November 17, 2017

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A Varied Set of Portraits, from Pets to Presidents | Nonfiction Grades 5 & Up

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November 2014 SLJ Stars.

redstarCharleyboy, Lisa & Mary Beth Leatherdale, eds. Dreaming in Indian: Contemporary Native American Voices. 128p. illus. photos. reprods. Annick. Nov. 2014. Tr $19.95. ISBN 9781554516872; ebk. ISBN 9781554516889.

Gr 6 Up –This dynamic, creative work is an interactive portal that introduces readers to the lives of 64 indigenous Native American young people. The writers include an award-winning throat singer, a fashion model, a hip-hop dancer, a tribal leader, an activist, a graphic designer, a comic book creator, a chef, a dancer, a musician, a makeup artist, and a rapper, and the contributors communicate powerfully who they are in their own words and images. The visuals are a blend of bold, contemporary digital graffiti and indigenous art at its best, and the end result is a collage of profound, sometimes gritty photos and digital images. The text is a combination of awe-inspiring poetry, prose, and poignant captions. No topic is left untouched—identity, racism, gender, bullying, abuse at boarding schools, adoption, mixed heritage, runaways, suicide, drug, poverty, coming of age, death, and sex, though the tone is positive and success stories are emphasized. This slim book effectively presents honest portrayals of strong, hopeful, and courageous indigenous youth living nonstereotypical lives. Not to be missed.–Naomi Caldwell, Alabama State University, Montgomery, AL

redstarHerrera, Juan Felipe. Portraits of Hispanic American Heroes. illus. by Raúl Colón. 96p. further reading. notes. Dial. 2014. Tr $19.99. ISBN 9780803738096. LC 2013044661.

Gr 4-8 –A dazzling collection of short biographies on 20 Latino men and women who have shaped United States history. Profiled chronologically, each entry provides a succinct but lyrical description of how these heroes have made their mark. From the arts (Desi Arnaz, Joan Baez, Rita Moreno) to the sciences (Luis W. Alvarez and Ellen Ochoa), the breadth of influence covered is vast and aptly demonstrates the diversity within the Hispanic community. Inclusion of the usual suspects (César Chávez, Sonia Sotomayor, Roberto Clemente) is appreciated, but what sets this work truly apart is the memorialization of little-known figures, such as Julia de Burgos (poet), Judith F. Baca (artist), and Ignacio E. Lozano (journalist). California Poet Laureate Herrera packs relevant info and kid-appropriate details (Tomás Rivera meeting the “library lady” for the first time; Dennis “Dionisio” Chavez being bullied because of his name) without overwhelming the work, infusing the narratives with engaging text. Colon’s portraits are luminous. His use of watercolor and pencils gives each entry an ethereal cast, elevating the subjects to an almost beatific place of honor. This is especially true in the case of “Hero Street U.S.A.,” one of the last chapters, about a street in Silvis, IL, that was renamed in remembrance of eight American soldiers of Mexican descent. Complete with helpful recommended reading, suggestions and source notes, this visually and textually stunning title is one to cherish and celebrate.–Shelley Diaz, School Library Journal

redstarIngram, Catherine. This Is Dalí. illus. by Andrew Rae. ISBN 9781780671093.

redstar––––. This Is Pollock. illus. by Peter Arkle. ISBN 9781780673462.

redstar––––. This Is Warhol. illus. by Andrew Rae. ISBN 9781780670140.

ea vol: 80p. (This Is…). bibliog. illus. photos. reprods. Laurence King. 2014. Tr. $15.95.

Gr 10 Up –Ingram’s eye-grabbing graphic-novel profiles convey each artist’s life story and particular panache with a combo of witty narrative, vivacious illustrations, reproductions of pivotal artworks, and the occasional photo. The book design is superb: each volume features a pen-and-ink portrait of its subject on the front cover and a personal quote that imparts each man’s essence on the back cover. Biographical highlights and astute and accessible discussions of artworks are woven into a tapestry of historical events, contemporary cultural trends, and art history context. Dalí introduces the Spanish artist “known for his lavish lifestyle, his gravity-defying moustache and his bizarre art.” A self-promoting megalomaniac, he made (and spent) millions and led an existence as surrealistic as his artistic oeuvre. Pollock strives to separate the artist’s career from his famously “bad boy storyline” (he is well-known for drunken antics and public displays of bad behavior) and demonstrate how his “monumental drip paintings reflect a uniquely American vision.” Warhol traces the artist’s transformation from “awkward kid” to “avant-garde player” and shows how he utilized his keen eye for spotting cultural trends to elevate the ordinary into the extraordinary. Bright-colored comic book–style illustrations interpret and expand upon the texts with drama, humor, and insight. Eloquent, informative, and amusing, the series’ urbane viewpoint and sometimes-titillating images make it best suited for more mature readers.–Joy Fleishhacker, School Library Journal

redstarKamkwamba, William & Bryan Mealer. The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind: Young Readers Edition. illus. by Anna Hymas. 304p. ebook available. photos. Dial. Feb. 2015. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780803740808.

