Cronin, Doreen. Smick! illus. by Juana Medina. 40p. Viking. Feb. 2015. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780670785780.
PreS-Gr 1 –A pup named Smick, an ordinary stick, and one adorable chick form an unlikely trio. The first few pages introduce the pup while spare text lists commands for the canine. Next, a stick is introduced into the story line and serves as a tantalizing treat for the pooch. Smick is encouraged to act on his interest in chasing his new toy. “Go, Smick, go!” His ears twitch as the next word introduces the newest arrival: “Chick?” Initially, it appears that Smick and Chick are in a standoff until they realize that there is much joy to be found in their relationship; the final page features Smick and Chick in a moment of slobbery affection. “Sidekick…Sidechick…Side lick!” With only a smattering of words and thick dark outlined drawings on the white pages, Smick’s telling facial features accentuate his playful charm. Photographs of flower petals and rosemary tree sticks are combined with digital images to achieve an excellent effect. VERDICT This clever and appealing glimpse into the start of some delightful friendships is one doggone good time.
Dyckman, Ame. Wolfie the Bunny. illus. by Zachariah OHora. 40p. Little, Brown. Feb. 2015. Tr $17. ISBN 9780316226141. LC 2013034213.
PreS-Gr 1 –When the Bunny family finds a little bundle of joy—that happens to be a wolf—on their doorstep, they are smitten.Well, except for little Dot, who exclaims repeatedly, “He’s going to eat us all up!!” Even her friends agree, but Dot’s parents are captivated by the adorable baby—he’s a good eater, sleeper, and drooler, they note. As Wolfie grows, Dot’s worry is compounded with annoyance as he follows her everywhere in typical little brother–style. Having to go to the store for more carrots with Wolfie (who ate them all up!) makes Dot less than pleased, and she is on guard lest he tries to eat her. The fact that Wolfie is wearing an endearing bunny outfit does not make her feel better, but it does make the bear at the market think that Wolfie would make a yummy meal. Rather than run for safety, Dot terrifies the bear with tough talk of eating him up and saves Wolfie, who thanks her by pouncing on her with a big hug. The now-bonded siblings walk home hand in hand. The text is seamlessly integrated with the illustrations and uses various fonts to good effect. OHora’s acrylic paintings are the heart of this tale. They clearly show everyone’s feelings from fear to sadness to joy to anger to love and everything in between, and there are brilliant bits of humor and whimsy added to the mix. VERDICT A great book for one-on-one sharing that’s also sure to be a storytime hit.
Lawson, JonArno. Sidewalk Flowers. illus. by Sydney Smith. 32p. House of Anansi/Groundwood. Mar. 2015. Tr $16.95. ISBN 9781554984312.
K-Gr 3 –An emotionally moving, visually delightful ode to the simple powers of observation and empathy. A young girl and her father walk home from the grocery store through busy city streets in this wordless picture book. Along the way, Dad is preoccupied—talking on his cell phone, moving with purpose, eyes forward—while his daughter, a bright spot of red in a mostly black-and-white world, gazes with curiosity at the sights around her. In graphic novel–style panels, readers see what she sees: colorful weeds and wildflowers springing up from cracks in the pavement. She begins to collect these “sidewalk flowers” as they make their way past shops, across bustling avenues, and through a city park. Halfway through their journey, the little girl surreptitiously begins giving pieces of her bouquet away: a dandelion and some daffodils to a dead bird on a pathway; a sprig of lilac to an older man sleeping on a bench; daisies in the hair of her mother and siblings. With each not-so-random act of kindness, the scenes fill with more and more color, until the pen-and-ink drawings are awash in watercolor, her world now fully alive and vibrant. With pitch-perfect visual pacing, the narrative unfolds slowly, matched by the protagonist’s own leisurely appreciation of her environment. Smith expertly varies perspective, switching from bird’s-eye view to tightly focused close-ups. The panel format is used exquisitely; the individual choices are purposeful, and the spaces between panels effectively move the story. VERDICT This is a book to savor slowly and then revisit again and again. School Library Journal
Paschkis, Julie. P. Zonka Lays an Egg. illus. by Julie Paschkis. 32p. Peachtree. Mar. 2015. Tr $16.95. ISBN 9781561458196. LC 2014006507.
K-Gr 3 –While other hens lay eggs regularly and the rooster crows encouragement, P. Zonka wanders through the farmyard observing the world around her. The hen marvels at the grass and sky and urges her friends to appreciate the flowers. After they persuade her to try to lay an egg, she produces a spectacular multicolored creation, incorporating patterns that she has seen and imagined. The artistic chicken’s name is no accident. An author’s note explains that a pysanka is a Ukrainian decorated egg. Vibrant watercolor illustrations bring to mind folk-art decor and Chagall paintings. They burst from the pages to draw viewers in to share P. Zonka’s delight with the colors and patterns of her world. The oversize format lends itself to read-aloud participation with follow-up decoration of real or paper eggs. Although Paschkis does not mention the tie of pysanka to Easter, those who want to make the connection to another culture’s Easter egg painting could also use Katherine Milhous’s The Egg Tree, the 1951 Caldecott winner. VERDICT A first-rate selection for most collections.
Pennypacker, Sara. Meet the Dullards. illus. by Daniel Salmieri. 32p. HarperCollins/Balzer & Bray. Mar. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780062198563. LC 2013037321.
K-Gr 2 –In this tongue-in-cheek tale, Mr. and Mrs. Dullard take great pride in being humdrum. Family activities include watching paint dry and savoring vanilla ice cream (“Hold the cones. And extract the vanilla”). The Dullards are horrified at exclamation marks, flowered wallpaper, and sociable neighbors bearing gifts of applesauce cake. They try their best to shelter their children from such colorful influences. Away from their parents’ watchful gaze, however, Salmieri’s colored-pencil illustrations humorously show Blanda, Borely, and Little Dud breaking out of their mild molds by juggling paintbrushes, climbing on clotheslines, and befriending puppies. There are also plenty of sight gags to chuckle at, from the children gathered around an unplugged, blank television screen to piles of plain cardboard boxes full of “gray shirts.” VERDICT This title follows in the quirky tradition of Harry Allard’s “The Stupids” books (Houghton), with clever wordplay and subversive fun that will appeal to children everywhere.
Pinkney, Jerry. The Grasshopper and the Ants. illus. by Jerry Pinkney. 40p. Little, Brown. Apr. 2015. Tr $18. ISBN 9780316400817. LC 2013042074.
PreS-Gr 2 –Grasshopper arrives on the cover with bass drum and cymbals on his back, concertina between his midlegs, and forelegs strumming his banjo. “Why work so hard?” he sings to some busy ants. “It’s spring and time to go fishing.” But the ants, gathering food for winter, have no time to relax. In summer, the ants decline Grasshopper’s invitation for a leafy picnic and some music, and his fall solicitation to “come dance and sing!” in the “playground of leaves” finds no takers. When snowflakes fall, Grasshopper builds a “snow-hopper,” then sits freezing with forelegs and midlegs crossed over vest-covered abdomen, while the ants can be seen knitting, stoking the fire, and caring for their young in a cozy tree trunk home. Eventually invited inside by the Ant Queen, fun-loving Grasshopper gladly shares his musical talents with the amiable colony, then sits down to songs, tea, and cookies with the queen. Full-page vivid watercolor paintings bustling with natural activity and fanciful detail flow through the hues of the seasons, ending in the spare whiteness of winter. Fine line pencil-drawn strings and frets on his banjo, intricate snowflake shapes, the lace of a dragonfly’s wings, and the colorful flow of musical bars all demonstrate Pinkney’s painstaking concern with detail. So does the way a small bit of leafy scenery on the lower front flyleaf blends perfectly into the spring woodland greenery on the endpapers. VERDICT A lively and engaging version of a favorite Aesop fable.
