Thursday, May 12, 2022

Brainstorm 269: Filipino Tales

For this week’s Brainstorm I’ve got 5 Filipino tales for you. All of these feature Filipino characters, one is a Filipino-inspired fantasy, and I believe all these authors are of Filipino heritage. Click on the titles to see my full reviews for each book including any content notes/trigger warnings.

Any Day with You by Mae Respicio

Kaia is really looking forward to 2 things this summer: film camp where she can grow her special effects makeup skills and spending time with Tatang (her great-grandfather) doing all their favorite things. But the summer gets a shade of sadness to it when Tatang announces that he's moving back to the Philippines for good at the end of the summer. Kaia adores Tatang, his stories inspired by Filipino mythology, and their special activities they do together. She figures that if she and her two best friends win the film competition they work on at camp maybe that will convince Tatang to stay.

A sweet story that celebrates Filipino culture and intergenerational relationships beautifully.

Target Readers:

Great-grandparent/Great-grandchild Story Fans, California Setting Fans, Filipino Mythology Fans, Contemporary Fiction Fans, Movie Maker Story Fans, Family Story Fans, Self-Discovery Story Fans, Summer Story Fans, Middle Grade Readers


Cora Cooks Pancit by Dorina K. Lazo Gilmore, ill. by Kristi Valiant

Cora is very excited the day her Mama decides she's old enough to help cook. She learns about the family's history of cooking and then cooks pancit with her Mama while wearing her Lola's old apron.

A celebration of achieving "big kid" status, and the foods integral to families.

Target Readers:

Filipino Food Lovers, Family Story Fans, Contemporary Fiction Fans, Tagalog Learners, Picture Book Readers


Lalani of the Distant Sea by Erin Entrada Kelly

Life on Sanlagita is not always easy, but Lalani and her friends and family get by. However, the rains haven't come in many, many days and things are starting to get more desperate. Nothing ever changes in Sanlagita. The menyoro dictates how things will be. He says they must respect, fear, and avoid the mountain on the island or it will be angry with them. Women must become menders or planters. Men become ship builders or fishermen, and the strongest men get chosen to become sailors who go north in search of the fabled land of plenty Isa. But no one has ever returned from sailing north. What can one little girl do to help save her island from disaster?

An ode to courage in the face of overwhelming adversity, and an introduction to Filipino mythical creatures.

Target Readers:

Dystopia Fans, Fantasy Fans, Filipino Mythology Fans, Survival Story Fans, Middle Grade Readers


Smaller and Smaller Circles by F.H. Batacan

Pre-teen boys are showing up in the city dump dead with very distinct mutilations. When the police start to notice that this is a trend, Father Saenz (a forensic anthropologist) and his associate Father Lucero (a psychologist & former student of Saenz's) are called in as consultants to help profile and find the serial killer. Unfortunately, there's not a lot to go on. Few pay attention to kids living in and around the dumps. The case is slow going, made even more challenging by the slow-developing forensic practices, the politics, and entrenched habits of Filipino police work in the late 1990s, still recovering from days under a dictator when corruption was rampant.

This was a fascinating mystery just for the setting. You get a good dose of Filipino history and culture along with an intriguingly-written mystery. The serial killer mystery part does get a bit brutal and harrowing once you find out more details, but it is also a good reminder of how hard it is for certain people groups to get justice, even today, in various places around the world.

Target Readers:

Mystery Fiction, Philippines Setting Fans, Filipino History & Culture Studiers, Historical Fiction, Adult Readers (approachable to some mature Young Adult Readers)


When Lola Visits by Michelle Sterling, ill. by Aaron Asis

A description of what sights, sounds, tastes, and smells summer brings for a Filipino American girl during a season full of special foods and events as her grandmother visits from across the ocean.

This is a stunning picture book! The illustrations and the lyrical text written in a series of similes are so beautiful.

Target Readers:

Grandmother/Granddaughter Story Fans, Filipino Food Lovers, Summer Story Fans, Simile Studiers, Art Lovers, Sensory-Appealing Writing Fans, Picture Book Readers

Thursday, May 5, 2022

Brainstorm 268: Surviving North Korea

For today’s Brainstorm I have some survival stories both true and imagined, set in North Korea. Most of these aren’t necessarily easy or fun reads, but they are eye opening and address important issues. Click on the titles to see my full reviews for each book and any content notes/trigger warnings (which most of these have to some extent).

Brother’s Keeper by Julie Lee

Sora and her family are tired of the restrictions of the Communists in their North Korean village. As the beginnings of the Korean War rumble, her father decides it is time to escape the religious and ideological persecution and get to South Korea. Her mother has a brother in Busan, and the family decides to head there. But as they sneak out at night with what they can carry, Sora and her 8 year old brother are separated from their parents and baby brother. Can Sora get the two of them to Busan in winter across a war zone safely?

The author says in the back of the book that this story is largely inspired by her own mother's escape from North Korea to Busan during the start of the Korean War with one brother.

