Yo Gabba Gabba! board comics reviewed

So, I have to say, being a reader and proponent of graphic novels, I was pretty excited to try out these toddler-safe ones, sent to me for review by Oni Press.

There are two titles in the series (so far):
Gabba Ball! words and pictures by Chris Eliopoulos
Good Night, Gabbaland by J. Torres illustrated by Matt Loux

I've never watched the t.v. show these are based on (though I have seen the song, "there's a party in my tummy") I was glad that there were introductions made in Gabba Ball. The characters each say their name and an action as they play Gabba Ball. Muno likes to bounce, Foofa likes to roll, Toodee likes to kick, and so on. With all these great action words, I loved reading Gabba Ball to my 3 year old one snowy day. It made for a great activity: read this book, then play the game!

This morning I read Goodnight Gabbaland at least three times with my 1 year old. It is his favorite, and I like it best, too. In it, the inhabitants of Gabbaland prepare for bed by cleaning up, brushing teeth and reading a story. The art is less stylized and more realistic than the art in Gabba Ball (you can see the difference on the covers). I also like the rhyming text which is repetitive, easy to parse, and catchy. This would be the easier of the two for an emerging reader to tackle on his own.

The idea of panels in children's books isn't really new, apparently. Since board comics have been on my mind, I noticed paneled art in Richard Scarry's books. And I'm sure there are other examples aplenty. But here's the thing, none are so sturdy as the board book. And sturdy is important at this house. These are the first board comics I've come across -- I hope to see more!

UPDATE 3/28/16: These continue to be popular with my kids, four years later. They're getting quite worn on the spines, but still holding up otherwise! I'm going to add an affiliate link so you can shop for these on Amazon. Looks like they've only got used copies, now.
Yo Gabba Gabba: Good Night, Gabbaland

Launch Party for Tempest by Julie Cross

Last Saturday I went to the launch party for Tempest by Julie Cross. Julie Cross is a local author! I love those! And since I'm a satellite member of a group called Supporting Local Talented Authors, well I just had to go. I love attending these things. It's fun to see what sorts of presentations authors make and how comfortable they are behind the microphone. You know they're good behind a desk, but there is just such a fascinating variation in how authors do with presenting.

Julie was great behind the mic. It was apparent that she had been to author events before and that we shared the opinion that the Q&A is the best part. She began with some tantalizing selections from the book, and since the book is told in the first person from a teen male protagonist, a writing workshop student of hers read. Then she turned it straight over to Q&A.

There were the usual questions, ones I'm sure she prepared for. These are NOT direct quotes:

  • How do you find time to write? I watched less t.v., slept less, and drank more caffeine. If you want something badly enough, you make time.
  • How long did it take? 3.5 weeks for the first draft and a year of revisions 
  • Where did you get your idea? an editor, while rejecting her submitted manuscript, told her he wanted a YA time-travel and she went from there. 
  • Who are your favorite authors, what are your favorite books? Little Women, Number the Stars, The Babysitters Club, John Grisham, Courtney Summers, The Hunger Games, Harry Potter . . . I typically read 2 to 3 books a week, so there are more favorites that I just can't think of right now. One I loved recently was The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight. 
  • Was it challenging writing as a young male? YES. All the danger and peril in the book helped.
  • What have been some of the most memorable and exciting parts of the journey? Selling film rights and foreign rights, opening the email from Suzie, her agent offering her representation, getting good reviews, teens liking it, and a 13 year old boy saying she had done a good job writing as a boy with her main character, Jackson. 
  • What is your advice for aspiring writers? Read a lot, read your work out loud, have an online critique group, write something and finish it. Leave it for a while and write something else. Read tons!

The question that came out of the blue was one from the back about 3/4 of the way through the presentation:

  • "Hi, I came in late, and I was wondering if you could sort of summarize what you've said so far." . . . "Particularly, how did you do it? How could I do it?"

Dudes. That is the toughest question I've ever heard an author get.

I was very worried. I was blushing, and my hand was covering my eyes, so I have no idea how Julie was looking up there in those first few moments. But let me tell you, she handled it with grace.

Even as I was thinking, "there's nothing a novelist hates more than distilling her work into a summary," Julie pulled a beautiful one right out of her ear. She emphasized some things she had said before and added a few extra tidbits. She managed to both answer the question and not bore the rest of us to tears. (Ditto it's horrid follow-up by the same asker: "No, I meant how does it actually become a book?")