Waber, Bernard. Ask Me. illus. by Suzy Lee. 40p. Houghton Harcourt. July 2015. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780547733944. LC 2014009668.
PreS-Gr 2 –A vivacious child and her father share an early autumn stroll. “Ask me what I like,” she says. Dad’s dutiful answer is printed in purple: “What do you like?” Energetically she answers with a list. Sometimes dad presses for details, “Geese in the sky? Or geese in the water?” She answers, “I like geese in the sky. No, in the water. I like both. Ask me what else I like,” she demands, seeing something new she wants to tell him about. So they proceed through their day, celebrating the brief but precious time when children are gaining a sense of self and exploring the power that comes with it. The patience required to converse with a small person who wants to dictate every part of the interaction is sure to be familiar to parents, but the poetic text rises above the mundane and captures the beauty, energy, and innocence of these conversations and holds them up for readers to appreciate without becoming saccharine or trite. Lee’s lively, colored-pencil drawings are a perfect match to the text. The line drawings are similar in style to those in Wave (2008) and Shadow (2010, both Chronicle), but Lee expands from the single-color palette she employed in those titles to a full spectrum of bright autumn colors. VERDICT A first choice for libraries, especially those looking to expand their selection of father-as-caregiver stories.
Harrold, A.F. The Imaginary. illus. by Emily Gravett. 240p. Bloomsbury. Mar. 2015. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780802738110.
Gr 4-7 –This inventive mix of humor and suspense starts with the amusing appearance of Amanda’s imaginary friend, Rudger. Their summer of make-believe adventures quickly darkens, though, when Mr. Bunting shows up. He’s a grown-up who can not only see “Imaginaries” like Rudger, but also eats them to prolong his own life. After a narrow escape from Bunting and his creepy sidekick, a girl who’s also an Imaginary, the narrative shifts from Amanda to Rudger. The boy discovers a secret library full of other imaginary people and creatures, then finds his way back to Amanda for a final confrontation with Bunting. The premise of the Imaginaries is unveiled nicely, with a plot that’s never predictable. The author is equally adept at depicting lighthearted characterizations and scenes that are truly scary. Gravett’s illustrations provide excellent support for the story, ranging from black-and-white spot art to full-page images, along with several full-color spreads. Some are fun, while others are chilling, such as the series of images that uses alternating all-black pages to lead into a harrowing portrait of the evil Imaginary girl, staring right at Amanda as she tries to hide. The eerie moments never overwhelm the larger story, though, and questions about the power and limits of imagination provide some food for thought amid the action. VERDICT A great choice for readers who like fantastic tales with a dose of true scariness.
Jones, Kelly. Unusual Chickens for the Exceptional Poultry Farmer. illus. by Katie Kath. 224p. Knopf. May 2015. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780385755528; lib. ed. $19.99. ISBN 9780385755535; ebk. ISBN 9780385755542. LC 2013050736.
Gr 4-6 –Sophie Brown is new to farm life, new to being one of the only “brown people” in town (the others being her mother and Gregory, the mailman), and definitely new to caring for chickens—and these are some challenging chickens. To help herself adjust to life away from Los Angeles and her extended family, she writes letters to her great-uncle Jim and her beloved Abuelita, both recently deceased, and embarks on a correspondence course in poultry care with the mysterious Agnes of Redwood Farm Supply. Agnes’s poorly typed responses assure Sophie that the chickens that keep turning up on the farm (including Henrietta, a small white hen with a permanent unibrow of fury) belonged to her great-uncle, from whom Sophie’s father inherited the farm and who implores her to keep the chickens safe—and to be careful. But how will she protect chickens that are capable of levitating their own coop, becoming invisible, and turning enemies to stone? And why does the town’s resident chicken expert, Ms. Griegson, seem intent on stealing Sophie’s brood? Told in letters, quizzes, newspaper clippings, and delicious ink drawings reminiscent of Quentin Blake, this middle grade epistolary novel has a little magic and a lot of warm family humor. Jones delivers a dynamic Latina protagonist in Sophie, who describes her experiences in satisfying detail: the discomfort of facing microaggressions based on her heritage (such as when the town librarian assumes that she and her family are migrant workers); love and concern for her parents, both struggling to find and keep work; and willingness to learn and grow despite typical tween self-consciousness. VERDICT Readers will cheer for Sophie and clamor for more of those amazing chickens. Exceptional, indeed.
Perkins, Mitali. Tiger Boy. illus. by Jamie Hogan. 144p. ebook available. Charlesbridge. Apr. 2015. Tr $14.95. ISBN 9781580896603. LC 2013049028.
Gr 3-6 –Set in the lush Sundarbans natural region of Bengal, this quiet, gripping tale emphasizes the deep but often fragile connection that exists between humans and nature. Passing exams will earn young Neel a much-coveted scholarship for a private boarding school in Kolkata, and the boy’s family has their dreams pinned on him, feeling that a good education will ensure him a better quality of life. But Neel is too attached to the “golpata branches swaying in the monsoon rains…the evening smell of jasmine flowers…mingling with green chilies and fresh ilish fish simmering in mustard-seed oil” to ever consider leaving his home. He studies only halfheartedly for his tests, incurring the wrath of his serious headmaster. When a female tiger cub escapes from a neighboring animal reserve, Neel is determined to find her before she’s snagged by greedy poachers led by Mr. Gupta, a corrupt local businessman. Gupta employs several of the villagers, including Neel’s father, tempting them with additional income if they assist in the illegal effort. Informed by real-life situations in the region, Perkins avoids black-and-white characterizations and compassionately illustrates how dire circumstances affect a person’s choices. Young readers will revel in the vivid action and suspense surrounding Neel and his sister Rupa’s quest to locate the tiger cub. Adults will likely praise the novel’s simple and clear narrative, which belies its complexity around issues related to climate change, poor economic conditions, class structure, and gender discrimination. VERDICT Sure to encourage vital conversations among children, this is a fine addition to libraries and classrooms seeking to diversify collections.
CARhodes, Jewell Parker. Bayou Magic. 256p. ebook available. Little, Brown. May 2015. Tr $17. ISBN 9780316224840.
Gr 3-6 –Maddy lives with her family in New Orleans. At almost 10, she is the youngest of five girls, and this summer it will be her turn to stay with her grandmother in the bayou. Apprehensive about the visit—her sisters say Grandmère is a witch, whose house has no electricity or indoor plumbing—Maddy is also excited to discover Bon Temps. Soon, Grandmère teaches Maddy about healing herbs and their family history. When Maddy finds that she can call fireflies and see mermaids, Grandmère tells her the story of Mami Wata, the water spirit who accompanied their slave ancestors from Africa. Maddy soon comes to love the wetlands and the residents of Bon Temps, human and otherwise. So when the Gulf oil spill threatens the town, it is Maddy who must use her magic to save her new home. Some sensitive subject matter may be disturbing to younger readers—Maddy’s friend has an alcoholic father who inadvertently hurts him and then later dies in the explosion. Maddy is a brave and hopeful heroine, and the descriptions of the bayou are almost as magical as her legacy. VERDICT Hand this to middle grade readers who enjoy family stories, history, and a dose of fanciful magic.
