Alakija, Polly. Counting Chickens. illus. by Polly Alakija. 32p. Frances Lincoln/Janetta Otter-Barry Bks. 2014. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781847804372.
PreS-Gr 2 –Tobi may have the finest hen in the village, but his friends’ animals are all having babies, while Tobi’s chicken only lays eggs. As days pass, Aduke’s four kittens, Dapo’s six piglets, and other animals grow quickly. Tobi and his hen wait for the eggs to hatch. Their patience pays off, and a year later, the seven chicks have grown into hens with their own broods. Alakija packs a lot into this deceptively simple story. She incorporates cardinal and ordinal numbers in contrasts, such as Tunde and her sheep’s “two lambs” on a page facing Tobi’s hen and the “second egg.” The narrative stretches from Monday to Sunday, one chick per day. Illustrations bustle with daily activities in an African village, and animals appear several times for sharp-eyed readers to count again. The final challenge comes with the spread that takes place a year later, with 50 chickens strutting, nesting, and exploring their surroundings. The large format, engaging acrylic-and-pencil illustrations, and engaging story make this counting book a fine choice for read-aloud sessions and individual exploration.
Camcam, Princesse. Fox’s Garden. illus. by Princesse Camcam. 32p. Enchanted Lion. 2014. Tr $14.95. ISBN 9781592701674.
PreS-Gr 1 –In this wordless picture book, a fox enters a small town, looking for shelter. She is chased away by villagers but eventually finds refuge in an abandoned greenhouse. A little boy finds the fox and gives her and her newborn pups a basket of food. The fox family then returns the kindness by planting a magical garden inside the boy’s room while he sleeps. The story is brief and simple enough for toddlers, but the beauty of its artwork will capture a much wider audience. Camcam’s cut-paper illustrations add to the mystical elements of the work. The boy’s bedroom is particularly impressive, with three-dimensional furniture and detailed toys; every item in the room looks as fragile and delicate as the wonderful magic that the fox has given to the boy. The panoramic style of the pictures makes this title ideal for a lap-sit storytime, and it will be a delight to read and to share.
Gibbons, Faye. Halley. 208p. NewSouth. 2014. Tr $21.95. ISBN 9781588382900; ebk. ISBN 9781603063289. LC 2014933020.
Gr 7 Up –As this historical novel opens, the title character, a 14-year-old girl living in the mountains of Georgia, is recording her father’s recent death in the family bible. After this sad start, things only get harder for Halley, her younger brother, and their mother Kate. They move in with Kate’s parents: a cruel preacher, his put-upon wife, and their youngest son. Kate takes a dangerous job at the local mill, while every action Halley tries to improve their lot—taking on sewing jobs to raise money to buy a gravestone for her father, trying to get accepted to a boarding school for farmers’ children—is thwarted by her vicious grandfather. He steals her savings, whips her brother, intercepts her mail, and tries to stop his children from marrying the people they love. Gibbons perfectly captures the cadences of Georgia hill country speech; it is rhythmic and lovely, even when the characters are speaking of hard, rough things. The narrative is peppered with bits of true history—there is a woman photographer based on Dorothea Lange, an African American family making their living as potters, and Halley applies to attend Berry College, a real school, started in 1902. Although somewhat predictable, the plot is compelling as the author adeptly covers loss, coming of age, and small-town attitudes and values without sugarcoating. Gibbons expertly depicts the complexity in “simple” mountain life. Just as Janet Taylor Lisle’s Black Duck (Philomel, 2006) showed an unusual side of Prohibition, this work gives a peek at an unusual side of the Great Depression. With shades of Richard Peck in this novel’s DNA, Gibbons’s tale features a strong and unique voice.
Hanlon, Abby. Dory Fantasmagory. illus. by Abby Hanlon. 160p. Dial. 2014. Tr $14.99. ISBN 9780803740884; ebk. $10.99. ISBN 9780698135932. LC 2013034996.
Gr 1-3 –Six-year-old Dory, known as Rascal to her family, wants more than anything to be included in her older siblings’s fun, but her endless questions and make-believe monsters drive them crazy. When Violet and Luke tell Dory a bedtime story about the evil Mrs. Gobble Grackle, who steals baby girls, they unintentionally feed her already overactive imagination. Dory and her imaginary friend, Mary (who resembles Maurice Sendak’s Max), are always on the lookout for monsters, and they thwart Mrs. Gobble Grackle’s attempts to kidnap her with banana peels and sleep-inducing darts. When Dory pretends to be the dog her brother has always wanted, she convinces Mrs. G that she isn’t the baby to kidnap and sabotages a trip to the doctor’s office. Hanlon effectively uses many childlike pencil drawings and word balloons interspersed with a good mix of short and long sentences in brief, episodic chapters full of Dory’s hilarious adventures. New vocabulary words are used in context within familiar settings and situations for the audience, creating a successful transitional book for new readers ready for longer stories. Dory ultimately finds a way to prove her bravery to her brother and sister, and readers will laugh at her entertaining antics.
