School Library Journal The world's largest reviewer of books, multimedia, and technology for children and teens Thu, 29 Sep 2016 23:21:13 +0000 en-US hourly 1 From Pop-Up to App, “With a Few Bricks” | Touch and Go Thu, 29 Sep 2016 13:35:09 +0000 Pat the Bunny was one of the first interactive books to make the leap to the iPad; others have followed. Here's one from Vincent Godeau. ]]>  

SLJ‘s reviewer Chris Gustafson makes an excellent point in her review of Vincent Godeau’s With a Few Bricks: in many ways pop-ups are the ideal books to transform into apps. Godeau’s, of course, isn’t the only interactive book to become an app. Touch and Go’s first review was of the iPad version of Dorothy Kunhardt’s classic, Pat the Bunny. And David Carter, paper engineer extraordinaire, was one of the first to experiment with apps. But interactivity is only half of the story; does Godeau build one that will appeal to kids with his bricks?



Vincent Godeau’s With a Few Bricks was originally published as a pop-up book (L’Agrume). It’s now an app (Cléa Dieudonné, iOS, Free; K-Gr 5), and it’s an elegant idea. Fragile pop-ups beg to be touched and are easily damaged by young readers, while apps are all about touching and transformation. Bright colors and simple shapes welcome users to this story and navigation is easy: children can choose to read it in a linear fashion or skip about. Each of the 10 chapters includes a few lines of text, an image, and a clear description of how to interact with the image, plus coaching should users make mistakes. Ambient sounds and a pulsating track enhances the experience and heightens the tension.

However, the story may be a hard one for children to grasp. It begins with a boy eating bricks, reveals a metaphorical castle inside the boy, which he floods with his tears, and includes a rather alarming section describing the boy’s heart growing so big that it becomes difficult for him to breathe. Translation of the story from the French original seems hurried; in the English language version incorrect grammar and misspelled words abound. (A Dutch versions is also available.)

The interactions on each screen vary in difficulty.  On the opening screen, viewers must draw a rectangle quite precisely; a four-year-old test user was quickly frustrated, although able to successfully complete all the other tasks in the app. A nine-year-old was intrigued only by all the ways that the bricks could be drawn incorrectly so that the story could not continue, while a six-year-old  managed all the tasks but did not connect them with the story.

Children may enjoy using this app a few times but it will not engage their interest for long.— Chris Gustafson, formally of Whitman Middle School, Seattle School District, WA.

Screen from With a Few Bricks (Cléa Dieudonné ) Vincent Godeau

Screen from With a Few Bricks (Cléa Dieudonné) Vincent Godeau




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Some Writer!: The Story of E. B. White by Melissa Sweet | SLJ Review Thu, 29 Sep 2016 13:00:09 +0000 SWEET, Melissa. Some Writer!: The Story of E. B. White. illus. by Melissa Sweet. 176p. bibliog. chron. index. notes. photos. HMH. Oct. 2016. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9780544319592. POP

Gr 3-7 –Throughout his life, E.B. White (1899–1985) divided his time between New York City and Belgrade Lakes in Maine. He drew inspiration for his books from the bucolic setting near author Sweet’s own home and studio. Readers and writers will relate to stories of White’s childhood—he was “scrawny” and “fearful” [...]]]> redstarSWEET, Melissa. Some Writer!: The Story of E. B. White. illus. by Melissa Sweet. 176p. bibliog. chron. index. notes. photos. HMH. Oct. 2016. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9780544319592. POP

some-writerGr 3-7 –Throughout his life, E.B. White (1899–1985) divided his time between New York City and Belgrade Lakes in Maine. He drew inspiration for his books from the bucolic setting near author Sweet’s own home and studio. Readers and writers will relate to stories of White’s childhood—he was “scrawny” and “fearful” but in love with words. As a child, he contributed short pieces to magazines, winning awards for his studies of nature, dogs, and his family. Some of his youthful creations, such as essays, poetry, and a handmade brochure, are included. Readers may be surprised to find that “Andy” spent his adult years at The New Yorker working with writers like John Updike and James Thurber and that his most ubiquitous book may actually be The Elements of Style. Much of the information on White’s adulthood is organized in the volume by his major children’s publications. Portions of handwritten and typed drafts of Charlotte’s Web will serve as inspiration for young writers. The book is illustrated in Sweet’s signature watercolor and collage, which incorporates wood and hardware, vintage office supplies, and quotes from White. Detailed tableaux invite careful inspection and reward readers with connections to the subject’s work. Photos of the author and the animals upon which he based his stories will delight readers. In addition to providing carefully chosen words and beautiful illustrations, the biography serves as a stealthy introduction to primary source material, and for the teacher librarian, the text is a rich source of nonfiction features, including a how-to on using a manual typewriter. An afterword by White’s granddaughter is an added bonus. VERDICT Drop everything and share widely.–Deidre Winterhalter, Niles Public Library, IL

This review was published in the School Library Journal September 2016 issue.

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SLJ Controversial Book Survey: Data and Findings Wed, 28 Sep 2016 19:59:30 +0000 RETURN TO THE SELF-CENSORSHIP LANDING PAGE


Read SLJ‘s 2016 Controversial Books Survey report, exploring self-censorship among school librarians.

Please fill out the short form below to download this report as a PDF.


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At the Intersection of Libraries and Museums Wed, 28 Sep 2016 19:54:33 +0000  

Holzweiss and her students getting ready to explore their "footlocker"

Holzweiss and her students getting ready to explore their “footlocker.”


Libraries and museums…what a perfect combination! Both are established to educate patrons with curated resources. According to the Institute of Museum and Library Services, there are 123,000 libraries and 35,000 museums in the United States. Access to authentic documents and artifacts can transform lessons into rich, engaging learning experiences for students of all ages. Presenting history, science, art, music, and other subjects through immediate contact with objects that they can touch helps students develop emotional connections to learning. Facts and figures become tangible when we understand the human stories in our history. Seeing Susan B. Anthony’s alligator purse, standing in the cellar of Edgar Allan Poe’s home, and touching the inner framework of the Statue of Liberty are indelible moments that I will never forget, even if the dates in history and specific lines of poetry escape my mind.

Who could forget show-and-tell day in kindergarten? That simple exercise supports storytelling, presentation, listening, and questioning techniques. Field trips to museums and cultural arts presentations, though often cut from school budgets when funds get tight, are integral to personal development, empathy, and the appreciation of creative expression. For librarians promoting information literacy and evaluation of resources, these places are fertile grounds for incorporating primary sources in lessons and activities.

Visiting your local museum

One of Holzweiss's students makes a friend at Beaverwood Farm.

One of Holzweiss’s students makes a friend at BeaverWood Farm in Swan Lake, NY.

