July 23, 2017

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SLJ’s June 2017 Popular Picks

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Picture Books

Davis, Jacky. Black Belt Bunny. illus. by Jay Fleck. 40p. Dial. Jul. 2017. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780525429029. POP

PreS-Gr 1 –In this humorous story about a karate-obsessed bunny, Davis uses the exchange between an unknown narrator and Black Belt Bunny as a platform for the topic of reluctant/picky eating. The narrator playfully convinces a hesitant young rabbit to use his karate skills to make a nutritious salad. After realizing he can karate chop cabbage, the bunny excitedly “WHAMs,” slices, and dices his way through carrots, lettuce, eggplant, beets, and other vegetables. Black Belt proudly presents the salad to the narrator. In an amusing turn of events, it’s the narrator who needs to learn a lesson about healthy eating. Fleck’s pencil and digital illustrations, done in a warm, earthy palette, have a lively, cartoonish, handcrafted feel. The simplicity of the artwork allows readers to appreciate Black Belt Bunny’s facial expressions, which contribute to the humor and action of the narrative. Pair this title with Juana Medina’s 1 Big Salad, Amy Krouse Rosenthal’s Little Pea, or Lauren Child’s I Will Never Not Ever Eat a Tomato for a silly, healthy eating–themed storytime. VERDICT A recommended purchase for most libraries, this entertaining picture book will encourage readers to explore and prepare the vegetables in their own kitchens.–Brianne Colombo, Fairfield Free Public Library, NJ

Gianferrari, Maria. Hello Goodbye Dog. illus. by Patrice Barton. 40p. Roaring Brook. Jul. 2017. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781626721777. POP

PreS-Gr 2 –Like most dogs, Moose loves “hello” and hates “goodbye.” “Hello” is a ride in the car, a pat on the head, or a visit with her favorite people. “Goodbye” is a closed door and being alone. Moose loves “hello” most when it involves her favorite human, Zara. When Zara steers her wheelchair into her family’s van, it means good-bye. Not for long. After all, one thing Moose loves almost as much as “hello” is being read to, and what better place to be read to than school? So Moose finds ways to get to school, much to the chagrin of the staff. Finally Zara gets the idea to have Moose certified as a therapy dog so she can say hello to the schoolchildren every day and help them read. The author’s note explains the difference between therapy dogs, which help bolster the confidence of young readers, among other tasks, and service dogs, which require more specialized training. Sweet, skillfully rendered illustrations are clear, convey Moose’s worldview, and depict a diverse group of people. Even the dog’s expressions—forlorn when she is trapped behind the screen door, sheepish when she resists an order, triumphant when she finds her human again—are instantly recognizable and contribute to the impact of the story. VERDICT A welcome addition to any school or public library serving preschool and early elementary-age children.–Suzanne LaPierre, Fairfax County Public Library, VA

Hood, Susan. Double Take!: A New Look at Opposites. illus. by Jay Fleck. 32p. Candlewick. Jun. 2017. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780763672911. POP

PreS-Gr 2 –A clever young boy, his small black cat, and a gentle blue elephant set off on an adventure to explore opposites in this wonderful concept book with a twist. The trio begin with some basic pairs, such as “yes and no” and “asleep and awake,” but then explain that “not every duo is so black and white.” Readers are presented with opposites that may seem simple but whose meanings can change depending on the situation. We see how relative words such as near and far and big and small can be, and the team suggest that “who’s strong and who’s weak is hardly perplexing. But strong can look weak when a new champ is flexing.” Through rhyming text, this unassuming picture book clearly conveys the concept of perspective (“where you are can affect what you see”) and advises readers to “consider all sides”: a powerful and timely message. The classic sans serif black font injects some fun into the retro-style digital illustrations. VERDICT Charming details make this book a pleasure to revisit. Highly recommended for school and classroom libraries.–Whitney LeBlanc, KIPP New Orleans Schools, LA

