BEHOLD, SLJ’S INAUGURAL POPULAR PICKS, a list of must-have new titles for kids and teens selected by SLJ’s book review editors. In honor of this new initiative, the editors also selected picks from the year’s January, February, and March print issues.
Lomp, Stephan. Mamasaurus. illus. by Stephan Lomp. 40p. Chronicle. 2016. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781452144245. POP
PreS-Gr 1–In this sweet story, Babysaurus slides down his mother’s back and falls into a bush. Once he is able to find his way out, he realizes that Mamasaurus has disappeared. As he roams through the jungle, he meets dinosaurs of various colors and sizes, such as Triopa, Ptero, Hespero, and scary Rexy. Finally, baby is reunited with his mama. Children will delight in meeting the various dinosaurs, some of which they may not be familiar with. Illustrations are executed in brushed pan and Photoshop. Dinosaurs are engaging and drawn in vibrant colors shaded with a darker color and outlined in black. This makes them visually appealing and allows them to pop on the page. VERDICT Dinosaur fans will roar over this one.
Murguia, Bethanie. Princess! Fairy! Ballerina! illus. by Bethanie Murguia. 40p. Scholastic/Arthur A. Levine. Jun. 2016. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780545732406. POP
PreS-Gr 2 –When three friends meet on a rainy day, none can agree on what to play. The first wants to be a royal princess, making royal rules and riding royal unicorns. The second chooses to be a magical fairy, conjuring spells and flying over rainbows. The third prefers to be a ballerina, soaring high above the stage as a graceful swan while an imaginary audience cheers. Even the idea of a contest fails to help them agree, as they argue over whether it should be a flying, throne-sitting, or balancing contest. Angry and disappointed, the girls sulk on opposite corners of the room until the lure of raindrops and puddle stomping entices them to spend the day, hand-in-hand, outside. All ardent fans of anything connected to the regal, magical, and fancifully graceful world of princesses, fairies, and ballerinas will surely gravitate to this story, which further demonstrates how compromise is necessary for any friendship to work. Murguia’s gentle pastel colors in varied shades of blue, green, and pink are further enhanced by the sparkly colors on the cover page. One of the most memorable parts of the book is when each friend thrusts forth a symbol of her personal favorite: a blue tiara, a green wand, and a pink toe shoe. There are an abundance of picture books about princesses, fairies, and ballerinas, but fewer that unite all three. VERDICT A surefire hit that should magically fly off the library shelves and emerge a royal success.
Sattler, Jennifer. Frankie the Blankie. illus. by Jennifer Sattler. 32p. Bloomsbury. May 2016. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781619636750. POP
PreS-Gr 1–Doris the ape never goes anywhere without her cuddly purple blankie, Frankie. He is faithfully by her side and in her clutches at nap time and snack time and even makes a very graceful dance partner. When Rhino comments that only babies play with blankies, Doris is so embarrassed that she puts Frankie aside for one terrible day, until she misses him too much to stay away. The only viable solution is to disguise Frankie as a hat, a bandage, and even a hankie—all solutions that prove only temporarily effective. Ultimately, the most creative and successful way to solve the problem is to put on a puppet show—with Frankie as the irresistible star of the jungle. Sattler’s doe-eyed Doris is just as oddly lovable as her other beloved characters of previous books: Chick and Pug and Pig Kahuna. The lush, colorful illustrations are eye-catching and full of intricate detail. Children will be enchanted by this sweet story bearing a memorable message that one need never outgrow small childhood comforts. VERDICT A memorable, warmhearted story that will particularly resonate with children still attached to the security of their early childhood favorites.
Saudo, Coralie. My Dad at the Zoo. illus. by Kris Di Giacomo. 32p. Enchanted Lion. May 2016. Tr $17.95. ISBN 9781592701902. POP
K-Gr 2–What a charming book! This is a story of role reversal with an energetic father who gets up on Sunday mornings raring to go to the zoo. He wakes up his sleepy son and “does the galloping camel” all the way. Dad hates to wait in line, squirming, bouncing, and trying to cut the line. Once inside, the son has all he can do to keep up with his rambunctious dad. He plays with all the animals…until he disappears. Finally he is discovered in front of the ice cream vendor, throwing a tantrum because he wants an ice cream. Son, like many good parents, realizes he needs to find a way to distract Dad and says there is an escaping porcupine. The two give chase, until they come across Dad’s favorite animal, the elephant. The father behaves like any excited child, barely under his son’s control. This is a delightful topsy-turvy look at parenting and the joys of being a child. And the father’s antics are very funny. His favorite elephant steals his hat (one of many he keeps on a coatrack in the background), and the son complains about how many hats his father has lost at the zoo. The text and the illustrations are playful and well done—the overall effect is greater than the sum of its parts. Expect this book to generate recognition of naughty-child behavior and perhaps a discussion about the roles parents must play. VERDICT This book is pure joy to read and should be a first purchase for most collections.
