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NYT Bestselling Series Hilo is Back With Book 5: Then Everything Went Wrong

HILO: THEN EVERYTHING WENT WRONG
Written and illustrated by Judd Winick
(Random House BYR; $13.99, Ages 8-12)

 

cover art from Hilo book 5 Then Everything Went Wrong by Judd Winnick

 

 

“Hilo is Calvin and Hobbes meet Big Nate and is just right for fans of Bone and laugh-out-loud school adventures like Jedi Academy and Diary of a Wimpy Kid.”

 

If you’re not already familiar with Judd Winick’s winning Hilo series of middle grade graphic novels, the newest book, Hilo: Then Everything Went Wrong, releases on January 29 and would be a great time to get on board to find out why the books are so popular with tweens. I’m so glad I did. Even though I’ve jumped in with Book 5, that didn’t stop me seeing the appeal and getting hooked. While the books are episodic, the art, the diverse characters and the plot are so good that it doesn’t matter that I came late to the Hilo party so to speak. It’s easy to get up to speed on the relationships and backstory in this action-packed, fast moving and riotously funny robot rooted series.

Hilo is a robot who has ended up on Earth along with his sister, Izzy. He’s befriended D.J. (Daniel Jackson Lim) and his family along with Gina Cooper. Those friendships are truly the heart and soul of the series because kids will empathize with them and be enthralled by their adventures. Various other engaging characters include Polly the talking cat, Uncle Trout, teacher Ms. Potter, Dr. Horizon, Razorwark and Dr. Bloodmoon. I can’t even pick a favorite because I liked them all or found them interesting in different ways. Even a couple of the Feds came off likable as you’ll see.

The Feds, in fact, want to find Hilo at the same time he and D.J. head off on a risky journey to Hilo’s planet, Jannus, to get answers about his past. Once there, the friends discover that all the robots have mysteriously gone missing and, rather than being a model of a happy, high tech homeland, Jannus has gone backwards with a loss of power. As the boy and robot try to discover what’s happened on Jannus, some crazy stuff is going on back at Vanderbilt Elementary that causes a lot of problems for the kids on Earth and ultimately in space. So many things need to fit into place for Hilo to figure out the puzzle and keep one step ahead. Don’t miss out on this Judd Winick’s rewarding and entertaining series that is ideal for both reluctant readers and anyone “who loves comic books, superheroes, and adventures of all kind.” I honestly loved every colorful minute and am only sorry I missed out on books 1-4! Remember to pre-order your copy today.

  • Reviewed by Ronna Mandel 

 

Mr. Wolf’s Class – A Graphic Novel by Aron Nels Steinke

MR. WOLF’S CLASS: The First Day of School 
Written and illustrated by Aron Nels Steinke
(Graphix; $18.99, Ages 7-10)

 

Mr. Wolf's Class book cover art

 

Mr. Wolf’s Class: Book #1 The First Day of School  by Aron Nels Steinke is not your mother’s back-to-school middle grade chapter book. It’s a smart, funny, insightful look at fourth-grade in graphic novel format and I enjoyed every page. From the realistic, contemporary dialogue to the perfectly captured facial expressions on the diverse line up of teachers and students, Steinke succeeds in helping readers connect with and care about an assorted and appealing cast of characters. And that’s a good thing since this is Book #1 in a new series that is sure to captivate even the most reluctant kid.

In this first book, we’re introduced to Mr. Wolf, a new teacher at Hazelwood Elementary. In fact, even before Chapter One (there are eleven chapters in total), anthropomorphic artwork full of color and movement shows Mr. Wolf conscientiously preparing his classroom followed by frames of each student, with illustration clues, as a quick and clever way to hint at their personality or issue. There’s new-in-town student, Margot, eager to start school but nervous about making friends; there’s Penny, poor, wiped out Penny, whose constantly crying baby sibling is keeping her from getting a good night’s sleep; there’s Aziza, a dedicated student but slightly snarky; and there’s Sampson, who’s brought something special to school to share at show-and-tell.