Target Readers:

Historical Fiction Fans, Korean War Story Fans, Korean Setting Fans, Survival Story Fans, Bittersweet Story Fans, Middle Grade/Young Adult Readers


Escape from North Korea: the Untold Story of Asia’s Underground Railroad by Melanie Kirkpatrick

Kirkpatrick explores what is going on inside North Korea, what various refugees do to escape, and how different groups and individuals are working to get those refugees to freedom despite numerous difficulties. 

Incredibly well researched and written.

Target Readers:

Nonfiction Fans, Those Interested in Modern Human Rights Issues, Those Interested in International Relations, Freedom Fighters, North Korean Setting Fans, Incredible True Story Fans, Adult Readers (though approachable to Young Adults)


Every Falling Star: the True Story of How I Survived and Escaped North Korea by Sungju Lee with Susan Elizabeth McClelland

Sungju Lee had a cushy childhood in Pyongyang. His father was in the military. The family had a nice flat, a grand piano, a coveted dog, went to the amusement park, revered Kim Il-sung, and were enjoying the good life. Sungju dreamed of one day being a military leader for Joseon (what N. Koreans call N. Korea). And then out of the blue when he was about ten, Sungju's parents told him they were going on an extended vacation up north. In reality, his father had fallen out of favor with the regime and they were forced to leave. For a while, their wealth helped them continue to live fairly well in a more primitive setting. Their new house had no running water or electricity, but with saved money they ate well. Eventually the money ran out, and first his father and then his mother left on temporary trips to go find more food. Neither of them returned in the time promised and Sungju found himself on the streets left to fend for himself. He soon made his own gang with other street boys and together they found ways to survive. Street life was harrowing and made Sungju an angry and hardened teen, until one day a man standing in a train station recognized him and Sungju's life started to change for the better. Eventually, Sungju receives word that his father wants him to sneak out to China, and he begins a strange and terrifying trip to what he hopes will be a reunion.

An eye-opening autobiography!

Target Readers:

Autobiography Fans, North Korean Setting Fans, Incredible True Story Fans, Nonfiction Fans, Young Adult Readers (though of interest to Adults too)


Finding Junie Kim by Ellen Oh

When racial slurs get painted on the school's walls, it really shakes up Junie Kim and her multiethnic group of friends. Some of them want to take action of some kind, but Junie is afraid it will just make the bullying she faces on the bus and in the halls each day worse. It really upsets the balance of her precarious mental state and she slides into serious depression. When her parents finally notice how serious her condition is, she begins to hang out more with her grandparents after school. She starts to open up a little to her grandfather about what is going on and in return he starts sharing with her his experiences as the son of a doctor during the Korean War and immigrating to the United States in the early 70s. Junie starts recording the stories, and eventually gets her grandmother to also share her story of what she experienced during the Korean War.

The book really feels like 3 separate stories. There's the first part where Junie's school issues and mental health issues are introduced and come to a crisis point. Then there's her Grandpa's story of his Korean war experiences that is related at length. And then there's her Grandma's story of her Korean war experiences that is related at length. 

Target Readers:

Contemporary Fiction Fans, Mental Health Story Fans, Historical Fiction Fans, Grandparent/Grandchild Story Fans, Korean War Story Fans, Survival Story Fans, Korean American Character Fans, Korean Setting Fans, Upper Middle Grade/Young Adult Readers


In the Shadow of the Sun by Anne Sibley O’Brien

Mia and Simon are accompanying their father on one of his aid-relief trips to North Korea. Mia is a little excited since she was adopted from South Korea and this is the closest she's gotten to the land of her birth. Simon is grumpy and reclusive. He's several years older than his sister and has been going through stuff recently. Mia feels like they hardly talk any more. But when their father is arrested and Mia just discovered some illegal photos on the phone North Koreans gave her in a welcome package, the two siblings have to take off on their own and try to escape to freedom for fear of being locked up who knows how long by the North Korean government. Can they make it to the Chinese border without being caught? And can they learn to work together after this rift has grown between them?

The author grew up in South Korea and did extensive interviews with North Korean escapees for this book. She also has an adopted daughter from Korea, so the things that Mia is mulling over about being Korean but living with a white American family also comes from a highly-informed position.

Target Readers:

Thriller Fans, Survival Story Fans, Contemporary Fiction Fans, Adventure Fans, Sibling Story Fans, North Korean Setting Fans, Upper Middle Grade/Young Adult Readers

Thursday, April 21, 2022

Brainstorm 267: Animal Conservation Success Stories

Today I have some animal conservation success stories for you. These books are about species that were successfully brought back from the brink of extinction, or are at least showing much more promise than they were some years ago. I also am including 3 recommended series/authors for you to read if you are interested in the current issues in animal conservation. Click on the titles to see my full reviews including any content notes/trigger warnings.

Animal Conservation Success Stories

The American Bison: the Buffalo’s Survival Tale (History Comics) by Andy Hirsch

A graphic novel history of the American bison in North America, the golden centuries when the Native Americans and bison lived in a well-balanced ecosystem, and how and why the population became threatened to the point of near extinction 100 years ago, and efforts to help bring the wild population in North America back up since then.

A very readable history of not only an animal but also the people and land around it. Hirsch writes and illustrates his graphic novels in such a way that you forget you’re learning things.