The best, albeit most expensive, way to enjoy all that cultural institutions have to offer is to visit it, of course. Schools in metropolitan areas are fortunate because of their proximity to art galleries, planetariums, botanical gardens, children’s museums, and even aquariums and zoos. Many places have group rates and special prices for schools, while some even have free visiting times. However, sometimes a similar learning experience can be found in your own backyard. Consider your local historical society, newspaper plant, factory, pet store, and even supermarket. Two field trips that my students enjoyed were to a friend’s farm in upstate New York and to an “automotive teaching museum.” Our students, from a diverse suburban district, were as excited to ride a horse and milk a cow as they were to see an original DeLorean from the ”Back to the Future” franchise.

Once you arrive, how can you maximize your visit? This past summer, I brought my three young children to the Cradle of Aviation Museum in Garden City, NY. I can appreciate seeing Charles Lindbergh’s first plane, the first postcard delivered by airmail, and aeronautical toys from my childhood. With iPads in their hands, the students explored the exhibitions through an impromptu scavenger hunt to discover propellers, jet engines, historical maps, and newspaper clippings. What did they do with those pictures when we came home? They made videos using ChatterPix and Animoto apps. Older children can use photos as backgrounds in green screen movies with the Do Ink app. What did I do with my pictures? I created a Google album and shared them with teachers to make history of flight-themed Breakout EDU games.

Holzweiss's class enjoys a demo from an expert at the Autoseum on Long Island.

Holzweiss’s class enjoys a demo from an expert at the Autoseum on Long Island.

Bring the museum to your school

If you can’t take your students to a museum, there are a variety of ways for you to bring the experience to them. While visiting one on your own, imagine yourself as a tour guide for your students, taking pictures and videos to share with them. Using a 3-D imaging app, you can take pictures that they can view in Google Cardboard for a virtual reality experience. Stop by the gift shop for books, postcards, kits, and toys related to the museum. Don’t forget to ask for multiple copies of free brochures, flyers, maps, and guides. Attend any professional development seminars and classes the institution may offer for additional resources and photo opportunities.

Museum websites are also rich in information. For instance, the Anne Frank Museum Amsterdam has an interactive website that includes images and videos. Download educator and student guides for lesson ideas, hands-on activities, and worksheets. Some institutes have virtual field trip and video conferencing programs. With Google Hangouts and Skype, you might also be able to connect with artists, scientists, and authors. Or, you might even be fortunate enough to have a curator or a representative from a nearby museum visit your school. Holocaust survivors visit schools on Long Island to tell their stories through an outreach program of the Holocaust Memorial & Tolerance Center of Nassau County. Consider participating in the Take a Veteran to School Day program by HISTORY to acknowledge the sacrifices of your local heroes, while experiencing their stories firsthand.

Another worthwhile way of bringing an institution to your class is the Operation Footlocker program, through the National WWII Museum in New Orleans. For $75, they will send you a trunk filled with 15 authentic artifacts from World War II and a prepaid return shipping label. For an entire week your classes may examine (with white cotton gloves, à la Nicolas Cage in National Treasure) fascinating relics such as ration books, dog tags, and sand from the beaches of Normandy and Iwo Jima. Our footlocker included a cardboard license plate and a pair of U.S. Army-issued boxer shorts! A teacher’s manual that describes each object is included.

What’s old is new again

With the growing interest in manufacturing, “autopsies” and “dissections” of appliances are giving new life to old objects. Through taking unwanted appliances apart, students can learn about the mechanisms that make things work. Visit garage and estate sales, browse through Craigslist ads, and walk the aisles of Goodwill and other thrift stores to find VCRs, sewing machines, film projectors, and toys. A display of these items will be sure to attract your curious students. A rusting typewriter and a cassette player are popular among my students, and a vintage camera transforms a lesson about turn of the century technological inventions into a teachable moment. There are enough places where artifacts are kept pristine under glass. Our library collection is a “Please Touch” exhibition for all to explore with wonder.

Denny Daniel and his traveling Museum of Interesting Things exhibit. Photo by Norman Blake

Denny Daniel and his traveling Museum of Interesting Things exhibit. Photo by Norman Blake

Recently I had the pleasure of meeting Denny Daniel, curator and exhibitor of the Museum of Interesting Things, a demonstration of vintage toys, technology, and ephemera that travels to schools and events. He was kind enough to lend us a suitcase full of artifacts for our Students of Long Island Maker Expo. With a ballot from Lincoln’s election in his wallet and a piece of a World War II enigma machine in his pocket, he acquires items from antique shops, Internet auctions, and flea markets. “Many donations are from sweet people who wanted their family heirlooms to teach kids forever. Sometimes my neighbors will leave things at my door for the museum collection,” says Daniel.

His organization’s mission is to teach kids to be curious about the world around them and, therefore, to tinker. It is another resource for bringing the “museum” directly to your students. Daniel visits libraries as well as school, and he found his first presentation at one to be an enlightening experience. “Through the media, we are told that the digital revolution has made libraries obsolete. Because of this, I was expecting a few senior citizens,” admits Daniels. “But there were more people in that library than I had ever presented to in all my life! Nine years later I have visited dozens of libraries, and have seen the same thing. I also saw that libraries have incredible programming, from lectures to lessons to movies and more. Libraries today are the incubator, educator, babysitter, and almost the parents to the next generation. I realize now that libraries are more important today than they ever were before.”

Kristina Holzweiss is the school library media specialist at Bay Shore (NY) Middle School and SLJ‘s 2015 School Librarian of the Year. 

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Banned Books Are Often Diverse Books. Check the Stats. Wed, 28 Sep 2016 19:16:50 +0000 knox_headshot

Emily Knox

This year’s Banned Books Week theme, diverse books, has been on my mind for some time.  As Jamie LaRue, director of the American Library Association’s (ALA) Office for Intellectual Freedom, has noted, defining diversity is difficult.  However, the definition used by the organization We Need Diverse Books is succinct and inclusive: “We recognize all diverse experiences, including (but not limited to) LGBTQIA, people of color, gender diversity, people with disabilities, and ethnic, cultural, and religious minorities.”

A new report from PEN America also explores book challenges and the lack of diversity in children’s literature. My own research  focuses on intellectual freedom and censorship and, as I noted in an SLJ post last September, around half of the news alerts I receive about book challenges concern titles that center on diverse characters.

The trend of targeting diverse materials has continued in 2016, with challenges to books such as The Perks of Being a Wallflower (MTV Books, 1999) and Morris Micklewhite and the Tangerine Dress (Groundwood , 2014). The high number of challenges to these books is notable because there so few diverse books published in the first place. Data from the Cooperative Children’s Book Center shows  that titles by and about people of color constituted only 25 percent of the 3,400 books received by the center in 2015.

A study conducted in 2014 by Malinda Lo, an author and co-founder of Diversity in YA, showed that challengers often target diverse boWoks in public institutions. Over the past year, I began researching why these books are subjected to more challenges than non-diverse books.