Howell, Simmone. Girl Defective. photos by Henry Beer. 320p. ebook available. S. & S./Atheneum. 2014. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781442497603.
Gr 9 Up –Australian author Howell brings stateside her intriguing story of a coming-of-age summer for 15-year-old Skylark Martin. The teen lives above the family record store in a small Melbourne suburb with her home-brewing, stuck-in-the-past father, and endearing younger brother, Gully, whose social issues have manifested as an obsession with being a detective and near-permanent wearing of a pig-snout mask. Sky is blunt in her depictions of them and her mother, who left the family to reinvent herself as performance artist Galaxy Strobe (“What can you say about your mother in darkness, wearing an outfit fringed with seventy thousand tampons?”). Flawed but likable Sky is drawn to the 19-year-old, enigmatic, worldly Nancy, who introduces her both to recreational drugs and underground parties. There’s an element of mystery to the story, with posters around town of a girl who died and has some connection to both those parties and the record store’s attractive new hire, Luke. But while Nancy is outrunning her past, and Luke seeks to make sense of his own, Sky finds a future that holds some promise. Howell’s writing is engaging and well suited to the pacing of the story, and the Aussie references are part of the charm. Library Journal
Idle, Molly. Flora and the Penguin. illus. by Molly Idle. 40p. Chronicle. 2014. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781452128917.
PreS-K –Idle’s bold and balletic Flora is back in another wordless adventure, this time infused with icy blue, to skate with a penguin. The simple story is told entirely in pictures—featuring only a few colors on a white background—that are eloquent and irresistible. As in Flora and the Flamingo (Chronicle, 2013), small page flaps advance the story and establish the relationship between the two well-defined characters. There a simple conflict and a satisfying resolution, made more dramatic with a glorious gatefold. Preschoolers will enjoy narrating the action while they flip through the pages of this beautiful book.
Lin, Grace. Ling & Ting: Twice As Silly. illus. by Grace Lin. 48p. Little, Brown. Nov. 2014. Tr $16. ISBN 9780316184021. LC 2013041479.
PreS-Gr 1 –Those irrepressible twins are back with more sweetly goofy antics in a third installment of the easy reader series. Six short chapters deliver on the title’s promise; each episode unfolds with pitch-perfect comedic timing, ending with a chuckle-worthy (and decidedly silly) punch line. From forays into gardening (Will cupcakes grow if planted like seeds?) to musing about how high they can swing (Higher than a tree that goes into outer space!), the girls’ lives are grounded in realistic childhood experiences, embellished with their creative imaginings. Lin helps emergent readers tell the difference through clever visual cues; the pretend and “what if” scenarios are distinguished by squiggly frames. As in the first two books, the gouache illustrations pop with vibrant color and texture. Lin’s images help support the text, while extending the humor with subtle details in facial expressions and body language. Though each chapter can be enjoyed on its own, the various threads come together in the last chapter when the sisters co-create their own story—a book within the book. Fans of Ling and Ting will be delighted to see a few nods to previous adventures, while new readers will want to get to know these funny sisters better. A winning addition to a delightfully fun series. School Library Journal
Lyga, Barry. Blood of My Blood. 480p. (I Hunt Killers: Bk. 3). ebook available. Little, Brown. 2014. Tr $18. ISBN 9780316198707. LC 2014003643.
Gr 9 Up –Jasper “Jazz” Dent is locked in a storage locker with two dead bodies, trying to nurse his own bullet wound in the dim light of a fading cellphone. Picking up (without pause) from the cliff-hanger ending in Game (2013), Lyga’s series about the 17-year-old who was first introduced in I Hunt Killers (2012) as the son of escaped killer Billy Dent continues as he tries to aid the police in his father’s recapture. Unaware that his girlfriend Connie has been lured by Billy to a Brooklyn tenement house and imprisoned with Jazz’s mother, and that his hemophiliac friend, Howie, has been attacked, Jazz faces his demons alone—including repressed memories with sexual undertones, and the creepy voice of Billy educating his son on the acumen required to be a good serial killer (appearing in italics). The worrisome genetic factor plagues Jazz yet propels him in the right direction to foil some copycat killers and elude authorities long enough to solve his own life’s mysteries. Obstructing the law, the teen follows clues that take him back home to Lobo’s Nod for the chilling climax and surprise ending, despite red herrings thrown in the readers’ path at every turn. Connie and Howie continue to play major roles in this episode, often providing their own points of view, as do officers Hughes and Tanner as bumbling but likable authorities. As a trilogy wrap-up, this gory winner with raw appeal requires having read the first two titles.
McCarty, Peter. First Snow. illus. by Peter McCarty. 40p. HarperCollins/Balzer & Bray. Jan. 2015. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780062189967.