Target Readers:

Bison Lovers, Animal Lovers, American History Studiers, Graphic Novel Fans, Middle Grade & Young Adult Readers


Cat Tale: the Wild, Weird Battle to Save the Florida Panther by Craig Pittman

Craig Pittman takes readers through the history of the ups and downs of the efforts to save the Florida panther through the years. He looks at key figures along the way in efforts to determine how many panthers were left when their numbers got critical and in figuring out how to save those remaining. And he brings the story up to the present day looking at continuing troubles faced by this big cat in an area that continues to see a lot of human population growth.

Pittman has woven this true story into a riveting tale that definitely lives up to the subtitle.

Target Readers:

Animal Lovers, Wild True Story Fans, Florida Setting Fans, Adult Readers (though approachable to Young Adult Readers)


Condor Comeback (Scientist in the Field) by Sy Montgomery, photos by Trianne Strombeck

Sy Montgomery shadows scientists on the frontlines of helping Californian condors come back from the brink of extinction. She learns a lot of the hazards that the condors still face, and the active role scientists play in keeping the birds healthy as much as possible.

Target Readers:

Animal Lovers, Readers Looking for Practical Ways to Help, Middle Grade & Young Adult Readers


Once a Wolf: How Wildlife Biologists Fought to Bring Back the Gray Wolf (Scientists in the Field) by Stephen R. Swinburne, photos by Jim Brandenburg

A look at the common perceptions of wolves in history, how the wolf was hunted out of much of the USA, and then how scientists started to study wolves and their impact on the ecosystem and changed their policies, moving towards reintroducing the wolf to Yellowstone Park.

There are now some more updated books on the wolves 20+ years down the road and how they are doing today, but this is very interesting to read as one of the first books written for kids about the wolves coming back to Yellowstone. 

Target Readers:

Animal Lovers, Ecosystem Studiers, Yellowstone Setting Fans, Middle Grade & Young Adult Readers

Current Issues in Animal Conservation Reads

The Elephant Whisperer by Lawrence Anthony with Graham Spence

Lawrence Anthony bought a game park in South Africa called Thula Thula used for hunting and turned it into an animal reserve with eco tourism. In this book he shares some of the challenges of getting the reserve up and running, battling poachers, keeping good relations with his Zulu neighbors, building up the animals protected in the reserve, and figuring out how to get a restless herd of elephants settled there. Next to the poachers the elephant herd provided one of Anthony's biggest challenges. He was the herd's last shot at life. They had broken out of too many other reserves. It took all of Anthony's creative juices to figure out a way to outsmart these wily animals who did things like smash the batteries running the electric fences so they could break out. While relating these challenges, and showing the progress Anthony makes over several years, readers get a peek into the life of a ranger running a reserve that keeps itself running with eco tourism.

This, Anthony’s other books, and his wife’s sequel to this book bring you to the frontlines of animal conservation, what methods are working, and what their biggest challenges are.

Target Readers:

Animal Lovers, Africa Setting Fans, Biography Fans, Nonfiction Fans, Conservation Frontline Studiers, Adult Readers (though approachable to Young Adult Readers, and there’s a Young Readers’ edition for Middle Grade Readers)


FunJungle series by Stuart Gibbs

FunJungle is a middle grade contemporary mystery series starring Teddy Fitzroy who lives behind the FunJungle zoo in Texas with his zookeeper mother and animal photographer father. Teddy solves mysteries that happen in and around FunJungle that highlight very real animal conservation issues in the world today and how good zoos work to help (and Gibbs usually provides notes on those in the back of the books). They are extremely well-written, entertaining, fun, and engaging mysteries that are insanely popular with our middle school readers (and certain librarians 😉)! 

Target Readers:

Mystery Fans, Animal Lovers, Zoo Setting Fans, Contemporary Fiction Fans, Middle Grade Readers


Photo Ark series by Joel Sartore

Joel Sartore has set out to photograph as many species of animals as he can in a 25 year period and develop an "ark" of photographic evidence of animals, many of which are on the brink of extinction. Each book includes stunning photos of animals from all over the world with notes on their vulnerability and sporadic essays about conservation efforts that are showing promise. The essays are targeted at adult readers, but the photos will appeal to all ages.

Target Readers:

Animal Lovers, Photography Fans, Science Fans, All Ages

Thursday, April 7, 2022

Brainstorm 266: Funny Series

This week’s Brainstorm brings you those funny series I promised you last week (see Brainstorm 265 for more funny reads). Highlighting a whole series can be challenging, so I’ll give a little summary of the series, and then the review for my favorite in the series (or at least one of my favorites). Click on the titles from each series featured to see my full review for that book and to get an idea of any content issues/trigger warnings (search for my reviews of each book in the series to get an even better picture).

The American Heiresses series by Jen Turano

Jen Turano writes Christian historical romance adventures about young ladies of fortune in turn of the century New York City. And the seriously funny scrapes they get themselves into. Each book in this series of 3 highlights a different young lady in a circle of friends. While some elements of her books are predictable, they incorporate faith elements in natural ways and include some of the funniest scenes I’ve ever read. Turano has several other series that are also quite funny and in a similar vein.