One of my research questions focuses on the stated reasons for challenging diverse books and the relationship of these reasons to the diversity of the characters. I decided to start with the ALA’s annual top 10 challenged book lists from 2001–2015.  Twenty-nine diverse books appear a total of sixty-three times on these lists.

I found that many of the reasons given for the challenges centered on topics that were essential to the diverse characters in the titles.

bannedbooks_article_quote_knoxFor example, of the 63 challenges, 10 were because the title in question depicted “racism.” These included I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (Bantam, 1969), Fallen Angels (Scholastic, 1983), Whale Talk (Laurel Leaf, 2001), and The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian (Little, Brown, 2007).  Twenty-five challenges targeted books for depicting “homosexuality,” including The Perks of Being a Wallflower and Revolutionary Voices: A Multicultural Queer Youth Anthology (Alyson, 2000).

These  were challenged for reasons intrinsic to their subject matter.  I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, Maya Angelou’s well-known memoir, describes her childhood in the Jim Crow south.  Revolutionary Voices is a book that will, by definition, include homosexuality. This is a somewhat obvious statement, of course, but the fact that these books were challenged for being about diversity implies that these topics are inherently controversial.

I also found the three most frequently stated reasons for challenging diverse books: for containing offensive language (36 instances), being sexually explicit (35 instances), and being unsuited for age group (36 instances). As I wrote in my own book on challenges, Book Banning in 21st Century America (Rowman & Littlefield, 2015), these familiar reasons seem to be related to the nature of truth and realism in fiction and to what extent fiction, especially fiction for youth, should mirror the human experience. These challenges ask us to consider the place of naturalistic fiction in the juvenile and teen sections of the public library or in the school curriculum.

Diverse books, by definition, center on the experiences of people who are not dominant in society, and it is not surprising that these stories will often include experiences that may make the reader uncomfortable in some way. It makes sense that a coming-of-age novel that centers on a teenage, Native American boy, such as The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, will include racism, offensive language, and sex. These books speak to the human condition.

I plan to continue researching why diverse books are targeted for challenges. An upcoming book I am editing about trigger warnings will touch on this topic, as I am concerned that media about diverse characters will be disproportionately given such labels. It is often difficult for people to express how the practice of reading affects them. My hope is that this research will help us understand why challengers target certain books and enable us provide the best possible responses when this happens.

Emily Knox, an assistant professor in the School of Information Sciences at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and author of Book Banning in 21st Century America, was awarded the Illinois Library Association Intellectual Freedom Award and was named a WISE Instructor of the Year in 2015. She is on the board of the Freedom to Read Foundation and the National Coalition Against Censorship.

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Why toys should be in every children’s department—and how to make it happen | First Steps Wed, 28 Sep 2016 16:28:26 +0000 I never thought that toys would be a polarizing topic, yet here we are. Librarians either love them or strongly disagree with their placement in children’s rooms. Today’s children’s librarians have the challenge of catering not only to school-age children but to their younger siblings as well. Large oak tables and straight-back chairs are not going to say “Welcome!” to a toddler, but a well-placed wooden puzzle, or blocks set out in a corner, will.

1609-firststeps-playThe value of toys

Early-learning research over the last 20 years has revealed staggering concepts. For example, according to the U.S. Department of Education, 90 percent of the brain’s capacity is developed by age five, with the most significant development occurring from birth to three years old. Reading, talking, and singing to young children are key components of brain development. Writing, or in the case of toddlers and preschoolers, scribbling, also fires brain synapses.

What about play? It imparts cognitive, physical, and social skills to children. The Association for Library Service to Children and the Public Library Association agree that play is as important as reading and writing to brain development. Playing is one of the five main components of their joint initiative, Every Child Ready to Read ( That’s a strong argument to bring to administrators who say toys and libraries don’t mix.

Easy ways to support play

You can integrate play and early learning in several ways. Certainly play-based programming alongside the more traditional storytime sessions signifies to the community that play is important. Adding a table small enough for preschoolers to your department shows that little ones are welcome. Rotated puzzles or cookie sheets with magnetic shapes or letters on top are inviting to tots and caregivers. Just make sure that loose pieces aren’t choking hazards. (They need to be too big to fit through a toilet paper tube.)

We routinely create spaces for specialized users, such as teens. We need to make sure that we have a space, even if small, for families with young children.

Ideas for small spaces

No room for a puppet theater? Find a spot in which a small tension rod will fit, perhaps between rows of picture book shelving, and clothespin a dish towel to either side for theater curtains. Put puppets in a small basket. Voilá!

Take half of the books on a lower shelf in the corner of the board or picture book area and display them. (Bonus: increased circulation.) Fill a clear bin with toys, such as soft blocks, push toys, stacking cups, or recycled plastic containers, and stash it on the shelf. You can also use those bins to create themed take-home learning kits. STEM is a good theme. Another one? Nature. Fill a bin with child-friendly binoculars, a sketchbook, chunky crayons, and a shovel and pail. Tie reading and play together by tucking in related titles already in your collection. Dinosaurs are always a hit. Many catalogs sell soft dinosaur toys.

Mess minimizers

A big objection to toys in the library is cleanliness. I get it. Libraries are fairly rule-based institutions, so when a collection is added, guidelines are expected to come with it. Who’ll pick up the toys? Clean them? How? Who’ll redo puzzles each night and hunt for missing pieces? It’s hard to create rules at the outset. Instead, live with the toys for a bit, and notice patterns of use. Hang a sign that reads, “Thank You for Tidying Up” to signal the expectation to patrons.

A little dirt never hurt anyone. Yes, toys that are visibly grimy should be washed. But when patrons—or staff—question the cleanliness of public toys, remind them that picture books are no different. Books can carry germs just like toys do, but I’ve yet to work in a facility where book covers are cleaned regularly.

Now excuse me while I go play with empty Tupperware, 1978-style.

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A Gallery of Artists’ Biographies | Focus On Wed, 28 Sep 2016 13:00:48 +0000 1609-fo-gallery1

Teachers and librarians know that if they provide students of any age with art supplies, they need only observe what happens next. Kids instinctively understand what to do when given paper, crayons, markers, paints, scissors, glue, stickers, and the like. Even very small children seem to have an innate need to create art. Some adults may be incredulous that little ones possess “artistic vision.” These grown-ups also may not realize how important it is for young children to develop those all-important small muscles in the hands and fingers; manipulating art implements allows this to happen. Making art at any age promotes creative thinking, problem-solving, visual literacy, and hand-eye coordination, and develops understanding of spatial relationships—not to mention an aesthetic sense and appreciation of color, composition, and style.