PreS-Gr 1 –Pedro, a young anthropomorphic dog, has traveled from far away, and his cousins Sancho, Bella, Lola, Ava, and Maria are eager to introduce him to snow—something he’s never before experienced. Though Pedro is initially reluctant, the cousins, joined by a host of other animals—bunnies, owls, chickens, and more—show him how to make snow angels, taste snowflakes, and sled down a hill, until he finally warms to the day’s activities. Employing ink and watercolors rendered in a muted, beige-heavy palette, McCarty relies upon the sweetly old-fashioned style readers will fondly remember from titles such as Henry in Love (2009) and Chloe (2012, both HarperCollins)—Chloe the rabbit even makes an appearance. The animals are an enchanting bunch, striking such dynamic poses as they cavort that Pedro and readers alike will be hard-pressed to resist. McCarty sustains a gentle but upbeat tone through charming, dialogue-heavy text (“‘Put on your boots! Put on your coat! Put on your hat and mittens!’”), as the cousins eventually win Pedro over, encouraging him cheerfully but never forcefully. Through it all, a message emphasizing the importance of trying new things is unobtrusively folded in, but most of all, readers will come away with a genuine sense of fun and the joy of family and friends. A delightful winter excursion. School Library Journal
Napoli, Donna Jo. Hidden. 384p. bibliog. S. & S./Paula Wiseman Bks. Dec. 2014. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781442483002.
Gr 7 Up –Readers who enjoyed Donna Jo Napoli’s Hush (S. & S., 2007) and wondered about the fate of eight-year-old Brigid finally have their answers. The author uses her amazing ability to find the bare bones of an old story and flesh them out into a rich, living tale. This time, it is the story of Alfhild, feared female pirate of 10th-century Norse lore. Brigid survives her plunge into icy waters when escaping the slave ship she and her sister Melkorka were aboard. Upon realizing that Mel did not escape with her, she is determined to find her sister, no matter the long odds. But how to find one beautiful slave girl possibly traded anywhere in Europe? Brigid, or Alfhild as she comes to be called, ponders this question as she learns, grows, and thrives. Over several years, her circumstances change, allowing her to gain new skills as she travels from town to town, family to family, and between social classes. Her sister, her blood family, is the reason Alfhild continues her search, but the many adoptive families she becomes part of strengthen her to continue her quest. Brigid is a fictional character but Alfhild is an actual historical figure—this blending to fit a historical framework produces continued good fortune, which lends the work a folktale feel at times. Napoli seamlessly weaves cultural, mythological, and historical information together, immersing the readers in Norse life.
Shepherd, Megan. A Cold Legacy. 400p. HarperCollins/Balzer & Bray. Jan. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780062128089; ebk. $10.99. ISBN 9780062128102.
Gr 9 Up –The final volume of the “Madman’s Daughter” series (HarperCollins) accomplishes something too often lacking in trilogies—a third volume that is as compelling and well-written as the first installment. In this entry inspired by Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, Juliet, Lucy, Montgomery, Balthazar, and Edward have escaped from their pursuers to the Scottish estate of Juliet’s friend and benefactor, Elizabeth von Stein. They find the isolated estate inhabited by a number of young women and girls, “wards” of Elizabeth, and one very strange male child named Hensley, Elizabeth’s son. Juliet also discovers that the secrets of the rich woman’s ancestor Victor Frankenstein have been preserved by the family, and with no legitimate heirs, Juliet has been chosen to receive the knowledge of “Perpetual Anatomy.” The heroine wonders if she can use this knowledge to save Edward, but the complicated process is fraught with danger. Intrigue, the growing fear of discovery by their pursuers, romances between Elizabeth and Edward as well as Juliet and Montgomery, danger from within the house and its inhabitants, and secrets abound. In addition to the outer turmoil, Juliet continues to worry whether or not as her father’s daughter she, too, has the “madness” gene. The skillfully drawn and well-developed characters face their emotional upheavals and outside dangers with aplomb. Shepherd’s adroit weaving of the Frankenstein story line into the already complex world of Dr. Moreau’s daughter, brings an exciting new twist and a satisfactory ending to the trilogy. Fast-paced and romantic, this page-turning volume results in mixed emotions—contentment with the ending, but still a desire for more.
Stiefvater, Maggie. Blue Lily, Lily Blue. 400p. (The Raven Cycle: Bk. 3). Scholastic. 2014. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9780545424967; ebk. ISBN 9780545662901.
Gr 9 Up –Having inhaled the first two installments in this thrilling series about four Virginia schoolboys on a quest to find a legendary Welsh king, teens will be anxious to see where Stiefvater next leads Gansey, Adam, Ronan, and Noah. The volume picks up directly after The Dream Thieves (Scholastic, 2013) and the quest takes some bizarre and dangerous twists. Blue Sargent and the psychically talented women of 300 Fox Way take center stage this time. Blue’s mother Maura has disappeared, and it’s not immediately clear if she wants to be found. Despite the fact that “time and space were bathtubs that Maura splashed in,” Blue and Mr. Gray, Maura’s ex-hitman boyfriend, begin to think she’s underground and in trouble. Informed by several mystical and live sources that there are three ancient sleepers in the nearby mountain caves, one of which is not to be awakened, the young people are hurled toward a subterranean encounter of the weirdest kind. Throughout, the prose is crisp and dazzling and the dialogue positively crackles. The supernatural elements—magic, a mirrored lake, an evil curse, the appearance of Owen Glendower’s 600-year-old daughter—are completely organic and suspension of disbelief is effortless due to the nuanced and affecting characterization. Blue and the Raven Boys come into their own over the course of the novel and realize their individual strengths and the power of their collective bonds, making them unstoppable. It’s a good thing, because it seems as though all hell is about to break loose in the final volume. School Library Journal
Young, Cybèle. Nancy Knows. illus. by Cybèle Young. 40p. ebook available. Tundra. 2014. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781770494824.
