Please make this book into a movie: The Shadow Hero

The Shadow Hero Gene Luen Yang Sonny Liew
More books like this, please!
  1. What is it about? 
    The Shadow Hero by Gene Luen Yang & Sonny Liew is, first, the story of Hank Chu, living in *almost* the 1930's. Hank likes working at the family grocery store in Chinatown with his dad. But from the day his mom is saved by asuperhero, The Anchor of Justice, she knows exactly what her son should do with his life. This is a book in the great tradition of superhero comics, but it's also very self aware. Reading the end material made the book (which I loved) even cooler. Because it told me that, secondly, this book is an imagining of the origin story of what might have been the first Asian American superhero.
  2. Who would like it?
    Alexander. All of my former GN book club (Jesse, Lauren, Amanda and others!). ME! Jacob. The general superhero-loving public. According to the NY Times, "any Taiwanese-Chinese-American." This book is just so spot-on in it's tongue-in-cheek awesomeness. I'd give it to 12 up. Plenty of superhero violence, but no gore, no language, no sexual content. (The author did dedicate it, "For my kids.")
  3. What is your favorite line from the book?
    "I'm going now. When you get home, wake me up, all right? I'll make you something to eat." Or maybe, "Bleh! I'm dead! I'm dead!"
  4. Who is your favorite character? Definitely the mom, Hua Chu. But I also love the dad, and Red, and the Tortoise, and Uncle Wun Too . . .

The final word: Read it before the movie comes out! You've got a little time because it's not optioned yet, as far as I can tell. :) But seriously. This book rocks.

The story is awesome, and Sonny Liew's art is great at depicting motion and fight scenes that don't confuse. In fact, it's great at everything! Except everybody has duck lips. But you get used to that. Seriously -- framing, coloring, unique and varied panels that improve the story instead of distracting from it. The art flows amazingly well, and adds SO much.    

If, like myself, you would like to purchase this book, you are welcome to use my affiliate links, below.

Barnes and Noble


By the way, I simply had to ask author Gene Luen Yang where he came up with one of the villains' names. This particular gangster is named Mock Beak. Where does a guy get a name like that? Here's what the author had to say:

The Shadow Hero's Mock Beak is inspired by (1) Mock Duck, this really intense Chinatown gangster, and (2) the 1 tile of the "sticks" suit in mahjong. All the gangster characters are named after mahjong tiles. -- Gene Luen Yang, (@geneluenyang), here and here 10/29/14.
Totally awesome. And now I want to play mahjong. In the book, the gangs are called "the tong of sticks" and "the tong of stones." I can definitely see the bird influence in the art & actions of Mock Beak. Those talons! *shiver*

I hope you read this book and then tell me how much you love it. Ok? Ok.
(Notes about the special way I'm reviewing Cybils nominees, here.)
Other books by Gene Luen Yang that I have reviewed, here.
I reviewed Wonderland, with art by Sonny Liew, 5 years ago.

My favorite magazine for kids: Explore! by Kiwi Crate

So I know that *books* are the big thing here on Everead, but today I can't resist doing a review of my current favorite magazine for kids.

I can rarely resist talking about Kiwi Crate, actually. I pretty much talk about it to so many friends so often that I forget who I have gushed to exactly.

Just the other day my friend Abigail was like, "[my daughter] really likes your castle."

"Thanks," I said. "It's from Kiwi Crate. Have I told you about Kiwi Crate?"

"...Yes," she said, in just such a way that I knew I had already told her about Kiwi Crate at length. (Whoops! Oh, well, doesn't hurt to be certain...)

Anyway, one of the reasons I love Kiwi Crate is because of the magazine/booklet that comes in it each month, called Explore!

"It's ok that she colored on it, because I already know ALL about the wild west."
-Levi, forgiving Jubilee because he's already glanced at Explore!

Explore! magazine always starts with a story about Steve the Kiwi, written in graphic novel format. The pictures + words format is just perfect for the intended age range (4-8).  Levi loved one of these stories so much that we read it over and over and over, all month long.

Wait. Let me back up. Kiwi Crate is a monthly subscription box for kids. Inside this special little package that arrives on the doorstep addressed to Levi is everything we need for two awesome, age appropriate themed crafts. Also Explore! magazine, which has more info in the theme, a mini craft, extra craft ideas, book recommendations, nuggets of information, coloring pages, science experiments, recipes, and so forth.

We have been Kiwi Crate subscribers for 11 months now. (I took the plunge after reading many positive reviews, including this one.) I wanted to do something special with Levi since he was not quite ready for preschool , his big brother was headed to kindergarten, and I didn't trust myself to do anything crafty with him without outside encouragement. It has worked out great. Everybody looks forward to Kiwi Crate. We just love it. And after all the exciting crafting is done, Explore! gets read in detail.

