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October 25, 2014

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August Starred Reviews

SLJ1408w BK STARs August Starred Reviews

Fiction

Aylesworth, Jim, retel. My Grandfather’s Coat. illus. by Barbara McClintock. 32p. Scholastic. Oct. 2014. lib. ed. $17.99. ISBN 9780439925457. LC 2011012226.

PreS-Gr 2–This new adaptation of the Yiddish folk song presented in Simms Taback’s Joseph Had a Little Overcoat (Viking, 1999) and Phoebe Gilman’s Something from Nothing (Scholastic, 1992) is a fresh rhythmic retelling with charming cartoon-style illustrations that deserves a place even in collections that own the other two. Aylesworth’s story, told in the voice of the main character’s granddaughter, recounts highlights of her grandfather’s life: coming to America, becoming a tailor, and making himself “a handsome coat…that he wore on his wedding day!” The worn coat becomes “a smart jacket”; the shabby jacket, “a snazzy vest”; the frayed vest, “a stylish tie.” In this version, the threadbare tie is transformed into a toy for a great grandson’s kittens, then a cozy nest for a mouse and her babies. As in both older versions, this one features repetition and a rhyming refrain. McClintock’s pen-and-ink detailed watercolor illustrations highlight four generations of family history. Following the title-page scene that shows ships streaming toward Ellis Island, then a photolike pose of grandfather as a boy on deck passing the Statue of Liberty, the story unfolds in two-to-three small vignettes per page, each accompanied by a snippet of text, with a full-page scene at each major juncture. The paintings highlight McClintock’s special skill for aging grandpa. Her eye for detail is apparent in ever-changing clothing styles; in a sole coming loose from young grandpa’s shoe; and the evolution of his sewing machines from treadle to modern motorized. This is a tale worth reading again and again.–Susan Scheps, formerly at Shaker Public Library, OH

Boyd, Lizi. Flashlight. illus. by Lizi Boyd. 40p. Chronicle. Aug. 2014. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781452118949. LC 2013029635.

PreS-Gr 1 –A wandering boy investigates the night in this wordless picture book. Bold black backgrounds feature outlines in grays, whites, and muted greens of trees, stream, plants, and animals. Each page discloses in full color something formerly hidden via the stream of light from the child’s flashlight. Readers discover flags on a treehouse, apples on the ground, and a deer. In a fun twist, when the flashlight drops, various creatures take turns shedding light on the boy. A luna moth flutters on each page, waiting to be discovered. This elegant book serves to alleviate fear of night noises, instigate talk of nocturnal creatures, or bring calm as a bedtime story.–Gay Lynn Van Vleck, Henrico County Library, Glen Allen, VA

Chaud, Benjamin. The Bear’s Sea Escape. tr. from French. illus. by Benjamin Chaud. 32p. Chronicle. Aug. 2014. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781452127439.

PreS-Gr 2–Just when Papa Bear thinks he can finally take his winter nap, Baby Bear is suddenly snatched away and Papa must embark on a daring chase to recover him. The story picks up where where The Bear’s Song (Chronicle, 2013) left off. The journey takes them from bustling Paris to an underwater world and finally to an island paradise. The familiar narrative arc begins with an unexpected mistake, and the excitement continues to build until the end of the chase, where Papa and Baby are reunited in a satisfying conclusion. Although the story feels far-fetched compared to the previous book, its fans will surely love the main attraction here—the enchanting full-page artwork in an oversized format. Chaud’s vibrant spreads are full of fanciful details and visual narratives for youngsters to explore. Particularly striking are the views of the underwater world, with realistic reefs and fish rendered in bold, saturated hues and the occasional addition of magical elements, such as mermaids. The author employs a painterly palette of vivid colors that are particularly well produced on high-quality printed pages. Chaud has established a recognizable visual style all his own, yet the wavy motion of the landscape and sketchy quality of the figures call to mind the work of Dr. Seuss. The unobtrusive text below the pictures will serve as an excellent read-aloud for storytime. Overall, the book is engaging, and the artwork makes it even more of a gem.–Tara Kron, School Library Journal

Frazee, Marla. The Farmer and the Clown. illus. by Marla Frazee. 32p. S. & S./Beach Lane. Oct. 2014. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781442497443; ebk. $10.99. ISBN 9781442497450. LC 2013019361.

PreS-Gr 2–Frazee’s controlled palette of subdued golds, browns, and grays offers a fitting backdrop for the hard-working farmer foregrounded in this wordless tale. Bent over his wheat, he misses the drama above as sweeping cloud formations bleed off the page. A swiftly moving circus train on the horizon introduces color and an unexpected visitor, when a bump on the tracks ejects a young clown. Exuberance meets quiet responsibility as the whirlwind in a red one-piece, the small clown, embraces the legs of the old man. Their similar silhouettes invite comparison, while their hats (one black and wide-brimmed, the other red and conical) suggest contrast. Hand in hand, they enter the farmhouse, where softly textured gouache and black pencil scenes in panels of varying shapes and sizes depict shared meals and ablutions, a protective night watch, and unanticipated antics as rust-colored long johns seem to conjure the farmer’s playfulness. The bond, conveyed visually through mirrored motions, continues to develop until the train returns. Readers will wonder how to feel in the penultimate scene until they notice a clown with a black hat waving from the caboose, and the final page contains another surprise. This is a tender look at light and shadow, the joy and comfort in companionship, the lift that laughter provides, and the friendship possible among generations (and species). The poignant relationship calls to mind the quiet potency of scenes in Raymond Briggs’s The Snowman (Random, 1978) and Sarah Stewart’s The Gardener (Farrar, 2007). Lovely.–Wendy Lukehart, District of Columbia Public Library

Hughes, Shirley. In the Fast Lane. illus. by Clara Vulliamy. 128p. (Digby O’Day: Bk. 1). Candlewick. Aug. 2014. Tr $12.99. ISBN 9780763673697.

