Great Big Things

  • Great Big Things
  • written by Kate Hoefler
  • illustrated by Noah Klocek
  • published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (2017)
  • Roar Score: 4/5

What’s that old adage? Oh, who am I kidding? You know what it is. Great things come in small packages, right? Well, Kate Hoefler’s Great Big Things is a beautiful picture book dedicated to that very idea.

Plus, it comes with a tagline on the cover that just screams movie poster: “Even the tiniest heart can be mighty.”

Echoes of Galadriel in the film version of The Fellowship of the Ring, sure, but come on. It’s still catchy.

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Science Comics: Volcanoes Q&A with Jon Chad

Today, I’m thrilled to take part in a blog tour to celebrate the awesomeness of Science Comics. If you’re unaware, First Second Books has been quietly publishing an entire library of graphic novels that cover various nonfiction, scientific topics. From coral reefs to dinosaurs to flying machines to plagues, these books are a goldmine of accessible information for young readers.

They’re really great and should be on your shelf right now.

For a few weeks, the creators of some of these books are making the bloggy rounds (full list and links at the bottom of this post) to talk up the lineup and individual titles. Today, we welcome Jon Chad, who wrote and illustrated Volcanoes and who illustrated the upcoming Solar System.

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The Wolf, The Duck, & The Mouse

I’m certainly not the first to say this, but Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen are consistently putting out some of the most compelling picture books on the market.

They’ve collaborated several times before, including on the extraordinary Sam and Dave Dig a Hole and a personal favorite here at Roarbots HQ: Triangle. Their books are deceptively simple but offer so much to chew on.

I even talked to Mac Barnett last year about how he pushes the boundaries of picture books and children’s literature in subtle (yet revolutionary) ways. And their newest collaboration – The Wolf, the Duck, & the Mouse – is no different.

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The Wendy Project

  • The Wendy Project
  • written by Melissa Jane Osborne
  • illustrated by Veronica Fish
  • published by Super Genius / Papercutz (2017)
  • Roar Score: 4/5

Sometimes it feels like there are just too many adaptations of J.M. Barrie’s Peter and Wendy. Every time you turn around, there’s another film version, another “reimagining,” or another new take on the classic tale. And many of them are, how should we say…less than thrilling.

So it was a genuine surprise to discover The Wendy Project, a graphic novel interpretation of the Peter Pan story that’s incredibly moving and explores the story’s fundamental themes along with a deeper dive into grief, family, and adolescence.

And it really is a fresh take on a familiar story.

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The Journey That Saved Curious George

As hard as it might be to believe, Curious George is still just as popular in 2017 as he’s been for the last 75 years. Yep: 75 years. Did I blow your mind? He’s gone from simple illustrations in a few picture books to becoming the center of a global franchise that includes an endless supply of books, toys, TV shows, and movies.

But have you ever wondered about the couple behind the perennially popular character, Margret and H.A. Rey? Turns out that have a remarkably compelling story, and the Curious George we all know and love almost never made it out of Nazi-occupied France!

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BB-8 On the Run

  • BB-8 On the Run
  • written by Drew Daywalt
  • illustrated by Matt Myers
  • published by Disney-Lucasfilm Press (2017)
  • Roar Score: 5/5

The job of most Star Wars books is twofold. First, they have to tell a compelling and interesting story. Second, they have to fill in some untold backstory or relate events that happened off screen for rabid fans who simply need to know everything.

The newest original picture book from the galaxy far, far away checks both boxes. BB-8 On the Run is a charming book with an important message for kids, and it also fills in a pretty major story hole from The Force Awakens.

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Mighty Jack and the Goblin King

Ben Hatke is something of a celebrity at Roarbots HQ. His Zita the Spacegirl trilogy is pure magic, and his other books (Little RobotJulia’s House for Lost Creatures, and Nobody Likes a Goblin) are just downright enchanting.

We look forward to each new book as a major event, and the arrival of Mighty Jack and the Goblin King (the sequel to the phenomenally awesome Mighty Jack for First Second Books) set off all kinds of squee alarms around here.

If you’re familiar with our Questions from a Kid series of interviews and you haven’t seen Ben’s installment, you really should do yourself a favor and go check that out. Go ahead. I’ll wait.

