February’s Popular Picks list is chock-full of materials that will fly off the shelves. This month’s selections include a story about a young boy who loves his green pants, a baseball novel by Yankees legend Derek Jeter, a timely YA novel centered on gun violence and Islamophobia by Barry Lyga, and a wonderful documentary about giraffes.
Barnett, Mac. Noisy Night. illus. by Brian Biggs. 32p. Roaring Brook. Mar. 2017. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781596439672. POP
PreS-Gr 1 –This rousing selection opens with a boy being kept awake by sounds coming from the apartment above his bedroom. The lad wonders what is going on. The audible commotion stems from a man singing opera, who, in turn, wonders about sounds above his head. This leads to a lively chain of characters, each on subsequent levels of a high-rise building, producing noise and then musing about the sounds they hear from above. These additional noises are in turn produced by a baby, sheep, cowboys, a young trumpet player, a crow, cheerleaders, dancers, and, finally, an old man directing them to go to bed. This title invites audience participation; young listeners can chime in with the swift, repetitive text or by reproducing the variety of sound effects. The book’s cover nicely establishes the night setting and offers readers a good sense of where the story takes place. Spirited cartoonish illustrations enhance the mood by visually magnifying the evening chaos described in the text. Children’s curiosity will be piqued by illustrations with partial glimpses at floors above; these images allow readers or listeners a chance to predict who or what might be making the noises. Vibrant oranges, yellows, greens, blues, purples, and reds stand out against the heavy black lines used to separate apartment floors. Attention given to artwork details can be seen in the patterned wallpaper, which varies from floor to floor. VERDICT The writing style and energetic illustrations tell an amusing tale that will be a rollicking bedtime or storytime read-aloud.
Brill, Calista. Tugboat Bill and the River Rescue. illus. by Tad Carpenter. 40p. HarperCollins. Feb. 2017. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780062366184. POP
PreS-K –A bright, adjective-laden work that will appeal to toddlers and preschoolers. Every day, Bill, a tugboat, pushes his friend Mabel, a barge loaded with gravel, up and down the Hudson. Mabel’s hull has seen better days, but she’s “loyal and brave” and does her job well. Bill and Mabel make a happy duo until some big, shiny new ships float by and disparage Mabel’s appearance. Mabel pretends not to notice, but it’s clear that she is affected by their unkind words. Mabel and Bill prove, however, that appearances mean nothing when they rescue a kitten who falls into the water (the snobby ships won’t deign to help). When the tug and barge are hailed as heroes, the ships wish out loud that they were more like the pair. Brill’s text contains rich vocabulary (Bill’s captain is either “sunny or sour,” depending on the day; the ships are “haughty and vain”) and is filled with boat-related terms that serve to paint a vivid picture. So, too, do Carpenter’s retro, flat illustrations, which are mostly done in primary colors, with occasional touches of green, black, and gray. VERDICT This delightful tale will be a hit in storytime and in one-on-one readings with young transportation fans.
Furrow, Eva & Donna Jo Napoli. Take Your Time: A Tale of Harriet, the Galápagos Tortoise. illus. by Laurel Molk. 32p. Holt. Apr. 2017. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780805095210. POP
PreS-Gr 2 –A colorful and cheerful yet timely story about a Galápagos tortoise who is very different from her animal friends. Harriet is big, heavy, and slow. She takes her time, no matter what she does. When pestered by her friends, who think she moves too slowly and not far enough, Harriet decides to visit another island. It takes months for her to swim there, and months more to traverse the beaches, seeing the sights and giving rides to young iguanas. Harriet observes many animals, from blue-footed boobies to red-throated frigate birds to centipedes, all of whom locomote in their own special way. And Harriet decides that she is fine just the way she is and heads back home—slowly. Not even a last-minute ride with dolphins can persuade her to change. Harriet returns to her island, content to have discovered that every creature moves in its own unique way. The illustrations are delightful, made with block prints and watercolor with digital enhancement. The heavy black lines of the block printing intensify the watercolors, creating vibrant and dynamic images. The text is simple but expressive and clear. Repetitive phrases lend a poetic feel. This captivating tale beautifully demonstrates that differences are a great and good thing, while also providing information about Galápagos creatures, and includes a mention of the real Galápagos tortoise named Harriet. VERDICT A lovely and satisfying read that should be considered for most library collections.