K-Gr 2–This early chapter book is light and entertaining yet still exciting. Digby O’Day and Percy are always having adventures in Digby’s car. The book opens with an “interview” with Digby in which he and the other characters are introduced. It also includes a map so children can follow the episodes. First, the canine pals almost fall off a cliff and are saved by passing motorists. They enter a car race and get lost yet persevere. Their annoying neighbor and careless driver, Lou Ella, is so confident of her lead that she stops to eat lunch at diner and, in true “Tortoise and Hare” fashion, loses the race. The book features short sentences and lots of white space. Cartoon drawings appear on every page and add to the fun. The result is a story that’s delightful and original.–Ellie Lease, Harford County Public Library, MD

Lagercrantz, Rose. My Heart Is Laughing. illus. by Eva Eriksson. 124p. Gecko Pr. Oct. 2014. Tr $16.95. ISBN 9781877579523.

Gr 1-3–This charming follow up to My Happy Life (Gecko, 2013) brings back eternal optimist Dani as she navigates through the ups and downs of daily life. Wanting to escape any sorrowful happenings in her world, Dani chooses to view her life through somewhat rose-colored glasses. When reality unravels her sunny disposition in the form of bullying, Dani longs to be with her best friend, Ella, who moved away in the first installment of the series. Dani’s close relationship with her father grows as he helps her navigate tricky relationships at school and at home. Eriksson’s plentiful black-and-white line drawings expressively show joy and distress and perfectly complement the story. Lagercrantz has the ability to develop her characters fully, while keeping the story approachable for young readers just wanting to tackle chapter books. Genuine feelings such as humor, honesty, and heartbreak will leave readers yearning for Dani to return once again.–Michele Shaw, Quail Run Elementary School, San Ramon, CA

Luján, Jorge. Moví la mano/I Moved My Hand. tr. from Spanish by Elisa Amado. illus. by Mandana Sadat. 32p. House of Anansi/Groundwood. Oct. 2014. Tr $18.95. ISBN 9781554984855.

PreS-Gr 1–Luján and Sadat have choreographed a playful ballet starring an inventive preschooler. The dance opens in the child’s living room; her smiling parents constitute the audience. Against dramatic black backgrounds and gray, patterned furnishings, the child’s magenta tutu and slippers command attention. Eyes closed, she begins the bilingual narration, one sentence in English and Spanish per spread: “Moví la mano y encontré un coco./I moved my hand and found a coconut.” As she glides, swirls, and slips through the colored pencil, ink, crayon and digitally designed scenes, the furniture and household objects morph into large scale, colorful elements in her imaginary world. A translucent orange fish (whose face is the moon) spills over two spreads. The girl rides the moon, landing in a yellow landscape, where she reaches and finds a rainbow. Select objects returning to view display a multicolored exterior within the still monochromatic—and now messier—home; the the dancer and her guardians are subtly transformed, each sporting rosy cheeks, as does the fish in its bowl. The wordless spreads that follow feature one of the toys—a newly striped unicorn—taking its place on the circular carpet. Luján’s spare, suggestive text leaves ample room for Sadat to create a magical dream world. The girl’s giddy logic rings true; the marvelous use of color and expert pacing propel the dance. Sure to inspire fresh flights of fancy!–Wendy Lukehart, District of Columbia Public Library

MacLachlan, Patricia. The Iridescence of Birds: A Book About Henri Matisse. illus. by Hadley Hooper. 40p. Roaring Brook/Neal Porter Bks. Oct. 2014. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781596439481.

Gr 1-4–This richly textured picture book looks at Henri Matisse’s inspiration as a young boy, beginning with a spread depicting the gray, clammy French village in which he grew up. But while it is cold and damp outside, Matisse’s mother fills the interior of their home with light through pattern and color. She paints natural scenes on plates, allows her son to mix and experiment with paint, and covers every possible surface with color. They are surrounded by their art. This look at Matisse’s creativity and artistic process is strong and unusual for several reasons. Maclachlan concentrates on Matisse’s mother and her influence on his eventual career. Her poetic text doesn’t give the specific details of the man’s life, but readers come away with a real sense of his art. Hooper’s art, a combination of relief printmaking and digital techniques, expands readers’ understanding of the text. They have strong solid lines, contrasting with the wide range of pastel colors. Hooper isn’t derivative of Matisse’s style but rather takes his tools and creates something new. On one spread, the background features a piece of Matisse’s art; careful viewers will notice the artist in the foreground, growing from a boy into a man. The book gives off a creative energy that readers of all ages will find fulfilling. The simplicity of the text makes this book appropriate to use as a springboard to Matisse’s work for even the very young. A poetic look at creativity, both natural and nurtured.–Susan E. Murray, formerly at Glendale Public Library, AZ

MORALES , Yuyi. Viva Frida. illus. by Yuyi Morales. photos by Tim O’Meara. 40p. Roaring Brook/Neal Porter Bks. Sept. 2014. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781596436039.

Gr 1 Up–Kahlo’s unusual life story, background, and art have made her a frequent topic of biographies. Morales’s perception of her creative process results in a fresh, winning take on an artist who has rarely been understood. The author uses strong verbs to give Kahlo voice: “I see (Veo)”; “(I know).” Kahlo is depicted as a self-possessed woman with a drive to create. Her artistic process has room for others to participate, though—love, imagination, and dreams are closely entangled in her art. In the illustrations, Diego Rivera is shown creating alongside his wife. While the artistic process seems magical to readers, Kahlo knows what she is searching for. Each spread has just one or two words on it, both in English and Spanish. The text floats on the page, with the Spanish in a lighter color, adding to the ethereal, dreamlike feel of the book. Morales’s art and O’Meara’s photographs take this book to another level. Created with stop-motion puppets, paintings, and digital elements, these are amazing works of art themselves. The puppets are lifelike, resembling Kahlo (with her unibrow) and Rivera accurately. They are surrounded by the animals Kahlo loved, including vibrant feathered parrots, a monkey, and dog. Throughout the book, Kahlo goes searching for inspiration and finds it all around her. Morales incorporates many of the hallmarks of Kahlo’s art into her own. The artist wears silver, open-hand earrings and multicolored dresses. She plays with a skeleton puppet on these pages and imagines herself soaring, freed from her fragile body. Morales’s note in both English and Spanish describes her connection with Kahlo. A resonant title that can be used anywhere Kahlo’s art is studied. It will also be admired in bilingual collections.–Susan E. Murray, formerly at Glendale Public Library, AZ

Muller, Gerda. How Does My Garden Grow? tr. from French by Polly Lawson. illus. by Gerda Muller. 28p. Floris. 2014. Tr $17.95. ISBN 9781782500377.