Jones, Christianne. Miles McHale, Tattletale. illus. by Elina Ellis. 32p. Capstone. Mar. 2017. Tr $14.95. ISBN 9781515807537. POP

PreS-Gr 2 –Miles McHale is a chick with many fine qualities. He is funny, bright, and lovable, but he has one trait that is causing trouble at home and especially at school. Miles is going through a tattle phase, and nobody can elude him: not his dog Frank, his brother Thomas, or his classmates. Although Miles is not the only student with these inclinations, he is the lead tattler in his class, and he can’t distinguish between situations when he needs to let an adult know that someone is in trouble and times when he should mind his own business. So his teacher devises a competition with one straightforward rule: no tattling for one week, and the winning team will earn extra recess time. Will Miles finally restrain himself and lead his team to victory? With speech bubble dialogue and engaging, digitally produced, pastel illustrations, this picture book flows naturally and presents a conflict that young readers will easily understand. VERDICT An ideal read-aloud for a storytime at school, at home, or in the library. A popular choice for most collections.–Kathia Ibacache, Simi Valley Public Library, CA

McMullan, Kate. Mama’s Kisses. illus. by Tao Nyeu. 40p. Dial. Mar. 2017. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780525428329. POP

PreS –As the sun sets over the jungle, four mischievous baby animals—an orangutan, a panda, an elephant, and a leopard—are playing in their tree house. When they hear their mamas say that it’s time to find their babies, “sing lullabies,” and “put them to bed,” the little ones sneak away and hide while the mothers look for them. Once the moms retrieve their babies, they snuggle their darlings, sing them a lullaby, and give them a kiss. The verso page offers a little blurb explaining how to “give YOUR baby animal kisses: Leopard kiss=rub cheeks/Panda kiss=tummy smooch,” etc. McMullan’s charming singsong verse pairs perfectly with Nyeu’s whimsical illustrations in soft orange and blue tones, laid out on lush spreads. VERDICT A perfect option for a bedtime cuddle or pajama storytime, this sweet and funny tale is sure to delight its audience and may well become a nightly staple.–Yelena Alekseyeva-Popova, formerly at Chappaqua Library, NY

Rosenbaum, Andria. Trains Don’t Sleep. illus. by Deirdre Gill. 40p. HMH. May 2017. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780544380745. POP

PreS-Gr 1 –Trains roll by throughout the seasons, at night and during the day, and set against backdrops that vary from nature scenes to urban settings. In the beginning, viewers see a passenger train followed by a freight train, a steam train, and even a circus train. Holding the random scenes together are a girl and a boy getting on at different stops, befriending each other during the ride, and waving goodbye as they part. The rhyming text is rich and rhythmic—“Rumbling, grumbling, screech and squeal,/Rolling, trolling wheels on steel.” The softly hued images in oil on paper are uncomplicated and inviting, ranging from close-up scenes to wide landscapes, set during the early to mid-20th century. A simple, illustrated glossary is appended. VERDICT Sure to be a hit with train fans. Best shared in small groups or one-on-one.–Gaye Hinchliff, King County Library System, WA

Teague, Mark. Jack and the Beanstalk and the French Fries. illus. by Mark Teague. 40p. Orchard. Aug. 2017. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780545914314. POP

