These are SLJ‘s October 2016 Popular Picks, a collection of titles that your kids and teens will want to get their hands on. This month’s Pop Picks list includes a colorful seek-and-find by Brian Cronín, a hilarious “autobiography” by Jim Murphy, another zombie-apocalypse YA thriller, this time from Gregg Hurwitz, and a terrific look at the history of forensic science by Bridget Heos.
Biggs, Brian. Tinyville Town Gets To Work. illus. by Brian Biggs. 32p. Abrams Appleseed. Sept. 2016. Tr $16.95. ISBN 9781419721335. POP
PreS-Gr 1 –Tinyville Town is a happy place where everybody has a job to do and does it well. From the baker to the bus driver, people take pride in their work, and the town runs smoothly. When a traffic jam stops the orderly flow of their day, the townspeople realize that they need a new bridge. The mayor agrees and declares that this new bridge will be bigger, stronger, and more beautiful than the first. Using broad and colorful cartoon art, the story chronicles what it takes to complete such a project. Charming spreads of construction workers and vehicles fill the book with just enough detail to be interesting while not getting overcrowded. The endpapers display a bird’s-eye view of the town and pictures of all the workers for readers to have fun finding. This is the first book about Tinyville Town by the creator of the popular “Everything Goes” series, and children who enjoyed the earlier titles will gravitate to this one. VERDICT With a setting reminiscent of Richard Scarry’s Busytown, this offering will be a hit with future city planners and engineers and all children who like to know how things work. Recommended for purchase.
Bloom, Suzanne. A Number Slumber. illus. by Suzanne Bloom. 40p. Boyds Mills. Oct. 2016. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781629795577. POP
PreS –A menagerie of animals prepare for bed while the narrator asks readers, “What do you do to get ready for bed?” The text transitions from rhyming questions, enumerating some of the common rituals in preparing for bed, to the query, “What do other sleepyheads do when their busy day is through?” A countdown begins as “ten terribly tired tigers tiptoe to their beds” and “seven slightly stinky skunks somersault into their bunks.” With wonderfully alliterative sentences and rich vocabulary for each of the creatures from 10 to one, the narrative ends by assuring readers that what other sleepyheads do is “fall fast asleep, just like you.” The illustrations, done in pastel, have an impressionistic, dreamlike quality, with jewel-tone backgrounds that are perfectly suited for this bedtime book. VERDICT Rhyme, alliteration, and cozy images make this excellent selection ideal for read-alouds.–
Cronín, Brían. The Lost House. illus. by Brían Cronín. 40p. ebook available. Viking. Sept. 2016. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781101999219. POP
PreS-Gr 2 –Two children and their grandfather are about to go to the park, but first they need to find all of Grandad’s missing items. Readers are then encouraged to move from room to room, searching for one specific item per page. Each room is only one color, though, and with each object matching the hue of the room, the task is exceptionally hard. The pink room, where readers need to find Grandad’s glasses, is filled with ovular objects, adding to the difficulty. The cover and front page show each of the missing items. However, there is no small picture on the page to show readers what they are looking for; frustrated finders will have to flip back and forth for a reference to what the requested item looks like. Still, some children will be up to the challenge, as each room is vividly detailed and decorated, with blinding color to draw in the eye. VERDICT An artistic and creative seek-and-find book that makes for a fun interactive addition to most collections.
Eaton, Jason Carter. How To Track a Truck. illus. by John Rocco. 32p. Candlewick. Sept. 2016. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780763680657. POP
PreS-Gr 2 –Don’t want a train for a pet? How about a truck? First, you need to know how to track one. And to do that, you need to decide what kind of truck you want so you will know where to look. Then you need to use your best detective skills to find and lure one. Once you have chosen the perfect truck to fit your lifestyle and it responds to the Universal Truck Signal, you need to name it, play with it, and treat it with kindness and love. There is a truck out there for everyone! From the creators of How To Train a Train, this book on acquiring a vehicle as a pet is sure to please fans and newcomers alike. This fun and lively volume is chock-full of moving vans, monster trucks, garbage trucks, car transporters, ice-cream trucks, snowplows, and dump trucks. Children will love identifying the various vehicles and determining which one they would prefer to have as a pet. Rocco’s large cartoon illustrations are very appealing and give tons of personality to the “pets.” The vibrant colors are bold on the pages, inviting readers in. VERDICT A lovely storytime read-aloud. Children will be lining up to check this out. Another must-have for fans of titles about vehicles.
