April 29, 2016

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Luann Toth

About Luann Toth

Luann Toth (ltoth@mediasourceinc.com) is Managing Editor of SLJ Reviews. A public librarian by training, she has been reviewing books for a quarter of a century and continues to be fascinated by the constantly evolving, ever-expanding world of publishing.

Ada’s Violin: The Story of the Recycled Orchestra of Paraguay by Susan Hood | SLJ Review

NF_HOOD_ Ada’s Violin

Hood, Susan. Ada’s Violin: The Story of the Recycled Orchestra of Paraguay. illus. by Sally Wern Comport. 40p. photos. websites. S. & S. May 2016. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781481430951. 

Gr 2-5 –Hood tells the story of a real child growing up in an actual place—Cateura—a community of people who live and feed themselves by picking through the tons of trash generated by the capital city of Asunción, Paraguay, and salvaging items to recycle and sell. Despite […]

Hiding in Plain Sight | SLJ Spotlight

BARROUX. Where’s the Elephant

Whether it’s a story about a game of counting and scouting for hidden friends or looking for cleverly concealed visual clues, these books sharpen children’s observation skills and allow them to succeed vicariously by paying attention, honing sharp-eyed reflexes, and having fun along the way.

The Raven King by Maggie Stiefvater | SLJ Review

Stiefvater, Maggie. The Raven King

Stiefvater, Maggie. The Raven King. 448p. (The Raven Cycle: Bk. 4). ebook available. Scholastic. May 2016. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9780545424981. 

Gr 9 Up –The wait is over. The long-anticipated fourth and final volume in the engrossing Raven cycle is here, and it’s a doozy. If anything, it is even more steeped in dreams, magic, and possibility than the previous titles and none of the books’ ongoing dramas are simply resolved. The masterful Stiefvater juggles multiple plotlines, […]

Love Is in the Air! | SLJ Spotlight


Filled with reassuring sentiment, tender affirming language, and warm and fuzzy artwork, these titles are all about the joys that friendship, camaraderie, and caring can bring.

On the Road | Meet the Reviewer Catherine Callegari


SLJ’s Luann Toth interviews longtime reviewer, Catherine Callegari, who is changing her career trajectory.

I Hear a Pickle: (and Smell, See, Touch, and Taste It, Too!) by Rachel Isadora | SLJ Review


ISADORA, Rachel. I Hear a Pickle: (and Smell, See, Touch, and Taste It, Too!). illus. by Rachel Isadora. 32p. Penguin/Nancy Paulsen Bks. Jan. 2016. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780399160493.

PreS-Gr 1 –Isadora provides a sensory tour of early childhood, exploring common sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and textures. Each “chapter” consists of a number of simple declarative sentences matched with colorful ink and watercolor vignettes to capture what the children are experiencing or have learned not to try. […]

Bright Ideas Abound at YALSA’s Summer Learning Workshop


The secrets to running a popular summer learning experience for teens at public libraries were shared at a special session at this year’s Midwinter Meeting in Boston.

Cricket Song by Anne Hunter | SLJ Review

Cricket Song by Anne Hunter

Hunter, Anne. Cricket Song. illus. by Anne Hunter. 32p. HMH. Mar. 2016. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780544582590.

PreS-Gr 1 –In a yellow house, in a blue bedroom decorated with planets and stars, a boy sleeps. He cuddles a sea otter toy, and on the wall behind a windblown curtain is the painting of a South Pacific island, volcanic, the ocean parted by a whale’s tail. The tranquil spread is underlined with a long, narrow panel depicting his […]

Saying Goodbye | SLJ Spotlight

ELLIS, Sarah. Ben Says Goodbye.

These tender and affecting picture books deal with loss in an honest and age-appropriate way. While diverse in their subject matter and style, all of the books have a gentle tone, and offer positive and hopeful ways to cope with them.

Swap! by Steve Light | SLJ Review

Swap by Steve Light

Light, Steve. Swap! illus. by Steve Light. 40p. Candlewick. Feb. 2016. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780763679903.

PreS-Gr 1 –As he did in Have You Seen My Dragon? (2014) and Have You Seen My Monster? (2015, both Candlewick), Light brings his exceptional talent and clever storytelling to young pirate lovers and fans of all things nautical. A loose button is the creative spark that sets a down-on-his-luck sailor and his best mate on a swapping spree throughout some […]

Horrible Bear! by Ame Dyckman | SLJ Review

Horrible Bear! by Ame Dyckman

Dyckman, Ame. Horrible Bear! illus. by Zachariah OHora. 40p. Little, Brown. Apr. 2016. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780316282833; ebk. $9.99. ISBN 9780316271233.