PreS-Gr 2 –When Jack’s mother throws the result of his bad bargain out the window, a great bean-giving stalk sprouts and leads to dinners of baked, minced, mashed, and pickled beans. Though thankful he is no longer hungry, Jack quickly develops the bean blues. His neighborly mother shares their good fortune, making Jack unpopular with the village kids, who are now in the same bean-filled boat. When Jack, “the bean kid,” receives only bean-themed birthday presents, it is the last straw—he has to get rid of the beanstalk. During a surprise encounter, Jack and the giant discover they are both tired of eating nothing but nutritious, boring beans, and after sharing in an epic bean-throwing tantrum, they end up playing for the same side. On the sound advice of the giantess, who suggests, “If you don’t like beans, plant something else,” Jack and the giant team up on an agricultural enterprise that produces a feast for villagers and giants alike. The text is clear and humor-filled, but the layered painted illustrations tell a hilarious story without the help of words. Each character, particularly Jack’s dramatic cow, is crafted with nuanced facial and physical expressions that articulate the action taking place. Details in the artwork make this adventure special; watch for mysterious eyes peeping out from under a rock near the giant’s castle, framed photos of fairy-tale heroes hanging on the wall of Jack’s house, and bean recipe books in Mrs. Giant’s kitchen. VERDICT This delightfully illustrated twist on a classic has a traditional beginning that veers wildly out of familiar territory when the villain turns out to be not the giant but a sustaining and boring beanstalk that proves you can certainly have too much of a good thing. A ­super read-aloud selection.–Lauren Younger, New York Public Library

Watkins, Rowboat. Pete with No Pants. illus. by Rowboat Watkins. 40p. Chronicle. May 2017. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781452144016. POP

PreS-K –Boulders don’t wear pants. Squirrels don’t wear pants. So why should carefree little gray elephants have to wear pants? Oh yeah, because Mom said so. This quirky tale mixes images with spare text as it follows Pete the elephant through his imaginative romps. Mom trails after him, holding his britches with her trunk. The whimsical, sketchy illustrations seem simple but have many hidden delights, such as boulders coming to life and woodland creatures peering out from behind branches. Children might enjoy finding the small bird who observes the scenes on most of the pages and occasionally makes itself known with a “coo coo!” and other recurring images of acorns, worms poking out of the ground, and owls. The illustration of Pete tucked in his bed at night surrounded by pictures of his pachyderm family and images from his daily life is especially sweet, and the expression on the face of the elephant mother as she empathizes with her son in the end is touchingly recognizable. The offbeat humor is similar to that of Those Darn Squirrels and other Adam Rubin/Daniel Salmieri books, though less text-heavy. Fans of Rudecakes will be happy to see a new book by this author/illustrator. VERDICT A fun addition for silly storytimes and kids who love underwear jokes.–Suzanne LaPierre, Fairfax County Public Library, VA

Chapter Books

Florence, Debbi Michiko. Jasmine Toguchi, Mochi Queen. illus. by Elizabet Vukovic. 128p. Farrar. Jul. 2017. Tr $15.99. ISBN 9780374304102; pap. $5.99. ISBN 9780374308346. POP

Gr 1-3 –Jasmine Toguchi is anticipating the arrival of her family members for the New Year in sunny Los Angeles. Every year to celebrate, Jasmine’s relatives spend all day making mochi, Japanese sweet rice cakes. Jasmine will have to wait two more years before she can assist with the mochi-tsuki, or mochi-making, with her grandma and aunties. Pounding the rice with the mochi hammer is a difficult feat that’s reserved for the men in the family. But fearless Jasmine is determined to be the first girl and first person under 10 to help with the New Year preparations. Obaachan, Jasmine’s grandmother, encourages her to be patient, while mean cousin Eddie relentlessly taunts the girl. In this new early chapter book series, Florence introduces readers to a bright character who is grappling with respecting authority while also forging her own path. Vukovic’s illustrations are expressive and imbue Jasmine and the Toguchi family with sweetness. VERDICT This first entry nicely balances humor with the challenges of growing up; readers will devour it.–Claire Moore, Manhattan Beach Library, CA

Middle Grade

redstarApplegate, Katherine. Wishtree. 224p. Feiwel & Friends. Sept. 2017. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781250043221. POP