Flake, Sharon. You Are Not a Cat! illus. by Anna Raff. 40p. Boyds Mills. Oct. 2016. Tr $16.95. ISBN 9781590789803. POP
PreS-Gr 1 –When Duck insists he is a cat and meows to prove his claim, Cat corrects his obvious error by asserting that ducks always say “quack, quack.” But silly Duck would much rather stick to “meow,” and Cat fails to convince him otherwise, no matter how hard he tries. When Duck changes his chosen identity at a moment’s notice and becomes a parrot, even admitting that he was a squirrel yesterday and a rooster last week (“Cock-a-doodle-do!”), poor Cat is at his wit’s end and ultimately gives in. Flake, best known for her middle school novels, presents a hilarious picture book that will surely beg multiple readings, with the absurd premise that nothing should be assumed, no matter how obvious. Cat is the straight man to screwball Duck, and this makes the two an appealing pair sure to be adored by young readers. Raff’s soft pastel illustrations are a perfect match for the quick-witted, comic book–style text. Children will enjoy observing Cat’s mood as it shifts from smug self-righteousness to angry frustration to confused acceptance by the end of the story. Fans of Mo Willems’s popular “Elephant and Piggie” and “Pigeon” series will embrace this silly animal tale wholeheartedly. VERDICT A delightful picture book, ideal for storytime and for supporting teaching units on animal sounds.
Fleming, Denise. 5 Little Ducks. illus. by Denise Fleming. 40p. ebook available. S. & S./Beach Lane. Nov. 2016. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781481424226. POP
PreS-Gr 1 –This stunning version of the familiar children’s song features a quacking father duck and ducklings who travel not just “over the hill” but “through the woods,” “past the paddock,” “across the fields,” and “down the road” on successive days of the week. By Saturday all are gone until they heed sad Papa Duck’s final “quack, quack, quack!” and come running home. On Sunday, Mama Duck suggests that the family rest. Fleming’s signature pulp paper paintings bleed to the edges of every spread, providing vibrant textured backdrops for the ducks’ adventures. In a brilliant use of color to represent various environments and temperatures, her speckled skies change from the cool blues of the pond to deep forest green to bright blue and then the yellow of a sun-hot day on the farm. Several creatures, including a less familiar flying squirrel, share scenes with the ducks, and some appear repeatedly. A huge, multicolored turkey spills over two pages, as do a group of pigs contentedly wallowing in mud. Papa Duck’s wings are outstretched to welcome his little wanderers just back from their final encounter—charming young Anna in her wading pool. VERDICT Large, repetitive text that invites participation; the opportunity to learn the days of the week; and interesting back matter that contains brief information about the ducks and other animals in the book make this a great storytime choice for all libraries.
Jaramillo, Susie. Elefantitos/Little Elephants. illus. by Susie Jaramillo. 10p. (Canticos). Encantos. Oct. 2016. Board $14.99. ISBN 9780996995917. BL POP
Toddler-PreS –Following her wonderful Los pollitos/Little Chickies, Jaramillo returns with a beautiful adaptation of another well-loved traditional song for children. This accordion-style interactive board book features the nursery song in Spanish on one side and its English translation on the other. As an elephant balances on the web of a spider and finds the web holds strong, it invites another elephant to join in. The cumulative song goes up to five elephants balancing on the web in this sweetly illustrated book. The English translation changes the original lyrics somewhat to fit the tune, but the spirit of the song remains the same. Both versions have identical layouts and illustrations, and thanks to the concertina format, neither language takes precedence over the other. The cartoon-style elephants are appropriately gray and stand out against a white background, with the spider’s thread going across the page (the spider makes an occasional appearance), and the lyrics are simply and clearly displayed, accompanied by their corresponding number in a different color. The work has sturdy, turn-the-wheel effects that will send the elephants’ heads and trunks swaying, much to the delight of little hands. And the spider’s web? Well, of course it will break in the end! VERDICT Perfect for bilingual storytime programs and any bookshelf.