K-Gr 3–This warm story of a child’s summer at her grandparents’ French country farm lovingly describes basic gardening techniques. As Sophie and Granddad John work together, city girl Sophie learns how to prepare a plot and then plants seeds, waters them, and watches the seedlings grow into productive plants. She helps harvest and eat the peas, radishes, and green beans that come from her garden instead of a supermarket. Fresh colors abound in the illustrations of Sophie, her grandparents, and her new friends. Creatures important to gardeners—birds, butterflies, bees, rabbits, bats, moles, worms, slugs, snails, and grubs—are beautifully pictured, as are the vegetables harvested throughout the summer. Sophie helps with autumn garden chores and late harvests as well as winter preparations during weekend visits. When spring comes again, Sophie creates a garden on her balcony with a friend. This combination of engaging story and gardening information will delight and teach readers.–Frances E. Millhouser, formerly at Fairfax County Public Library, VA

Nolan, Dennis. Hunters of the Great Forest. illus. by Dennis Nolan. 40p. Roaring Brook/Neal Porter Bks. Oct. 2014. RTE $17.99. ISBN 9781596438965.

K-Gr 2–In this wordless picture book, insect-sized explorers set off from their village to go on an adventure. Along the way, they must overcome several perils, such as a hungry blue jay and an angry chipmunk. Though teamwork and blind luck, they arrive at their destination, an unguarded bag of marshmallows, and take one back to their village for a feast. Nolan’s illustrations are wonderfully detailed and textured, from the jagged roots and tree bark the group climbs to the wings of the dragonfly that soars overhead. His work with shadows is exceptionally impressive; as the characters run for their lives, the hunters’ oblong shadows accentuate their various actions. However, very young readers may be frightened by the team’s antics, as the backyard animals that chase the travelers come across as monsterlike. Overall, this is a good adventure story that’s silly and original. Fans of David Wiesner’s imaginative works may want to give it a try.–Peter Blenski, Greenfield Public Library, WI

Schwartz, Amy. 100 Things That Make Me Happy. illus. by Amy Schwartz. 40p. Abrams Appleseed. Oct. 2014. RTE $16.95. ISBN 9781419705182. LC 2013042633.

PreS-Gr 1–This lovely volume features 100 everyday objects and activities from a child’s world that elicit pleasure. In rhyming couplets, the list ranges from “bucket trucks/yellow ducks,” “flip-flops/lollipops,” and “mud puddles/soap bubbles” to “polka dots/forget-me-nots,” “pony rides/shiny slides,” and “braids/parades.” A sample spread reads “fuzzy sweaters/long letters/ slippery floors/dinosaurs/comfy chair/county fair.” Each of the rhymes is accompanied by a delightful illustration featuring a diverse cast of characters. The book jacket doubles as a poster featuring smaller-size illustrations of all 100 happy things on the reverse side. A fun, engaging read.–Sarah Polace, Cuyahoga Public Library System, OH

Stead, Philip C. Sebastian and the Balloon. illus. by Philip C. Stead. 40p. Roaring Brook/Neal Porter Bks. Oct. 2014. RTE $17.99. ISBN 9781596439306.

K-Gr 2 –Sebastian sits on the roof of his house. “There is nothing to see on my street, he thought. Nothing to see at all.” Readers see a close-up of the glum boy and the top of the roof; his world indeed looks small and boring. On the page turn, he decides, “Tonight I’ll leave and see something new for a change.” Now Sebastian stands on the roof silhouetted by a giant moon, and the whole neighborhood is revealed. Although the houses are uniform and unexciting, the world seems large and full of possibilities. Accompanied by a little bird, Sebastian sets off in a balloon built from afghans and quilts. He and his companion share pickle sandwiches with a bear, crash into a tall bird that pops their balloon, and land on the house of a trio of elderly knitters who repair the vehicle. When the wind picks up, they all fly off together to find “The most perfect roller-coaster you will ever see.” They fix the broken-down coaster and spend the day enjoying their handiwork, “Until the wind picked up and it was time to go.” Readers who don’t mind a slightly open-ended narrative will adore this dreamy, experiential story for its quirky charms. Stead’s trademarks are present in this volume: pithy, talking animals, quixotic travel, and a matter-of-fact sensibility offsetting fantastic events. Marvelous artwork guarantees that his fans won’t be disappointed.–Anna Haase Krueger, Ramsey County Library, MN

Sutton, Sally. Construction. illus. by Brian Lovelock. 32p. Candlewick. Sept. 2014. Tr $15.99. ISBN 9780763673253. LC 2013953459.

PreS-Gr 2–The New Zealand duo who created Roadwork (2008) and Demolition (2012, both Candlewick) turn their considerable talents to the building of a library. The foundation is prepared, the holes are filled with concrete, and the building rises. Clad in safety gear, men and women of different ethnic backgrounds cut the planks, raise the roof, fit the doors and windows, lay the pipes, and run the wires. “Spread the paint. Spread the paint./Bend and stretch and stoop./ Let it dry, then paint some more./Glug! GLOP! GLOOP!” Children put books on the shelves, and the final spread shows them entering their own glass-enclosed children’s room and reading. Printed in large, clear letters, the rhythmic text uses basic vocabulary, strong verbs, and onomatopoeia, making it wonderful to read aloud. Artwork is done in ink, acrylic, and colored pencil on full-bleed spreads where pigmented inks and a variety of perspectives are used to great effect. A picture vocabulary at the end identifies excavators, cranes, and trucks on site as well as the safety equipment worn by workers. The simplicity of the telling and the rich details in the spreads make this a must-have for all libraries serving young children.–Mary Jean Smith, formerly at Southside Elementary School, Lebanon, TN

Hayes, Geoffrey. Benny and Penny in Lost and Found! illus. by Geoffry Hayes. 40p. (Benny and Penny). Candlewick/TOON Graphic. Aug. 2014. Tr $12.95. ISBN 9781935179641. LC 2013047986.