The magazine's design is charming -- It is mostly printed in full color, though drawing pages and coloring pages are often two-toned, brown and white. It is a small booklet, measuring 9.5x6.5 inches -- about the size of an easy reader book.

from the "Modern Art" volume

When we got our very first Kiwi Crate I was tossing some of the packing materials and scraps after we crafted. I almost chucked the  Explore! magazine, but I changed my mind and fished it out of the bin. As you can see we now have a little collection, an archive, of fun activities and info (and book recommendations) on a variety of awesome topics.

The bottom line is this: I love Kiwi Crate. I love it so much I paid full price for it, twice (first a 6 Month Subscription, then a 12 Month Subscription). I love it so much I became an affiliate (and this post is peppered with affiliate links, which will get you 30% off your first box). I mean, I'm prrrobably going to end up talking about Kiwi Crate again (right Abigail?), so why not?

Will we make it to the table before we open it?
Not a chance.
If you've got a little one between 4-8, definitely look into a Kiwi Crate Subscription. Also, FYI, they now have Koala Crate for 3-4 year olds (in collaboration with Highlights magazine), and two cool options for the 9-14+ crowd, Tinker Crate and Doodle Crate(My kids will be that old someday.)

Now, I know I've left out information above. What questions and comments do you have about Kiwi Crate? Or about children's magazines in general? 

Edited to add:  I forgot to say, I love the binding! This little magazine has outlasted The Friend, Highlights Magazine, and Lego Club Jr. consistently, because it is sewn the full length of the center! No more pages 16-18 falling out! Yay!

Read along with me? Armchair Cybils

click for more info!
So Cybils reading is going well -- you'll remember that I'm a judge on the Graphic Novels panel, round one. I've read nine titles so far, and reviewed two of them (here and here).

I love being a round one judge in the Cybils because it makes me read. Lots. Of. Books. And all of those books belong to one category. And I wouldn't read so deeply in one category, otherwise. When I first served on the Graphic Novels panel, it was like an education on what a graphic novel is, what's available and what styles it comes in. Same story for Juvenile Non-fiction, which I judged last year. I had no idea there was so much great childen's non-fiction being published!

Anyway, Amy at Hope Is the Word, has started a Cybils challenge for those who want to follow along and read deeply from the Cybils nomination lists. Here's the post where you can read all about it and join in the challenge.

Will you read along? What are you reading these days? And was there a time that reading a series of books educated you?  Leave me a comment (because I still can't read minds).

I don't always read in an armchair, but when I do, I read #Cybils.

One awesome book -- El Deafo

El Deafo Cece Bell review graphic novels best books of 2014
El Deafo by Cece Bell
image by Alysa

  1. What is it about?
    Alysa: El Deafo is the memoir of Cece Bell, who lost her hearing to menengitis at age 4. In El Deafo, Cece is able to hear with the help of some hearing aids, but life is complicated for every kid. The book spans from the time Cece is four until she's in fifth grade, and touches on childhood friendships, school politics, sign language and hearing aids.  
    Levi: I don't know. It's kind of about when so like when she's kind of goes into her sign language class (his favorite scene). 
  2. Who would like it?
    Alysa: Everyone!!! This was such a great book! Levi (who is 4) insisted that I read it out loud to him as I was reading, and he loved every page (even though lots of it was over his head).
    Levi: Maybe Grammy Cami. (Alysa agrees.)
  3. What is your favorite line from the book?
    Alysa: "And thus, Martha Claytor, by the hand of fate, is transformed into that most glorious superhero of all, the True Friend."
    Levi: "Ka-Pow!" (The part where she is imagining and kicks her mom.)
  4. Who is your favorite character?
    Alysa: Mike Miller. So nice.
    Levi: El Deafo (Cece's alter-ego who has superpowers).

The final word: This is a landmark book. It feels very true-to-life, gives you all the feels, and helps you sympathize with the deaf and hard of hearing. Two thumbs way up!

If you want to purchase this book through one of my affiliate links below, I will earn a small commission. Reading is so great.

El Deafo @ Barnes and Noble

*Bonus trivia: Cece Bell is the wife of Tom Angleberger, who wrote all those Origami Yoda books we love so well. I met her at the Decatur Book Festival 2014!

"If you thought my finger was fancy..." First Cybils review!

