SLJ‘s September 2016 Popular Picks feature some great titles that your kids and teens will be clamoring for. This month, check out the latest “Bad Kitty” picture book, this time about Halloween; Eoin Colfer’s Iron Man adventure; S.J. Kincaid’s YA sci-fi thriller; and an adorable biography of E.B. White by Melissa Sweet.
Baker, Keith. Hap-Pea All Year. illus. by Keith Baker. 40p. S. & S./Beach Lane. Nov. 2016. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781481458542. POP
PreS-Gr 1 –Baker’s busy legumes are back and celebrating the months of the year in this bright and cheerful concept book. The peas introduce each month with rhyming metric and mention one special thing that normally occurs during that particular month. “Hap-pea July! Chase the fireflies./Roll out a sleeping bag, watch the sparkling skies.” Halloween and Thanksgiving are both alluded to here, but the images in these spreads could also be interpreted as other celebrations, such as harvest festivals. February specifically addresses Valentine’s Day, however, and March calls out St. Patrick’s Day. Children will enjoy spending time looking at all of the small digitally illustrated peas and their adventures in each specific month. VERDICT With the traditional, spacious two-page format and minimal text, this volume should be a crowd-pleaser for storytimes as well as one-on-one reading. A general purchase for most libraries.
Bruel, Nick. Bad Kitty, Scaredy-Cat. illus. by Nick Bruel. 32p. Roaring Brook. Aug. 2016. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781596439788. POP
PreS-Gr 2 –Bad Kitty, the character who reinvented cattitude, is back in time for Halloween. Bright pumpkin-orange endpapers frame the alphabet-focused tale of how Kitty became a scaredy-cat and how she recovers her courage with the help of 26 kinds of Halloween treats. We’re first introduced to the formerly Angry, Brave, Clumsy, Daring, Energetic, Fearless cat who was transformed one All Hallows’ Eve. Who can resist language like “one dark and foggy night, something terrible happened. Out of the darkness and into her doorway appeared the most horrible and frightening creatures Kitty had ever seen.” (The dramatic language is entertainingly offset by illustrations of Kitty sprawling on top of a cheery, drooling Puppy.) And who were these creatures? A Monstrous Mummy, Noisy Neanderthal, Odious Ogre, Putrid Pirate—oh, they’re so convincingly weird and wicked that Kitty has to hide her eyes and duck under the couch. But the reviving powers of apples, bubble gum, candy corn, dried fruit, and English toffee, all dropped by the aforementioned monsters, bring back the BAD in Bad Kitty, and readers can only feel sorry for the bemused trick-or-treaters whom she disrobes, if not dismembers. VERDICT Perfect for storytime or one-on-one sharing, this is a must-have addition for most holiday collections.–
Cyrus, Kurt. Billions of Bricks. illus. by Kurt Cyrus. 32p. Holt/Christy Ottaviano Bks. Oct. 2016. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781627792738. POP
PreS-Gr 2 –Builders. Counters. Gather round to share this book where bricks abound. As workers make bricks, mix mortar, and build increasingly complex structures, Cyrus’s pulsing rhythm and infectious rhyme drive their efforts forward. Six bricks on the first pages grow to piles of tens, patterns of four, then hundreds forming arches and stairs. Against the earth-tone palette of the bricks themselves, splotches of color from hard hats and overalls identify the laborers. Among the workers who reappear in many scenes are the original three—a boy, a man, and a woman—who can be spotted on each spread. Variations in type size automatically generate emphasis in read-aloud renditions, which seem essential. Individual readers can peruse the complex illustrations of building sites for increased enjoyment. The impeccable design is apparent even on the title pages, where bricks form words and the youngest worker walks past a window. VERDICT This impressive melding of illustrations and text that celebrates hard work and building deserves a place in general collections and on read-aloud shelves.
DiPucchio, Kelly. Everyone Loves Cupcake. illus. by Eric Wight. 40p. Farrar. Sept. 2016. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780374302931. POP
PreS-Gr 2 –Cupcake is the fancy star of the bakery. She works hard to make sure she is beloved by all the other sweet treats. Being popular takes a lot of work as Cupcake rolls the wrinkles out of her paper baking liner, gets a new icing application, and makes sure that no sprinkle is out of place. Unfortunately, Cupcake starts alienating her former admirers with her constant quest for adoration. Maybe Cupcake doesn’t need to be perfect for everyone after all. Each of the colorful bakery items has its own personality in this humorous tale. Puns abound, although some are more successful than others. The cinnamon bun “roll[s] his eyes,” croissant can be a little “flaky,” Coffee loves Cupcake “a latte,” and at one point Cupcake feels “crummy.” The message of acceptance is a bit muddled within the jokes, and there is an unnecessary romance between the fortune cookie and Cupcake, but by the conclusion it is clear that all of the bakery treats are friends and accepting of one another’s flaws. Fans of DiPucchio and Wight’s earlier offering, Everyone Loves Bacon, will be excited to see a bacon cameo. VERDICT This tempting treat will satisfy young readers’ craving for laughs.