K-Gr 2–In their newest adventure, Penny finds her brother Benny sulking on the front stoop. Benny has lost his favorite hat and has been kicked outside by their mother for being in such a bad mood. Angry at his mother and his misplaced hat, Benny decides to run away from home and try to find his missing hat, with Penny’s assistance. Benny insists on leading the way because he’s older, but soon gets lost himself; only after Benny calms down can he and Penny find their way back. The text is easily accessible to emerging readers, with simple, repeating words, while also enforcing ideas about controlling emotions and being responsible for one’s actions without being overbearing. Children will easily relate to Penny and Benny as they grapple with sibling issues that are very real to this age group. The crafty charm of Hayes’s illustrations gives the book a timeless feel, while sleek panel variation and swooping action shots reestablish readers’s focus. Once again, Hayes has created a graphic novel that is inviting, relatable, but, most importantly, fun.–Peter Blenski, Greenfield Public Library, WI

Barnhill, Kelly. The Witch’s Boy. 384p. Algonquin. Sept. 2014. Tr $16.95. ISBN 9781616203511; ebk. $16.95. ISBN 9781616204334.

Gr 4-6–When Ned was young, he and his twin brother built a raft and tried to sail to the sea. The raft sank, and one boy survived–the wrong boy, if you ask the villagers in Ned’s tiny town. Alternately whispered about, teased, and outright ignored, Ned survives his brother’s death with a stutter and an air of palpable sadness that seems to weigh down his weak frame. Meanwhile, in the middle of a formidable forest the villagers claim used to be home to nine stone giants, a young girl named Aine lives a fractured life with her father, who leads a horde of bloodthirsty bandits. When the raiders attempt to steal the magic Ned’s mother guards so faithfully, Ned and Aine end up as unlikely allies on a journey to right an ancient wrong. Careful, confident Aine; whose skills, both domestic and wild, make her a formidable ally (and excellent heroine), is a studied contrast to the weaker, shy Ned. The boy’s growing confidence and ability to wield and protect his mother’s magic adds elements of a classic origin-quest tale to a story that’s already brimming with a well-drawn, colorful supporting cast, a strong sense of place, and an enchanted forest with a personality to rival some of the best depictions of magical woods.–Elisabeth Gattullo Marrocolla, Darien Library, CT

Martin, Ann M. Rain Reign. 240p. Feiwel & Friends. Oct. 2014. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780312643003; ebk. $9.99. ISBN 9781250064233.

Gr 4-6–Rose is different from the other children in her class in many ways. She struggles to control the obsessions and outbursts that are symptomatic of her high-functioning autism. She is fascinated by homophones, or homonyms, as most people know them, and prime numbers. Rose uses patterns and habits to gain some control over her days. Her mother left when Rose was two, so she lives with her father, and is also cared for by her Uncle Weldon, who lives nearby, and who often shows Rose the most understanding and compassion. When her father brings home a lost dog, Rose names her Rain, since she was found in the rain, and “rain” is a homonym (with “reign”). During a superstorm, her father lets Rain out, and Rose’s beloved companion is lost. Rose and her uncle finally find Rain after a long and difficult search, but they learn that Rain is actually Olivia, the pet of a family who lost everything in the storm. Told through Rose’s voice, the story gives readers the perspective of someone who sees life in black-and-white, and who struggles when rules are broken, or routines are changed. The characters around Rose develop incrementally as readers witness their reactions to her obsessions and her struggles. Though Rose’s story is often heartbreaking, her matter-of-fact narration provides moments of humor. Readers will empathize with Rose, who finds strength and empowerment through her unique way of looking at the world. A first purchase.–MaryAnn Karre, West Middle School, Binghamton, NY

Schulz, Heidi. Hook’s Revenge. illus. by John Hendrix. 304p. Disney-Hyperion. Sept. 2014. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781423198673.

Gr 4-7–Feisty 12-year-old Jocelyn Hook, the estranged daughter of Captain James Hook, longs for a pirate’s life at sea, but instead she’s faced with finishing school, hairbrushes, and corsets. When a letter from her father arrives, foretelling his demise by the crocodile responsible for the loss of his hand, Jocelyn is eager to set out for the Neverland to avenge her father’s death. Once there, she faces pirates, mermaids, cannibals, fairies, the Lost Boys, Peter Pan, and, ultimately, the dreaded crocodile. Through it all, Jocelyn learns to face her fears, believe in herself, and realize that she’s more than just a girl. Schulz’s debut novel is a rollicking page-turner that’s more than just an action-packed adventure. Filled with humor and pathos, Schulz has crafted a warm and humorous tale of a young girl who yearns to know the parents she’s never met. Jocelyn is smart, quick-witted, and stubbornly loyal, and she proves to be a worthy adversary to all her foes, especially the arrogant Peter Pan, who insists she needs rescuing. Richly developed secondary characters, especially the emotional Mr. Smee and Jocelyn’s dearest friend Roger, populate the story, and the evocative language moves beyond simple description and engages the audience’s imagination. Most notable, however, is the wickedly funny narrator who doesn’t hesitate to add his amusing commentary and pointed dislike for the audience to the narrative. Whether a fan of J.M. Barrie’s classic tale or new to Neverland, readers will be clamoring for more from this enchanting world.–Audrey Sumser, Cuyahoga County Public Library, Mayfield, OH

Bassett, Kate. Words and Their Meanings. 360p. Flux. Sept. 2014. pap. $11.99. ISBN 9780738740294.

Gr 9 Up–When 17-year-old Anna O’Malley’s “bruncle” (uncle raised as her brother) Joe dies, she suppresses her grief and refuses to open up about him. She embodies Patti Smith circa 1973, writing daily Patti verses on her forearm and conducts morning corpse yoga where she lays absolutely still in her bed. Anna also gives up her promising talent for writing. Throughout the year following Joe’s passing, Anna blames herself for tragic family events including his death and her parents’ divorce. Her family and best friend are at a loss as to how to help her move on and are afraid of awakening past destructive and suicidal grief responses. While seeing her ninth psychologist in under a year, Anna strikes a “deadaversary” bargain with her family to return to normalcy to avoid “crazy Bible camp” in Hell, Michigan. As she starts to comply with the bargain, the teen’s life begins to move on with a new job, a love interest, and a glimmers of happiness. But more family secrets and tragedies unfold. Eventually, the protagonist’s attempts at suppression lead to an increase in self-destructive tendencies that spiral out of control until she can no longer hold back. Bassett’s debut novel scores a hat-trick of literary merit in a strongly crafted and complex plot, deeply drawn characters with palpable grief, and beautifully woven and rich prose. This title will appeal most to readers of realistic fiction, especially those looking for a deeply engaging, emotional story.–Adrienne L. Strock, Teen Library Manager, Nashville Public Library

