May 9, 2019

Pokémon Readers’ Advisory: Gotta read ‘em all!

Are you and your patrons enjoying the current pop culture overload? Accompanying the excitement of the release of Avengers: Endgame, Free Comic Book Day, and Star Wars Day (May the fourth be with you) comes the first ever live-action animated Pokémon movie, Detective Pikachu!

In celebration of the latest take on a Pokémon-filled world, we offer this list of reading recommendations to share with the pocket monsters at your library. As Pokémon trainers know, a single Pokémon may have different abilities (and names) at various life stages, called evolutions. We match each character's stages of evolution to three reading levels — older kids' (ages 9-12) books for unevolved Pokémon, teen reads for their first evolution and adult books for the fully evolved literate Pokémon.

Pikachu, the electric mouse Pokémon
Evolution: Pichu ► Pikachu ► Raichu

Pikachu love mysteries. It is a known fact and the subject of a soon-to-be-released documentary. Introduce young Pichu to the classic Basil of Baker Street Mysteries by Eve Titus or search NoveList's Sherlock Paws theme (TH Sherlock paws) for all-evolutions reads. Hardboiled Raichu may prefer their investigations to have a bit more grit than Lillian Jackson Braun's renowned The Cat Who Mysteries, in which case offer them the Blackie and Clare Cat Mysteries by Clea Simon.

Magikarp, the fish Pokémon
Evolution: Magikarp ► Gyarados

Themes come to the rescue again in recommending reads for Magikarp. When their trainers venture far from the sea, these aquatic creatures will undoubtedly appreciate a Fish out of Water story (TH fish out of water), and, as theirs is one of the Pokémon world's most dramatic evolutions, suggest books with the Zero to hero theme (TH zero to hero). We can't help but think a Gyarados would really take a bite out of Jaws by Peter Benchley, as well, especially if they're already a fan of Steven Spielberg's 1975 film.

Eevee, the evolution Pokémon
Evolution: Eevee ► [so many]

Popular with trainers for their versatility, Eevee are as variable in their reading as they are in their evolutions. However, based on that shared interest in change, adaptation, and life-altering choices, we would start any grown-up Eevee's RA interview with the Southern Reach novels by Jeff VanderMeer or The Versions of Us by Laura Barnett, depending on their genre preferences. Younger Eevee may see themselves and their trainers in Pax and Peter, the fox and boy from whose points of view Sara Pennypacker tells a sweeping, emotionally rich narrative of war and coming of age in her adventure story Pax.

Bulbasaur, the seed Pokémon
Evolution: Bulbasaur ► Ivysaur ► Venusaur

Bulbasaur have a great love of nature and an innate sense of responsibility. The children's classic The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett offers a leisurely read to these steady, slow-growing little creatures. Adolescent Ivysaur will appreciate the heroine of Terry Pratchett's Tiffany Aching novels, whose devotion to her land and people mirrors their dedication. Slow of pace yet fraught with suspense, Tana French's first standalone The Witch Elm will captivate grown-up Venusaur, especially if they have fond memories of Hodgson Burnett's secrets.

Charmander, the fire lizard Pokémon
Evolution: Charmander ► Charmeleon ► Charizard

Trainers may wish tempestuous little Charmander would settle down and listen to the lessons in Cressida Cowell's How to Train your Dragon novels or try to get rebellious teenage Charmeleon into Anne McCaffrey's Dragonriders of Pern series. But, when a fully grown Charizard comes looking for a good book, it might be better to give her Firestarter by Stephen King. She'll like the title, at least.

Squirtle, the tiny turtle Pokémon
Evolution: Squirtle ► Wartortle ► Blastoise

As tough and reliable as Bulbasaur but fast in the water and ready for battle, Squirtle are classic ''starter" Pokémon deserving of classic reads. We recommend Yertle the Turtle and Other Stories by Dr. Seuss, aging into any Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle comic for Wartortle. Adult Blastoise with a continued interest in turtle-type literature should pick up last year's Dreaming in Turtle by Peter Laufer.

Mr. Mime, the psychic barrier Pokémon
Evolution: Mime Jr. ► Mr. Mime

Mr. Mime undoubtedly spend many a (very) quiet evening turning the pages of a book. We recommend handing them Carson McCullers' modern classic The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter, to whose deaf-mute central character they will likely relate even as its melancholy prose speaks to their frequently misunderstood condition. Gloria Spielman's biography for older kids, Marcel Marceau: Master of Mime, might be a cheerier suggestion to give Mime Jr. 

Diglett, the mole Pokémon
Evolution: Diglett ► Dugtrio

There's something inherently silly about Diglett, the button-nosed burrower Pokémon. We found ourselves quite unable to unearth suitable adult reads for these creatures — they are partial to picture books. So, invite a Diglett to story time with Joe Kulka's Undercover Ostrich, a hilariously absurd read about another animal with its head in the sand, and entertain Dugtrio with Lemony Snickett's Series of Unfortunate Events for more evidence (as if they needed it) that siblings in threes have got to stick together in this soiled world.

Pokémon RA speed round!

  • Send Jigglypuff, the balloon Pokémon, off to rest with Karen Thompson Walker's The Dreamers.
  • Mewtwo, the genetic Pokémon, already knows that Playing God (search our theme!) never turns out well. Give him Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton for a fast-paced read or characters he can empathize with in Kazuo Ishiguro's heartbreaking Never Let Me Go.
  • Caterpie, the worm Pokémon — The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle, nuff said.

Challenge any trainers on your staff to add to this list — we're sure they would make different RA recommendations given hundreds of Pokémon and all the books there are. That's what we like about readers' advisory — narrowing a range of infinite possibilities down to just the right choice. It won't always be you, Pikachu, but it will on May 10th.

Brierley Ash is a Metadata Librarian at NoveList.
Lauren Kage is a Metadata Librarian II at NoveList. 


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