Watkins, Adam F. Raybot. illus. by Adam F. Watkins. 32p. Price Stern Sloan. 2016. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780843183009. POP
PreS-Gr 1–Raybot is lonely in his junkyard home until he sees something that provides him with a plan to find a best friend. He heads out on a global adventure, looking for a puppy that can bark. Traveling from farm to forest to jungle and even beneath the sea, he meets all sorts of friendly animals with their own unique sounds. Some moo, and others growl or hiss, but Raybot won’t give up until he finds one that can bark. This charming story about a hopeful robot is done in pen and ink and oil paint on board. It begins with lively orange striped endpapers that parallel Raybot’s body. From there, readers step into bright, spacious landscapes that star an expressive character with a hinged jaw and wide-set eyes. It’s an engaging and participatory story, with text suitable for beginning readers. VERDICT A silly and delightful read-aloud with the positive message that puppies and friends come in all shapes and sizes.
Korté, Steve. Wonder Woman: Amazon Warrior. illus. by Marcus To. 128p. (Backstories). chron. glossary. Scholastic. 2016. pap. $5.99. ISBN 9780545925570; ebk. $5.99. ISBN 9780545942614. POP
Gr 2-4–This illustrated “biography” of Wonder Woman tells her origin story with clear, simple language and detailed, comics-style illustrations. Children new to chapter books will find it accessible: chapters are short, almost every page contains an illustration, and the large typeface is surrounded by ample white space. All characters are outlined in an illustrated and annotated list of “Friends, Foes and Family,” and there is a time line of events, a list of “Fast Facts,” and a glossary. As long as children know that Wonder Woman may not fulfill a history assignment, this is an enjoyable read for those new to chapter books or to Wonder Woman. Existing fans of the superheroine, though, will not find anything new here. VERDICT An appealing chapter book for superhero fans graduating from easy readers.
Avi. School of the Dead. 288p. ebook available. HarperCollins. Jun. 2016. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780061740855. POP
Gr 5-7–“The first time Uncle Charlie came to live with us, he was alive. The second time, he was dead.” So begins Tony’s story, one filled with mystery and danger, and one where the dead come to prey on the living. His great-uncle Charlie is old, infirm, and a bit odd, so Charlie’s parents decide that he’ll move in with them. Though at first cautious, Tony and Uncle Charlie become fast friends, bonding over junk food and a shared appreciation for scary stories and the paranormal. When Uncle Charlie dies, Tony is devastated—and he soon starts seeing his uncle’s ghost everywhere. While he finds the presence comforting, his parents are concerned and continually pressure Tony to move on and let go of the past. Soon, the moody seventh grader learns that he’s been accepted at his great uncle’s alma mater, the Penda School in San Francisco. On his first day in the posh new school, he sees another ghost. As Tony learns more about the school and its checkered past, he fears that there is nobody whom he can trust. Things come to a head on Halloween, when Tony discovers some of the dark secrets harbored by the school and his connection to a missing student. Avi takes readers on a wild ride where the dead do far more than haunt the living. VERDICT Hand this spine-tingling and occasionally grotesque work to readers who have embraced Ransom Riggs’s Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children and Cornelia Funke’s Ghost Knight.