Quintero, Isabel. Gabi: A Girl in Pieces. 378p. Cinco Puntos. Sept. 2014. Tr $17.95. ISBN 9781935955948; pap. $11.95. ISBN 9781935955955; ebk. $11.95. ISBN 9781935955962. LC 2014007658.
Gr 9 Up–Sixteen-year-old Gabi Hernandez has a lot to deal with during her senior year. Her best friend Cindy is pregnant; her other best friend Sebastian just got kicked out of his house for coming out to his strict parents; her meth addict dad is trying to quit, again; and her super religious Tía Bertha is constantly putting a damper on Gabi’s love life. In lyrical diary entries peppered with the burgeoning poet’s writing, Spanglish, and phone conversations, Quintero gives voice to a complex, not always likable but totally believable teen who struggles to figure out her own place in the world. Believing she’s not Mexican enough for her family and not white enough for Berkeley, Gabi still meets every challenge head-on with vulgar humor and raw honesty. In moments, the diary format may come across as clunky, but the choppy delivery feels purposeful. While the narrative is chock-full of issues, they never bog down the story, interwoven with the usual teen trials, from underwhelming first dates to an unabashed treatment of sex, religion, and family strife. The teen isn’t all snark; there’s still a naiveté about whether her father will ever kick his addiction to meth, especially evident in her heartfelt letters to him. When tragedy strikes, readers will mourn with Gabi and connect with her fears about college acceptance and her first sexual experience. A refreshing take on slut- and fat-shaming, Quintero’s work ranks with Meg Medina’s Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass (Candlewick, 2013) and Junot Diaz’s Drown (Riverhead, 1996) as a coming-of-age novel with Latino protagonists.–Shelley Diaz, School Library Journal

Walrath, Dana. Like Water on Stone. 368p. further reading. glossary. maps. Delacorte. Nov. 2014. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780385743976; lib. ed. $19.99. ISBN 9780375991424; ebk. ISBN 9780385373296. LC 2013026323.

Gr 8 Up–Thirteen-year-old Armenian twins Shahen and his sister, Sosi, live in the 1914 Ottoman Empire with their loving parents; younger sister, Miriam; and older brothers Misak and Kevorg. A Christian like the rest of their family, their 19-year-old sister, Anahid, is married to Asan, a Kurd, and is expecting a baby. Life is pleasant in their mixed religious community where their family makes its living as millers. However, when the cruel and hateful leaders of the Ottoman Empire decide at the start of World War I that the Armenians are “traitors” and should be eliminated, genocide ensues. Anahid is hidden by her in-laws at the risk of their own lives. Forced to leave their parents and brothers behind to certain death, Shahen, Sosi, and little Miriam barely escape and make a harrowing journey across the mountains, hoping for rescue and to somehow reach their uncle who lives in America. As Ardziv, an eagle, soars above, he adds a note of magical realism and a sense of omnipresent poetic narration to the authentic voices of the family members as he witnesses their joys, shock, and heartbreak. This beautiful, yet at times brutally vivid, historical verse novel will bring this horrifying, tragic period to life for astute, mature readers who enjoy books in this format or genre such as The Surrender Tree by Margarita Engle (Holt, 2008) and Between Shades of Gray by Ruth Sepetys (Philomel, 2011). A cast of characters, and author note with historical background are thoughtfully included.–Diane P. Tuccillo, Poudre River Public Library District, CO

WOLITZER, Meg. Belzhar. 352p. Dutton. Sept. 2014. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780525423058; ebk. $10.99. ISBN 9781101600276.

Gr 9 Up–Devastated by the death of her first love, 15-year-old Jam Gallahue is having difficulty moving on with her life. After nearly a year of being mired in grief, her parents send her to a boarding school in rural Vermont that specializes in “emotionally fragile” teens. Once there, she is surprised to have been one of five students selected by the legendary Mrs. Quenell for a class called Special Topics in English. It seems that the entire semester—Mrs. Q’s swan song before retirement—will be devoted to the works of Sylvia Plath, and the students are given special red leather journals in which to record their reactions to the assigned readings. Jam is unenthusiastic at first until she realizes that these are no ordinary journals. When she and her classmates, all of whom have endured debilitating losses, begin to writing in their pages, they are transported to their former lives, at least for a while. The teens bond over their experiences in what they call Belzhar, and are able to share their stories and look out for and protect one another. As the semester progresses and the notebooks begin to fill up, they must each confront some inner demons and make some tough choices about their future paths. Wolitzer spins a smart and engrossing tale of trauma, trust, and triumph. She is respectful of the intelligence and sophistication of the teens while acknowledging their vulnerability and lack of life experience. Their voices ring true and the emotional truths are authentic—even for those readers unwilling or unable to embrace the magical realism. Exploring the themes of self-reflection and the recurring notion that “words matter” make this title a perfect choice for book groups and discussions.–Luann Toth, School Library Journal

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Nonfiction

Fleischman, Paul. Eyes Wide Open: Going Behind the Environmental Headlines. 208p. bibliog. chart. ebook available. further reading. glossary. index. notes. photos. reprods. websites. Candlewick. Sept. 2014. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780763671020; ebk. $9.99. ISBN 9780763675455. LC 2013953458.

Gr 6 Up–Written in a lively style, lavishly illustrated, and timely in its subject matter, this well-researched book is a call to action: now is the time to save our environment. The author describes his technique as getting altitude, or getting above the problem, to see the big picture. Rather than simply offering a list of simple things kids can do to help the environment, he offers more complex solutions for becoming aware of the issues, such as noticing that there is a problem, becoming aware of defense mechanisms preventing people from acting, and learning about systems like capitalism that allow environmental threats to continue. Each chapter, divided into nifty topic-highlighted paragraphs, is filled with historical facts and current events, sidebars, photographs, and definitions of key terms. Backstories, including the oil embargo, the ozone crisis, and the Kyoto Protocol, are presented along with a section on how to weigh information (evaluate the media, follow the money, and check for fallacies). The presentation of facts and the author’s positive message are what shine here. An excellent and thought-provoking take on a well-worn subject.–Patricia Ann Owens, formerly with Illinois Eastern Community College, Mt. Carmel

Reef, Catherine. Frida & Diego: Art, Love, Life. 176p. bibliog. chron. further reading. index. notes. photos. reprods. websites. Clarion. Aug. 2014. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9780547821849. LC 2013021340.