After that (oh my word it's like I just watched someone run a marathon) I felt like someone had to ask a good question. Being myself, I asked the only question I could think of, even though it was totally oddball.

"This might be kind of strange," I said, "but my question is for Suzie. How did you become an agent? What was your path, and how does one become an agent?" Suzie was more than happy to step up (phew) and told us her fascinating story -- English major to English teacher to Unemployed in NYC to Working for free, Working so much they thought they'd better start paying her, and at last a full fledged agent! Anyone who'd like to follow in Julie and Suzie's footsteps can check out Guide to Career Education for some schools offering English and writing courses.

There were two or three more questions for Julie and then it was time to sign books!
Literary agent Suzie Townsend preps the books.

Julie Cross signs Tempest

While Julie was signing away, I got to interview Jackson, who did a great job reading from the book. Yes, that's right, he has the same name as the main character in the novel. I thought it was very clever of Julie to not read it herself, and that Jackson was perfect.
Jackson read selections from Tempest.
A freshman in high school, Jackson prepared for the reading by practicing two or three times in the month before. He said that he didn't practice as much as he originally thought he would, since he has been in plays, and not having to memorize it made the reading much easier. It was scarier, though, because he could see more people since the stage lights weren't shining in his eyes.

Jackson was a beta reader, so he read the book while it was still in draft form. He knows Julie because he took a week long writing camp with her, and his mom is one of her coworkers. (His mom is seated next to him, above. She's sassy, classy, and gorgeous, folks. She says Jackson is the "best ever!") Julie said she would rather have a boy read from the book, and knew Jackson had been in plays. Plus there was the serendipity of his name being the same as the main character's.

Jackson has competed in NaNoWriMo, and finds it crazy that Julie wrote the book in just three and a half weeks. Amen, brother!

Hopefully soon we will get a review of Tempest up in here! I am rather dying to find out what happens after the parts that Jackson read.

If you could ask Julie Cross anything, what would you want to know?

Good books to read aloud!

Hi Evereaders! So I went to this very cool book launch on Saturday, for Tempest, by Julie Cross. I listened closely, took notes, and talked to lots of people! I'll post about it soon.

In the meantime, let me share with you a quick list I made up. My dear mother is student teaching in the fourth grade right now, and she asked me for ideas for a read-aloud. It was just three years ago that I myself was student teaching fourth grade, so I sent her this. I've added links to the ones reviewed here on Everead.

The first one I thought of was The Giver, I've heard people say their fourth grade teacher read that to them. Holes is excellent of course. When I was student teaching fourth grade I finished The Sisters Grimm book that the class was on and started The View from the Cherry Tree (a favorite mystery of mine). You could always see if Harry Potter or The Lightning Thief would take. Or (of course) The Goose Girl. You know how I love reading The Willoughbys aloud.* Another one that would be so good out loud (though it is quite scary in my opinion) is The Underneath. It's about a cat and dog who are friends and live under the house of a really scary man. The Mysterious Benedict Society? Crunch, the one with the bikes, perhaps? The True Meaning of Smekday is FANtastic out loud.** The Westing Game (mystery) The Book of Three (fantasy) Everything on a Waffle? I always thought Shakespeare's Secret by Elise Broach would be a good read aloud. A Year Down Yonder (or anything else by Richard Peck) ... do you want me to go on? :D
Crunch, by Leslie Connor. aka "the one with the bikes."

Even if you're not looking for a book to read aloud, all of these books are great to read in one's head, too. If it sounds good out loud, it sounds good (even better!) in the mind.
*I have read The Willoughbys aloud no fewer than three times. I find it hilarious. Sometimes I just start reading it to people on a whim. 
**I have read the first several chapters of Smekday aloud countless times. I'm getting pretty good at my Boov voice. 


a graphic novel by Jim Ottaviani and Leland Myrick

It is no wonder this book made the 2011 Cybils Graphic Novel Shortlist! And I'm so glad it did. I looked back at my notes and saw this little list: Funny, Interesting, Educational!

The book is made up of vignettes -- sometimes they connect sequentially to one another, sometimes not -- and they give you a sense of what he did and who he was, rather than discussing scientific "contributions."

The book is written as though it were an autobiography, which makes sense because Feynman wrote several books about his own life. I had tried, some years back, to read Surely You're Joking Mr. Feynman, but couldn't.  I was missing out on all the jokes my older brother thought were so funny. So I was particularly glad the graphic novel worked for me. Because Ottaviani draws from extensive, impressive research ("our stack of Feynman material is over a meter high..." he says in the bibliography), those who've read Feynman's books will find new in with the familiar.