As an elementary school teacher and parent, Steinke totally gets this age group and the ever-changing dynamic of the classroom. One minute there’s silent reading and the next there’s chaos. All types of conflicts caused by all kinds of kids can occur throughout the day and Steinke’s chosen a few good ones to portray in Mr. Wolf’s Class. He’s included geeks and smart alecks, thoughtful and mean kids. He’s also got bossy and meek ones, tattle tales and show offs. With that kind of composition, anything can and does happen under Mr. Wolf’s supervision including a missing student, show-and-tell, and a burgeoning friendship. 

I’d like to emphasize here that this book can be appreciated year round for its wit, its engaging illustrations and the delightful depiction of fourth-grade from multiple perspectives. Join Mr. Wolf and his students to see first-hand what’s happening at Hazelwood Elementary.

 

  • Reviewed by Ronna Mandel

 

World Domination Atomic Frenchie Style

ATOMIC FRENCHIE: SIT. STAY. RULE.
by Thomas E. Sniegoski & Tom McWeeney
(Insight Editions; $14.99, Ages 8-12)

 

ATOMIC FRENCHIE SIT STAY RULE cover illustration

Have you noticed that French Bulldogs are everywhere these days? Perhaps they’re up to something … making the timing for Atomic Frenchie: Sit. Stay. Rule. just right. This non-stop funny middle grade mashup that is part graphic novel, is a perfect late summer read for every kid that aspires to greatness and world domination. You know one, don’t you?

 

int spread with artwork 01 from Atomic Frenchie Sit Stay Rule

Interior illustrations from Atomic Frenchie: Sit. Stay. Rule. by Thomas E. Sniegoski & Tom McWeeney, Insight Editions ©2018.

 

Kirby is no ordinary dog. He’s a power hungry French Bulldog with big plans. He’s just waiting for his chance to escape the prison of his home and his overbearing humans. When his humans pack up the car and strap him into a car seat, Kirby’s life changes forever. At his new home, the dog discovers a secret laboratory and his dream of becoming a super villain begins to be realized. Can his dastardly schemes come to fruition or will his huge ambition be thwarted?

 

int spread with artwork 06 from Atomic Frenchie Sit Stay Rule

Interior illustrations from Atomic Frenchie: Sit. Stay. Rule. by Thomas E. Sniegoski & Tom McWeeney, Insight Editions ©2018.

 

Atomic Frenchie: Sit. Stay. Rule. has a mad scientist with bizarre secrets, a loyal and loveable sidekick turtle, rogue robots, and a host of crazy comic book characters. It’s a fast paced adventure with a super villain that you might actually start rooting for. The best news: this is just the first book in a series so get your kids hooked today by heading to your local independent bookseller to pick up a copy.

 

Learn more about Thomas E. Sniegoski here.
Visit Inside Editions here.

 • Reviewed by Jo Ann Banks 
   www.joannbanks.com

The Brilliant World of Tom Gates by Liz Pichon

The Brilliant World of Tom Gates (Candlewick Press, 2014, $12.99, Ages 8-12), written and illustrated by Liz Pichon, is reviewed by Dornel Cerro.

The British are coming, the British are coming …

… with the brilliant and hilarious world of Tom Gates.

 

TheBrilliantWorldofTomGates

 

It’s the first day of a new school year and 5th year student Tom Gates writes in his journal:

“Woke up-listened to music
Played my guitar
Rolled out of bed (slowly) …
Played some more guitar
Realized I hadn’t done my ‘summer reading homework’
PANICKED … (p. 3).”

Alongside the words “woke up,” Tom draws a pair of sleepy eyes. This wonderfully chatty middle grade fiction book is accompanied by a multitude of extremely funny doodles and eye catching font types that will draw kids in.

At school, Tom’s teacher, Mr. Fullerman has moved him to the front of class. In his journal Tom wails:

“This is a DISASTER. How am I going to draw my pictures and read my comics? Sitting at the back of the class, I could avoid the teacher’s glares. But I am SO close to Mr. Fullerman now I can see up his nose (p. 6).”