Yaccarino, Dan. I Am a Story. illus. by Dan Yaccarino. 40p. HarperCollins. Sept. 2016. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780062411068. POP
PreS-Gr 3 –This picture book imagines the story of story—from the story’s point of view. Yaccarino’s characteristic bright, stylized illustrations take readers from an ancient campfire to a modern-day one, making key stops along the way as the tale proudly narrates through the page turns. “I am a story. I was told around a campfire, then painted on cave walls. I was carved onto clay tablets and told in pictures.” Together words and illustrations capture a broad range of storytelling methods and platforms: art, writing, theater, radio, television, film, computer, and more. The book also subtly tackles the struggles of access as story prevails through time, contrasting wealthy private libraries with public libraries and showing failed censorship attempts. Coming full circle, the book closes as it started, with stories around a campfire—this time with a modern-day family under the constellations that were represented in the beginning by pictures in the sky. VERDICT A simply told but powerful celebration of the importance of story as well as a jumping-off point for more in-depth study of communication through history. An excellent choice for classroom discussions.
Fairstein, Linda. Into the Lion’s Den. 320p. (The Devlin Quick Mysteries: Bk. 1). ebook available. Dial. Nov. 2016. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780399186431. POP
Gr 3-6 –Readers meet 12-year-old Devlin Quick, girl detective and book lover, in this new series. Devlin’s friend Liza thinks she has seen someone slice a page from a rare book in the New York Public Library. Unfortunately, this crime was committed with no grown-up witnesses present. Devlin, knowing that defacing a book is a horrible thing to do, wants to solve this mystery as soon as possible. She enlists the help of the police commissioner, her friends, and others in an effort to crack the case. Devlin is a clever character who is constantly coming up with creative methodologies to gather evidence and piece together information. An appreciation of reading is a reoccurring theme throughout; many classic works of literature are referenced and explored throughout the narrative. The friendly and loving relationship between Devlin and her mother is also developed. The New York City setting plays an interesting and crucial role in this mystery; famous landmarks are significant parts of the plot’s progression. Historical and geographical facts are also often woven seamlessly into the character’s adventures. Readers will be exposed to new vocabulary in an engaging and easy-to-comprehend manner. They’ll also be introduced to a wide array of concepts and techniques often used in detective and forensic work. VERDICT A well-crafted and satisfying first volume in a new series. Ideal for bibliophiles and mystery fans alike.
Murphy, Jim. Revenge of the Green Banana. 224p. HMH. Jan. 2017. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780544786776; ebk. ISBN 9780544868236. POP
Gr 4-6 –Jim Murphy has decided that sixth grade is going to be different—this year he will not sit in the back of the class, he will do his homework, and he just might manage to impress his crush, Kathy Guenther. This plan goes awry within the first minutes of the first day of school, when Jim’s new teacher, Sister Angelica Rose, reveals that she has an entire folder detailing his past antics. After repeated humiliations at her hands, Jim and his friends start work on elaborate revenge plots. The author and main character share a name, which, along with a “warning” at the beginning of the book, sets up this goofy tale as an autobiography. It often reads like a story told by an older relative, and though this conversational style can be appealing, younger readers aren’t given a lot of context for the world of a 1950s Catholic school and the secondary characters aren’t always well realized. Nonetheless, the quick plotting, school high jinks, and charming protagonist will go a long way for many readers. VERDICT Recommended for fans of slapstick humor.
Sloan, Holly Goldberg. Short. 304p. Dial. Jan. 2017. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780399186219. POP
Gr 5-8 –Middle schooler Julia Marks reluctantly lands a part as a munchkin in a summer stock production of The Wizard of Oz. Tentative at first about her performing abilities, she’s helped along by a group of adults who see what she has not yet realized about herself: she makes a big impression for such a small person. Julia is indeed very small; the title of the book describes the protagonist, who is several inches shorter than her classmates and has been uncomfortable about her height since she overheard her parents discussing it negatively. Julia’s rambling first-person narration is very funny as she resists every new opportunity (lead munchkin dancer; second string winged monkey) and then decides she loves it once she tries it. Julia finds mentors in the well-drawn characters who make up the theater group, especially the charismatic director, who works lying down after he breaks his tailbone, and a septuagenarian costume designer and former prima ballerina. She changes her perspective on her own size when she befriends Olive, an actress with dwarfism who wows the protagonist with her singing and dancing chops, her fashion sense, and her confidence as she dresses down the director for his bias against an aspiring cast member. Brief chapters and an accessible writing style add to the novel’s appeal. VERDICT Theater kids and fans of Tim Federle’s “Nate” books will love this.
