Tommysaurus Rex by Doug TenNapel

Tommysaurus Rex coverWhat if you discovered your very own pet dinosaur?

When Ely’s dog, Tommy, is accidentally killed in a car accident on his morning walk, Ely is overcome with grief. To help him deal with his loss, his parents send Ely to spend time at his grandpa’s over summer vacation. One day he sees a plastic T-Rex model and thinks, common sense aside, how cool it would be to have a pet T-Rex. He is soon in for a big surprise when he wanders into a cave — and meets a real T-Rex! But this is no ordinary dinosaur: he follows Ely around like a dog, and can do tricks like a dog, too. As they spend more time together, the bond between them grows stronger. Ely decides to name the dinosaur Tommy, and people flock to see the T-Rex. They even hold a show to raise money to help fund his care.

But not all are in support of Ely and his dinosaur. Randy, a local bully, can’t stand to let Ely get all the glory as the popular kid. No one can anticipate what happens next when he tries to take things into his own hands.

TenNapel’s graphic novels share an overarching sense of darkness, both in storyline and illustrations, but there are also strong themes of hope and family love. The number of kids and parents who have sought out his works at my library got me hooked, and I am glad of it. Tommysaurus Rex is anything but a light read: within a mere 137 pages, TenNapel addresses love, loss and bullying. I teared up more than once, but found the story’s resolution heartwarming.

Curious to find out more?

Take a look at other reviews from Publishers Weekly and Kirkus Review.

You can also read more about Tommysaurus Rex at Great Books for Kids and Teen, where you’ll also find links to TenNapel’s blog and website.

Jane, the Fox & Me written by Fanny Brit, illustrated by Isabelle Arsenault, and translated by Christelle Morelli and Susan Ouriou

Jane, the Fox and Me coverHélène is struggling with a dreary school life of no friends, teasing and poor self-image. Her current strategy for respite is in reading Jane Eyre and reflecting upon how, despite the great adversity she faces as she grows up, Jane remains resilient to the things that unfold in her life.

Much to her dismay, Hélène learns that her class will be spending four days together at an isolated nature camp in the woods. It’s bad enough to have to deal with rejection and teasing during school hours. Having to spend time away from home is something that Hélène certainly is not looking forward to.

While it is somewhat helpful to escape in reading, she is still not immune to the her classmates’ bullying at camp. She bunks with the other “outcasts,” but can’t break the ice. Just when the bleakness is starting to feel all-encompassing, she experiences a moment of connection with a fox. She is inches away from petting it when one of her bunk mates spooks it away.

Hélène is about to give up on hope entirely when a friendly face, Géraldine, comes to join the outcasts’ tent. Géraldine’s friendship helps break the spell placed upon Hélène, and a bit of colour starts filling Hélène’s life as she starts to see her life in a different way.

Simply put, a beautiful book. Arsenault’s use of gray tones, colours and various fonts captures the feelings that are represented within the words. The experience  and feelings of “not quite fitting in” and being unhappy with oneself are well addressed. Moreover, the book shines positive light on the one parent family dynamic of Hélène, her two brothers and their mother.

Read other reviews of Jane, the Fox and Me from the New York Times and Publishers Weekly.

Another blogger’s review of the novel at edge of seventeen.

Combating Bullying

Bullying Canada

Stop A Bully : Safe and Anonymous

Pink Shirt Day

20 Innovative Ways Schools Are Combating Bullying BullyingPrevention.com

Kids can play active role in combating bullying among peers, experts say Macleans magazine

Cyberbullying MediaSmarts

Do you have anti-bullying tactics that are working for your school/organization? Please share in the comments!

Mini Arthurian

Editor’s Intro: We’ll wrap up our Classics Retold project with a handful of mini blurbs from Rei. I’m sure I’m not the only one whose discovered some new books to add to the TBR list this month. Thanks for following along with us!

