January 16, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

Counting Down to SLJ’s Popular Picks: Part 2

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In advance of the print debut of SLJ’s Popular Picks in the April 2016 issue, SLJ editors have chosen must-have works for kids and teens that appeared in the February 2016 issue.

Picture Books

PB_there-was-an-old-woman_PPCabrera, Jane. There Was an Old Woman Who Lived in a Shoe. illus. by Jane Cabrera. 32p. Holiday House. Mar. 2016. Tr $16.95. ISBN 9780823435548; ebk. $16.95. ISBN 9780823436248.
PreS-K –As she did in Baa, Baa Black Sheep (2015), Row, Row, Row Your Boat (2014), and Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star (2012, all Holiday House), Cabrera continues to adapt classic nursery rhymes and children’s songs into engaging picture books. Here she reimagines the Old Woman as a warm, resourceful, and loving mother, doting on her brood of rambunctious, adorable children and animals. Over the course of the story, the Old Woman uses her problem-solving skills to help her family out of several quandaries, from hitching a ride with a gnu when the family’s car breaks down to gluing and hammering furniture back together after it falls apart, while always maintaining an upbeat, positive attitude. The result is a sweet story that showcases a mother who loves and works hard for her family. Cabrera uses acrylic paint on paper with a little collage to create her familiar charming, colorful, and bright illustrations, which help to further portray the affection the Old Woman and her family have for one another. The rhyming text is bouncy and lively, making it suitable for sharing aloud with a group. This is a charming reimagining of an originally more cynical nursery rhyme. VERDICT A warm-and-fuzzy addition to any picture book collection.–Laura J. Giunta, Garden City Public Library, NY

Falatko, Julie. Snappsy the Alligator. illus. by Tim J. Miller. 40p. Viking. Feb. 2016. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780451469458.

PreS-Gr 2 –Snappsy the alligator finds himself in a book he doesn’t want to be in. He leads a quiet, simple life, but the narrator (a chicken who likes to dance and throw parties) purposely misinterprets his every move. This is fun for readers but not for the main character. “This is terrible!” Snappsy says. “I’m just hungry! Why is this rude narrator trying to make it seem like I need a nap?” Falatko’s debut book demonstrates the power of storytelling through words and pictures. The simple cartoon art is a hoot. The narrator’s surprise appearance at the end helps Snappsy realize that it’s good to have people in your life who push you out of your comfort zone every once in a while. VERDICT A fun read-aloud.–Tanya Boudreau, Cold Lake Public Library, AB, Canada

PB_Fergus_Buddy and Earl Go ExploringFergus, Maureen. Buddy and Earl Go Exploring. illus. by Carey Sookocheff. 32p. Groundwood. Mar. 2016. Tr $16.95. ISBN 9781554987146.

PreS-Gr 2 –In this delightful follow-up to Buddy and Earl (Groundwood, 2015), the trouble-making duo embark on another escapade. After their owners retire for the night, Earl the adventurous hedgehog escapes from his cage and invites Buddy the loyal dog to join him on a wild romp around the kitchen. Transformed by Earl’s hyperactive imagination, the garbage bin becomes a mountain, Buddy’s water bowl turns into a glacial lake, and a hairbrush stuck in a purse appears as a lady hedgehog trapped by a monster. Though at times skeptical regarding Earl’s outrageous claims, Buddy nevertheless follows his friend’s lead, exploring mountains and fighting monsters…and inadvertently destroying the kitchen in the process. A final, wordless spread shows Earl and Buddy snoozing peacefully amid utter chaos, their owner’s slippered foot about to enter the kitchen. Sookocheff’s acrylic and gouache illustrations in subdued gray, lavender, blue, and beige tones perfectly capture the quiet feel of a nighttime kitchen. Her cartoonish portrayal of Buddy and Earl is both amusing and expressive, wonderfully complementing Fergus’s humorous prose. VERDICT A neat story with enough hilarious high jinks to make young readers giggle out loud and look forward to more Buddy and Earl adventures.–Yelena Alekseyeva-Popova, formerly at Chappaqua Library, NY

Fliess, Sue. Calling All Cars. illus. by Sarah Beise. 32p. Sourcebooks/Jabberwocky. Mar. 2016. Tr $14.99. ISBN 9781492618812.

PreS-K –This aptly named picture book features an extensive assortment of cars and their zany animal drivers. The book depicts travelers driving to the beach, over mountaintops, past a demolition derby, and through snow, among other locales. The cars include typical vehicles like yellow taxis and limousines as well as more eccentric automobiles like “circus-clown cars,” “rainbow-bug cars,” and “starry-view cars.” The text zips along with rhythmic gusto until the day is finally done and the cars become more subdued and park for the night at a campsite or in a garage in a quiet suburban town. This successful collaboration combines brisk and spirited writing with bold, effervescent pictures and will have wide appeal to young readers. Fliess’s punchy rhymes mimic the speed and energy of the cars being described, making for a lively read-aloud, while Beise’s illustrations are jam-packed with brightly colored cars, animated characters, and expansive backgrounds, with each picture taking up a two-page spread. The winding road that runs through each illustration passes seamlessly from one page to the next, leading readers through a buzzing, busy world of cars. VERDICT Young car enthusiasts will enjoy the ride through this zippy, robust picture book.–Laura J. Giunta, Garden City Public Library, NY

PB_Lies_Gator DadLies, Brian. Gator Dad. illus. by Brian Lies. 32p. HMH. May 2016. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780544534339.

