March 24, 2017

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SLJ Reviews of the YMA Winners | ALA Midwinter 2017

At a jam-packed press conference held at the midwinter meeting of the Amercian Library Association in Atlanta this morning, the winners of the Youth Media Awards (YMAs) were announced. Below are the SLJ reviews of almost all the titles that received medals or honors, as well as past interviews with a few of the authors and illustrators. Many of our Best Books of 2016 were recognized by the various committees and the vast majority of honored titles received glowing or even starred reviews. A handful, particularly the Batchelder titles (translated works originally published in a language other than English), received mixed or negative assessments from our reviewers. What did you think of the winners? Did your favorites make the cut?

John Newbery Medal

redstarBARNHILL, Kelly. The Girl Who Drank the Moon. 400p. Algonquin. Aug. 2016. Tr $16.95. ISBN 9781616205676. The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill

Gr 4-6 –Once a year in the Protectorate there is a Day of Sacrifice. The youngest baby is taken by the Elders and left in the forest to die, thus appeasing the witch who threatens to destroy the village if not obeyed. Unbeknownst to the people, Xan, the witch of the forest, is kind and compassionate. When she discovers the first baby left as a sacrifice, she has no idea why it has been abandoned. She rescues the infants, feeds each one starlight, and delivers the shining infants to parents in the Outside Cities who love and care for them. On one occasion, Xan accidentally feeds a baby moonlight along with starlight, filling her with glowing magic. Xan is smitten with the beautiful baby girl, who has a crescent moon birthmark on her forehead, and chooses to raise her as her own child. Twists and turns emerge as the identity of the true evil witch becomes apparent. The swiftly paced, highly imaginative plot draws a myriad of threads together to form a web of characters, magic, and integrated lives. Spiritual overtones encompass much of the storytelling with love as the glue that holds it all together. VERDICT An expertly woven and enchanting offering for readers who love classic fairy tales.–D. Maria LaRocco, Cuyahoga Public Library, Strongsville, OH

An SLJ Best Book of 2016

John NewbEry Honors

redstarBRYAN, Ashley. Freedom over Me: Eleven Slaves, Their Lives and Dreams Brought to Life by Ashley Bryan. illus. by Ashley Bryan. 56p. reprods. Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy Bks. Sept. 2016. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781481456906.

freedom over meGr 4-6 –Using real documents from an estate appraisal dated July 5, 1828, Bryan has created beautiful portrait paintings for 11 people who were named and priced as property on the Fairchildses’ estate (the documents are reproduced fully in the endpapers and in segments throughout the work). Relying on narrative poetry to explore each figure’s inner and outer life, Bryan gives voice to their history, their longing for freedom, and their skills as artisans, cooks, musicians, carpenters, etc. Each person has two visual portraits, with each accompanied by a poem (on the opposite page). Collaged historical documents of slave auctions fill the negative space of the first portrait frame. The second portrait depicts that person in a private dream, often a dream for safety, family, community, or the freedom to create. Peggy, a self-taught expert herbalist and cook for the Fairchildses, knows that although she works hard, everything goes to the estate. She dreams of her Naming Day ceremony and her parents calling to her, “Mariama! Mariama!” Each portrait reflects the role of song, call-and-response, ceremony, spirituality, community, and griots in living a double life—doing what was demanded while keeping close in their hearts the “precious secret,” the constant yearning for freedom. Expertly crafted, these entries will deeply resonate with readers. Referenced in the poems are slave independence in Haiti, the drinking gourd, the North Star, and songs such as “Oh, by and By,” “This Little Light,” and “Oh Freedom.” VERDICT A significant contribution to U.S. and African American history that will elicit compassion and understanding while instilling tremendous pride. A must-purchase for all collections.–Teresa Pfeifer, The Springfield Renaissance School, MA

An SLJ Best Book of 2016

Check out our interview with Ashley Bryan.

GIDWITZ, Adam. The Inquisitor’s Tale: Or, the Three Magical Children and Their Holy Dog. illus. by Hatem Aly. 384p. Dutton. Sept. 2016. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780525426165.
Gr 5-10–What is a miracle? Is a miracle what happens when, faced with murderous bandits, a teenage monk ripsInquisitor's Apprentice a leg off his donkey, beats them to death with it, then restores the donkey’s leg? Or is it a miracle when a cranky innkeeper is so moved by a little girl’s friendliness that he risks his life to help her and her companions flee a posse of armed knights? Maybe the real miracle happens when readers attracted to the action and violence a particular author is known for find themselves strongly invested in the moral questions that plague bandit-killing monk and friendly peasant girl alike—along with every other character they encounter, from a young minstrel/pickpocket to Louis IX. Gidwitz’s tale of medieval France successfully combines the epic with the personal, aiming for that heart-stopping moment when characters readers have come to care about find themselves on a collision course with one of the great wood chippers of history—the Inquisition, agents of which are in hot pursuit of three underdog characters (and one actual dog) from the very start. It is left to the titular Inquisitor to discover the truth behind the legends that quickly rise to surround these kids. He nudges it from each of the travelers at a roadside inn, the narrative tension rising as each facet is revealed. VERDICT This book appeals to the heart, to the mind, and to any reader’s appetite for action: read it for the thrilling escapes, the fart jokes, the stinky cheese, or the palace intrigue. Read it for the Talmudic wisdom, commonsense philosophies, and moments of doubt. Read it for the palaces and monasteries and the unbelievable descriptions of food. But read it.–Paula Willey, Baltimore County Public Library, Towson

An SLJ Best Book of 2016

Check out our interview with Adam Gidwitz

redstarWOLK, Lauren. Wolf Hollow. 304p. Dutton. Apr. 2016. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781101994825. Wolf Hollow by Lauren Wolk

Gr 5-8 –Eleven-year-old Annabelle lives in a rural Pennsylvania community in 1943. The continued fighting of World War II haunts everyone, but life is mostly peaceful—until Betty Glengarry’s arrival. Betty is cruel and threatening and thrives on inflicting pain. At first, Annabelle is slightly comforted to know that Toby is watching out for her. Toby is a local vagabond, a World War I veteran of few words who has become something like a friend of Annabelle’s family. Meanwhile, Betty’s violent malice only grows, until one day she goes missing. Toby immediately becomes the prime suspect in Betty’s disappearance. Annabelle is sure of Toby’s innocence and is determined to prove it. Readers are alerted from the outset that this is the story of how the narrator loses her childish naïveté in a life-altering way. The narrative is powerful, complex, and lifelike. There are pointlessly cruel people, courageously kind people, and those who simply pass the gossip. Despite the jaded feelings that come with witnessing unjust persecution, the heart of this story is ultimately one of hope and empathy. Thematically, this book raises some of the same issues as To Kill a Mockingbird, but with social status rather than racism as the basis for injustice. Vicious bullying is also a highly relevant topic, and this aspect is sure to spark important conversations. VERDICT Highly recommended for purchase; a truly moving debut.–Sara White, Seminole County Public Library, Casselberry, FL

An SLJ Best Book of 2016

Randolph Caldecott Medal

redstarSTEPTOE, Javaka. Radiant Child: The Story of Young Artist Jean-Michel Basquiat. illus. by Javaka Steptoe. 40p. bibliog. Little, Brown. Oct. 2016. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780316213882. Radiant Child- The Story of Young Artist Jean-Michel Basquiat by Javaka Steptoe

Gr 1-5 –One extraordinary artist illuminates another in this textured, heartfelt picture book biography of the 1980s cultural phenom. Employing signature features of Jean-Michel Basquiat’s work—vibrant colors, found objects, repeated motifs—Steptoe allows his own emotionally rich style to shine through the artistic and biographical references dotting the illustrations. Pieces of discarded wood from Basquiat’s stomping grounds fit together to form the painted surfaces for Steptoe’s scenes of the Afro Puerto Rican artist, each unfolding within a colored frame. Occasional collage elements of newsprint, photographs, and art materials add dimension and immediacy, highlighting both artists’ immersion in their work and surroundings. Adhering to a straightforward chronology, Steptoe addresses events in Basquiat’s life primarily as they affected his artistic growth from young boyhood in Brooklyn through the triumphant years as a critical and popular success in Manhattan. With minimal detail, the author sensitively touches upon his subject’s childhood car crash and his mother’s mental illness, though the story avoids his drug use and stops before his early death. Crucial back matter provides context for readers in every respect. Additional biographical information fleshes out the lyrical text of the main narrative, and an introduction to symbolism in Basquiat’s work helps readers appreciate the layers at play in Steptoe’s illustrations. An author’s note articulates feelings that radiate from every page of the book: Steptoe’s admiration for and attachment to Basquiat and his personal investment in depicting a complicated, loving relationship between a child and a mentally ill parent. VERDICT Pairing simple text with expressive, encompassing illustrations, this excellent title offers a new generation a fittingly powerful introduction to an artistic luminary.–Robbin E. Friedman, Chappaqua Library, NY

An SLJ Best Book of 2016

Check out our interview with Javaka Steptoe

Randolph Caldecott Honors

redstarBROSGOL, Vera. Leave Me Alone. illus. by Vera Brosgol. 40p. Roaring Brook. Sept. 2016. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781626724419.

leave-me-alonePreS-Gr 2 –Brosgol incorporates folktale elements in her amusing story of an old woman in search of a quiet place to knit. Fleeing her too small house overrun with too many energetic grandchildren, she packs her needles and yarn and heads for the mountains. Unfortunately, she can’t find an undisturbed spot. Hungry bears, curious mountain goats, and little green moon-men provoke her to shout: “Leave me alone!” Climbing through a wormhole, she discovers a dark and quiet place to complete 30 little sweaters. Then she crawls through a wormhole that leads to her house, where 30 grandchildren rush to meet her. Peasant clothing, wooden houses, and village scenes create a setting reminiscent of the Brothers Grimm or of Fiddler on the Roof. The humorous illustrations depict the determined woman knitting in improbable circumstances as she climbs ever higher. A huge bear looms above her, curious “about what she might taste like.” Mountain goats frolic with balls of yarn they consider tasty snacks. Green creatures investigate the woman with handheld scanners while she sits on a chair-shaped moon rock. Brosgol is a master of facial expressions, using eyes, mouth, and forehead lines to indicate the old woman’s thoughts and emotions. VERDICT This offbeat tale will please readers who appreciate subtle humor, especially those who crave some time alone. A good choice for collections needing to bolster their supply of humorous titles.–Kathy Piehl, Minnesota State University Library, Mankato