PreS-Gr 2 –Nancy, an elephant, knows that she has forgotten something important, but she can’t for the life of her think what it is. She recalls all sorts of things that she likes and has pleasant associations with and thinks about things from long ago and from “two days before tomorrow.” “Sometimes Nancy’s ears do the remembering. Sometimes her stomach or nose does the work. And her heart remembers things from all different places, all kinds of times and all sorts of spaces.” When she tires of concentrating so hard, she stops thinking altogether, and that’s when she has her “aha” moment and remembers what eluded her. This story is told in simple, evocative language and is illustrated in minimalist style. Nancy appears as a blank slate drawn in graphite on plain white backdrops. Her elephantine shape is filled with colorful Japanese paper sculptures that reflect what’s on her mind. For example, when she thinks of things with wheels, her shape is filled with a paper bicycles, a scooter, a wheelbarrow, a unicycle, and a shopping cart. Nancy is a charming protagonist with a memory like an elephant. She won’t be soon forgotten. School Library Journal
Davis, Rob. The Motherless Oven. illus. by Rob Davis. 160p. SelfMadeHero. 2014. pap. $19.95. ISBN 9781906838812.
Gr 9 Up –In a bizarre, topsy-turvy world where children make parents, and knives rain from the sky, Scarper Lee’s deathday looms before him like a ticking time bomb. The teen has resolved himself to his fate—even if his hairdryer mother and makeshift wind-powered brass sculpture father haven’t quite yet—when new girl Vera Pike arrives and throws a wrench into the status quo. When his father disappears (though he’s usually chained in the shed), Scarper, Vera, and new friend Castro Smith (a boy who speaks in lucid riddles and has a knack for repairing kitchen gods) escape their daily routine to find him. During their journey, they face a field of abandoned mother creatures, a gaggle of elderly police officers, and their own mortality. In an Odyssey-like quest, the trio searches for the fabled Motherless Oven, where humans were supposedly first fashioned, and hopefully the answer to all of their prayers. Heady topics such as existentialism, destiny, religion, and love make this a quirky title rife for discussion. Davis’s dark and shadow-filled art appropriately mindbends and illuminates the text. The variation in panels quickens and pulls back the pace in this enigmatic tale, with the right amount of imagery left open for interpretation. For fans of Farel Dalrymple’s The Wrenchies (First Second), David Almond’s novels, and teens who enjoy graphic novels that are disturbing and beautiful all at once. School Library Journal
Charleyboy, 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.
Herrera, 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. School Library Journal
Ingram, Catherine. This Is Dalí. illus. by Andrew Rae. ISBN 9781780671093.
––––. This Is Pollock. illus. by Peter Arkle. ISBN 9781780673462.
––––. 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. School Library Journal
Kamkwamba, 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.
Levine, 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.
Marrin, 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.
Rusch, 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.
Sayre, April Pulley. Raindrops Roll. photos by April Pulley Sayre. 40p. further reading. websites. S. & S./Beach Lane. Jan. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781481420648.
K-Gr 2 –This first-rate book highlights the beauty and wonder of rain—a seemingly commonplace occurrence—and shows its effects upon the rest of the natural world. In general but lyrical terms, the work explains what raindrops do (“Raindrops settle. They slip. They dot.”). The text is accompanied by scenes from a forest rainforest (drops clinging to flowers or spider webs, insects and birds dealing with the downpour). Sayre has created a poetic atmosphere, using rhyming words (“Raindrop spangles/mark angles.”), and her vibrant, close-up photographs, which effectively complement the narrative and will engage children and adults alike. The last two spread, titled “A Splash of Science,” offer information on the three forms of water (ice, liquid water, and water vapor) and their characteristics. This attractive work is also ideal for read-alouds and an easy entry for students delving into nonfiction reading, especially in poetry or science units. This excellent title will transform how readers think about rain.
Sidman, Joyce. Winter Bees & Other Poems of the Cold. illus. by Rick Allen. 32p. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Nov. 2014. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780547906508.