Scanlon, Liz Garton. The Great Good Summer. 224p. S. & S./Beach Lane. May 2015. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781481411479. LC 2014014988.
Gr 3-6 –Ivy and Paul are both having a crummy summer in Loomer, TX. Ivy’s mama hasn’t been herself since the spring, when wildfires destroyed everything, including the church where Mama’s daddy was the preacher. Now, Mama’s gone off with Hallelujah Dave to the Great Good Bible Church of Panhandle Florida to “get some of the sadness out of her system” and left Ivy and her father to fend for themselves. Meanwhile, Paul is sad because NASA’s space shuttle program is being shut down and now he will never be able to become an astronaut. Paul makes Ivy nervous and she never quite knows what to say to him. The two become an unlikely pair when they hatch a plan to find Mama and say goodbye to the space shuttle. So many things go wrong along the way, but these middle schoolers keep the faith, even when their plan begins to unravel. This engaging debut novel hooks readers from beginning to end. VERDICT This tender and funny story of a strong-willed young girl is reminiscent of Rita Williams-Garcia’s One Crazy Summer (HarperCollins, 2010) and Kate DiCamillo’s Because of Winn-Dixie (Candlewick, 2000).
Starmer, Aaron. The Whisper. 368p. (The Riverman Trilogy: Bk. 2). Farrar. Mar. 2015. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780374363116; ebk. $9.99. ISBN 9780374363123.
Gr 6-9 –In this second part of the trilogy, Aquavania, a complex web of worlds, is beset by destruction. The Riverman, also known as the Whisper, is destroying worlds by sucking the souls of their creators when they ask for “an end to it all,” tired of their own creations and unable to readapt to the real world. When their souls are captured by the Whisper, the kids go missing in the real, or “solid,” world. Readers of the first book will enjoy the layers of history of Aquavania, revealed through creation stories that are interpersed between Alistair’s quest to find Fiona and battle the Whisper. Meanwhile, newcomers to the series won’t be too far behind (there’s plenty of exposition woven skillfully through the first few chapters). Readers will savor the (at times) gruesome encounters with monsters, and the unraveling mystery of who Alistair and Fiona really are. The trilogy explores the dark nature of lies—written, told, and enacted—and the surprising pain of truth. Jealousy, revenge, opportunism, and their consequences, also loom large in the lives of characters, be they swimmers (those able to enter and exit portals into different worlds), daydreamers (those who create the worlds), figments (those beings created by the daydreamers), or ciphers (terrifying creatures molded by the Whisper to destroy). Penning something of a cautionary tale, Starmer has constructed a multitude of worlds here, all tied to power of creation, and the boredom that ultimate power ultimately bestows. VERDICT Ending with a staggering twist, readers adept at navigating this atemporal telling will clamor to get their hands on book three.
Beaufrand, M.J. The Rise and Fall of the Gallivanters. 304p. ebook available. Abrams/Amulet. May 2015. Tr $16.95. ISBN 9781419714955. LC 2014013556.
Gr 9 Up –It’s the early 1980s in Portland, OR, and girls are disappearing without a trace. Punk protagonist Noah believes that he knows who’s to blame. In what seems to be threads of magical realism, he discovers a mysterious David Bowie look-alike, Ziggie, who helps him uncover and work to defeat the Marr, a “toxic darkness” that threatens the girls in the city as well as his best friend Evan. Only music seems to stop the Marr, and Noah hopes that by playing at the battle of the bands being held in the sinister PfefferBrau Haus, he may be able to save his friend. As Noah delves deeper into his memories of his abusive father, his friendship with Evan, and his relationship with the girls in his band, the Gallivanters, he uncovers answers he wasn’t expecting. These answers include the location of the missing girls, the secret to his own psychological mysteries, what is really wrong with Evan, and maybe the key that will help him deal with it all. This engaging story of friendship, mystery, music, and romance illuminates the vivid life of a complex teen. Noah’s voice is authentic and draws readers into the narrative and its specific time and place as he copes with abuse, mental illness, and the loss of a close friend. Readers experience and discover along with Noah, and, after a roller coaster of emotions, are ultimately left with hope. VERDICT A sound addition to any YA collection.
Buckley, Michael. Undertow. 384p. Houghton Harcourt. May 2015. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9780544348257; ebk. ISBN 9780544348622.
Gr 8 Up –In his first YA novel, Buckley delivers a solidly entertaining adventure with the perfect amount of romance and danger. Lyric Walker used to be a “wild thing.” At 14, she and her friends ruled the dilapidated beach community of Coney Island in Brooklyn, NY. Then one night, Lyric witnesses the arrival of the Alpha, strange creatures from the depths of the ocean, and learns a terrible secret her family has been keeping from her. Three years later, Coney Island is a police state, with the Alpha living in a containment camp on the beach, and furious protestors roam the streets. When six Alpha teenagers are forcibly integrated into the public high school, Lyric’s complicated web of hidden truths threatens to unravel. In Lyric, Buckley has created a phenomenal new heroine. Smart and snarky, with rough edges and killer fashion sense, Lyric is a girl to be celebrated. Sharp political commentary and strong parallels to the treatment of minorities in the U.S. ground the world in reality, while the well-rounded and ethnically diverse supporting cast will cause readers to root for them. The climax feels a bit rushed, as revelations and plot developments quickly pile up, but the breathtaking action and cliff-hanger conclusion will leave teens desperate for more. VERDICT Give this one to fans of Suzanne Collins’s “The Hunger Games” trilogy (Scholastic) searching for the next big thing.
Hautman, Pete. Eden West. 320p. Candlewick. Apr. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780763674182; ebk. ISBN 9780763676902.
Gr 10 Up– Since he was five years old, Jacob has lived inside the Nodd, 12 square miles of Montana land that he works on along with other members of the Grace. Jacob has been taught that the world is wicked and that the Grace will return to Heaven on an ark that the Prophet Zerachiel will be sending shortly—it is The Truth. Jacob’s world begins to turn upside down with the arrival of several beings. Tobias’s family travels from Colorado to join the Grace—and yet Tobias won’t stop questioning and pushing against The Truth. During his patrols along the Grace’s border, Jacob meets Lynna, a worldly girl with whom he should not interact—but he cannot help but be attracted to her. The third newcomer, a lone wolf, begins to slowly kill off the sheep and threaten the well-being of all the Grace. Jacob’s faith is tested as he struggles to reconcile what he knows to be The Truth and what is happening around him. Hautman delivers a captivating character study, studiously demonstrating the reasons why some people are drawn into cults and quietly revealing how unquestioned power turns rotten. Jacob is a realistic and relatable protagonist and his complex relationships with those around him—and himself—ring true. Eden West is both quiet and loud, understanding and judging, and absolutely engrossing. Readers will be quick to judge the Grace but may find themselves looking inward to their own beliefs as they move through the story. VERDICT A heartbreaking, uplifting, and fantastic read.
