Saturday, December 15, 2018

December Book Picks


MAC B., KID SPY #1, MAC UNDERCOVER, by Mac Barnett, features the kind of zany shenanigans that middle schoolers will love, filled with plenty of action, kid-appropriate sarcasm, and illustrations by Mike Lowry. In the first installment, when Mac was a kid, the Queen of England called to ask him to find the missing Crown Jewels. An envelope arrived with “a plane ticket and a stack of colorful British money.” So Mac began his “extremely dangerous” mission as a fully-fledged secret agent for the Queen of England. It’s an absurd story, but one that makes total sense and is heaps of fun. (MG)

In INKLING, by veteran fantasy writer Kenneth Oppel, an ink blob comes to life and turns a sixth-grader’s life upside down. Even though Ethan’s father is a famous artist, Ethan can’t draw anything more complicated than stick figures. But his class is working on graphic novels, and Ethan’s group picked him to be their artist, believing he's just messing around when he says he can’t draw. The ink blob can help! But is it right? And what happens when other aspiring —and established—artists find out about the magic? Drawings by Sydney Smith help bring this surprisingly complex novel to life. (MG)

THE DARK DESCENT OF ELIZABETH FRANKENSTEIN, by Kiersten White, is a dark and creepy reimagining of the original—dark and creepy—classic. Elizabeth Lavenza was being raised by a poor woman of “brutally efficient meanness,” so when she’s given the chance to be a “special friend” to smart, inquisitive, solitary Victor Frankenstein, she’s determined to do whatever it takes. But Victor’s depraved secrets multiply, until he disappears and it’s up to Elizabeth, along with companion Justine, to find him before Elizabeth’s place in the wealthy household is forfeit. This one is really edgy, but it’s edgy in service of a well-written, fascinating story. (YA)

Picture Books:

GIRAFFE PROBLEMS, by Jory John, illustrated by Lane Smith, is a humorous, beautifully designed and illustrated look at Giraffe, who doesn’t like his neck because, among other things, it’s too "necky.” Lots of animals couldn’t care less, until Giraffe finds one who can relate. Page turns are used to great effect as the story unfolds to its satisfying conclusion.

POTATO PANTS, by Laurie Keller, is the story of how Potato is super excited because Lance Vance’s Fancy Pants Store is having a one day sale on potato pants, but he gets aced out of the last pair because of an eggplant, who’s nothing but trouble. This is high energy hijinks, with lots of fun wordplay and dialog depicted in speech bubbles, that follows Potato as he works through his crisis.

SHAWN LOVES SHARKS, by Curtis Manley, with pictures by Tracy Subisak, is a great example of an enjoyable fictional story can integrate elements of STEM non-fiction. Shawn loves sharks so much that he thinks about them all the time, and even pretends to be one at school. He chases all the kids, including Stacy who screams the loudest. But when the class each picks a different animal to study, Shawn gets the seal. And Stacy gets the shark! Clean, clear illustrations do a nice job of showing both facts and fantasy.


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