Bishop, Jenn. The Distance to Home. 240p. ebook available. Knopf. Jun. 2016. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781101938713; lib. ed. $19.99. ISBN 9781101938720. POP
Gr 4-6–A year after the death of her teenage sister, 11-year-old Quinnen is still grieving and adjusting to her new life as her parents’ only child. Complicating matters is that at the time of Haley’s death, Quinnen, in a fit of jealousy over her sister’s boyfriend, does something hurtful. Before Haley’s death, Quinnen had been the star pitcher of her Little League team, the Panthers, and an enthusiastic fan of the Tri-City Bandits, the local minor league farm team, but Quinnen can’t bring herself to play baseball without her sister cheering from the stands. Quinnen’s parents, in an effort to rekindle their daughter’s love of baseball, agree to become a host family to one of the Bandits’ minor league players, Brandon. It is through her friendship with Brandon and another player, Hector, that Quinnen finds the courage to get back on the diamond. In chapters that alternate between the summer Haley dies and the following summer, Bishop portrays a girl and her family in transition. Ultimately, it is Quinnen’s love for the game of baseball that helps her to forgive herself and appreciate the bond she shared with Haley. Though the supporting characters are not nearly as well developed as Quinnen herself, readers will find themselves moved by the protagonist’s journey toward “home.” VERDICT Recommend this poignant novel to fans of Keeping Score by Linda Sue Park and The Thing About Jellyfish by Ali Benjamin.–
Palatini, Margie. Isabella for Real. illus. by LeUyen Pham. 208p. HMH. Oct. 2016. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780544148468. POP
Gr 4-6–Life for Isabella Antonelli is as normal as being in an extended, multigenerational Italian American family can be. In fact, it’s pretty much what most families are like. But the friends at her new school don’t think so, mistakenly believing she has been born into privilege as the daughter of a wealthy contessa. Making matters worse, her cousin’s home videos have become an online sensation, overrunning their entire block with paparazzi, news reporters, and the occasional hot dog stand cashing in on the fame. While she’s ready to come clean about her mistaken identity, the school elections are coming up, so, with the help of some neighbors, Isabella devises an elaborate scheme to maintain the facade until after the elections. Things do not go as planned in this wacky tale of a middle school double life. For a generation used to sharing as much through social media as in person, one’s online presence is a very relevant theme that will resonate well with audiences. The story’s conflict, if at times far-fetched, is one that middle schoolers can easily relate to in their search for acceptance among peers while grappling with their own identity issues. Palatini has created a vibrant look at life in an eccentric family with a colorful cast of unique characters whose quirkiness never fails to delight. Pham’s lively cartoon illustrations perfectly balance the energy, lending a lighthearted yet humorous air to the conflict. VERDICT This fast-paced, fun read about the pressures of fitting in in our media-saturated culture is a solid addition to most middle grade collections.–
Armentrout, Jennifer L. The Problem with Forever. 496p. ebook available. Harlequin Teen. May 2016. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9780373212057. POP
Gr 9 Up–Engaging characters and real-life drama make for a potential hit with teens, if they can overlook the stock, repetitive romantic descriptions. Mallory (aka Mouse) is living with successful, caring adoptive parents after a horrific childhood in foster homes. She decides to attend public high school after years of homeschooling. Her world is rocked when Rider enters her speech class; Rider was her lifeline in the foster home, taking many beatings for her and teaching her how to hide and stay quiet to avoid Mr. Henry’s wrath. While the protagonist seems shackled by her past, Rider appears to have moved forward, complete with a swagger and a laissez-fair attitude. They spend time together, and their relationship starts to grow from Mouse and her white knight to much more. Unfortunately, Rider’s lifestyle and family link him with some unsavory characters. Mallory and Rider must evaluate their relationship—who really has changed, and is it for the better? The situations are gritty but presented in an accessible manner. One frankly depicted sex scene makes this more appropriate for high school readers. VERDICT An easy sell to teens wanting to experience a frank if predictable coming-of-age romance.
Clare, Cassandra. Lady Midnight: A Shadowhunters Novel. 720p. (The Dark Artifices: Bk. 1). ebook available. S. & S./Margaret K. McElderry Bks. 2016. Tr $24.99. ISBN 9781442468351. POP
Gr 9 Up–Emma Carstairs and Julian Blackthorn have grown up together, struggling with the deaths of their respective parents and the responsibilities of caring for Julian’s younger siblings after the Dark War. Five years after they convince the Clave to allow Emma to stay with the Blackthorns in Los Angeles, Emma and Julian realize that they are drawn to each other in a way prohibited by the rules of their parabatai bond. Julian’s older brother Mark returns, conditionally, from the Wild Hunt to help the duo investigate recent murders that Emma believes may be connected to those of her parents. The Clave insists that her parents’ deaths were related to the war, so true to Shadowhunter form, the teens take matters into their own hands, enlisting the help of the warlock Malcolm Fade and their tutor, Diana Wrayburn, as they pursue a dangerous truth that will unlock secrets of betrayal, obsession, and revenge. Complications abound, with multiple cliff-hangers that hint at the hard-hitting drama to come as the series continues. Clare delivers spectacular Shadowhunter fare with her trademark street tough yet emotionally fragile adolescent characters taking on adult roles and includes plenty of violent action and passionate romance to satisfy fans of “The Infernal Devices” and “The Mortal Instruments” series, who will be thrilled to see some of their favorite characters from the previous books make appearances. VERDICT A must-have for libraries with devoted Shadowhunter fans, who will undoubtedly be waiting for this emotionally intense beginning to her new series.