Asher, Jay. What Light. 272p. Penguin/Razorbill. Oct. 2016. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781595145512. POP
Gr 7 Up –Sierra has grown up on her family’s Christmas tree farm in Oregon, and for as long as she can remember, she has always lived two lives around Christmas: every year after Thanksgiving, her parents pack up their trailer and drive down to California to sell Christmas trees at their lot for the month of December. Even though her parents met as teens on the same lot, her father doesn’t want her dating any of the boys who work there. Sierra is OK with this, figuring that she’s not there long enough for a romance to be worth her time. And then she meets Caleb, a boy with a painful secret from his past that he’s still trying to live down. At first, Sierra isn’t sure if she should start a relationship with him, but the more she gets to know him, the more she realizes that some things are worth the risk. This is a sweet, light romance, perfect for holiday reading. While Caleb’s secret is awful, it doesn’t seem quite bad enough to merit the treatment he receives in his community. Side stories with Sierra’s friends add some humor but are overall frothy. VERDICT This is more sugar in your peppermint mocha than you’re expecting, but it’s good nonetheless. Asher’s fans will gravitate toward it.
Brunner, Kym. Flip the Bird. 368p. ebook available. HMH. Nov. 2016. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780544800854. POP
Gr 7 Up –Scoot over, Don Calame—Brunner is about to join you on your perch. This is not a book for the squeamish. It’s about falconry at its finest, but it is also about much more than that. On his way to capture his first hawk, Mercer Buddie meets the girl of his dreams. Unfortunately, she is also the daughter of pro-animal activists. Mercer must come to terms with who he is, who he wants to be, and the belief systems he wishes to espouse and reconcile those with his desire to be with a hot girl. The humor is bawdy, though not quite as ribald as Calame’s, and the accounts of hunting and dispatching prey are as honest as the descriptions of what happens when animal rights extremists “save” animals from humans. Brunner also introduces the issue of animal research and why adorable canines may just be the answer to human cardiac conditions. Readers will think deeply about their beliefs and why they hold those values right along with the protagonist. The puns, including Mercer’s decision to name his red-tailed hawk Flip, keep an otherwise heavy subject from becoming too grisly. Lovers of Sterling North’s Rascal, Farley Mowat’s Never Cry Wolf, and Calame’s Dan Versus Nature will flock to this tale about a teen and his hawk. VERDICT Get multiple copies for nature-loving reluctant readers.
Garber, Stephanie. Caraval. 416p. ebook available. Flatiron. Jan. 2017. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781250095275. POP
Gr 8 Up –Scarlett and her sister, Donatella, have been raised on a remote island by a demanding and cruel father. Scarlett is about to be married to a man she’s never met, and though her long-held dream of receiving an invitation to Caraval, the once-a-year, fantastical, immersive performance, has come true, she believes attending would jeopardize her wedding and destroy her sole chance to get herself and Tella away from their father. When her sister teams up with a sailor to trick Scarlett onto a ship and take her anyway, the heroine plans to stay for a night or two, then return home for her wedding. But then Tella is kidnapped by Legend, Caraval’s mysterious mastermind, and the protagonist learns that she can get her sister back only if she plays Legend’s game for five nights—and wins. It won’t be easy, though. Nothing (and no one) at Caraval is what it seems: time speeds up, clothing morphs according to its own agenda, and players may be called on to pay for things with their deepest fears or two days of their lives. Without knowing whom she can trust, including her own reason and senses, Scarlett must work out where her sister is and how to save her. This twisty, terrifically fun page-turner is ideal for fans of Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus, Neil Gaiman’s Stardust, and fantasy novels where relationships between sisters drive the plot, such as “The Hunger Games” or Rosamund Hodge’s Cruel Beauty. VERDICT A must-have fantasy debut for high school collections. School Library Journal
Griffin, M.A. Lifers. 288p. ebook available. Scholastic/Chicken House. Jan. 2017. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781338065534. POP
Gr 8 Up –Alice has disappeared, and after reading her cryptic final message, best friend Preston is determined to find her. Clues from her notebook lead him to MIST (the Manchester Institute for Science and Technology), where he witnesses a boy’s death and realizes that Alice is also in danger from a government conspiracy spearheaded by Christopher Armstrong, a member of Parliament elected on a law-and-order platform. But crime isn’t exactly disappearing in Manchester; it’s being forced underground. Preston will have to go “beyond the valve” before he can figure out how to rescue Alice, assuming, of course, that he’ll be able to make it out alive himself. This urban sci-fi novel is short on details of how the valve actually works, and readers are left to accept that some kind of teleportation system has been built at great expense just to deport teen delinquents in a near-future, although not dystopian, England. Action and adventure abound in this thriller, although there’s little in the way of character development. Some strong language makes this more suitable for older readers. VERDICT Purchase where James Dashner’s “Maze Runner” series or Alexander Gordon Smith’s “Escape from Furnace” books are popular.
