Tao, The Little Samurai – Fun Comics for Kids!

tao little samuraiTao, the Little Samurai, #1: Pranks and Attacks!, by Laurent Richard/Illustrated by Nicolas Ryser. Lerner Publishing Group/Graphic Universe (2014), $6.95 (paperback), ISBN: 9781467720953

Recommended for ages 8-12

Tao the Little Samurai is a very cute series by writer Laurent Richard and illustrator Nicolas Ryser. Pranks and Attacks is the first book in the series, which follows the daily adventures of Tao, a little boy in training to be a samurai – but he’s constantly late to school, tries to avoid his chores, and would rather play a samurai video game than train most of the time!

The book features 1-2 page story strips, which is a good way to keep younger readers interested without overwhelming them with a big story. They can read about Tao’s adventures in short bites, put it down to do homework (or watch TV and play video games), and come back to it at their leisure. The stories are sequential – this is a graphic novel – and there are recurring characters, which will give the readers a comfortable sense of familiarity. The stories are also fun – Tao is a regular kid. He’s in trouble for being late, he wants to play with his friends rather than do schoolwork, and he has grand visions for himself – he even writes, on a hall of successful students, “This Space Reserved For Tao”.

The art has a manga influence – think manga for younger audiences, like Hamtaro – with exaggerated facial expressions, particularly the eyes, and movement. The colors are bright and eye-catching. This is light reading, which is great for summer reading, especially for over-tested, stressed out kids. Tao: The Little Samurai is out in paperback now, and is part of a series, including the adventures, Ninjas and Knockouts! and Clowns and Dragons!

Leave a comment

Posted by on April 13, 2014 in Graphic Novel


Tags: , , , , , , , ,

TV Show Review: Oswald: A Nice, Quiet Picnic/The Big Parade (Directed by Ken Kessel. NickJr, 24 minutes. HIT Entertainment PLC, Nicktoons Productions. 2001)

OswaldRecommended for ages 2-6

The Oswald series of books by Dan Yaccarino inspired the children’s television show from Nicktoons from 2001-2003, and is still shown on the NickJr channel. Yaccarino served as producer on the show, assuring that the look and feel of the books carried over. Each episode runs approximately 24 minutes and contains two episodes that run about 12 minutes each.The show follows the adventures of Oswald, an octopus, and his friends in the city of Big.

Each episode contains the same characters: Oswald (voiced by Fred Savage), his dachshund, Weenie, who looks like an actual hot dog (voiced by Debi Derryberry), and his friend, Henry, a penguin (voiced by David L. Lander) appear in every episode. Other friends show up from time to time. In the episode A Nice Quiet Picnic, Oswald, Henry and Weenie go on a picnic; as more friends show up, the group tries to figure out how to feed everyone when there are only three sandwiches. The episode highlights the value of sharing, as Oswald continues to invite friends to the picnic as he encounters them in the park, despite Henry’s protests that there is not enough food to feed everyone; it also focuses on teamwork, as the group of friends comes together to feed everyone at the picnic. There are repetitive phrases and counting exercises throughout for toddler and preschool audiences, and simple songs round out the episode.

In The Big Parade, Oswald hears parade music from his window and is excited, believing that a parade is coming to town. He and Weenie fetch Henry and their friend, Daisy (voiced by Crystal Scales) – an actual Daisy flower – and find a spot to wait for the parade to pass, talking excitedly about their favorite parade performers; in particular, the acrobats, the jugglers, and the Grand Marshall. When they learn that there is no parade, and that the music was coming from a friend’s radio, they decide to make their own parade, each character assuming their favorite role. As with A Nice Quiet Picnic, there is a great deal of repetition, this time, reinforcing the roles of the parade performers. The episode teaches children to deal with disappointment, as the group does when they realize that there is no parade – they turn a letdown into a positive situation.

The artwork is the same as the artwork from the Oswald book series, with bright, vibrant color against a calm backdrop of City. The skies are blue, the grass is a calming green, and even Oswald’s apartment building is an inviting backdrop of light color, all assuring that the main characters will stand out. The characters speak calmly, in quiet, soothing voices.

The series is not very interactive, but it does provide good storytelling with characters that may be known to young audiences; it also serves, for those audiences that are unfamiliar with Oswald, as a bridge to reading the books. It may be a fun idea to have an Oswald day where audiences can view a two-story episode and talk about the themes of teamwork and what to do when you feel sad. Have Oswald books available and on display for parents and children to read and take out after the read-aloud. There are Oswald board books available for younger audiences. The Oswald mini-site on the NickJr. webpage offers printables that attendees could color.