Gr 4-7 –This youth edition of the original adult book of the same title has been skillfully adapted for middle grade readers. Kamkwamba recounts a period from his childhood living in a small Malawi village. His family was poor, but they got by working as farmers. Kamkwamba was in elementary school, about to graduate to secondary school, when the drought and famine of the mid-2000s upset the patterns of local life. The author deftly describes the devastating effects upon his family: they ate insects, and rations were reduced to only a single mouthful daily. Many around them suffered even worse. Somehow, the family struggled through until the rains returned to nourish a new crop, but they couldn’t afford Kamkwamba’s school fees. He farmed with his father but also discovered a local library, where he taught himself to engineer a windmill to draw water to irrigate the fields. Those around him thought he was crazy as he salvaged motor parts, a PVC pipe, his father’s broken bicycle, and anything else he could find. Kamkwamba did successfully harness the wind, managing to light his family’s house, charge community cell phones for a small income, and pump irrigation water. A school inspection team saw the windmill and brought educators to see the teen engineer, who was invited to speak at the African TED conference and given a scholarship. This is a fascinating, well-told account that will intrigue curious minds, even the somewhat anticlimactic closing chapters describing Kamkwamba’s education. There is also a picture book version of this tale (Dial, 2012), making it of interest to all-school reading programs. An inspiring, incredible story.–Dorcas Hand, Annunciation Orthodox School, Houston, TX

redstarLevine, Gail Carson. Writer to Writer: From Think to Ink. 304p. index. HarperCollins/Harper. Dec. 2014. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780062275301; pap. $6.99. ISBN 9780062275295; ebk. $6.99. ISBN 9780062275318.

Gr 5-8 –In this follow-up book to Writing Magic Creating Stories That Fly (HarperCollins, 2006), fantasy author Levine doles out realistic and helpful guidance to aspiring authors. This title is an extension of her blog, and Levine provides her audience with the common nuts and bolts of the profession, offering this advice: writers write, they keep writing, and they save everything they write to use again. Levine’s tone is conversational and upbeat and her suggestions easy to follow, tinged with an underlying sense of encouragement that will bolster readers. She discusses common difficulties, warning young people not to get hung up on minutiae and letting them know that confronting challenges is a surmountable part of the craft. The chapters are based on questions that have been posted to her blog and address how to develop characters and backstory, come up with plot twists and flashbacks, and create mystery and tension. Each chapter ends with appealing and doable exercises. Levine urges her audience to cast away self-criticism and to write and rewrite, underscoring that this is an enjoyable, important process. An engaging and valuable addition.–Patricia Feriano, Montgomery County Public Schools, MD

redstarMarrin, Albert. FDR and the American Crisis. 352p. bibliog. ebook available. further reading. index. notes. Random/Knopf. Dec. 2014. Tr $24.99. ISBN 9780385753593; lib. ed. $27.99. ISBN 9780385753609; ebk. ISBN 9780385753616. LC 2013042351.

Gr 8 Up –Marrin blends biography and history in this masterly overview of Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s leadership in two of the most dangerous crises of the 20th century. His outstanding writing draws on primary sources and includes ample background and detail about Roosevelt’s personal and public lives and lengthy descriptions of the people and events that defined his presidency. Marrin is highly objective about Roosevelt, portraying him as neither saint nor villain. He explains how Roosevelt’s upbringing and class, battle with polio, and ever-present political instincts influenced his decisions and gave him the confidence to confront often-intractable dilemmas, relieve suffering during the Great Depression, and wage World War II. However, Marrin also discusses some of the negative results of FDR’s choices, including the continuation of Jim Crow and his reluctance to support anti-lynching laws, the exclusion of Jewish refugees and a tepid response to the Holocaust, and the tragic miscalculation of his ability to influence Joseph Stalin’s postwar aggression in Eastern Europe. The author includes some of his own memories of FDR and concludes that the man deserves his historical rating as a great president. High-quality black-and-white photos in a clean layout enhance the text, and documentation is meticulous. This book far surpasses most extant titles about Roosevelt and provides a more nuanced evaluation of his life and presidency than titles such as Sudipta Bardhan-Quallin’s Franklin Delano Roosevelt: A National Hero (Sterling, 2007). It will help readers better understand one of our most fascinating and influential presidents, and it deserves a place in all secondary collections.–Mary Mueller, Rolla Public Schools, MO

redstarRusch, Elizabeth. The Next Wave: The Quest to Harness the Power of the Oceans. 80p. (Scientists in the Field). diags. further reading. glossary. index. notes. photos. Houghton Harcourt. 2014. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9780544099999. LC 2013050150.

