November 24, 2017

The Advocate's Toolbox

SLJ’s August 2017 Popular Picks

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Picture Books

Biggs, Brian. Time for School! illus. by Brian Biggs. 32p. (A Tinyville Town Book). Abrams. Jul. 2017. Tr $16.95. ISBN 9781419725661. POP

PreS-Gr 1 –There are no schoolyard scuffles in Tinyville, where everyone shares, everyone helps, and the cafeteria crew creates delicious meal for students—and Ellie, the new girl in town, is welcomed into class with a “We’ve been expecting you.” Through minimal text, the author introduces children to some of the routines and staff they will encounter when they begin school. There’s also mention of what some of those people do. For example, Ms. Parker, the principal, makes sure “things run smoothly,” while it’s the bus driver’s job to “get her riders home on time.” Short sentences and dialogue bubbles featuring large black font may even tempt emergent readers to give the text a try. Biggs’s distinctive illustrative style—also seen in Gets To Work and the other “Tinyville” titles—features colorful outdoor scenes packed with detail and action, or alternatively, interior scenes with large figures framed by plenty of white space. Bright, luminous tones and playful patterns demand attention, while the button-nosed, occasionally googly-eyed figures with goofy expressions elicit smiles. VERDICT The story’s bubbly tone and the smiling figures are sure to soothe any first-day jitters, and perhaps, set a few positive expectations.–Daryl Grabarek, School Library Journal

Cronin, Brian B. The Lost Picnic. illus. by Brian B. Cronin. 40p. Viking. Sept. 2017. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781101999226. POP

PreS-Gr 2 –It’s easy to get lost in this seek-and-find book, a perfect follow-up to Cronin’s The Lost House. This installment follows Grandad and the children as they make their way through a park, towns, and villages, across a river, and by a gas station on their way to a picnic, all while dreaming of the many treats they will enjoy when they get there. Each page offers something new to discover, including many of their picnic basket items that have been left along the way. The bright, saturated illustrations and enchanting spreads completely suck readers in. Cronin’s recognizable style is reminiscent of that of classic picture books but has a modern feel and a vibrant neon palette. Like any good seek-and-find book, this one ends with a callout to readers: “Can you go back to the start of their journey and find all the items, so Grandad and the kids can have their picnic?” VERDICT Highly recommended for fans of The Lost House and anyone who loves to seek and find. A wonderful addition to any library, and an irresistible escape for both young and old.–Elizabeth Blake, Brooklyn Public Library

Hall, Michael. Little i. illus. by Michael Hall. 48p. HarperCollins/Greenwillow. Sept. 2017. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780062383006. POP

K-Gr 1 –A playful exploration of language and punctuation with expressive alphabet characters, an exciting journey, and a triumphant ending. “Little i” lives a peaceful life with his fellow alphabet companions until the day his dot suddenly falls off and rolls away. Without his dot, Little i doesn’t look like a letter anymore. He even looks a little like a number, and you certainly can’t make any words with numbers. Uncertain and determined to regain his identity, he sets off to find his dot, embarking on an exciting journey that takes him across the sea, far from his home, and into unknown lands of language. Bright, chunky, and delicately textured cut-paper and collage illustrations fill each page of this story to the brim with color and movement. A variety of punctuation marks are thoughtfully incorporated into the story and design. In one instance, Little i encounters a waterfall of exclamation points that is “Exciting! Spectacular! Magnificent!” Later, he discovers four small green comma sprouts and pauses to admire each in turn. The matching text type and shape of the alphabet characters integrate the narrative and illustrations, and repetitive phrasing and rhetorical questions add to the appeal for younger readers. ­VERDICT An inventive and well-executed story and design make this an excellent choice for young storytimes and a strong selection for most collections.–Laken Hottle, Providence Community Library

Holub, Joan. Tool School. illus. by James Dean. 32p. Scholastic. Aug. 2017. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780545685207. POP

PreS-Gr 2 –The characters of this brief, rhyming tale head to school on their very first day. Their destination is Tool School, presenting five young personified tools—Hammer, Screwdriver, Pliers, Saw, and Tape Measure—experimenting with their skills and finding their way around a builder’s classroom. Cartoon illustrations feature their wide-eyed excitement for learning, frustration as they try to work independently for the first time, and cubbies filled with enough wood, cardboard, screws, nails, glue, and clamps to satisfy their every experiment. Young readers unfamiliar with basic tools will find an introduction to each character, a description of the tool’s purpose, and how each works. Led by their teacher Ms. Drill, the tools practice safety and skills, working first alone and then learning together to explore the value of cooperation. Text includes a bit of onomatopoeia—the sounds of constructing a toolbox—while speech bubbles highlight a busy conversation. A final spread presents “Cool Tool Tips” and the reminder to work with a grown-up and wear safety goggles. ­VERDICT A must-read for budding makers in all libraries, measuring up to the need for early introduction to creative tools, and entertainingly illustrated for the very young.–Mary Elam, Learning Media Services, Plano ISD, TX