Guess what Tom doodles in after “nose?”

For Tom, forgotten homework assignments, playing tricks on annoying students, and other antics keep him in perpetual trouble – and coming up with convincing excuses for his behavior. Tom’s attempt to get out of an assignment by claiming he spilled water on it is hysterically rendered in a smeared doodle (p. 47).

At home, Tom must also deal with his moody teenage sister, Delia, and his eccentric grandparents, “The Fossils,” who love to experiment with such unsavory food combinations such as pizza with banana topping.

When Tom finds that Dude3, his favorite band, will perform in concert locally, he’s determined to attend. However, things go sour (and get really funny) when his best mate’s dog eats the tickets.

The comic doodles and varying fonts, while creating a busy page, make the story more visual for reluctant readers. This book will be a big hit with children who enjoy the humorous diary/journal formats of Jeff Kinney’s Diary of a Wimpy Kid or Ruth McNally Barshaw’s Ellie McDoodle series.

Unfamiliar with “British?” Check out Tom’s glossary in the back and learn that a “climbing frame” is British for “jungle gym” (p. 243). Despite the differences in languages, Pichon demonstrates that 5th year kids are the same on both sides of the pond.

British author Liz Pichon won England’s Roald Dahl Funny Book Prize (2011). Visit the author at her blog and sneak a peek into Tom’s world by watching the book trailer below.

Click here to download a sample chapter.

Big Nate: Great Minds Think Alike By Lincoln Peirce

Big Nate: Great Minds Think Alike by Lincoln Peirce
is reviewed by Dornel Cerro.

9781449436353_frontcover

That mischievous boy with a winning personality is back in a new compilation of colorful comic strips called Big Nate: Great Minds Think Alike (Amp! Comics for Kids/Andrews McMeel Publishing, 2014, $9.99 paperback, Ages 8-12). Nate has a lot of big ideas for fun and achieving greatness and tries his hand at Sudoku, life skills coaching, painting, business, and a world record holder of anything (the only record he holds is for detention).

Big Nate fans will be pleased to see favorite characters from past volumes: his clueless dad; Mrs. Godfrey, his strict teacher; teacher’s pet, Gina; and Nate’s best buddies, Frances and Teddy.

Hilarious vignettes include a planned YouTube video of Nate jumping off a shed onto a trampoline while dunking a basketball into a hoop ends in a flop. Attempting to form his own lawn mowing business, he works during a heat wave and is unable to finish even one lawn. Turning to something less strenuous, Nate offers to cool people off with his water hose for $1.00. Unfortunately, he doesn’t adjust the nozzle spray, creating very unhappy customers.

 

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Interior spread from Big Nate: Great Minds Think Alike by Lincoln Peirce, Amp! Comics for Kids/Andrews McMeel Publishing, 2014.

Nate also tries to propel his friend Frances to greatness by competing against Nate’s archenemy “brainiac” Gina for “Outstanding Scholar” medal (p. 100). Unfortunately for Nate and Frances, Gina is one step ahead of them.

Nate’s instructions to Teddy on how to write a three page report on the Boston Tea Party in just one page are an absolute riot. Many teachers are on to student tricks like these: large font and dragged out sentences and words. Here’s an example: “When King George III received news of the Boston Tea Party, he flew into a rage.” A super-long “ARRRRRRRRRRRRR” fills up three panels of the strip, and of course, several lines on Nate’s paper.“Just call me Dr. Filler’!” quips Nate (p. 72).

Finally, my favorite: Nate’s outburst in the (quiet) library when teased about reading a comic strip popular with the girls catches the attention of the librarian. “The life of a school librarian is never dull, “ she muses stoically ( p. 79). Amen, sister.

Big Nate fans, those who enjoy comic anthologies, and reluctant readers will appreciate this collection. Also steer them to Peirce’s well-illustrated Big Nate novels. Big Nate is a growing hit at my school library and I look forward to putting this book into eager hands. Recommended for ages 8-12.