Hogan, Edward. The Messengers. 224p. Candlewick. May 2015. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780763671129; ebk. ISBN 9780763676988. LC 2014939364.
Gr 9 Up –After her older brother almost kills someone in a bar fight and disappears, Frances, a promising young artist, starts seeing strange things in her drawings. They materialize out of nowhere after she blacks out. She can’t figure out why these images are hazy and imprecise—until she puts one of them under a scanner, and learns with the help of her mentor Peter, another “messenger,” that each one reveals where and when someone is going to die. Peter’s convinced that they’re just a couple of killers, but Frances might have a plan to change all that, using their premonitions to save lives rather than end them, and maybe find her brother, presumed dead, in the process. But do they have the power, or the right, to change fate? That’s only one of the weighty questions explored in this clever page-turner. VERDICT A mash-up of philosophy, mystery, and horror, this haunting YA novel takes on all of these subjects with satisfying results.
McCarthy, Cori. Breaking Sky. 416p. Sourcebooks Fire. Mar. 2015. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781492601418; ebk. $9.99. ISBN 9781492601425.
Gr 9 Up –The year is 2048. Teenager Chase, better known by her call sign, Nyx, is a pilot in training for the American military’s topmost secret project. Back in 2020, American pilots were massacred in an airfight by drones—dictator Ri Xiong Di’s most effective weapon. The entire world has endured a second Cold War ever since. No other countries are allowed to aid the U.S. at all, and the people are suffering. The military is secretly testing two new plane prototypes that might outrun the drones. However, their pilots must be young and strong enough to withstand the tremendous force on the human body that occurs when traveling at high speeds. In order to get funding for more prototypes, Nyx and her comrades must prove the worth of the project. On a training mission, Nyx spots a third prototype that she didn’t know existed. In her haste to discover the identity of its pilot and country, Nyx endangers the entire project and many lives as well. But, if she can start dismantling the wall she’s built around herself since her difficult childhood, she might be able to trust someone, fall in love, and save the day. Similar to the S.J. Kincaid’s “Insignia” series (HarperCollins), this novel distinguishes itself. The dialogue is authentic, and the characters are nuanced. Chase has determination and resolve, even in the face of her fears. The description of her flights is breathtakingly realistic. VERDICT Strong characterizations, action, adventure, and emotion combine to produce a sci-fi novel that is more than just the sum of its parts.
Bolden, Tonya. Capital Days: Michael Shiner’s Journal and the Growth of Our Nation’s Capital. 96p. chron. glossary. index. maps. notes. photos. reprods. Abrams. 2015. RTE $21.95. ISBN 9781419707339. LC 2014024668.
Gr 4-6 –This well-designed read details the story of Michael Shiner (1805–80), a slave in 19th-century America who eventually gained his freedom and who left a diary behind detailing an account of his life. Born into slavery in Maryland, Shiner came to Washington, DC as a child, where he was later leased by his owner Thomas Howard to the Navy Ship Yard. Shiner eventually purchased his freedom, started a family, and learned to read and write—skills that would allow him to start writing his journal. Bolden tracks Shiner’s life, giving readers a unique view into the history of America’s capital. Shiner wrote about major historical events, such as the burning of Washington, DC in 1814, as well more personal anecdotes that shed light on attitudes of the day, such as facing aggression from those who erroneously assumed that he was a runaway slave. Artifacts and documents from the time period are mixed in as well, and each chapter ends with a time line, effectively putting Shiner’s life into context. VERDICT Well written and impeccably researched, this excellent title offers a uniquely personal look at history. A must-have.
Cooney, Robert P.J., Jr. Remembering Inez: The Last Campaign of Inez Milholland, Suffrage Martyr. 90p. American Graphic. Mar. 2015. pap. $14.95. ISBN 9780977009527. LC 201493850.
Gr 9 Up –When a friend spoke at suffragist Inez Milholland’s funeral in 1916, she said that Inez “is one around whom legends will grow up.” In her time, certainly, Milholland was a celebrity. Young, beautiful, rich, and articulate, she was a passionate and active proponent of women’s suffrage. Somehow, her name is lesser known compared with her predecessors, such as Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony, and her contemporary Alice Paul. Even though Milholland died when she was 30, her contributions to the cause of women’s suffrage are immeasurable. This slim volume consists largely of articles, speeches, and resolutions from issues of the magazine The Suffragist, all of which concern Milholland’s background, character, beliefs, and work. The excerpts are accessible to modern-day readers, being largely devoid of the stiff, formal language common in writings of the day. Cooney’s introduction provides ballast to the laudatory articles, pointing out aspects of Milholland’s life that were controversial, especially her advocacy of socialism and free love. In addition, Cooney describes in brief the political clime of the nation, couching Milholland’s attitudes and actions in a larger historical context. The illustrations consist of black-and-white archival photos. The well-curated images depict suffragist promotional materials of the day and Milholland and other women participating in protests. VERDICT This is a vivid, engaging account of a young woman who filled her short life with activity and meaning. Perhaps this book will bring Milholland’s life and works back into the spotlight.
Grimm, The Brothers. Little Red Riding Hood. tr. from German by Anthea Bell. illus. by Sybille Schenker. 52p. Minedition. 2014. Tr $29.99. ISBN 9789888240791.
K-Gr 4 –An eloquent narrative, stunning artwork, and exquisite bookmaking grace the Grimm Brothers’ classic tale. Set against bold-hued backdrops, Schenker’s characters are defined by thick black lines, color blocks, and elegant patterns. Throughout, intricate die-cut folios utilize finely wrought detail and color contrasts to enhance the images before and after the page is turned. For example, Little Red Cap’s first meeting with the wolf is presented on a burgundy backdrop, the characters viewed through—and softened by—the trunks of die-cut burgundy trees; the next spread employs the same die-cut page but shifts the color scheme to reveal a starker-seeming forest fashioned from white with black-ink touches and a much-more ominous tone. Other die-cuts evoke sunbeams dancing through daintily latticed leaves as the girl gathers flowers, the delicate lace of the curtains obscuring Grandmother’s bed (and the toothy imposter hidden within), and the ultimate “All the better to eat you with” moment (a large-size black silhouette of the wolf’s gaping jaws) is affecting but not overwhelming. VERDICT The clever way that visual effects are used and reused—shifting and redefining mood and meaning—provides an understated yet cinematic reading experience. A lovely addition to fairy and folktale collections. School Library Journal
Janeczko, Paul B. The Death of the Hat: A Brief History of Poetry in 50 Objects. illus. by Chris Raschka. 80p. Candlewick. Mar. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780763669638. LC 2013957308.
Gr 3 Up –Poet and anthologist Janeczko has joined with illustrator Raschka to create their fourth anthology of poetry for young people. The 50 selections are arranged in nine sections, each representing a different time period, from the early Middle Ages to the present day. The common thread is objects. The title poem discusses the demise of hat wearing in our society, while others take on such varied objects as ships, shadows, candles, stars, trees, cats and even stamp albums and manhole covers. Included are familiar offerings (e.g., Emily Dickinson’s “The Railway Train,” Robert Louis Stevenson’s “My Shadow,” and Robert Burns’s “A Red, Red Rose”), as well some lesser known works. An in-depth introduction provides welcome context and explains how the examples were chosen from Janeczko’s personal collection of more than 1,500 books. Although the poems are mostly representative of Western literature, readers will find some examples of Eastern poetry. Women are also represented, such as Naomi Shihab Nye, Christina Rossetti, and Sylvia Plath. Raschka’s lively, vibrant watercolors frame the text, enhancing and imbuing the poems with life. VERDICT This award-winning pair have once again delivered a book to be celebrated. Though the subject matter makes this most appropriate for younger readers, this anthology may also find a home in middle and high school libraries and classrooms. An excellent addition to any collection.