Paul, Miranda. The Great Pasta Escape. illus. by Javier Joaquin. 40p. little bee. Aug. 2017. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781499804805. POP

K-Gr 2 –What would happen if the pasta at the factory suddenly realized that instead of going to a super (market) place they were going to be dinner instead? Disbelief. Discovery of evidence (it’s right on the packages!). Fear. A poorly conceived plan (“But it means sacrificing the Ravioli. It’s the only way.”). Anger. A miracle (Angel Hair to the rescue.). And, finally, a good plan involving teamwork, in which they are all shipped to Super Awesome Island, a very super place indeed. And of course, the whole story is all wrapped up with noodle puns galore. The amusing text gives each type of pasta its own personality, and Joaquin’s cartoony illustrations give those delightful personalities life. Intellectual bow tie pasta wears glasses, laid back Mac(aroni) has a bandana and shades, and Wagon Wheel Rotelle sports a cowboy hat and boots. All of the noodles have arms, legs, and extremely expressive faces, which, despite what you might be thinking, totally works. Add in picture thought bubbles, great colors, excellent detail (the pasta have shadows!), and plenty of action for a winning combination of text and illustrations. VERDICT A fun read-aloud selection and an introduction to the multitudes of pasta types. Includes a visual glossary of pasta shapes.–Catherine Callegari, Reston Regional Library, VA

ReynoldS, Aaron. Creepy Pair of Underwear! illus. by Peter Brown. 48p. S. & S. Aug. 2017. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781442402980. POP

PreS-Gr 2 –Jasper Rabbit and his mother go shopping one Thursday for much-needed new underwear. Bypassing the boring white pairs, Jasper begs his mom to get the peculiar looking but comfy neon green underwear—even if it resembles Frankenstein’s monster. Reluctantly, Jasper’s mother agrees, and so one pair of the psychedelic undies goes home with them. That night, however, Jasper tries to get rid of the underwear but it returns, “staring at him with that ghoulish, greenish glow.” The garment’s bright color and changing expressions are highlighted by their placement on dark backgrounds. Finally, Jasper successfully buries the underwear in a deep, deep hole. A totally black spread is followed by one with Jasper’s huge round eyes, fearful of the dark, now dull without the green glow. After he digs up his original pair, Jasper spends his whole allowance and festoons his room with an entire collection of creepy green underwear. First introduced in Creepy Carrots, Jasper’s antics are equally humorous and appropriately but safely spooky. VERDICT An enjoyable and comfortably spine-tingling picture book for a Halloween or any day storytime.–Maria B. Salvadore, formerly at District of Columbia Public Library

Rissi, Anica Mrose. The Teacher’s Pet. ­ illus. by Zachariah OHora. 40p. Disney-Hyperion. Jun. 2017. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781484743645. POP

PreS-Gr 2 –From the cover, readers get a sense that all is not as idyllic as the teacher’s face suggests. The children wear concerned expressions and there are large bites missing from furniture and a math book. What is going on? Rissi’s story of a class science project seems ordinary enough, until we notice that Bruno the tadpole looks a lot like a hippopotamus. Suddenly the problem becomes clear. “Everyone could see that Bruno was trouble. Everyone except Mr. Stricter.” Ohora’s acrylic illustrations work seamlessly with the text to juxtapose the teacher’s blind adoration of his pet with the students’ increasing alarm. “Bruno wouldn’t hurt a…” Mr. Stricter is saying, and readers turn the page to see a single sneaker dangling from Bruno’s mouth and a large mustard yellow “GULP!” appears over Bruno’s head. Obviously the class was not overreacting when they said Bruno was trouble, but how will they get their teacher back? Fans of stories like Steven Kellogg’s The Mysterious Tadpole or Mike Thaler’s A Hippopotamus Ate the Teacher will appreciate the saga of a beloved small pet growing out of control. Readers will feel the increasing frustration of the class as the teacher dismisses all their concerns about Bruno and says, “Isn’t he adorable?” And those who enjoy some gross humor will love the result of Bruno’s sneeze. VERDICT Highly recommended. Perfect for classroom read-alouds and lessons on problem-solving or pets.–Suzanne Costner, Fairview Elementary School, Maryville, TN

Valentine, Madeline. I Want That Nut! illus. by Madeline Valentine. 40p. Knopf. Oct. 2017. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781101940372. POP