Gr 7 Up–The lives of Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo were marked by exceptional artistic talent, political fervor, and an all-consuming passion for each other that even outlasted their two marriages. Private and professional heartbreak and an idiosyncratic outlook on life and the world influenced the pair’s intensely personal paintings. Readers will learn much about the artists in this dual biography, including information on their numerous love affairs. Still, every relationship clarified for the couple that they couldn’t really exist or produce art without the other. Superb examples of Rivera’s and Kahlo’s paintings are reproduced in glorious full color, replete with rich Mexican-folkloric and earth tones, and the work is filled with excellently reproduced contemporary photos that place events in historical and personal context. Striking use of color elsewhere, as on chapter-opening and back-matter pages, also figure into the handsome design. A well-rounded treatment of two giants of 20th-century art, this volume tracks the separate and combined trajectories of its subjects’ lives and careers and allows for comparisons and contrasts. It is highly recommended for public and school libraries and will be useful for units on modern and Latino art and for studies of women artists.–Carol Goldman, Queens Library, NY

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Reference

Newton-Matza, Mitchell, ed. Disasters and Tragic Events: An Encyclopedia of Catastrophes in American History. 2 vol. 790p. bibliog. chron. ebook available. index. ABC-CLIO. 2014. Tr $189. ISBN 9781610691659; ebk. ISBN 9781610691666. LC 2013028157.

Gr 9 Up –The 216 signed articles and 24 primary source readings in this outstanding set provide information about the interrelated topics of American disasters; catastrophic events; and tragedies, which can be either sudden or ongoing, but always with negative effects or consequences. Articles are grouped chronologically, starting with the beginning of slavery in the American colonies in the 1600s and ending with the Sandy Hook, Connecticut, school shooting in 2012. The events they describe include natural and man-made disasters, battles, epidemics, riots, and tragic societal or governmental policies that resulted in losses of freedom or life. Some topics, such as the Chicago fire, slavery, and the 1929 stock market crash, have received wide coverage, while others (the 1888 School Children’s Blizzard and the 1926 Florida hurricane), very little. However, nearly all of the events prompted some type of change. Articles average two to four pages in length and include introductory background, a summary of the event, and analysis of its importance and the changes that resulted. Authors are objective, and entries include a list of references and cross-indexing, supplemented by an extensive general index. These readable, thought-provoking books provide basic research information about some of our country’s worst disasters. They will also help readers understand how the events spurred many scientific and medical advances, public safety standards, and political protections of legal and civil rights that are the foundation of much of our modern existence, making them a strong addition to any high school collection.–Mary Mueller, Rolla Public Schools, MO

Zhao, Xiaojian & Edward J.W. Park, eds. Asian Americans: An Encyclopedia of Social, Cultural, Economic, and Political History. 3 vols.. 1401p. bibliog. chart. chron. index. photos. reprods. Greenwood. 2013. Tr $310. ISBN 9781598842395; ebk. ISBN 9781598842401. LC 2013012894.
Gr 9 Up –More than 600 articles provide information about the people, history, and culture of Asians in the United States, including ethnic groups with familial roots in East Asia, the Indian subcontinent, and Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders. As the title implies, articles focus on the experiences of Asians Americans, but they offer minimal background and spend little time on countries of origin. Articles are signed and run from a few paragraphs for most biographical sketches of prominent or pioneering Asian Americans to several pages for in-depth coverage and analysis of topics, such as immigration history, culture, religion, and the complex legal issues that have defined the status of Asians in America. Authors treat their subjects objectively, discussing the prejudice and precarious financial and legal positions—exclusion laws and World War II internment—that Asians encountered from the first immigrants in the mid-19th century to the rapid increase in Asian populations and rise in socioeconomic status and societal influence since the civil rights era and the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965. Average quality, black-and-white, captioned photos add little, but an extensive index, internal cross-references, and article bibliographies will help users navigate and find additional information. This comprehensive and readable set is a solid introduction to the experiences and contributions of a growing and sometimes overlooked segment of our population. A good addition to high school libraries.Mary Mueller, Rolla Public Schools, MO

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From the Adult Books 4 Teens blog

NG, Celeste. Everything I Never Told You. Penguin. 2014. (posted June 16)

Lydia is dead. So starts this compelling tearjerker that is a mystery buried inside a painful family drama. Set in 1970s Ohio, readers experience first-hand the racism felt by Asian Americans and mixed-race families, as well as the sexism and bourgeoning women’s movement of the time through the alternating narratives of members of this dysfunctional family. Mom and Dad are trying to live vicariously through their teen middle child, Lydia. She is pressured to pursue a medical career, and to fit in socially; both things that were lacking in the mother and father’s lives respectively. The older brother, who is just on his way to Harvard, and the younger sister are relegated to non-favored status by the parents, and we watch the effects of that dynamic and others as this family struggles with secrets, guilt, and the pain of mourning and not knowing the truth. Readers will find themselves mentally screaming at and crying for these characters, turning page after page, and hoping for solace and answers in this narrative. Not until the very end will they find out the truth about what caused Lydia’s demise, and gain some understanding of the motives for the torturous actions of the protagonists. The somewhat hopeful ending seems a bit forced, but teen girls especially will flock to this book. Hand this one to fans of Alice Sebold’s The Lovely Bones (Little, Brown, 2002), and tell them to read it with a box of tissues close at hand.—Jake Pettit, American School Foundation, Mexico City

RACCULIA, Kate. Bellweather Rhapsody. Houghton Harcourt. 2014. (posted June 20)