WEATHERFORD, Carole Boston. Freedom in Congo Square. illus. by R. Gregory Christie. 40p. glossary. Little Bee. Jan. 2016. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781499801033.
YMA_FreedominCongoSquareGr 1-3–This vibrant picture book examines Congo Square in New Orleans. A foreword and author’s note explain how, historically, slaves in Louisiana were allowed Sunday afternoons off. This custom continued after the territory joined the United States, although in time, New Orleans established one location for all slaves to gather: an area that became known as Congo Square. This unique practice helped enslaved and free Africans maintain cultural traditions. The impact was felt far beyond New Orleans as musicians, dancers, and singers developed, explored, and shared rhythms that eventually grew into jazz music. The text is realistic but child appropriate. Couplets count down the days to Sunday in a conversational tone (“Slavery was no ways fair./Six more days to Congo Square.”). The writing is accompanied by folk art–style illustrations, with paint applied in thick layers. Some images, such as faces, are more detailed, while others are presented as silhouettes. Collage with painted elements is incorporated on occasion. The architecture portrayed evokes the New Orleans setting. Bright colors suggest the exuberance displayed at Congo Square. Spreads where the slaves are finally able to sing, dance, and express emotion contrast effectively with the forced restraint of those depicting the work week. VERDICT Unique in its subject and artistic expression, this beautiful book belongs in most collections.–Lucinda Snyder Whitehurst, St. Christopher’s School, Richmond, VA

An SLJ Best Book of 2016

Check out our interview with Carole Boston Weatherford

ELLIS, Carson. Du Iz Tak? illus. by Carson Ellis. 48p. Candlewick. Oct. 2016. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780763665302.
YMA_DuzIzTakPreS-Gr 3–Using intricate illustrations supported by spare dialogue in an invented language, Ellis elegantly weaves the tale of several square feet of ground in the insect world as the seasons pass. Multiple story lines intersect: a mysterious plant bursting from the soil, the rise and fall of a spectacular fort, and a caterpillar’s quiet then triumphant metamorphosis into a shimmering moth. The illustrations demand to be pored over, with exquisite attention to detail, from the extravagantly dressed anthropomorphized insects in top hats to the decor of Icky the pill bug’s tree-stump home. Much of the book’s action occurs on the lower halves of the pages, the ample white space emphasizing the small world of the critters. As the flower and fort grow together and larger animals come into play, the illustrations take up more vertical space until the climax, when the plant blooms and is revealed to be a “gladenboot” (flower) and all of the insects come out to rejoice. As the weather cools, readers are treated to a delightful nighttime spread of the moth finally emerging and flying to a cricket’s tune as the decayed flower’s seeds dance all around. Though this could nearly work as a wordless book, the invented, sometimes alienlike language seemingly contains real syntax and offers readers the opportunity to puzzle over the meanings of the words and tell the story using their own interpretations. VERDICT This is a title that calls for multiple readings, as there is something new to be discovered each time. Perfect for one-on-one or small group sharing.–Clara Hendricks, Cambridge Public Library, MA

redstarWENZEL, Brendan. They All Saw a Cat. illus. by Brendan Wenzel. 44p. Chronicle. Sept. 2016. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781452188058.

they-all-saw-a-catPreS-Gr 3 –This playful exploration of perspective presents its strolling subject through a range of animal lenses; the resulting views comprise a kaleidoscope of physical and psychological interpretations. A child pets a soft, smiling cat with cartoon eyes. The dog observes a scrawny, slinking creature dominated by a bell. Through the fishbowl, the cat is a blurry close-up. An expressionistic explosion exhibits the mouse’s viewpoint: a red background sets the tone for the menacing monster, all pointy teeth and outsize claws. Entertaining and intellectually stimulating, Wenzel’s ideas progress from ways of seeing that are easily grasped to those that require more thought, e.g., the underground worm understands the feline’s presence by sensing its mirror image—shown in vibrating lines that surround him as it crosses overhead. The distinctive look of each spread and the skill with which the artist employs a multitude of media, from colored pencils, charcoal, and oil pastels to watercolor and markers, underscore the variety of perspectives and add visual pleasure. The symmetrical narrative structure, selective rhymes, and cumulative conclusion (in which the cat’s body is built from a piece of each prior view and the animals are enumerated in a fast-paced, rhythmic manner) have the feel of a classic story song, such as “The Cat Goes Fiddle-I-Fee” or “The Green Grass Grew All Around.” Ultimately the cat approaches a pond to see, of course, a reflection. From the endpapers to each clever composition, this title invites interaction and thoughtful looking, always allowing the child to discern meaning. VERDICT An excellent first purchase that belongs in all picture book collections.–Wendy Lukehart, District of Columbia Public Library

An SLJ Best Book of 2016

Michael L. Printz Award

redstarLEWIS, John & Andrew Aydin. March: Book Three. illus. by Nate Powell. 192p. Top Shelf. Aug. 2016. pap. $19.99. ISBN 9781603094023. March- Book Three by John Lewis & Andrew Aydin

Gr 8 Up –In the final installment in the trilogy, Congressman Lewis concludes his firsthand account of the civil rights era. Simultaneously epic and intimate, this dynamic work spotlights pivotal moments (the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, AL; the Freedom Summer murders; the 1964 Democratic National Convention; and the Selma to Montgomery marches) through the lens of one who was there from the beginning. Lewis’s willingness to speak from the heart about moments of doubt and anguish imbues the book with emotional depth. Complex material is tackled but never oversimplified—many pages are positively crammed with text—and, as in previous volumes, discussion of tensions among the various factions of the movement adds nuance and should spark conversation among readers. Through images of steely-eyed police, motion lines, and the use of stark black backgrounds for particularly painful moments, Powell underscores Lewis’s statement that he and his cohorts “were in the middle of a war.” These vivid black-and-white visuals soar, conveying expressions of hope, scorn, and devastation and making storied figures such as Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, and Fannie Lou Hamer feel three-dimensional and familiar. VERDICT This essential addition to graphic novel shelves, history curricula, and memoir collections will resonate with teens and adults alike.–Mahnaz Dar, School Library Journal

An SLJ Best Book of 2016

Watch the video of Rep. John Lewis speaking at the SLJ Summit this fall. 

Michael L. Printz Honors

redstarO’NEILL, Louise. Asking for It. 304p. ebook available. Quercus. May 2016. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781681445373. Asking for It by Louise O'Neill

Gr 10 Up –Proud, gorgeous, vain—at 18, Emma O’Donovan is the “It” girl of her small Irish town. She dreams of passing her leaving exams in a year, going to college, marrying a rich man who can finally buy her what she deserves, and living happily ever after. Then she takes a pill from a boy at a party. Emma wakes up the next afternoon, dumped on her parents’ doorstep with her dress on backward, no underwear, and no recollection of what happened after she kissed her best friend’s boyfriend, but the pictures posted on Facebook and SnapChat tell the full story in lurid, shockingly graphic detail. Overnight, she is renamed “Easy Emma” and slut-shamed as the rumors circulate about what happened that night: Was she really drugged and raped by four boys, or was she asking for it? O’Neill’s powerful novel digs into deep questions about rape culture that are difficult to read but essential to consider. Sensitive teens may have a hard time reading about the protagonist’s downward spiral. Her shame and self-loathing are contradicted by what the rape counselor tells her (“It’s not your fault”) and are confirmed by what she hears from the town (“You are destroying those poor boys’ lives”). VERDICT More graphic and grim than Laurie Halse Anderson’s Speak, this UK import nonetheless is an important read for mature teen audiences.–Leighanne Law, Scriber Lake High School, WA

An SLJ Best Book of 2016

redstarBERRY, Julie. The Passion of Dolssa. 496p. ebook available. Viking. Apr. 2016. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9780451469922. The Passion of Dolssa by Julie Berry

Gr 7 Up –Botille is a matchmaker in the small seaside town of Bajas in medieval France. She struggles to run the family’s tavern and keep her sisters and herself afloat. Dolssa is a young woman with a secret that she can’t help but share—her lover is God, and she speaks to him regularly. When the two young women cross paths, both deep friendship and mortal peril await them. A beautifully rendered portrait of a little-known portion of history, this work is a meticulously researched piece of fiction. Yet it is not just in the accurate details that the novel shines. The strength and humanity of the almost entirely female set of characters are inspiring and well drawn. The panic and suspicion of post-Inquisition France is omnipresent, giving the story of a supposed heretic a constant edge of danger. As the novel slips in and out of magical realism, readers will be transported into Dolssa and Botille’s world. VERDICT An expertly crafted piece of historical fiction, Berry’s latest is a must for middle and high school libraries.–Erinn Black Salge, Saint Peter’s Prep, Jersey City, NJ

An SLJ Best Book of 2016

redstarSHUSTERMAN, Neal. Scythe. 448p. ebook available. S. & S. Nov. 2016. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781442472426.

scytheGr 8 Up –In a world in which humanity has conquered death (no aging, no disease, no poverty, no war), ruled by the Thunderhead, an omniscient evolution of today’s cloud, Scythes are the only ones who are allowed to take a human life. They are considered to be the best humanity has to offer, and they roam the world “gleaning” people in order to keep the population in check. Scythes are treated like royalty and feared. The last thing Citra Terranova and Rowan Damisch want is to become Scythes, but when they are chosen by Scythe Faraday to become his apprentices, they are thrown into a life in which they need to master the art of death. They prove to be apt pupils, but when Scythe Faraday mysteriously gleans himself and Citra and Rowan are apprenticed to two other fearsome Scythes, they will have to put their skills to the test against each other. Intertwined with the fascinating concept of humanity conquering death and the idea of Scythes is the prospect that perhaps this is not the ideal world in which to live. Humanity has perfected itself—so what does that leave it to accomplish? Shusterman starts off this series in dramatic fashion as he creates an engrossing world that pulls readers in and refuses to let them go. VERDICT A truly astounding, unputdownable read and a fast-paced beginning to an excellent sci-fi series. A must-have.–Tyler Hixson, School Library Journal

Check out our interview with Neal Shusterman

YOON, Nicola. The Sun Is Also a Star. 384p. ebook available. Delacorte. Nov. 2016. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9780553496680. POP

SunStarGr 8 Up –It is Natasha’s last day in New York City, where she has lived for 10 years. Her family, living as undocumented immigrants in a small Brooklyn apartment, are being deported to Jamaica after her father’s arrest for drunk driving. Natasha is scouring the city for a chance to stay in the United States legally. She wants the normal teen existence of her peers. Meanwhile, poetic Daniel is on his way to an interview as part of his application process to Yale. He is under great pressure to get in because his parents (who emigrated from South Korea) are adamant that he become a doctor. Events slowly conspire to bring the two leads together. When Daniel and Natasha finally meet, he falls in love immediately and convinces her to join him for the day. They tell their stories in alternating chapters. Additional voices are integrated into the book as characters interact with them. Both relatable and profound, the bittersweet ending conveys a sense of hopefulness that will resonate with teens. VERDICT This wistful love story will be adored by fans of Rainbow Rowell’s Eleanor & Park and by those who enjoyed the unique narrative structure of A.S. King’s Please Ignore Vera Dietz.–Kristin Anderson, Columbus Metropolitan Library System, OH

Check out our interview with Nicola Yoon.

