A Beloved Game Comes to Life on the Page in Poptropica: Mystery of the Map!

Poptropica: Book 1: Mystery of the Map is the first in a new series of graphic novel-style chapter books based on the uber-popular online game of the same name. Author Jack Chabert and illustrator Kory Merritt have taken Diary of a Wimpy Kid author Jeff Kinney’s concept of a time-traveling, globetrotting, adventure-gaming world and transformed it into a fun new book series that is quickly going to turn into a must-read. Expect to see Poptropica front and center at the bookstore, as well as in every elementary school kid’s backpack.

Main characters Oliver, Mya, and Jorge begin the story by going on a hot air balloon ride, but soon things go from peaceful to adventurous when they soar out of range and onto an island, where the balloon crashes. The trio quickly realizes that they have been double crossed by the balloon’s pilot, who is on a mysterious quest that involves a magical map. Along the way Oliver, Mya, and Jorge are use their own talents to evade saber tooth tigers, escape Vikings, and explore the ever changing tropical island they are stranded on. With the help of the magical map, which seems to operate like a cell phone, GPS device, and mind reader all in one (who needs Siri anyway?), they work to find the balloon pilot and their only way back home. The story ends on a great cliffhanger, which I won’t spoil, that begs for a sequel — and so will young fans. When kids get done reading (and rereading!) Mystery of the Map, preorders are now open for Poptropica: Book 2: The Lost Expedition

What helps make Poptropica stand out from many other chapter books is its graphic novel style. A mixture of traditional story telling and in-depth comic strip art, graphic novels are the perfect combination of storytelling and visuals. The genre appeals to all ages, from fantastic adult fare like Alan Moore’s superhero thriller Watchmen, to the YA essential Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood, which presents a vision of childhood during the Islamic Revolution. These types of book are a worthy alternative to traditional novels and should be part of every home library. For kids who love art and pictures as much as they enjoy stories, younger readers who aren’t quite ready to jump into full chapter books, kids who are just too active to sit and read for long periods, or for the kid who devours books and is looking for the next new thing, graphic novels are a fantastic choice.

With smart, funny characters and beautiful art, the first entry in the Poptropica series will be loved by both kids who are fans of the game (who will be excited to see the universe they already love expanding into print), and those who are brand new to the adventures. And yes, parents are going to love these clever and brave kids (Mya especially is a delight), who face impossible challenges with humor and heart. I can’t wait to see where this series goes — but in the meantime, grab the first book, enjoy some fabulous matching stickers (or more books from Jack Chabert and Kory Merritt), and get ready for some great spring break reading.

Are there Poptropica fans in your house?

Originally published at www.barnesandnoble.com on March 1, 2016.

6 Books for the Diary of a Wimpy Kid Lover In Your House

Everyone rejoiced when the 10th Diary of a Wimpy Kid novel, Old School, hit shelves last fall. But after speedily devouring that series’ newest title, Wimpy Kid fans were left wanting more — that is, more scathing observations, more loopy humor, and more family hijinks. To tide them over until author Jeff Kinney gives us book 11 (we’re ready any time now!), here are some readalike crowd-pleasers, and a couple of brand new novels with real crossover appeal.

Roller Girl, by Victoria Jamieson
Like the Wimpy Kid books, this coming of age junior high tale (and 2016 Newbery Honor book!) helps middle grade readers embrace, and find the awesome, in the crazy whirlwind their lives have become. The heroine, Astrid, realizes that her passions aren’t the same as that of her elementary school friend anymore, and as she comes to love roller derby she learns who she is, and just how strong she can be. This fantastic new girl power read will help anyone see that being themselves is the best.

Crenshaw by Katherine Applegate
A giant imaginary cat named Crenshaw helps a boy named Jackson find the courage to overcome challenging times as homelessness looms in his family’s future. As he helps him find beauty and love in the little things, Crenshaw brings Jackson hope, and may just save him and his loved ones. A truly heartwarming story that helps remind us that love and hope are everywhere, and that everyone has value.

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them by Newt Scamander and J. K. Rowling
Written as if this were one of Harry and Ron’s textbooks from Hogwarts, Fantastic Beasts is filled with clever “handwritten” notes from characters, fabulous descriptions of magical creatures, and wonderful illustrations. As an added bonus, there is a new Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Themmovie coming to theaters next fall. Potter fans will love the references, Wimpy Kid fans will dig the illustrations and the funny marginalia, and everyone will be excited when the movie comes out. Get out in front of the excitement early — you won’t be sorry!

Tales from a Not-So-Perfect Pet Sitter (Dork Diaries Series #10) by Rachel Renée Russell
Written in a similar style to the Wimpy Kid series, the diary of self-proclaimed dorky girl Nikki Maxwell will thrill readers as she takes on seven adorable puppies in this newest adventure. With her friends at her side, and her arch-nemesis at her back, Nikki has to keep these puppies out of everyone’s — and she means everyone’s — way. If your reader isn’t up to speed with the series, they can kick things off with a box set of the first three, and then they can dorkify their own diaries! Fans of the series will also be excited to pre-order a copy of the first book in a brand new diary-style series by the same author, The Misadventures of Max Crumbly.

Wonder, by R. J. Palacio
Looking for another story of acceptance and perseverance? Middle grade readers have been flocking to the tale of August Pullman since it was first published in 2012. Auggie is a middle schooler who suffers from a rare craniofacial deformity, but he manages to attend school for the first time thanks to a push from some fantastic adults, and a few new friends who believe in him. Author R.J. Palacio even includes a few Wimpy Kid references in the book — just another reason that fans of one will joyfully fall in love with the other. If your young reader already loves Auggie, pick up Auggie & Me: Three Wonder Stories, a collection of stories centered around the characters from the iconic novel.

The Last Kids on Earth by Max Brallier and Doug Holgate
Jeff Kinney, the author of the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series, has called The Last Kids on Earth “Terrifyingly fun” — and what bigger seal of approval can a book get for Wimpy Kid fans? It’s perfect for kids who want a humorous introduction to zombies that is more about laughs that thrills. There is also the promise of more books to come, so hang onto your braaains.

What books are on the list for your Wimpy Kid fan?

Originally published at www.barnesandnoble.com on January 29, 2016.