Gr 4-8 –Newbery Award–winning author Applegate meets high expectations in this tale told by a tree named Red, a red oak who is “two hundred and sixteen rings old.” Touching on religious bigotry and the environment, Applegate keeps the emphasis on her characters, the many animals and birds who find shelter in the tree’s branches all year round. (All the birds and animals have names and the power to talk, just like Red.) Around the first of May, people write down their wishes on pieces of cloth and hang them from the tree’s branches, giving Red a special place in the community. The pacing starts out slowly, with early chapters focused almost entirely on the natural world, but eventually readers meet the human at the novel’s center. Samar, a recent Muslim refugee, is lonely and in need of a friend. A nameless boy uses the tree to convey hateful messages to Samar and her family. The owner of the tree is tired of roots in the plumbing and hopes all the nastiness will disappear if the tree is cut down, having forgotten the story of her ancestors and the beginning of all the wishes. Red decides to intervene and ask for help from the animals and birds. Even those who shy away from books with talking animals will find this believable fantasy elegant and poignant. Widening the appeal is a sparse word count, making this a great choice for a family or classroom read-aloud and an inviting option for reluctant readers. VERDICT Another stunning effort from Applegate. This thoughtful read is a top choice for middle graders.–Carol A. ­Edwards, formerly at Denver Public Library

Holm, Jennifer L. Lights, Camera, Middle School! illus. by Matthew Holm. 208p. Random. Jul. 2017. Tr $13.99. ISBN 9780399554384. POP

Gr 3-5 –The Holms, the brother/sister team behind the graphic novel series “Squish” and “Babymouse,” continue Babymouse’s adventures, taking her into middle school. Much like Lincoln Peirce’s “Big Nate” crossover chapter books, this new series will appeal to readers looking for slightly more challenging fare. Though this title contains more text than the original “Babymouse” books, there are numerous illustrations throughout, the font is large, and the difficulty of the language is comparable to that of previous books, making it ideal for fans crossing over into longer chapter book territory. Babymouse is just as energetic as ever, but now she’s dealing with middle school drama and algebra. She doesn’t want to fit in anymore—she wants to stand out! Babymouse finds the perfect opportunity in film club, where she is chosen to write and direct a movie inspired by her favorite epic dramas. She realizes that it’s not as easy as she thought, with a diva leading actress and no budget. Ultimately, Babymouse learns that working as a team is more important than being a star. VERDICT A first purchase where the graphic novel series is popular. For fans of “Dork Diaries” and “Diary of a Wimpy Kid.”–Jessica Ko, Los Angeles Public Library

YA

Aguirre, Ann. Vanguard. 368p. (Razorland: Bk. 4). Feiwel & Friends. Jul. 2017. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781250089823. POP

Gr 7 Up –This fourth volume in the postapocalyptic dystopian series continues Tegan’s story. She has completed her apprenticeship as a healer and is eager to take her valued skills on the road. Szorak, the vanguard of the subterranean Uroch people, has booked passage on the same ship as Tegan, hoping to locate a safe new homeland for his kin. Tegan and Szorak are fast friends, but humans have not forgotten the war with the Uroch, and when a human is killed, all eyes turn to the hairless, clawed Szorak, and he is tossed overboard. Without hesitation, Tegan dives in to save him, and the two end up in an abandoned colony, where the bond between them quickly escalates to romance. Although this installment can stand alone, followers of the series will have an easier entry into the speculative world and will welcome the reintroduction of familiar characters. Those new to the books will be delighted with the fantasy-style details and sophisticated writing. The novel does occasionally include mildly gratuitous language, but sex is described so discreetly that less mature readers may miss it altogether. VERDICT A required purchase wherever the previous entries circulate well; this addition alone may reawaken a surge of popularity in the series.–Leah Krippner, Harlem High School, Machesney Park, IL

Blount, Patty. The Way It Hurts. 400p. Sourcebooks/Fire. Aug. 2017. pap. $10.99. ISBN 9781492632788. POP