PreS-Gr 2 –A fun-loving and vivacious alligator dad embraces the tasks of the day with his three little gators in tow. He knows how to make errands exciting and the little things in life robust. Gator Dad sets off on a day of imaginative adventure through the grocery store, the park, and the neighborhood and even back at home. Gator Dad’s energy knows no limits, and kids will love seeing how he tackles the everyday occurrences in life. The illustrations are colorful and fun, adding a great deal of humor to the story. The hues are rich and vibrant, and the characters’ expressions are full of joy. The concise prose is lyrical but not rhyming. “I’ll be your raft on a sea of grass,/a tree for you to climb./I might even agree to do something/ that maybe we shouldn’t have done.” The content of the story will pull listeners in and keep them engaged. VERDICT This is great fun as a read-aloud, and early readers will enjoy the challenge of independent reading as well.–Amy Shepherd, St. Anne’s Episcopal School, Middleton, DE

Murphy, Mary. Crocopotamus: Mix and Match Wild Animals! illus. by Mary Murphy. 12p. Candlewick. Mar. 2016. Tr $8.99. ISBN 9780763681029.

PreS –A colorful and fun book featuring sturdy flaps to mix and match to create a variety of wild animals. It includes seven different animals whose fronts and backs can be interchanged with one another, resulting in silly combinations such as a “Monger” (monkey and tiger), a “Libra” (lion and zebra), and the titular “Crocopotamus” (crocodile and hippopotamus). While seemingly simplistic, this board book offers an enjoyable, interactive experience for toddlers. The hand-lettered text is minimal, consisting of only the animal names, placing the focus primarily on the effective mix-and-match aspect of the book. The eye-catching illustrations are done in mixed media and feature bold, vibrant colors that pop against a white background, and the wild animals are appropriately designed to look playful and friendly. The solid flaps are well built and should hold up to repeated use, while the smaller board book format is perfectly suited for little hands and one-on-one sharing. VERDICT Young children will have a blast flipping the flaps to see all the different possibilities.–Laura J. Giunta, Garden City Public Library, NY

Murphy, Mary. Good Night Like This. illus. by Mary Murphy. 32p. Candlewick. Feb. 2016. Tr $12.99. ISBN 9780763679705.

PreS-K –Animal families ranging from mice to bears get ready to sleep. Each page depicts a new animal family snuggled together and then, with the use of a cutaway page, shows them fast asleep. At the end, the story urges readers to sleep, with a chorus of animals wishing them a “good night.” This cozy story is a lovely addition to picture books about bedtime. Murphy’s soft illustrations, created using ink and watercolor and then rendered digitally, use calm, muted colors to help depict a tranquil nighttime. The hand-lettered text consists of a bouncy, simple rhyme and repetition of the phrase “Good night…sleep tight, like this,” making for a rhythmic read-aloud. A foil effect is used for both the lettering on the cover and the last page, which, though pretty, doesn’t add much to the story. The cutaway pages, used consistently throughout, are much more effective, providing an engaging, interactive experience for readers, as they can transform the illustration from the animal being awake to asleep. VERDICT An ideal choice to lull a child to sleep or as a selection for a bedtime-themed storytime.–Laura J. Giunta, Garden City Public Library, NY

PB_Smith_I Am BearSmith, Ben Bailey. I Am Bear. illus. by Sav Akyüz. 40p. Candlewick. Mar. 2016. Tr $15.99. ISBN 9780763677435.

PreS-Gr 2 –Bright, digital illustrations with bold outlines are a good match for this rhythmic troublemaking bear and his strong personality. “I am Bear./And I am bare./The suit I wear has purple hair.” After he zips up and strikes a pose, Bear show off a little more for his readers by strutting about and antagonizing all the minor characters—especially that squirrel who mocked his nakedness. He eats the bees’ honey, tells a knock-knock joke at the squirrel’s expense, performs some questionable magic tricks, and shows readers his favorite game, “cops and robbers,” where he eats all of a police officer’s doughnuts. (The squirrel gets the blame.) After Bear torments the squirrel some more and paints a target on the behind of a sleeping female bear, the book pulls in for a close-up of Bear alone. The next spread shows a fierce chase scene of enraged minor characters after Bear until he makes a proud getaway on the final page. Though audiences may have mixed reactions to Bear, the beat of the text is catchy and readers and listeners will enjoy looking for the minor characters who show up throughout, including the mysterious blue rabbit who manages to pop up repeatedly but unnoticed. The back of the book confirms what readers will guess: Bear has not reformed. VERDICT An interesting mix of adorable and aggravating, Bear and his high energy will liven things up when read aloud.–Julie Roach, Cambridge Public Library, MA

Vernick, Audrey. I Won a What? illus. by Robert Neubecker. 40p. Knopf. Apr. 2016. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780553509939.

PreS-Gr 2 –“I have to win this goldfish.” Thus opens the tale of a boy who really wants a pet. His parents, he laments, are too practical. They won’t let him have anything fluffy, shaggy, or feathery—or, heaven forbid, anything that eats mice. But tonight he’ll be allowed to keep what he wins at the carnival goldfish booth. His aim is true. “Where’s my goldfish?” he asks. Alas, he doesn’t win a fish. He wins Nuncio, a great blue whale with eager eyes and a perennial smile. “Impractical,” his parents moan. But they keep their promise, and Nuncio, tugged on a multiwheeled platform behind their little car, comes to live in their conveniently huge swimming pool. The contrast between the narrator’s delight and his parents’ vexation is as evident as their postures and facial expressions. While almost every spread is dominated by the enormous Nuncio, some humans are happier than others about bringing in cartloads of fish or being serenaded with sounds reminiscent of a broken siren. When Dad says, “This isn’t working out,” the young whale owner has to think fast. Nuncio lends a fin in the garden and a spout for the car wash, proving himself a practical family pet—as Dad says, “A real keeper.” Reminiscent of countless tales of extraordinary household pets, I Won a What? is a worthwhile contribution. VERDICT With a simple text and entertaining illustrations, this is a heartwarming picture book—and what happens on the very last page is downright beautiful.–Susan Weitz, formerly at Spencer-Van Etten School District, Spencer, NY

Chapter Books

Chapt_Cronin_Into The WildCronin, Doreen. Into the Wild: Yet Another Misadventure. illus. by Stephen Gilpin. 112p. (The Chicken Squad: Bk. 3). S. & S./Atheneum. May 2016. Tr $12.99. ISBN 9781481450461.