K-Gr 4 –The 12 selections in this collection offer a winter wonderland of deftly crafted poetry, fascinating science facts, an amazingly rich vocabulary, and stunning illustrations. In the title poem, the bees are lyrically described, ”Born with eyelash legs/and tinsel wings/we are nothing on our own./Together, we are One….Deep in the winter hive,/we burn like a golden sun.” In “Big Brown Moose,” the animal humorously chants, “I’m a big brown moose,/I’m a rascally moose,/I’m a moose with a tough shaggy hide…” Science facts about the animals’ lives in harsh winter climates appear in sidebars on each spread. Sidman explores the safe places that allow for survival, such as in the underwater beaver lodge, “In the dim oval room,/they groom, snack, kiss;/strong brown bullets that dive/in the under-ice world.” The poet also includes the role of plant species in the process, such as the skunk cabbage that signals spring’s arrival as the first plant to sprout through the snow and its importance as it attracts insect pollinators. Readers come to understand that the seemingly barren winter is actually teaming with the hidden activity of plant and animal life. Allen’s intricately detailed, hand-colored, linoleum prints jump off the page, wrap around the words, and breathe life into the foxes, voles, swans, wolves, and more. This combination provides a magnificent celebration of winter that delights and informs. A comprehensive glossary of specialized words is included. Douglas Florian’s Winter Eyes (Greenwillow, 1999), Barbara Rogasky’s Winter Poems (Scholastic, 1995), and Anna Grossnickle Hines’s Winter Lights (Greenwillow, 1995) also celebrate the season but cover a wide range of events. Winter Bees distinguishes itself with a focus on the science of animal survival, coupled with superlative illustrations. Readers young and old will enjoy this winter journey and marvel at the wonders of nature.–
Weatherford, Carole Boston. Leontyne Price: Voice of a Century. illus. by Raul Colón. 40p. Random/Knopf. Dec. 2014. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780375856068; lib. ed. $20.99. ebk. $10.99. ISBN 9780385392464.
Gr 2-5 – Weatherford continues to showcase groundbreaking African Americans often overlooked by history books and popular culture. World-famous opera singer Leontyne Price gets her due in this luscious picture book biography. Price’s talent and perseverance enabled her to follow in the footsteps of singer Marian Anderson and become a celebrated soprano whose wondrous voice rang through the Metropolitan Opera House in her iconic Aida role and on Broadway as a lead in Porgy and Bess. A true marriage of lyrical text and majestic illustrations, the book shines a much-needed spotlight on an important cultural figure. Colón’s earthy hues establish the tone of Price’s early years, set against the backdrop of her humble Mississippi upbringing and a childhood surrounded by supportive parents and gospel music. The watercolor and pencil drawings seem to vibrate off the page, especially in the form of rainbow-colored musical notes that often envelop the work’s subject. An author’s note includes more information on other singers for whom Price paved the way. While the exact audience for this book is hard to place, the emphasis on the performer’s predecessors (“The song of her soul soared on the breath of her ancestors.”) and mentions of segregation will tie this title into units on African American history and female pioneers. A gorgeous book in the ranks of the author’s I, Matthew Henson: Polar Explorer (Walker, 2007) and Becoming Billie Holliday (Boyds Mills, 2008). School Library Journal
Freedom Summer. (American Experience). 115 min. Dist. by PBS. 2014. $24.99. ISBN 9781627890229.
Gr 7 Up –Documentary filmmaker and MacArthur “Genius” Fellow Stanley Nelson brings viewers up close and personal with the events of 1964, when civic-minded (mostly) college students canvassed Mississippi, encouraging voter registration among the black population. The film covers the three goals of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee’s “Mississippi Summer Project”: to register blacks to vote, to teach black history and literature, and to send an integrated delegation to challenge the all-white delegation at the Democratic National Convention. There is also pointed coverage of the disappearance of civil rights workers James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner, whose fates are revealed about 75 minutes into the two-hour film. Nelson mixes historic footage and photographs with interviews of those who organized, participated in, campaigned for, and, in one case, opposed voter registration efforts. Nelson’s current-day interviews often juxtapose 70something participants’ wisdom with their starry-eyed and articulate younger selves from 50 years ago. Despite a few tough scenes of white police officers wielding batons and hate-filled comments, the film could be used with older middle school students for an initial foray into broad civil rights topics and with high school classes ready for a more complex examination of specific issues. Discussion questions and supplemental educational material is available in the teachers’ resources section at PBS.org. This valuable, compelling film will hold the attention of audiences and will attract viewers even outside the classroom.–
Geraldine Ferraro: Paving the Way. Dist. by the Video Project. 2014. p. 58.
The Roosevelts: An Intimate History. 14 hrs. Dist. by PBS. 2014. DVD $99.99. Blu-ray $129.99. ISBN 9781627890502.