Keane, Dave. Who Wants a Tortoise? illus. by K.G. Campbell. 40p. Knopf. Jul. 2016. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780385754170. POP
PreS-Gr 2 –A girl yearns for a puppy. After much anticipation, her birthday present doesn’t turn out to be what she expected. With dreams dashed, she eyes her tortoise warily. Assessing the abilities of her “new lump of a pet,” the feisty child discovers that he’s not good at fetch, won’t “beg for baloney,” and doesn’t “get excited when you come through the door.” The pair do eventually bond over toenail-painting parties and skateboard-enabled walks. When her tortoise goes missing, the girl realizes how much she loves that “rascally guy with the waggly tail.” Campbell’s quirky colored-pencil and watercolor illustrations are the perfect match for the hilarious, spirited narration. Wearing a paw-print T-shirt, the sassy, pigtailed girl shows her initial displeasure by crinkling her eyes and making her “mad face.” In a touching scene, the child appears in the nighttime shadows, wistfully looking out her window for her lost friend. VERDICT Irresistibly idiosyncratic and full of charm, this pet tale is a keeper. An adorable addition to any pet-themed storytime.
Kuhlman, Evan. Hank’s Big Day: The Story of a Bug. illus. by Chuck Groenink. 40p. Random/Schwartz & Wade. Sept. 2016. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780553511505. POP
PreS-Gr 2 –It’s a simple life for Hank the pill bug: he awakens from under his home beneath a rock, shimmies through the tall grass, nibbles on leaves, plays dead to avoid a scary grasshopper, and meets new and old friends among the mushrooms and sticks. Hank’s life gets much more exciting, however, when he meets a new friend, Amelia, who makes Hank her copilot as she soars over the Atlantic Ocean in her airplane! Hank climbs aboard her helmet as they zip through the yard, letting Hank see his world in a whole new way. Running, zooming, and flying through the grass, they wave to the queen of England and barely miss the Eiffel Tower! All that action makes them hungry, so they stop at a café, Le Velvet Bug, to enjoy a snack before voyaging back to America. Amelia and Hank make a daring landing back home, where they reflect on their special and imaginative adventure as new friends. Back across the sidewalk, past the grasshopper, and down the stick, Hank arrives home, where he nestles again at last. This thrilling selection is an ideal choice for storytime. Whimsical mixed-media illustrations enhance the playful appeal of the tale. This debut picture book features a strong female character of color. VERDICT A lively suburban romp that captures the essence of friendship and play, with text and thoughtful details that are interspersed evenly enough to hold the attention of younger readers.
Soman, David. The Monster Next Door. illus. by David Soman. 40p. Dial. Sept. 2016. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780525427834. POP
PreS-Gr 2 –The cocreator of the “Ladybug Girl” series is back with his second solo effort—a tale of an unusual friendship. The story starts with a boy standing on the deck of the tree house, a spyglass in hand and a bucket full of water balloons at the ready. One day, he spies a new tree house being built nearby. His new neighbor is a rotund purple monster sporting a vest and two horns on the top of his head. At first the two don’t appear to have much in common. But before long, they are setting up a pulley system to pass notes back and forth between the two abodes. They decide to celebrate the newfound friendship with a shared interest—playing music! Unfortunately, the sound of the tuba that the monster plays drowns out the music from the boy’s small kazoo. The illustrations visually represent the music excellently, with swirling watercolors that extend out from the instruments. The boy can be seen recoiling from the monster’s music, which presses down on him and envelops his sound. The monster doesn’t respond to the child’s complaint that he is playing too loudly, and soon they are hurling insults and water balloons at each other. Furious, the boy cuts the rope on the pulley and stomps over to hand deliver a friendship-ending note. The resolution that follows is realistic and right on target for the audience. VERDICT Kids will relate to the intense emotions of disagreeing with a friend and the simple act of making up once the anger has passed. Great for read-alouds and small group sharing.