Gr 1-3 –The short, fuzzy, yellow chick detectives are back for another misadventure in this lip-bitingly funny series entry by the author of The Trouble with Chickens (HarperCollins, 2011), which stars the chicks’ ex–police dog pal, J.J. Tully. As in past installments, the hard-boiled Tully introduces readers to Barbara’s backyard and the motley crew of pet chicks who spend their days investigating oddities, devising plans, staking out suspicious characters, and generally causing an adorable ruckus. Once again, know-it-all Sugar leads the way, roping her siblings into spying on a strange new box in the yard—could it be a shark?! Though levelheaded Dirt drolly deduces that their new neighbor is a rabbit, Sugar, Sweetie, and Poppy are convinced that the new creature is up to no good. When the hatch door is found open, the squad goes on a search-and-contain mission, armed with marshmallows. Gilpin’s comically expressive black-and-white drawings pepper almost every page, and the typeface is generously sized, making this an ideal series for newly independent readers. The slight sarcasm, witty banter, and sly observations in the style of old-time noir films will have adults chuckling right alongside kid readers. VERDICT This volume, along with the previous books in the series, is an essential purchase for chapter book collections.–Kiera Parrott, School Library Journal

Middle Grade

Arroyo, Raymond. Will Wilder: The Relic of Perilous Falls. illus. by Antonio Javier Caparo. 336p. ebook available. Crown. Mar. 2016. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780553539592; lib. ed. $19.99. ISBN 9780553539608.

Gr 4-7 –Will Wilder sees shadows that seem to be alive as they move around him. Many doctors have made attempts to explain them away as fatigue, but soon these shadows begin to move against the town of Perilous Falls. When a bet made at his younger brother’s birthday party sets events in motion that begin to fulfill an ancient prophecy, it is up to Will, along with his friends and his tough (and oddly dangerous) Great Aunt Lucille, to stop the dark forces advancing against his small town. Following in his great-grandfather’s footsteps, Will sets out against the rising evil with his newfound ability to combat the darkness that only he can face. Caparo’s illustrations dot the text and give added detail to the setting. Though the plot is somewhat predictable, there is still enough action to keep the pages turning. VERDICT Fans of Indiana Jones and Percy Jackson will likely find the first installment of this new adventure series enjoyable.–Wayne R. Cherry Jr., First Baptist Academy Library, Houston

Chapt_Bauer_SoarBauer, Joan. Soar. 304p. Viking. Mar. 2016. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780451470348.

Gr 4-6 –Sports, friendship, tragedy, and a love connection are all wrapped up in one heartwarming, page-turning story. Jeremiah lives and breathes baseball and wants nothing more than to be a professional player, but when he learns that he suffers from a severe heart condition, his dreams are put on hold. Soon after he and his single father move to a town that is something of a baseball capital, the entire community is shaken by the death of a beloved school baseball player—and a town scandal that is revealed in the aftermath. Jeremiah finds himself coaching and bringing baseball back to the local middle school and ends up motivating the entire town. When he and his father are faced with having to leave their new town behind, Jeremiah has to deal with the possibility of also leaving his heart in the very place that helped to make it stronger. This coming-of-age tale features a boy who is courageous and witty; readers—baseball fans or otherwise—will cheer on Jeremiah and this team. VERDICT The latest middle grade novel from this award-winning author is triumphant and moving.–Nikitia Wilson, Convent of the Sacred Heart School Library, New York City

Cervantes, Angela. Allie, First at Last. 208p. Scholastic. Apr. 2016. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780545812238; ebk. $16.99. ISBN 9780545812672.

Gr 4-6 –In this realistic middle grade novel, Cervantes introduces a Latina fifth grader, Alyssa, otherwise known as Allie, who is struggling to find her place and identity as the third of four siblings in a family full of successful, award-winning individuals. She considers herself a failure when compared to Harvard-bound Adriana; his soccer whiz older brother, Aiden; and his younger sister Ava, a TV commercial star. Yet this is only half of the family: Allie’s mom is a news anchor, and her dad is a fireman. It seems that everyone has won trophies and completed “firsts”—even her great grandfather is famous as the only World War II recipient of the Congressional Medal of Honor alive in the state. Fifth grade can be rough, filled with changing relationships and an intense self-centered focus. Allie tries, but often fails, to be understanding when a new friend’s help on her science fair project is a disaster and former best friend Sarah chooses the same topic for the Kansas Trailblazer Contest. The first-person narrative captures the disquieting feelings that often accompany the preteen years, including the protagonist’s insights on her language proficiency and efforts to make the right decisions. VERDICT This will appeal to middle grade girls, particularly for independent reading.–Ruth Quiroa, National Louis University, IL

Davidowitz, Stacy. Camp Rolling Hills: First Base. 240p. (Camp Rolling Hills: Bk. 1). Abrams/Amulet. May 2016. pap. $8.95. ISBN 9781419718854.