Gr 8 Up –Music is everything. This is one thing that Elijah and Kristen can agree on. Beyond that, they could not be more different. Elijah is part of the band Ride Out, known for its head-banging, heavy metal, hard rock sound. He dreams of hitting it big and using the money to help his sister Anna, who has special needs. Kristen, on the other hand, yearns to become a star on the Broadway stage. The teens’ worlds collide when Elijah and his friends attend Kristen’s high school musical production of Cats and Elijah cannot take his eyes off Kristen. One tweet about Elijah changes their lives forever as their social media war takes center stage. Amid their Twitter battle, and with her grandmother Etta’s guidance, Kristen decides to join Ride Out. Will it give her the edge she needs to get into a competitive theater program? Or will the teens’ lives spiral out of control as the backlash from their social media war becomes very real? Blount writes authentically; both protagonists’ voices are distinct. The author explores the rapidly consuming world of social media and how it affects relationships online and in real life. VERDICT A relevant read and must-have for all YA collections.–Elizabeth Blake, Brooklyn Public Library

Demetrios, Heather. Bad Romance. 368p. Holt. Jun. 2017. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781627797726. POP

Gr 10 Up –As Grace’s junior year begins, she is in survival mode. She just has to keep her head down at home, work hard to save money for college applications, and maintain high grades to qualify for scholarships. Grace wants out of high school, out of her dysfunctional home with her dominating stepfather, and out of her small California town. She hangs with the drama crowd and prefers to direct or act as stage manager. All of those plans go out the window, though, when Gavin, the most talented and charming senior in school, notices her. Sure, he tried to kill himself when his last girlfriend broke things off, but he is practically a legend. Grace savors the attention, both from Gavin and everyone who notices them together. However, Gavin’s dark side is about to rear its ugly head. Before Grace knows it, she is swept up in a too-serious, constricting relationship. Now, all her dreams seem to be slipping out of her grasp as she realizes that the perfect relationship she dreamed of is twisting out of control. Gavin needs serious help, and Grace needs out of the relationship. This dark story is best suited for older high school readers. Pop culture references are plentiful, and the author expertly conveys the suffocating feeling of life in a dysfunctional family and the longing of teens to be on their own. VERDICT Sure to circulate in high school libraries and teen collections.–Carli Sauer, Carmel Middle School, IN

Feener, Chani Lynn. Amid Stars and Darkness. 368p. (Xenith Trilogy: Bk. 1). Feiwel & Friends/Swoon Reads. Jul. 2017. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781250123763. POP

Gr 9 Up –In the future, aliens from the planet Xenith have made contact with Earth and live among us. Mistaken for an alien princess, Delaney Grace is kidnapped by Ruckus, an alien soldier. Through alien technology, Delaney’s appearance has been altered so that she looks exactly like Lissa Olena, a princess of the Vakar people. In an effort to escape an arranged marriage, selfish Lissa hides on Earth while Delaney assumes her identity to prevent war between the two factions on Xenith: the Vakar and the Kint. During her time on Xenith, Delaney must undertake royal duties; fool Olena’s fiancé, Trystan, into believing she is Olena; deal with her growing feelings for her guard Ruckus; and survive multiple assassination attempts. Feener’s world-building is excellent, and readers will feel engulfed in the culture, politics, and technology. The romance between Delaney and Ruckus develops slowly and satisfyingly. Delaney’s insecurities about Ruckus not being able to see her true face are believable and add vulnerability to her character. There is plenty of action to keep teens engaged and wanting more. Sexual content makes this book suitable for more mature readers. A cliff-hanger ending will leave readers anxious for a sequel. VERDICT Give to fans of Melissa Landers’s Alienated and Ally Condie’s Matched. Purchase where sci-fi is popular.–Ashley Leffel, Griffin Middle School, Frisco, TX

Girard, Geoffrey. Truthers. 360p. Carolrhoda Lab. Aug. 2017. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781512427790. POP