Thomas, Jan. Is That Wise, Pig? illus. by Jan Thomas. 40p. S. & S./Beach Lane. Sept. 2016. Tr $14.99. ISBN 9781416985822. POP
PreS-Gr 1 –Children will be delighted with this silly variation of the traditional “Stone Soup” story. Several animals add ingredients to make a big pot of soup, but Pig brings some seemingly strange items, such as umbrellas and galoshes. When Pig brings his offerings, the other animals ask, “Is that wise, Pig?” Young readers will all know that his silly donations are not wise at all and will laugh at his poor choices. But in the end, Pig’s choices are wise indeed. This book is depicted in the author’s familiar style: large, cartoonlike illustrations with heavy black outlines cover the pages, and the text is provided via speech bubbles. The ingredients are also presented as a counting lesson: “one onion, two cabbages,” and so on. Young readers will be easily engaged by the ridiculous pig and appealing illustrations and will be drawn into the subtle counting exercise. VERDICT This read-aloud begs for extended activities, such as having children make (draw, paint, or cut) their own contributions to a communal pot of soup for the group. Recommended for all collections.
Colfer, Eoin. Iron Man: The Gauntlet. illus. by Owen Richardson. 288p. ebook available. Marvel. Oct. 2016. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781484741603. POP
Gr 4-6 –Readers familiar with the Marvel Universe know all about Tony Stark and his campaign to redeem the destructive legacy of Stark Industries, more often than not with the use of the Iron Man suit. While under his father’s leadership, Stark Industries designed the most creative and destructive weapons in the world, and his dad was rather cynical about the use of technology. In this novel, written by the author of the “Artemis Fowl” books, these themes are never far from the forefront. Saoirse Tory, a young computer genius, tricks Tony, hoping to force him to save her sister, who she believes is being held captive. Unfortunately, one of Iron Man’s many nemeses, the Mandarin, is waiting in the wings. Middle school readers, especially those who are fans of the superhero genre, will enjoy the action and changes of fortune as Tony fights to thwart the Mandarin’s plans. The characters are well-developed; even the bad guys have interesting personalities. In the end, readers see how Tony has turned his father’s cynicism on its head with a more hopeful application of Stark technology. VERDICT A solid addition to larger collections where Marvel fans abound.–
O’Donnell, Tom. Hamstersaurus Rex. illus. by Tim Miller. 272p. (Hamstersaurus Rex: Bk. 1). HarperCollins. Oct. 2016. Tr $12.99. ISBN 9780062377548. POP
Gr 3-6 –Entering the extended family that includes Timmy Failure, Otis Dooda, and Greg Heffley, Sam Gibbs is a lovable, misunderstood outsider. Sam is down and out because of an ill-fated foray into caricature drawing that turns his classmates against him and leaves him ripe and ready for a magical sidekick. He finds one when the class hamster consumes a bit too much of their gym teacher’s bodybuilding powder and transforms into a mutant creature with a voracious appetite and physical characteristics of a small but incredibly strong dinosaur. O’Donnell’s comedy bona fides include writing for the TV show Billy on the Street and penning essays for McSweeney’s and The New Yorker. As with most successful kid-centric comedy, he gets lots of mileage out of the communication breakdown between kids and adults, which enables Sam to hide his wild, snack food–wolfing pal much longer than he should be able to. O’Donnell’s farcical stock characters (nicely complemented by Miller’s cartoon-style illustrations), such as the teacher’s pet and the secretly sad gym teacher, are another source of amusement. The more major characters, including Sam’s disc golf–playing BFF Dylan and swirlie-loving bully, Beefer Vanderkoff, are only modestly fleshed out—not necessarily a bad thing, since O’Donnell is aiming for rapid-fire amusement in the form of briskly deployed gags. O’Donnell misses an opportunity by not giving Hamstersaurus Rex, the character, a voice of his own. That would have made Sam’s alone time with the swiftly changing animal more satisfying (and potentially funnier). Still, adults and kids alike will find that O’Donnell’s deadpan, mildly absurdist writing style will generate some satisfying laughs. VERDICT A funny, lighthearted option for fans of Tom Angleberger.