Encouraging students to create their own art is a great idea; indeed, research shows that youngsters who make art improve academically. Children also need to develop an appreciation for great artwork through museum visits and books about art and artists. Learning about the lives and personal and artistic challenges these people faced can be eye-opening and might also suggest readers’ kinship with these creative individuals. For many artists whose biographies are cited, love of art and the passion to engage in it blossomed in childhood. In numerous cases, genuine skill was evident early on; in some happy instances, parents and others recognized the young creators’ aptitudes and supported their ambitions. For others, the development of artistic talent and/or opportunities took longer; amazingly, some made their first artistic forays well into adulthood, even old age. These books tell important, inspiring stories for readers of all ages. Moreover, the nature of these artists’ works and/or their media will provide excellent springboards into students’ own creative explorations.

Elementary Grades

BENSON, Kathleen. Draw What You See: The Life and Art of Benny Andrews. illus. by Benny Andrews. HMH. 2015. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780544104877.
Gr 2-4–Dynamic, life-affirming paintings represent Benny Andrews as a “people’s painter” interested in capturing the true African American experience. Andrews’s story is uplifting and inspiring; born in 1930, he began making art in childhood, drawing upon observations of real people and life events and, later, on memories, to create elegant, idiosyncratic, and deeply personal works.

BURLEIGH, Robert. Edward Hopper Paints His World. illus. by Wendell Minor. Holt. 2014. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780805087529
Gr 3-5–In a graceful narrative text, Burleigh notes Edward Hopper’s passion for art from earliest childhood. Throughout, readers are helped to understand that the artist’s atmospheric paintings raise intriguing questions. Appealing illustrations are reminiscent of Hopper’s, as Minor acknowledges the master’s influence. A few reproductions of Hopper’s works are included.

EHLERT, Lois. The Scraps Book: Notes from a Colorful Life. illus. by author. S. & S./Beach Lane. 2014. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781442435711; ebk. $10.99. ISBN 9781442435728.
Gr 1-4–Ehlert presents a scrapbook brimming with her signature eye-popping colors, illustrations, and photos and the odds and ends she uses to create her brilliant collages. The artist explains how she finds and develops her ideas and brings them to fruition. A masterly invitation to spark students’ creativity.

1609-fo-gallery2ENGLE, Margarita. The Sky Painter: Louis Fuertes, Bird Artist. illus. by Aliona Bereghici. Amazon/Two Lions. 2015. Tr $17.99. 9781477826331.
K-Gr 3–In this picture book biography, lyrical free-verse poems, presented in Louis Fuertes’s imagined voice and enriched by delicate watercolor-and-ink illustrations, embody the artist’s constant state of awe in the presence of birds. Inspired by John James Audubon, Fuertes became a painter of birds, but he immortalized them without taking their lives. The accurate bird illustrations are labeled.

FRIEDMAN, Samantha. Matisse’s Garden. illus. by Cristina Amodeo. The Museum of Modern Art. 2014. spiral. $19.95. ISBN 9780870709104.
Gr 1-3–
The creative processes Henri Matisse employed creating his cut-paper artworks are charmingly explained. Vivid illustrations, fittingly rendered in cutout style, exude sheer joy, and three brilliant gatefolds reproduce a few of the artist’s masterpieces. For another early-grade look at Matisse, see Jeanette Winter’s Henri’s Scissors. Winter makes “drawing with scissors” exciting and incorporates her versions of some of Matisse’s cutouts.

HILL, Laban Carrick. Dave the Potter: Artist, Poet, Slave. illus. by Bryan Collier. Little, Brown. 2010. Tr $18. ISBN 9780316107310.
K-Gr 4–Earthy illustrations capture the painstaking endeavors of a talented, enslaved 19th-century craftsman and poet; one foldout highlights clay-stained hands. This remarkable account, based on fact, focuses on artistry, not enslavement, affording Dave long-withheld dignity. Though some pots survive, much of his history is lost. Audio version available from Recorded Books.

HOPKINSON, Deborah. Beatrix Potter & the Unfortunate Tale of a Borrowed Guinea Pig. illus. by Charlotte Voake. Random/Schwartz & Wade. 2016. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780385373258; lib. ed. $20.99. ISBN 9780385373265.
Gr 1-4–To paint a guinea pig, Beatrix Potter borrowed a neighbor’s prized specimen. Sadly, it died after feasting on paper, string, and paste. Hopkinson’s whimsical tone is enlivened by Voake’s breezy watercolors in this “picture letter” that recalls how Potter’s early stories took shape. Also see David McPhail’s Beatrix Potter and Her Paint Box. Child-appealing anecdotes and cozy watercolor-and-ink illustrations enhance this portrait.

MACLACHLAN, Patricia. The Iridescence of Birds: A Book About Henri Matisse. illus. by Hadley Hooper. Roaring Brook. 2014. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781596439481.
Gr 1-4–The illustrations brighten as the text—two lengthy sentences about Henri the boy—proceeds, foreshadowing the vibrant paintings and cutouts the adult artist would produce. Given the colorful themes and patterns he encountered in youth, his development into the mature Matisse was inevitable. A dreamy quality suffuses the prose.

1609-fo-gallery3MARKEL, Michelle. The Fantastic Jungles of Henri Rousseau. illus. by Amanda Hall. Eerdmans. 2012. Tr $17. ISBN 9780802853646.
PreS-Gr 3–Children’s innate fairness will have them rooting for Henri Rousseau, who was often critically reviled yet eventually succeeded. Told in present tense, this lyrical, comical tale is a cheerful introduction to an artist who “starts painting” at age 40. Gorgeous watercolor-and-acrylic paintings, excellent versions of Rousseau’s own, are filled with delightful details to savor.

RODRIGUEZ, Rachel. Through Georgia’s Eyes. illus. by Julie Paschkis. Holt. 2006. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9780805077407.
Gr 1-4–Acrylic-print collages, teeming with vivid colors, patterns, and shapes, translate Georgia O’Keeffe’s style and reflect the openness and majesty of the desert. Enlivening the lyrical, present-tense text, the illustrations convey the idea that “paint [spoke] for her.” For O’Keeffe, beauty and wonder were everywhere—a powerful message for budding young artists.

ROSENSTOCK, Barb. Dorothea’s Eyes: Doro­thea Lange Photographs the Truth. illus. by Gerard DuBois. Boyds Mills/Calkins Creek. 2016. Tr $16.95. ISBN 9781629792088.
Gr 2-5–Spare, heartfelt text reveals that even as a girl, Dorothea Lange believed herself an outsider. Her respectful, unobtrusive curiosity, as well as a physical impairment stemming from childhood polio, made those she captured on film feel at ease and helped her immerse herself in their world. The illustrations have a dreamy, old-fashioned quality.

ROSENSTOCK, Barb. The Noisy Paint Box: The Colors and Sounds of Kandinsky’s Abstract Art. illus by Mary GrandPré. Knopf. 2014. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780307978486.
Gr 1-4–Russian painter Wassily Kandinsky “heard” colors. Whimsical illustrations, even typefaces, dance and soar to demonstrate how he experienced sensory stimuli in more than one way simultaneously. The lively text clarifies that the artist painted abstractly in order to hear his vibrant colors in the most delightful, musically satisfying way.