Hoffmeister , Peter Brown. This Is the Part Where You Laugh. 336p. ebook available. Knopf. May 2016. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780553538106; lib. ed. $20.99. ISBN 9780553538113. POP
Gr 10 Up–In the opening scene of this powerful and unsettling novel, Travis is in the process of releasing two caimans—fearsome alligatorlike creatures—into the lake behind his grandparents’ home. He claims that he is doing so to provide entertainment for his dying grandmother. Is his motivation this simple, or is his genuine love for his grandmother also a pretext for expressing the rage that seems to lie just beyond the realm of his understanding? No easy answers are provided, and readers are forced to decide for themselves if Travis is perpetrator, victim, or both. He spends much of the narrative searching for the heroin-addicted mother who abandoned him, and he suffered the depredations of foster care and the juvenile justice system before being taken in by his caring but poverty-stricken grandparents. Basketball provides solace and purpose for his life, but even here his violent nature intrudes, as he knocks a trash-talking opponent unconscious in a game. While he forms connections with Creature, a teammate who writes love letters to long-dead Russian princesses, and Natalie, a troubled girl who lives on the affluent side of the lake, Travis is, in the end, unable to overcome either his own impulses or the circumstances of his life. In a compelling but disturbing narrative voice, the protagonist recounts the assaults and other acts of aggression he commits in flat, uninflected, unemotional language, as if he were describing the deeds of someone else. VERDICT A unique, unforgettable tale that is a must-have for all YA collections.
Khorana, Aditi. Mirror in the Sky. 352p. ebook available. Penguin/Razorbill. Jun. 2016. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781595148568. POP
Gr 7-10–As Tara prepares to start her junior year without her best friend, who will be studying abroad, a new, Earth-like planet is discovered, throwing the world into a mild chaos. Besides the temporary loss of her best friend, Tara must also deal with the departure of her mother, who has left for California to join a cultish organization that hopes to make contact with inhabitants of the new planet. After attention from a popular boy gets Tara invited to a big party, she spends her year infiltrating the popular circle of her posh Connecticut prep school. Khorana focuses on how social groups take shape and thrive as she compares the friendship circles that develop in high school with the various groups forming because of the potential existence of life beyond Earth. Readers won’t necessarily learn hard science, but they will be encouraged to ponder the vast expansiveness of the universe. The writing style is eloquent, and the characters are well developed, particularly Tara, who is struggling as the only Indian girl in an all-white school. VERDICT Although this work is grounded in the premise of life beyond Earth, the main focus here on teen social interactions will appeal to readers who enjoy realistic fiction with a splash of sci-fi.
Russo, Meredith. If I Was Your Girl. 272p. ebook available. Flatiron. May 2016. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781250078407. POP
Gr 9 Up–After a violent incident in her Atlanta suburb, Amanda moves to small-town Tennessee to make a new start with her estranged father. Finally living openly as her true self three years after she, then known as Andrew, attempted suicide, Amanda needs the safety and relative freedom of a fresh beginning. A new set of risks and opportunities open up to her as she makes friends with a group of girls harboring their own secrets, navigates a tense relationship with a father who is terrified of what the world will do to his child, and begins the first romance of her life. This is everything a coming-of-age novel should be—honest, complicated, and meaningful. Amanda navigates the teenage world with a cautious bravery that will grip readers by the heart. Russo, herself a trans woman from Tennessee, handles every issue in the story—from pot and promposals to hormones and support groups—with a deft hand, both gentle and honest. The result is a narrative that transcends the typical “issue” novel to be a beautiful tale in its own right. VERDICT A highly recommended purchase for any collection serving teens.