London, Jonathan. Hippos Are Huge! illus. by Matthew Trueman. 32p. index. Candlewick. Mar. 2015. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780763665920. LC 2014944797.
PreS-Gr 2 –With gorgeous mixed-media illustrations and accessible, engaging language, this picture book will spur interest in the world of hippos. Trueman’s vivid images take advantage of every inch of available space to convey the size of these creatures, and the “Isn’t this cool?” tone of London’s text keeps readers hooked. Two types of text appear on each page: larger print encompasses the main narrative full of fascinating facts (ideal for reading aloud), while smaller print presents drier statistics and additional facts of interest. With a focus on high-interest details—such as a spread featuring two bull hippos flinging dung at each other in warning—this title stands out. VERDICT A solid nonfiction read-aloud.
Page, Robin. A Chicken Followed Me Home!: Questions and Answers About a Familiar Fowl! illus. by Robin Page. 40p. diag. ebook available. further reading. websites. S. & S./Beach Lane. May 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781481410281. LC 2013041955.
PreS-Gr 2 –With a touch of humor, this well-designed title presents everything you always wanted to know about chickens—but didn’t know to ask. The book starts with an unnamed narrator who’s been followed home by a fowl, asking, “What do I do now?” After the hen eventually lays and hatches eggs and the chicks mature into adult hens, the child hopes that the creatures will “follow someone else home.” Along the way, readers are introduced to information on anatomy, care, and life cycle. A question begins each topic (“Will my chicken lay eggs?”) with keywords highlighted with larger, bolder type. Details are labeled or given small call-out illustrations. Digitally produced, the images are well integrated with the text and use highly textured shapes. Bright, solid color backgrounds alternate with white ones. Readers will find tons of fun and well-presented material; one page displays 260 eggs, the average number a hen lays in a year. A concluding spread of “More Chicken Questions” gives further detail and a list of more resources. VERDICT A charming addition to animal collections. Expect newly hatched domestic fowl enthusiasts to crow over this one.
Rosen, Michael J. The Maine Coon’s Haiku. illus. by Lee White. 56p. Candlewick. Mar. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780763664923. LC 2013957344.
Gr 1-5 –The brevity and poignancy of the haiku format perfectly capture the feline essence in this book of verse. Each spread defines an individual breed, some familiar and others less so, with a deft haiku and an inviting illustration about a brief moment. “American Shorthair” (“outside the old store/more strays sun as the screen door/bangs—bangs shut, again”) depicts a slow, warm scene evoking senses of touch, sight, and sound, while “Turkish Angora” (“whooshing down the hall:/Angora, then her all-white/dust devil of hair”) creates the feeling of speed and energy, with an image of a blur of white cat leaving fur balls in her wake. With rich colors and detailed, scratchy lines, each illustration uses clever page layouts and line work to convey movement or stillness as the featured cats dictate. Broken into alternating sections of “Inside” and “Outside,” the book evokes the mood of the indecisive cat who always wants in—and, just as quickly—back out again. The volume concludes with back matter that provides a little more concrete information about each breed. Fans of the author’s other collections, The Cuckoo’s Haiku: And Other Birding Poems (2009) and The Hound Dog’s Haiku: And Other Poems for Dog Lovers (2011, both Candlewick), will lap this one right up. VERDICT This attractive, delightful volume will enchant cat lovers and is a great selection for those who want to inject some life into their poetry collections.
Rosenthal, Betsy R. An Ambush of Tigers: A Wild Gathering of Collective Nouns. illus. by Jago. 32p. glossary. illus. Millbrook. Apr. 2015. Tr $19.99. ISBN 9781467714648. LC 2014009383.
K-Gr 3 –Collective noun books have been multiplying this past decade, and this compendium of poetry stands out for its artistry and creativity. Each collective noun couplet whimsically describes a group of animals: “Would a labor of moles/wear polka-dot ties/when it goes to work/for a business of flies?” The laugh-out-loud illustrations depict the events described, often serving as strong mnemonic devices: a “rumba of snakes” dances; a “bouquet of pheasants” sprout from a vase; the ambush of tigers creep across the grass, tails curled high in the air, sights set on the horizon; and a “bed of oysters” literally rest on a bed, snoozing away. The writing is pithy, with an iambic thrum that make memorization easy. VERDICT This crash course in juxtaposition and imagination should be celebrated with a peal of bells. An inspiring addition to any poetry collection.
Tavares, Matt. Growing Up Pedro. illus. by Matt Tavares. 40p. bibliog. chart. illus. notes. Candlewick. Feb. 2015. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780763668242. LC 2014944675.
Gr 2-4 –Tavares is no stranger to the baseball picture book biography genre. He has several examples under his belt: There Goes Ted Williams: The Greatest Hitter Who Ever Lived (2012) and Becoming Babe Ruth (2013, both Candlewick). With his latest, Tavares looks to a more recent time and player, Cy Young Award winner and World Series champion Pedro Martinez. Tavares begins in the Dominican Republic in 1981, where Martinez witnessed his older brother Ramon’s rise to stardom. Tavares masterfully depicts, with quick verse and beautiful illustrations, the world in which the two siblings came of age. Though he was considered too small to make it as a pitcher in the major leagues, his persistence eventually paid off and he was drafted by the Los Angeles Dodgers and moved to the United States. Martinez journeyed to America, facing challenges as he adapted to a new language and culture. After describing of the athlete’s major league triumphs with several teams, Tavares leads readers back to the mango groves of the Dominican Republic, where Martinez developed into one of the best pitchers in baseball history. It is somewhat vexing that there is no mention of how in 2004, with Martinez, the Boston Red Sox won their first World Series in 86 years; however, this is a strong overview of a remarkable athlete. Martinez’s unbelievable statistics are included at the end of the book. VERDICT A wonderful introduction to a truly special player.
Weatherford, Carole Boston. Gordon Parks: How the Photographer Captured Black and White America. illus. by Jamey Christoph. 32p. photos. Albert Whitman. Feb. 2015. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780807530177.
Gr 1-3 –This picture book biography of Gordon Parks highlights the growth of his career as a photographer. Despite receiving little encouragement at school, Parks not only excelled at photography but also wrote novels, penned poetry, and composed music. The rich, varied text (“Boiling mad, Parks vows to lay bare racism with his lens.”) is complemented by the illustrations, which sharply contrast Parks’s life—mostly shown in full color—with sketches of his photographs—in black-and-white or sepia tones. Parks’s career, which began with fashion shots and portraits, took off when he landed a job working for the Farm Security Administration in Washington, DC. There, he became keenly aware of the inequalities between blacks and whites and began to document these differences. When his boss directed him to talk to Ella Watson, a cleaning lady in the building, he photographed her at home with her family and produced his most famous photograph: American Gothic. An author’s note provides additional information and includes reproductions of four of Parks’s photographs. While the book gets off to a choppy start, moving very rapidly over the photographer’s early life, it provides a much-needed portrait of a talented individual and views of his work. VERDICT This effective overview is a solid addition for those looking to beef up their biography collections. Fans of Weatherford’s Leontyne Price: Voice of a Century (Knopf, 2014), Becoming Billie Holiday (Wordsong, 2009), and I, Matthew Henson: Polar Explorer (Walker, 2007) will appreciate this attractive offering.