PreS-Gr 1 –Friendship can be wonderful, but it is not always predictable. When a very large, beautiful nut unexpectedly lands in their play space, Mouse and Chipmunk secretly covet it, and the result threatens their close relationship. Back and forth, each steals the treasure from the other and spends individual playtime with the nut, until the rightful owner makes his claim. Illustrations of digitalized watercolor and pencil portray Mouse and Chipmunk each participating in a variety of activity with the nut, such as reading, playing in the grass, sitting down to tea, having a game of tic-tac-toe, napping, and taking part in a private dance party. Images that vary in size from full-page illustrations to small cells accentuate the cartoon action, expertly drawn and designed to keep the action moving as tails fly off the page with each snatch. Speech bubbles highlight humorous text—a running conversation about possession of Nut, ending with an eventual admission of guilt on both sides as a shared substitute treasure brings Chipmunk and Mouse back together. Young children may identify with Mouse and Chipmunk and how their yearning to possess something can overshadow what is truly important. VERDICT A first buy for all libraries, especially schools emphasizing social-emotional relationships, this book quietly introduces the topics of sharing and friendship by example, echoing the voice of young children.–Mary Elam, Learning ­Media Services, Plano ISD, TX

Middle Grade

Preller, James. Better Off Undead. 288p. Farrar. Oct. 2017. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781250066480. POP
Gr 4-7 –Adrian Lazarus is a middle school zombie, the result of an accident that left him “as undead as a toenail and not really thrilled about it.” The book is similar to Paolo Bacigalupi’s Zombie Baseball Beatdown; however, this cautionary tale is more than just a brain-eating gross-out. Set in the not-too-distant future when humanity is suffering from numerous self-inflicted woes, this story’s villains are the Bork Brothers, owners of K & K Industries, “the richest, most powerful corporation on the planet” and also the source of much of the planet’s environmental troubles. Like The Wizard of Oz, to which this book makes frequent allusions, the Bork Brothers control the world behind a curtain of extreme privacy, “pour[ing] their millions of dollars into helping certain politicians win elections.” With one of the brothers dying, they attempt to kidnap Adrian, hoping to glean the secret of cheating death. Adrian foils this plot with the help of his friends, one of whom is a thinly disguised Demeter-like creature. While following these fantastic adventures, readers learn about real environmental issues, such as the vanishing of bees, with the clear message to not be a “zombie,” but to instead take action to protect the planet before it is too late. VERDICT This uproarious middle grade call to action has considerable kid appeal and a timely message. A strong addition to school and public library collections.–Eileen Makoff, P.S. 90 Edna Cohen School, NY

YA

Alexander, Kwame with Mary Rand Hess. Solo. 464p. Blink. Aug. 2017. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780310761839. POP
Gr 7 Up –Blade Morrison is on shaky ground. The death of his mother years ago still haunts him, and he’s continually disappointed by his father Rutherford, a rock legend who has long grappled with drug and alcohol addiction. Rutherford’s humiliating behavior at Blade’s high school graduation, Blade’s older sister Storm’s revelation of a devastating family secret, and his girlfriend Chapel’s betrayal send the teenager reeling. Looking for answers, he heads to Ghana, where he begins to heal. This novel in verse reverberates with the energy of spoken word poetry. Alexander and Hess have a knack for making ordinary language seem lyrical, and the narrative is conveyed through dialogue, text messages, and news reports as well as through Blade’s terse, first-person, present-tense musings. References to rock and roll songs and artists as varied as Lenny Kravitz, Guns N’ Roses, and Stevie Nicks give the book an infectious rhythm. Though the writing is at times slightly unpolished, it perfectly captures the teenage voice. Blade is all highs and lows, veering sharply from the intoxicating embrace of first love and lust to feelings of heartbreak and alienation. Some conflicts are wrapped up too neatly and others are forgotten entirely, but the authentic character development and tone will strike a chord with young adults. VERDICT Hand to music lovers, reluctant readers, fans of spoken word poetry, those who appreciate Alexander’s work, or anyone seeking a tale of self-discovery.–Mahnaz Dar, School Library Journal

Blake, Kendare. One Dark Throne. 464p. HarperCollins/HarperTeen. Sept. 2017. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9780062385468. POP

Gr 8 Up –Following up on the events of Three Dark Crowns, Blake brings the queen triplets to their fates as they fight for their lives. While the teen queens deal with suitors and advisors, they must also grapple with the reality of their tasks in killing one another for the ultimate throne. When Katharine seems to gather strength, Mirabella and Arisonoe must determine whether they can work together or if they even should. The author takes the cursed sisters to new exciting heights with a driving plot. A continued detailed development of characters carves out unexpected alliances with Blake’s careful manipulation. Readers will appreciate the epic payoff of the first novel in this second installment. The present-tense style throughout underlines the drama of the plot. The large cast of characters may seem overwhelming at times, but each is characterized skillfully. Though Blake describes some violence, the gore is minimal, making this appropriate for a broad range of ages. VERDICT Dark indeed, and exploring themes of loyalty, this is a thrilling sequel with everything from action to romance to entice readers. A strong purchase for YA fantasy shelves.–Abby Hargreaves, D.C. Public Library

redstarLu, Marie. Warcross. 368p. Putnam. Sept. 2017. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9780399547966. POP