Flights of Fancy (#1)

Isadora Delafield is one of the most eligible heiresses in America (in other words, she has a very large dowry and is beautiful). Her mother is delighted when the Duke of Montrose becomes enamored with Isadora, but Isadora finds the man slimy and despicable. When he refuses to stop pursuing her hand even after she gives him the cut direct very publicly things get more serious. Because Isadora finds out that the man never gives up when he sets his mind that he wants something and that his past three wives all died under mysterious circumstances. Her best friend and two servants come up with a plan to save Isadora. She must go to the countryside and hide out as a servant until her father can get back and deal with the Duke. Isadora, soon to be Izzie Delmont agrees. How hard can being a housekeeper in the backwoods of Pennsylvania be?

Target Readers:

Laugh Out Loud Funny Fans, Christian Fiction Fans, Historical Romance Fans, Adult Readers (though very approachable to YA)


Elephant & Piggie Like Reading series by Mo Willems & friends

Piggie & Gerald do the intros and conclusions to these wildly imaginative, and reliably humorous little beginning reader stories written and illustrated by the likes of Dan Santat, Laurie Keller, Ryan T. Higgins, and LeUyen Pham. There are currently 8 books in the series, with #9 due out in May 2022. 

I’m on It (Elephant & Piggie Like Reading, #8) by Andrea Tsurumi & Mo Willems

A goat and a frog challenge each other to carry out various actions. But will they take things too far? 

This goat and frog get up to some wild shenanigans that will have kids very entertained and is great for preposition learners & idiom learners.

Target Readers: 

Humor Fans, Beginning Readers, Elephant & Piggie Fans, Imaginative Readers, Picture Book Readers


FoxTrot series by Bill Amend

The comic adventures of the FoxTrot family with Mom’s culinary creations that send the family running, Dad’s grilling mishaps, Peter’s sports and academic foibles, Paige’s teen girl drama, and Jason’s nerding out to the nth degree. There are many, many FoxTrot book collections at this point. I’ll just highlight the most recent.

Deliciously Foxtrot

A laugh out loud collection of comics featuring the Fox family's daily antics all throughout the year. This one includes some of what I’d consider all-time best FoxTrot comics.

Target Readers:

Family Story Fans, Humor Fans, Comic Fans, Scifi/Fantasy Film Fans, Math & Science Nerds, Middle Grade Readers on up 


Franny K. Stein, Mad Scientist series by Jim Benton

Franny is a young mad scientist who loves to experiment, has a part-dog part-something assistant named Igor, is a work in progress in the social skills area, has plotlines that give nods to famous scifi books and movies and tropes, and as the series progresses Franny learns and grows to be nicer and nicer, and sneakily works in moral lessons readers will never notice coming.

Bad Hair Day (#8)

Franny scoffs when her mom suggests she might want to try using a hairdryer, makeup, or hairspray. But then she realizes she scoffs because she doesn't understand, and science is all about figuring out that which you don't understand. So Franny decides to tackle the unknown and puts her own spin on beauty products. Yes, she may also inadvertently create a monster rampaging through town. But that's all right. She and Igor can handle a little hair, right? But everyone knows hair is very hard to tame.

Target Readers:

Humor Fans, Scifi Fans, Science Lovers, Lower Grade/Middle Grade Readers


The Genius Factor series by Paul Tobin

Nate Bannister is a genius. When he gets bored, he likes to create challenges for himself, which always gets a bit…exciting for his friend Delphine, and the rest of their town. An extremely imaginative and very funny series.

How to Capture an Invisible Cat (#1)

Delphine's life is pretty normal. Ok, as normal as can be for an outgoing girl a little prone to escapades that may get her in trouble. But that all changes the day she becomes friends with the class genius, Nate. Nate gets bored being so brilliant all the time and ever Friday the 13th he schedules in to do 3 dumb things just to keep life interesting. There was a Friday the 13th recently and one of the dumb things Nate did was to enlarge his family cat Proton to the size of an elephant, turn him invisible, and hide seven molecules around town that contain clues how to change Proton back and then purposely forget the formula so he has to find the clues. Nate has his trusty talking dog Bosper to help him, and he and Bosper have decided that Delphine would make a good friend so they recruit her too. Soon Delphine finds herself doing a number of things she never dreamed of when she woke up that morning, like talking to a dog, becoming friends with a sentient car, and being stalked by a gigantic invisible cat that escapes Nate's house and goes on an invisible rampage around town. It's a good thing Delphine likes adventures.

Target Readers:

Laugh Out Loud Humor Fans, Scifi Fans, Adventure Fans, Imaginative Readers, Friendship Story Fans, Genius Character Fans, Middle Grade Readers


Katie the Catsitter series by Colleen AF Venable, ill. by Stephanie Yue

Katie is a teen trying to earn some money and becomes the catsitter for her neighbor. That job isn’t anywhere near as simple as it sounds. Her neighbor has 217 cats, and the cats can do things like hack, design spy tech, and other things Katie is NOT prepared to handle. While Katie juggles friendship issues and life in general, the cats provide hilarious comedic relief in the background. So far there are 2 books in this graphic novel series.

