pick it up.  It’s a great summer read.  You won’t regret it.

Tiny Titans, by Art Baltazar

Published May 21, 2015 by Dagmar

I swore that my blog would be dedicated to books that I love and that my students loved too.  Well, here I sit telling you that if you hatiny titansve elementary school kids that love graphic novels, chances are they will LOVE the Tiny Titans series.  Adults may not see what the fuss is all about.

I cannot keep these books in stock, and I believe I have every book in the series on my shelves.  Wow, these books are popular.  Third to fifth graders, both reluctant readers and avid readers, are all reading Tiny Titans.  I’m sure 2nd graders would be too if I let them check out graphic novels. 🙂  As an fyi, the books are rated as a 1st-2nd grade reading level.

Tiny Titans are the children of Super Heroes.  They go on lots of adventures, get in trouble and have all sorts of fun.  The books are colorful and come in paperbacks and hardcover.

If you’re looking for some fun summer reading for your child or a fun addition to your school library, I think you’ll be very happy with the Tiny Titans series.