Gr 8 Up –High school student Katie Wallace is used to taking care of herself while her dad’s off drinking away painful memories. So when the police show up at Katie’s house one night, she’s not at all surprised—until they tell her what he’s done. Threatening a former vice president and raving about government conspiracies quickly land him in a mental institution, where he’s heavily sedated and kept away from Katie. When she’s finally able to see him, her dad has some shocking revelations to share: he knows what really happened on September 11, and Katie is his living proof. In order to free her dad, Katie dives headfirst into an investigation of 9/11 conspiracy theories, meeting some of her father’s former military contacts, butting heads with government officials and private security companies alike, and making shady deals with “Truthers”—people convinced they know what the government is really up to. And the more entrenched Katie becomes in her research, the less sure she is about what to believe. Set in present-day Maryland, the novel walks a fine line between established fact and common conspiracy theory, and readers will question the truth right along with Katie. Girard has created a well-developed, quirky, tenacious main character for whom teens can’t help but root. VERDICT A beautifully written, captivating must-have that will hook readers from beginning to end. Fans of mysteries, thrillers, and historical fiction will all find something to enjoy here.–Kaitlin Frick, New York Public Library

Shepard, Julie. Rosie Girl. 384p. Putnam. Jul. 2017. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780399548642. POP

Gr 9 Up –Seventeen-year-old Rosie is anxiously awaiting the moment she can escape her emotionally abusive stepmother, Lucy, and Judd, her stepmother’s leering boyfriend. Since her father died, Rosie’s main support system has been her best friend Mary. Rosie finds a box that her father hid away for her, which reveals a long-held secret: her biological mother didn’t die when Rosie was three. Wanting to learn more, Rosie decides to hire a private investigator. Mary raises the PI’s fee by having sex with guys for money, much to Rosie’s dismay. After meeting Mac, her investigator’s nephew, and befriending Elaine while riding the public bus, Rosie continues to grow while Mary begins to pull away. Filled with unforgettable characters and expertly paced, the novel takes readers down many paths to an unexpected and shocking ending that packs a punch. However, there are a few loose threads, leaving readers to fill in the blanks. VERDICT This is a book teens will want to reread. Add to collections where E. Lockhart’s We Were Liars is popular.–Stephanie Charlefour, formerly at Wixom Public Library, MI

Nonfiction

Billups, Carla & Dawn Cusick. It’s a Fungus Among Us: The Good, the Bad & the Downright Scary. 80p. glossary. index. photos. Quarto/MoonDance. Apr. 2017. Tr $14.95. ISBN 9781633221543. POP

Gr 3-6 –A detailed, readable compilation of facts about fungi. The book is divided into three sections: “The Good,” “The Bad,” and “The Downright Scary.” The authors emphasize the positive aspects of different kinds of fungi, although readers may be drawn to the more shocking facts located toward the end. Brief text is broken up by bolded topic headings. The photographs are fascinating and fun, and several science experiments are included. There’s an incredible amount of material covered here, and it is unlikely that many libraries own comparable titles. Billups and Cusick make a compelling argument for the ways fungi might improve our world, describing everything from a fungus that eats plastic bottles to cell phone batteries made from mushrooms. VERDICT Both a solid research tool and an enjoyable read, this is a worthwhile purchase for nonfiction collections.–Casey O’Leary, Mooresville Public Library, IN

Jenkins, Steve. Apex Predators: The World’s Deadliest Hunters, Past and Present. illus. by Steve Jenkins. 32p. bibliog. websites. HMH. Jun. 2017. Tr 17.99. ISBN 9780544671607. POP

