Craig Graziano

Cardboard by Doug TenNapel

Cardboard by Doug TenNapel

There's that familiar anecdote: a child gets a nice, big, expensive toy for his birthday. The parents have spent hours putting it together,. For all of their sweat, pain, and suffering they find that the child is most fascinated with the big cardboard box the toy came in.

Cardboard, by Doug TenNapel, is a clever variation on that premise. Mike, an out-of-work carpenter, has nothing for his son Cam's birthday. A strange old man approaches him with an offer. For just a handful of change, Mike can get his son an amazing gift. It may seem like an ordinary cardboard box, but whatever Cam makes out of the corrugated paper pulp comes to life.

"Who Could That Be at This Hour?" by Lemony Snicket

"Who Could That Be at This Hour?" by Lemony Snicket

There was a town, and there was a girl, and there was a theft. I was living in the town, and I was hired to investigate the theft, and I thought the girl had nothing to do with it. I was almost thirteen and I was wrong.

Lemony Snicket is back in action. "Who Could That Be at This Hour?" is the first volume of a new four-book series known as All the Wrong Questions.

Cafe Book Drew Middle School: Top Teen Picks 2013

Michael Vey: The Prisoner of Cell 25

Drew Middle School's 7th and 8th graders have made their voices heard. They voted on the top picks of this year's Cafe Book titles to determine which ones are their favorites.

Top Pick:

Michael Vey: The Prisoner of Cell 25 by Richard Paul Evans

Michael Vey seems like an ordinary teenager, but he has a unique power. After his mother is kidnapped he and his friends have to find his mother and fight the hunters to save other kids with the same powers.
 

Other Favorites:

Ultraviolet by R.J. Anderson Everneath by Brodi Ashton The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson

A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness Outlaw by Stephen Davis Sweet Venom by Tera Lynn Childs

Ultraviolet by R.J. Anderson

Everneath by Brodi Ashton

The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson

A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

Outlaw by Stephen Davies

Sweet Venom by Tera Lynn Childs

If you think you might like one of these titles, click and request it!

Legends of Zita the Spacegirl by Ben Hatke

Legends of Zita the Spacegirl by Ben Hatke

Legends of Zita the Spacegirl is Ben Hatke's second comic book about a gutsy gal who just happens to be lost in the universe. Zita has already saved the planet Scriptorus and is now on a publicity tour, hopping from world to world to shake hands and answer questions from all sorts of alien beings.

Blackout by John Rocco

Blackout by John Rocco

A young boy just wants to play a board game, going from family member to family member without any luck. But when all the distractions are gone, that game looks pretty tempting.

The power outage that affected the northeast United States and Canada in August 2003 was thankfully a peaceful one, especially in New York City. Blackout by John Rocco, revolves around how that lack of electricity affects one family who are all normally just too busy.

Phone calls, dinner, and work on the computer are all more important than a mere board game...until the lights go out Without power, what will everyone do?

Baby's in Black by Arne Bellstorf

Baby's in Black by Arne Bellstorf

Baby's in Black drops you into a smoke-filled club in Hamburg. Despite the German locale, the band on stage is wailing in English about doing the "hippy hippy shake". Everyone's moving except for the bassist, who looks cooler than James Dean.

The band has been playing for hours, and they will continue for several hours more, as per their contract. They pop pills to stay awake for that long. The group is the Beatles. The year is 1960. The bassist is Stu Sutcliffe.

How Music Works by David Byrne

How Music Works by David Byrne

How Music Works offers many answers to a question that I had never even asked. Now that I've read it I wonder, "How could I have gone so long without this information?" Musician and writer David Byrne crafts such an enticing collection of essays, dropping factoids and anecdotes along the way, that I was equally informed and entertained.

More of a blend of personal experience and hypothesis than a hard-line course in objective facts, Byrne tackles nearly every conceivable aspect of the art form: venues throughout history; the creative process; collaboration; recording; and business.

Me...Jane by Patrick McDonnell

Me...Jane by Patrick McDonnell

It sounds almost too perfect to be true. Famed primate expert Jane Goodall had a stuffed toy chimpanzee as a little girl. She went everywhere with it, and together they explored the mysteries of nature. 

Me...Jane is Patrick McDonnell’s peacefully expressive interpretation of Goodall’s childhood through his art, actual photographs of Jane, and the drawings of her youth. Jane starts out a very curious young girl, studying all sort of animals around her home. That curious nature leads to many answers.

Kasher in the Rye by Moshe Kasher

Kasher in the Rye by Moshe Kasher

If memoirs are written to both connect with the reader and exorcise the writer's personal demons, then Moshe Kasher had one gigantic, stinky, firebreathing, sword-wielding demon.

His debut book's title says it all: Kasher in the Rye: The True Tale of a White Boy from Oakland Who Became a Drug Addict, Criminal, Mental Patient, and Then Turned 16. Sure the Salinger-inspired pun is as obvious as a rhino stampede, but Moshe Kasher has had quite a colorful life. A life that I would not want to wish on my worst enemy.

Now a stand-up comic, Kasher was born to not one, but two, deaf parents. Mom and Dad separated within a year of his birth, and his mother took him and his older brother from Brooklyn to Oakland where a life of food stamps, less than stellar public schools, and years of therapy awaited them. This menagerie of elements was perfect for young Moshe (who at the time went by the less-Semitic name Mark) to rebel.

Marshall Armstrong Is New to Our School by David Mackintosh

Marshall Armstrong is New to Our School by David Mackintosh

I was never the new kid at school, but I had plenty of moments when I felt like I didn't fit in or belong. That is why I identified immediately with the titular character of Marshall Armstrong is New to Our School.

To our schoolboy narrator, Marshall looks like trouble from the start. He wears a tweed jacket with leather patches with a ragtimey hat covering his head. "He looks different to me." 

The nitpicky observations continue. His glasses say "Ray Ban" so they must belong to another boy. The food Marshall eats at lunch all comes in silver wrappers, obviously "space food." While everyone else has a regular bicycle, Marshall rides a velocipede. He can't play during gym, and he doesn't watch television. Who is this kid? Is he an alien? Is he from another century? What a weirdo.

So when Marshall invites the whole class to his birthday party it's bound to be a terrible time, right?