Gr 8 Up –A highly engaging and incredibly exciting science fiction novel for young adults. Emika Chen is a bounty hunter living in a futuristic New York City. Emika has a juvenile record and spent time in the foster care system after her father died. She is struggling to pay her bills, and is banking on getting enough from the next bounty to settle up with her landlord. In the midst of her troubles, Emika gets involved in Warcross, a virtual reality video game played by nearly everyone. Players put on virtual reality glasses and can play others, build their own worlds, and keep memories there. There is a huge tournament where the best players from around the globe come together as teams to compete for the ultimate prize. When Emika tries stealing a valuable item in the opening ceremony, she glitches into the game and finds immediate fame. With this fame comes a job offer from the young Hideo Tanaka, creator of Warcross. He flies her to Japan on his private jet, and he asks for her help to find someone who is threatening the game. Emika is also a skilled hacker, so she accepts. The teen becomes a key player in the tournament and in Hideo’s life, as they develop a romantic relationship. Readers will move effortlessly through Lu’s fantastic writing, and they will enjoy getting to know this international cast of characters. The author adeptly weaves together exciting video games scenes, virtual reality, and romance. The great plot twist and cliff-hanger ending clearly leaves room for a sequel. ­VERDICT An enticing first purchase for YA collections, especially where Lu’s other books and science fiction are popular.–Nancy Jo Lambert, Reedy High School, Frisco, TX

Patterson, James & Emily Raymond. Expelled. 304p. Little, Brown/Jimmy Patterson. Oct. 2017. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780316440394. POP

Gr 9 Up –When someone anonymously posts a compromising picture on Twitter, four students’ lives will be forever changed. Theo, Sasha, Jude, and Parker are now expelled from school for all the wrong reasons. This unlikely group of high schoolers put their differences aside, and find comfort in one another’s company. Theo is set on finding out who sabotaged his and his friend’s lives. Throughout this investigation, the teen uncovers more than he anticipated. With all of this fragile information at their disposal, the group of expellees needs to figure out what to do with their newfound knowledge. This fast-paced and suspenseful young adult novel is full of humor, romance, loss, and enlightenment. At times the plot is slightly rushed and underdeveloped, but it doesn’t take away from the engagement of the story. This book contains some mild language and mature situations. VERDICT Patterson and Raymond don’t disappoint. A good purchase for young adult shelves.–Amanda LeMay, Neptune Township Public Library, NJ

PopoviĆ, Lana. Wicked Like a Wildfire. 416p. HarperCollins/Katherine Tegen Bks. Aug. 2017. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780062436832. POP
Gr 9 Up –In beautiful Montenegro, there are two sisters gifted with powers that can manipulate beauty: Iris makes glasswork inspired by the flowers around her, while Malina can create music based on the moods she senses. Jasmina, their cruel and distant mother, can bake scenery into the elaborate confections in her bakery. The unforgiving Jasmina has forbidden the girls to share their “gleams” with anyone. Kindhearted Malina continues to believe that their mother is protecting them somehow, but Iris, spirited and defiant, spends her evenings partying and ignoring her mother’s threatening demeanor. However, when Jasmina is attacked by a stranger at the bakery, Malina and Iris are forced onto a journey that unearths a family curse. What follows is a wild ride of magic and family secrets leading to a discovery neither girl was expecting. For fans of Laini Taylor’s Daughter of Smoke and Bone, readers will be greatly pleased with this debut novel. Popoviç mingles brilliant prose with sensory details that allows readers to smell the Montenegro breezes and see the beautiful old streets. The characterization is excellent: both girls are relatable and blatantly honest in their reactions toward their harsh mother. At the core of this novel is the love that still exists in a family filled with secrets and years of hurt. Nonetheless, the plot moves slowly in the beginning, making it hard to keep some readers enticed. If teens can move past this, they will be rewarded with a roller-coaster ride to the end. VERDICT A must-purchase for YA fantasy collections.–Brittney Kosev, Honey/Rush Elementary, Lubbock, TX

Reynolds, Jason. Miles Morales: Spider-Man. 272p. Disney/Marvel. Aug. 2017. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781484787489. POP