Katie the Catsitter (#1) 

Katie is trying to find a way to earn money so she can join her two best friends for at least one week of camp this summer. So far, she's learned that the older gentleman in her apartment is crazy fit and she's a wimp at carrying groceries. She is better at killing plants than watering them. And she's not so gifted in the cleaning department either. When her upstairs neighbor Ms. Lang hears that Katie is trying to earn money for camp, she offers her a catsitting gig. Every night Katie goes and spends a few hours with Ms. Lang's 217 (!) cats and tries to survive the experience. These cats are insane! But rather than give up, Katie is determined to beat these felines at their own game and win this battle of wits. But what is going on with the superheroes in the city? And why does Ms. Lang happen to be gone every night the villain Mousetress strikes? And why has her best friend stopped writing her as frequently from camp?

Target Readers:

Graphic Novel Fans, Superhero Fans, Cat Lovers, Laugh Out Loud Humor Fans, Friendship Story Fans, Scifi Fans, Middle Grade Readers on up


Lesser Spotted Animals series by Martin Brown

Martin Brown uses this nonfiction series to let the animals who never make it into books have their day. 

Even More Lesser Spotted Animals (#2)

Martin Brown introduces 24 critters who are literary underdogs. They don't make it into books much, so you've likely never heard of them before. Each animal gets a full or half page illustration, a couple paragraphs about their unique attributes, and a fact box about where they live, their diet, their endangered status, and one other random fact.

Martin Brown sure knows how to add just the right dashes of humor to a fact-filled book. It is both extremely informative and filled with chuckles (but no misinformation).

Target Readers:

Reluctant Nonfiction Readers, Animal Lovers, Fans of the Obscure, Fact Collectors, Humor Fans, Middle Grade Readers


The Ministry of S.U.I.T.s series by Paul Gamble

Jack and Trudy are recruited to join a secret group of undercover agents working out of Northern Ireland to save the world from Strange, Unusual, and Impossible Things. Their training and missions are wildly imaginative and very, very humorous. If you ever wished James Bond could have had a herd of dinosaurs at his disposal for missions, this is the series for you.

The Ministry of S.U.I.T.s (#1)

Jack is a pretty normal boy. He's not super smart or dumb. He's not super popular, but he is generally well-liked. There's just one area where Jack stands out. He's super curious. Curious to the extent he gets that thing about cats and curiosity and death quoted to him all the time. After rescuing a man from being mauled by a bear in morning traffic, Jack's curiosity leads him to find the organization the man works for, the Ministry of Strange Unusual and Impossible Things. Becoming an agent for the Ministry of S.U.I.T.s is easier than Jack ever would have imagined. Staying alive as an agent and figuring out how to complete missions... that's a bit more challenging. And it is up to Jack and his partner to figure out what is going on at their school and save several fellow students (and maybe all of Northern Ireland). If you like random and silly humor, you NEED this book.

Target Readers:

Zany Laugh Out Loud Humor Fans, Fantasy Fans, Scifi Fans, Spy Fans, Northern Ireland Setting Fans, Middle Grade Readers


Mother Bruce series by Ryan T. Higgins

Bruce is a grumpy bear who begrudgingly ended up the parent of some goslings. Behind the gruff exterior, he has a big heart (but don’t tell anyone), though the forest residents and the geese definitely like to put his patience to the test which generates lots of fun for readers. There are currently 6 full length picture books in this series (#7 comes out in September 2022), 2 Little Bruce books (shorter in stature and page length), a few board books and some leveled readers featuring Bruce.  

Spring Stinks (A Little Bruce Book, #1)

Ruth the bunny wants Bruce to join her in enjoying all the smells of spring. While Ruth is excited, Bruce is not.

Just wait for that 4th thing Ruth has Bruce smell. It had me laughing out loud.

Target Readers:

Animal Lovers, Humor Fans, Loveable Grumpy Character Fans, Adopted Family Story Fans, Picture Book Readers


No Fuzzball series by Isabella Kung

A look at a cat’s life from the perspective of her furry majesty. The 2nd book in this series comes out in November 2022.

No Fuzzball! (#1)

A cat who introduces herself as Nofuzzball introduces us to her kingdom and subjects. But then they disappear so she decides to fix the place up and make it an even more appealing so they will return home. A pitch perfect book for cat lovers, especially those who have ever lived with a cat. And very funny.

Target Readers:

Cat Owners, Cat Lovers, Humor Fans, Point of View Studiers, Picture Book Readers


Oh No! series by Mac Barnett, ill. by Dan Santat

A young inventor’s science experiments go rather epically wrong, to the delight and humor of readers.

Oh No!: Or How My Science Project Destroyed the World (#1) 

A little girl realizes some serious flaws in her science fair project robot just a little bit late. But never fear, she'll think up something to save the day...probably.

Target Readers:

Scifi Fans, Humor Fans, Inventor Story Fans, Problem Solving Story Fans, Time Travel Fans, Robot Fans, Picture Book Readers


Polite Predators series by Rachel Poliquin, ill. by Kathryn Durst

Celeste the Cockroach is here to help you know how to politely interact with predators who are oh so desperate to spend some quality time with you, while also providing loads of scientific facts about said predators. There are currently 2 books in this educational fiction series. (#2 just came out this past Tuesday.)