Visit Lincoln Peirce’s Big Nate website www.bignatebooks.com for info on his books, videos about the author, games, a link to the comic strip, and more. See Lincoln Peirce discuss how he works in this YouTube video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7TOTYCrLKSM

 

 

The Timmy Failure Series Written & Illustrated by Stephen Pastis

The Terrific Timmy Failure Series
Written and Illustrated by Stephen Pastis
is Reviewed by Dornel Cerro.

Introducing “the greatness that is Timmy Failure,” world class detective.

Timmy Failure MistakesMove over Inspector Jacques Clouseau, author/illlustrator Stephan Pastis has created your youthful equivalent in a humorous series about an overly-confident and hilariously clueless detective who dreams of taking his neighborhood detective agency global. Unfortunately there are some obstacles: his mother – who insists he goes to school, school – where he’s not doing so well, Rollo – his less than brilliant best friend, and Total – his 1500 pound polar bear partner. A polar bear for a partner? Yes, after hooking up with Timmy, Total insisted that the agency name start with his. Hence the less than inspirational agency name of “Total Failure.” (Timmy Fayleure’s name was changed to Failure).

Timmy is also challenged by his evil arch enemy, a fellow student so despised that her “…name shall not be uttered” and her face is blocked out in the deceptively simple illustrations in Timmy’s journal – a history of his invaluable expertise.

Highly imaginative situations, clever word plays, and puns on popular culture are part of the series’ humor and mask some deeper issues. Superficially we have a young bumbling Clouseau-like detective who misses the most basic of clues. When investigating the death of a friend’s hamster, Timmy doesn’t ask obvious questions like has it been fed lately? Rather he asks if the hamster had any enemies. Another friend hires Timmy to find out who toilet papered his house. Timmy initially deduces that only monkeys could have climbed high enough to hang toilet paper from the treetops. Readers will quickly grasp that Total Failure, Inc. is not exactly on the road to international success.

We also see Timmy struggling with an active imagination which causes him to lose focus, impacting his school performance. He has difficulty forming healthy relationships: when frustrated, he refers to other people as “stupid.” He is obsessed with his goal and sees everything in relationship to his detective agency. He treats his mom like an employee, scheduling teleconferences, annual reviews, etc. However, poignant moments emerge: when his detective instincts tell him that his mom seems troubled, he tells her she doesn’t have to read him a bedtime story. Eventually, Timmy benefits from sympathetic adult support. His mom takes charge, structures his life, sends him to a therapist and encourages him to become more involved in the world around him. A new teacher finds an innovative way to engage him in school by “hiring” him to “investigate” the “mysteries” of fractions, and photosynthesis. By the third book, Timmy and the other main characters show much personal and social growth.

While this is not another Diary of a Wimpy Kid spinoff, it will be enjoyed by that series’ fans and reluctant readers. Sophisticated humor, including popular culture references (like “A Hitchhikers Guide to Grade School” chapter title) will tickle the funny bone of older readers. Challenging issues (single parent families, learning styles, and successful relationships) and amazing vocabulary (debilitating, farce, intimidating, and Timmy’s favorite outcry “mendacity”) will engage all readers. This middle grade fiction novel is highly recommended for ages 8-12.

Pastis, creator of the “Pearls Before Swine” comic strip, has an awesome Timmy Failure website with links to YouTube videos, information about the books, author interviews, vocabulary flashcards and more. Visit it here at www.timmyfailure.com.

Series Titles and summary (all titles written and illustrated by Stephen Pastis and published by Candlewick Press):

Timmy Failure: Mistakes Were Made (No.1). 2013. $14.99
In which we are introduced to the young CEO and president of Total Failure, Inc., “…the best detective agency in town…” and the obstacles he faces (mother, school, and an evil nemesis) in realizing his goal of global expansion.