Gr 9 Up –Miles Morales is the new Spider-Man in the novelization of the Marvel comic. As an Afro–Puerto Rican teen attending an elite boarding school in Brooklyn, Miles is not only fighting crime but also navigating a complicated adolescent world. He must work hard in his classes while trying to make a move on his beautiful activist classmate. His Korean American best friend wants Miles to use his superpowers to hustle on the streets. There’s also a racist teacher minimizing slavery in his history class. At home, Miles is coming to terms with the discovery of his recently dead uncle’s long-lost son who is writing him letters from juvenile hall. Miles is shouldered with an intense amount of responsibility; it’s no wonder his spidey-sense is on the fritz and his sleep is plagued by mysterious dreams. But when his dreamworld and reality begin to blend, the teen realizes that all parts of his life are connected and the mystery begins to unravel. He must not only fight the dark forces threatening his world and loved ones, but also the darkness within himself. This is not your typical superhero tie-in book. Reynolds has crafted a rich, developed portrait of complex teen life while addressing issues of racism in the modern world with his characteristic warmth and humorous touches. Give this to teens looking to make the leap from comics to novels, or any other readers interested in superhero action set in an urban landscape. VERDICT Recommended for all collections.–Emily Valente, Brooklyn Friends School

Rush, Jennifer. Devils & Thieves. 336p. Little, Brown. Oct. 2017. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780316390897. POP

Gr 8 Up –“Harry Potter” meets Sons of Anarchy in this fun but flawed fantasy thriller. Jemmie Carmichael is a product of the fast-living, hard-drinking universe of “the kindled,” people with magical powers who revolve around disparate motorcycle gangs. Though she’s got an in with the powerful Medici clan and their Black Devils crew, she has always felt like an outsider because of the strange way she experiences her world. Out of fear, she tamps down her magic until an annual kindled reunion, where tension between the Black Devils and a rival gang, the Deathstalkers, flares explosively. Though the visceral description of Jemmie’s relationship with magic is thrilling and the biker theme feels fresh, the plot has several notable weak spots. First, there’s the romance: Jemmie’s relationship with a Deathstalker prospect, one side of the core love triangle, never creates enough tension. Also, the idea of a girl getting sick from her unused powers has been employed before and more powerfully in Leigh Bardugo’s Shadow and Bone. Readers have to work pretty hard to keep track of a too-packed cast, each character overflowing with many different magical abilities. Aside from the glaring problems, Rush still manages to weave a compelling sensual tapestry around a crew of gorgeous, Jack Daniels–swilling magicians, making this a darkly charged page-turner for older fantasy fans. ­VERDICT Purchase where ­Bardugo and Holly Black fantasies are popular.–Sara Scribner, ­Marshall Fundamental School, Pasadena, CA

Sutherland, Krystal. A Semi-Definitive List of Worst Nightmares. 368p. Putnam. Sept. 2017. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780399546594. POP

Gr 9 Up –Esther’s family is cursed; according to her grandfather, everyone Esther loves is doomed to be killed by the thing of which they are most afraid. Her twin Eugene is terrified of the dark, her mother is a superstitious compulsive gambler, and her father is agoraphobic and hasn’t left the basement in six years. Esther’s fears are elucidated in her “Semi-Definitive List of Worst Nightmares.” After reconnecting with her elementary school valentine Jonah, her list is stolen by said valentine, and the recovery of the list leads to a relationship between the two. As Esther comes to trust Jonah, they work together to overcome her fears, one by one, by facing them directly. Lobsters, graveyards, and heights are a few of the anxieties they tackle together, with Jonah filming the process and, unbeknownst to her posting it to YouTube. Esther, Jonah, and her family are complex and lovable characters fighting their individual demons. Woven throughout is a subplot concerning death incarnate that somehow manages to lighten the tone of the novel. VERDICT Rainbow Rowell devotees, John Green junkies, and fans of This Song Will Save Your Life by Leila Sales will find a lot to love here.–Deidre Winterhalter, Oak Park Public Library, IL

Graphic Novels

Harper, Charise Mericle. Crafty Cat and the Crafty Camp Crisis. illus. by Charise Mericle Harper. 128p. First Second. Aug. 2017. Tr $13.99. ISBN 9781626724853. POP

Gr 1-4 –Birdie has a secret: whenever she gets in a fix, her imaginary alter ego, Crafty Cat, swoops in and crafts her way out of any and all difficulties. In this second installment in the series, Birdie’s second grade classroom has been transformed into a Monster Craft Camp. Together with her supersize pencil case of craftiness and her best friend Evan, she knows she’ll have a great time—that is, until class bully Anya shows up and everything goes wrong. This is a sweet, imaginative tale with plenty of heart. The characters are quirky and amusing but relatable, and most kids will enjoy seeing Birdie cope with the familiar ups and downs of school life. The endearingly childlike cartoon illustrations will appeal to readers, and as in the first title, the panels portraying the heroine’s flights of fancy have scalloped edges. Flowers and clouds continue to come to life around Birdie to encourage her and move the story line forward, and there is more color overall: a welcome choice. Directions for seven of the crafts depicted in the book are included. VERDICT Another enticing addition to younger graphic novel collections, and a great choice for fledgling crafters and fans of the first volume and/or author.–­Kelley Gile, Cheshire Public Library, CT