Coretta Scott King (Author) Book Award

redstarLEWIS, John & Andrew Aydin. March: Book Three. illus. by Nate Powell. 192p. Top Shelf. Aug. 2016. pap. $19.99. ISBN 9781603094023. March- Book Three by John Lewis & Andrew Aydin

Gr 8 Up –In the final installment in the trilogy, Congressman Lewis concludes his firsthand account of the civil rights era. Simultaneously epic and intimate, this dynamic work spotlights pivotal moments (the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, AL; the Freedom Summer murders; the 1964 Democratic National Convention; and the Selma to Montgomery marches) through the lens of one who was there from the beginning. Lewis’s willingness to speak from the heart about moments of doubt and anguish imbues the book with emotional depth. Complex material is tackled but never oversimplified—many pages are positively crammed with text—and, as in previous volumes, discussion of tensions among the various factions of the movement adds nuance and should spark conversation among readers. Through images of steely-eyed police, motion lines, and the use of stark black backgrounds for particularly painful moments, Powell underscores Lewis’s statement that he and his cohorts “were in the middle of a war.” These vivid black-and-white visuals soar, conveying expressions of hope, scorn, and devastation and making storied figures such as Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, and Fannie Lou Hamer feel three-dimensional and familiar. VERDICT This essential addition to graphic novel shelves, history curricula, and memoir collections will resonate with teens and adults alike.–Mahnaz Dar, School Library Journal

An SLJ Best Book of 2016

Watch the video of Rep. John Lewis speaking at the SLJ Summit this fall. 

Coretta Scott King (Author) Honors

REYNOLDS, Jason. As Brave as You. 410p. S. & S./Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy Bks. May 2016. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781481415903.
Gr 5-8–Reynolds’s engaging middle grade debut stars 11-year-old African American Genie Harris, as-brave-as-you-9781481415903_hran inveterate worrywart who considers Google his best friend, and his older brother Ernie, who is well on his way to being a cool dude (sunglasses and all). The born and bred Brooklynites are to spend a month with their grandparents in rural Virginia while their parents take a long overdue vacation and work out their marital problems. It is only after the boys are left in their grandfather’s care that they realize that he is blind. They are also surprised to learn that they are expected to do chores and follow their grandmother’s strict rules—and that it is possible to exist (sort of) without the Internet. While Ernie crushes on the girl who lives at the base of the hill, Genie writes down his many burning questions so he doesn’t forget them and gets to know his proud and fiercely independent grandfather. Genie barrages Grandpop with questions about his past and present abilities and about the quirky aspects of the household, especially his “nunya bidness” room, his harmonica playing, and how Grandpop might not be able to see but still packs a pistol. As the languid days unfold, the boys learn about country life and the devastating loss of the elder Harrises’ son during Desert Storm and their estrangement from their living son, the boys’ father. Grandpop Harris is a complicated, irascible character, full of contradictions and vulnerabilities, the least of which is his lack of vision. Reynolds captures the bond that Grandpop and Genie form in a tender, believable, and entertaining way, delivered through smart and funny prose and sparkling dialogue. VERDICT A richly realized story about life and loss, courage and grace, and what it takes to be a man. Although a tad lengthy, it is easy reading and will be appreciated by a broad audience.–Luann Toth, School Library Journal

An SLJ Best Book of 2016

Check out our interview with Jason Reynolds

redstarBRYAN, Ashley. Freedom over Me: Eleven Slaves, Their Lives and Dreams Brought to Life by Ashley Bryan. illus. by Ashley Bryan. 56p. reprods. Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy Bks. Sept. 2016. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781481456906.

freedom over meGr 4-6 –Using real documents from an estate appraisal dated July 5, 1828, Bryan has created beautiful portrait paintings for 11 people who were named and priced as property on the Fairchildses’ estate (the documents are reproduced fully in the endpapers and in segments throughout the work). Relying on narrative poetry to explore each figure’s inner and outer life, Bryan gives voice to their history, their longing for freedom, and their skills as artisans, cooks, musicians, carpenters, etc. Each person has two visual portraits, with each accompanied by a poem (on the opposite page). Collaged historical documents of slave auctions fill the negative space of the first portrait frame. The second portrait depicts that person in a private dream, often a dream for safety, family, community, or the freedom to create. Peggy, a self-taught expert herbalist and cook for the Fairchildses, knows that although she works hard, everything goes to the estate. She dreams of her Naming Day ceremony and her parents calling to her, “Mariama! Mariama!” Each portrait reflects the role of song, call-and-response, ceremony, spirituality, community, and griots in living a double life—doing what was demanded while keeping close in their hearts the “precious secret,” the constant yearning for freedom. Expertly crafted, these entries will deeply resonate with readers. Referenced in the poems are slave independence in Haiti, the drinking gourd, the North Star, and songs such as “Oh, by and By,” “This Little Light,” and “Oh Freedom.” VERDICT A significant contribution to U.S. and African American history that will elicit compassion and understanding while instilling tremendous pride. A must-purchase for all collections.–Teresa Pfeifer, The Springfield Renaissance School, MA

An SLJ Best Book of 2016

Check out our interview with Ashley Bryan.

Coretta Scott King (Illustrator) Book Award

redstarSTEPTOE, Javaka. Radiant Child: The Story of Young Artist Jean-Michel Basquiat. illus. by Javaka Steptoe. 40p. bibliog. Little, Brown. Oct. 2016. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780316213882. Radiant Child- The Story of Young Artist Jean-Michel Basquiat by Javaka Steptoe

Gr 1-5 –One extraordinary artist illuminates another in this textured, heartfelt picture book biography of the 1980s cultural phenom. Employing signature features of Jean-Michel Basquiat’s work—vibrant colors, found objects, repeated motifs—Steptoe allows his own emotionally rich style to shine through the artistic and biographical references dotting the illustrations. Pieces of discarded wood from Basquiat’s stomping grounds fit together to form the painted surfaces for Steptoe’s scenes of the Afro Puerto Rican artist, each unfolding within a colored frame. Occasional collage elements of newsprint, photographs, and art materials add dimension and immediacy, highlighting both artists’ immersion in their work and surroundings. Adhering to a straightforward chronology, Steptoe addresses events in Basquiat’s life primarily as they affected his artistic growth from young boyhood in Brooklyn through the triumphant years as a critical and popular success in Manhattan. With minimal detail, the author sensitively touches upon his subject’s childhood car crash and his mother’s mental illness, though the story avoids his drug use and stops before his early death. Crucial back matter provides context for readers in every respect. Additional biographical information fleshes out the lyrical text of the main narrative, and an introduction to symbolism in Basquiat’s work helps readers appreciate the layers at play in Steptoe’s illustrations. An author’s note articulates feelings that radiate from every page of the book: Steptoe’s admiration for and attachment to Basquiat and his personal investment in depicting a complicated, loving relationship between a child and a mentally ill parent. VERDICT Pairing simple text with expressive, encompassing illustrations, this excellent title offers a new generation a fittingly powerful introduction to an artistic luminary.–Robbin E. Friedman, Chappaqua Library, NY

An SLJ Best Book of 2016

Check out our interview with Javaka Steptoe

Coretta Scott King (Illustrator) Honors

WEATHERFORD, Carole Boston. Freedom in Congo Square. illus. by R. Gregory Christie. 40p. glossary. Little Bee. Jan. 2016. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781499801033.
YMA_FreedominCongoSquareGr 1-3–This vibrant picture book examines Congo Square in New Orleans. A foreword and author’s note explain how, historically, slaves in Louisiana were allowed Sunday afternoons off. This custom continued after the territory joined the United States, although in time, New Orleans established one location for all slaves to gather: an area that became known as Congo Square. This unique practice helped enslaved and free Africans maintain cultural traditions. The impact was felt far beyond New Orleans as musicians, dancers, and singers developed, explored, and shared rhythms that eventually grew into jazz music. The text is realistic but child appropriate. Couplets count down the days to Sunday in a conversational tone (“Slavery was no ways fair./Six more days to Congo Square.”). The writing is accompanied by folk art–style illustrations, with paint applied in thick layers. Some images, such as faces, are more detailed, while others are presented as silhouettes. Collage with painted elements is incorporated on occasion. The architecture portrayed evokes the New Orleans setting. Bright colors suggest the exuberance displayed at Congo Square. Spreads where the slaves are finally able to sing, dance, and express emotion contrast effectively with the forced restraint of those depicting the work week. VERDICT Unique in its subject and artistic expression, this beautiful book belongs in most collections.–Lucinda Snyder Whitehurst, St. Christopher’s School, Richmond, VA

An SLJ Best Book of 2016

Check out our interview with Carole Boston Weatherford

redstarBRYAN, Ashley. Freedom over Me: Eleven Slaves, Their Lives and Dreams Brought to Life by Ashley Bryan. illus. by Ashley Bryan. 56p. reprods. Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy Bks. Sept. 2016. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781481456906.

freedom over meGr 4-6 –Using real documents from an estate appraisal dated July 5, 1828, Bryan has created beautiful portrait paintings for 11 people who were named and priced as property on the Fairchildses’ estate (the documents are reproduced fully in the endpapers and in segments throughout the work). Relying on narrative poetry to explore each figure’s inner and outer life, Bryan gives voice to their history, their longing for freedom, and their skills as artisans, cooks, musicians, carpenters, etc. Each person has two visual portraits, with each accompanied by a poem (on the opposite page). Collaged historical documents of slave auctions fill the negative space of the first portrait frame. The second portrait depicts that person in a private dream, often a dream for safety, family, community, or the freedom to create. Peggy, a self-taught expert herbalist and cook for the Fairchildses, knows that although she works hard, everything goes to the estate. She dreams of her Naming Day ceremony and her parents calling to her, “Mariama! Mariama!” Each portrait reflects the role of song, call-and-response, ceremony, spirituality, community, and griots in living a double life—doing what was demanded while keeping close in their hearts the “precious secret,” the constant yearning for freedom. Expertly crafted, these entries will deeply resonate with readers. Referenced in the poems are slave independence in Haiti, the drinking gourd, the North Star, and songs such as “Oh, by and By,” “This Little Light,” and “Oh Freedom.” VERDICT A significant contribution to U.S. and African American history that will elicit compassion and understanding while instilling tremendous pride. A must-purchase for all collections.–Teresa Pfeifer, The Springfield Renaissance School, MA

An SLJ Best Book of 2016

Check out our interview with Ashley Bryan.

redstarJACKSON, Richard. In Plain Sight: A Game. illus. by Jerry Pinkney. 40p. Roaring Brook/Neal Porter Bks. Sept. 2016. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781626722552.