Timmy Failure: Now Look What You’ve Done (No. 2). 2014. $14.99
In which our extraordinary detective enters a school contest to find a stolen globe … but is someone trying to prevent him from solving the case? Join Timmy, Total, and his kooky Aunt Colander, as they set out to solve the mystery of the missing globe, avenge the integrity of the competition, and hopefully win the $500  prize.

Timmy Failure: We Meet Again (No. 3). Release date: October, 2014. $14.99
In which we find our intrepid detective on academic probation and forced to collaborate on a nature report with his evil nemesis. He is hired by a desperate student to find the lost Miracle Report, an old research paper that could give Timmy and others an A++++++. Surprises abound!

The Great Greene Heist by Varian Johnson

Wanted: A Smart, Cool & Capable Con Artist –
The Great Greene Heist by Varian Johnson,
reviewed today by Hilary Taber.

Saving the school — one con at a time.

Publishers Weekly Best Summer Book of 2014.

– ☆ Kirkus, Starred Review

 

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The Great Greene Heist by Varian Johnson, Arthur A. Levine/Scholastic Books, 2014.

At the bookstore where I work, every so often I get a book request that goes like this, “Do you know a book that’s like Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, only it’s for kids?” Evidently, mom or dad is a fan of the movie, and the whole family just watched it together for the first time. It’s usually this family’s son (now a fan of Ferris as well) who is looking for a book with a character like Ferris; someone who is young, smart, capable, and cool. For this reason alone, I am so grateful that Varian Johnson wrote The Great Greene Heist (Arthur A. Levine/Scholastic,  $16.99, Ages 10-15) because only now do I finally have a book that I can recommend to them!

Jackson Greene is not your average middle schooler. Despite being the son of a police officer, he’s been well trained by his grandfather to be (allegedly) a con artist. Now, let me be very clear that Jackson’s cons are Robin Hood in nature. He’s on the side of the angels. Well, more specifically there’s one main angel, and that would be Gaby.

Gaby is Jackson’s friend and possible girl friend. There’s one problem though, and that is that Gaby is not anything close to being Jackson’s friend when the book begins. Let’s just say they have had a bit of a falling out. Just goes to show you that life is tough because not only did Jackson Greene have to turn over a new leaf after the last con he pulled for a good cause, he also now begins to see that Gaby’s run for student council president isn’t going well.

Gaby is running against her classmate, Keith. Keith is the kind of person who will pull any strings he can (such as paying off the school principal with a little help from his dad) to win against Gaby. Jackson Greene may have tried to reform, but he can’t just stand by and watch Gaby lose to Keith. Jackson has to think of the best con he could ever pull to ensure that Keith will be defeated. If there’s one thing that Jackson knows it’s that he has to be Gaby’s friend once again, and if he has to con on the side of justice he will! He’ll definitely need a lot of help along the way, and it’s a good thing that one of the most important things that Jackson knows how to do well is how to be a good friend. He’ll need all his friends now more than ever before if he’s going to successfully pull off the Great Greene Heist.

The real draw of the book, as many other reviewers have noted, is that here we have the dream of independence in the familiar setting of middle school. Only this time that dream has come true to a great extent because of the character of Jackson Greene. Here’s a kid who is in middle school, who is definitely a leader, but he never uses that against other kids. Jackson is the kind of leader who knows when to pass the ball, so to speak, to another kid if that’s what it takes to get the job done. He also knows how to get what he wants with a little help from his friends even if bending the rules is what it takes.