Hatke, Ben. Mighty Jack and the Goblin King. illus. by Ben Hatke. 208p. First Second. Sept. 2017. Tr $22.99. ISBN 9781626722675; pap. $14.99. ISBN 9781626722668. POP

Gr 4-7 –In this follow-up to Mighty Jack, the titular character and his friend Lilly travel through a portal in search of Jack’s sister, Maddy, who has been kidnapped by an ogre. The duo are separated and must battle their own monsters, helped along the way by even more winsome and fantastical creatures than in the first volume. The strong character development gives this swashbuckling, imaginative tale an air of authenticity. With each page-turn, Jack and Lilly become more well rounded and complex, and the villains become ever more daunting. The artwork is bright but never garish. Panels are incredibly action-packed but have fairly simple backgrounds, moving the plot along deftly and keeping the focus on the protagonists. Charming, spot-on dialogue personalizes the various creatures. VERDICT An exciting conclusion to a modern-day take on “Jack and the Beanstalk,” this title is even stronger than the previous book. Highly recommended for libraries where the first installment is popular.–­Kelley Gile, Cheshire Public Library, CT

Pilkey, Dav. Dog Man: A Tale of Two Kitties. illus. by Dav Pilkey. 256p. Scholastic/Graphix. Sept. 2017. Tr $9.99. ISBN 9780545935210. POP
Gr 1-4 –Fifth graders George and Harold, inspired by reading classic literature in school, have finished their third “Dog Man” graphic novel. A cop with the head of a canine and the body of a policeman, Dog Man fights crime while trying hard to be a good boy. As in the earlier installments, he defends his city from a daunting array of bad guys. Flippy the fish returns as an evil cyborg to ravage the city with an army of Beasty Buildings, and Petey the mad scientist cat clones himself and causes double trouble for our dogged hero. Though George and Harold are a bit older and “totally mature” now, their artwork remains charmingly childlike, with bold outlines and colorful simple backgrounds, and their dialogue retains its amusing misspellings and quirky syntax. Madcap action and general silliness abound on every page. The book is filled with laugh-out-loud situations, puns, delightful Flip-o-Rama animations, and a lot of licking and chewing on furniture—enough to keep even the most jaded young reader enthralled. VERDICT Pilkey has done it again. This latest installment is just as “supa” funny and irreverent as the first two volumes in the series. Sure to be popular, it’s a great choice for elementary school graphic novel collections and of particular interest to reluctant readers and fans of the series.–Kelley Gile, Cheshire Public Library, CT Nonfiction

Brown, Monica. Frida Kahlo and Her Animalitos. illus. by John Parra. 40p. North South. Sept. 2017. Tr $17.95. ISBN 9780735842694. POP
Gr 1-4 –Two well-known children’s book creators present the life of iconic Mexican artist Frida Kahlo through the kid-friendly lens of her animal friends. Kahlo’s life as a young girl at La Casa Azul was marked by the support of her family, illness, and her “animalitos,” or the many pets and creatures that she loved. Each spread introduces a new animal, from Bonito the parrot to her spider monkeys Fulang Chang and Caimito de Guayabal. The text often makes comparisons between the featured critters and the independent, free-spirited girl and budding artist. Throughout, Brown makes references to Kahlo’s love of and inspiration by her Aztec culture, which was often seen in her art and evidenced by her pets’ names. The picture book biography touches only briefly upon some of the artist’s life-changing events, such as the accident she experienced in her teens or her marriage to Diego Rivera, but instead emphasizes the companionship of the animals with which she surrounded herself. Parra’s lively acrylic paintings pay tribute to the vibrant hues of Kahlo’s paintings, and her ties to her Mexican and Aztec heritage are apparent. A detailed author’s note about the subject’s life, art, and influence concludes the book and lists the many works in which her animalitos appear. VERDICT This unique and gorgeous take on the famous figure’s work will give children an accessible entry point to an important artist. A good choice for picture book biography shelves.–Shelley M. Diaz, School Library Journal

Doeden, Matt. The Super Bowl: Chasing Football Immortality. 64p. further reading. glossary. index. notes. photos. Millbrook. Sept. 2017. lib. ed. $33.32. ISBN 9781512427547. POP

Gr 6 Up –The Super Bowl’s status as a major American sporting event is indisputable. Doeden has produced a solid winner with this historical account of the annual event. Beginning with the meeting of representatives from 11 professional football teams in 1920 in Canton, OH, he examines the disorganized circumstances surrounding the formation of the National Football League. Some decades later, Super Bowl I was born in 1967, drawing 62,000 fans. Doeden’s overview of this major championship game is enlightening and includes information on halftime entertainment and off the field activities. Images consist of numerous, captivating photographs. The author doesn’t shy away from controversial issues that affect the sport. He also discusses efforts to broaden football’s international appeal—could there be a Super Bowl overseas one day? Supplementing the text is a listing of team and individual records. VERDICT The author’s beginnings as a sportswriter are very evident here; this latest book should score a quick touchdown with readers.–Jeanette Lambert, formerly at Nashville-Davidson County Schools, TN

Jenkins, Steve. Deadliest!: 20 Dangerous Animals. ISBN 9780544938083.