Stevenson, Noelle & Grace Ellis. Lumberjanes Vol. 1: Beware the Kitten Holy. illus. by Brooke Allen & Shannon Watters. 128p. Boom! Studios. Apr. 2015. pap. $14.99. ISBN 9781608866878.
Gr 5 Up –The first four issues of this female-created and female-starring comic, set at summer camp with creepy happenings, are collected here in this kick-butt volume. The graphic novel begins mid-adventure as five campers are out after hours investigating a strange event that they all witnessed: a woman turning into a giant bear. This is just the first of many odd occurrences that Jo, April, Molly, Mal, and Ripley encounter at the summer camp for “Hardcore Lady Types.” The Lumberjanes, as the scouts are called, band together to solve puzzles, defeat three-eyed creatures, and escape the ire of their watchful counselor Jen. Each protagonist has a skill that helps the group conquer each obstacle. Spunky, lovable characters sparkle with exuberant personality and challenge gender stereotypes. Small details make these episodes stand out—the hipster Yetis guarding a mysterious lighthouse, Molly and Mal’s tender glances at each other, and Ripley’s penchant for animals and all things cute. At the opening of each chapter, an excerpt from the Lumberjanes field guide is included and a gallery of cover images append the book. References to female heroines (invocations of Bessie Coleman and Joan Jett as well as Rosie the camp director’s striking resemblance to Rosie the Riveter) and phrases such as “Friends to the Max!” and “What the junk!” add to the charm of this feel-good title that celebrates female empowerment. The vibrant art exudes humor and reinforces themes of teamwork and friendship. VERDICT A must-have graphic novel for those who have graduated from Raina Telgemeier’s works. School Library Journal
Wilde, Lisa. Yo Miss: A Graphic Look at High School. illus. by Lisa Wilde. 160p. Microcosm. Mar. 2015. Tr $12.95. ISBN 9781621069874.
Gr 8 Up –This is a selection of semi-autobiographical vignettes in the life of Ms. Wilde—teacher of seniors in John V. Lindsay Wildcat Academy—and her students. The black-and-white artwork, while lacking the sophisticated shading of many slicker graphic novels, plays a supporting role and moves readers through scenes of heartbreak and triumph. Whether it is William and his myriad attempts to escape the call of a gang and the street; Natalie, who is struggling to be a student even as she is becoming a mother; or Danny, who insists on calling Ms. Wilde “Snowflake” and masks his fear of failure with bravado and bullying; each of the characters ring true. This work is a visual take on such books as LouAnne Johnson’s My Posse Don’t Do Homework (St. Martin’s, 1992; later adapted into the film Dangerous Minds) and Muchacho (Knopf, 2009) or Erin Gruwell’s The Freedom Writers Diary (Broadway, 1999). Struggling students will recognize the scenarios, burned out teachers will find their passion rekindled for trying just one more time with that difficult student, and both sets of readers will be refreshed by Wilde’s conclusion to the story with a graduation ceremony that is filled with hope that realistically transcends the grim reality her characters must overcome. VERDICT When it comes to portraying life in an alternative high school setting, Yo Miss is a direct hit.
From the Adult Books 4 Teens blog
KNISLEY, Lucy. An Age of License: A Travelogue. illus. by Lucy Knisley. 189p. Fantagraphics. 2014. pap. $19.99. ISBN 9780345544926. LC 2014023994.
This short, absorbing travelogue is based on a journal the graphic novelist kept during her travels through Europe and Scandinavia in September 2011. Heartbroken after ending a relationship, Knisley accepted an invitation to participate in a Comics convention in Norway, which inspired a month of visiting friends and family. Shortly before leaving, Knisley met a boy from Stockholm, Henrik, who invited her to visit him, too. Knisley chronicles her pre-trip jitters (traveling “unhomes” you), as they vied with excited anticipation of a new perspective on life. The conference went well, as did her time with Henrik. So well that he accompanied her to Berlin for a few days, and arranged to meet her in Paris for a romantic finish to her adventures. It was while visiting a friend in Bordeaux that she met an older man who termed this period of her life “L’Age Licence”—a time of exploration before familial or career obligations make experimentation impossible, a time to decide what kind of life you want to have. As in the Alex Award-winning Relish (First Second, 2013), friends, family and food continue to be Knisley’s preoccupations. Predominantly black & white panels are punctuated by full-page color paintings of a pretty view, a delectable snack, the portrait of a friend, or a dress in a shop window. The many teens who travel for exchange programs, volunteer activities, or family trips will recognize Knisley’s nervousness about leaving the familiarity of home, the freedom and pleasures of exploration, insecurity about the future, and the revelations afforded by time away from routine. This ingenuous and wise travel narrative will charm readers of any age.
STEVENSON, Bryan. Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption. 316p. notes. Spiegel & Grau. 2014. Tr $28. ISBN 9780812994520.
Only a handful of countries condemn children to death row, and America is one of them. What is the one commonality of people on death row? The race of the victim. If the victim is white, the perpetrator is 11 times more likely to be condemned to die than if the victim is black. In heartbreaking and personal details, Stevenson interweaves these statistics with real stories and his fight to change the injustices. He was 23 years old, studying law at Harvard when he was called to an internship in Georgia where his first assignment was to deliver a message to a man living on death row. This brought him face to face with what became his calling: representing the innocent, the inadequately defended, the children, the domestic abuse survivors, the mentally ill— the imprisoned. This fast-paced and relentless book, told in short chapters featuring different people’s stories, reads like a John Grisham novel. Walter, who was at a barbecue with over 100 people at the time of the murder he was accused of, spent more than six years on death row. All Jenkins wants from Stevenson is a chocolate milkshake, as he cannot understand what is going on. The stories include those of children, teens, and adults who have been in the system since they were teens. This is a title for the many young adults who have a parent or loved one in the prison system and the many others who are interested in social justice, the law, and the death penalty. A standout choice.
It’s a Dog’s Life. 8 min. Dist. by National Film Board of Canada, nfb.ca/useducation. 2012. $129 (PPR). ISBN unavail.
Gr 1-4 –A dog’s life can be frustrating, but not in the way you might think. This short animated film follows a long-suffering bulldog who just wants to read the paper, which contains an exciting article about Mars. However, his family continually thwarts his literary aspirations as they keep treating him like…well…a dog. Everything here is from a dog’s point of view—a world of shoes and knees and under-the-table dangers. The children may complain about having peas for dinner, but the dog gets the brunt of those rolling, unwanted vegetables. A constant babble of human conversation is the background, and it’s intelligible, but the tale’s focus is all on the dog, who, unfortunately, ends up out in the rain. The look in his eyes as lightning flashes and thunder booms is resigned and priceless. Maybe they’ve discovered life on Mars, but on Earth, life isn’t much to write home about. VERDICT This is a cleverly crafted production that tugs at both your heartstrings and the corners of your mouth.–
Me…Jane. 9 min. Dist. by Weston Woods. 2014. $59.95. ISBN 9780545696869.