in-plain-sightPreS-Gr 2 –Sophie’s grandfather lives in her house, and while his mobility is restricted, his tender feelings for his granddaughter know no bounds. He waves her off to school from his second-floor window, and she comes to visit him every afternoon. Their daily routine includes the man asking for the child’s help in retrieving an everyday object that has somehow “gone missing.” All of the items are in plain sight, if, that is, one knows where to look. Bright-eyed Sophie is always up for the challenge and is thorough and methodical as she searches through Grandpa’s room—neat but chock-full of a busy lifetime of acquired books and mementos—to locate the paper clip, rubber band, straw, or paintbrush. Sharp-eyed viewers will glean that this man, now in a wheelchair, was once a soldier and an athlete and reads poetry and paints. The simple text is largely made up of the good-natured conversations that surround the game and reflect the warmth and joy that Sophie and Grandpa find in each other. Pinkney’s lush and lovely watercolors are by turns delicate, energetic, and effusive as he captures his engaging African American characters and their homey domicile. VERDICT This appealing story about a dynamic intergenerational relationship is large enough to share with a group, but individual children will want to pore over the art to spot all of the details in plain sight.–Luann Toth, School Library Journal

Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe New Talent Author Award

YOON, Nicola. The Sun Is Also a Star. 384p. ebook available. Delacorte. Nov. 2016. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9780553496680. POP

SunStarGr 8 Up –It is Natasha’s last day in New York City, where she has lived for 10 years. Her family, living as undocumented immigrants in a small Brooklyn apartment, are being deported to Jamaica after her father’s arrest for drunk driving. Natasha is scouring the city for a chance to stay in the United States legally. She wants the normal teen existence of her peers. Meanwhile, poetic Daniel is on his way to an interview as part of his application process to Yale. He is under great pressure to get in because his parents (who emigrated from South Korea) are adamant that he become a doctor. Events slowly conspire to bring the two leads together. When Daniel and Natasha finally meet, he falls in love immediately and convinces her to join him for the day. They tell their stories in alternating chapters. Additional voices are integrated into the book as characters interact with them. Both relatable and profound, the bittersweet ending conveys a sense of hopefulness that will resonate with teens. VERDICT This wistful love story will be adored by fans of Rainbow Rowell’s Eleanor & Park and by those who enjoyed the unique narrative structure of A.S. King’s Please Ignore Vera Dietz.–Kristin Anderson, Columbus Metropolitan Library System, OH

Check out our interview with Nicola Yoon.

Coretta Scott King – Virginia Hamilton Award for Lifetime Achievement

Dr. Rudine Sims Bishop

Schneider Family Book Award (Ages 0-10)

redstarBRYANT, Jen. Six Dots: A Story of Young Louis Braille. illus. by Boris Kulikov. 40p. further reading. websites. Knopf. Sept. 2016. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780449813379.

six dotsGr 1-4 –This picture book biography of Louis Braille (1809–59) strikes a perfect balance between the seriousness of Braille’s life and the exuberance he projected out into the world. The text highlights Braille’s determination to pursue an education. Readers will learn how he attended the Royal School in Paris and was frustrated by the lack of books for the blind, an obstacle that set him off on a long quest to invent an accessible reading system. Braille ultimately found success by simplifying a military coding technique that had earlier been introduced but was far too complex. The focus on Braille as one of the world’s great inventors is apt, and by taking a close look at his childhood, his family, and his experiences as a young person, Bryant makes Braille’s story even more powerful. She writes from his perspective, which brings a level of intimacy sure to resonate with readers. Kulikov’s mixed-media artwork mirrors and magnifies the text, keeping the spotlight solidly on young Braille and his world as he moves through it. VERDICT An engaging and moving account of an inventor, a solid addition for elementary collections.–Jody Kopple, Shady Hill School, Cambridge, MA

Schneider Family Book Award (Ages 11-13)

REYNOLDS, Jason. As Brave as You. 410p. S. & S./Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy Bks. May 2016. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781481415903.
Gr 5-8–Reynolds’s engaging middle grade debut stars 11-year-old African American Genie Harris, as-brave-as-you-9781481415903_hran inveterate worrywart who considers Google his best friend, and his older brother Ernie, who is well on his way to being a cool dude (sunglasses and all). The born and bred Brooklynites are to spend a month with their grandparents in rural Virginia while their parents take a long overdue vacation and work out their marital problems. It is only after the boys are left in their grandfather’s care that they realize that he is blind. They are also surprised to learn that they are expected to do chores and follow their grandmother’s strict rules—and that it is possible to exist (sort of) without the Internet. While Ernie crushes on the girl who lives at the base of the hill, Genie writes down his many burning questions so he doesn’t forget them and gets to know his proud and fiercely independent grandfather. Genie barrages Grandpop with questions about his past and present abilities and about the quirky aspects of the household, especially his “nunya bidness” room, his harmonica playing, and how Grandpop might not be able to see but still packs a pistol. As the languid days unfold, the boys learn about country life and the devastating loss of the elder Harrises’ son during Desert Storm and their estrangement from their living son, the boys’ father. Grandpop Harris is a complicated, irascible character, full of contradictions and vulnerabilities, the least of which is his lack of vision. Reynolds captures the bond that Grandpop and Genie form in a tender, believable, and entertaining way, delivered through smart and funny prose and sparkling dialogue. VERDICT A richly realized story about life and loss, courage and grace, and what it takes to be a man. Although a tad lengthy, it is easy reading and will be appreciated by a broad audience.–Luann Toth, School Library Journal

An SLJ Best Book of 2016

Check out our interview with Jason Reynolds

Schneider Family Book Award (Ages 13-18)

redstarLORD, Emery. When We Collided. 352p. ebook available. Bloomsbury. Apr. 2016. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781619638457.Lord, Emery. When We Collided

Gr 8 Up –Filled with raw, descriptive truths and told through the alternating voices of the protagonists, this story takes place in the idyllic, picturesque setting of Verona Cove, CA. Small enough for everyone to know one another yet large enough to handle a summer tourist season, this background locale is a perfect nesting spot for the poignant love story between Vivi Alexander and Jonah Daniels. The collision between the teens crests and ebbs in what seems like a far too small window of time. Instead, the story dares to allow the action to rise and fall in an organic way. Teeming with in-your-face realism, the work exposes readers to the emotional ups and downs of Vivi, who has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, and Jonah, who is trying to hold himself, his siblings, and the family restaurant together as his mother falls apart after the death of her husband. Vivi’s struggles with taking medication, and her honest discussions of her brain’s chemical issues are evenly balanced with her portrayal as an artist who wants to leave her mark on the world. Jonah’s quiet strength as he steps into the role his father’s death left vacant and his willingness to share a piece of himself with Vivi make this a powerful book for reader engagement. The ending will have readers hoping for a sequel, though one is not needed. ­VERDICT An absolute tearjerker romance with a powerful message about weightier topics of grief and mental illness.–Sabrina Carnesi, Crittenden Middle School, Newport News, VA

Andrew Carnegie Medal

redstarDrum Dream Girl: How One Girl’s Courage Changed Music. 10 min. Dist. by Dreamscape. 2016. $38.99. ISBN 9781520013213.

drum-dream-girlPreS-Gr 2 –What do you do when your talents and dreams remain unfulfilled? That was the problem facing Millo Castro Zaldarriaga. A girl of Chinese African descent living in Cuba, Millo was surrounded by a rich culture and a world filled with rhythms begging to be shared. In a tradition where boys were the only ones allowed to play the drums, Millo seemed doomed to keep her hands still and the joyous beats she heard in her head unexpressed. Fortunately, rules were bent, talents were nurtured, and an artist became internationally recognized for her skills. This bright and optimistic presentation is based on the 2016 Pura Belpré Award winner by Margarita Engle. Adriana Sananes’s vibrant voice celebrates the story, and lively background music adds the finishing touches. Rafael López’s bright and imaginative illustrations are delightfully yet simply animated, creating a feast for the eyes. A bonus feature contains a historical note about Zaldarriaga. VERDICT This is an inspiring and buoyant presentation that will entertain and inform young viewers. It would be valuable for music programs and cultural diversity studies.–Teresa Bateman, Brigadoon Elementary, Federal Way, WA

Laura Ingalls Wilder Award

Nikki Grimes

Margaret A. Edwards Award

Sarah Dessen

2018 May Hill Arbuthnot Honor Lecture Award

Naomi Shihab Nye

Mildred L. Batchelder Award

RINGTVED, Glenn. Cry, Heart, but Never Break. illus. by Charolotte Pardi. tr. from Danish by Robert Moulthrop. 32p. Enchanted Lion. Feb. 2016. Tr. $16.95. ISBN 9781592701872. No review available.

Mildred L. Batchelder Honors

Ocean_GomiGOMI, Taro. Over the Ocean. illus. by Taro Gomi. tr. from Japanese by Taylor Norman. 36p. ebook available. Chronicle. May 2016. Tr. $16.99. ISBN 9781452145150.
PreS-Gr 1A dark-haired child in red overalls clasps hands behind his or her back while gazing at vistas of the ocean and wondering what might be beyond it. Each page turn leads readers to the child’s imaginative speculation about farms, cities, bullies, amusement parks, exotic animals, and even a beach where another child mirrors the narrator’s actions. A constant on the horizon is a steamer progressing along the page from right to left. Spare text and vibrant color are typical of Gomi’s mood pieces. VERDICT The book’s elegant simplicity lends itself not only to pointing out visual details but also to encouraging a listening child’s own speculations. Perfect for one-on-one and small group sharing.-Gay Lynn Van Vleck, Henrico County Library, Glen Allen, VA

SANABRIA, José. As Time Went By. illus. by José Sanabria. 48p. NorthSouth. May 2016. Tr $18.95. ISBN 9780735842489.
AsTimeWentByK-Gr 3–Three brief sections tell of the parallel flourishing, decline, and later revitalization of a family and a ship in this Swiss import by an Argentinian author/illustrator. After glamorous beginnings, the ship is abandoned at a port, and “luxury and excess [make] the family poor.” Ultimately, the ship becomes the floating home of displaced peoples, including the family, and the vessel and family are restored to dignity and purpose. One or two sentences per spread tell the story in spare but rather stilted prose that may befuddle young readers. The tale offers neither a compelling story nor insight into poverty and inequality. Gloomy paintings of gray skies and people with bulging eyes and static postures convey a mood of ruin and despair throughout. VERDICT Managing to be both heavy-handed and opaque, this melancholy parable is not recommended.–Sarah Stone, San Francisco Public Library