Vernon, Ursula. Ratpunzel. illus. by Ursula Vernon. 240p. (Hamster Princess: Bk. 3). Dial. Oct. 2016. Tr $12.99. ISBN 9780803739857. POP
Gr 3-6 –Harriet, the intrepid hamster princess warrior who broke the curse placed on her at birth (Harriet the Invincible) and rescued the 12 dancing mice princesses (Of Mice and Magic), goes up against an evil sorceress. Trouble’s in the air at Harriet’s best friend Prince Wilbur’s castle: an egg laid by his mother’s hydra, a nine-headed creature appropriately named Heady, has gone missing. Harriet and Wilbur leap onto their quails and gallop off to solve the mystery. Along the way, they meet Dame Gothel, a mysterious, cloak-clad gerbil with a flair for magic, and her ward, Ratpunzel, a rodent who’s been imprisoned within a tower (by lowering her long tail, she allows visitors access). Subverting gender stereotypes (Wilbur is the gentle and more thoughtful foil to impulsive and bold Harriet) and skewering fairy-tale tropes left and right (sweet Ratpunzel’s innocent and trusting nature is hilariously absurd), this slim, dialogue-heavy, action-packed volume is packed with wit that’s broad enough to appeal to children yet clever enough to win over adults. Two-tone cartoon illustrations break up the text, adding humor and giving the work a graphic novel–like feel. VERDICT Hand this can’t-miss installment to followers of the series, fans of comedy mixed with adventure, and those seeking an alternative to traditional princess stories. School Library Journal
de la Cruz, Melissa. Something in Between. 416p. ebook available. Harlequin Teen. Sept. 2016. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9780373212385. POP
Gr 6-10 –Jasmine is valedictorian, a scholarship winner, and captain of a Nationals-winning cheer squad. Her Filipino family are close-knit, and they live in L.A. Her crush is the son of a senator, and he’s sweet and devoted. Her college essay is about her storytelling project with terminally ill seniors. Early into the book, readers learn that Jasmine and her family are undocumented. Jasmine is not eligible for the financial aid she would need to attend college, and she and her family face the real threat of being deported. The plot unfolds with Jasmine’s boyfriend’s father’s anti-immigrant Congressional bill being shot down and the family’s lawyer telling them that the odds are against them being able to stay in the United States. Through a series of extremely fortuitous developments, Jas receives a full ride to Stanford, a university that reviews international students’ applications without regard to their financial need. Her romantic troubles also end happily. De la Cruz received a need-blind scholarship to Columbia. She shares in an author’s note more details on how this story is semiautobiographical, which will make the narrative richer for some readers. Though the work centers on a high school senior, the romance is chaste and the plot is not too complex, making this a great choice for younger teens. VERDICT Jasmine’s tale feels too good to be true, but this possible shortcoming is offset by the timeliness and importance of the immigration issues raised and explained. This book belongs in every middle school library.
Garcia, Kami. The Lovely Reckless. 384p. ebook available. Imprint. Oct. 2016. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781250079190. POP
Gr 9 Up –Last spring, 17-year-old Frankie’s boyfriend was murdered in front of her. Frankie has always been a responsible high achiever, but her post-traumatic stress disorder from that incident leads her to make reckless decisions that result in expulsion from her elite private school. At her new public school, the most notorious students come from the Downs, a poverty-stricken and dangerous area of Washington, DC. Against her friends’ advice, Frankie begins a romance with Marco, a street racer who is involved in a criminal enterprise. Frankie is in over her head as her attempts to leave behind her past start to endanger her future. Garcia, known for her paranormal romance series, has proven that she can pen a suspenseful plot and a spicy love story. Teens will root for Marco and Frankie, whose romance reads like a mix between Romeo and Juliet and The Fast and the Furious. Unfortunately, the relationship is not always a healthy one. Marco’s initial attraction to Frankie is inexplicable, as her behavior toward him is strictly rude and abrasive. When she breaks up with him, he calls and texts her endlessly, refusing to accept the separation. And without Marco, the protagonist becomes self-destructive. Other relationships in the novel, however, like those between Frankie and her best friends, seem much deeper and explore the importance of healthy communication and the consequences of not asking for help. VERDICT This high-stakes, suspenseful romance novel is urban fiction lite for teens. The drama-filled love story, though not the healthiest example for impressionable teens, will keep them turning pages.