How to Promenade with a Python (and Not Get Eaten) (#1)

Celeste the cockroach is here to help a young man who has been invited to go on a moonlight promenade by a python. Celeste knows all about pythons, and has loads of ideas about how to avoid getting eaten by them. But will her ideas work?

While giving advice, Celeste also dispenses much knowledge about pythons, and comes up with some wild ways to circumvent the potentially deadly bits (like wearing an upside down lampshade on your head to make it too big to swallow, or freezing your clothes so the python's heat sensors won't pick you up). Along the way readers will learn all sorts of things about pythons without even realizing it.

Target Readers:

Animal Lovers, Curious Readers, Educational Fiction Fans, Humor Fans, Lower Grade Readers


Space Drifters series by Paul Regnier

A light-hearted space romp that feels like old school Star Trek meets Guardians of the Galaxy. Their captain has a bounty on his head and a tendency not to take things serious enough, the crew members have been thrown together and each have some very quirky issues to manage while learning to get along, and their missions never go like planned. One of the characters is a Christian who talks about his faith sometimes; this happens naturally and fits what is going on.

The Emerald Enigma (#1)

Captain Glint Starcrost doesn't have to look for trouble, it seems to find him quite easily. All he wants to do is look for the legendary Emerald Enigma. But for some reason he has a staggering bounty on his head, which brings all sorts of interesting people into his life. First, there's bounty hunter Jasette. Of course it isn't Glint's fault that she then in turn gets captured by his academy rival along with him, his first mate Blix, and the kid who randomly appeared after a time travel incident, Nelvan. From there it is out of the frying pan and into the fire for the thrown together crew as they try to escape one bad situation after another.

Target Readers:

Scifi Fans, Adventure Fans, Humor Fans, Christian Fiction Fans, YA & Adult Readers


Strange Planet series by Nathan W. Pyle

Comics featuring aliens who restate everyday Earth occurrences and experiences in their own unique phrasing, putting a comic twist on things.

Strange Planet (#1)

It's kind of amazing how just using creative vocabulary to describe everyday experiences can give you some poignant realizations and a new perspective. As well as some good laughs. Trying to describe these comics won't do them any justice. Go find some and enjoy. It's safe for all ages, and will build vocabulary and help you practice using semantics and pictorial context clues to find meaning. A brain exercise that's fun!

Target Readers:

Humor Fans, Word Puzzle Fans, Scifi Fans, Everyday Life Events Comics Fans, All Ages


Wallace the Brave series by Will Henry

A collection of comics set in New England coastal town Snug Harbor featuring Wallace, his crazy little brother, his fisherman father, his comic-loving mom, his scaredy-cat best friend Spud, and daring adventurer friend Amelia. And of course, his long-suffering teacher and classmates at school. There are currently 3 books of comic collections out with #4 due out May 2022.

Wallace the Brave (#1)

I think my favorite strip in here was the one where Wallace asks his mom why she’s taking him to the comic book store, and she admits that she’s more than slightly addicted to comics after sampling some to make sure they’re kid appropriate. Wallace’s ideas for alternate modes of transportation are always good for laugh out loud moments. And you know if Sterling shows up, it’ll be disturbingly hilarious. There are definite moments when this reminded me of the antics found in Calvin & Hobbes comics.

Target Readers:

Comic Fans, Humor Fans, Calvin & Hobbes Fans Looking for a New Comic, Family Antics Fans, Friendship Story Fans, Misadventure Fans, Middle Grade Readers on up


Yotsuba&! series by Kiyohiko Azuma, translated by Amy Forsyth

In this manga series, a precocious little girl keeps her adopted dad and their neighbors on their toes in contemporary Japan. There are currently 15 books in this series in English.

Yotsuba&! 1

Yotsuba has adventures meeting the new neighbor girls who are all older than her, but welcome her like a little sister. She has adventures with her dad in the process of moving and going to the store to get things for their house, and then she catches cicadas with her dad's friend and one of the neighbor girls.

The first couple of stories in this were cute but nothing extraordinary. But then the third story or so Yotsuba's antics and the things that come out of her mouth got hilarious. I found myself laughing out loud repeatedly. Yotsuba is probably 3-4 years old, and true to the age she has no filter on her mouth. She's also quite the bundle of energy and does things you'd expect a 3-4 year old to do. Kiyohiko Azuma writes these situations that are so believable, but also hilarious.

Target Readers:

Contemporary Fiction Fans, Manga Fans, Graphic Novel Fans, Japan Setting Fans, Middle Grade Readers on up

Thursday, March 31, 2022

Brainstorm 265: Funny Stand Alone Reads

Being April 1 today, I thought it would be fitting to share some humorous tales with everyone. I did 2 other Brainstorms on funny reads back in 2015 and 2017, Brainstorm 65 & Brainstorm 120, so I won’t repeat any of those books here, but definitely check those out for even more humorous reads. I came up with way too many titles for today, so I’m splitting it into stand alone funny reads and funny series (which I’ll share next week). Click on the titles to see my full reviews for each book as well as any content notes/trigger warnings.