SVINGEN, Arne. The Ballad of a Broken Nose. tr. from Norwegian by Kari Dickson. 224p. S. & S./Margaret K. McElderry Bks. Jun. 2016. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781481415422.
BalladBrokenNoseGr 5-7–Twelve-year-old Bart is pretty resigned about his life. He lives in Norwegian public housing with his alcoholic mother and doesn’t know anything about his father other than his name, John Jones, and that he is American. At school, Bart tries to maintain a level of invisibility. He has a small circle of acquaintances to talk to at recess, but Ada is the only one who really talks to him, and their conversations are usually centered on Ada copying Bart’s math homework. The class talent show is approaching, and Bart lets it slip to Ada that he sings opera, and she in turn lets their classroom teacher know. Imagine his surprise when Ada shows up unannounced at his apartment one day. Bart is horrified that she has had to crunch over needles and avoid junkies just to get to his door. He is also dismayed that she is going to see his mother, who is quite overweight, missing a tooth, and responsible for the state of their apartment. Bart knows that Ada cannot keep a secret, and soon his everyday reality is revealed to his classmates. Bart must work on overcoming his fears, not only about singing but about the state of his life with his mother. The strength of this title is that it will encourage readers to look at their own lives and see the good despite the bad. Unfortunately, there are also some ideas that come across as insensitive or offensive. One of Bart’s friends tells him that his mom will not let him listen to rap music, because “she doesn’t want me to move to the ghetto and walk around with a gun.” When describing his mom, Bart calls her a “beached whale. Superfatso. Very overweight. Back end of a bus.” Later, his mother ends up in the hospital, and she is going to have an unnamed operation to make her “better. And thinner.” These insensitivities are never circled back to, discussed, or questioned by any of the characters. Most middle grade students will require deeper context and conversation during and after reading to fully digest and comprehend the various layers and themes in this work. VERDICT The content and heavy nature of this story make it hard to place with an audience. That, combined with the offensive fat-shaming language and other unpacked prejudices, makes this title a tough sell; not recommended.–Stacy Dillon, LREI, New York City

Odyssey Award

SAVIT, Gavriel. Anna and the Swallow Man. 6 CDs. 6:30 hrs. Listening Library. 2016. $40. ISBN 9781101891834. digital download.
AnnaSwallowManGr 8 Up–It is 1939, and seven-year-old Anna lives with her father, a professor of linguistics, in Krakow. Anna finds herself alone after her father is summoned to a meeting by the Gestapo and does not return. She befriends a strange man who is able to talk to birds, hence the nickname the Swallow Man. Anna and the Swallow Man wander the countryside for four years, careful to avoid largely populated areas. The Swallow Man is a mystery to Anna and the listeners alike—the author never quite reveals why he is living in hiding. The story is beautifully told, and, despite the often dark subject matter, Allan Corduner’s voice is soothing. Though it is set during the Holocaust, the book does not draw upon the historical content in too much detail. Still, it could be used as part of a historical unit to discuss different points of view. VERDICT It is important to note that teens are the intended audience—though the protagonist is young, the story can be disturbing and too violent for children closer to the character’s age. Recommended for YA collections. [“More interpretive than literal, the story will generate discussion among YA readers”: SLJ 12/15 review of the Knopf book.]–Betsy Davison, State University of New York at Cortland

Odyssey Honors

redstarREYNOLDS, Jason. Ghost. digital download. 3:29 hrs. S. & S. Audio. Aug. 2016. $14.99. ISBN 9781508230472.

au-reynolds-ghostGr 5-9 –Guy Lockard has assumed the mantle of narrator-of-choice for Reynolds’s fiction: Ghost (2016 National Book Award finalist) is Lockard’s third Reynolds title, following As Brave as You and Rashad’s chapters in All American Boys. Here, as seventh grader Castle “Ghost” Crenshaw, Lockard performs with excitable bravado, ruminating honesty, and trash-talking speed. Ghost runs fast with good reason, having escaped his father, who chased him and his mother with a loaded gun. Three years later, Ghost’s mother works hard to keep him safe, while Ghost tries never to ask for more than she can give. His temper, however, too often keeps him fleeing from trouble of his own making. When the track coach recognizes his immense talent, Ghost’s cocky arrogance initially gets in his way. How he finds his tremendous stride is a realistic, exhilarating story for all young audiences (look for a wink-wink to Reynolds’s friend and fellow author Christopher Myers, son of the legendary Walter Dean Myers, one of Reynolds’s inspirations). VERDICT An ideal choice for even the most reluctant readers. Libraries should start building this “Track” (Ghost is the first of a series) immediately.–Terry Hong, Smithsonian BookDragon, Washington, DC

An SLJ Best Book of 2016

Check out our interview with Jason Reynolds

SHEVAH, Emma. Dream on, Amber. 4 CDs. 4:15 hrs. Recorded Books. Feb. 2016. ISBN 9781501910715. digital download.
DreamOnAmberGr 4-6–Amber has a lot to deal with—a new school, a bully, a completely uncool phone, a huge fib, and an invented dream dad—in this South London–based coming-of-age treat. Amber is half Italian and half Japanese. She longs to know more about her Asian ancestry, but her father left when she was six. She is keenly affected by his absence, and when she draws a replacement, her creation seems to come alive. The situation is ripe for maudlin introspection, but there is none to be found. The first-person point of view keeps the fast-paced and clever story bopping along. Laura Kirman’s performance is lovely and matches the character’s inner self—doubtful and strong at once. VERDICT Highly recommended. [“By turns playful and poignant, in both style and substance, this coming-of-age novel will hook readers from the first page to the last”: SLJ 10/15 starred review of the Sourcebooks Jabberwocky book.]–Jane Newschwander, Fluvanna County Public Schools, VA

redstarSTEVENSON, Noelle. Nimona. 2:17 hrs. HarperAudio. Oct. 2016. $24.99. ISBN 9780062562807. digital download.

au-stevenson-nimonaGr 7 Up –Imagine a future where technology meets medieval studies mashed with a bit of supernatural and government conspiracy. Lord Ballister Blackheart is determined to expose the despicable activities of the Institute of Law Enforcement, which is led by his former best friend, Sir Ambrose Goldenloin. Such a large undertaking requires not just any sidekick. Enter Nimona, a quick-witted, hilarious teen shape-shifter who has a knack for getting into and out of trouble. Ballister is resistant to take Nimona under his wing, but as the two become closer, Ballister realizes Nimona’s mysterious past and inconsistent powers might be bigger and more dangerous than he ever imagined. Turning a graphic novel into a successful audiobook is no easy task. Images from the graphic novel are interpreted into original music to convey the action and emotion normally portrayed visually. Rebecca Soler, Jonathan Davis, and Marc Thompson narrate, providing the cast of characters with unique voices. Polished sound effects complement the action and chapter changes VERDICT This title offers a charming dose of auditory magic. It could easily be paired with the print book for reluctant readers and for those who want to see the illustrations while listening. A great addition to all collections. [“A vibrant solo work from “Lumberjanes” (Boom!) cocreator”: SLJ 4/15 starred review of the HarperTeen book.]—Amanda ­Schiavulli, Finger Lakes Library System, NY

Pura Belpré (Illustrator) Award

CAMPER, Cathy. Lowriders to the Center of the Earth. illus. by Raúl the Third. 128p. (Lowriders: Bk. 2). glossary. Chronicle. Jul. 2016. Tr $22.99. ISBN 9781452123431; pap. $9.99. ISBN 9781452138367.
LowridersCenterEarthGr 4-8–Lupe, Elirio, and Flapjack—an impala, a mosquito, and an octopus—work in a garage, repairing and detailing cars. When they discover their cat, Genie, is missing, they follow his tracks to a corn maze that turns out to be a trap used by the Aztec god Mictlantecuhtli to steal the skeletons of wayfarers. Can the trio challenge him in the underworld, rescue their pet, and return safely home? The artwork is intricate but accessible; the textures and colors invite imitation. The storytelling is inventive, juggling cultural references, surreal circumstances, and educational impulses. As in the previous volume, Lowriders in Space, the dialogue combines Spanish and English slang, with frequent footnotes and definitions for the Spanish terms. This reinforces a narrative distance created by the flat affect of the characters and the woodenness of the included vocabulary. Perhaps the book is trying to do too much, incorporating lucha libre, mythology, Day of the Dead imagery, fanciful geology lessons, and multilingual puns all into one narrative. Or perhaps readers just need to go along for the ride, bajito y suavecito. VERDICT A jumble of creative ambition, the compelling visuals and scattershot storytelling will appeal to those not distracted by the roller-coaster plotting and jagged, more-is-more approach. Purchase where the first installment is popular.–Benjamin Russell, Belmont High School, NH

PURA BELPRÉ (ILLUSTRATOR) HONORs

WOOD, Susan. Esquivel!: Space-Age Sound Artist. illus. by Duncan Tonatiuh. 32p. further reading. photos. websites. Charlesbridge. Sept. 2016. Tr $17.95. ISBN 9781580896733.
esquivelGr 2-6–Much as Juan García Esquivel (1918–2002) made a great contribution to music history, this title is an important addition to music biography collections. Beginning with Tampico, Mexico, the text and illustrations work together to showcase how a world filled with sound influenced and inspired a young Esquivel and continued to do so throughout his life. Esquivel is shown listening to “whirling” mariachi bands, modifying a player piano to suit his own compositions, experimenting with unusual instruments like the theremin, and conducting musicians in unique and unprecedented ways. The text explores how Esquivel’s love of sound led to new ways of making music, most notably in his pioneering of stereo sound and lounge music. Tonatiuh’s illustrations are lively and colorful—a perfect match for Esquivel’s personality and work. Occasional blocks of text make this title best suited for upper elementary students. Back matter includes an author’s note expanding on Esquivel’s influence and an illustrator’s note on how the art was created. VERDICT A beautiful addition to music biography collections for upper elementary students.–Shannan Hicks, J.S. Clark Elementary School Library, LA

redstarTONATIUH, Duncan, retel. The Princess and the Warrior: A Tale of Two Volcanoes. illus. by Duncan Tonatiuh. 40p. bibliog. glossary. Abrams. Oct. 2016. Tr $16.95. ISBN 9781419721304.

princess-and-the-warriorPreS-Gr 2 –Princess Izta is the most beautiful and eligible maiden in the land. One day, a humble warrior named Popoca approaches the princess, offering her the promise of true love and fidelity instead of lavish gifts or material wealth. Izta falls in love with him, even though her father, the emperor, feels Popoca is unsuitable for his royal daughter. He agrees to allow Popoca and Izta to marry, under one condition: Popoca must defeat Jaguar Claw, the infamous ruler of a neighboring land. Popoca fights many battles and defeats Jaguar Claw. But with the help of a bribed messenger, a bitter Jaguar Claw manages to take one last stab at Popoca by tricking Izta into poisoning herself into a deep sleep. Just as he promised, Popoca stays by her side, lying next to her until, as legend has it, two volcanoes are formed: Popocatépetl, meaning smoky mountain, and Iztaccíhuatl (sleeping woman). Award-winning author/illustrator Tonatiuh successfully retells this ancient tale using his distinctive and artistic illustrations with spare but effective text. The action battle scenes will excite and captivate, while the images of Popoca kneeling beside Izta in determined wait will stir the hearts of readers. The integration of Nahuatl words (defined with a pronunciation guide in the glossary) into the narrative provides a rich opportunity to introduce and explore another facet of Aztec culture. VERDICT Use this Aztec legend to inspire readers while teaching a bit about dramatic irony; a first purchase for all folklore collections.–Natalie Braham, Denver Public Library

An SLJ Best Book of 2016

PURA BELPRÉ (AUTHOR) AWARD

CHAP-Medina-Juana and LucasredstarMEDINA, Juana. Juana and Lucas. illus. by Juana Medina. 96p. Candlewick. Sept. 2016. Tr $14.99. ISBN 9780763672089.