Schrefer, Eliot. Rescued. 272p. ebook available. Scholastic May 2016. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9780545655033; ebk. $18.99. ISBN 9780545655040. POP
Gr 6 Up–The third entry in the author’s well-received quartet, this work introduces us to Raja, a pet orangutan living in suburbia with John and his parents. John grows up with Raja, and their bond is deep. But as the animal grows older and less cute, the family is forced to stop treating him like a teddy bear come to life. Raja is separated from John, banished to a trailer in the backyard. Eventually, the friends have to live further apart when John’s parents separate. When the boy’s father decides to send Raja to live at a zoo, John knows he has to say goodbye to Raja. He realizes he can’t let Raja be mistreated and abused any longer and decides to smuggle the orangutan back to where he came from—Indonesia—no matter what it takes. It’s John’s responsibility to do what’s best for Raja, whatever that may be. Schrefer beautifully shows the humanity we share with all living things and pulls some heartstrings in this tale. Readers will be affected by the narrative and realize that while this work is fiction, stories of mistreated animals in our societies are unfortunately quite real and common. VERDICT This is another well-written and fast-paced story that Endangered and Threatened fans will enjoy.
Tintera, Amy. Ruined. 368p. ebook available. HarperCollins/HarperTeen. May 2016. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780062396600. POP
Gr 8 Up–Unlike most other people from Ruina, Emelina Flores has no magical abilities. After her parents, the king and queen, are murdered and her younger sister is kidnapped, Em must rely on her cunning and skill with a sword to exact revenge against the royal family of Lera and rescue her sister. She quickly dispatches Princess Mary of neighboring Vallos and takes her place as the bride of Prince Casimir in order to infiltrate the castle. But unlike his genocidal father, Cas is kind, and Em is unexpectedly attracted to him. When an army of warriors from the kingdom of Olso attacks, per Em’s plan, she has to struggle with her new affection for her husband as she continues her quest to destroy Lera. Em is a resilient and likable heroine with a wry sense of humor, a knack for self-preservation, and the fighting prowess to match. Cas is a sympathetic character who is a skilled fighter with a sense of duty to his family and country. Secondary characters are more narrowly focused on defending their respective kingdoms and don’t display much depth. Told in the alternating points of view of Em and Cas, the book features action, palace intrigue, romance, and a large spattering of blood and gore. Just when it appears possible that love might conquer hate, there is a twist at the book’s end guaranteeing a sequel that will likely be even more violent. VERDICT This book will appeal to fans of female-powered battle-filled epic fantasy.
Kibuishi, Kazu. Firelight. illus. by Kazu Kibuishi. 208p. (Amulet: Bk. 7). Scholastic/Graphix. 2016. Tr $24.99. ISBN 9780545839662; pap. $12.99. ISBN 9780545433167. POP
Gr 4-6–Emily continues the struggle to free Alledia from years of conflict and to understand her powers as a Stonekeeper. She and her allies believe that accessing lost memories can help them get to the heart of the war they are fighting. Who exactly is their enemy, the Elf King? The lost memories of his son, Trellis, may have the answer. Meanwhile, Emily’s brother Navin continues his role as Commander of the Resistance, traveling toward the elf kingdom of Valcor. Characters are drawn manga-style, with wide eyes and spiky hair. They populate detailed and epic Alledian landscapes, depicted in rich jewel tones of red, blue green, and purple. Quick cuts between panels, many of them wordless, create a cinematic feel. Whimsical robot and animal characters such as Cogsley, Dagno, and Enzo add some humor to the largely dramatic and serious tone, which makes for complex and abstract plot lines. Our heroes travel into memories, find memories buried in those memories, then learn that most of them are manipulative illusions. Nothing in the Amulet universe is ever what it seems. Those who have read the entire series will enjoy these complexities, but those unfamiliar with the previous installments should catch up before picking up this volume. VERDICT “Amulet” fans will find the same vivid illustrations, endearing characters, and sophisticated plotting as in previous volumes.