Gr 9 Up –The political dynasty formed by Theodore, Franklin, and Eleanor Roosevelt changed the face and future of America, and this comprehensive biography, directed by Ken Burns, spans the years from Theodore’s birth in 1858 to Eleanor’s death in 1962. Using some familiar images but many more rarely seen photographs and film footage, Burns deploys his now well-known technique of close-ups of the archival material to paint intimate portraits of the three Roosevelts and the eras that they dominated. The seven episodes examine the complex human beings operating behind the politics. Born to wealth and comfort, each overcame early tragedies and disappointments to develop a life view based on their own courage and vision, resulting in lifelong and selfless public service. Although he obviously admires his subjects, Burns presents their flaws as parents, spouses, and political leaders. Theodore is depicted as a lover of war and an advocate of an imperial America. Franklin was slow in his renunciation of segregation, and he approved the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II and did little to help the Jews of Europe. The engaging commentary from historians—Doris Kearns Goodwin and David McCullough—and the narration and voice-overs by Paul Giametti as Teddy and Meryl Streep as Eleanor make this as engrossing to listen to as to watch. While the program’s length makes it difficult to use in the classroom, pertinent sections of the series will greatly enhance the study of the Gilded Age, the Great Depression, and World War II. Highly recommended for all school media collections.– Gr 9 Up –Filmmaker Donna Zaccaro, daughter of Geraldine Ferraro, has created an inspiring, uplifting biography of her mother, the first female vice president nominee. Zaccaro delves into the details of Ferraro’s early life and the struggles she faced growing up. Ferraro was named after an older brother who was killed in an automobile accident, and living in his shadow affected her deeply. Her father passed away when she was only eight, and the documentary recounts how she overcame adversity and poverty to succeed in politics and law, becoming a strong advocate for equal rights. Her message, in the words of her own mother, was “You can be whatever you want to be, as long as you work hard.” As a result, Ferraro helped to lay the groundwork for women in politics today. The film takes viewers back in time with historical footage interlaid with current interviews with many newsworthy figures, such as Secretary of State Madeline Albright, Hillary Rodham Clinton, President George H.W. Bush and First Lady Barbara Bush, among others. Ferraro’s life story is a testament to the power of hard work and perseverance. For the most part, this film is a tribute to Ferraro, though it also covers controversies during and after her campaign. Fast paced, informative, and captivating, this profile has just the right combination of interviews and historical footage to hold viewers’ attention throughout. (It originally aired on Showtime.)–
ANDERS, Lou. Frostborn. 7 CDs. 8:40 hrs. Listening Library. 2014. $45. ISBN 9780553395860. digital download.
Gr 3-7 –Karn was born to be the hauld, the lord of his family’s farm, but he would rather play the board game “Thrones and Bones” and travel the world. Thianna has always felt torn between two worlds as a half-human, half-frost giant and wishes she were a full frost giant. Karn’s uncle would do anything to steal Karn’s place as heir, and Thianna’s mother hides a dangerous secret from her people that could cost Thianna her life and place with the frost giants. As a result, Karn and Thianna are forced to flee as their enemies unite, and only their bravery can save them from wyvern-riding soldiers, a dragon, and the undead. The two will learn that sometimes you must embrace who you are to gain what you really want. Anders has created a believable and exciting world and an interesting board game, which is included on the last disk. Fabio Tassone turns in an impressive performance, giving each of the characters his or her own accent and personality. Fans of Vikings and action and adventure with a touch of fantasy will be drawn to this title.
Blakemore, Megan Frazer. The Spy Catchers of Maple Hill. 7 CDs. 8 hrs. Recorded Bks. 2014. $45. ISBN 9781490627595. Playaway, digital download.
Gr 4-6 –The year is 1953, and fifth grader Hazel Kaplansky is a girl in search of a mystery. When rumors begin flying that the Russians are operating a spy ring right in her small New England town, Hazel knows she is the girl for the case. She’s the smartest, most relentless person she knows, and she’s ready to put her surveillance skills to the test. Her number-one suspect is the mysterious Mr. Jones, the recently hired gravedigger in her parents’ cemetery. With the help of the new boy at school, Samuel, Hazel sets out to expose the truth. Narrator Meredith Orlow perfectly captures the spirit of this Cold War–era story, portraying neighbors turning against neighbors and whispers becoming rumors and lies. Orlow uses distinct voices for everyone, allowing each character’s unique personality to shine. The result is a twisting, turning period mystery featuring a dynamic heroine in search of answers during an unsettling time in American history.
GEORGE, Jean Craighead. Ice Whale. 4 CDs. 4:30 hrs. Recorded Bks. 2014. $46.75. ISBN 9781490630212. Playaway, digital download.
Gr 4-6 –This magnificent story begins with Toozak‚ a Yup’ik Eskimo boy in Alaska, staring at a whaling ship with a red, white, and blue flag. When Toozak unknowingly leads the Yankee ships to the whales’ feeding grounds, the animals are slaughtered. For this, the village shaman declares Toozak’s family cursed until one of them can save the life of Siku, a young ice whale or the whale saves them. The late George is wondrous when writing about the natural world, and narrator Christina Moore captures the emotional story in a strong, lyrical and imaginative way—told in two voices, whale and human. Moore’s distinctive narrative style helps capture the primal link humans share with nature. Expressive, thrilling, and, at times, sad, this is an exhilarating audiobook highlighting the interconnectedness of the Alaskan Native culture and the inhabitants of the Beaufort Sea. Real recordings of bowhead whales are used to render the whale speech, and it is delightful to hear actual whale clicks, whistles, and calls throughout the book.
Parenteau, Shirley. Ship of Dolls. 5 CDs. 5:20 hrs. Brilliance Audio. 2014. $24.99. ISBN 9781491502259.
