Check, Please: Book 2, Sticks and Stones by Ngozi Ukazu

First of all, let me say how satisfying it is for there to be a book and a sequel and that’s it. End of story. And each book is pretty long-2 years worth of Bitty’s college. So in this sequel Jack is playing professional hockey for an NHL team and Bitty is in his junior and senior year of college. This time a lot of focus is on Bitty and Jack revealing their relationship and can I just say how nice it was to read a story where everyone was accepting and supportive and the teams really have each other’s backs?

Lots of fun, lots of baking, and a super touching ending. I loved it!

Astronauts: Women on the Final Frontier by Jim Ottaviani and Maris Wicks

Another First Second terrific book, this time shining a light on women who were the first in space.  I had never heard of Mary Cleave before and now I think she must be the most brilliant person out there and also “how on earth did she fit in all those careers in her lifetime?!” Before she even joined NASA she had multiple degrees in different scientific fields. This is part Mary’s story, part a little bit Space Race, part the first female Russian cosmonaut, and part women in NASA.
My favorite part was the section describing Mary’s first time in space. Although I have no desire to go up into outer space (um, it seems likely I wouldn’t be chosen) she sure made it sound absolutely amazing and breathtaking.
There is a lot of scientific text in here and presumably it’s all accurate. I wouldn’t know because it was so scientific I had to basically just take in a block of text and say “science blah blah” and move on to the next text.

Very interesting.

Explorers: Lost Islands, ed. by Kazu Kibuishi

I love the Explorers graphic novels and often recommend them to students who love graphic novels and just want more, more, more. Each book has a theme, this one is “lost islands” and then different graphic novel writers and illustrators create a short story based on that theme. Like with any short story collection the results are varied. Having it be a graphic novel collection means that just flipping through it you can immediately see how very different each one is.
For the most part I thought they were all good! My favorite story was Carapace by Jason Caffoe (an author I was not familiar with.) I liked his style and color and the story itself, about a boy on an island and the ghost of a giant crab that is stuck on the island. This was a clever and sweet story.

Black Canary: Ignite by Meg Cabot and Cara McGee

A pretty short graphic novel I bought for school and  took the opportunity to take home and read while we’re closed. I love Meg Cabot’s writing so def had high hopes for this. Indeed, it was funny and fast. Reminded me a bit of Squirrel Girl. In fact, I would like Black Canary to meet up with Squirrel Girl, but alas DC vs. Marvel. No way are they meeting up in Gotham City.  This is definitely an origin story as teenage Dinah Lance is just discovering what her power is (and trying to keep it a secret and then discovering her own backstory secret.)  Looking forward to more of these because it would be satisfying to read a bunch together.

Cub by Cynthia Copeland

Well I just thought this was terrific. The setting was so fully realized, both through details in clothing and decor, and also through newspaper headlines. I must have been reading too many dark things lately because I kept expecting something terrible to happen, specifically with her and her mentor being female in a 1972 newsroom. I pleased to say this was just a solid story about a middle school girl following her passion and also, always a hit with readers, realistically portraying changing friendships.

White Bird by R.J. Palacio

Wow. This was just terrific. Somehow, based on the reviews, I just wasn’t that interested in reading it (or purchasing it for my Gr 4-5 library.) But then my daughter read it and said it was very good and sad, and another teacher read it and said it was so good, so I got on it. And it was terrific. Like most Holocaust stories, nearly unbearably sad.
I liked the framework of the story. Julien, from the novel Wonder, is talking to his grandmere, asking her to tell him her story. She then tells her story of being a girl in hiding during the war, in France, and the Nazis taking many she loved. At the end we see Grandmere now, reacting to current events which echo the Holocaust, making this historical novel even more powerful.
Though there is the Wonder connection, this truly is standalone. In fact, I never read Auggie and Me, in which you first meet Julian’s grandmother.

Stargazing by Jen Wang

I loved this! What a treat of a graphic novel and one I’ll definitely be recommending to kids who love a good realistic novel in gn format (i.e., all those Raina Telgemeier, Jennifer Holm, Vera Brosgol, and Victoria Jameson fans.)

Moon and Christine are both Chinese, but while Christine’s family finds Chinese language school important and is part of a Chinese community, Moon and her mother don’t speak Chinese and are Buddhist. Their approaches to life/personalities are very different too. Moon loves K-Pop, is vivacious and imaginative, but quick to anger and lash out physically. Christine is very studious and wants to live up to her parents’ expectations. Circumstances introduce them but they quickly become good friends.

I thought the crisis in the story was fascinating and was even more intrigued to read the author’s afterward and find out how it was based on her own life. I like the art style and overall really enjoyed this.

New Kid by Jerry Craft

An enjoyable graphic novel about a boy’s first year at a swanky private school where he feels like not only doesn’t he quite fit in (wealth-status wise) but he also feels conscious about the lack of diversity at his school. (He is one of very few black students.)

I liked this but wasn’t blown away, though I would definitely read more by this author. I’ve seen rave reviews and even a little Newbery buzz, so this review might come back to haunt me.

Sunny Rolls the Dice by Jennifer Holm

Goodness, how did I not know this was coming out? Last year my students and I had lots of hype and anticipation for Swing It Sunny, so I feel kind of bad that I had to see this in a bookstore to know it was out! (bad librarian!oops!)

In this follow up to the other two books Sunny is now in middle school where she’s trying to navigate what’s cool and what’s not. She is excited to discover D&D and start playing with some of her boy friends in the neighborhood. Not surprisingly, the other girls tell her it’s not cool and she has conflict.

Although I enjoyed this it felt like such a slimmer story than Sunny Side Up or Swing It Sunny. The panels even seemed larger and fewer to a page, so it was overall much shorter (or at least felt that way.) To be honest, for a graphic novel exploring the angst of fitting it and changing friendships I’d recommend Real Friends or Best Friends instead. But still, it was a good story and I did like seeing how Dungeons & Dragons was woven into it.