STEPTOE, Javaka. Radiant Child: The Story of Young Artist Jean-Michel Basquiat. illus. by author. Little, Brown. 2016. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780316213882.
Gr 1-4–Like Jean-Michel Basquiat, Steptoe drew inspiration from NYC streets, blending his own style with that of the 1980s wunderkind. Re-creating the famed street artist’s methods, materials, and free-spirited graffiti look, Steptoe’s paintings are robust, dynamic, and filled with color and action; his dynamic present-tense text evokes a sense of urgency.

TATE, Don. It Jes’ Happened: When Bill Traylor Started To Draw. illus. by R. Gregory Christie. Lee & Low. 2012. Tr $17.95. ISBN 9781600602603.
Gr 3-5–Considered one of the most important self-taught artists of the 20th century, Bill Traylor (1854–1949) began drawing—at age 85—while destitute and homeless in Alabama. Using rudimentary supplies, he relied on his vast store of memories to create art. Traylor’s quotes and Christie’s folkloric illustrations enrich the telling. Poignant and unforgettable.

TONATIUH, Duncan. Diego Rivera: His World and Ours. illus. by author. Abrams. 2011. Tr $17.95. ISBN 9780810997318.
K-Gr 3–Diego Rivera would have rejoiced at Tonatiuh’s pre-Columbian-style paintings, reflecting both artists’ love of Mexican history, heritage, and culture—and their mutual passion for blending traditional and modern artistic styles and motifs. The straightforward, informative text asks readers these questions: What would Rivera paint today? How would he depict contemporary society?

TONATIUH, Duncan. Funny Bones: Posada and His Day of the Dead Calaveras. illus. by author. Abrams. 2015. Tr $8.95. ISBN 9781419716478.
Gr 3-6–Pre-Columbian-style art befits this account of José Guadalupe Posada, engraver of calaveras, the images of skulls and skeletons that remain iconic Day of the Dead symbols. Explanations and illustrations of Posada’s techniques, inclusion of Spanish words, and details about the holiday make this title an important artistic and cultural touchstone.

1609-fo-gallery4WHITEHEAD, Kathy. Art from Her Heart: Folk Artist Clementine Hunter. illus. by Shane W. Evans. Putnam. 2008. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780399242199.
K-Gr 3–Evans’s charming, mixed-media, folkloric paintings evoke Clementine Hunter’s self-taught style. A conversational tone conveys the inspirational story of this gifted woman who lived on a Louisiana plantation and made art from the 1940s to 1980s. Shockingly, Hunter was once barred from attending one of her own exhibitions.

WING, Natasha. An Eye for Color: The Story of Josef Albers. illus. by Julia Breckenreid. Holt. 2009. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9780805080728.
Gr 3-6–The imaginative cover will draw readers in, and they’ll stay for this well-told story, enhanced by quirky illustrations, about an unusual artist whose experimentations with color interactions and squares will inspire students’ creativity. Concepts are clearly explained through diagrams and text, and five activities in the back matter will surely excite readers.

WINTER, Jeanette. Mr. Cornell’s Dream Boxes. illus. by author. S. & S./Beach Lane. 2014. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781442499003.
PreS-Gr 2– Born in 1903, Joseph Cornell, a reclusive salesman, lived much of his life in Queens, NY. In shadow boxes, he fashioned miniature worlds based on dreams, memories, and observations. Cornell regarded children as his primary audience, and his final exhibition welcomed a child-only guest list. Simply, sweetly told and illustrated.

WINTER, Jonah. Just Behave, Pablo Picasso! illus. by Kevin Hawkes. Scholastic/Arthur A. Levine Bks. 2012. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9780545132916.
Gr 2-5–Bold paintings, some of which are versions of Pablo Picasso’s, complement energetic text and embody young Picasso’s defiance and adventurous creativity. Unusual design elements—e.g., Picasso bursting through a page and his steady glare on the title page and back cover—enhance reading fun and help the artist spring to life.

Middle School & Up

BURLEIGH, Robert. George Bellows: Painter with a Punch! Abrams. 2012. Tr $19.95. ISBN 9781419701665.
Gr 5-8–The first-person text is as vigorous as the paintings by this early 20th-century artist who found beauty in New York City reality—tenements, city streets, and, most notably, the boxing ring. This energetic portrayal and the gritty, action-packed paintings will encourage students to scour their own environments, seeking exciting artistic inspiration in everyday life.

PARTRIDGE, Elizabeth. Dorothea Lange: Grab a Hunk of Lightning. Chronicle. 2013. Tr $50. ISBN 9781452122168.
Gr 8 Up–Partridge, Dorothea Lange’s goddaughter, introduces the famed chronicler of the Great Depression in an excellent biographical essay. Compassion pervades Lange’s groundbreaking photos, taken mid-20th century. Her illuminating captions set the photos in context; some also feature commentaries taken from copious notes she recorded on jaunts around the United States and the world.

PLAIN, Nancy. This Strange Wilderness: The Life and Art of John James Audubon. University of Nebraska. 2015. pap. $19.95. ISBN 9780803248847.
Gr 7 Up–Exquisite reproductions from John James Audubon’s The Birds of America enrich this excellent account of the naturalist’s life, career, and techniques. Readers will come away with real respect for all that this French immigrant accomplished and what a massive undertaking his book was. Audubon was a visionary and a pioneer in more ways than one.

1609-fo-gallery5REEF, Catherine. Frida & Diego: Art, Love, Life. Clarion. 2014. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9780547821849.
Gr 7 Up–Inextricably linked, these icons flourished together; their artistic and emotional impact on each other was enormous. This wonderful dual biography compares and contrasts the artists and explains how social, historical, and political forces influenced their lives and output. Superb reproductions of their paintings are included.

RUBIN, Susan Goldman. Diego Rivera: An Artist for the People. Abrams. 2013. Tr $22.95. ISBN 9780810984110.
Gr 5-8–Love of and pride in Mexican history and culture shaped Diego Rivera’s outlook on life, politics, and art. This well-written account establishes Rivera as an artist of enormous impact in his own right and includes excellent reproductions of his and other artists’ works. Attractive design elements add to the visual appeal.

RUBIN, Susan Goldman. Everybody Paints: The Lives and Art of the Wyeth Family. Chronicle. 2014. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780811869843.
Gr 6-9–Opening with the accomplishments of patriarch N.C., this account describes his influence on son Andrew, then establishes the impact of both artists on Andrew’s son Jamie, all among the most gifted painters America has produced since the end of the 19th century. Numerous quotes and excellent reproductions are highlights.