Gr 4-6 –Slimey is ready to get back to Camp Rolling Hills, having put in her 10 months in her regular life, and she wants to live her two months at camp to the fullest. Robert—soon to be known as Smelly—is new to camp and has been under a lot of stress lately; his mom has promised to send him his anxiety medicine if he needs it. A budding romance that culminates in a single three-second kiss and some hand-holding, the story is told mostly through funny, jocular dialogue among bunkmates and friends. Slimey is part of the older girls’ cabin and Smelly is her counterpart in the boys’ cabin. Camp high jinks and s’mores by the fire lend a feeling of semiautonomy and freedom away from parents, while the part-epistolary format gives the novel an authentic kid feel. Despite the generally upbeat tone, the characters work through some real anxieties and fears, relying on friends to help them through and build self-confidence. The “will they, won’t they” kiss conundrum lends itself to a slightly older, middle school audience. VERDICT A light summer read for the middle school set, especially those who enjoy summer camp stories with a touch of puppy love romance.–Ellie Lease, Harford County Public Library, MD

Khan, Joshua. Shadow MagicredstarKhan, Joshua. Shadow Magic. illus. by Ben Hibon. 336p. Disney-Hyperion. Apr. 2016. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781484732724.

Gr 4-6 –Normally, getting purchased by an executioner wouldn’t be a good thing. For Thorn, however, it’s the beginning of a thrilling adventure. Captured while out looking for his missing father, Thorn is taken by new owner Tyburn to the kingdom where he serves as executioner. Arriving at Castle Gloom in Gehenna, Thorn meets 13-year-old Lady Lily Shadow, the last surviving member of the ruling family of House Shadow, one of six ancient families of sorcerers. The rest of Lily’s family, save for one drunken uncle, have been brutally murdered, and she is a reluctant ruler. Betrothed sight unseen to the son of a rival ruler in the name of peace, Lily is also a reluctant bride-to-be. A sudden death quickly throws Thorn, Lily, and their friend, K’Leef, into a maelstrom of mistaken identities, murder, magic, necromancy, and narrow escapes. Thorn’s skill with animals, evidenced by his relationship with an elderly, gigantic, voraciously hungry bat named Hades, proves invaluable. Working together but never losing sight of their individual objectives, Thorn and Lily uncover surprising truths about their families. The book’s hand-drawn map is a helpful resource. Occasional black-and-white illustrations appear throughout. The bat flip-book feature is a fun surprise. Despite the gloomy setting, this book vibrates with hope. VERDICT Short chapters filled with action, appealing characters, and cliff-hanger endings make this fantasy the kind of book readers will find hard to put down. Recommended for all middle grade collections.–Sara-Jo Lupo Sites, George F. Johnson Memorial Library, Endicott, NY

Myracle, Lauren. Wishing Day. 336p. HarperCollins/Katherine Tegen Bks. May 2016. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780062342065.

Gr 4-6 –Thirteen-year-old Natasha is a responsible girl. The eldest in a family of girls, she is the one who has tried to keep things going since her mom left several years earlier. After moving in with their aunts, the girls kept going as well as could be expected. But now it is Natasha’s Wishing Day—the third Wednesday after her 13th birthday. It’s a town tradition for the girls to trudge up to the old willow tree on the hill, duck the canopy, and make three wishes. This is no fairy tale land; this is the real world. But unlike her sister Darya or her best friend, Molly, Natasha wants to believe in the magic—the magic that might make her life a little easier. After she makes her wishes, some things do seem to change, but are they because of the tree? Beyond a family or friendship story, issues of mental illness, homelessness, and what it means to be a girl are explored without tipping into the realm of overt message. Natasha’s growing pains are real, and while the circumstances of her family make them more acute, the magical realism within the pages adds a lambent quality to the narrative. VERDICT This unique coming-of-age story with an ardent protagonist belongs in all middle grade collections.–Stacy Dillon, LREI, New York City

YA

Ahern, Cecelia. Flawed. 320p. ebook available. Feiwel & Friends. Apr. 2016. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781250074119.

Gr 7 Up –In this compulsively readable dystopian novel, biracial 17-year-old Celestine sees things in black and white and would never break society’s rules—until she impulsively helps a Flawed man on a bus, an act that’s illegal. Her compassionate gesture lands her in jail for aiding a Flawed, and it’s certain she’ll be judged Flawed, too. Those found Flawed by the Guild have made moral or ethical mistakes in society. Depending on their crime, the Flawed are branded with an “F” on a prominent place on their body and are required to wear an armband and adhere to strict rules. Judge Craven, the Guild’s head judge, makes an example of Celestine for threatening his abuse of the Guild’s power and for her very public stand against an unjust society. The price she pays is horrific and unprecedented. She becomes the poster child for those who want to make change. The only person Celestine feels understands what she’s suffered is the mysterious boy she saw in prison but never actually spoke to. Celestine’s shift from believing in the rightness of those judged Flawed to condemning their treatment is a bit too sudden. The brutal descriptions of the branding of those deemed Flawed are not easy to read, but it’s a compelling thriller that’s very hard to put down. The cliff-hanger ending guarantees readers will be waiting impatiently for the next book in the series. ­VERDICT For fans of Lauren Oliver’s Delirium (HarperCollins) or Hillary Jordan’s When She Woke (Algonquin, both 2011).–Sharon Rawlins, New Jersey State Library, Trenton

alexander_the art of not breathingAlexander, Sarah. The Art of Not Breathing. 288p. ebook available. HMH. Apr. 2016. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780544-633889.