Kaufman, Amie & Jay Kristoff. Gemina. 672p. (The Illuminae Files: Bk. 2). ebook available. Knopf. Oct. 2016. Tr $19.99. ISBN 9780553499155. POP
Gr 6 Up –While the first book in the series, Illuminae, followed the account of the Hypatia, the only surviving spacecraft of the Kerenza colony attack, as it hurtled toward the Heimdall space station for sanctuary, this sequel describes the experience of Hanna, who lives aboard the Heimdall. She is the daughter of the space station commander, and while this remote post is fairly quiet, her world unravels when agents attempt to seize control of the space station in order to destroy it and ensure no witnesses survive. Hanna finds an unlikely ally in Nik, an unsavory gang member who deals “dust” in the space station, as they attempt to defend the Heimdall, save the Hypatia, contain vicious alien creatures, and fix a rip in the space-time continuum. The narrative is presented in a dossier-style compilation of emails, journal entries, diagrams, and transcripts. These documents serve to convey the deeply satisfying story line in a creative and engaging way, making this series an exceptional recommendation for discerning and reluctant readers. The characters are intensely believable, and it will be easy for teens to share in Hanna’s losses, betrayals, and accomplishments. Kaufman and Kristoff have woven such an intricate and compulsively readable tale that fans can revisit the text and make new discoveries each time. VERDICT An excellent choice for science fiction lovers as well as those new to the genre; a must-have for library collections.
Kincaid, S.J. The Diabolic. 416p. ebook available. S. & S. Nov. 2016. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781481472678. POP
Gr 9 Up –Nemesis is a Diabolic. More important, she is Sidonia’s Diabolic, trained to protect her at any cost. Diabolics are engineered to bond with one person and to spend their lives guarding them. They have no emotions, needs, or desires except for keeping their charges safe. Sidonia, a senator’s heir, is at great risk, since her father is considered a heretic. In a galaxy where the Emperor and his family rule through fear, Nemesis will do anything to protect Sidonia, even if it means impersonating her. When Sidonia is summoned to court, Nemesis must pose as her to keep her away from the dangerous members of court. In a place filled with lies, deceit, and greed, Nemesis tries to determine who she can trust and who is an enemy. However, pretending to be fully human is starting to affect Nemesis. She is beginning to care for people other than Sidonia, although she was not created to care. Could Diabolics possibly possess the ability to love? Kincaid has crafted incredible characters who readers can relate to and care for even if they range from privileged, bratty children to creations designed to kill. The imagery used in establishing these protagonists and the complex setting will thrill the YA audience. VERDICT Fans of Marissa Meyer’s “The Lunar Chronicles” will enjoy Kincaid’s latest. This story of friendship, love, loss, suspense, and galactic beings will grab the attention of sci-fi fans and general readers alike.–
Meyer, Marissa. Heartless. 464p. ebook available. Feiwel & Friends. Nov. 2016. Tr $19.99. ISBN 9781250044655. POP
Gr 8 Up –The author’s best fantasy yet. In her inspired reimagining of Lewis Carroll’s inimitable adventures in Wonderland, Meyer has explored the world that existed before Alice fell down the rabbit hole. All Lady Catherine wants to do is open her own bakery with the help of her maid. She has no wish to wear beautiful dresses or go to balls, and she certainly has no desire whatsoever to marry the good-natured, bumbling, childlike king. But that seems to be her fate until she meets the king’s handsome and mysterious new joker, Jest. Although his mission is to steal Lady Catherine’s heart and take it to the White Queen, who would use it to overcome the enemies of her realm, he falls in love with her instead. Employing all the best aspects of Carroll’s book—the White Rabbit, croquet with hedgehogs and flamingos, suits of cards, and the Jabberwocky—Meyer has woven all the elements of darkness and light, fate and free will, and love and hatred into an unforgettable story of the evolution of the Red Queen from a young girl who dreamed of true love and freedom to a madwoman best remembered for the phrase Off with his head. VERDICT If you only read one fractured fairy tale this year, make it Heartless. A must-have title.
Riggs, Ransom. Tales of the Peculiar. illus. by Andrew Davidson. 192p. ebook available. Dutton. Sept. 2016. Tr $24.99. ISBN 9780399538537. POP
Gr 6 Up –Riggs gives fans of his “Miss Peregrine” trilogy a history lesson of sorts in 10 short stories that provide a glimpse into the fascinating past of peculiars and Peculiardom. These fables seem familiar yet completely new, touching on themes and subjects that populate classic myths and legends. For example, the famous phrase no man is an island, entire of itself takes on a completely different meaning for one peculiar. The tales are presented as written records of known stories passed down from generation to generation, collected and presented by Millard Nullings, Esq., EdD, MBCh (one of Miss Peregrine’s children from the original books), with footnotes that fill in historical details. The pieces predate the use of photography, so instead of employing the intriguing and mysterious found photographs featured in past works, Riggs relies on beautifully detailed illustrations that capture another time and place. The stories center on characters who are different, who don’t fit in, who aren’t accepted by those around them, and who overcome these challenges and come to embrace who they truly are. VERDICT For fans of the past books, this volume will provide new insight into many of the events in Peculiar history. It is also a perfect gateway for new readers to enter the world Riggs has created. Recommended for all libraries.
