Real Friends by Shannon Hale and LeUyen Pham

I’m not much on realistic fiction typically.  Living through upper elementary and middle school was hard enough the first time, right?!  For some odd, quirky reason though, the realistic graphic genre has totally grabbed me.  I get knots in my stomach every time a character hits an awkward spot and am cheering them on when they have a victory.  The graphic format is just more powerful for me.

Real Life by Shannon Hale and LeUyen Pham is one of the best in this genre, by far.  This should come as no surprise.  This is the duo who has already blown us away with The Princess in Black series.

This new title though is one that unlike their fantasy series for early readers, lands us in the very real, very challenging topics of friendship, growing up, and finding your “tribe”.  The friends who get you and have your back no matter what.  Anyone who spends time with children knows friendship brings some of the highest highs and lowest lows.  This book delves deeper into that from the child’s perspective.  The anxiety, the fear of rejection and confusion surrounding why, the joy and peace of acceptance.

The story is actually a memoir written about Hale’s own childhood, revisiting the ups and downs of friendship, family, and change.  As I read it, it brought back all the memories of the tumultuous nature of childhood friendships from my own childhood and the immense joy felt when you have acceptance and compassion.

The relationship between Wendy and Shannon is one I feel a lot of readers will connect too.  Between family dynamics and mental health issues, these two characters are pushed apart but in the end, come to see that they actually have an ally in each other and are family, regardless of past hurts.

This graphic novel is beautifully done and fans of Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson, Sunny Side Up by Jennifer L. Holm and Matthew Holm, and Smile by Raina Telgemeier are going to eat this one up!

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Unexpected Earth Day Reads

We love Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax and The Earth Book by Todd Parr and they make for great Earth Day reads.  But we decided that this Earth Day, we’d share some of our new favorites.  Check out these books about the world around us, reconnecting with nature, and biographies of some important environmentalists.

New Earthy Classics

The Curious Garden by Peter Brown
This beautifully illustrated book follows a boy who transforms his gray city into a blooming garden.

You Are Stardust by Elin Kelsey
A meditation on the ways humans are tied to their surroundings, featuring striking mixed media illustrations.

And Then It’s Spring by Julie Foliano
A sweet, simple story about a boy who plants seeds and waits nervously for them to sprout.

Step Gently Out by Helen Frost & Rick Lieder
Featuring beautiful photographs, this book shows a bug’s view through uncomplicated declarative verse.

Unplug and reconnect

Doug Unplugged by Dan Yaccarino
Doug is a robot who is plugged in each day to learn about the world, until he discovers that he’d learn more if he went out and discovered it on his own.

Hello, Hello by Matthew Cordell
If only Lydia’s family would put down their electronic devices, they would see the beautiful world that surrounds them!

Redwoods by Jason Chin
A young boy on the subway reading a book about redwoods is transported to the forest he is reading about in this superbly illustrated book.

Blackout by John Rocco
When there is a city-wide blackout, a busy family is finally able to spend time with each other.

Biographies of Earth’s Champions

Me… Jane by Patrick McDonnell
A fun introduction to scientist and conservationist, Jane Goodall, as a child.

Manfish: The Story of Jacques Cousteau by Jennifer Berne
Wonderful illustrations and poetic verse introduce ecologist and oceanographer Jacques Cousteau as a boy.

The Tree Lady: The True Story of How One Tree-Loving Woman Changed a City Forever by H. Joseph Hopkins
The story of Katherine Olivia Sessions, who brought trees to San Diego and helped create Balboa Park.

Rachel Carson and Her Book That Changed the World by Laurie Lawlor
A pleasing biography of a quiet, yet formidable environmental champion.

Link Round-Up

via NPR (originally on Kickstarter)

via NPR (originally on Kickstarter)

15-year-old Gideon Gidori, is an aspiring astronaut from Tanzania is trying to raise money for tuition. In return, he and his host parents have “promised to throw the “greatest potato salad party in Tanzanian history” the day Gidori lifts off into space for the first time.” A really sweet story about a boy with a big dream. (Link)

We’re always trying to think up new S.T.E.A.M. projects for the Exploratorium, and we are loving this post featuring 12 Amazing Engineering Projects for Kids.  I wish we could all create our own geoboards! (Link)

We’re fans of Book Riot around these parts, and this list is no exception!  It makes me want to re-read all of my childhood favorites!  BUT I think that all ofindex Roald Dahl’s books (particularly Matilda) should have made it on this list. (Link)

Writer Brent Gleeson breaks down the 5 Similarities Between Leadership and Parenting in this Forbes article.  Some of them seem obvious after reading, but I don’t think I’ve ever really thought of it this way before. (Link)

This is a fantastic read from the exceptional site, Boing Boing, about How Harry Potter Shaped a Generation.  Can you think of a series or a book that shaped you as a kid? (Link)