I was unsure of whether or not I'd like this one, despite all the good I had heard about it, because I hadn't liked Ottaviani's T-minus: The Race to the Moon. Good news! I found Feynman easy to follow and engaging -- even fascinating.

When Jacob first saw me with the book, he said something like, "Oh, Feynman. He was a notorious ladies' man."

"Hm!" I thought. "I wonder how that will be treated in the book!"

I liked the way that you got a sense that he was a ladies' man without explicit description. The ladies' man stuff is all implied. Myrick's art depicts nudes in the book: during art class, at the bath house, and in the topless bar Feynman defended in court. Myrick's art style is such that the nudity is not offensive to me.

The art from panel to panel is very styled, while still firmly planted in reality. It was amazing how Myric made Feynman look a different ages, back and forth, but kept him similar enough that I still knew it was him. Myrick's use of color is worth mentioning, too. It defines the end of a story and the beginning of the next. It helps us figure out emotions associated with events. All in all the art is top-notch.

The book made me laugh (I adored his personalized pencils) and it moved me. Five stars.

Hunger Games Map

This is amazing! Not just because it's a really neat map of Panem, but because over at aimmyarrowshigh you get to see step by step why the map was made this way.  It is super geeky and I was totally enjoying geeking out about it.

Map of Panem, by aimmyarrowshigh.livejournal.com and badguys.livejournal.com

Book Clubs I Would Love to Be In

It occurred to me today that I love book clubs.

I'm in several already:
  • Graphic Novel Book Club
  • Anything Goes Book Club (fiction, nonfiction, kidlit, historical fic, scifi)
  • SLTA (long distance member now, hugs to the ladies pictured above!)
And yet I would love to be in many more book clubs...
  1. Classics Book Club 
  2. Contemporary Children's Literature Book Club
  3. Recipe Book Club (where we cook something each time!)
  4. Kids Included Children's Literature Book Club (where actual kids come!)
  5. Read Aloud Book Club (where we all sit and cross-stitch/crochet/knit while one person reads. We could take turns!)
  6. Bring Your Own Book Club (where we all talk about whatever books we've been reading, instead of just reading one book)
How about you? Do you love book clubs? Are you in one?

*oh p.s.! Don't forget online book clubs. Those are fun, too.  

Around the World

Around the World Matt Phelan Graphic NovelAround the World by Matt Phelan

This is the nominee that I was rooting for that didn't make the short list (there's always one, of course*).

The book opens with fictional traveler Phileas Fogg and the premise of Jules Verne's Around the World in Eighty Days -- a smash hit of it's time and a classic today. Verne's book inspired world travel in its readers, and Matt Phelan writes about three real world travelers:

  • The first man to ride around the world on a bicycle.
  • A girl reporter determined to beat Phileas Fogg's record.
  • An old sailor who circumnavigated the globe alone. 

Excerpts from the travelers' journals (and other publications that tracked them) mingle with imagined conversations and beautiful watercolor art. The stories are inspiring and uplifting -- it's beautiful to watch these people find and achieve their dreams. Themes of persistence and innovation are conveyed without any saccharine undertones. Several times while reading I said "wow" out loud. "Can you believe this?" is what I thought, but the stories are completely credible and obviously thoroughly researched. I found it fascinating to learn what humans are capable of, in re: world travel.

I think this would make excellent bedtime story material for younger kids, and teens and adults will pick up on the more subtle themes in the book. It's worth mentioning that Phelan's art is amazingly simple and skillful. I'm thinking in particular of the facial expressions of Nellie Bly, girl reporter. How Phelan conveys such emotion with just a few lines is beyond me.

Find it, read it. You won't regret it. An excellent choice for those who haven't read many graphic novels.
*in 2010, that was Turtle in Paradise; in 2009, Cat Burglar Black; in 2008, My Dad's a Birdman.

Bonus: I picked this book for my book club! Reactions are here.

Another update: I now have affiliate links for this book! If you make a purchase I will receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. Around the World from B&N; Around the World from Amazon.

Cybils Shortlists!

They're here! Hurrah!

I'm particularly proud of the Graphic Novels lists (one for ages 8-12, one for 12-18) since those are the ones I helped pick. ALL of these titles are stellar, folks. I'll definitely be gushing about some of them, soon!
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