SAY, Allen. Drawing from Memory. illus. by author. Scholastic. 2011. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780545176866.
Gr 5 Up–Say embarked on his career as a young teen during World War II. Mentored by Noro Shinpei, the most renowned Japanese cartoonist of the period, he developed as an artist and person. Illustrated with Say’s marvelous drawings and cartoons, often displayed comic book–style, this is a must for graphic novel– and manga-loving readers.

goldman-carol-contrib-webCarol Goldman is Children’s Librarian at the Forest Hills Branch of Queens (NY) Library.

Digital Picks

Art for Kids Hub. Art for Kids Hub. Pleasant Grove, UT. (Accessed 7/21/16)
PreK-Gr 5– Kid-friendly videos, featuring the site host Rob (Mr. Hubs) and his three children, provide instruction on easy-to-replicate art projects using various media. Searchable by category or age level. An ad-free version is available for a monthly fee.

Color with Leo. Silva Animation Studio, Inc. (Accessed 7/21/16)
PreK-Gr 3– A “young Leonardo” guides students through interactive games and activities as they learn the principles of art. Parents and teachers can download free lessons, activities, and coloring pages. Also includes many artists’ biographies.

Exploring Leo. Museum of Science. Boston, MA. (Accessed 7/21/16)
Gr 5 Up– Through extensive and fascinating online activities, students learn about the life and career of Leonardo da Vinci as well as his paintings, inventions, and scientific studies. Includes a collection of lesson plans with classroom activities.

NGAkids Art Zone. National Gallery of Art. Washington, DC. (Accessed 7/21/16)
Gr 4 Up– Students can explore the National Gallery of Art collections, create an assortment of artworks online, and even furnish a Dutch “dollhouse” straight out of a 17th-century painting. Also available as a free iPad app, “suitable for all age groups” but “optimized for ages 9 through 11.”

Smarthistory. Smarthistory. (Accessed 7/9/16)
Gr 7 Up– Cofounded by Dr. Beth Harris and Dr. Steven Zucker, both former deans of art and history at Khan Academy, this not-for-profit website is an excellent, browsable resource for the study of art history and cultural heritage. Videos and essays cover art from prehistory to the present day and include numerous eye-popping close-ups of many artworks.

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Real Cowboys by Kate Hoefler | SLJ Review Wed, 28 Sep 2016 13:00:32 +0000 HOEFLER, Kate. Real Cowboys. illus. by Jonathan Bean. 32p. HMH. Oct. 2016. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780544148925.

PreS-Gr 3 –Hoefler takes readers into the daily lives of cowboys. Almost every page turn reveals a different personality trait or behavior, from being “quiet in the morning, careful not to wake the people…in the hollow” to being “strong, and tough, and homesick at the same time.” Her portrayal shows skilled and sensitive caretakers who sing to calm the cattle or help them [...]]]> redstarHOEFLER, Kate. Real Cowboys. illus. by Jonathan Bean. 32p. HMH. Oct. 2016. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780544148925.

real-cowboysPreS-Gr 3 –Hoefler takes readers into the daily lives of cowboys. Almost every page turn reveals a different personality trait or behavior, from being “quiet in the morning, careful not to wake the people…in the hollow” to being “strong, and tough, and homesick at the same time.” Her portrayal shows skilled and sensitive caretakers who sing to calm the cattle or help them sleep. Always alert to danger and environmental cues, they communicate with other cowhands and their dogs to try to keep their herds safe and to prevent stampedes. When they lose an animal, “real cowboys cry.” Bean employs stylized, hand-stenciled shapes in muted, digitally composed scenes. Various shades of brown, depicting the cattle, soil, and other elements, are worked (along with white) into a controlled palette of turquoise, mustard yellow, and orange-red; these colors appear individually or in combination. The moods range from tense—when a dust storm pelts the fleeing animals—to cheerful, when, in a red-and-white Escher-like cattle crossing, an aspiring cowboy waves from the backseat of a car. The language is lyrical, with one or two sentences per page describing the patience and consideration exhibited by these professionals, who “are as many different colors as the earth” and “are girls, too.” VERDICT This subtle, expressionistic view may not hold the attention of children who prefer realistic art or constant action, but it provides a fresh, multidimensional glimpse at those who make their home on the range.–Wendy Lukehart, District of Columbia Public Library

This review was published in the School Library Journal September 2016 issue.

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Hook Them with Historical Fiction | Adult Books 4 Teens Tue, 27 Sep 2016 19:40:12 +0000 At my library’s most recent teen service meeting, the YA librarians and I had to decide on the genres to include in our new and updated “Teen Reads” brochure—a trifold listing of book recommendations for young adults. The most overwhelmingly agreed upon genre was historical fiction—we all continue to get requests from teens who have been tasked with reading the genre by their teachers and seem to have little to no understanding of what that entails. Not all of the titles below are necessarily teacher approved—many educators would probably look askance at the alternate history, for example—but all are fantastic novels, and at the very least, they should provide some recommendations for any teen whose interest is piqued by a historical fiction assignment.

For those seeking more traditional historical fiction, we have a novel set partially in 1970s Brooklyn, a fictional runaway slave narrative set in 1850 America, a rip-roaring pirate tale based on the life of Henry Morgan, and—because how can we write about historical fiction without one?—a World War II story. Jacqueline Woodson’s 2016 National Book Award long-listed title Another Brooklyn picks up in a fictional world where her award-winning verse memoir Brown Girl Dreaming left off—and focuses on the young adulthood of a very Woodson-like character growing into a woman in Brooklyn. Expect everything we’ve come to love about the author: poetically beautiful prose, pinpoint accurate attention to detail, and starkly honest portrayals of herself and the lives of young black women. Robert Morgan’s Chasing the North Star features Jonah, another young African American coming of age, but in the much more harrowing situation of 1850s America, as he escapes from slavery and travels to the North. Fans of this new novel should take a look at Morgan’s other historical fiction, including stories of Revolution-era South Carolina and Depression- and World War II–era Appalachia.

On a more swashbuckling note, we have pirates. Robert Hough’s The Man Who Saved Henry Morgan follows the fictional Benny Wand as he is exiled from England to Jamaica, where he makes the acquaintance of one of the most famous pirates. Benny is a chess wizard and con man (not as distantly related occupations as you might think), and he uses both skills to get in good with Morgan. Hough’s close attention to the details of the 17th-century Caribbean should make this one of the more teacher-friendly titles on this list, while the high seas adventures should make it among the most teen-friendly—in other words, a perfect recommendation.

Despite my snarky comment about World War II stories, Sarah Domet’s The Guineveres is an excellent entry into that subgenre of historical works, looking at the war from a relatively new angle. Domet’s protagonists are four residents of a convent. Each young woman (named Guinevere) has a different, tragic reason for entering the convent. The war connection comes as the four tend to convalescent soldiers being housed at the convent and begin to imagine where their lives might lead if they stayed with “their” soldiers. This is a different sort of World War II story, a different sort of romance, and an intriguing debut from Domet.