Hurwitz, Gregg. The Rains. 352p. ebook available. Tor Teen. Oct. 2016. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780765382672. POP
Gr 7 Up –Following on the popularity of apocalyptic zombie fiction, this is an edge-of-your-seat test of survival. Set in an anywhere town, the narrative moves along at a breakneck pace. Creek’s Cause is a peaceful community filled with farms and hardworking people. Chance Rain is a 15-year-old who feels that he will never measure up to his brother, Patrick. Star quarterback and homecoming king Patrick is the envy of the other young men around him. Living a normal life on the farm, the brothers are content with tilling fields, delivering calves, hunting, and driving tractors. In one horrifying night, Creek’s Cause becomes a war zone when everyone under the age of 18 quickly realizes that they are no longer safe. Chance and Patrick have already fended off multiple attacks from infected adults by the time they arrive at the school, where other survivors are hiding. The parasite that transformed the adults into ferocious, inhuman beings affects teens the minute they turn 18. Unfortunately for Patrick, his birthday is a few weeks away. The siblings are determined to save Patrick and the remaining kids, so they set out on a seemingly impossible mission to find out the truth. This title is one of the better YA zombie-esque novels that has been written in the last few years. It is refreshing and surprising and won’t leave teens feeling as though they’ve traveled this path before. VERDICT Recommended for all YA collections, especially where Jonathan Maberry’s “Rot & Ruin” series is popular.
LaMarche, Una. You in Five Acts. 336p. ebook available. Penguin/Razorbill. Nov. 2016. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781101998939. POP
Gr 8 Up –Joy, Diego, Liv, Ethan, and Dave are students at Janus Academy, the highest-rated arts school in New York City. They are all friends, but more than that, they have one thing in common—they are all tired. Joy is tired of struggling to be recognized as a serious contender for prima ballerina by her parents and teachers. Diego is sick of always being seen as just a friend—especially by the one girl he wants the most. Liv yearns for some escape from her daily life. Ethan has had enough of the girl of his dreams always looking through him. Dave is tired of his past successes defining his future. None of the five realize that their world is changing, and it’s all coming down to one pivotal moment that spirals out of their control. LaMarche crafts the novel in five parts, each narrated by one of the main characters. The protagonists are diverse, intelligent, and solidly teen in their perspectives. Each voice is distinct and recognizable. From the beginning, the story is counting down to a culminating event, and the author is able to develop suspense but also keep the book humorous and romantic. The conclusion is heartrending and timely but also unexpected and fresh. Different points of view keep the work moving at a fast pace and add to its compulsive readability. VERDICT Purchase for all libraries that serve teens.
Pike, Aprilynne. Glitter. 384p. ebook available. Random. Oct. 2016. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781101933701; lib. ed. $20.99. ISBN 9781101933718. POP
Gr 9 Up –In this original dystopian story, the 18th-century court of Versailles is brought to life amid a technologically advanced society where corporations have surpassed governments in wealth and power. The eccentric founder of the Sonoman-Versailles Corporation purchased the palace of Versailles from the French government and created a company-based kingdom that is inspired by the baroque era of the kings Louis. Within this strange corporate kingdom is the naive Danica. She is the hapless teenage daughter of a family who live in the palace as members of the court. Danica’s life is thrown into turmoil when her power-hungry mother forces her into an engagement with the abusive and ruthless king. In order to escape and change her identity, Danica must somehow raise an exorbitant amount of money in the six short months before her wedding day. In a desperate attempt to save herself, the protagonist turns to selling the extremely potent and highly addictive drug Glitter. Slowly, her well-laid plans unravel as she falls hopelessly in love with a drug dealer and her friends become her unknowing victims. This is a stunning, unique, and fast-paced read. While illicit drug use and sexual violence make this book better suited to mature readers, fans of dystopian tales will find it breathes new life into their favorite genre. VERDICT Give this one to readers who enjoyed Kiera Cass’s “The Selection” series or Ally Condie’s Matched, or anyone looking for a fresh dystopian novel.