––––. Trickiest!: 19 Sneaky Animals. ISBN 9780544937161.

ea vol: illus. by Steve Jenkins. 40p. (Extreme Animals). bibliog. chart. diag. glossary. maps. HMH. Oct. 2017. Tr $14.99. POP

Gr 2-5 –Jenkins’s new series highlights distinctive qualities of familiar and less common creatures, from the puffer fish’s poison (Deadliest!) to the unusual hunting techniques of the stoplight loosejaw (Trickiest!). A single paragraph introduces each animal and its special features, while one or two insets add additional facts. Some of these relate directly to the “tricky” or “dangerous” theme; others add a bit of more general species data. Jenkins’s expert cut- and torn-paper illustrations provide high visual appeal. Clean lines, careful shading, and clearly delineated body parts effectively highlight key features such as the spines of the giant silk moth caterpillar (Deadliest!) and the alligator snapping turtle’s lurelike tongue (Trickiest!). Many visuals significantly enrich a young reader’s learning experience. For example, the verbal description of the western hognose snakes “playing dead” trick is good (Trickiest!), but the side-by-side images of the animal show exactly how its appearance and actions work. Layouts are varied and uncluttered, with either one or two animals per spread. Other useful features include a range map which depicts diet samples and a size comparison graphic. In each title, a closing summary spread looks at the featured animals differently: a table in Deadliest! lists the number of human deaths caused by each, while Trickiest! groups them according to the ways each animal uses its “tricks.” VERDICT Top-notch nonfiction with high appeal for browsing and learning.–Steven Engelfried, Wilsonville Public Library, OR

Renaud, Anne. Mr. Crum’s Potato Predicament. illus. by Felicita Sala. 40p. bibliog. photos. Kids Can. Sept. 2017. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781771386197. POP

K-Gr 3 –In the mid-1800s, a gregarious gastronome named George Crum cooked for the people who visited Moon’s Lake House in Saratoga Springs, NY. One day a particularly picky, punctilious customer requested a plateful of potatoes. Again and again, the customer, Mr. Filbert P. Horsefeathers, returned the potatoes to the kitchen, each time asking for thinner, tastier potatoes. In a final, exasperated effort, Crum sliced them as thinly as possible, fried them to a crisp, and then sprinkled them with an abundance of salt. What began as a joke ended with a food product still hugely popular today—potato chips. The narrative, loosely based on the real story, is stuffed with meaty morsels of juicy, often alliterative big words like scrumptious, sublime, and succulent. The story begs to be read aloud so that listeners can savor the sound of the luscious language while picking up some very sophisticated, multisyllabic words. It could also be a good opportunity for children to conduct a readers’ theater rendition—with plenty of practice. While Mr. Horsefeathers comes across as a somewhat exaggerated figure for comedic effect, the notes and photographs at the book’s end relate the real story behind Crum’s legacy. The illustrations, done in watercolor and colored pencil, vividly convey the people and dress of the era. VERDICT This title has a lot of potential for classroom use for literacy development (prosody, vocabulary), reading aloud, and any study of food. Just say “potato chips” and students will be clamoring to read.–Maggie Chase, Boise State University, ID

Stewart, Amy. Wicked Bugs: The Meanest, Deadliest, Grossest Bugs on Earth. illus. by Briony Morrow-Cribbs. 192p. bibliog. glossary. index. websites. Algonquin. Aug. 2017. Tr $19.95. ISBN 9781616207557; pap. $12.95. ISBN 9781616206994. POP

Gr 4-8 –With over one million species of insects identified globally and over 10 quintillion live insects, there are a lot of bugs in the world! Stewart writes about the creepy crawlies that most negatively impact humans in this young reader’s edition of her 2011 adult book by the same name. Dividing the content into six categories, (“Everyday Dangers,” “Destructive Pests,” etc.), Stewart begins each one with a full-page illustration. Entries are approximately three pages long and contain a mixture of scientific information (size, scientific family name, habitat, etc.) as well as human-interest anecdotes. Juicy tidbits, such as the story of a woman who thought she was undergoing brain surgery to remove a deadly tumor and instead woke up to find that a pork tapeworm had been the culprit, will keep readers engaged and turning the pages. (Finding the pork tapeworm instead of a tumor was apparently good news.) Resources listed at the conclusion include online sources to aid in insect identification, a catalog of the best insectariums, and information on pest control and insect-related diseases. VERDICT Budding entomologists and kids who marvel in the truly awe-inspiring, sometimes hair-raising, and gross natural world will be in heaven.–Ragan O’Malley, Saint Ann’s School, Brooklyn