Gr 5-8 –Rainforests and savannahs, coral reefs and tundra—readers are most likely familiar with these fields in which scientists work. But this time, it is the energy of the physical movement of the global ocean that is the field, and here in this world of watery physics, a series of imaginative, innovative engineers have been designing, building, and experimenting to successfully harness this inexorable surge of energy. Rusch’s readable text follows three very varied groups of visionary engineers on this quest: Mike Morrow and Mike Delos-Reyes (who are working on a device that will allow people to sit upon the ocean floor), Annette von Jouanne and her team (working on a floating design), and the cofounders of Ocean Power Technologies, the first to win a permit to generate “ocean electricity” to be marketed to homes and businesses on the Oregon coast. Included are sidebars on a rich variety of topics such as “Working with Watts” and a global inventory of “Wild Wave Inventions of the World.” Colorful diagrams and a plethora of photos provide visual stimulation as well. This pellucid look into a promising field of alternative energy (so needed in a warming world) and into the scientists devoting their lives to bring concept into reality is informative, intriguing, and inspiring.–Patricia Manning, formerly at Eastchester Public Library, NY

The following titles are reviewed in this month's print issue:

Aretha, David. The Middle Passage. 112p. (A Peculiar History). bibliog. chron. ebook available. index. maps. notes. photos. reprods. websites. Morgan Reynolds. 2014. lib. ed. $28.95. ISBN 9781599354088. LC 2013042476.

Aronoff, Marc. One Toke: A Survival Guide for Teens. illus. by Earl Cavanah. 156p. notes. Porter House. 2014. pap. $14.99. ISBN 9781630410209. LC 201409616.

DePrince, Michaela & Elaine DePrince. Taking Flight: From War Orphan to Star Ballerina. 249p. photos. Knopf. 2014. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780385755115; lib. ed. $19.99. ISBN 9780385755122; ebk. $10.99. ISBN 9780385755139. LC 2013048188.

Grant, R.J. Superstars of History: The Good, the Bad, and the Brainy. illus. by Simon Basher. 96p. chron. glossary. index. Scholastic. 2014. pap. $7.99. ISBN 9780545680240.

Finger, Brad. 13 Art Movements Children Should Know. 48p. chron. glossary. photos. reprods. Prestel. 2014. Tr $14.95. ISBN 9783791371580.

Holland, Jennifer S. Unlikely Heroes: 37 Inspiring Stories of Courage and Heart from the Animal Kingdom. 246p. notes. photos. Workman. 2014. pap. $13.95. ISBN 9780761174417.

Marchive, Laurane & Pam McElroy, eds. The Green Teen Cookbook: Recipes for All Seasons—Written By Teens, for Teens. 144p. index. photos. Zest. 2014. Tr $14.99. ISBN 9781936976584; ebk. $14.99. ISBN 9781936976591.

Mercer, Bobby. The Robot Book: Build & Control 20 Electric Gizmos, Moving Machines, and Hacked Toys. 224p. (Science in Motion). further reading. photos. websites. Chicago Review. 2014. pap. $14.95. ISBN 9781556524073.

Norfolk, Sherry & Bobby Norfolk. The Virginia Giant: The True Story of Peter Francisco. illus. by Cait Brennan. 160p. chron. ebook available. further reading. glossary. notes. photos. reprods. websites. History. 2014. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781626191174.

Platt, Richard. The Ultimate Book About Me. 144p. chart. diag. glossary. illus. maps. photos. Barron’s. 2014. pap. $14.99. ISBN 9781438005577. LC 2014932008.

Reber, Deborah. Doable: The Girls’ Guide to Accomplishing Just About Anything. 208p. chart. diag. S. & S./Simon Pulse. Jan. 2015. Tr $19.99. ISBN 9781582704678; pap. $12.99. ISBN 9781582704661; ebk. $9.46. ISBN 9781481403306. LC 2014005614.

Schutten, Jan Paul. Hello from 2030: The Science of the Future and You. 224p. index. notes. photos. Atria/Beyond Words. 2014. Tr $15.99. ISBN 9781582704746; ebk. $10.99. ISBN 9781481409469. LC 2013044906.

Storey, Rita. A Tasty Breakfast. ISBN 9781599209531. LC 2013034771.

––––. Tasty Drinks and Snacks. ISBN 9781599209562. LC 2013034771.

––––. A Tasty Lunch. ISBN 9781599209548. LC 2013034771.

ea vol: 32p. (Plan, Prepare, Cook). glossary. index. photos. Black Rabbit/Smart Apple Media. 2014. Tr. $28.50.

Thompson, Laurie Ann. Be a Changemaker: How to Start Something That Matters. 230p. chart. further reading. illus. websites. S. & S./Simon Pulse. 2014. LC 2013044580.

Weeks, Marcus. Heads Up Philosophy. 160p. (Heads Up). chart. glossary. illus. index. photos. reprods. DK. 2014. Tr $15.99. ISBN 9781465424488.

Graphic Novels

Maier, Corrine. Marx. illus. by Anne Simon. 72p. further reading. Flying Eye Books/Nobrow. 2014. Tr $19.95. ISBN 9781907704833.

Mizuki, Shigeru. Showa: A History of Japan, 1939-1944. tr. from Japanese by Zack Davisson. 536p. (Showa: Bk. Vol. 2). notes. Drawn and Quarterly. 2014. pap. $24.95. ISBN 9781770461512.

Vansant, Wayne. The Battle of the Bulge: A Graphic History of Allied Victory in the Ardennes, 1944-1945. illus. by Wayne Vansant. 104p. appendix. diag. further reading. maps. Quayside/Zenith. 2014. pap. $19.99. ISBN 9780760346228. LC 2014012286.

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

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