Kraegel, Kenneth. Green Pants. illus. by Kenneth Kraegel. 40p. Candlewick. Mar. 2017. Tr $15.99. ISBN 9780763688400. POP
PreS-Gr 2 –Jameson feels awesome when he wears his green pants. He can dunk a basketball like an NBA player, dive like an Olympic athlete, and dance like Michael Jackson. Jameson is like a superhero when his attire includes his green pants. And he doesn’t own any pants that aren’t green. People try to give him different colored pants, but Jameson has creative ways of getting rid of them. Some of the offending trousers can be found high up in the trees, while others are worn by neighborhood dogs. One day, the boy is in a difficult predicament. His cousin has asked him to be the ring bearer in his wedding, and Jameson is thrilled. Then he learns he must wear a tuxedo with black pants for the wedding. He struggles to make a tough decision. Could he be in the wedding and wear green pants? Jameson’s mother is very patient and lets him know that it is his choice to make. This is a delightful book for all children who love to express themselves and for those who want to be who they are. The pictures are done in watercolor and pencil and have a soft and appealing appearance. The illustrations of Jameson are superb at depicting what the character is feeling—from anxiety over making a difficult decision to the elation he feels when wearing his favorite pants. VERDICT A fun read-aloud, perfect for storytimes, and a great addition to most collections.
Richmond, Lori. Pax and Blue. illus. by Lori Richmond. 32p. ebook available. S. & S./Paula Wiseman Bks. Feb. 2017. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781481451321. POP
PreS-K –A child, a friendly pigeon, the great big city, and a very busy mom set the stage for grand adventures on the subway. Pax visits his friend Blue, a pigeon, each morning with a bit of toast. But one morning, Pax’s mom is in a rush and Pax walks right by Blue. What is a pigeon supposed to do but follow his best friend? Blue finds himself in a horrifying situation—he is lost on the subway and the humans are upset! Luckily, Pax is there to save the day and help Blue along his way. Bold, dark lines and washes of color in ink and watercolor bring a jolly tone to even the scariest moments. Small clues lead readers to think that the child lives in New York City, but the crowd scenes have a muted watercolor wash over the people and seem to obscure the diversity of the city. The climax of the narrative is an expressive close-up of Blue’s face when the bird realizes the problem—humans do not like pigeons on the subway. This scene is a full spread that will delight storytime crowds. This is a simple but exhilarating adventure for the child, the bird, and readers. VERDICT This charming tale in which the importance of friendship lights the way back aboveground to safety is a solid addition to younger storytime collections.
Sandall, Ellie. Everybunny Dance! illus. by Ellie Sandall. 32p. ebook available. S. & S./Margaret K. McElderry Bks. Jan. 2017. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781481498227. POP
PreS –It is a beautiful day, and a field full of bunnies are having a rip-roaring good time dancing the day away. There is clapping and twirling, shaking and whirling. There are also instruments and a choir of voices adding to the merriment. Suddenly, a fox appears. Every bunny must run and hide! From their safe haven, they peek out to see the fox dancing, flipping, and playing a clarinet! When he is finished, the fox is sad and lonely…“Everybunny clap!” This is just what the fox needs to cheer up. A new friendship is born among unlikely cohorts who love to play, sing, and dance. How fun it is to see a muted rainbow of polka-dotted bunnies frolicking freely on a sunny day! So that is what bunnies do all day! The fox/bunny relationship is a refreshing twist on the usual “evil fox” plot. The rhyming text is amusing to read aloud, and children are sure to want to get up and move (in a great way). The colors and patterns are pleasing, and the font is large and reader-friendly. VERDICT All of the elements of the text and illustrations (size, clarity, accessibility) mesh together to make this an easy choice for storytime in any early childhood setting.