What I love about this book is that the array of characters is so diverse. Just look at that cover! Could you ask for more diversity than that? I have to admit I teared up a bit at just the mention of Jackson’s friend, Gaby, going to Mass because I am Roman Catholic. Going to Mass is just not something that gets mentioned much in children’s literature. Plus, in this book, it’s more than okay to be something of a geek, especially if you’re at all inclined towards the tech side of geekdom because you will be needed in any con Jackson Greene has going. I was so happy to see that! Perhaps the biggest surprise for me came when I read about Megan, cheerleader and proud geek. Yes! I almost cheered myself! I know girls who are like Megan, and I’m proud of them. No, they usually aren’t cheerleaders as well, but they do know their way around a computer. They watch Star Wars, Star Trek, they love gaming, and they often feel left out in this usually male geek dominated world. In The Great Greene Heist we will have no more of that thanks to Varian Johnson! There’s something here for just about everyone. Are you the sports type? No problem, Jackson and Gaby are, too. How about student government type? Student government was never so interesting as in this book. Do you tend to associate with the art crowd? Again, you’re represented. Thanks so much to Varian Johnson who shows us that, for the cause of justice, we are all needed, appreciated, and finally very close to being totally represented.

Buy the book today at your favorite indie bookstore and take the Great Greene challenge. Click here for more details.

 

 

Mr. and Mrs. Bunny – Detectives Extraordinaire! by Polly Horvath

Hopping Good Fun! Mr. and Mrs. Bunny – Detectives Extraordinaire! by Mrs. Bunny (Schwartz & Wade, trade paperback, $8.99, Ages 8-12), Translated from the Rabbit by Polly Horvath, illustrated by Sophie Blackall and reviewed by Hilary Taber.

Madeline has had a very rough time lately. Her hippie parents have been kidnapped! The only lead Madeline has is a note left on the refrigerator written in code. She’s also been the witness of a most amazing thing. She thinks she saw a car full of foxes, with a fox for a driver, leaving her small hometown around the time that her parents went missing. With only these leads to go on, Madeline meets Mr. and Mrs. Bunny who are just as astonished as Madeline to learn that she can understand Rabbit. Madeline, amazingly enough, understands every word Mr. and Mrs. Bunny say!

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Mr. and Mrs. Bunny – Detectives Extraordinaire! By Mrs. Bunny. Translated from the Rabbit by Polly Horvath with illustrations by Sophie Blackall, Schwartz & Wade.

The story takes many amusing detours, and Madeline learns something wonderful about her parents. For all their annoying candle making, jewelry making, and general hippie ways, she loves them dearly. Madeline misses her parents so much that she is willing to trust two sometimes muddled, always adorable (and even occasionally correct) fedora-wearing rabbits in order to get them back.

Mr. and Mrs. Bunny have their own story, of course, as to why they are interested in solving crimes. One day Mrs. Bunny said to Mr. Bunny, “I think we should be detectives!” Mr. Bunny, she firmly believes, should give up his job, they should immediately go buy fedoras, and therefore be detectives. Mr. Bunny does bring up a sore point though, which is that they have no license to prove that they are, in fact, detectives. To that bit of logic Mrs. Bunny replies, “I think fedoras are enough. Anyone who sees a bunny in a fedora will not feel the need to see a license.”

At this point in the story I was more than amused. I was laughing and reading parts of it aloud to my family. Although it is extremely funny, this book delves down deeper. It seeks to answer the eternal question, “Why do I put up with my crazy family? Why do I love them so much that I would do anything for them?” while adding detective bunnies on the side. You just can’t ask much more than that from a book. There is a sequel out now titled Mr. and Mrs. Bunny-Almost Royalty, which I am looking forward to reading very much! Well done, Polly Horvath!

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Lord and Lady Bunny – Almost Royalty! By Mr. & Mrs. Bunny. Translated from the Rabbit by Polly Horvath, Schwartz & Wade, 2014.

This book would unquestionably make an adorable gift to fans of Mr. Roald Dahl’s or even Mr. Lemony Snicket’s books. Horvath is just as clever, but infinitely sweeter. Additionally, her characters are just as much fun. Mr. and Mrs. Bunny-Detectives Extraordinaire! won a Parent’s Choice Gold Award, and got starred reviews from The Horn Book Review, Booklist, and Publisher’s Weekly. As if that were not enough, there is a bonus to these books because Mrs. Bunny has her very own blog! It’s not a mystery why your children should be reading these books now, is it? No, it’s more a mystery why we aren’t all reading these books because they are so much fun! Case closed!

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