PreS-Gr 2 –In the mind of a child, mistakes are often misinterpreted as malfeasance, and the resultant anger can be contagious. Dyckman writes a simple story about just such a mistake. A little girl loses her kite in a bear’s den, and when he rolls over in his sleep, he crushes it and becomes a […]

My House by Byron Barton | SLJ Review

My House by Byron Barton

Barton, Byron. My House. illus. by Byron Barton. 40p. HarperCollins/Greenwillow. Apr. 2016. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780062337030.

PreS-K –Jim the cat provides a tour of his cozy home. This orange tabby explores both his outdoor and indoor spaces with an active prowl; he perches comfortably in a tree, jumps to the rooftop, and springs to the ground as he explores his surroundings. Jim takes full ownership of his home with a mixture of catlike and human characteristics; […]

Ida, Always by Caron Levis | SLJ Review

Ida, Always by Caron Levis

Levis, Caron. Ida, Always. illus. by Charles Santoso. 40p. ebook available. S. & S./Atheneum. Feb. 2016. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781481426404.

K-Gr 2 –Loosely based on Gus and Ida, the polar bears who lived at the Central Park Zoo until Ida’s death in 2011 and Gus’s death in 2013, this frank yet sensitive work explores loss and affirms the power of friendship. Pals Ida and Gus do everything together, until one day Gus discovers his companion is […]

Ideas Are All Around by Philip C. Stead | SLJ Review

Ideas Are All Around by Philip C. Stead

Stead, Philip C. Ideas Are All Around. illus. by Philip C. Stead. 48p. Roaring Brook/Neal Porter Bks. Mar. 2016. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781626721814. 

K-Gr 3 –What does a writer do when ideas elude him? He allows his adorable canine to tempt him outdoors for a walk. Stead writes in the first person, describing settings and the characters he meets: a turtle he calls Frank, who “makes quick for the dark water and disappears”; ducks who withhold […]

Before I Leave By Jessixa Bagley | SLJ Review

Before I Leave By Jessixa Bagley

Bagley, Jessixa. Before I Leave. illus. by Jessixa Bagley. 40p. Roaring Brook/Neal Porter Bks. Feb. 2016. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781626720404.

PreS-Gr 1 –Zelda, a hedgehog, and Aaron, an anteater, are the best of friends. When Zelda finds out her family is moving, she and her pal decide to play “one last time like nothing is changing.” They swing, seesaw, go out in a rowboat, etc. The hedgehog family make their move, and when Zelda unpacks her […]

Second That Emotion | SLJ Spotlight

the color monster

Several recently reviewed picture books for young children tackle the complexities of emotion.

Swan: The Life and Dance of Anna Pavlova by Laurel Snyder | SLJ Review

Screen from Kindo

SNYDER, Laurel. Swan: The Life and Dance of Anna Pavlova. illus. by Julie Morstad. 52p. Chronicle. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781452118901.
Gr 1-4–This tall, graceful picture book captures the artistic spirit, if not the entire biography, of one of the world’s prima ballerinas. Pavlova’s humble beginnings and early life in 19th-century tsarist Russia are merely hinted at, though spelled out more fully in an appended author’s note. The spare, lyrical text instead offers imagery that is more poetic than concrete. For […]

The Looney Experiment by Luke Reynolds | SLJ Review


REYNOLDS, Luke. The Looney Experiment. 208p. Blink. Aug. 2015. Tr $15.99. ISBN 9780310746423.
Gr 5-8–Eighth-grader Atticus Hobart is having a rough time. He is short and unathletic; his courage (and his voice) routinely fail him, especially when he’s around his crush Audrey Higgins; and he is the primary target of a blowhard class bully, who calls him “Fatticus.” To make matters worse, his father has just left the family to “figure things out” and the boy can’t help but feel that […]

Strike Up the Band | M.T. Anderson and the Story Behind the Leningrad Symphony


SLJ chats with M.T. Anderson, SummerTeen speaker, about his first work of narrative nonfiction, Symphony for the City of the Dead, and the power of music to change lives and make history.

Brian Selznick’s 2015 Arbuthnot Honor Lecture Slideshow

The program for the Honor lecture

A series of photos taken at the 2015 Arbuthnot Honor Lecture in Washington, DC, on May 8, 2015. Brian Selznick addressed the history and evolution of how we define family in children’s books.