Green, Tim & Derek Jeter. Baseball Genius. 352p. ebook available. S. & S./Aladdin. Mar. 2017. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781481468640. POP
Gr 5-8 –Green teams up with Jeter in his latest piece of sports fiction. Jalen is the son of an Italian immigrant. He lives with his father, who works long days at his diner trying to make ends meet. Jalen has serious baseball talent and has just made a travel team. The only problem is that he needs some extra cash to pay for his team fees. Jalen’s friends Cat and Daniel live near a Major League Baseball player’s house, and Yankees star James “JY” Yager routinely signs batting practice balls and sells them to benefit a youth sports foundation. Jalen knows that if he can get his hands on a few of those balls, he can easily sell them on eBay to pay for his travel team fees. What he does not see coming is an injured ankle keeping Yager home from a Yankees road trip—and Jalen is caught red-handed. Jalen tells Yager that he has the ability to read pitchers and knows which pitch any guy in the pros will throw before he even gets into his windup. Yager is on the verge of being replaced by a younger player, and his sole shot at staying on the Yankees’ roster is by going four-for-four in his next game. If Jalen can help him out from the stands, Yager will pay his travel team fees. The manager of the Yankees, however, has an entirely different agenda. Green is a prolific sports fiction writer, and having Jeter’s name grace the cover will keep this book in demand. Green does a nice job incorporating diverse characters throughout the narrative. Despite a predictable story, this title is sure to circulate. VERDICT Bound to be popular among Green fans and readers of sports fiction.
Hale, Shannon & Dean Hale. The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl: Squirrel Meets World. 336p. ebook available. Marvel. Feb. 2017. Tr $13.99. ISBN 9781484781548. POP
Gr 4-7 –Before becoming a full-fledged superhero with legions of squirrels at her side and defeating iconic Marvel villains such as Thanos and Galactus, Doreen Green was an ordinary teen who just happened to have a tail and the proportional strength of a squirrel. Though not quite an origin tale, this prequel to the popular graphic novel series provides the backstory for how Doreen became the Unbeatable Squirrel Girl. After moving with her parents from California to New Jersey, Doreen begins to realize that she can use her powers for good, and within a short period of time Doreen’s alter ego becomes immensely popular to the point that she attracts her own arch nemesis. Doreen must find a way to cope with high school life, keep her superhero identity a secret, and defeat the diabolical son of Hydra agents. Squirrel Girl’s signature humor, ability to think through situations before using her incredible strength, and desire to help others have been successfully incorporated. While the narrative is not told in the first person, there are one-line remarks from Squirrel Girl on the bottom of each page reminiscent of the format Ryan North uses to make comments throughout the graphic novels. VERDICT New readers and fans of the “Squirrel Girl” graphic novels will not be disappointed with this fun and engaging middle grade title starring a strong, positive, and utterly likable heroine.
Myracle, Lauren. The Forgetting Spell. 352p. ebook available. HarperCollins/Katherine Tegen Bks. Apr. 2017. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780062342096. POP
Gr 4-6 –In this somewhat uneven sequel to Wishing Day, readers follow Darya as she enters her 13th year and gets closer to her own wishing day. Through flashback chapters, readers see a young Darya just after her mother left, and get some insight into her distance from her family. In the now, Darya’s mother is back in town, but secretly. Darya and her sisters have been instructed not to tell Papa or Aunt Vera. Darya had always thought that Mama’s return would solve everything, but it’s actually ruining things. Mama is not whole—she’s smoking and confused, and above all else she wants Darya to use her wishing day wishes to fix her own mistakes. Darya feels betrayed, again. Her relationships with her friends and family are suffering, and she truly has no one to turn to. While the beginning of the book suffers somewhat from too many loose threads, the second half is much stronger. VERDICT Readers who loved the first in the series will eagerly consume Darya’s tale and anxiously await Ava’s story.