Gr 8 Up –A strong debut novel that tells an intriguing tale of grief and recovery, with just enough romance and reality to appeal to a wide variety of readers. Set in a beachside Scottish town, this tale is about 16-year-old Elsie, who foggily remembers the day her twin brother, Eddie, disappeared. Elsie struggles to recall the event, but her family members refuse to discuss it. Instead, each disappears in their own way. Mum drinks, Dad leaves, and older brother Dillon develops anorexia. With no friends, haunted by memories of Eddie, and virtually a magnet for the town mean girl, Elsie also needs an escape. She skips school to visit a vacant boathouse and surreptitiously indulge in chocolate and cigarettes, until Tay appears. A little messy, a little odd, and totally mysterious, Tay introduces Elsie to free diving (underwater diving, minus breathing gear). Underwater and oxygen deprived, Elsie feels reunited with Eddie. Free diving instills in Elsie confidence and introduces friends and a burgeoning romance with Tay. But when Elsie makes a heartbreaking discovery, she attempts the ultimate free dive. This proves to be the jolt her family needs to begin healing. Alexander covers wide ground with teen issues without any heavy-handedness or didacticism. VERDICT While the compelling plot, well-drawn characters, and page-turning conclusion will attract readers, what will linger most in their minds is the luxurious feel of the water and other details vividly evoked by Alexander’s atmospheric writing.–Laura Falli, McNeil High School, Austin, TX

Gerhardt, Jake. Me & Miranda Mullaly. 256p. Viking. 2016. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780451475404.

Gr 6-8 –Miranda stops Sam from putting a tack on Duke’s chair in biology class to avoid an annoying ruckus, but this incident makes Miranda seem instantly attractive to the two boys, as well as classmate Chollie. Hoping to gain her attention, the three join student council, the school musical, and various groups in which Miranda participates. This often ends in a spectacularly humorous fashion, such as when all three decide to win her favor by shoveling her family’s driveway. The boys’ obsession culminates at the school dance, where, of course, only one of them can end up with her. Told from multiple perspectives but in a straight-forward, easy-to-follow way, this novel highlights the various personalities of the boys and fills a need for humorous books about romance in middle school. The cover is brilliant, as both basketball and mischievous uses of toilet paper play a role in the story. Like Alexander Vance’s The Heartbreak Messenger (Feiwel & Friends, 2013) and Tommy Greenwald’s “Charlie Joe Jackson” series (Roaring Brook), this is a lively tale of misunderstandings and misguided attempts to get the girl. While the characters could have been more likable, they are well drawn and the situations are believable and show an understanding of the inner workings of middle school. VERDICT This is a strong purchase for middle school libraries that will circulate well.–Karen Yingling, Blendon Middle School, Westerville, OH

YA_MS_Hesse_Girl in the Blue CoatHesse, Monica. Girl in the Blue Coat. 320p. ebook available. Little, Brown. Apr. 2016. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780316260602; ebk. $9.99. ISBN 9780316260640.

Gr 9 Up –In Nazi-occupied Holland, Hanneke seems like an ordinary girl working at a funeral parlor to help support her family during wartime. But her Aryan features and charming smile allow her to work as a courier on the black market smuggling cigarettes, meat, and other unavailable items to paying customers. While Hanneke is not a member of the Dutch resistance, her actions are a direct result of the loss of Bas, her boyfriend. Lying about his age, he enlisted and died on the frontlines during the German invasion. When one of her best customers asks for her assistance in finding a Jewish girl she was hiding, Hanneke is stunned. But soon after, she is drawn into the mysterious disappearance of the girl in the blue coat. What she uncovers as she searches for answers leads her on a journey of self-discovery, self-realization, and redemption. Hesse crafts a thought-provoking and gripping historical novel. The themes of love, betrayal, heroism, social responsibility, and atonement are beautifully intertwined with well-developed characters and a compelling story line. Thoroughly researched, this work brings history alive in a clear and concise way that rings true. VERDICT A must-read for fans of historical fiction, especially stories set during World War II.–Donna Rosenblum, Floral Park Memorial High School, NY

JanSciFi5Skrutskie, Emily. The Abyss Surrounds Us. 288p. ebook available. Flux. Feb. 2016. pap. $11.99. ISBN 9780738746913.

Gr 9 Up –Life on the sea is anything but relaxing and safe. Pirates will attack and pillage any unprotected ship they come across. Ships must be ever vigilant to protect their passengers and cargo. To ensure the safety of those traveling by the sea, genetically engineered sea monsters are trained and tasked with protecting the ships. Cassandra Leung is a Reckoner trainer, a trainer of these creatures. Her family has been in this business for years, and Cassandra cannot wait to take her beloved sea monster on their first solo mission. However, her dreams of success are dashed by Santa Elena, a pirate leader with her own agenda. Santa Elena has acquired her own creature and expects Cassandra to train it for evil instead of good. Her sea monster destroyed and Cassandra a captive, the girl must find a way to survive and protect her heritage. Choosing sides becomes more difficult as she becomes deeply engrossed in the pirate lifestyle and develops a kinship and interest in one of the pirates. On whose side will she end up? Skrutskie adeptly creates a fantastical world of ruthless pirates; lovable, deadly creatures; and dynamic characters. Readers will be constantly changing their opinions on which side they’re rooting for. VERDICT Sci-fi and adventure fans will enjoy this quick read and escape into a new world.–Jessica Strefling, US Court of Appeals, Federal Circuit Library

Tucholke, April Genevieve. Wink Poppy ­Midnight. 256p. ebook available. Dial. Mar. 2016. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780803740488.