Rabbit Hatmaker has been working towards one goal for years: making it to Statewide. The typically reserved small-town high school senior is thrilled to unpack his bassoon for the first time at the prestigious music conference with peers from around New York. His twin sister, drama queen and vocalist Alice, hopes her second year affords her the chance to be a social butterfly and show others the ropes. But neither knows about the murder/suicide that happened 15 years ago at the festival’s Catskills venue, the faded Bellweather Hotel, in the very room to which Alice is assigned. At the weekend’s outset, Rabbit gains instant popularity by speaking up to the arrogant orchestra conductor, while Alice is left in the shadow of her famous roommate, a preternaturally talented flutist and daughter of Statewide’s notorious director, diva Viola Fabian. ­­When that roommate goes missing (Alice swears she saw her hanging from the ceiling pipes) and a snowstorm bears down, tensions heighten as long buried secrets and sublimated desires are forced to the surface for those gathered in the sprawling, atmospheric Bellweather. Racculia tells her multilayered coming-of-age/mystery/suspense novel from a variety of viewpoints, successfully intertwining the haunted past of the world-worn adults with the hopeful future of the gifted teens. Laced with dark humor and remarkable insight, this smart page-turner offers an insider’s look at the competitive nature of high school music performance, the higher stakes professional world, and the complex relationships that lie within both.—Paula J. Gallagher, Baltimore County Public Library, MD

SCHRAG, Ariel. Adam. Mariner. 2014. (posted June 18)

A story set in 2006 against a background of gay-marriage demonstrations and the rise of transgender rights. The opening chapter of Schrag’s debut novel finds Adam climbing a tree leading to Kelsey’s bedroom window in Piedmont, California, hoping to score. He doesn’t, and his shame follows him to the cafeteria the next day where all of his friends are paired up and discussing summer plans. How to be cool and avoid more shame? He decides, too quickly, to visit his older sister, Casey, a lesbian, in New York for the summer, and this geeky awkward straight boy is put into even more geeky awkwardness. “This is my shithole,” Casey welcomes him, “And this is June.” June is wearing a T-shirt that reads: I WON’T GO DOWN IN HISTORY BUT I’LL GO DOWN ON YOUR SISTER. Adam notes to himself, in a wry and sarcastic voice, “Just in case the shaved head and bull nose ring hadn’t tipped me off that she was gay.” Thus begins a summer that will change his life forever: he falls in love with Gillian, a lesbian, and she falls in love with him, believing him to be transgender. This unexpected and entirely original love story is laugh-out-loud hilarious, tender, and insightful—an all-around brilliant romp of a coming-of-age story. Teens will feel they have hit the jackpot when they find it.—Amy Cheney, Alameda County Library, Juvenile Hall, CA

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DVD

HThe Fantastic Undersea Life of Jacques ­Cousteau. 9 min. Dist by Dreamscape Media. 2014. $38.99. ISBN 9781629236179.

K-Gr 2 –Jacques Cousteau’s obsession with the underwater world lead to an extraordinary life. As a young child, Cousteau was often sick, and his doctors suggested that he build his strength by swimming in the sea. After being badly injured in a car accident as a young adult, Cousteau created his own physical therapy by swimming in the Mediterranean Sea. His life changed forever when he was given a pair of goggles and was suddenly able to see underwater for the first time. Jacques was enthralled by the new world that he found below the surface, and he began a lifelong mission of ocean research and conservation. Driven by a need for better equipment, Jacques constantly worked to improve his underwater tools. He invented the first aqua lung, adapted his cameras for underwater use, and even created a research lab on the bottom of the ocean. With the help of his research teams, Cousteau made hundreds of discoveries about the ocean and the creatures and plants that live in it. Based on the picture book written and illustrated by Dan Yaccarino (Knopf, 2009), this short film depicts Cousteau’s life through the colorful and clear illustrations that are simple but compelling. Viewers will get the sense that they are underwater, exploring the mysteries of the sea with the scientist. Qarie Marshall narrates with a calm, well-annunciated voice. He even uses a French accent when quoting Cousteau directly. Young viewers will enjoy learning about this amazing life and will be excited to know more.–Jenny Ventling, Greene County Public Library, OH

My Bionic Pet. (Nature). 53 min. Dist. by PBS. 2014. $19.99. ISBN 9781627890021.

Gr 5 Up –By the fifth grade, most students have seen artificial human limbs, but a dog with prosthetic front legs or a pig whose hindquarters are supported by a small wheeled cart will be new to most viewers. This captivating DVD covers more than just pets, and follows dedicated specialists and caring humans who see themselves not as animal owners, but as their guardians. The film is fascinating on two fronts: first, from a technical standpoint of how the prosthetics are created and fitted, and how the animals adapt to them; and second, from the “innovation” standpoint. How would one fashion a new beak for a swan (after a snapping turtle incident), restoring its ability to eat and preen, or craft a new tail for an alligator, decreasing spinal stress and allowing the reptile to swim? Ethical issues are addressed, such as whether money might better be spent on improving human lives and how one knows if an animal is “happier” with new limbs and the increased mobility. While the science is compelling, there is equal value in using the film to support an innovative “makerspace” mentality, assessing problems, and thinking of creative solutions, and the length is ideal for many class periods. Viewers can’t help but cheer as piglet Chris P. Bacon snuffles about with his wheeled cart, or as dogs like Roofus and Driftwood run with new prosthetic legs. Closed captions and video descriptions can be enabled, making this accessible to a broad audience.–Maggie Knapp, Trinity Valley School, Fort Worth, TX

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Audio

FLOCA, Brian. Locomotive. 1 CD. 38 min. Dreamscape Media. 2014. $14.99. ISBN 9781629238463.

K-Gr 5 –CLANK, CLANK, CLANK! Three strokes to the spike. Ten spikes to the rail. This is how your trip begins with Floca’s 2014 Caldecott Medal winner. Narrator Eric G. Dove spins this visual masterpiece into a rich auditory experience. Dove’s resonant, lyrical voice captivates young listeners and keeps them enthralled from beginning to end. Sectioned into short “chapters,” the book highlights the majesty of the iron horse and those who rode it, the working men who labored long and hard to build it, the Paiute and Shoshone Indians who get caught in its wake, as well as the inner workings of steam power. Locomotive has something for all readers, from young engineers (who’ll love learning the details and vocabulary of piston-driven, push and pull steam locomotion), to poets (who will appreciate such lines as “wheels spinning, rods swinging, motion within motion running down the track”), history buffs, train enthusiasts, and those who simply love a well-told story. As much as historical nonfiction as poetry, this book, told in blank-verse style, is a must-have for any school or library.–Jennifer Mann, Washtenaw Intl High School, Ypsilanti, MI

Rosenthal, Amy Krouse. Exclamation Mark. 1 CD. 4 min. Weston Woods. 2014. $12.95. ISBN 9780545661157.