PreS-Gr 2 –In this heartwarming portrait of primatologist Jane Goodall as a young girl, author Patrick McDonnell eloquently tells the story of young adventurous Jane. She, along with her stuffed chimpanzee, Jubliee, delights in exploring the outdoors; observing animals and nature; and finding magic in such things as the discovery of where eggs come from. Children will love the simple text of this Caldecott Honor–winning picture book (Little, Brown, 2011), which carries the important message that they should follow their dreams. McDonnell’s superb and warm ink and watercolor drawings are surrounded by faded ornamental engravings and stamps from the 19th and early 20th century. Animators Paul and Sandra Fierlinger have skillfully captured the tone of this delightful story by adding extra elements, such as additional etchings from Goodall’s diary, to make the narrative come alive, further enhanced by Shay E. Lynch’s upbeat musical score. Extras on the DVD include a conversation with Goodall and McDonnell. In this 15-minute conversation, viewers will have the opportunity to hear McDonnell describe some of the details that went into writing the book. This segment also offers children a chance to “meet” Jane and hear her talk about her childhood; sharing some of her own stories, and elaborating on the experiences touched on in the narrative. VERDICT This educational and entertaining tribute to Goodall and her significant legacy is highly recommended for all collections.–
No Fish Where to Go. 13 min. Dist. By National Film Board of Canada, nfb.ca/useducation. 2014. $129 (PPR). ISBN unavail.
Gr 2-4 –A lot takes place in this animated short based on Marie-Francine Hébert’s 2003 book of the same name. Two little girls befriend one another despite mounting tensions between their villages. Citizens wearing red shoes scorn those without, and ultimately they begin the forceful removal of their enemies at gunpoint. The girl, whose father doesn’t wear red shoes, and her family are forced to leave their home, with little time to grab more than a bottle for the baby and the little girl’s pet fish. Father is sent to a separate line, where a gunshot indicates that he has been murdered. The little girl trudges on to witness her teacher being chased from the burning school building, with a single gunshot indicating his demise. When she questions her oppressor, asking what her people did wrong, he prompts her to ask her grandfather. She replies, “He died in the war,” and the assailant, who the girl learns is her friend’s father, counters that he, too, lost a loved one in the war. Desperate and barely able to carry her fish bowl any further, the little girl spots her friend hiding behind a tree. She rushes to meet her and entrusts her with the care of the fish. They chant one last time, “We are two and two are one forever.” The simple watercolor, sometimes darkly surreal, childlike illustrations are sure to haunt older viewers long after the credits roll. VERDICT Told through the point of view of young children, this memorable and dark modern-day tale is a poignant introduction to the partisanship and repercussions of war. It could stimulate great discussion and writing assignments in the classroom.–
Little Big Girls. 52 min. Dist. by National Film Board of Canada. 2014. $295 (PPR). ISBN unvail.
Gr 5 Up –Three of the times in a girl’s life when she’s told she’s a “big girl” are depicted in the animated introduction: when she learns to use the potty; then when she rides her bike without training wheels for the first time; and lastly, when she gets her first bra. The subject here is early puberty, and the candid interviews with girls who have experienced it make the film emotionally engaging. Most of these girls started puberty at nine years of age, setting them apart from their peers, making them self-conscious, and forcing them to grow up before they were emotionally prepared. This resulted in low self-esteem, loneliness, and sometimes in becoming sexually active before they were ready. The anguish these girls speak of will likely arouse empathy in viewers. Experts ranging from medical researchers, a school sexologist, a psychologist, and doctors from Canada, the United States, and Denmark offer theories and facts. Girls in developed countries are entering puberty on average 12 months earlier than they were 25 years ago, with menstruation beginning about four months earlier. Also, the order of the signs of puberty has become scrambled, appearing in different sequences. There are possibly innocuous causes, such as better nutrition and better health, and alarming reasons: the use of food additives and the presence of hormone disrupters in the environment—plastics and chemicals in cleaners and fragrances, to name a few. VERDICT This excellent film will arouse sympathy and understanding on an important topic for students.–
Abawi, Atia. The Secret Sky: A Novel of Forbidden Love in Afghanistan. 7 CDs. 7:45 hrs. Recorded Bks. 2014. $77.75. ISBN 9781490627403. Playaway, digital download.
Gr 9 Up –This story is told through the alternating viewpoints of three young Afghanis—Fatima, a Hazara girl on the cusp of womanhood; Samiulla, a teenaged Pashtun boy disillusioned by the “religious” teachings of radicals; and Rashid, a believer in the harsh justice and rhetoric of Islamic fundamentalists. On the path to the well, Sami and Fatima meet by chance, sparking a platonic affection that will place the young people, their families, and their village in danger. In a land where every action is scrutinized and measured, their blossoming relationship is a sinful affront to propriety that cannot be accepted. Abawi does not shy away from the frank realities of a woman’s life in Afghanistan. Scenes of torture and murder may disturb sensitive listeners; however, they make the couple’s faith in the possibility of a better life all the more poignant and miraculous. The employment of a narrator of each gender, Ariana Delawari and Assaf Cohen (both Arabic speakers with believable accents), heightens the distinction between the sexes that permeates every aspect of every waking hour for rural Afghanis. VERDICT A perfect choice for libraries seeking topical and diverse titles.
Barr, Brady with Kathleen Weidner Zoehfeld. Crocodile Encounters! And More True Stories of Adventures With Animals. 1 CD. 45 min. Recorded Bks. 2014. $15.75. ISBN 9781490635873. digital download.
Gr 2-4 –National Geographic explorer Barr presents four suspenseful and often humorous tales of his encounters with crocodiles. In “Undercover Croc,” he dons a specially developed crocodile suit to enter into a large group of fearsome crocodiles. In “Toy Story,” he tries to capture a crocodile using a remote-controlled car and milk jug with hilarious and unexpected results. The third tale, “Deep Dark Den,” finds Barr in Costa Rica trying to help a village relocate 13 crocodiles. When the crocs can’t be found, the author climbs down into a deep dark burrow only to find himself quite literally face-to-face with the angry creatures. The final story, “Croc in a Box,” follows the researcher to Uganda where he attempts to capture a troublesome crocodile to transport it to a safe home in the United States. Unfortunately, the supposedly unbreakable wooden box that he uses for transport doesn’t hold up as well as expected. All four tales are fascinating, nerve-wracking, and funny. Reader Johnny Heller does an excellent job of pacing to capture the intensity and humor of each incident. VERDICT Listeners will be drawn in by the narration and captivated by the exciting stories.
DOWELL, Frances O’Rourke. Anybody Shining. Recorded Bks. 2014. p. 48.
ERSKINE, Kathryn. The Badger Knight. 8 CDs. 9:15 hrs. Recorded Bks. 2014. $87.75. ISBN 9781490632278. Playaway, digital download.