Papademetriou, Lisa. Apartment 1986. 272p. ebook available. HarperCollins. Apr. 2017. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780062371089. POP
Gr 5-8–Seventh grader Callie faces many struggles: a recently unemployed father, a bullied younger brother, a rift with an old friend, a failing grade in history, and an expensive concert ticket for which she is expected to pay. Despite all this, Callie works to stay upbeat. One morning she goes to her grandmother’s apartment, where she discovers magazines from 1986. Callie skips a day at her elite New York City prep school and goes to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, where she meets Cassius, a young unschooled boy who she later learns has Best disease. As Callie continues to skip school for the next three days, she becomes aware of old family conflicts and prejudices, which her grandmother avoids discussing by spending time with a neighbor who collects memorabilia from the 1980s and lives in apartment 1986. The events of the week culminate when Callie must choose between taking placement tests for her school and answering a call for help from Cassius. Papademetriou’s latest title is about doing the right thing and deciding what is most important in the face of being torn between two loved ones. She also touches on issues of homophobia, bullying, financial turmoil, and pressure to excel academically. Since Callie does have a problem with lying, she is not always a reliable narrator. While initially not every story line seems interconnected and at times the plot is busy, everything ties together in the end to portray satisfying but authentic character growth. Callie realizes that although being positive is important, not everything in life can be fixed. VERDICT A general purchase for most middle grade collections, especially where realistic, character-driven tales or novels featuring New York City are popular.
STINE, R.L. Slappy Birthday to You. 160p. (Goosebumps SlappyWorld: Bk. 1). ebook available. Scholastic. Feb. 2017. lib. ed. $17.20. ISBN 9780606397308; pap. $6.99. ISBN 9781338068283. POP
Gr 3-6–Be very careful what you wish for. For Ian’s birthday, his father surprises him with a unique gift: Slappy the Dummy. As veteran Stine readers are bound to know, Slappy is no ordinary toy. Ian’s obnoxious cousins, Jonny and Vinny, who have a penchant for playing mean jokes on Ian and his little sister Molly, kidnap the dummy and read aloud the magical words that bring the evil creature to life. Unfortunately, no one believes Ian when he explains that the dummy is responsible for all the terrible things starting to happen. The cousins do, eventually, get their comeuppance. Fans of “Goosebumps” will find the usual winning formula at play here—short chapters, lightning fast pacing, slapdash character development, and groan-inducing humor balanced with slight scares. VERDICT Stock well where Stine devotees thrive.–Valentine Muyumba, Terre Haute, Indiana State University
Albertalli, Becky. The Upside of Unrequited. 352p. ebook available. HarperCollins/Balzer + Bray. Apr. 2017. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780062348708. POP
Gr 9 Up –Growing up can mean growing apart, which is a hard revelation for twins Cassie and Molly Peskin-Suso. When Cassie, who is a lesbian, begins dating Mina, a pansexual Korean American, Molly feels a little cast aside. Molly, who has an anxiety disorder, has silently nursed 26 crushes and is working on finally risking the rejection she fears and starting to date. Cassie wants Molly to hook up with Mina’s best friend, Will, but Molly might be more interested in sweet and endearingly geeky Reid. While the girls are navigating these new worlds of romance, things don’t slow down in other parts of their lives. Cassie and Molly’s moms are finally getting married, so there’s a wedding to plan, much to the delight of Pinterest-savvy Molly; plus there are jobs, friends, and a busy baby brother. Molly, Cassie, and all of the secondary characters are well-developed and distinctive. The outspoken girls have honest, humorous, and sometimes awkward conversations with each other, their friends, and their supportive and loving moms about relationships and growing up. Albertalli’s keen ear for authentic teen voices will instantly make readers feel that they are a part of Cassie and Molly’s world, filled with rich diversity (Cassie and Molly’s family is Jewish and interracial), love, support, and a little heartache. In the satisfying conclusion, Molly and Cassie learn that letting new people into their lives does not have to mean shutting out others. VERDICT Readers will fall in love with this fresh, honest, inclusive look at dating, families, and friendship. A top purchase for all YA collections.
Jordan, Sophie. Rise of Fire. 304p. (Reign of Shadows: Bk. 2). ebook available. HarperCollins/Harper. Feb. 2017. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780062377678. POP
Gr 10 Up –This sequel picks up dramatically right where Reign of Shadows left off. As Luna and Fowler attempt to escape the kingdom of Relhok, they are attacked by beasts known as dwellers, leaving Fowler with potentially fatal wounds. In what seems like a bit of good fortune, a group of men find them and promise to guide them to a physician in the nearby city. The pair discover too late, though, that the men belong to the rival kingdom’s royal guard. Luna and Fowler are separated and must overcome trials of court politics, forced engagements, and threats on their lives before they can reunite. Jordan’s writing speeds the story along at a strong pace, with rarely a break in the action. On occasion, the narrative moves at such a fast clip that conflicts are resolved before tension can build. In addition, many major plot threads are never fully developed; perhaps they will be further explored in the next book in the series. Still, readers will enjoy watching the protagonists go through the trials and tribulations of royal court drama. VERDICT An obvious choice for fans of Reign of Shadows, this is also recommended for those looking for unique takes on classic fairy-tale tropes or a YA version of Game of Thrones.