Gr 9 Up –In her follow-up to Between the Devil & the Deep Blue Sea (Dial, 2013), Tucholke showcases her talent for storytelling once again in a mystery challenging readers’ perceptions. Seemingly innocent and story-obsessed Wink believes Midnight plays an important role in her life, seemingly heartless and self-obsessed Poppy might only love herself, and seemingly naive Midnight has feelings for both girls. These teen narrators offer up their version of events. But who’s manipulating whom? And what kind of story are they weaving? Fairy tale? Antibullying allegory? Coming-of-age narrative? At times frustrating but always compelling, Tucholke’s book has its fair share of liars, yet her prose is far from superficial. As with her previous writing, descriptive settings are easily pictured, sexual encounters are nongratuitous, and unique characterization turns archetypes inside out. Children with long parental leashes find trouble and ultimately realize that real people can play the dual roles of hero and villain, in their own stories and in others. Vague enough at times to be open to interpretation, this title will keep readers on their toes. VERDICT A recommended purchase for public and school libraries, particularly those looking to prompt discussions on unreliable narrators and tricky storytelling.–Danielle Serra, Cliffside Park Public Library, NJ

Graphic Novels

Cliff, Tony. Delilah Dirk and the King’s ShillingredstarCliff, Tony. Delilah Dirk and the King’s Shilling. illus. by Tony Cliff. 272p. ebook available. First Second. Mar. 2016. pap. $17.99. ISBN 9781626721555.
Gr 6 Up –Delilah Dirk has a chip on her shoulder. Of late, she lashes out at anyone who wounds her pride or name, even when the danger is great. As in Delilah Dirk and the Turkish Lieutenant (First Second, 2012), her faithful friend Selim acts as the voice of reason, but stopping a resolute Delilah proves to be nearly impossible. So when a traitorous British soldier threatens her good reputation, she pursues him, bent on his downfall. England does not welcome her back, and with redcoats chasing her, she reluctantly takes refuge with her privileged family. This position gives her an advantage, but her headstrong attitude jeopardizes all: her chance at success, survival, and her bonds. Frustration and tension have a bigger presence than humor in this volume, but we get more character and relationship development because of this. Colors are key to setting the tone; when this duo arrive in England, the hues take on an overcast brown to match how stifled Delilah feels. Fortunately, heart-pounding action sequences chase such clouds away every time. VERDICT Another whirlwind adventure that builds upon Cliff’s unifying factor—true friendship.–Rachel Forbes, formerly of Oakville Public Library, Ontario, Canada

GN_MG_Holm_Comic SquadHolm, Jennifer L. & others. Comics Squad #2: Lunch! illus. by various.144p. ebook available. Random. 2016. pap. $7.99. ISBN 9780553512649; lib. ed. $12.99. ISBN 9780553512656.

Gr 2-5 –Once again a veritable who’s who of children’s cartoonists assemble to offer up a collection of short comics around a theme. This second anthology presents stories that share the common thread of lunch, although the context in each tale varies a great deal, from the gross to the unexpected, the historic, and even the prehistoric. Familiar characters such as Jarrett Krosoczka’s Lunch Lady, Jennifer and Matt Holm’s Babymouse, and even Peanuts’ Snoopy appear in original stories that will satisfy fans of the referenced source material. Jeffrey Brown’s “Cave Soup” kicks off a new comics series from the creator of “Jedi Academy” that blends humor and historical evidence into a story about a Neanderthal family. Class rivals find common ground over scientific lunchroom experiments in Cecil Castellucci and Sara Varon’s “Worst Day Ever.” Two particularly strong stories are Nathan Hale’s “Lunch Bomb 1943” and Jason Shiga’s “The Case of the Missing Science Project.” The former recounts a historical event from World War II, in which the crew on a U.S. destroyer successfully defended themselves and the ship from a Japanese submarine by attacking the sub with a barrage of raw potatoes. Shiga takes the “Choose Your Own Adventure”–style comic storytelling that earned him praise in Meanwhile (Abrams, 2010) and adds the element of time travel in “Missing Science Project.” The unfamiliar mechanics of Shiga’s comic may baffle some, but the payoff is unlike anything this reader has experienced in a story prior. An unfortunate encounter with a food allergen in Cece Bell’s “Crazy Little Thing Called Lunch!” results in the main character being administered an Epipen. The incident is depicted inaccurately, showing the Epipen being stuck into the character’s wrist instead of in a thigh, and the character merely sits in the nurse’s office for a small period of time instead of going to the emergency room, as is common practice for children with anaphylactic food allergies. VERDICT Overall, this anthology offers up a lot of strong selections with tons of appeal.–Matthew C. Winner, Ducketts Lane Elementary School, Elkridge, MD

Jamieson, Victoria. The Great Pet Escape. illus. by Victoria Jamieson. 64p. (Pets on the Loose!) Holt. Feb. 2016. pap. $7.99. ISBN 9781627791069.
Gr 1-3 –George Washington, or “GW” for short, may look like a sweet, innocent classroom hamster, but little do the second graders at Daisy P. Flugelhorn Elementary School know that he’s the inventor of the Sunflower Seed Slingshot and the Rodent Catapult Transportation Device, both of which are going to help him and his fellow inmates—Barry the rabbit (serving time in first grade) and Biter the world’s toughest guinea pig (doing a stint in kindergarten)—escape to freedom. Unfortunately, when GW finally liberates his rodent pals, a gang of surly mice threaten their plans. Jamieson, author and illustrator of Roller Girl (Dial, 2015), here presents a giggle-worthy tale for younger readers and those just venturing into graphic novels. Easy-to-follow panels, complemented by several spreads, explode off the page with her bright and cheery palette. Visual humor abounds, from GW’s gallant attempts at sword fighting with the mouse leader (using a broken piece of uncooked spaghetti) to Biter’s confession that, while in kindergarten, she’s found a way to channel her anger issues through meditation. VERDICT Hand this charmingly goofy graphic novel to chapter book readers who enjoy Dav Pilkey’s works, Cyndi Marko’s “Kung Pow Chicken” series (Scholastic), and Geoffrey Hayes’s “Benny and Penny” books (TOON.)–Kiera Parrott, School Library Journal

Pittman, Eddie. Red’s Planet: Book One: A World Away From Home. illus. by Eddie Pittman. 192p. Abrams/Amulet. Apr. 2016. Tr $19.95. ISBN 9781419719073.