As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of The Princess Bride by Cary Elwes with Joe Layden, fwd by Rob Reiner

A look behind the scenes of the making of The Princess Bride from the perspective of Cary Elwes, aka Westley.

This is a behind the scenes book that will make you love the movie and creators even more. And many of the stories shared are humorous.

Target Readers:

The Princess Bride Fans, Behind the Scenes Fans, Light & Cozy Nonfiction Fans, Movie History Fans, Memoir Fans, Adult Readers (though totally approachable to any age Princess Bride fan)


Beanstalker and other Hilarious Scarytales by Kiersten White

Rapunzel, Snow White, Jack, Goldilocks, know their stories, right? Think again. Keirsten White takes the stories and characters you think you know and ties them together in a tale about a boy who can't hold down a job, a slowly spreading zombie problem, a vampire bent on gathering a crowd of adoring fans, a girl with a really weird pet, a pyromaniac, some royal parents having a really hard time finding a good wife for their son, and an overworked stepmother trying to keep her stepchildren out of trouble.

The narrator brings the humor in this one, as well as the fun had with the fairytale characters and readers’ expectations of them versus what they are really like in this story. The book looks creepy, and it is dark, but it is much further towards the funny end of the spectrum than the horror end of the spectrum.

Target Readers:

Fractured Fairytale Fans, Humor Fans, Fantasy Fans, Slightly Dark Story Fans, Middle Grade Readers


The Big Bad Fox by Benjamin Renner

Fox is a horrendously unsuccessful raider of the farm. To the extent that instead of stealing chickens he usually gets beat up by chickens and the other farm animals give him pity turnips as he hightails it out of there. Wolf can’t get anywhere near the farm because the dog actually goes after him (the dog ignores Fox). So Wolf gets the grand idea to have Fox steal some chicken eggs, raise them for a few months, and then they’ll split a meal of the tender chicks. The first part goes ok, Fox manages to get and hide the eggs from the farm residents. The second part also goes well, Fox hatches and raises the three chicks. But therein lies the problem to part three, Fox becomes a bit attached to the three chicks in the process. When Wolf tries to hold Fox to the deal things get interesting.

Target Readers:

Laugh Out Loud Funny Story Fans, Graphic Novel Fans, Animal Fiction Fans, Middle Grade Readers (or anyone wanting a laugh)


Bodie Troll by Jay Fosgitt

The adventures (and misadventures) of Bodie the troll. Bodie wishes he were big, strong, and super scary. But he's small, fluffy, and way too cute to be taken seriously. He gets his beloved fill of roots by doing odd jobs for Miz Bijou, the fairy who runs the Drunken Pumpkin, and Cholly, her barmaid and ward. During his jobs for Miz Bijou or his outings with Cholly, Bodie inevitably finds trouble.

Target Readers:

Fantasy Fans, Mythical Creature Fans, Graphic Novel Fans, Humor Fans, Adventure Fans, Middle Grade/Young Adult Readers


The Discovery of Dragons by Graeme Base

Venture along with explorers as they write letters home about their discoveries of dragon species on every continent. 

Base’s illustrations are jaw-dropping, and the wry humor is very entertaining. And like every Base book, there is a hidden picture element throughout for sharp eyes.

Target Readers:

Dragon Fans, Fantasy Fans, Humor Fans, Epistolary Fiction Fans, Art Lovers, Hidden Picture Fans, Middle Grade Readers (though the humor will likely appeal to older readers, and illustrations to all)


Little Red and the Very Hungry Lion by Alex T. Smith

Little Red is taking a basket of spot medicine to her Aunt Rosie through the African savannah. On her way, she stumbles across a very hungry lion who decides that Red and her Auntie are just the thing he needs to satisfy his rumbling tummy. But the lion doesn't know who he's messing with.

Target Readers:

Fractured Fairytale Fans, Humor Fans, Red Riding Hood Rewrite Fans, African Setting Fans, African Character Fans, Etiquette Story Fans, Picture Book Readers


Mary Had a Little Lizard by Kayla Harren

Mary is packing up to go to school, which makes her pet lizard sad. But then while Mary and Mom aren't looking, lizard sneaks into Mary's open backpack and smuggles into school. What will a little lizard do while Mary does school work?

This funny twist on the Mary Had a Little Lamb rhyme is entirely wordless, but it doesn't need any text. The illustrations speak volumes. They are both beautiful and hilarious.

Target Readers:

Lizard Lovers, Humor Fans, Nursery Rhyme Rewrite Fans, Wordless Book Fans, Art Lovers, School Story Fans, Picture Book Readers


Norman Didn’t Do It!: (Yes, He Did) by Ryan T. Higgins

Norman the Porcupine and Mildred the Tree are best friends. They do everything together. But when another tree sprouts up and starts growing closer and closer to Mildred, Norman gets seriously jealous, and decides to do something. But is it the right thing?

The hyperbole in this makes readers laugh but also points to a very real jealous tendency in each of us, and shows a better way to respond in a genius mix of funny and feel-good.