Lyga, Barry. Bang. 304p. Little, Brown. Apr. 2017. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780316315500; ebk. $9.99. ISBN 9780316315531. POP
Gr 10 Up –When Sebastian Cody was four years old, he accidentally shot and killed his infant sister with his father’s gun. A decade later, in the summer before his sophomore year in high school, he can no longer endure the guilt, everyone’s knowing and nervous stares, and the constant feeling that he doesn’t deserve to be alive. Sebastian decides to take his own life at the end of the summer in the same way that he took his sister’s. Knowing it will all be over soon is a comforting, relaxing thought—until he meets Aneesa, a Muslim girl who has moved in down the street. Aneesa is funny and smart, and, most important, she knows nothing about Sebastian and his horrible past. Together they create a YouTube channel about making pizza, and as they spend more and more time together, Sebastian begins to feel as if there is something left to live for. However, when kids from school start viewing the channel, they recognize Sebastian and leave comments about his sister’s death and make crude Islamophobic jokes about Aneesa. A wedge is driven between the two friends, and Sebastian is once again headed toward a destructive end. Lyga (I Hunt Killers) tackles a number of relevant issues in this heartbreaking novel, including gun control, suicide, and religious and racial prejudice. The pain and anguish Sebastian feels every day are raw and chafing, and the chemistry between Sebastian and Aneesa is tender and realistic. With a number of sensitive issues addressed, along with frequent graphic language, this book may be best for a mature audience, who will fully appreciate the unwavering and stark realism. VERDICT A must-have for all libraries serving teens. School Library Journal
Reichs, Brendan. Nemesis. 464p. (Project Nemesis: Bk. 1). ebook available. Putnam. Mar. 2017. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780399544934. POP
Gr 7 Up –Reichs’s new novel offers readers a glimpse into the final moments of a preapocalyptic world, as seen through the eyes of two radically different teens. Min and Noah haven’t been friends since they were kids, and they don’t have much in common: she’s from the wrong side of the trailer park; he’s from the right side of the mansion. What’s the recently discovered common thread that links them? Since they were eight years old, they’ve both been murdered on their even-numbered birthdays by an unidentified assassin—and then have immediately come back to life. Min is taking a proactive approach to finding her murderer, enlisting the help of her best friend and breaking into offices to uncover encrypted files. Noah, stuck under the controlling thumb of his psychiatrist and desperate to be normal, is slower to acknowledge his bizarre, brutal reality. Yet with the threat of cataclysmic death and destruction on the rise, Noah must decide which path to follow—blazing a trail with Min or falling in line with his powerful and popular friends. The two characters have an abundance of differing traits (rich/poor, male/female, insecure/brave), so their alternating narratives offer a little something for every reader to relate to. Min is a self-assured female protagonist, and Noah is a refreshingly complex young man, a stoic type who is willing to admit to himself when Min is stronger and more fearless than he is (which is often). VERDICT This fast-paced exploration of the teen condition is recommended for lovers of science fiction, video games, and New Age dystopia.