Those are the straight historical novels: our other three titles include an alternate history, a time travel tale, and a mystery. Dan Vyleta’s Smoke takes place in an alternate Victorian England, in which evil thoughts have begun to physically manifest themselves as wisps of “smoke.” A fantastical premise to be sure, but Vyleta focuses less attention on fleshing out this premise and more on deep characterization of his boarding school boy protagonists. Needless to say, in the style of many a boarding school novel, adventures are thick on the ground, and the three heroes soon have more than they can handle. Fantasy, history, adventure, and a bit of philosophy mingle in this wonderful volume.

Depending on how you feel about the science of time travel, fantasy may be the central element in Jodi Taylor’s Just One Damned Thing After Another as well. Taylor’s novel was already a hit as a self-published ebook (and already has several sequels), but now that it is finally in print, we have the chance to review it here. Fans of Connie Willis (especially The Doomsday Book) should be clamoring for this one, in which historians study the past by means of time travel. Several historical periods are visited, and much mayhem ensues. And of course teens with less than love for their history class will be tickled to be introduced to Arnold Toynbee’s famous quotation about history, quoted in Taylor’s title.

Finally, mystery fans who need to read a historical novel for class may be able to get away with reading Elly Griffiths’s Smoke and Mirrors, a novel set in 1951 England but more properly regarded as a mystery than historical fiction. This second volume in a series follows DI Edgar Stephens on a search for two missing children during Christmastime. The emphasis on England’s pantomime tradition may be at once the most confusing aspect and the best way for teens to convince their teachers they are learning something. Regardless, this is a dark, fascinating tale for mystery fans everywhere.


theguineveresDOMET, Sarah. The Guineveres. 352p. ebook available. Flatiron. Oct. 2016. Tr $25.99. ISBN 9781250086617.

Four teenagers, each named Guinevere, find themselves under the strict guidance of the nuns at Our Lady of Perpetual Adoration. Although they share a common name, Gwen, Ginny, Win, and Vere all have different and equally heartbreaking reasons for coming to live at the convent. The girls are guided by the dogmatic and controlling Sister Fran and the spiritually inept Father James. Sent to the convent’s convalescent wing as punishment, the young women must take care of five unidentified and comatose World War II soldiers. When one of the soldiers awakens and another girl is sent home with him to help with his recovery, each friend imagines a future with “her” soldier outside the constraints of the religious community. The Guineveres (as the girls call themselves) navigate the liminal spaces between childhood and adulthood, and faith and skepticism through the lens of broken families and intense friendships. Although those used to quick beach reads might find the pace slow, Domet’s debut will lure readers in with well-developed characters, rich language, and small miracles. VERDICT Recommended for students who are looking for weighty romance novels.–Krystina Kelley, Belle Valley School, Belleville, IL

smokeandmirrorsGRIFFITHS, Elly. Smoke and Mirrors. 352p. (Magic Men Mysteries: Bk. 2). ebook available. HMH. Oct. 2016. Tr $25. ISBN 9780544527959.

Tweens Annie and Mark are missing, and DI Edgar Stephens is charged with leading the search in Brighton, England, in the winter of 1951. It is just before Christmas, and that means pantomime play season in England. The “panto” plays are intertwined with the grim fairy tales that young Annie writes and stages in a lonely neighbor’s garage. The girl has been mentored by her primary school teacher, and she enlists the help of her many brothers and sisters and her best friend Mark, who shares a working-class upbringing. It’s lucky for DI Stephens that it is play season, because that means his close friend from the war, magician Max Mephisto, is in town performing. Though very different, Max and Edgar forged a tight friendship during World War II, when they were assigned as “Magic Men” in a covert operation. There are so many trails to follow and so many possible suspects, and as time runs out for the missing children, another victim emerges. While the British colloquialisms about the “panto” will be new to American readers, the focus on child victims; the dark, fairy-tale aspects; and the engaging characters will draw students into this second in the series. Hand this one to fans of Mary Higgins Clark. VERDICT An excellent addition to larger mystery collections.–Jake Pettit, Enka Schools, Istanbul, Turkey

manwhosavedredstarHOUGH, Robert. The Man Who Saved Henry Morgan. 304p. ebook available. Anansi. May 2016. pap. $15.95. ISBN 9781770899452.

Twenty-year-old Benny Wand stands before the judge with 10 seconds to decide: Newgate prison or deportment to Jamaica. Jamaica it is, and he is off to the town of Port Royal to start over. Arriving with nothing but the clothes on his back, Benny continues the life that got him arrested: conning money by playing chess. He lives in the back alleys of Port Royal until the infamous privateer Henry Morgan takes him on as a crew member, and they head out on a raid. Surviving high seas, jungle, and heat, Benny perseveres and, at a crucial moment, realizes that their strategy is wrong. The young man attracts the attention of Henry Morgan, and an unlikely friendship ensues as Morgan, an expert chess player himself, compels Benny to join him regularly in a game. Unable to beat Benny, Morgan recognizes him as a master strategist and relies upon him for tactical insight. The protagonist revels in the attention but becomes increasingly concerned as his inherent belief in the goodness of humanity collides with the growing sordidness of their raids and Morgan’s deteriorating health and sanity. Sophisticated teens will appreciate this excellent tale. The sights, sounds, and smells of 1600s Jamaica come alive through Benny’s eyes. Chess players, privateers, prostitutes, gamblers, and the upper crust create the rich environment in which Benny lives while searching for meaning in his life. VERDICT Chess, history, and the art of the con mingle to create a top-notch tale that many mature teens will enjoy.–Connie Williams, Petaluma High School, CA

chasingMORGAN, Robert. Chasing the North Star. 320p. ebook available. Algonquin. Apr. 2016. Tr $25.95. ISBN 9781565126275.

Jonah becomes a runaway slave on his 18th birthday after his master whips him for supposedly stealing a book. Jonah, who secretly knows how to read, has learned about freedom in the North. His journey from a plantation in South Carolina to freedom in upstate New York is harrowing to put it mildly. In moments of true suspense, this historical novel becomes a page-turner. Along the way, Jonah meets Angel, another runaway slave, and tries repeatedly to leave her behind. Aptly named, this character is an angel of sorts for him, though Jonah also finds her to be a hindrance. Angel’s escape highlights a woman’s perspective and reveals another layer of discrimination. The two characters provide first-person accounts at different points, and the author’s decision to weave these two viewpoints offers readers a full sense of the characters. Young adults will identify with Jonah as he questions this racist system, all the while trying to find some hope in humanity. His odyssey moves him closer to freedom, but he also discovers his life’s meaning and a passion for life. VERDICT A much-needed addition to high school libraries.–April Sanders, Spring Hill College, Mobile, AL

justoneTAYLOR, Jodi. Just One Damned Thing After Another. 348p. (Chronicles of St. Mary’s: Bk. 1). ebook available. Night Shade. Jun. 2016. pap. $12.99. ISBN 9781597808682.