*** This week I was featured on the Bring Joy blog! When you're done here, go check out my four best tips for preschoolers who don't want to read. ***

Here it is! The first of my Cybils reviews for 2014. In case you missed it, I discussed my format for these reviews here.
return of zita the spacegirl review hatke
Photo by Alysa. Heart paper because I loved it.
The Return of Zita the Spacegirl by Ben Hatke
  1. What is it about? This is the third adventure starring Zita, and it concludes the story arc from Zita the Spacegirl (book 1) and Legends of Zita the Spacegirl. In it, Zita has to save the world, of course!
  2. Who would like it? Fans of the first two books. Who would like the first two books? Anyone who likes graphic novels, really! At our house everyone from the 4-year-old on up reads and loves Zita. (Though Levi requires a reader to assist him.)
  3. What is your favorite line from the book? "If you thought my finger was fancy you should see what my toes can do!" -- Femur
  4. Who is your favorite character and why? Well, my favorite new character was Ragpile. But this book did have some Strong-Strong and some Piper and some Pizzicato all of whom I love for different reasons. 
The final word: If you love Zita, you'll love it! (And the bonus material at the back). If you don't know Zita yet, start with the first book, Zita the Spacegirl by Ben Hatke.
Affiliate links: If you purchase through these, I make a small commission. :) 

p.s. Let's talk about Piper's awesome "tools of the trade"for a sec. Door paste? Love. Midas coin? Sooo coool.  

19 Awesome Quotes from Newbery-winning Authors!

Ok guys I got Story Club back from my editor this weekend! Yikes! Crazy times.

Also this weekend I found some notes I had taken back in 2012 that I've been saving all this time. They come from an event at Books of Wonder in NYC, which my brother and I attended right after KidLitCon 2012. This event was an awesome panel featuring Newbery authors Richard Peck, Avi, Rebecca Stead, Ann M. Martin, and Shannon Hale.

After you read these quotes, tell me which one is your favorite.

Photo by Alysa Stewart. L to R: Shannon Hale, Avi, Ann M. Martin, Richard Peck, Rebecca Stead at Books of Wonder.

These are their words as I recorded them, and I'm just going to let them speak for themselves. There are some real gems.

Richard Peck:
I love Grandma Dowdel in his book A Year Down Yonder.*

"I never wrote a line of fiction until I was 37."

"We learn the most from the experience we would have avoided."

"I turned in my attendance book, which was my first work of fiction, and went home to write or die."

"Before television we listened to radio and that is very much part of the narrative."

"For me, a book is a shot fired just over their heads. What language have we learned here? What book does this remind you of?"

 "I followed my readers into younger territory."

"Humor is anger that was sent to finishing school."

"If I could teach young people a lesson about fiction it would be this: Books are not real life with the names changed. Beatrix Potter was never a rabbit. They're more than entertainments."

"My best book is called The River Between Us."
My favorite Avi book is The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle.

Q: What is your favorite genre to write? Avi: "I prefer writing good books."

Q: What is your first name? Avi: "It's Rumpelstiltskin."

"Focus on the joys of reading."
Rebecca Stead:
Thoroughly enjoyed her Newbery Winner: When You Reach Me.*

"This private space is created by my reading. What makes me want to write is reading."

"I can do anything I want and they're right there with me." - on why she loves writing for children.

"That was the age at which I fell head over heels for books."
Ann M Martin:
The Baby-Sitters Clubbooks had a huge impact on young Alysa.

"My parents made reading and words fun for me. Now, the characters keep me going."
Shannon Hale:
Y'all know I love Shannon Hale.

"You don't find many adults that read a book 25 times." - on why children's authors have to be so rigorous in writing well and double-checking for inconsistencies.

"It's easier to be a bad actor than a bad writer, I think."

"It's so exciting! It's absolutely thrilling that one of my books could be as important as Robin McKinley or Lloyd Alexander's books were to me."

Which of the above quotes is your favorite?
Tell me in the comments, below.

Me, my awesome brother, and Elephant and Piggie, after the event.

*Some links in this post are affiliate links. If you make a purchase after visiting them, I may earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. Which would be awesome!

B&N Coupon Code! And My Cybils Review Groove

Part 1:
Woohoo! Who wants 20% off at Barnes and Noble? 
This coupon code  is good until 10/13/14, after which I'll remove it. It has now been removed. And if you choose to shop through my affiliate links (by clicking the banner in this post, or by getting to Barnes and Noble through another of my affiliate links) I can earn a small commission. Thanks in advance for helping to make my passion profitable. ;)

This week I ordered three books from Barnes and Noble: I Kissed the Baby! for a baby shower, The Princess in Black because I'm so stinkin' excited for it (releases Oct 15!), and Levi spent some of his birthday money on We Could Be Heroes (Mameshiba Series) because mameshiba crack us up. Sadly I ordered these before the coupon arrived. *tsk tsk* But it's not too late for you! I would be comforted to know that someone got to use this bad boy.