Winter, Jonah. Ruth Bader Ginsburg: The Case of R.B.G. vs. Inequality. illus. by Stacy Innerst. 48p. glossary. Abrams. Aug. 2017. Tr $18.95. ISBN 9781419725593. POP

Gr 3 Up –“Ladies and gentlemen of the jury: During this trial, you will learn about a little girl who had no clue just how important she would become. You will see the unfair world she was born into—where boys were valued more than girls, where women were not encouraged to achieve and aspire…Here are the facts of her case.” Thus begins this clever, engaging picture book biography, which chronicles Ginsburg’s early years in Brooklyn, at Cornell, and beyond, highlighting the obstacles she encountered at every turn. Readers are asked to act as the jury, examining the injustices the young lawyer faced: “Exhibit F: Even among the law firms supposedly open to hiring women, not one firm would hire her. She was a woman, she was Jewish, AND she was a mother.” The illustrations, rendered in gouache, ink, and Photoshop, illuminate the text with humor and sophistication. One page features the young college student perched under the sink in the bathroom, secretly studying—everyone knew a smart, studious girl would never get asked on a date. Another shows caricatures of the large, black-robed male justices yawning, angry, or perplexed as a tiny Ginsburg reads one of her famous “dissents.” The endpapers feature shelves and shelves of books in the same muted tones of the book—cream, pale pink, black, gray, and brown. Pair with Debbie Levy and Elizabeth Baddeley’s I Dissent: Ruth Bader Ginsburg Makes Her Mark, another fabulous picture book biography on the subject. VERDICT An excellent addition to “Mighty Girl” collections!–Barbara Auerbach, New York City Public Schools

redstarYousafzai, Malala. Malala’s Magic Pencil. illus. by Kerascoët. 48p. photos. Little, Brown. Oct. 2017. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780316319577. POP
Gr 3 Up –Yousafzai, the youngest recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize and campaigner for the rights of all children to attend school, has written her first picture book. It is an autobiographical account of her life designed for younger readers. She gently introduces her childhood in Pakistan and recounts a favorite TV show where a young boy has a magic pencil that he uses to help people. The magic pencil becomes a reoccurring motif throughout the work on how to make the world a better place. Of the infamous Taliban violence, she simply says, “My voice became so powerful that the dangerous men tried to silence me. But they failed.” The beautifully written book goes on to describe Yousafzai’s quest for justice and the importance of finding one’s voice. The enchanting story is accompanied by the beautiful illustrations of duo Sebastien Cosset and Maries Pommepuy, also known as “Kerascoët.” Sparse pen and ink outlines the bright, soft watercolors that effortlessly depict Yousafzai’s daily life and then are enhanced by delicate gold overlay drawings that highlight her magical wishes for a better world and the power that a single voice can command. This is a wonderful read for younger students that will also provide insight and encourage discussion about the wider world. Included are biographical notes and photos of Yousafzai and her ­family. VERDICT The simplicity of Yousafzai’s writing and the powerful message she sends, make this book inspirational for all. Highly recommended.–Carole Phillips, Greenacres Elementary School, Scarsdale, NY
DVD

The Knuffle Bunny Trilogy. 34 min. Weston Woods. 2017. $59.95. ISBN 9781338162066. POP

PreS-Gr 2 –Rereleased on one disc, Mo Willems’s beloved trilogy is fully animated and interpreted by the voices of the author/illustrator, his wife, Cher, and daughter, Trixie, speaking for their picture book counterparts. Each title is introduced by Mo and Trixie as they share the book, beginning with naming the important life events that grace the first pages—Mo and Cher’s wedding, the couple welcoming baby Trixie, and the family standing in front of their home. All three tales are centered on the adventures of Mo, Trixie, and the girl’s beloved stuffed rabbit, Knuffle Bunny. Each story is accompanied by lively jazz music by Robert Reynolds and Scotty Huff, and the rendition of the same piece grows in complexity as Trixie grows up throughout the three short films. The animation emphasizes Willems’s technique of painting over black-and-white photos; the scene where Trixie and schoolmate Sonya and their fathers meet at Brooklyn’s Grand Army Plaza in the middle of the night is especially dramatic. Bonus material includes 2008 and 2011 interviews with the author speaking about his art and inspiration, and how fiction and fact combine in these stories. A substantial learning guide, with activities for before or after viewing, is included. These picture books are made even more charming with this high quality production. VERDICT Recommended for all public ­library and primary school collections.–Constance Dickerson, Cleveland Heights-University Heights Public Library, OH

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

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