Gr 4-7 –Twelve-year-old Adrian is small for his age, and the perfect target for the village bullies. He simply wants to be a bow maker like his father, or maybe an archer, though his father wants him to become a scribe. When the Scots invade England, Adrian leaves his village, seeking his friend Hugh, who has run off to join the army. Adrian goes from village to town to monastery, finding adventure and learning what it means to be a man. When he does meet up with Hugh, he learns that his friend has been caring for a wounded Scottish soldier. But as Adrian helps, he learns that maybe the enemy isn’t so bad, and that perhaps war isn’t so glorious after all. Most importantly, Adrian learns to think for himself, and have the courage to do what is right, even if it is not popular. Narrator Graham Halstead brings the story to life, and children and adults alike will be captivated by Adrian’s tale. VERDICT This exceptional audiobook should be required listening for tweens.
Gantos, Jack. The Key that Swallowed Joey Pigza. (Joey Pigza: Bk. 5). 3 CDs. 3:40 hrs. Listening Library. 2014. $30. ISBN 9781101891957. digital download.
Gr 4-7 –The beloved Joey Pigza returns in this gem of a book narrated by the irrepressible author. This time, Joey is left in charge when his mom, suffering from postpartum depression, leaves him for a stint at a mental hospital. He must care for his beloved baby brother, Carter Pigza Jr., with only some food stamps and his strength of will and generous spirit. Joey’s MIA dad has had very bad plastic surgery and decides he wants the baby so Joey must also deal with protecting the baby from his crazy father. Add to the mix Olivia, “the meanest cute blind girl [Joey has] ever loved” and you’ve got yourself a situation. Joey does his very best to protect everyone while waiting for his mom to be released from the hospital. Things get pretty bad but Joey’s loving heart and strong character see him through each challenge, especially once he finds his meds that his mom had hidden. Gantos is a superb narrator, emphasizing the “pawzzitive” while never shying away from the realities of Joey’s life. While the adults around him are spinning out of control, Joey may be frantic but he is truly the man of the house. Gantos makes the hopeful ending seem real and allows listeners to feel that they’re leaving Joey Pigza in good hands. VERDICT This recording belongs in every collection.
MAAS, Sarah. Heir of Fire. Brilliance Audio. 2014. p. 52.
Mull, Brandon. The Rogue Knight. (Five Kingdoms: Bk. 2). 11 CDs. 13:39 hrs. S. & S. Audio. 2014. $39.99. ISBN 9781442372535.
Gr 5-8 –Free from the Sky Raiders and fresh from their defeat of Carnag, Cole, Mira, Jace, Twitch, and Joe are on the run. Following Mira’s sister, Honor’s star, the group is determined to come to her rescue wherever she may be. Missing his friends, Cole’s first goal, however, is to find his separated friends, Dalton and Jenna. As they travel farther along, new threats emerge. A slaver is after Cole and determined to drive him back to the Sky Raiders. The Rogue Knight is wreaking havoc on Maarston and Morgassa’s turning people into blank, zombie-like figments somewhere to the North. Characters are likable and well developed. The dynamic between them is amusing, mostly realistic, and engaging. Narrator Keith Nobbs complements well these dynamics with his unique voices. His narrative style suits the voice of a teenage boy and easily draws the listener into Cole’s world. VERDICT With a well-developed plot and masterfully done action scenes, this engaging listen will be hard for fantasy fans to pause, particularly if they enjoyed the first title in the series.
Fun O’ Clock. Performed by In the Nick of Time. CD. 39 min. In the Nick of Time. 2014. ISBN unavail. $11.99.
PreS-Gr 5 –Performer and educator Nick Deysher is the creative powerhouse behind In the Nick of Time’s newest album. Headlining as the lead vocalist and playing many of the instruments on each of the 14 original songs, Deysher proves again and again his respect for the varied musical tastes of children and their parents. While the album features musical genres from rock to jazz to Irish jigs and everything in between, the transitions between songs are seamless. Deysher continually demonstrates his knowledge of topics that have kid appeal by including lyrics about a favorite pair of sneakers, what it’s like to have a best friend, and the joy of dancing. Often joined on vocals by his wife, Tracey Freitag, the duo give energy to such characters as Wrong Way Joe who “wanted to play baseball but couldn’t catch a bat,” and the knight and the princess in “Hey Nonny No.” Unique additions such as the rap “Mama Don’t Allow,” which will remind parents of the Beastie Boys, and the ukulele-driven “Namaste” round out an album that children and adults alike will sing and dance along to again and again. VERDICT The unusual musical genres combined with the fantastic musicianship and clever lyrics makes this a children’s album not to be missed.
Nightlight Daylight. Performed by Muriel Anderson. 2 CDs. 1:50 hrs. Heartstrings Attached Music. 2014. ISBN unavail. $35.
PreS-Gr 5 –This excellent double album is divided into two parts: soft, sweet songs for nighttime, and more lively, energetic songs for daytime. Twenty-three of these 30 songs are instrumental pieces, most composed by Anderson and performed by her on harp guitar; but she also covers a few songs by other songwriters, including Vince Gill, Beth Nielsen Chapman, Burt Bacharach, John Philip Sousa, George Harrison, and Stevie Wonder. A couple of string quartets and guitarist Phil Keaggy also perform on several of the songs. Five of the instrumental pieces have vocalizations of “oohs” and “aahs” in the background. On the final seven songs, Anderson sings the lyrics in her lovely alto voice. Some of the songs on the “Nightlight” disc are “Lullaby for Leo,” “The Looking Glass,” “Prayer Without Ceasing,” “Hawaiian Lullaby” (with lyrics by Queen Lili’uokalani), “Prelude to Joy” (Beethoven), and “Sweet Child.” On the “Daylight” disc, listeners are treated to “Here Comes the Sun,” “Close to You,” “Daylight,” “Bluegrass Medley,” “Superstition,” “Bells of Lingenfeld,” and more. VERDICT An uplifting album that will appeal to the whole family.
Through the Woods. Performed by The Okee Dokee Brothers. CD/DVD. 35:40 min. Okee Dokee Music. 2014. ISBN unavail. $20.
PreS-Gr 3 –In May 2013, The Okee Dokee Brothers—Justin Lansing and Joe Mailander—spent a month hiking the Appalachian Trail. Through the Woods is the fruit of that labor, the follow-up to their Grammy-winning Can You Canoe? (2012). All 15 songs feature fun, clever lyrics that tell stories while celebrating nature and a simpler way of life. Rich harmonies are enhanced by a host of instruments that are common to Americana music, including the fiddlesticks, tomato box, mouth bow, washboard, bones, and cello banjo. From the first note to the last, adults will forget that they are listening to music written for children and kids will clamor to listen to this album again and again. The accompanying DVD follows the Okee Dokee Brothers’ hike along the trail, including their chats with mountain musicians, their song-writing process, and videos of the finished songs. VERDICT Perfect road-tripping music. A must-have for every collection.
The Ultimate Laurie Berkner Band Collection. Performed by Laurie Berkner. CD. 59:12 min. Two Tomatoes. 2014. $9.99.
PreS –Nineteen of the performer’s most popular tunes are compiled in this follow-up to 2010’s The Best of the Laurie Berkner Band. Songs such as “Mahalo,” “These Are My Glasses,” “Shake Your Body Down,” and “Mouse in My Toolbox” are included in the compilation. Also included as bonus tracks are full band versions of “My Family” and “Magic Box.” The final bonus track is the never-before released “One Seed” about sharing from generation to generation the importance of preserving the Earth. VERDICT Having so many of Berkner’s hits in one place makes this a must have for storytime, classroom, and library collections.