Target Readers:

Friendship Story Fans, Jealousy Wrestlers, Humor Fans, Hyperbole Studiers, Fable Fans, Animal Fans, Tree Fans, Picture Book Readers


On Account of the Gum by Adam Rex

When a little girl gets gum in her hair, everyone has ideas of how to help get it out. But everyone's ideas seem to end very, very badly.

Absolutely hilarious, highly imaginative, excellently rhymed, and gives Alexander a run for his money on his horrible, no good, bad day.

Target Readers:

Epic Bad Day Story Fans, Humor Fans, Rhyming Story Fans, Picture Day Reads, Picture Book Readers


Quick Curtain by Alan Melville

When the male lead of Douglas B. Douglas's new musical gets shot for real during a supposedly fake shooting scene in front of the opening night's audience, Scotland Yard Inspector Wilson is in the house and immediately on the case. Dealing with theater people will take all of Inspector Wilson's patience (and his journalist son/unofficial assistant Derek's too). It looks like an open and shut case, but after the funeral and inquest, several people come to Inspector Wilson with doubts and further information. Can he puzzle out the truth in a world that makes money off of lies?

Imagine that Jerome K. Jerome had turned the wit he employed in Three Men in a Boat to write a murder mystery starring a father/son version of Lorelai and Rory Gilmore who solve crimes in mid-1900s England, and this just might be what you get. It is hilarious!

Target Readers:

Mystery Fans, Laugh Out Loud Humor Fans, Historical Fiction Fans, Adult Readers (though approachable to YA)


See the Cat: Three Stories about a Dog by David LaRochelle, ill. by Mike Wohnoutka

Dog is just resting minding his own business when the narrator of a book starts telling the reader to see a cat. Max tries to correct the narrator, and then ensues a battle between narrator and dog in three stories. Who will win?

Target Readers:

Animal Story Fans, Humor Fans, Narrator/Protagonist Battles Story Fans, Award Winner Readers, Beginning Readers, Picture Book Readers


Too Many Curses by A. Lee Martinez

Nessy is faithful castle housekeeper and general manager for Wizard Margle. When he manages to get himself eaten, the castle's abundance of residents cursed by Margle gets really excited. But then they figure out their enchantments aren't tied to whether or not he's alive. While they try and figure out how to escape now that Margle is gone, Nessy is trying to keep the castle upkept as normal. She's also trying really hard to make it look like nothing is out of the ordinary lest other wizards start pouncing on Margle's collections with him out of the way. Things get more and more challenging the longer Margle is gone, though. Certain things that Margle was keeping in check are now running loose in the castle. So Nessy has her hands full of dusting, feeding of cranky foul creatures, restless cursed ones, and things like wayward doors hiding malicious evil back and hellhounds on the loose. Oh, and is that a knock on the front door?

This sounds dark, but it is lots of fun, is full of goofy situations, Nessie is an unflappable rock star, she has an extremely entertaining bunch of side characters, and the content is very clean. 

Target Readers:

Fantasy Fans, Fantastical Menagerie Fans, Magic Castles with Character Fans, Fans of Characters Cool in a Crisis, Humor Fans, Problem Solving Story Fans, Young Adult Readers (though approachable to Middle Grade readers, and appealing to Adult readers too)


The Truth about Old People by Elina Ellis

A child shares the things he's heard about old people. That old people are slow, like quiet, and don't like new things. But his grandparents seem to defy the stereotype, and he knows a secret.

Delightful illustrations clash marvelously and hilariously with the rumors this child has heard.

Target Readers:

Grandparent Story Fans, Spunky Character Fans, Humor Fans, Illustrations & Text Humorous Juxtaposition Fans, Picture Book Readers

Will My Cat Eat My Eyeballs?: Big Questions from Tiny Mortals about Death by Caitlin Doughty

Mortician, Caitlin Doughty, answers real questions about the dead and death posed to her from, as she puts it, "100 percent ethically sourced, free-range, organic children."

Doughty has a delightful writing voice that carefully balances solid science, cold hard facts delicately stated, and witty (but respectful) humor.

Target Readers:

Curious Readers, Nonfiction Fans, Humor Fans, Forensics Fans, Science Nerds, Middle Grade Readers on up 


A Wizard’s Guide to Defensive Baking by T. Kingfisher

Mona considers herself a very minor magically gifted person. After all, her magic only affects breads and cookies and other baked goods. She can entertain customers in the bakery with dancing gingerbread men, she can convince the biscuits not to burn, and she kind of accidentally created a sourdough starter monster that lives in the cellar, but she's not much good at any big magic. But when magically gifted people start disappearing from the city state and a dead minor magician is found in the bakery, Mona quickly finds herself the only person with magic left to help save the kingdom from treasonous traitors. But what can a girl who can magic dough do against big bad guys?

There's a murder mystery and nefarious things happening in this story, but it never felt too heavy thanks to Kingfisher's humorous writing (and I expected nothing less from the author some might recognize better as Ursula Vernon).

Target Readers:

Mystery Fans, Fantasy Fans, Underdog Story Fans, Imaginative Magic Fans, Humor Fans, Young Adult Readers (though appealing to Adult reads, and approachable to Middle Grade readers who want murder mysteries)