Gr 3-7 –Lexie Lewis is a troubled 11-year-old girl whose life is in turmoil because of the death of her father and absence of her mother. Lexie’s mother prefers her new husband and carefree lifestyle to the responsibilities of motherhood, and she sends her daughter to live with her paternal grandparents in Portland, OR. Meanwhile, Lexie’s school class participates in a remarkable, little-known historical event, the 1926 Friendship Doll exchange with Japan, and Lexie encounters injustice when a condescending classmate steals her entry in the doll contest and wins a trip to San Francisco, where Lexie’s mother resides. Lexie desperately wants to be reunited with her mother, so she perseveres, realistically growing in maturity. Eventually, she realizes that love is more about steadfastness than glamour and constant excitement and that true friendship might come in the form of an annoying boy. Fascinating historical details about life in the 1920s, including travel by ship to pre-Golden Gate San Francisco, are seamlessly woven throughout the story. Kate Reinders’s narration is masterfully performed. This is a captivating tale that may motivate students to seek additional information about the 1920s and the Friendship Doll exchange, including viewing the online doll photographs and background details.
Fleming, Candace. The Family Romanov: Murder, Rebellion, and the Fall of Imperial Russia. 8 CDs. 9:23 hrs. Listening Library. 2014. $50. ISBN 9780553395303. digital download.
Gr 9 Up –Listeners need not have a background in Russian history to enjoy Fleming’s account of the dramatic rise and fall of the last Russian royal family. Kimberley Farr, along with a cast of voice actors, reads stories of the opulence in the palace and the destitution—ultimately leading to revolution—in the streets. Differing from most Russian history targeted for this age group (which often feature the Grand Duchess Anastasia as the key or only player), Fleming makes a great effort to go deeper. Addressing everything from the relationship between Alexandra and Rasputin to the vivid description of the sheltered lives of the Romanov children, Fleming’s expertly researched account is engaging. While targeted to young adults, this would hold great appeal to adults as well. Farr’s narration combined with Fleming’s brilliantly researched writing will surely provide sustenance for those seeking meaty, narrative nonfiction.
Pattou, Edith. Ghosting. 1 MP3-CD. 4:25 hrs. Brilliance Audio. 2014. $9.99. ISBN 9781491529638.
Gr 7 Up –After a failed family move to Colorado, Maxie has returned to the Midwestern town where she grew up. School begins on Monday, and she’s nervous about how she’ll fit in after having been away. When Emma, her former best friend, reluctantly invites her to a party, it sets in motion an evening full of self-discovery and mistakes in judgment that puts them on a collision course with tragedy. The story pulls listeners in, told in alternating voices and viewpoints by the two girls; friends Felix and Chloe; Brendan, Emma’s very angry and impulsive boyfriend; and Anil, a quiet, very smart son of two physicians. The tension ramps steadily upward, and the cast of characters expands to include a sad and possibly mentally ill boy living with his grandmother as well as the sheriff and Emma’s younger sister, Faith. This is a terrific audiobook, one that will resonate with teens, especially those who have had similar experiences. The large cast, which includes Kate Rudd, Kate Reinders, and Nick Podehl, is excellent. A great choice for both school and public libraries.–
Van Wagenen, Maya. Popular. 6 CDs. 6:45 hrs. Recorded Bks. 2014. $66.75. ISBN 9781490620978. Playaway, digital download.
Gr 7 Up –Though it entertains like fiction, this audiobook is a true story about a girl who conceived of an experiment in which she used a guide to popularity from the 1950s in hopes of escaping the bottom rung of the middle school social ladder. Each month, Van Wagenen chose a different chapter from Betty Cornell’s Teen-Age Popularity Guide to follow in her quest to become more popular. The story is hilarious, heartbreaking, and heart-warming. Her actions included changing her hair style regularly, wearing a skirt (unheard of in her school), using Vaseline around her eyes to simulate eye make-up, and sitting with different groups at lunch to try to make friends. She wore hat and gloves to church and pearls everywhere, as Cornell suggests, and even added a girdle and stockings to her wardrobe. Van Wagenen’s best friend wasn’t privy to the experiment and thought that Maya was going completely out of her mind. The teen experienced many surprises as a result of her experiment, especially the fact that her new outgoing attitude encouraged other wallflowers. In the end, Van Wagenen gains confidence and a sense of self-worth that will last a lifetime. Narrators Amber Faith and Lee Adams portray teens and adults with realism and personality.
Australian Playground. Various performers. CD. Approx. 27 min. Putumayo Kids. 2014. $14.98. ISBN unavail.
PreS-Gr 3 –This excellent album showcases the diversity of Australia’s music for children, featuring aboriginal folk, rock, blues, and Dixieland jazz styles. The many musicians give excellent performances on such instruments as guitar, ukulele, saxophone, drums, percussion, harmonica, brass, and didgeridoo. Several of the singers belt out their songs with strong Aussie accents. These mostly upbeat and fun songs include “Mango Rain” (Seaman Dan), “Mirri” (Garrangali, which means “descendants of the crocodile”), “Give Me a Home Among the Gumtrees” (Bob Brown), “Kangaroo (the Super Marsupial)” (Don Spencer), “The Road to Gundagai” (The Band of the South Australia Police), and “Waltzing Matilda” (Lazy Harry). One percent of sales will be contributed to the Australian Children’s Music Foundation. A lively addition to children’s world music collections.