Christmas in Camelot coverMagic Tree House: Christmas in Camelot written by Mary Pope Osborne and illustrated by Sal Murdocca
Among their many adventures with their time-traveling Magic Tree House (said to be the property of “Morgan le Fay”), is a story of how the main characters, Jack and Annie, travel back in time to Camelot where they meet King Arthur, Queen Guinevere and the Knights of the Round Table. Something is amiss though — Sir Galahad, Sir Percival and Sir Lancelot, having ventured on a magical quest to the Otherworld, have not returned for many weeks. Travel alongside Jack and Annie as they help find the knights and try to unlock the mystery hidden in the Otherworld.

King Arthur coverKing Arthur by Marc Brown
In this Arthur chapter book, Arthur, Buster, Francine and their classmates from Lakewood elementary are on a field trip to a medieval park to win the Golden Gryphon. Competing against them is Glenbrook Academy. The challenges include maze walking, a tug of war, food eating contests, getting the sword out of the stone and more. During the competitions, Arthur hears some bad news — if they didn’t win at least one of the challenges, they risk getting different teacher — a teacher more strict than Mr. Ratburn. Will Arthur and his friends be able to save their teacher?

Time Soldiers Arthur coverTime Soldiers: Arthur by Kathleen Duey
Book 4 in the Time Soldiers series is Arthur, the story of six neighbourhood kids who can time travel when a time-portal opens in their backyard. In the past, they’ve seen dinosaurs and pirates. This time, when the portal opens, three kids venture into the time of Merlin and Arthur just before his crowning. Instead of having the chance to pull the sword out of the stone right away, fate intervenes and Arthur is put into a jail cell. Can the Time Soldiers help Arthur get out of the cell so that he can fulfill his destiny?

Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library by Chris Grabenstein

Escape from Mr Lemoncello's Library coverWouldn’t it be quite the experience to visit a state-of-the-art library? Where you can look up and see shooting stars, or try out hover ladders that fly you up to the top shelves? If you had an opportunity to be one of the twelve 12-year-olds that had a chance to stay over for a night before anyone else saw the library, would you try out? Not convinced? What if you knew that the library was full of games — arcade, interactive and the like — and you’d have first access to them all? Got your interest?

12-year-old Kyle likes playing games. In fact that’s just what he’s doing when a slight slip in his plans gets him grounded. Without access to any games at home, he figures that staying overnight at the new library and playing on the computer is better than nothing. He and eleven other lucky kids, including his best friend, Akimi, are chosen, and spend the night exploring and trying out the library’s features.

The next morning, Mr. Lemoncello’s hologram appears with an invitation to the ultimate game: to “escape” from the library using only what they find within the library. The winner will become the new spokesperson for Mr. Lemoncello’s game company.

Join Kyle, Akimi, and the other contestants in the race to find the clues to get out of the library. Use your knowledge of the Dewey Decimal system, and be ready for the challenges that some of the contestants take on in order to gain an advantage over the others.

While it may be tricky for younger readers who are still getting used to the Dewey Decimal system to understand fully, if you are looking for a good book that appeals to different age groups, this is one good candidate. Written like Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, this book has a little bit of fun and mystery that will be sure to tickle the interest and curiosity of those who read it.

Take a look at some book reviews by: A Librarian’s Library, The Examiner, and Publishers Weekly.

Read another book review on Kidliterati, and be sure to follow the link at the bottom to Grabenstein’s Host Your Own Mr Lemoncello’s Great Library Escape Game kit!

Watch a book trailer:
http://bit.ly/1cQRZDW

The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey

The 5th Wave coverIn a post-apocalyptic world, Cassie feels like she is the last human alive. When the alien mothership loomed closer towards Earth, no one could have predicted what was to happen. The first wave took away their lives, the second took away hope of reconciliation, the third left only the few (both lucky and unlucky) survivors, and the fourth is killing off most of those who have outlived the other waves. Now, on the brink of the fifth wave, anything could happen — nothing and no one can be trusted.

Among Cassie’s possessions is her M-16, a first aid kit, water, a diary, some tins of sardines, pictures and a stuffed toy bear. Though worn and ragged from years of being loved, the bear represents the promise that she made to her brother, and the reason she fights so hard to survive. Little does she know that she is being stalked by someone in the shadows.