Houser, Jody. Faith Vol. 1: Hollywood and Vine. illus. by Marguerite Sauvage & Francis Portela. 112p. Valiant Comics. Jul. 2016. pap. $9.99. ISBN 9781682151211. POP
Gr 7 Up –Faith Hebert, a psiotic (or person with superpowers) known as Zephyr, has relocated to Los Angeles in search of a fresh start. Once part of a group of psiotic humans (Harbinger Renegades), she now works as an unassuming entertainment blogger, Summer, eager to make her mark (as a journalist and superhero) yet conflicted about attracting attention. When her telekinetic powers (and the hacking ability of a friend) unearth other inactive psiotic beings who have mysteriously disappeared, Faith investigates. This is a modern twist on the classic superhero tale. Faith doesn’t have the typical superheroine body type, dismantling stereotypes about what it means to be superpowered. While the plot doesn’t deviate too far from the average superhero story, Faith is a self-aware protagonist, commenting on the common superhero tropes, and this selection is sure to spark conversations about body image and women in comics. VERDICT Recommended for all graphic novel fans and those interested in body positive characters.
Sayre, April Pulley. Squirrels Leap, Squirrels Sleep. illus. by Steve Jenkins. 40p. Holt. Nov. 2016. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780805092516. POP
PreS-Gr 2 –Sayre introduces four types of squirrels in this rhyming nonfiction picture book. The gray squirrel, the fox squirrel, the red squirrel, and the flying squirrel zigzag across the branches and the book’s pages. “Nose for sniffing./Jaws to chew./Eyes for looking/back at you.” The pictures illustrate the creatures exploring their world, sniffing at flowers, chomping on acorns or seeds, and pausing at the creek to drink. Squirrels can hide under their tails, using them as umbrellas, when it rains. They also use their tails for balance or even as a flag. They have “paws for climbing./Paws to pick./Paws for cleaning./Paws run. Quick!” While there is a smattering of information in the main text, the bulk of facts are located in the back matter. Topics there include “Tails as Tools,” “Early Life,” “Feeding Times,” and “Squirrels: The Planters.” Children doing reports will learn about what the rodents eat, where they live, what scientific family and order they belong to, and how they contribute to the ecosystem. Jenkins’s artwork is done with ink and cut- and torn-paper collage, produced in such a way that the pictures appear realistic and almost totally hand-drawn. Each page has merely four lines of text or so, with the rest of the layout reserved for the brilliant artwork. VERDICT A fine introductory and informational book that would be equally at home in picture book and nonfiction collections.
Sweet, Melissa. Some Writer!: The Story of E. B. White. illus. by Melissa Sweet. 176p. bibliog. chron. index. notes. photos. HMH. Oct. 2016. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9780544319592. POP
Gr 3-7 –Throughout his life, E.B. White (1899–1985) divided his time between New York City and Belgrade Lakes in Maine. He drew inspiration for his books from the bucolic setting near author Sweet’s own home and studio. Readers and writers will relate to stories of White’s childhood—he was “scrawny” and “fearful” but in love with words. As a child, he contributed short pieces to magazines, winning awards for his studies of nature, dogs, and his family. Some of his youthful creations, such as essays, poetry, and a handmade brochure, are included. Readers may be surprised to find that “Andy” spent his adult years at The New Yorker working with writers like John Updike and James Thurber and that his most ubiquitous book may actually be The Elements of Style. Much of the information on White’s adulthood is organized in the volume by his major children’s publications. Portions of handwritten and typed drafts of Charlotte’s Web will serve as inspiration for young writers. The book is illustrated in Sweet’s signature watercolor and collage, which incorporates wood and hardware, vintage office supplies, and quotes from White. Detailed tableaux invite careful inspection and reward readers with connections to the subject’s work. Photos of the author and the animals upon which he based his stories will delight readers. In addition to providing carefully chosen words and beautiful illustrations, the biography serves as a stealthy introduction to primary source material, and for the teacher librarian, the text is a rich source of nonfiction features, including a how-to on using a manual typewriter. An afterword by White’s granddaughter is an added bonus. VERDICT Drop everything and share widely.