Gr 5 Up –A lively 10-year-old redheaded foster child is generally dissatisfied with her life as an orphan and daydreams about one day living in paradise. Her life soon turns to adventure when she accidentally gets abducted by thieving aliens as she playfully attempts to once again run away from her foster family. She soon encounters the Chelonia, an ancient creature who collects rare and unusual treasures. Red quickly becomes part of the thieves’ imperiled collection as it crash lands on a deserted unchartered planet. Marooned along with other captives, she finds a translator in order to talk to all the other aliens, and the ensuing dialogue is hilarious. She befriends a big cat named Goose and a small, quiet alien named Tawee, who is a guardian of a mysterious egg, and together they try to find a way to survive. Red’s bravery and quick thinking win her friends and, finally, a place in paradise. Readers will enjoy Red’s heroic feats and amusing dialogue. Pittman’s drawings are vibrant and action-packed. His cartoon style is reminiscent of his animated feature films (Mulan, Tarzan, Lilo & Stitch) as well as TV shows (3-2-1 Penguins, Phineas and Ferb). VERDICT Highly recommended for graphic novel collections.–Lisa Gieskes, Richland County Public Library, Columbia, SC

Samanci, Özge. Dare to Disappoint Growing Up in TurkeyredstarSamanci, Özge. Dare to Disappoint: Growing Up in Turkey. illus. by Özge Samanci. 200p. Farrar/Margaret Ferguson Bks. 2015. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780374316983.

Gr 6 Up –Samanci’s graphic novel memoir is a humorous and moving portrayal of coming-of-age in Turkey in the turbulent 1980s. The story makes the political personal in ways that are perfectly accessible to young teens. Samanci’s narrative is peppered with engaging details of her childhood experiences, including her relationships with her parents, uncle, and sister; the grueling educational system; and the difficult reality of growing up female in a politically and religiously polarized society. Throughout it all, Samanci struggles with her conflicting desires for success, happiness, and, above all, the approval of her critical father. The style of cartoon illustration combined with mixed media is used to great effect. In several places, the author employs rubber stamps to create pictures of people and concepts that were important to her when she was a child. The muted color scheme and stark backgrounds evoke the political and cultural tone of Turkish society. While there is some violence, it is used sparingly and is presented as an integral part of the narrative. VERDICT In the growing body of graphic novel memoirs, this one is a standout.–Maggi Rohde, Ann Arbor Public Schools, MI

Spires, Ashley. Fluffy Strikes Back. illus. by Ashley Spires. 72p. Kids Can. Apr. 2016. Tr $16.95. ISBN 9781771381277; pap. $8.95. ISBN 9781771381338.

Gr 2-5 –From the creator of “Binky the Space Cat” comes this laugh-out-loud new series. Sergeant Fluffy Vandermere is the main cat in charge of P.U.R.S.T., or Pets of the Universe Ready for Space Travel. He is in charge of all space pets and must make sure they succeed in protecting their humans from alien insect attacks. He reminisces about the excitement of being in the field but knows that someone has to be in charge, and he excels at his job. However, when the alien insects attack, the Sergeant is thrown headfirst into a world that he thought he had left behind. The artwork has a neat, clean look with a fitting use of deep, bold grays. The panels are organized with minimal yet effective words on the page. Though the animals are somewhat anthropomorphized they maintain their animal language, making for a comical dynamic. Their actions are conveyed through detailed illustrations that focus on facial expressions and physical reactions. VERDICT An appealing and fun introduction for emerging graphic novel fans.–Kristyn Dorfman, The Packer Collegiate Institute, Brooklyn, NY

Nonfiction

Coy, John. Their Great Gift Courage, Sacrifice, and Hope in a New Land.redstarCoy, John. Their Great Gift: Courage, Sacrifice, and Hope in a New Land. photos by Wing Young Huie. 32p. ebook available. Carolrhoda. Mar. 2016. lib. ed. $19.99. ISBN 9781467780544.K-Gr 4 –An attractive and inspiring look at immigration to the United States, sure to spark discussions at home or in the classroom. Coy takes a simple approach with the text, employing only a few words per page, while Huie uses his mostly black-and-white photographs to illuminate the experience of coming to a new country, working hard, making mistakes, and building a new home. The images carry this volume, featuring people of various ages, occupations, and cultural backgrounds. Lacking captions or explanations, the visuals will lead readers to wonder about cultural differences and notice similarities. Coy and Huie describe their ancestors’ paths to America in appended notes, and both explain the process of creating this book. Comparable in format to titles such as Global Babies (2007), Maya Ajmera’s Our Grandparents: A Global Album (2010, both Charlesbridge), and Rosemary McCarney’s The Way to School (Second Story, 2015), this offering puts a human face on a serious issue. VERDICT An ideal jumping-off place for teachers and parents interested in starting a conversation about a timely topic.–Jennifer Wolf, Beaverton City Library, OR


Horowitz,
Alexandra. Inside of a Dog: Young Readers Edition: What Dogs See, Smell, and Know. illus. by Sean Vidal Edgerton. 256p. ebook available. index. notes. S. & S. Mar. 2016. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781481450935.