Smith, Jennifer E. Windfall. 432p. ebook available. Delacorte. May 2017. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9780399559372. POP
Gr 9 Up –What would you do if you won the lottery? A question almost everyone has contemplated becomes a reality for high school senior Teddy, who receives a winning ticket from his best friend, Alice. She bought the ticket on a whim, and it sends them down a much different path than either had anticipated. Both have had their share of struggles. Alice, an orphan, has moved to Chicago to live with her aunt, uncle, and cousin. Teddy’s father is a gambling addict who left Teddy and his mother penniless. Winning millions of dollars seems to be the best thing that could have happened to Teddy, but Alice knows that more money means more problems, and she sees how the money changes Teddy and how others begin to behave around him. As Teddy continues to be oblivious to Alice’s hopeless love for him, she finds herself battling old ghosts—and her heart. Smith weaves a poignant tale of teens coping with loss and change as they balance on the verge of adulthood. A story that could have easily skimmed the surface of emotions plunges head-on into the complexities of grief, loss, and love. Healthy doses of humor and small victories for the main characters keep the atmosphere from feeling too heavy, and Smith creates more gentle tension as readers wait to see if love blossoms and if Alice will do something just for herself. VERDICT Fans of Morgan Matson’s and Deb Caletti’s books will want to curl up with a box of tissues as they fall under Smith’s storytelling spell. Recommended for most YA collections.
Taylor, Laini. Strange the Dreamer. 544p. ebook available. Little, Brown. Mar. 2017. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9780316341684. POP
Gr 9 Up –Lazlo Strange is a foundling who has grown up alone and unloved, sustained only by his fantasies and stories of a city known as Weep. As an adult, Lazlo finds his way to the Great Library of Zosma and becomes a librarian, tasked with supporting scholars in their work. His fixation with Weep continues, and he searches for scraps of information about it and its inhabitants and even teaches himself its language from books in the library. Then Eril Fane, the liberator of Weep, pays a surprise visit to Zosma. Lazlo seizes the chance to join an expedition to the city he has dreamed of for so long, and he is caught up in an old conflict between Weep’s mortal residents and blue godlike beings who had terrorized the city until Eril Fane slew them. Unbeknownst to the inhabitants of Weep, five children of these magical beings have survived and live in the giant seraph that hovers over the city, blocking the light. When Sarai, one of these Godspawn, visits Lazlo in his dreams, their growing relationship leads to the revelation of long-hidden secrets and opposition from other Godspawn, who desire revenge on mortals. This is the first in a pair of planned companion novels by the “Daughter of Smoke and Bone” author, and it has all the rich, evocative imagery and complex world-building typical of Taylor’s best work. There is a mythological resonance to her tale of gods and mortals in conflict, as well as in Lazlo’s character arc from unassuming, obsessed librarian to something much more. VERDICT This outstanding fantasy is a must-purchase for all YA collections.
Hale, Shannon. Real Friends. illus. by LeUyen Pham. 224p. First Second. May 2017. Tr $21.99. ISBN 9781626724167; pap. $12.99. ISBN 9781626727854. POP
Gr 3-6 –Hale revisits her elementary school years in this insightful exploration of the ups and downs of friendship. Young Shannon meets her BFF Adrienne in kindergarten, and the two bond until Adrienne moves away. When Adrienne returns, Shannon is thrilled—until Adrienne joins a clique. In over her head, Shannon copes with feelings of inadequacy as she compares herself to pretty and seemingly perfect ringleader Jen, as well as resentment and intense anxiety as callous Jenny throws barbs her way. There’s trouble at home, too: middle child Shannon often feels lost and is bullied by older sister Wendy. The author reflects on her life from the vantage point of adulthood, displaying a mature awareness of her own flaws and an understanding of the behavior of unsympathetic kids such as Wendy and Jenny, and her accessible writing and hopeful tone will speak to readers. Pham’s gentle cartoon images make effective use of perspective and composition to underscore Shannon’s sense of alienation. Her various flights of fancy reinforce her budding storytelling abilities and provide relatable metaphors (for instance, Shannon imagining her friends as members of a royal court and herself as the jester). In Hale’s afterword, she acknowledges that though she attempted to faithfully represent her experiences, she re-created some dialogue and made changes for the sake of the plot. VERDICT This tender, perceptive graphic memoir is bound to resonate with most readers, especially fans of Raina Telgemeier and kids struggling with the often turbulent waters of friendships and cliques. School Library Journal
Bryant, Howard. Legends: The Best Players, Games, and Teams in Basketball. 368p. chron. ebook available. index. Philomel. Dec. 2016. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780399169052. POP
Gr 4-7 –This latest from ESPN and former Washington Post journalist Bryant alternates among overviews of each decade since the 1960s, profiles of particular players or accounts of high-profile matchups, and themed “Top 10” lists. It lends itself well to browsing, though the format also leads to frequent repetition as the same facts surface in multiple accounts. Along the way, readers learn about the founding of the American Basketball Association and its merging with the National Basketball Association in 1976, as well as the changes to the game in the face of public image problems in the early 1980s, and many long-running rivalries, especially those between the Boston Celtics and the L.A. Lakers. A huge number of great names are highlighted, including Bill Russell of the Celtics, the Detroit Pistons’ Isiah Thomas, and Philadelphia’s Allen Iverson. An entire chapter is dedicated to the storied career of Michael Jordan, including his six national championships, an Olympic gold medal with the 1992 “Dream Team,” and two years playing Minor League Baseball after the shooting death of his father. Bryant’s history continues through LeBron James’s triumphant championship with the Cleveland Cavaliers. Though plenty of historical narrative is provided, much of the text consists of statistics-heavy description of play; this book is definitely aimed at the basketball junkie. VERDICT An easy hook for serious sports fans seeking an exploration of the history of basketball.