Shepard, Sara. The Amateurs. 320p. ebook available. Freeform. Nov. 2016. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781484742273. POP
Gr 8 Up –Five years after the murder of Dexby teen Helena Kelly, her killer is still at large and her younger sister, Aerin, is consumed by grief and lack of closure. Seeking help in solving the crime, Aerin posts to Case Not Closed (CNC), an online forum that specializes in solving cold cases. Eighteen-year-old Seneca Frazier and 19-year-old Maddy Wright, two amateur sleuths who frequent the board, are among those who answer the call. The ragtag duo, joined by Maddy’s stepsister Madison and fellow CNC member Brett, show up on Aerin’s doorstep ready to start the investigations anew. As the skilled group begin to make headway, explosive relationship dynamics threaten their efforts. The teens must also deal with increasingly physical attacks as they chase down clues. The first in a new series, the narrative is told from multiple points of view, with chapters in this page-turning thriller alternating among four main characters. Lighthearted moments break up the tension, but the characters’ logic often requires a suspension of disbelief, while pacing can be uneven and dialogue stilted. Love triangles are distractingly prevalent, with all four main characters somehow involved in one, and the relationships mainly give way to love at almost first sight. Additionally, Shepard seems to take pains to reveal that Seneca is biracial and Madison is Asian American, but the knowledge adds little to the story. VERDICT A fun but additional whodunit for libraries with a demand for Shepard’s other series, as well as fans of Ally Carter’s “Gallagher Girls” or James Patterson’s “Confessions.”
Riggs, Ransom. Hollow City: The Graphic Novel. illus. by Cassandra Jean. 272p. (Miss Peregrine’s Peculiar Children: Bk. 2). ebook available. Yen. Jul. 2016. Tr $20. ISBN 9780316306799. POP
Gr 8 Up –A graphic novel adaptation of the second volume in the “Miss Peregrine” series. Readers might be lost in a new world if they start with this adaptation, but those familiar with the first installment will be immersed in a dark and exciting adventure. For newcomers, this format can serve as a gateway into Riggs’s original books, while for existing fans, they are an opportunity to experience the stories and characters in a different way. Jean’s loose yet detailed and evocative illustrations serve the narrative well, with echoes of traditional manga and a minimalist palette seen in of some of today’s darker comics. The found photographs that were such an important factor of the original novels are featured throughout, providing an air of authenticity and mystery. VERDICT Riggs enthusiasts will enjoy this alternative, and with Tim Burton’s film adaptation due in September 2016, libraries can expect new readers looking to discover the books.
BYRD, Robert, retel. Jason and the Argonauts: The First Great Quest in Greek Mythology. illus. by Robert Byrd. 48p. bibliog. Dial. Oct. 2016. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780803741188. POP
Gr 3-6 –Byrd compellingly retells the ancient Greek myth of Jason and the Argonauts. Jason, wishing to reclaim his rightful throne, takes 50 Argonauts (including the powerful Hercules) on a quest for the Golden Fleece, encountering a myriad of dangers along the way. He is alternately favored and cursed by the Olympian gods. Jason succeeds in the quest, only to find he is out of favor with the gods for having broken his promises to Medea. He wanders homeless and eventually dies when the figurehead from the Argo crushes him. The story is an important one for children to know, and this version makes for an excellent introduction. Byrd, illustrator of Leonardo: Beautiful Dreamer and the 2008 Newbery winner, Good Masters! Sweet Ladies!, has created powerful visuals for this timeless tale. They are brightly colored and action-packed, replete with numerous details that keep the eye engaged. Every page includes a small insert that amplifies a particular aspect of the narrative. An author’s note expands on Byrd’s research. VERDICT An excellent retelling and a first purchase for most mythology collections.
Heos, Bridget. Blood, Bullets, and Bones: The Story of Forensic Science from Sherlock Holmes to DNA. 272p. bibliog. glossary. notes. photos. HarperCollins/Balzer + Bray. Oct. 2016. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9780062387622. POP
Gr 8 Up –The use of DNA evidence by forensic scientists to help solve crimes is a relatively new innovation. It was only in 1994 that the FBI created a database of DNA samples from convicted and suspected criminals called the Combined DNA Index System (CODIS). However, the field of forensic science has been around for centuries. In fact, as early as 270 CE there was Zhang Ju, a Chinese coroner who wrote about the crimes he solved by examining the bodies of the victims. Using numerous real-life cases, Heos presents a riveting history of the evolution of modern forensic science. One of the first scientific tests ever developed in relation to murder was one for determining the presence of poison, in particular arsenic. This 18th-century breakthrough laid the groundwork for countless other developments in the quest to solve crimes. Heos deftly incorporates the stories behind many murders to illuminate advancements in areas such as fingerprint evidence, firearm and blood pattern analysis, and forensic anthropology (how bodies decompose). Also covered are the rise of the medical examiner, the advent of criminal profilers, and the development of DNA evidence. The text, with photographs sprinkled throughout, is gripping and easy to read but not for the faint of heart. VERDICT Sherlock Holmes lovers, CSI: Miami aficionados, and forensic science students will all be drawn to this rather gruesome yet highly entertaining and fact-packed history.