Gr 6-8 –Despite their close companionship to humans, dogs are very different from us and have their own distinct umwelt, or the world as experienced by an animal. So goes just one of many fascinating observations in this young readers edition of the 2009 best seller by cognitive scientist Horowitz, a psychology professor and leader of the Dog Cognition Lab at Barnard College. Along the way, she dismantles some common misunderstandings, such as that dogs perceive their human families as a pack (dogs are descended from wolves but are not pack animals in the same way) and that they exhibit knowledge of guilt (research shows that dogs uniformly exhibit submissive behaviors when scolded, whether or not they’ve done anything “wrong”). While earlier chapters focus more on descriptions of behavior, the latter half details fascinating research and offers explanations of how scientists draw their conclusions. Horowitz covers play habits, facial expressions, vision and other senses, urine marking, memory and language, and even the canine “theory of mind.” Chapters are interspersed throughout with brief recollections of the author’s mixed-breed, Pumpernickel, to whom the book is dedicated. VERDICT Clearly and confidently written, engaging, and comprehensive, this title will delight dog lovers and budding scientists and will serve just as well as a general narrative nonfiction text.–Bob Hassett, Luther Jackson Middle School, Falls Church, VA

Jarrow, Gail. Bubonic Panic When Plague Invaded AmericaredstarJarrow, Gail. Bubonic Panic: When Plague Invaded America. 196p. (Deadly Disease). bibliog. chart. chron. further reading. index. maps. notes. photos. reprods. websites. Boyds Mills/Calkins Creek. Apr. 2016. Tr $18.95. ISBN 9781620917381; ebk. $9.99. ISBN 9781629795621.

Gr 5 Up –With a mesmerizing description of the suffering endured by bubonic plague victims, followed by several fascinatingly gruesome photographs depicting visible signs of the disease, Jarrow hooks readers from the start. This final installment of the author’s “Deadly Disease” trilogy is as compelling as the first two titles, Red Madness: How a Medical Mystery Changed What We Eat (2014) and Fatal Fever: Tracking Down Typhoid Mary (2015, both Boyds Mills). Before describing the chaos the plague wrought on American shores, Jarrow recounts major plague outbreaks throughout history as well as early bacteriological advances, such as the identification by French scientist Alexandre Yersin of the microbe responsible for the bubonic plague. The plague arrived in the port city of San Francisco in 1900 and claimed its first victim in Chinatown, a neighborhood near the wharves. Chinatown was quickly quarantined by the Board of Health, but with California Governor Henry T. Gage denying the existence of plague and Chinese officials bucking against perceived discrimination, tensions rose and containment efforts failed. Eventually Rupert Blue of the Marine-Hospital Service was brought in by the surgeon general to control the outbreak. When the plague returned to San Francisco in 1907 after the devastating earthquake of 1906, Blue came back. By this time scientists had determined that the fleas on rats were responsible for transmitting the plague, and the city mobilized to curtail the rat population, successfully containing the outbreak in a matter of months. Weaving in numerous photographs and newspaper clippings, Jarrow tells an absorbing story. VERDICT Nonfiction that reads like a thriller—not to be missed.–Ragan O’Malley, Saint Ann’s School, Brooklyn, NY

Jenkins, Steve & Robin Page. Flying Frogs and Walking FishredstarJenkins, Steve & Robin Page. Flying Frogs and Walking Fish: Leaping Lemurs, Tumbling Toads, Jet-Propelled Jellyfish, and More Surprising Ways That Animals Move. illus. by Steve Jenkins. 40p. bibliog. HMH. May 2016. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780544630901.

K-Gr 3 –Every living creature requires a way to travel from one place to another, as showcased in this informative exploration of animal mobility. Jenkins and Page highlight a variety of animals, both familiar (frogs, dogs, and elephants) and unusual (cormorants, sugar gliders, and mudskippers). The engaging narrative is organized by type of locomotion, such as walking, leaping, swimming, climbing, and flying. Two spreads comprise each section. In the first spread, the authors introduce a particular type of movement by explaining why and how a specific animal moves in a unique or unexpected way. The next spread expands upon the concept with further details about other animals. For example, the leaping lizard is followed by a jumping spider, a penguin that rockets from the water, a bounding springbok, and a ring-tailed lemur that vaults from tree to tree. Set against white space, the collage illustrations portray the animals in a subdued palette of earth tones that enhances the natural representation of each creature. They jump, slither, and float across the pages, and the layout of the accompanying text further emphasizes the sense of movement. Back matter provides additional information. VERDICT This fine overview is destined to be a popular addition to any science collection.–Linda L. Walkins, Saint Joseph Preparatory High School, Boston

NF_ELEM_Schaefer_Run For Your LifeSchaefer, Lola M. Run for Your Life!: Predators and Prey on the African Savanna. illus. by Paul Meisel. 32p. Holiday House. Feb. 2016. Tr $16.95. ISBN 9780823435555; ebk. $16.95. ISBN 9780823436149.

K-Gr 2 –It is night on the African savanna, and all the animals are sleeping peacefully, preparing for another day of hunting or being hunted. As the day progresses, a wide variety of beasts hop, slither, dash, scurry, swoop, and flee across the pages to the right. And then, as evening begins to descend, all the animals encounter the ultimate of African predators, the fearsome lions, and it is a mad dash to the left across the pages as they run for their lives. Through simple sentence structure, Schaefer highlights the action, with the verbs taking center stage and providing lots of opportunity for fun, interactive vocabulary lessons (“Jackals pounce, and giraffes lope. Hyenas bolt, and wildebeests gallop.”). The watercolor and acrylic artwork is full of movement and humor, as creatures leap across the page or hide in the background, their eyes always on their enemy. A brief introduction sets the stage, and some notes at the end share sprint speeds of all the animals depicted. VERDICT A great resource for classrooms and libraries that serve the youngest elementary students.–Jody Kopple, Shady Hill School, Cambridge, MA

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