Gr 1-4 –By definition, apex predators are the biggest and the “baddest,” the rulers of their ecosystem. Jenkins provides a thrilling overview of these top hunters, from prehistory to the present day, in this illustrated collection that concludes with an “Apex Predator Face-Off.” The parade begins with currently existing animals and continues backward, in huge leaps through land, sea, and air, from 11,000 years ago to more than 500 million. Extinct players include the T. rex, which could bite off 500 pounds of flesh at once, and the tylosaurus, a 50-foot marine reptile that ate whatever dared to venture into its waters, including other dinosaurs. Jenkins covers contemporary creatures, such as the agile fossa of Madagascar, the giant freshwater ray of Southeast Asia, and the great white shark. His signature illustrations deftly portray the power and movement of the animals featured. Scale drawings that compare each subject to a human only further the terror. The final spread matches up extinct and still-living challengers—the extinct beast wins every time. However, Jenkins has one last trick up his sleeve: the deadliest predator ever is indeed just regular old humans. VERDICT Jenkins has done it again—all nonfiction collections will want this title.–Dorcas Hand, formerly at Annunciation Orthodox School, Houston, TX

Lawlor, Laurie. Super Women: Six Scientists Who Changed the World. 48p. bibliog. index. notes. photos. Holiday House. Mar. 2017. Tr $16.95. ISBN 9780823436750. POP
Gr 5 Up –This compilation of short biographies of six pioneering women scientists is a welcome and fascinating addition to STEM resources. Several of these women are lesser known, but some readers will recognize Katherine Coleman Johnson, the central subject of the hit movie Hidden Figures. All six women overcame great prejudice and bias in scientific fields such as aerospace, marine biology, oceanography, archaeology, astronomy, and medical research. The biographies are short but thorough and illustrated with black-and-white photographs of the scientists and their work. All the entries highlight the women’s determination, dedication, strength, and passion. Almost all mention the impact of early support, demonstrating the power of affirming adults in the lives of children. The book also emphasizes the power of teamwork. These women endured insults, poor working conditions, condescension, and restricted access to equipment and information simply because of their gender. Put this in students’ hands to inspire and encourage scientific pursuits. VERDICT This book hits the right notes—women, biography, and STEM—and does it excellently. Buy for school and public libraries.–Lisa Crandall, formerly at the Capital Area District Library, Holt, MI

Markle, Sandra. The Great Penguin Rescue: Saving the African Penguins. 48p. chron. further reading. index. notes. photos. websites. Millbrook. Sept. 2017. Tr $30.65. ISBN 9781512413151. POP

Gr 4-7 –Markle continues her series of books about efforts to save endangered species, this time focusing on the plight of penguin colonies along the coast of Namibia and South Africa. She deftly incorporates information about the penguins’ life cycle into her examination of factors that led to a disastrous population drop from an estimated four million adults in the 1800s to about 50,000 in 2010. Humans removed guano from nesting sites, ate eggs, and overfished feeding areas. Also, warming oceans forced adults to swim farther for food. However, the greatest threat came in 2000, when a sinking ore carrier released a massive oil spill during breeding season. Markle documents how thousands of volunteers cleaned oil-coated birds and transported others to safety. She describes ongoing efforts of the Southern African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds (SANCCOB) to increase African penguin numbers by raising orphaned chicks, hatching abandoned eggs, and exploring possible sites for a new colony. She neither minimizes the major difficulties nor ignores SANCCOB’s steady accomplishments. Numerous photos accompany the engaging text and may surprise readers accustomed to seeing penguins against snowy landscapes instead of sandy beaches. Clare Hibbert’s Penguin Rescue uses some of the same stock photos to illustrate a less detailed presentation of SANCCOB’s work. VERDICT Markle delivers another compelling story of wildlife conservation efforts that deserves a place in most collections.–Kathy Piehl, Minnesota State University Library, Mankato

Peabody, Erin. Bigfoot. ISBN 9781499804263; ISBN 9781499804256.