Elsewhere is another survivor who, through a miracle, has also somehow survived through all four waves. Dubbed Zombie by his rescuers, he is ushered to the barracks amongst the other surviving children to become trained “military style” to fight the enemies: you either make it or you die trying. When his regiment succeeds in bumping up its ranking and finally takes action outside camp, they are in for a surprise when they learn who their real enemies are.

Suspenseful, mysterious and with hints of romance throughout, Yancey does a stellar job of interweaving the lives and stories of its characters. He leaves the reader speculating about the realities within our day to day lives; what if the world that we live in really isn’t what we think it is? What would you do if your life was endangered by another species?

See more reviews by: Wired, the New York Times, and Mrs. ReaderPants.

Read the interview between Entertainment Weekly and Rick Yancey.

The Favorite Daughter by Allen Say

The Favorite Daughter coverYuriko is excited to bring a photo of herself to school for a class album project. Among the various photos that her dad has of her, she picks one of her younger self in a red kimono.  But when her new art teacher mispronounces her name, and classmates tease her for not looking Japanese, Yuriko is crushed and decides that she wants to be called Michelle instead.

Yuriko’s father respects “Michelle’s” decision, and takes her out to dinner to discuss things. They end up going for some sushi, and the next day, he takes her to visit “Japan” in Golden Gate Park. Her upset towards her original name begins to resolve when an artist draws an especially beautiful picture of a lily flower for Yuriko, since her name means “child of the lily” in Japanese.

Meanwhile, her new assignment for her art class is to create a rendition of the Golden Gate Bridge. She’s already drawn a picture of the bridge, but she wants to be unique in her work, and is stuck not knowing what to do. Furthermore, when Yuriko and her father get around to driving on the bridge, they find it in some dense fog. While a little flustered with how things have turned out, her dad’s suggestion to use her imagination sparks Yuriko’s creativity. She asks for cotton and a cardboard box, but will not let her father know what she is up to until her project is completed and her name has been written on it.

Say, best known for his picture book Grandfather’s Journey and Tea with Milk, does a marvellous job of depicting struggles that have the potential to run deep, such as self-esteem. Printed with photographs of a real “Yuriko,” it addresses some of the feelings and reactions one might have to being different, and shows the patience and understanding of a father who allows his child to work through her frustrations while being continually supportive.

See book reviews by Kirkus reviews, Publisher’s Weekly and BookDragon.

Take a look at the OPB PBS video on Allen Say, writer and illustrator

Primates: the Fearless Science of Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey, and Biruté Galdikas by Jim Ottaviani and Maris Wicks

Primates coverYou may have heard of Jane Goodall and her dedicated work with chimpanzees. You may also have come across the names of the late Dian Fossey and Biruté Galdikas, who supported research efforts around endangered gorillas and the orangutan, respectively. But have you ever wondered why they became well known, or what it might take to live a life in the jungle?

Primates‘s graphic novel format makes their stories accessible. Readers will learn, for example, how Jane’s observations led to the need to redefine the term “man,” how Dian got right into ‘the scoop of things’ through her dung swirling technique, and about the accident that left Biruté’s bottom looking like a “burnt marshmallow.” They’ll also find out how all three women’s work stemmed from that of archaeologist and naturalist Dr. Louis Leakey.

This graphic novel offers a somewhat fictionalized telling of the trials and tribulations of the three female primatologists’ lives and their groundbreaking work as they observed the lives of chimpanzees, gorillas and orangutans.

While gender gaps are being addressed, it is still rare to come across literary material that showcase the notable work of female role models. Past the appeal of the book jacket and the beautiful illustrations, what attracted me to this graphic novel was the focus on three powerful and dedicated women who made a difference in the history of science. The addition of a real photo of the three primatologists standing together as if they are in discussion, as well as a list of resources at the back of the book, encourages further curiosity about the lives of these scientists. The book can also be a route to building awareness about primates’ increasingly endangered habitats, and to furthering the fight for the preservation of what remains today.

See other reviews: NY Times Book ReviewNY Journal of Books Review and Finding Neverland.

Read the interview between staff at School Library Journal and author Jim Ottaviani.