Kanefield, Teri. Alexander Hamilton: The Making of America. 208p. bibliog. chron. ebook available. index. notes. reprods. Abrams. Mar. 2017. Tr $16.95. ISBN 9781419725784. POP
Gr 5-8 –Kanefield has produced an informative yet accessible biography of the famed Founding Father for a middle school audience. The narrative begins with Alexander Hamilton’s often difficult youth in the West Indies, where he gained his first lessons in the power of finance. The text covers his departure to school in Colonial New York City, his rising star during the American Revolution, his role in the development of the Constitution, and his fateful duel with Aaron Burr. Readers gain an appreciation for the messy political feuds that followed the Revolution, particularly between the Federalists and the anti-Federalists. Hamilton’s crucial role as an industrial, capitalistic visionary is fully explored. Kanefield succeeds in revealing the differences among the various political and economic philosophies during the early decades of the American Republic, including the distinction between Hamilton’s mercantilism and Thomas Jefferson’s agrarianism. Relevant paintings from the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries are presented throughout. These portraits, landscapes, and architectural images range in size from one-quarter of a page to a full page. Scans of primary documents, such as Hamilton’s commission as treasury secretary, are also included. Key concepts, like the Articles of Confederation and mercantilism, are explained in sidebars. Some details, such as investments, loans, and bonds—which played a critical role in Hamilton’s philosophy—can be difficult to grasp, and some readers may need further clarification. VERDICT Considering the staggering popularity of the Broadway musical Hamilton, students will crave this title. A great addition to upper elementary and middle school libraries.
Kyi, Tanya Lloyd. Eyes & Spies: How You’re Tracked and Why You Should Know. illus. by Belle Wuthrich. 140p. bibliog. further reading. index. Annick. Mar. 2017. Tr $22.95. ISBN 9781554519118; pap. $12.95. ISBN 9781554519101. POP
Gr 7 Up –This highly engaging and eye-opening selection examines the ways in which kids and teens are, and potentially could be, monitored and tracked at school and home, on the street, and online. Kyi successfully conveys the who, what, where, and why of data collection in a variety of situations and, more important, asks students to consider where the line between public and private should be drawn. While this can be a lot of information to take in during one sitting, this work should be required reading for middle and high schoolers. Sidebars routinely ask readers to ponder the benefits of surveillance and tracking from a security and a privacy perspective. The author quotes Google CEO Eric Schmidt, who once stated that he wanted his company to “get right up to the creepy line and not cross it” when it comes to tracking its users, in order to set up “Creepy Line” sections that appear throughout and offer real-life stories through which readers can decide if that nebulous boundary has been crossed. Each section also includes a step that young people can take to increase their personal privacy. The graphic novel–like illustrations are eye-catching and effective in breaking up the dense facts and examples featured. VERDICT “Valuable” is an understatement. A timely read on surveillance and mass data collection for public and school libraries.