Leave a comment

Posted by on December 9, 2013 in Series, Television show


Tags: , ,

Speak Now by Taylor Swift (CD)

Release Date: 2010

Label: Big Machine

Format: LP, CD, digital download

Summary: Taylor Swift is a country/pop singer who has found huge success on Top 40 radio and with a teen audience.Speak Now is her third studio album. A live album from this tour, Speak Now: World Tour Live, was released in 2011, along with a Blu-Ray or DVD of live performances from the tour.

Critical Evaluation: Taylor Swift has found her audience with songs about love and longing, and Speak Now continues that formula with songs about relationships gone bad, ex-boyfriends, and mean people. Ms. Swift began her recording career when she was still a teen, she has found the greatest success by writing what she knew, and this has allowed teenage girls to connecdt with her music – they connect with the subject matter. Her songs are catchy and radio-friendly. The CD has received positive reviews and has sold over five million copies worldwide.

Reviews: Rolling Stone:  “Swift might be a clever Nashville pro who knows all the hitmaking tricks, but she’s also a high-strung, hyper-romantic gal with a melodramatic streak the size of the Atchafalaya Swamp. So she’s in a class by herself when it comes to turning all that romantic turmoil into great songs.”

L.A. Times: “The musical range of “Speak Now” expands beyond country-pop to border both alternative rock and the dirty bubblegum pop…”

The Hollywood Reporter: “If Swift’s approach to songwriting is far more diaristic than some of her predecessors, oldsters may see that as exhibitionistic, but her twenty-something contemporaries will recognize it as perfectly in keeping with the candor of the Facebook generation.”

Awards: Taylor Swift has won six Grammy Awards, ten American Music Awards, seven Country Music Association Awards, six Academy of Country Music Awards, and thirteen Broadcast Music, Inc. awards.

Artist Information: Taylor Swift is an award-winning American singer-songwriter. She has appeared in such movies as The Lorax, and Valentine’s Day, and, most recently, had featured music on the The Hunger Games movie soundtrack. Her website offers links to photos and videos, her journal, music to listen to online, news, and a store.
Genre: CD. Subgenre: Country, pop.
Interest Age: 12+
Challenge Issues/Defense: Some may object to Swift’s lyrics about leaving clothes at a boyfriend’s house, for instance. Defense: While many teens enjoy Taylor Swift’s music, this album has been more about her “growing up” and not every song may be squeaky clean. Mature teens will enjoy this music.
Why did you include this book in the titles you selected?
Taylor Swift is such a popular figure in music and pop culture today; I wanted to see and hear for myself what all the fuss was about.

Tags: ,

Seventeen Magazine

May 2012

Title: Seventeen Magazine

Publisher: Hearst Corporation

Subscription Rate: $10/1 year/ Available in print or digital format.

Frequency of Publication: Monthly

Summary/Description: Seventeen is a fashion, beauty and pop culture magazine for teenage girls. First published in 1944, it is the first teen magazine published in the United States. Each issue features articles about makeup, fashion, positive body image, health and wellness, romance, and pop culture. The magazine also acts as a positive force for young women, emphasizing the importance of getting involved in one’s community, school, and family through volunteer work and school activities. There are several international versions of the magazine.

Critical Evaluation: Seventeen is a great magazine for tween and teen girls. It sends positive messages in terms of health, wellness and community involvement and features interviews and spotlights on pop culture figures doing positive things for the environment, their famliies, and global causes. There are fun articles about dating, college life, fashion trends, and makeup as well as more topical articles about women’s health and the global role of women today. The articles are written by journalists and teens are invited to suggest topics via the magazine’s companion website. The website also offers exclusive content for digital subscribers, and links to their online shop, free games, and message boards for all; anyone can also access the site’s “Daily Freebies”, “Salon”, and Quizzes. It is a one-stop shop for younger female readers.

Reader’s Annotation: Where else can you find articles about your favorite show, stars, clothes and makeup?

Genre: Magazine, Subgenre: fashion, dating, romance, advice, health, wellness

Reading level/Interest Age: 13+

Challenge Issues/Defense: Some may object to Seventeen’s coverage of sex and relationships. Defense: Seventeen receives a great deal of reader submissions and takes its content from these requests. These are issues teens want – and need – to know about.

Why did you include this book in the titles you selected?
Seventeen was a favorite magazine of mine as a teen; I wanted to revisit it and see how it has changed over the past two and a half decades.
Leave a comment

Posted by on May 17, 2012 in Magazine


Tags: , , , , , ,

Game Informer Magazine

Issue 229, May 2012

Title: Game Informer

Publisher: Sunrise Publications

Subscription Rate: $19.98/1 year/ Available in print or digital format.