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The Gauntlet

  • The Gauntlet
  • written by Karuna Riazi
  • published by Salaam Reads / Simon & Schuster (2017)
  • Roar Score: 3/5

“Win and destroy the game, lose and be stuck in it forever.” Descriptions of Karuna Riazi’s debut novel The Gauntlet will naturally draw comparisons to Chris Van Allsburg’s classic Jumanji, which is only to be expected. Both are about board games that magically trap players in a dangerous, high-stakes world created within the confines of the game.

Riazi’s book, though, is free to explore the ramifications of what that experience might really be like – something Van Allsburg’s picture book couldn’t do in as much depth with a mere 32 pages.

Farah Mirza is 12 years old, and games are a standard in her family. But when a mysterious board game shows up during her birthday party, she assumes it’s a gift from her aunt. The Gauntlet of Blood and Sand.

Something seems a little…off about it, but she and her friends decide to crack it open and give it a go. And that’s when things start to go south.

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Dinosaur Pirates!

  • Dinosaur Pirates!
  • written and illustrated by Penny Dale
  • published by Nosy Crow / Candlewick Press (2017)
  • Roar Score: 4/5

Look, sometimes you want a picture book to impart a deep meaningful message about life. Sometimes you need a picture book to help your kids get through a difficult time. Sometimes you want one that just makes you feel are warm and fuzzy inside.

Other times? You just want a book about dinosaurs. Or pirates. Or both! And that’s where Penny Dale’s appropriately named Dinosaur Pirates! comes in handy.

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Feminist Baby

  • Feminist Baby
  • written and illustrated by Loryn Brantz
  • published by Disney Hyperion (2017)
  • Roar Score: 5/5

We’re beyond board books at Roarbots HQ, but sometimes a book comes along that just begs to stick around and become part of the collection. Feminist Baby is one of those books.

Listen, I could babble on and on about this book…or I could just let a 5-year-old read it to you (who insists on pronouncing it “venomous baby”). That’s a no-brainer.

Enjoy!

(Disclosure: Disney Hyperion provided us with a review copy of this book. All opinions remain our own.)

Bronze and Sunflower

  • Bronze and Sunflower
  • written by Cao Wenxuan
  • translated by Helen Wang
  • published by Candlewick Press (2017)
  • Roar Score: 4/5

Bronze and Sunflower is 381 pages of pure poetry. The book is so beautifully written that every paragraph – nay, every sentence – dances off the page and is so powerfully evocative and lyrical that it’s hard to believe Helen Wang (for I give her the lion’s share of the credit here, in the new English translation from Candlewick Press) can keep it up for the entire book. But she does.

Author Cao Wenxuan is a professor of Chinese literature at Beijing’s Peking University and is considered to be one of China’s preeminent authors of children’s literature. Though he has written some 15 novels (and several other short stories and picture books), Bronze and Sunflower is his first to be translated and published in English.

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Tinyville Town Gets to Work!

I must admit, though I would’ve guessed that my kids were beyond the target audience for Brian Biggs’s Tinyville Town series, the books were nevertheless a surefire hit. My son (5), especially, fell in love with them.

Tinyville Town Gets to Work! is the “core” book in the series and is a picture book very much reminiscent of Richard Scarry’s Busytown series. If you know and love Busytown, then there’s a lot to love in Tinyville Town. The book establishes some of the residents of the town as they come together to build a new bridge.

Three of those residents then take center stage in complementary board books. I’m a Firefighter, I’m a Librarian, and I’m a Veterinarian dive a bit deeper into those characters and what they do each day.

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Triangle (Mac Barnett & Jon Klassen)

  • Triangle
  • written by Mac Barnett
  • illustrated by Jon Klassen
  • published by Candlewick (2017)
  • Roar Score: 4/5

In my house, the sign of a good book is when we finish reading it and the first question my kids ask is, “Is there a second one?” They’ve become so used to series and multiple books that all feature the same characters. When they find a story or characters they like, they just want to live in that world and read everything there is.

When we finished Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen’s new Triangle, my son (5) immediately asked, “Is there a #2? Maybe a book about Square or Circle or something?” This meant the book was a winner.

At the time, I thought Triangle was a one-off, so he was a bit disappointed. But I’ve since learned that it is, indeed, the first of three books from Barnett and Klassen. And the other two will be, indeed, Square and Circle. However, they’re not due out until 2018 and 2019, respectively. Bummer.

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Be Quiet!