Lakin, Patricia. Bicycles. 32p. (Made by Hand). ebook available. photos. S. & S./Aladdin. Feb. 2017. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781481478960. POP
Gr 3 Up –Bicycles may look like a relatively simple piece of equipment to make, but this title aims to prove otherwise. Lakin introduces readers to passionate entrepreneur and bicycle maker Aaron Dykstra. The narrative takes kids through a brief history of the bicycle before launching into Dykstra’s path to bicycle making, which eventually led him to study with acclaimed builder Koichi Yamaguchi. The well-organized, dynamic, and engaging prose educates readers on Dykstra’s step-by-step process for making a bike frame. Photographs and black-and-white doodles sprinkled throughout help connect contemporary ideas and uses of the bicycle to its historical origins. This selection is perfect for STEM-based units on building things by hand, recycling, and engineering. In addition to the back matter, Lakin provides information on joining Dykstra’s STEM program, the Making Foundation, for middle grade students. VERDICT A must-have for school and public libraries in need of materials to support STEM curricula and maker spaces.
MacLeod, Elizabeth. Top Dogs: Canines That Made History. 98p. chron. further reading. index. photos. websites. Annick. Mar. 2017. Tr $22.95. ISBN 9781554519071; pap. $12.95. ISBN 9781554519064. POP
Gr 3-6 –Opening with Seaman, the Newfoundland who accompanied Lewis and Clark on their adventures, and going on to cover the role of the Pekingese in China’s Boxer Rebellion, the first guide dog in the United States, and more, this title chronicles the lives of a number of legendary canines throughout world history. The chapters are well organized and chock-full of photos and other design elements to keep readers’ interest. The text is accessible and bursting with energy; readers will be captivated by tales of how these four-legged friends race sleds or sniff out bombs and other hazardous materials. VERDICT Sure to be a hit with dog lovers and kids looking for a dip into history.
Napoli, Donna Jo. Tales from the Arabian Nights: Stories of Adventure, Magic, Love, and Betrayal. illus. by Christina Balit. 208p. bibliog. chart. ebook available. maps. photos. National Geographic. Oct. 2016. Tr $24.99. ISBN 9781426325403. POP
Gr 4 Up –A carefully researched collection of tales from the Arabian Nights accompanied by a wealth of historical and cultural commentary. Napoli, a seasoned teller of ancient legends (Treasury of Egyptian Mythology; Treasury of Greek Mythology), first introduces readers to the main tropes and reoccurring themes present in many of the pieces, effectively setting up a critical framework for students to draw from (e.g., What is the significance of the self-reliant hero? What is the relationship between storyteller and listener, etc.). Napoli addresses Scheherazade but also emphasizes that each episode can stand on its own. The work includes 25 tales, from the seven voyages of Sinbad to “King Yunan and Sage Duban.” Balit’s illustrations are eye-catching; the emphasis on pattern captures not only the energy and magic of the entries but also a key tenet of Islamic art. Sidebars expand on topics within the stories to provide students with a deeper understanding of some of the more subtle cultural aspects of each vignette (the importance of the number four, the transformational power of words, bathing as a social activity, and more). The volume concludes with a postscript, where Napoli expands on the history of the Arabian Nights and the editorial choices she made when compiling the work. VERDICT A grand addition to Napoli’s treasury of mythology books. Consider to refresh collections. School Library Journal
Giraffes: Africa’s Gentle Giants. (Nature). 53 min. Dist. by PBS. 2016. $24.99. ISBN 9781627898744. POP
Gr 5 Up –Dr. Julian Fennessy has spent the last two decades studying giraffes. Astonishingly little is known about them, especially compared with other high-profile animals whose populations are also under threat, such as elephants and rhinos. Alarmed that giraffe populations have declined 40 percent in the past 20 years and are thus threatened with extinction, Fennessy developed a relocation project for 20 giraffes. If it is successful, more could be relocated to encourage an increase in herds and, hopefully, provide a way back from the brink of extinction. Visually stunning and at times amusing, moving, and inspiring, this documentary presents many facts about the animals (they are not mute, and they are active at night, for example) and the relocation endeavor. Viewers who think they know giraffes will be surprised. Footage of other African wildlife and scenery offer context, and infographics convey material succinctly. The new findings about giraffes and the scope of the conservation undertaking are impressive. VERDICT Fascinating and enlightening, this film will be of interest to nature enthusiasts, conservationists, environmental science classes, and general science classes.