Gr 2-4 –Juana lives in Bogotá, Colombia, with her dog Lucas. She loves brussels sprouts, drawing, and especially the comic book superhero Astroman. She most definitely does not like learning “the English.” When her teacher says learning English is going to be a “ton of fun,” Juana knows that it will really be “nada de fun.” Her abuelo, or Abue for short, is a brain surgeon and tries to explain to Juana how learning English can be very useful. He also has a bribe—if Juana learns English, he will take her to the Spaceland amusement park in Florida, where only English is spoken, even by her hero Astroman. Medina has written a first-person narrative filled with expressive description. Spanish words are used throughout, and their meaning is made clear through context. As both author and illustrator, Medina is able to integrate the text and illustrations in unique ways, including spreads in which Juana tells us why, for example, she strongly dislikes her school uniform or why Mami is the most important person in her life. Font design is also used creatively, such as when Medina traces the arc of a soccer ball hit hard enough to be sent “across the field.” VERDICT An essential selection that creates multicultural awareness, has distinguished and appealing design elements, and has a text that is the stuff of true literature.–Tim Wadham, formerly at Puyallup Public Library, WA

An SLJ Best Book of 2016

Check out our interview with Juana Medina.

PURA BELPRÉ (AUTHOR) HONOR

DIAZ, Alexandra. The Only Road. 320p. ebook available. S. & S./Paula Wiseman Bks. Oct. 2016. Tr. $16.99. ISBN 9781481457507. No review available.

Robert F. Sibert Informational Book Award

redstarLEWIS, John & Andrew Aydin. March: Book Three. illus. by Nate Powell. 192p. Top Shelf. Aug. 2016. pap. $19.99. ISBN 9781603094023. March- Book Three by John Lewis & Andrew Aydin

Gr 8 Up –In the final installment in the trilogy, Congressman Lewis concludes his firsthand account of the civil rights era. Simultaneously epic and intimate, this dynamic work spotlights pivotal moments (the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, AL; the Freedom Summer murders; the 1964 Democratic National Convention; and the Selma to Montgomery marches) through the lens of one who was there from the beginning. Lewis’s willingness to speak from the heart about moments of doubt and anguish imbues the book with emotional depth. Complex material is tackled but never oversimplified—many pages are positively crammed with text—and, as in previous volumes, discussion of tensions among the various factions of the movement adds nuance and should spark conversation among readers. Through images of steely-eyed police, motion lines, and the use of stark black backgrounds for particularly painful moments, Powell underscores Lewis’s statement that he and his cohorts “were in the middle of a war.” These vivid black-and-white visuals soar, conveying expressions of hope, scorn, and devastation and making storied figures such as Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, and Fannie Lou Hamer feel three-dimensional and familiar. VERDICT This essential addition to graphic novel shelves, history curricula, and memoir collections will resonate with teens and adults alike.–Mahnaz Dar, School Library Journal

An SLJ Best Book of 2016

Watch the video of Rep. John Lewis speaking at the SLJ Summit this fall. 

ROBERT F. SIBERT INFORMATIONAL HONORs

redstarFLEMING, Candace. Giant Squid. illus. by Eric Rohmann. 40p. bibliog. diag, further reading. websites. Roaring Brook/Neal Porter Bks. Sept. 2016. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781596435995. NF-SP-Elem-Fleming-Giant Squid

Gr 2-4 –Through engrossing, informative verse, Fleming artfully introduces readers to a mysterious sea monster that glides through the deepest and darkest reaches of the ocean. Although some species of giant squid are as large as a bus, these animals are rarely spotted by people. Scientists have been able to gather clues and assemble a body of knowledge about the unusual cephalopod from pieces washed up on shore or found by fishermen. In a similar fashion, Fleming reveals characteristics of the squid piece by piece, beginning with a description of its 30-foot-long tentacles. She shares what little is known about the squid and raises many yet-to-be answered questions: Why does the squid change colors? Where does the female lay her eggs? As the narrative reaches a conclusion, the squid jets away from a predatory barracuda and disappears into a murky cloud of ink. Rohmann’s full-color paintings are eerily atmospheric. Bit by bit, each illustration focuses on a particular part of the sea creature until the entire squid is portrayed in a dramatic foldout spread. VERDICT Curious readers will be inspired by the engaging text and stunning illustrations to learn more about the giant squid. An essential purchase for science collections.–Linda L. Walkins, Saint Joseph Preparatory High School, Boston

redstarSTELSON, Caren. Sachiko: A Nagasaki Bomb Survivor’s Story. 144p. bibliog. ebook available. further reading. glossary. index. maps. notes. photos. websites. Carolrhoda. Oct. 2016. lib. ed. $19.99. ISBN 9781467789035.

sachikoGr 5-8 –Sachiko Yasui was just six years old when the atomic bomb was dropped on her hometown of Nagasaki. On August 9, 1945, she went from playing house with her friends to burying them. Yasui also lost a brother that day and would lose many more family members because of radiation sickness. Growing up, she was ostracized for her status as hibakusha, a bomb survivor. Despite her trauma and the bullying she faced, Yasui endured. She sought out inspiration from the likes of Helen Keller, Mohandas Gandhi, and Martin Luther King Jr. Their works allowed her to make peace with the events in her life. Stelson recounts hearing Yasui speak at a ceremony to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. This event would spark a long and intimate process in which Stelson repeatedly met with and interviewed Yasui in order to tell her story. Frequent historical notes provide context to the events happening in the narrative: Japan’s role in World War II, the issue of racism in the war, President Truman’s ultimatum, the effects of radiation sickness, the U.S. occupation of Japan after the war, and more. Back matter includes a glossary of Japanese terms used in the book and detailed maps of where events took place. VERDICT This sensitive and well-crafted account of a Nagasaki bomb survivor is an essential addition to World War II biography collections for middle school students.–Deidre Winterhalter, Niles Public Library, IL

redstarMARRIN, Albert. Uprooted: The Japanese American Experience During World War II. 256p. ebook available. further reading. index. notes. photos. websites. Knopf. Oct. 2016. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780553509366; lib. ed. $20.99. ISBN 9780553509373.

nf-mshs-marrin-uprootedGr 7 Up –The Japanese American internment during World War II is the subject of National Book Award finalist Marrin’s latest historical nonfiction for adolescents. He ties together chronological events with thematic elements (how racism operated during World War II) to tell the story of this dark time in U.S. history: “Our government failed in its duty to protect the rights of everyone living in the United States.” Marrin demonstrates great attention to detail in conveying the experiences of Japanese Americans who were removed from their homes and forced to live in “relocation” centers, relying on interviews, speeches, newspaper articles, and official and personal correspondence from the time period. Of particular interest is the chapter on the Yankee Samurai, Japanese American war heroes who fought bravely for the United States while their families were denied freedom at home. Back matter includes an extensive list of suggested further reading. VERDICT Packed with details yet well organized and carefully annotated, this excellent treatment of a shameful episode in U.S. history is highly recommended for library collections serving teens.–Kelly Kingrey-Edwards, Blinn Junior College, Brenham, TX

redstarFREEDMAN, Russell. We Will Not Be Silent: The White Rose Student Resistance Movement That Defied Adolf Hitler. 112p. bibliog. index. notes. photos. Clarion. May 2016. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780544223790. NF-MHS-FREEDMAN-WE WILL NOT BE SILENT

Gr 6-8 –Though the story of the White Rose student resistance in Nazi Germany has been told elsewhere, Freedman’s focus on the youth of the participants will resonate with readers. Hans Scholl, a free-spirited teen who became disillusioned by the enforced conformity of his Hitler Youth group, joined a banned rival group that discussed forbidden books, and there were no uniforms or marching. Younger sister Sophie got in trouble for reading a book by a Jewish German poet and questioning the pervasive anti-Semitism of her society. While attending school in Munich, the siblings became active in a group of anti-Hitler pamphleteers. The story has its share of dark turns, including arrests, lengthy detentions, and the eventual trial and execution by guillotine of Hans and Sophie. But Freedman treats these aspects gracefully, and the overarching message is one of defiant resistance in the face of overwhelming evil. “You will go down in history,” their father, an outspoken pacifist, told them after their conviction. “There is such a thing as justice despite this. I am proud of both of you.” Stock photos from the period are adeptly interspersed with personal snapshots and portraits to create a strong visual component. VERDICT A highly readable and well-documented overview of a fascinating aspect of World War II.–Bob Hassett, Luther Jackson Middle School, Falls Church, VA

Stonewall Book Award

RIORDAN, Rick. Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard: The Hammer of Thor. 480p. ebook available. Disney Hyperion. Oct. 2016. Tr. 19.99. ISBN 9781423160922. No review available.