Frequency of Publication: Monthly

Summary/Description: Game Informer features articles on video games. It covers console gaming, handheld gaming, and online and PC gaming. The magazine publishes articles about game consoles, strategies, game reviews, industry news, interviews with industry personalities, new and upcoming releases, and reader contributions. With over 7.5 million subscribers, it is the highest circulated video game magazine and has been listed as the fourth largest overall magazine. GameStop Corp., the parent company of the video game retailer, provides subscriptions through the stores’ PowerUp Rewards card, GameStop’s customer apprecation program. In addition to the discounts afforded members by using the card is access to the exclusive content and pre-order opportunities on the Game Informer website.

Critical Evaluation: Game Informer is the go-to magazine for anyone interested in video games. The magazine’s covers are always dynamic, usually featuring a spotlighted, hotly anticipated video game like recent favorites Assassin’s Creed and Halo 4 (pictured). The articles are written by journalists who are also dedicated video game fans, giving a depth to game coverage in the magazine. Content covers games rated “E” for everyone, like Pokemon and the Lego series of games to the rated “M” for Mature games like Call of Duty and The Walking Dead. Readers can expect well-written articles and interviews with smart insights.

Reader’s Annotation: Want the latest news in the hottest video games?Game Informer has everything you’re looking for.

Genre: Magazine, Subgenre: Video games, gaming.

Reading level/Interest Age: 13+

Challenge Issues/Defense: While the games reviewed have their ratings clearly posted, some games may be considered inappropriate for younger readers. Defense: Game ratings are clearly posted throughout the magazine and age-appropriate levels are addressed. There do not appear to be inappropriate screenshots in the magazine.

Why did you include this book in the titles you selected?
This is a very popular gaming magazine that addresses a broad range of video games and platforms. Many teens read it and save issues to refer to.
Leave a comment

Posted by on May 17, 2012 in Magazine, Video Game


Tags: , , , , ,

Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes, by Chris Crutcher

2003 edition, HarperCollins, ISBN 0-06-009489-3

Plot Summary: Eric and Sarah Byrnes have been friends since they were little. Originally connected by their outcast status – Sarah is disfigured by burn scars that she allegedly sustained as a toddler when she pulled a pot of boiling spaghetti on herself, Eric was overweight – they seem to be growing apart as Eric develops more of a social life. He tried to stay overweight for her so that she wouldn’t think she’d leave him, but he joined the swim team and has slimmed down despite his best efforts. One day, Sarah Byrnes becomes catatonic in class and is sent to a hospital where she refuses to speak. Eric visits her every day and tries to talk to her. He knows she is hiding something, but Sarah Byrnes – one of the toughest, angriest girls he’s ever met – is not ready to let him get that close. Sarah Byrnes’ dad is looming closer and closer, though, and Eric has a very bad feeling about him. Can Eric get Sarah Byrnes the help she needs before her father gets to them both?

Critical Evaluation: Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes tackles a lot of difficult ground: child abuse, neglect and abandonment; obesity; Christian fundamentalism gone wild, and abortion are but some of the ground he covers. Chris Crutcher is not afraid to take his characters to places that may be uncomfortable to talk about, but necessary to be aware of. His characters are realistic and their dialogue, while heavy-handed at points, keeps the pages turning. He tackles inner angst and rage well and his voice will speak to teens. Each of the main characters spend the book going through a journey of self-discovery and learning to find his or her own voice – something that every teen should know how to do.

Reviews: School Library Journal: (starred review) : A masterpiece.”

Publishers Weekly: (starred review) “[A] transcendent story of love, loyalty and courage…Superb plotting, extraordinary characters and crackling narrative…unforgettable.”

Kirkus Reviews: (pointered review): “Pulse-pounding, on both visceral and intellectual levels—a wild, brutal ride.”