––––. The Loch Ness Monster. ISBN 9781499804249; ISBN 9781499804232.

ea vol: illus. by Victor Rivas. 128p. (Behind the Legend). bibliog. further reading. websites. little bee. May 2017. Tr $17.99. pap. $9.99. POP

Gr 3-6 –This first pairing in Peabody and Rivas’s new series about legendary creatures is an engaging and irreverent adventure in middle grade nonfiction. Peabody takes cryptid hunters on a lighthearted tour of the major sightings, hoaxes, mythical antecedents, and scientific probabilities surrounding Nessie and Sasquatch, ably abetted by Rivas’s goofy black-and-white illustrations. Peabody puts a fairly heavy emphasis on the scientific method and careful evaluation of sources, cautioning readers to use common sense and not to trust so-called experts without proof of credentials. As a starting point for budding scientists and explorers of unusual phenomena, the series provides a simple overview of the field along with thoughtful asides and further reading suggestions for those left wanting a little more. The breezy narration will appeal to middle graders, although there are a few places where Peabody fails to define her terms and perhaps one too many crude jokes (can there be too many in a book about monsters?). Further, there are a few holes in the background information (a historical look at giants that doesn’t discuss Norse mythology), but the titles are open, thoughtful, and respectful (an acknowledgement that “it’s also disrespectful and foolish to assume that we know the meaning behind another culture’s stories or legends” is well placed). VERDICT A fun overview for readers interested in the science, history, and storytelling behind popular legends.–Katya Schapiro, Brooklyn Public Library

Ramirez, Saul & John Seidlitz. The Champions’ Game. 160p. photos. Canter. May 2017. Tr $21.99. ISBN 9780997740240; pap. $14.99. ISBN 9780997740233. POP

Gr 7 Up –The true story of 12 Mexican American middle school chess champions from El Paso, TX, who competed at the national level in 2015, often up against more experienced, privileged teams. Many of these now champions had never encountered chess before joining the after-school club coached by their art teacher and coauthor of this book, Ramirez. During practices, Ramirez strove to make connections between the game and the students’ lives, hoping to impart life lessons as well as sound chess strategies. He reminded his students to “protect the queen” on the chessboard and the queens in their lives, he taught the importance of knowing when to sacrifice a small piece to save the overall game, and he drove home the lesson that in life, as well as in chess, you have to want what you’re going after. Teens will learn a lot about how the game is played from this read; however, the one too many inspirational platitudes may tire more sophisticated readers. VERDICT Purchase for collections looking for narrative nonfiction or schools where chess clubs thrive.–Leighanne Law, Scriber Lake High School, WA

Graphic Novels

redstarClanton, Ben. Super Narwhal and Jelly Jolt. illus. by Ben Clanton. 64p. (A Narwhal and Jelly Book: Bk. 2). Tundra. May 2017. Tr $12.99. ISBN 978-1101918296. POP
Gr 1-3 –Donning a cape, Narwhal decides to become a superhero—after eating lunch, of course. Super Narwhal needs a sidekick, so pal Jelly is dubbed Jelly Jolt. In this second installment of the sweetly surreal series, the characters are true to form; delightfully ditzy Narwhal remains upbeat even when he initially fails to exhibit a single superpower, while his jellyfish friend frets at every turn. In addition to three tales about Narwhal and Jelly, there’s a section about the “superpowers” of various ocean creatures (for instance, crabs can regrow their legs, the mimic octopus can change its appearance to resemble other animals, and dolphins sleep with one eye open) and a pun-laced story “written” by Narwhal and Jelly, in which Super Waffle and Strawberry Sidekick rescue their city from a giant butter blob. Clanton crafts a whimsical narrative that focuses on quirky conversations rather than superheroic adventures, and the funny story will snare a range of readers. Lively illustrations, dominated by hues of blue and featuring irresistibly cheerful characters, have a childlike feel, as though scribbled by a youngster clutching a crayon. As in many of the best reads starring dynamic duos—Arnold Lobel’s “Frog and Toad,” Mo Willems’s “Elephant and Piggie”—friendship is at the core; Narwhal always quells the many anxieties of his loyal companion. VERDICT A super addition to graphic novel collections serving younger readers, especially where the first volume is popular.–Mahnaz Dar, School Library Journal

This article was published in School Library Journal's June 2017 issue. Subscribe today and save up to 35% off the regular subscription rate.

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