Ottaviani, Jim. The Imitation Game: Alan Turing Decoded. illus. by Leland Purvis. 240p. bibliog. notes. Abrams ComicArts. 2016. Tr $24.95. ISBN 9781419718939. POP
Gr 9 Up–British scientist and mathematician Alan Turing pioneered theoretical computer science and artificial intelligence during the first half of the 20th century. Like many geniuses, he was misunderstood by most of his peers, and he was eventually ostracized because of his sexuality. Regardless, his work was instrumental in ending World War II as well as in revolutionizing computer science. This adaptation uses a pastel palette of watercolors, strong black lines, and dynamic storytelling devices to bring Turing’s tale to life. Multiple narratives, including those of Turing, his mother, and several of his colleagues and friends, weave in and out, following Turing from adolescence to the end of his short life. Readers not familiar with the man may be confused by the multiple narrators, who are not clearly identified. Others will enjoy the mystery and putting the puzzle pieces together until a clearer picture of Turing is formed. Teens with math or computer science bent will enjoy this slice of history and will learn about logic and algorithms along the way. Those who are interested in social justice and LBGTQ rights will also be engaged. VERDICT While this graphic novel will appeal to a broad range of readers, the technical language describing Turing’s work may dissuade some. An additional, although worthwhile, purchase.
Samamiya , Akaza. Bloody Mary Vol. 1. illus. by Akaza Samamiya. 192p. Viz Media. 2015. pap. $9.99. ISBN 9781421582863. POP
Gr 7 Up–Priest Maria is being stalked by a vampire, the 400-year-old “Bloody” Mary, who yearns for Maria to kill him. Unfortunately, Maria has no idea how to use his inherited powers to give Mary the death that he seeks. So Maria offers Mary a deal: if Mary can protect him from other vampires and help him unlock the secrets of becoming an exorcist, Maria will use his power to grant Mary’s wish and end his life. There are a great many unanswered questions in this first volume, with numerous intriguing hints that suggest a far more complex story line to come. Though dark, this series also includes some humor: Mary’s stalking and pleading to be killed are often ridiculously comic. The artwork and character designs, however, are where the manga truly shines. While the story is somewhat confusing and the jokes sometimes fall flat, the visuals are quite lovely. All of the main characters have a bishonen look, and many of the panels use the sparkle and floral screen tone designs that characterize a shoujo series. At first glance, this manga seems to be flirting with the theme of love between boys, but it never actually crosses that line. VERDICT Pair with Matsuri Hino’s Vampire Knight for entertaining vampire manga with actual plot and a profusion of blood-drenched beautiful boys.
Becker, Helaine. Worms for Breakfast: How To Feed a Zoo. illus. by Kathy Boake. 40p. glossary. index. Owlkids. Apr. 2016. Tr $16.95. ISBN 9781771471053. POP
Gr 2-5–Ever wondered how to feed a gorilla, an ostrich, or a skunk? Look no further than this recipe book for zookeepers. While readers aren’t likely to need to feed a partula snail, it’s fascinating to learn they eat a ground slurry of oats, dried grass, fish pellets, and cuttlefish bone. Fantastical digital collages give viewers plenty to puzzle over, such as a tiger relaxing on a pool float while eating a “Predator Popsicle.” Each spread covers a different topic relevant to zoo animal conservation (feeding babies, storing food, dealing with picky eaters) along with a fun, though not always practical, recipe. While lacking report level information, this selection serves budding zoologists a treat to chew on. It provides a glimpse of the intricacies of feeding a menagerie of wild animals with diverse dietary needs. VERDICT Great for libraries in need of fun, browsable animal books.
Bower, Tamara. The Mummy Makers of Egypt. illus. by Tamara Bower. 40p. maps. Seven Stories. 2016. Tr $17.95. ISBN 9781609806002. POP
Gr 4-6–Award-winning author and illustrator Bower reveals the process of Egyptian embalming in a colorful and informative manner. The narrative follows the death and embalming of Yuya, an official of the royal court whose tomb was discovered in 1905 near the Valley of the Kings. The text begins with the historical context of embalming in ancient Egypt, followed by a description of the soul’s journey to and judgment at the court of Osiris. The majority of the content thereafter concerns the process of embalming in greater detail and burial. Bower’s training in archaeological illustration is evident in the book’s stylized figures, all painted in classical Egyptian form. Solid earth tones guide readers through the narrative, and many illustrations are beautifully rendered. In this uniquely Egyptian style, Bower depicts the journey into the afterlife, the embalming priests, the colorful funerary processions, and hieroglyphics. The text is just as hearty as the artwork, the embalming process detailed in a respectful manner. Bower explains the process without dumbing down or sanitizing the material, describing the priests’ careful incisions and the removal of organs. The culture of embalming is also examined. For instance, readers learn that the priest who made the abdominal incision was a specialist. After this priest made the incision, he was, by tradition, cast out by the other attending priests (with a wink and a nod), because it was wrong to cut a human body. Bower appends a useful article discussing the discovery of Yuya and his wife Thuya’s tomb. Much like David L. Weitzman’s Pharaoh’s Boat, this offering succeeds in illuminating a specific element of ancient Egyptian life. VERDICT An artful and informational book on a high-interest topic.