Awards: California Young Reader Medal – Young Adult (1997); Joan Fassler Memorial Book Award for Best Medical-Related Children’s Book (1995); American Library Association (ALA) Best Book for Young Adults (1994); South Dakota LIbrary Association Young Adult Reading Program (YARP) Best Books (1994); School Library Journal Best Book (1993); Number three on the ALA’s Top 100 Banned/Challenged Books in 2000-2009; ALA Best Book for Young Adults; School Library Journal Best Book of the Year; Kirkus Reviews Choice; New York Times Outstanding Book of the Year; Margaret A. Edwards Award.
Author Information: Chris Crutcher is a YA author and family therapist. He is among the most challenged YA authors, with 35 challenges between 1995 and 2011. His author website includes a list of book challenges, information about his books, teaching and reading guides for educators, contact and school visit information, an FAQ, and extras including printable posters.
Reader’s Annotation: When Eric’s best friend Sarah Byrnes stops speaking, it’s up to him to find out what her secret really is, before it’s too late.
Genre: Bullying/abuse. Subgenres: Realistic fiction, friendship, family.
Booktalking Ideas: Eric wants to keep his friend Sarah Byrnes’ friendship so badly that he’s willing to do almost anything – even try to stay fat. What are you willing to do to keep your friends? Sarah Byrnes doesn’t trust Eric enough to tell him her deepest secret, but Eric needs to get through to her in order to help her. Have you ever worried about losing a friend by helping them?
Reading Level/Interest Age: 13+
Challenge Issues/Defense: Abuse, bullying, religion, abortion. Defense: The story is like real life, and these themes all come up on a daily basis. Crutcher’s experience as a family therapist helps infuse the book with a realistic flavor that will get teens talking and perhaps opening up about similar experiences they are aware of or going through in their own lives. 
Why did you include this book in the titles you selected?
This book came highly recommended to me by a close friend, a children’s librarian. I was very glad to read it.

Tags: , , ,

The Avengers (film), directed by Joss Whedon

Paramount Studios, PG-13, 2012

Plot Summary: Both a sequel and a standalone film, The Avengers follows established cinematic superheroes Captain America, Iron Man, Thor, and Hulk, plus featured superheroes Black Widow and Hawkeye, as they come together to fight Thor’s evil brother Loki, the god of mischief, and his plans to conquer Earth. Nick Fury, leader of the international espionage and law-enforcement agency S.H.I.E.L.D., must moderate the larger-than-life egos and personalities of the group and bring them together to work as a team.

Critical Evaluation: The Avengers brings together a diverse group of personalities that have to learn to work together for the good of mankind. While most teens do not find themselves charged with that kind of mission, this sends a strong message. We see “Earth’s mightiest heroes” bicker among themselves as their personalities clash; a demigod has doubts about confronting his brother; a scorned little brother take his anger out on an entire planet, and one organization, under one man, attempt to work all of this out to keep the planet safe. These are cartoon-esque situations, to be sure, but on closer examination, they are exaggerated versions of real-life scenarios that teens will be familiar with. Writer-director Joss Whedon’s penchant for dialogue is present here, along with visuals and fast-paced action that will keep adults and kids alike interested.

Reviews:USA Today: “Audiences have been eagerly anticipating this first all-hero extravaganza for years. The wait was worth it.” “It took nearly a half-century to make it happen onscreen, but The Avengers was worth the wait, pairing together the perfect cast and perfect writer/director.”

Awards: Just released, no awards yet.

Reader’s Annotation: Thor’s evil brother, Loki, is trying to take over the Earth. Can a group of superheroes – with superegos – come together to stop him?

Director Information: Director Joss Whedon is well-known for his science fiction and fantasy television series Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, Firefly, and Dollhouse. He has written or co-written several films, most recently, Cabin in the Woods and The Avengers. He is well-known for his strong female characters and dialogue. He has been nominated for numerous awards, including a 1995 Academy Award Best Writing/Original Screenplay nomination for Toy Story and a 2003 Hugo Award Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form nomination for episodes of Firefly and Angel. He has also won numerous awards for his work, including a 2005 Nebula Best Script Award for the movie Serenity and 2009 Hugo, Emmy, and Streamy Awards for his work on Doctor Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog. His website offers a wealth of multimedia options including site skins, wallpapers and icons, episode guides and fanlistings that spotlights those fans who sign up to become members of his site.

Genre: Fantasy. Subgenre: Superheroes, comic books.

Movietalking Ideas: Have you ever had to work as part of a team when you weren’t crazy about the other team members? How did you get over it to work together?

Interest Age: All ages.

Challenge issues/Defense: Violence, drinking alcohol, subjugation of will. Defense: This is a comic-book movie and there is a cartoon level of violence. One character, Tony Stark, is a billionaire playboy who seemingly always has a drink in his hand – it is all about exaggerated personalities and situations.

Why did you include this movie in the titles you selected?

I have been a comic book and superhero fan since I was a little girl. This is one movie I have been waiting for. I also have two boys and a husband that were dying to see it; we enjoyed the superhero movies leading up to The Avengers and knew it would be a good one.

Leave a comment

Posted by on May 17, 2012 in Film


Tags: , , ,