  • Be Quiet!
  • written and illustrated by Ryan T. Higgins
  • published by Disney Hyperion (2017)
  • Roar Score: 5/5

Be Quiet! is a gorgeous wordless picture book. Well, at least, that’s the idea. But the characters don’t seem to get the message or understand what “wordless” actually means.

Before we even get to the first page (the story actually begins on the inside front cover), Rupert the mouse breaks the fourth wall and informs us that he’s going to make a wordless book. They’re very artistic.

The trouble is, Thistle and Nibbs are two incredibly chatty mice who are in love with the idea of a wordless book. They just can’t seem to stop talking long enough to actually make one. And Rupert is quickly running out of patience.

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Spill Zone

  • Spill Zone
  • written by Scott Westerfeld
  • illustrated by Alex Puvilland
  • published by First Second Books (2017)
  • Roar Score: 4/5

Spill Zone does something I don’t think I’ve seen before. It tells a totally dark, creepy, twisted story with a striking color palette saturated with vibrancy. Flipping through the book, you’d be excused for assuming the story is a lot more uplifting than it really is.

The book also pulls you in and compels you to keep turning pages, desperate to find some meaning to the madness that Scott Westerfeld and Alex Puvilland create.

Addison and her little sister, Lexa, live just outside Poughkeepsie, NY, which is now completely off-limits and known as the Spill Zone. Po’Town is no more. A mysterious “event” occurred that basically destroyed the town, turned all of the people into floating zombies, and created a psychedelic version of Stranger Things’ Upside Down.

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Amina’s Voice

  • Amina’s Voice
  • written by Hena Khan
  • published by Salaam Reads / Simon & Schuster (2017)
  • Roar Score: 4/5

Amina has always been a shy kid. She does her own thing, is content to stay out of the spotlight, and stays out of trouble.

But now she’s in middle school. And of course, all bets are off. Especially when it seems like absolutely everything around her is undergoing massive change – change she can’t control.

On top of typical middle school struggles, Amina is facing several unexpected challenges that rock her world.

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Blog Tour: Spy on History + Giveaway

Thanks to Hamilton and our constant National Park Service Adventures, my daughter is currently fascinated by American history. Living near Washington, DC, has only stoked that interest. In fact, we recently had the opportunity to sleep over at the National Archives and literally spent the night right next to the Constitution. My daughter couldn’t have been more thrilled.

It’s no surprise, then, that Spy on History: Mary Bowser and the Civil War Spy Ring is right up our alley at the moment. It’s therefore a thrill to take part in this blog tour in support of the new book by Enigma Alberti (a pseudonym for a group of authors writing the Spy on History series) and illustrated by Tony Cliff (Delilah Dirk).

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Doodle Adventures: The Search for the Slimy Space Slugs!

Now might be a good time to admit that I adore books meant to be scribbled in. Growing up, I completed My Book About Me several times, crossing through previous notes if they had changed. I loved that book.

A few months ago, my daughter was gifted a copy of Wreck This Journal and had a similar love affair. It was a mindblowing experience to be expected to actually write on the pages and “destroy” the book.

So when we saw this new Doodle Adventures book from Workman, we knew it was love at first sight. And we weren’t disappointed.

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Faraway Fox

  • Faraway Fox
  • written by Jolene Thompson
  • illustrated by Justin K. Thompson
  • published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (2016)
  • Roar Score: 4/5

Most picture books with an environmental message (and there are a lot of them) practically hit you over the head with the moral or takeaway. Faraway Fox takes a subtler approach, though it’s still effective and powerful.

The story is told in the first person from the perspective of a small fox, lost and alone in suburbia. As he wanders through backyards, playgrounds, and parking lots, he’s recalling what everyplace was like before it was developed. When he was younger and still with his family.

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Mighty Jack

  • Mighty Jack
  • written and illustrated by Ben Hatke
  • published by First Second Books (2016)
  • Roar Score: 5/5

Ben Hatke is a favorite in my house. His Zita the Spacegirl trilogy is pure magic, and his other books (Little Robot, Julia’s House for Lost Creatures, and Nobody Likes a Goblin) are just downright enchanting.

We look forward to each new book as a major event. So it was with much excitement that we dug into his current major undertaking: Mighty Jack for First Second Books. The first book in the series came out a few months ago, and Book 2 – Mighty Jack and the Goblin King – is set to release this fall.

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