STONEWALL BOOK AWARD

RUSSO, Meredith. If I Was Your Girl. 272p. ebook available. Flatiron. May 2016. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781250078407. POP
IfIWasYourGirlGr 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 transwoman 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.–Amy Diegelman, Vineyard Haven Public Library, MA

STONEWALL HONORs

redstarMCLEMORE, Anna-Marie. When the Moon Was Ours. 288p. ebook available. St. Martin’s/Thomas Dunne. Oct. 2016. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781250058669. When the Moon Was Ours by Anna-Marie McLemore

Gr 9 Up –Love bests every opponent in this surreal exploration of familial bonds and sexual identity. Teens Sam and Miel have been best friends for years, ever since Miel appeared, sodden and terrified, amid the flooded ground around an overturned water tower. As their friendship unfolds into romance, long-repressed secrets and rumors clamor for air. Sam is reticent and obsessed with painting moons on paper and metal. Miel and her guardian, Aracely, are thought to be witches—Miel because roses grow beautifully and painfully out of her wrist one at a time, and Aracely because she cures lovelorn townspeople with potions she creates. Until recently, the four haughty, gorgeous Bonner sisters held mysterious sway over the hearts of the town’s young men. Now that their power has gone, they believe Miel’s roses are the fix they need, and they have no scruples about using physical cruelty or blackmail to get what they want. Amid the ordinariness of the small-town setting, McLemore winds arabesques of magical realism. This imbues the narrative with the feel of a centuries-old fairy tale, while the theme of sexual identity gives it the utmost relevance. Some teens might be put off by the frequent descriptions of egg and pumpkin varieties and their associated shapes, colors, and uses. VERDICT Readers who stick with this novel will be rewarded with a love story that is as endearingly old-fashioned as it is modern and as fantastical as it is real.–Jennifer Prince, Buncombe County Public Libraries, NC

redstarDOWNHAM, Jenny. Unbecoming. 384p. ebook available. Scholastic/David Fickling Bks. Feb. 2016. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780545907170; ebk. $17.99. ISBN 9780545907323.Unbecoming-Jenny-Downham

Gr 9 Up –What kind of pain can love survive? How late is too late to learn the truth? When 17-year-old Katie’s estranged grandmother shows up on their doorstep, alone and suffering from dementia, Katie’s tightly wound mother is enraged. Instantly drawn to the confused but fascinating old woman, who seems to embody a spirit of personal freedom and love that the teen has been longing for, Katie starts recording pieces of her grandmother’s story, both to help her remember and to get to the bottom of what really happened between her mother and grandmother. It turns out all three women are harboring some pretty heavy secrets. Unveiling the narrative in bits and pieces and hopping through tim07e periods, Downham paints a moving picture of three generations of women who haven’t felt listened to or understood, who have felt confined by their choices, and who have suffered the consequences of trying to forge a new path. Katie’s plotline (she is coming to terms with her growing attraction to girls) is wrapped up a little too nicely, but the two older women’s stories, both past and present, are subtle and heartbreaking. The grandmother, whose slipping hold on her memories is portrayed with compassion and gentle humor, is especially well drawn. This would be a great title for teens and adults to read and discuss together. VERDICT A strong choice for thoughtful readers.–Beth McIntyre, Madison Public Library, WI

STEVENSON, Robin. Pride: Celebrating Diversity & Community. 120p. ebook available. Orca. Apr. 2016. pap. $24.95. ISBN 9781459809932. No review available.

Theodor Seuss Geisel Award

KELLER, Laurie with Mo Willems. We Are Growing! illus. by Laurie Keller with Mo Willems. 64p. (Elephant & Piggie Like Reading!). Disney-Hyperion. Sept. 2016. Tr $9.99. ISBN 9781484726358. POP

WeAreGrowingK-Gr 2 –An exciting thing is happening. The grass is growing! One blade grows tall, another grows curly, and two grow pointy. As these changes occur, the blades of grass declare what it is that makes them unique—all but one, that is. The last blade of grass has no distinguishing feature of note, and no matter how much the group wrack their brains, they can’t figure it out. Then, the great equalizer, the lawn mower, comes along. It takes this event for the blade to discover his special quality. As for the rest, even though they are literally cut down, they are reassured that they will grow again. The empowering narrative can be applied to lessons regarding things like confidence, identity, and growing up. No matter the takeaway, the message is easily consumable, thanks to exaggerated characteristics, cartoonish actions, and a good sense of comedic timing. In this new series, Willems’s popular characters share their favorite books, acting as the introductory and closing framework to the story. In this case, they have made an excellent choice. VERDICT Fans of Elephant and Piggie will devour this kooky easy reader, with its similar presentation and storytelling style.–Rachel Forbes, formerly at Oakville Public Library, Ontario, Canada

THEODOR SEUSS GEISEL HONORs

PIZZOLI, Greg. Good Night Owl. illus. by Greg Pizzoli. 48p. Disney-Hyperion. Apr. 2016. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781484712757.
GoodNightOwlPreS-Gr 1–Owl is just beginning his bedtime routine when he hears an annoying squeak. Readers can see that a cheerful little mouse is responsible, but Owl remains clueless about its origins. His attempts at discovering where the noise is coming from not only are glaringly wrong but also cause him to do enormous damage to his home. When he thinks that the squeak is coming from under the floor, he pulls up every last floorboard. When he is certain that he has a “noisy roof,” children witness a manic Owl destroying it with a sledgehammer. The stakes get higher and higher, as will the laughs and groans from readers, until he obliterates every inch of his domicile save his bed. It is at this point that Owl spies Mouse, and with that discovery, they both go happily to sleep. While the ending is quirky and feels abrupt, kids will be greatly amused by Pizzoli’s latest effort. VERDICT Filled with big, colorful illustrations and amusing facial expressions, this is a lively addition for most collections and a definite storytime addition.–Amy Nolan, St. Joseph Public Library, St. Joseph, MI

TWOHY, Mike. Oops, Pounce, Quick, Run!: An Alphabet Caper. illus. by Mike Twohy. 32p. HarperCollins/Balzer + Bray. Feb. 2016. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780062377005.
OopsPounceToddler-PreS–An alphabetical romp that tells what happens when Dog accidentally rolls his ball into Mouse’s house. Dog is irritated about the missing ball and winds up chasing Mouse out of his den and all through the house. The story resolves with Mouse wrapping the ball up and giving it to Dog. Dog unwraps it, thinks it’s very cool, wags his tail, sends “XOXO,” and finally says yes. Then the two of them happily take a nap together: Zzzzz. Twohy’s fast-paced book is spare, with simple line illustrations, few colors, and one or two words per page. Felt-tip pens and India ink were used to create these illustrations, and the lines Twohy uses in his drawings convey Dog’s curiosity and Mouse’s panic to escape, as well as the energetic antics of the story. This book will work nicely as a one-on-one read but will also be a good pick for toddler storytimes. VERDICT A general purchase for early childhood collections.–Liz Anderson, DC Public Library

MILGRIM, David. Go Otto Go! illus. by David Milgrim. 32p. ebook available. S. & S./Simon Spotlight. May 2016. Tr. $ 16.99. ISBN 9781481467247. pap. $3.99. ISBN 9781481467230. No review available.

LAREAU, Kara. The Infamous Ratsos. illus. by Matt Myers. 64p. Candlewick. Aug. 2016. Tr $14.99. ISBN 9780763676360.
RatsosGr 2-4–Everyone in the Big City knows the Ratsos. Third grader Ralphie and fifth grader Louie live with their father, Big Lou, in the animal metropolis. Their mother’s unexplained absence has the family resorting to “toughness” as a means of survival. Big Lou tells his sons to “hang tough.” These half-pints surmise that talking about your feelings, making friends, and being kind are only for “softies.” They plan to show how tough they are by pulling pranks on their classmates and neighbors. But all of their antics backfire, leading to unwanted consequences. This animal protagonist tale is lighthearted and fun. The writing is straightforward and easy, while the pen-and-ink artwork is detailed. These characters are complex enough to interest newly independent readers, and the story resolution is heartfelt and solid. The father-son dynamic is realistic and honest. Young readers will feel for the family as they learn to deal with the absence of a loved one. This slender novel packs a strong message of overcoming loss through love and kindness. VERDICT A solid purchase; a chapter book that entertains and uplifts.–Sada Mozer, Los Angeles Public Library

William C. Morris Award

ZENTNER, Jeff. The Serpent King. 384p. ebook available. Crown. Mar. 2016. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780553524024; lib. ed. $20.99. ISBN 9780553524031.
SerpentKingGr 9 Up–The son of a snake-handling preacher imprisoned for possessing child pornography, Dill escapes his controlling mother and social ostracism with the help of his two friends, Lydia and Travis. As the trio round out their senior year, it becomes overwhelmingly apparent the different paths their lives are going to take—Travis is content working in a lumberyard and diving into a fantasy world from a book series in his spare time, while Lydia runs a popular fashion blog and is intent on attending New York University. As for Dill, he yearns for more than Forrestville, TN, can offer, but he feels compelled to honor his father’s legacy and his mother’s domineering wishes. As Dill grapples with a crush on Lydia and a mother who wants him to drop out of high school, a YouTube clip of Dill singing and playing guitar begins to garner attention. Dill must decide among what his heart wants, what his family needs, and his own desire for a life outside of their small town; “If you’re going to live,” he says, “you might as well do painful, brave, and beautiful things.” Zentner offers a contemporary young adult novel that explores many issues common with teenagers today—bullying, life after high school, and the coming together and breaking apart of high school friendships. Thorough characterization and artful prose allow readers to intimately experience the highs and lows of these three friends. VERDICT Recommended for fans of John Green and Rainbow Rowell.–Amanda C. Buschmann, Atascocita Middle School, Humble, TX

WILLIAM C. MORRIS HONORs

redstarGIRARD, M-E. Girl Mans Up. 384p. ebook available. HarperCollins/HarperTeen. Sept. 2016. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780062404176. Girl Mans Up by M-E Girard

Gr 9 Up –The expression man up refers to many things. It suggests that “real men” take responsibility for their actions. Real men act bravely in the face of adversity. For Pen (short for Penelope), 16, it is a little more complicated than that. She has a difficult time knowing how to man up when she cannot even classify her own gender identity. For her, the LGBTQ lexicon carries too much cultural baggage and too many expectations. Pen does not want to define herself too closely, especially when everything in her world seems to be crashing down around her. Her best friend Colby has recently become a terrible bully, her parents are more and more unsupportive, and her older brother has been kicked out of the house. On a positive note, her crush, Blake, has taken an interest in her. Pen tries to navigate all of this, while still figuring out who that person is staring back at her from the mirror. This is a fresh title in the growing sea of LGBTQ YA literature. Pen and her peers are neither quirky nor whimsical. They cuss, drink, smoke pot, hook up, and get into fights. There is no sugarcoating in this very real portrayal of an aspect of teen life that many experience. VERDICT Recommended for fans of YA urban fiction as well as those who prefer grittier LGBTQ lit.–Jaclyn Anderson, Madison County Library System, MS

redstarPATEL, Sonia. Rani Patel in Full Effect. 313p. ebook available. further reading. glossary. Cinco Puntos. Oct. 2016. Tr $16.95. ISBN 9781941026496; pap. $11.95. ISBN 9781941026502.

rani-patel-in-full-effectGr 10 Up –On Molokai in the early 1990s, Rani Patel lives the life of the ultimate outsider. A quiet class council member of Indian descent whose relationship with her parents is deeply dysfunctional, she takes comfort only in hip-hop and rap. Her unrequited crushes on two local guys lead her into the underground rap scene, where she tests her skills as MC Sutra, but as she begins to forge an identity, her family and romantic relationships threaten to pull her under. Rani is a flawed character whose poor choices make her somewhat unlikable but also reflect a realistic reaction to her troubled family past—her mother ignores her, and her father sees her as a wife replacement (the book contains instances of incest). The teen seeks love and acceptance wherever she can find it, and through rap she is able to express her struggles and discover a community that embraces her unreservedly. The dialogue, which incorporates a bit of Hawaiian pidgin, Gujarati, and hip-hop slang, can require the use of the included glossary but enhances the understanding of Rani’s place at the convergence of multiple cultures. Her story will appeal to readers who prefer gritty, darker fiction without a pat, happy ending, and characters who don’t always overcome their challenges but must face them repeatedly. VERDICT A strong, unique choice for YA collections.–Marian McLeod, Convent of the Sacred Heart, Greenwich, CT

Check out our interview with Sonia Patel.