K-Gr 2 –When an exclamation mark desperately tries to fit in with a group of periods, he tries many ways to rid himself of his extension line, but he just can’t seem to shake it. Disillusioned, he decides to run away, but not before he is barraged with a series of questions by a very curious question mark. When he can take no more, the exclamation point screams “STOP!” and ultimately finds his identity. Rosenthal’s tongue-in-cheek text will entertain children while teaching them punctuation. The story is narrated by Priscilla Holbrook, Emily Eiden, and MacLeod Andrews, whose voices perfectly compliment the text, while upbeat background music plays throughout. It includes two read-along versions, one with sound effects for page turns and one without. This is definitely a title to be excited about and worthy of several exclamation marks!!!! Recommended for all library collections.–Amy Joslyn, Fairport Public Library, NY

TONATIUH, Duncan. Separate Is Never Equal: Sylvia Mendez and Her Family’s Fight for Desegregation. 1 CD. 22 min. Dreamscape Media. 2014. $14.99. ISBN 9781629238562.

Gr 1-4 –When Sylvia Mendez moved to Westminster, California, in the 1940s, she quickly found out that not everyone was welcome in her new neighborhood. Sylvia and her brother have to attend the “Mexican” school—Hoover School. Hoover is situated next to a cow field, had an electric fence, dirty halls, no playground, and unmotivated teachers, while local white children went to the much better 17th Street Elementary School. Eventually, the Mendez family and others filed a lawsuit, Mendez v. Westminster, that predated Brown v. Board of Education by almost 10 years. It would desegregate schools in California, affecting more than 5,000 Latino children. Carefully taking actual text from trials and interviews with Sylvia Mendez, Tonatiuh edits the original language to fit the pacing of the story for the intended audience. Legal terms and Spanish words are translated and explained so young listeners will be able to comprehend this important story. Adriana Sananes narrates efficiently. Her voice uses various pitches for characters and paces her reading so listeners can keep up with the many names, places, and terms. This CD version includes an author’s note and information about the text included in the story. An extremely important story that should be widely known. Highly recommended for all libraries.–Katie Llera, Bound Brook High School, NJ

Lord, Cynthia. Half a Chance. 4 CDs. 4:45 hrs. Recorded Books. 2014. $46.75. ISBN 9781490614038. Playaway, digital download.

Gr 4-8 —Lucy’s father is a photographer and often away. She and her mother are left to set up their new home on a lake where she is befriended by Nate and his grandmother who help her become familiar with lake life. Through it all, Lucy uses own photographic talents to frame the world in which she lives, seeking unique perspectives and the contrasts. When Lucy discovers her father will be judging a photography contest, she decides to enter without his knowledge, having much to prove to him and herself. Still, as she peers through her lens she gains an unexpected insight. In this tender, evocative book listeners learn about beginnings, endings, and catching that perfect moment in time. Maria Cabezas performs the first-person narrative in a youthful voice, drawing listeners in and making every word count. This is an exceptional presentation that leaves kids feeling enclosed in one of those perfect moments Lucy seeks.–Teresa Bateman, Brigadoon Elementary, Federal Way, WA

Herbach, Geoff . Fat Boy vs the Cheerleaders. 5 CDs. 6 hrs. Brilliance Audio. 2014. $49.97. ISBN 9781480533271.

Gr 7 Up –Gabe has been caught. He took money out of the school vending machine in retaliation for the school band’s funds being reallocated to a new dance team. He is now in custody and is telling his story. How did a fat boy with no leadership skills corral the pep band to take on the cheerleaders? Fat Boy vs the Cheerleaders is a funny tale that hits on many hard truths. Herbach takes the everyday issues of clique rivalry and stereotypes and creates a story where the underdog fights back. Listeners will discover depth within the main character that doesn’t seem present at the beginning. Nick Podehl’s narration is fun and spot-on. He creates unique voices for the many varied characters and brings each person’s personality to life. Although this is a great book in print, this audio rendition takes it two levels up. This is a must-buy for any high school or public library audio collection.–Elizabeth L. Kenyon, Merrillville High School, IN

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Music

Get Outdoors! Performed by Jeff Kagan and Paige Doughty. CD. 68 min. Rocky Mountain Music. 2013. ISBN unavail. $15.

PreS-Gr 2 –Veteran children’s performers Kagan and Doughty really hit all the right notes with Get Outdoors! The majority of the album focuses on nature and ecology, with an emphasis on bats, mosquitos, meadowlarks, trees, and plate tectonics. Other songs highlight the need for bicyclists and cars to share the road and the proper technique for crossing the street. Employing a variety of musical genres, each song features beautiful lyrics and music that ranges from upbeat dance and sing-along tunes to songs as gentle as a lullaby. Two particularly clever numbers are “Scoopa-Doop-Poop,” about the importance of picking up after your dog, and “Rosa & Douglas,” regarding the relationship between a pine and a fir tree in the forest. Get Outdoors! is fun and educational, but never didactic. Teachers will like using this album in class while families will enjoy listening to it over and over again. A must-have for every collection.–Veronica De Fazio, Plainfield Public Library District, IL

In a Heartbeat. Performed by Laura Doherty. CD. 34 min. Laura Doherty Music. 2014. ISBN unavail. $15.

PreS-Gr 1 —Parents’ Choice Gold and Silver Award–winning Doherty delivers what should be another hit with her third recording for kids. Filled with 13 upbeat, catchy tunes, the smart lyrics cover topics of interest to youngsters and parents alike. Her voice is clear and charming, and instrumentation is just right, neither spare nor over-produced. Doherty’s folksy acoustic instrumentation and crisp clear vocals are complemented with harmonizing by Cat Tager on eight of the songs. Highlights include covers of Harold Arlen’s standard “Paper Moon” and Bill Haley’s classic “See Ya Later, Alligator” and original tunes by Doherty: “I’m a Little Fish” (a ditty about sea creatures and their means of locomotion), “Heartbeat” (a percussive tune about feeling your heartbeat, punctuated by a bass guitar), “Drum Kit” (a crisp introduction to the sound of striking each piece of a set of drums), and “Woolly Woolly Bear” (a novelty number about a caterpillar who will become a moth). Useful in the preschool curriculum and sure to be enjoyed on family road trips.–Stephanie Bange, Wright State University, Dayton, OH

This article was published in School Library Journal's August 2014 issue. Subscribe today and save up to 35% off the regular subscription rate.

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