Gutman , Dan. My Weird School Fast Facts: Sports. ISBN 9780062306180; ISBN 9780062306173.
––––. My Weird School Fast Facts: Geography. ISBN 9780062306210; ISBN 9780062306203.
ea vol: illus. by Jim Paillot. 176p. ebook available. photos. HarperCollins. Jun. 2016. lib. ed. $16.89. pap. $5.99. POP
Gr 2-5–Gutman’s familiar characters A.J. (Arlo) and Andrea are here to entertain and to inform young readers about geography and sports. Taking turns, A.J., the comedian, and Andrea, the straight man, relate odd and interesting tidbits. Geography includes chapters on the continents, water, and natural disasters with fun facts, such as that Antarctica is the world’s largest desert, the Grand Canyon existed before the dinosaurs, and in 1928 a tornado pulled the feathers off of chickens. In Sports, which divides chapters according to individual pastimes, readers discover that a 14-year-old girl struck out Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig, Tom Dempsey kicked a 63-yard field goal despite a disability, and Detroit Red Wings fans throw an octopus on the ice during playoff games. Gutman certainly knows his audience as the jokes, puns, and interactions between A.J. and Andrea are solid. Paillot’s hilarious illustrations make both books even more engaging. VERDICT Gutman’s witty presentation and comfortable, familiar characters will appeal to all, especially fans of the series.
O’Connell, Caitlin. Bridge to the Wild: Behind the Scenes at the Zoo. photos by Caitlin O’Connell & Timothy Rodwell. 208p. ebook available. index. photos. HMH. Aug. 2016. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9780544277397. POP
Gr 4-7–O’Connell takes readers through five days of behind-the-scenes access to a number of different exhibits while introducing some of the amazing inhabitants of Zoo Atlanta. There is so much more happening at a zoo than just the proper care and feeding of the animal residents, and O’Connell shares a number of the projects and the people behind them. For example, researchers are looking for ways to increase the likelihood of panda reproduction in captivity, which has proven elusive and difficult. O’Connell also makes clear how important the veterinarians are to the zoo and how they keep a constant eye on all of their charges so that no small illness turns into a larger one or spreads to other animals. The author mingles her narration about her visits to the zoo with animal facts and explanations about behavior, which are often denoted with a different typeface and color. The highlight, and really the focus, is on the special access she was given, a chance to learn about the people who work with the animals, and the mission of zoos to protect species and help world populations of animals. Photographs are dotted throughout the book and give a visual immediacy to the text. VERDICT A solid offering to young animal lovers.
Zuckerman, Gregory with Elijah Zuckerman & Gabriel Zuckerman. Rising Above: How 11 Athletes Overcame Challenges in Their Youth To Become Stars. Philomel. May 2016. p. 186. POP
Gr 6-8–In this collection of profiles, the authors outline the early lives and significant challenges of 11 standout athletes, tracing some of the personal traits that helped them succeed despite long odds. Only one of the athletes is a woman, tennis great Althea Gibson. Her chapter is especially motivational, detailing her endurance of hateful attacks and racist barriers. At the close of each chapter, the athlete weighs the demands he or she has faced and reflects on important lessons learned. Several athletes describe sexual and physical abuse, the loss or absence of parents, or, in the case of Congolese-born NBA forward Serge Ibaka, coming-of-age in a war zone. Though the narrative is fluid throughout, the authors occasionally lapse into play-by-play patter, describing, for example, basketball star Stephen Curry “knocking down threes,” meaning three-point throws, though elsewhere they take pains to define elementary aspects of the sports. In an afterword, Gregory Zuckerman credits the idea for the book to one of his sons, both of whom are listed as coauthors, a potential selling point. VERDICT Despite some minor blemishes, this will be an easy pitch for middle school sports lovers.