Jenkins, Steve. Animals by the Numbers: A Book of Infographics. illus. by Steve Jenkins. 48p. bibliog. chart. diag. HMH. Nov. 2016. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780544630925. POP
Gr 2-6 –Jenkins combines cut-and-torn-paper illustrations with infographics to present highly engaging visual comparisons from the animal kingdom. Ranging from one to four pages in length, the graphic sections feature careful layouts that convey well-chosen and fascinating data. Clean lines and abundant white space lead readers to absorb the information without strain or confusion. In one example, a horizontal bar graph examines the speeds of 15 animals, each identified by name and a silhouette figure. In addition, illustrations highlight two particular examples with captions. Varied graph formats demonstrate each topic to maximum effect. Concentric circles show the surprising differences between wing speeds of hummingbirds and gnats. Cut-paper horns are neatly placed within a bar graph of horn lengths. There’s even a logic tree outlining the decision-making process of an armadillo. Scales are clearly noted, even when they shift on the following page, as in the impressive four-page look at the deadliest animals that reveals the mosquito’s clear dominance. Estimated data is always identified, such as numbers representing the combined biomass of species. In some cases, two graphs are used to offer different perspectives on the topic: a horizontal bar graph details tongue lengths, for example, while on the facing page a vertical depiction compares those lengths to the size of each animal (and the bars are cleverly rounded to resemble tongues). VERDICT Compelling visual presentation makes the information accessible and exciting. Highly recommended for all science collections.
Trombone Shorty. 14 min. Dist. by Dreamscape. 2016. $38.99. ISBN 9781520014548. POP
Gr 1-4 –Based on the Caldecott Honor title, this program centers on Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews. As a young boy growing up in New Orleans, he was immersed in music and determined to create it, despite the challenges posed by age and lack of money and equipment. Andrews had his own band by the time he was six, and he earned his nickname from a used trombone that was taller than him. This gifted musician has gone on to an impressive career. Told in the first person and aptly narrated by Arnell Powell’s rich voice, this genial presentation includes lively background trombone music. An author’s note provides additional information. Bryan Collier’s glorious, rich, in-depth illustrations are lightly animated. The animations vary in quality—sometimes creating a perfect mood and other times unnecessarily taking away from the visuals. Nevertheless, this is a joyous homage to cultural roots and to the importance of following and achieving dreams and encouraging those who come after you. VERDICT A solid choice for any program serving children.–
Teotihuacán’s Lost Kings. (Secrets of the Dead). 55 min. Dist. by PBS. 2016. $24.99. ISBN 9781627897075. POP
Gr 7 Up –This episode centers on the ancient city-state of Teotihuacán, located in modern-day Mexico, and the imposing pyramids that flourished before the rise of the Aztec civilization. The program focuses on the discovery of a tunnel leading beneath the Pyramid of the Feathered Serpent. Archaeologists follow this tunnel, excavating bit by bit, discovering wood, obsidian, and jade artifacts. The explorers employ the latest technology in their work, including 3-D laser scans to visualize the dark, narrow space, and scientists explain their forensic work on recovered human and animal bones. The documentary includes extensive commentary from Mexican archaeologist Sergio Gómez Chávez, providing an important Mexican archaeological perspective. It is important to note that this film discusses human sacrifice, an important rite in Mesoamerican cultures, and contains brief but mildly graphic re-creations of the ritual. The program attempts to offer cultural context, avoiding much of the sensationalism found in other documentaries. It also covers Teotihuacán’s relationship with neighboring polities, such as rival city-state Tikal. VERDICT An illuminating documentary that discusses a significant pre-Columbian society, compiling a healthy mixture of archaeology, history, forensics, and digital technology. A great classroom aid for history and anthropology courses.–