HITCHCOCK, Bonnie-Sue. The Smell of Other People’s Houses. 240p. ebook available. Random/Wendy Lamb Bks. Feb. 2016. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780553497786. HITCHCOCK, Bonnie-Sue. The Smell of Other People’s Houses

Gr 7 Up –In the 1970s, in Fairbanks, AK, four teenagers’ lives intersect in unexpected ways. Dealing with problems that continue to propel modern teens—unwanted pregnancy, alcoholism, difficult family situations, and ambition—they try to find a future that is theirs. Their struggles feel especially poignant set against the backdrop of a young state also battling to define itself. Uniquely Alaskan issues and industries weave throughout the background of the story by an author who is a fourth-generation Alaskan. Point of view moves among the four characters. But rather than appearing disjointed, this vantage allows readers a multifaceted glimpse into the rich cast of characters. Perhaps the primary flaw of this book is its brevity—each character has a unique journey and personality that readers will want to spend more time with than they are allotted. This leads to a glossed-over treatment of the relationships among characters, implied rather than shown. However, that is not enough to rob this work of its beauty and gentle emotional richness. VERDICT An excellent debut sure to appeal to teens who prefer relationship-based fiction.–Elizabeth Nicolai, Anchorage Public Library, AK

Check out our interview with Bonnie-Sue Hitchcock.

DEVLIN, Calla. Tell Me Something Real. 304p. ebook available. S. & S./Atheneum. Aug. 2016. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781481461153.
TellMeSomethingRealGr 9 Up–The year is 1976, and the Babcock sisters, Adrienne, Vanessa, and Marie, are dealing with the rapidly approaching death of their mother. Their world revolves around their mother’s care and her illness. The sisters have put their own lives on hold while they care for her—cleaning the house, feeding her, giving her the necessary medications, and dealing with their mother’s increasingly disruptive mood swings. They spend several days each month in a Mexican clinic where their mother receives a controversial treatment that is banned in the United States. Just when things can’t seem to get any worse, their mother announces that her disease is terminal, sending the family into a spiral of grief, anger, and, for some, shameful relief. Slowly the girls start to realize that not everything about their mother’s illness adds up and that cancer may not be the worst thing that could befall their family. This is an intense read that explores the way illness can seep into the lives of everyone it touches, leaving behind confusion, fear, and anger, and a thoroughly engrossing story that will keep readers reevaluating everything they thought they knew about the Babcock family. VERDICT An intriguing tale of illness, love, loss, and betrayal that is sure to reel in teens looking for something with a little bit of darkness hidden in the pages.–Annalise Ammer, Henrietta Public Library, NY

YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adults

redstarLEWIS, John & Andrew Aydin. March: Book Three. illus. by Nate Powell. 192p. Top Shelf. Aug. 2016. pap. $19.99. ISBN 9781603094023. March- Book Three by John Lewis & Andrew Aydin

Gr 8 Up –In the final installment in the trilogy, Congressman Lewis concludes his firsthand account of the civil rights era. Simultaneously epic and intimate, this dynamic work spotlights pivotal moments (the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, AL; the Freedom Summer murders; the 1964 Democratic National Convention; and the Selma to Montgomery marches) through the lens of one who was there from the beginning. Lewis’s willingness to speak from the heart about moments of doubt and anguish imbues the book with emotional depth. Complex material is tackled but never oversimplified—many pages are positively crammed with text—and, as in previous volumes, discussion of tensions among the various factions of the movement adds nuance and should spark conversation among readers. Through images of steely-eyed police, motion lines, and the use of stark black backgrounds for particularly painful moments, Powell underscores Lewis’s statement that he and his cohorts “were in the middle of a war.” These vivid black-and-white visuals soar, conveying expressions of hope, scorn, and devastation and making storied figures such as Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, and Fannie Lou Hamer feel three-dimensional and familiar. VERDICT This essential addition to graphic novel shelves, history curricula, and memoir collections will resonate with teens and adults alike.–Mahnaz Dar, School Library Journal

An SLJ Best Book of 2016

Watch the video of Rep. John Lewis speaking at the SLJ Summit this fall. 

YALSA AWARD FINALISTs

BLUMENTHAL, Karen. Hillary Rodham Clinton: A Woman Living History. 320p. bibliog. chron. ebook available. index. notes. photos. Feiwel & Friends. Jan. 2016. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781250060143; pap. $12.99. ISBN 9781250115119.
Gr 10 Up –More objective and even more comprehensive than Cynthia Levinson’s Hillary Rodham clintonClinton: Do All the Good You Can (HarperCollins, 2016), this volume covers many aspects of Hillary Clinton’s life and achievements, from her Illinois childhood to the early days of her current presidential campaign. Blumenthal focuses on the formative experiences that shaped Clinton’s beliefs and how those principles have guided her actions throughout her life and influenced her choices about her education, work, marriage and family life, and political career. Clinton is presented as an intensely private person in a public life, and Blumenthal objectively discusses the contradictions between Clinton’s beliefs and some of her actions and examines the many controversies and scandals that have been a part of the Clintons’ lives since their early years in public service. Blumenthal’s bibliography includes a wider spectrum of sources than the Levinson title and includes Clinton’s books and statements, papers and memoirs from the Clinton archives, and sources critical of Clinton. Small photos supplement the text, and “Drawn and Quartered” sidebar reproductions of negative and positive editorial cartoons illustrate public perceptions of Clinton’s personality, life, and work. With 36 dense chapters, this book reads more like an adult work than a YA title and is occasionally dry. Its primary audience will be report writers and students who are highly interested in Clinton or politics. The revised paperback edition includes three chapters chronicling Clinton’s race against Bernie Sanders for the Democratic nomination for president, her presidential campaign against Donald Trump, and the aftermath of the 2016 election. VERDICT A good option for libraries that need advanced research material about Clinton.–Mary Mueller, Rolla Public Schools, MO

redstarDAVIS, Kenneth C. In the Shadow of Liberty: The Hidden History of Slavery, Four Presidents, and Five Black Lives. 304p. bibliog. chron. index. notes. photos. Holt. Sept. 2016. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781627793117. In the Shadow of Liberty The Hidden History of Slavery, Four Presidents, and Five Black Lives by Kenneth C. Davis

Gr 6 Up –Many are familiar with the lives of the Founding Fathers—their legacies are woven into the very fabric of our nation. Yet Davis peels back the layers of early U.S. history to provide readers with an aspect of the American story that is often ignored. Drawing on a wealth of primary sources, images, statistics, and personal accounts, this work gives readers a more complete picture of Presidents Washington, Jefferson, Madison, and Jackson through profiles of the enslaved people they owned. This volume does not shy away from the horrific reality of this portion of U.S. history, nor does it suggest readers should abandon all nostalgic notions of the Founding Fathers. Instead, Davis encourages middle schoolers and older students to use this work as an additional lens to better comprehend the time period and contribute to an improved understanding of current racial tensions. Davis does not disappoint with this title. Compulsively readable, this book follows the narratives of Billy Lee, Ona Judge, Isaac Granger, Paul Jennings, and Alfred Jackson, enhanced with historical context and insight. A time line before each chapter grounds readers in the history without overwhelming them with information. Images serve to complement the text effectively, and an index will make this text useful for research. While this entry is satisfying in its entirety, teachers can easily incorporate sections of the text into the curriculum or have students read different portions. VERDICT This is a must-have selection for any library collection to present alternative takes on history.–Paige Rowse, Needham High School, MA

redstarTURNER, Pamela S. Samurai Rising: The Epic Life of Minamoto Yoshitsune. illus. by Gareth Hinds. 256p. bibliog. chron. glossary. index. notes. Charlesbridge. Feb. 2016. Tr $16.95. ISBN 9781580895842.Samurai RisingThe Epic Life of Minamoto Yoshitsune by Pamela S. Turner

Gr 7 Up –Minamoto no Yoshitsune, the 12th-century Heian hero who defeated the rival Taira clan only to be undone by another member of the Minamoto group, is a samurai legend. His rise from obscurity, reckless brilliance in battle, and gruesome end (which helped establish seppuku as part of the warrior code) are irresistible features of a life that ended at age 30. A near-contemporary chronicle, Heike monogatari, and a nemesis’s history, Azuma kagami, reporting Yoshitsune’s deeds were too thin for the popular imagination, which immediately began embroidering on the sources. Turner unpicks some of the yarn but brightens the colors of what remains so that Yoshitsune, physically a small man, leaps from the pages, larger than life and twice as active. Everyone dies—violently—but the famous ends of Atsumori, Antoku, Kiyomori, and others are moving rather than grim. The text rips along, skillfully engaging teens in many swift turns of events. Historical and cultural references are impressively accurate, and Hinds’s fluid brush-and-ink drawings and battle maps add useful detail. Although Turner often uses the word probably, the compelling narrative never strains credulity, and expert tricks help readers navigate Japanese names and sort out relationships. Students will find the 60 pages of endnotes equally fascinating and lively; a seven-page bibliography attests to the serious research behind the vivid (but never simplistic) writing. VERDICT Japanophiles, action lovers, and future historians will all find this book gripping.–Patricia D. Lothrop, St. George’s School, Newport, RI

An SLJ Best Book of 2016

redstarOSBORNE, Linda Barrett. This Land Is Our Land: A History of American Immigration. 128p. bibliog. chron. index. notes. photos. reprods. Abrams. Apr. 2016. Tr $24.95. ISBN 9781419716607.This Land Is Our Land A History of American Immigration

Gr 6-10 –This exceptional work explores the history of American immigration from the early colonization of the continent to the contemporary discussions involving undocumented aliens. The so-called American melting pot has a history of exclusion, discrimination, and strife that has resulted in anti-immigration laws, segregation, and, in the case of the Japanese during World War II, unjustified internment. The author combines comprehensive history with anecdotal case studies to present the human side of the issue. Outstanding archival photographs and illustrations complement the comprehensive text and encourage thoughtful discussion. The author conveys the attitudes toward new waves of immigration. As each new ethnic or national group arrived, it faced exclusion, aversion, and hostility from those who came earlier. The author outlines the motivations for these barriers and the political circumstances behind them. She also distinctly demonstrates the benefits immigrant populations have brought to the growth of this country. An excellent time line and end notes and a thorough bibliography make this an effective research tool. VERDICT Highly recommended for general purchase.–Eva Elisabeth VonAncken, formerly at Trinity-Pawling School, Pawling, NY

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Comments

  1. Karen Perry says:

    In the review here of BLUMENTHAL, Karen. Hillary Rodham Clinton: A Woman Living History, you have the incorrect picture. Also, the Blumenthal book has a revised section written after the election results that appear in the paperback edition.

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