Part 2:

So. Cybils nominations are open! Already 53 awesome-looking graphic novels have been nominated, and I've checked out my first bag full from the library. I've been thinking: if I'm going to review a whole lot of books between now and Christmas, I'd better make my Cybils reviews easy to write. Unless I feel like I've gotta spend more time talking about a particular book, I'm just going to answer the following 4 questions:

  1. What is it about?
  2. Who would like it?
  3. What is your favorite line from the book?
  4. Who is your favorite character and why?
It's also worth noting that my reviews will be my own opinions and won't necessarily reflect the thoughts of the panel as a whole. I'm only one superhero blogger on the Avengers' Cybils team.

My fave baby shower books here.
This photo made Benjamin laugh
Mameshiba were originally commercials. These totally kill me, you guys.
How to nominate a book for the Cybils here.

Finished Again! The Book of Mormon is a perennial favorite.

the book of mormon
My name on the front cover doesn't mean I wrote it
It just means I own it.
Recently I finished reading the Book of Mormon again. I honestly couldn't tell you how many times I've read it; my family has belonged to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for generations. I received my own copy of the book at age eight, and have studied it since. For me to write a critical review of this book would be nearly impossible. However, I can tell you about it. Everead was starting to feel incomplete without my thoughts about it! The place where I write about my favorite books just needed a few words about this one.

Hmm, how could I tell you what the Book of Mormon is about in just a paragraph or two? I feel completely inadequate to the task. Thankfully it has a short introduction of its own.

the book of mormon open

I'd be more than happy to share some of my favorite quotes from the Book of Mormon:

2 Nephi 25:26 And we talk of Christ, we rejoice in Christ, we preach of Christ, we prophesy of Christ, and we write according to our prophecies, that our children may know to what source they may look for a remission of their sins. (Our family has this one memorized.  View this passage in context.)

Alma 37:37 Counsel with the Lord in all thy doings, and he will direct thee for good; yea, when thou liest down at night, lie down unto the Lord, that he may watch over you in your sleep; and when thou risest in the morning let thy heart be full of thanks unto God; . . .  (view this passage in context)

Helaman 5:12 "And now, my sons, remember, remember that it is upon the rock of our Redeemer, who is Christ, the Son of God, that ye must build your foundation; that when the devil shall send forth his mighty winds, yea, his shafts in the whirlwind, yea, when all his hail and his mighty storm shall beat upon you, it shall have no power over you to drag you down to the gulf of misery and endless wo, because of the rock upon which ye are built, which is a sure foundation, a foundation whereon if men build they cannot fall."  (view this passage in context)

the book of mormon with ribbonsI love reading the Book of Mormon. I can honestly say that the prescriptions and stories in the Book of Mormon have brought me immeasurable peace and comfort. I believe the Book of Mormon is the word of God. I love the Old Testament and the New Testament, too, and I also believe the Bible to be the word of God. Scripture study has brought me closer to God than anything else except maybe prayer.

Tell me, do you study scripture? Have you ever read the Book of Mormon? I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Also: Did you already know that I belonged to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints? I'm curious to know if my being Mormon has come across on this blog in other ways. If you have any questions about the church I'd be happy to share my answers.
p.s. No affiliate links today! The Book of Mormon is available free online, and in the app Gospel Library. You can request a free copy in print, here. If you'd like a copy from me personally, I'd be more than happy to mail you one that I've personalized. Just drop me a line at everead@gmail.com, subject: Book of Mormon.

A couple bookish things

1. A good book related talk:
Have you seen this TED talk by Mac Barnett? I loved it! I enjoyed it so much I had to share bits of it with the rest of the family. In it he talks about his book Billy Twitters and His Blue Whale Problem, which I have not read (but which looks very fun).

Text (above) and this image are affiliate links.

He says that under the dust jacket, the cover is an advertises a free whale for those who send in a self-addressed envelope. In his TED talk, Mac Barnett explains what exactly they send the kids who write in requesting a free whale. :D (Hint: It's not actually a whale . . . unless you've got a good imagination.)

Thanks for sending this my way, mom!

2. Perhaps you like theater, as well as books?
Another little thing you might be interested in: one of my friends is a professor these days and he asked me to spread the word about this research project. The survey is really short (took me 5 minutes or less), and you can opt in to a $30 cash prize drawing if you complete it. Quick, potentially lucrative, and for good causes! (Namely: nerdiness and theater) Take the survey here, and tell 'em Alysa Stewart sent you.
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