The Bossy E. Performed by Mister G. CD. approx. 26 min. Coil Records. 2014. $15. ISBN unavail.
Gr K-5 –Mister G brings the funk with his first English language CD since 2011. With help from guests, such as Senegalese tama master Massamba Diop and musician Charles Neville of the Neville Brothers, Mister G makes his message about reading and creativity nonstop fun. Mixing a variety of beats and musical styles, Mister G highlights the jazz flute on “Love to Read” and sets “The Bossy E,” about the power of adding an “e” at the end of words, to a surf rock melody with great success. The subject matter of the 10 original songs covers everything from the joys of going to camp and the pain of being stuck grocery shopping rather than outside playing to Daddy snoring so loudly that no one can sleep. Public librarians will enjoy Mister G’s ode to summer reading in “Everything’s Free at the Library.” The inclusion of the then nine-year-old Mister G performing Chuck Berry’s “Maybelline” as the last song on the album is a nice demonstration that childhood dreams can come true. A solid addition to every collection.
Good Egg. Performed by Joanie Leeds and The Nightlights. CD. 43 min. Limbostar. 2014. $15. ISBN unavail.
PreS-Gr 5 –Leeds’s sixth album for children is packed with 15 original songs that include a variety of subjects, such as a child’s brother getting in trouble at school for a food fight, a visit to the pediatrician, and a dinosaur walking on the Upper West Side. Whether tackling rock, gospel, punk, pop, or rap, Leeds perfectly matches the musical style to the tone of the song. Smart lyrics elevate each so that they are not only relatable to children but also enjoyable to adults. Many parents will recognize either themselves or other adults in “Hipster in the Making,” while children who march to their own drum will appreciate “Confusing Costume,” about a child who prefers to dress as a president or scientist for Halloween and must be ready to answer the question “Who are you supposed to be?” With the ability to appeal to older children while still entertaining younger siblings and parents, this family album is a must-have for every collection.–Veronica De Fazio, Plainfield Public Library District, IL
Just Say Hi! Performed by Brady Rymer. CD. 38 min. Bumblin Bee Records. 2014. $13.98. ISBN unavail.
PreS-Gr 3 –Listeners of all ages will be hoppin’ and boppin’ to Rymer’s seventh album. This well-crafted, musically thoughtful album of original songs leads listeners into another world with stories of being brave when meeting someone new or having a crush on the ice cream girl. Toe-tappin’ rockabilly, funky New Orleans beats, cool reggae, and always-fun ragtime make for a well-rounded musical journey. If anyone in the family is feeling down, just play “Dance ’til I Drop” or “Gettin’ My Ya Ya’s Out.” The humorous “Pet Song” is sung from the perspective of the pet who is thankful for all of the nice things his owner does for him. “Light of Love” closes the album with an inspirational message of “shining your little light of love on anyone you meet.” The professional production quality and high level of musicianship make this a top-notch choice for any library. Adults may find themselves listening to this CD even when the kiddos are nowhere to be found. This album will be a huge hit.
Precious Child: Love Songs & Lullabies. Performed by Darryl Tookes & Joe Beck. CD. 36 min. MGP Records. 2014. $12.98. ISBN unavail.
PreS-Gr 2 –This gorgeous, sophisticated album, a partnership between singer Darryl Tookes and the late Grammy-nominated guitarist Joe Beck, was 17 years in the making, and well worth the wait. The combination of Tookes’s beautiful baritone, amazing arrangements, and tender lyrics makes this album completely unique to children’s music. Pop/jazz/gospel influences are evident as Tookes and Beck put their own spin on traditional songs, such as “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star,” Rock A Bye Baby,” and “Brahm’s Lullaby.” Original songs “Daddy’s Girl” and “Precious Child” will pull at every parent’s heartstrings. This must-have album is unlike anything else out there for families.
Raise Your Hand. The Not-Its! CD. 41 min. Little Loopy Records. 2014. $8.15. ISBN unavail.
K-Gr 5 –The Not-Its! turn out high-energy kindie rock/punk rock songs for the elementary-aged set. Their latest effort is filled with 15 songs and opens with the high-octane “Funniest Cat Video,” about an unsuccessful attempt to film a pet cat. Highlights include “Motorcycle Mom” (a rocking song about a mother who is the “Queen of Cool”), “Nose in a Book” (a driving tune celebrating a love for reading), “Flannel Jammies” (an anthem about being comfy at home), and “Hey 80s” (a folk rock acoustic tune filled with nostalgia for the 1980s). They change up musical tempos, four-part harmonies, and instrumentation to match the feeling and emotion expressed in each song. They consistently offer innovative points of view and topics, with precision and excellence. This fine, fresh addition to their body of work will be enjoyed by children of all ages (adults, too!).