St. Mary’s Institute of Historical Research is not your average research facility. Which is all right, because Dr. Madeleine Maxwell thrives on the unusual, especially if it’s ancient history. Madeleine knows it’s her kind of place. She is thrilled when she learns that the institute studies “historical events in contemporary time.” In other words, it has time machines. Styled as innocuous stone huts, the time travel pods come complete with a kettle for afternoon tea, without which apparently historians can’t function. Going back in time is fraught with hazards, from rampaging T. rexes to rioting medieval peasants, not to mention nefarious humans. The heroine finds herself in impossible situations almost from the minute she steps out the door in the morning. Teens will love the protagonist’s irreverence toward authority, quick wit, and penchant for trouble. She meets day-to-day and historical challenges with riotous aplomb. Though one of only a few women at the institute, Madeleine more than holds her own. And when she is exiled, her circumstances and despair are so well portrayed that readers practically experience them along with her, hoping against hope that all is not lost. VERDICT This clever and audacious tale will leave readers clamoring for more. Fortunately, there are more books in the series. For fans of historical fiction or science fiction.–Gretchen Crowley, Alexandria City Public Libraries, VA

smokeVYLETA, Dan. Smoke. 448p. ebook available. Doubleday. May 2016. Tr $27.95. ISBN 9780385540162.

Set in an alternate Victorian England, this novel opens with a late-night bullying scene in a boys’ boarding school à la Robert Cormier or Charles Dickens. But over several hundred pages, the narrative develops into a story of three teenage friends on a mission to save the world from destruction by deranged adults, all while negotiating their own love triangle and questioning everything they’ve ever been told about the Smoke that streaks or puffs or billows out of people who lose self-control in their world. The religious and philosophical beliefs surrounding Smoke, the physical phenomenon of it, and its relatively short history in this England don’t all quite hang together in terms of world-building, but most readers won’t care, because the grubby mystery of Smoke is intriguing. Teens will find themselves wondering what makes humans human. The lush yet accessible writing style is irresistibly engaging. Most important, the three friends—a cheerfully privileged yet compassionate earl’s heir, a mad scientist’s haughty daughter, and a possibly cursed, ruthlessly honest orphan boy—are a heartbreaking, heartwarming pleasure to root for. This thick volume satisfies on its own, but a sequel would be welcome, too. VERDICT Give this to fans of either historical fiction or dystopian fiction who want to read a bit outside their comfort zone.–Hope Baugh, Carmel Clay Public Library, Carmel, IN

anotherbrooklynredstarWOODSON, Jacqueline. Another Brooklyn. 192p.  ebook available. HarperCollins/Amistad. Aug. 2016. Tr $22.99. ISBN 9780062359988.

Woodson brings us August, a first-person narrator akin to her own remembered self in her verse memoir for young people, Brown Girl Dreaming. In this novel, though, rather than focusing on how childhood foments a writer’s impulse, the author operates dual lenses in relating another brown girl’s experiences becoming a woman in 1970s Brooklyn. August’s voice shifts easily from a wide-angled adult perspective as she returns to Brooklyn after 20 years for her father’s funeral into a telephoto clarity as she recalls her first sight of a magically joyful trio of neighborhood girls from the window of the third-floor apartment her father forbade her to leave when the family moved from their rural Tennessee home. The adult August’s fierce remembrance makes poignant the isolation and novelty of a city life she must enter motherless, so desperate to be the fourth fast friend, to make a perfect quartet of the three who dazzle and need her. The solemn refrains in this poeticized prose sound like the changing colors and cadences of the borough; her family’s imperfect conversion to Islam, including August’s work to resolve her denial of her mother’s loss with a hijab-clad therapist; and the alluring yet dangerous navigation of the waters of girlhood toward the depths of sexual maturity. Teens of the searching sort, particularly those who have read the author’s works for younger readers, may find this offering evocative of what school reunions can reveal: the talented may fly too high in fame, the privileged may not always embrace their advantage, and some raise themselves up and out while others are lost to obscurity. In the character of August, Woodson brings tidbits of research on the funeral practices of world cultures to bear on this keen examination of her Brooklyn in its many incarnations. VERDICT Something to savor for the nearly grown who have acquired a taste for the complexly bittersweet flavor of memory.–Suzanne Gordon, Lanier High School, Gwinnett County, GA

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 A NC Library Brings Wi-Fi Hotspots to Students in Need Tue, 27 Sep 2016 15:44:12 +0000 Thanks to a partnership with Sprint, the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library (CML) in Charlotte, NC, is making a big difference in the lives of its local teens who don’t have reliable broadband at home—increasingly, a requirement for kids to do research and complete assignments. This academic year, nearly 150,000 kids in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg school districts (CMS) are now being offered the chance to use 150 wireless hotspots with devices they can check out from the library.


“A Pew study found that 85 percent of Americans want to see public schools and public libraries work together more closely, so our community took that to heart,” says Martha Yesowitch, whose position as educational partnerships manager at the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library was created for better collaboration. The school system estimates that about 25,000 students are without web access in Mecklenburg County, primarily due to economic barriers including the cost of monthly service, the devices, and their maintenance.

The flagship initiative, ONE Access, allows CMS kids to use their student IDs as library account numbers, giving them full access to the library’s offerings. Last year, the library became part of the White House ConnectED challenge, the program announced by President Obama in 2013 that seeks, in part, to improve K–12 education by connecting 99 percent of American kids with high-speed wireless Internet access. The White House put out the call for communities to apply. An agreement signed by the library CEO, the county manager, and the school superintendent stated that the Charlotte community would work toward the ConnectEd goals.

In order to launch the hotspot pilot program, the library and school system collaborated with E2D, a local non-profit that provides low-cost laptops to families and students in need, and with Communities In Schools, a national non-profit dedicated to dropout prevention, explains Yesowitch. “Five high schools were targeted, and a select group of high-achieving, yet at-risk students, were able to purchase a laptop from E2D for $50 and be some of the first ones to check out a hotspot if they didn’t have the Internet at home,” she says. Sprint partnered with ConnectEd to provide the lower cost devices and connectivity. The library applied to receive devices and service, and was approved for 150 devices for which they paid about $75 each. Sprint provides 3GB of high speed data per month.

The CML system is piloting the lending program, which is mostly promoted to high school students, in five of their 20 locations, though the hotspots can be accessed by any CMS student without Internet at home. Early feedback has been mostly positive, says Yesowitch. “Families are excited by the opportunity to borrow devices for the hotspots and are happy that the lending is set up so students can continue to check out the devices throughout the school year,” she adds.

Students are pleased as well, as evidenced by tales from Frank Blair, the library’s director of technology and operations. “When you see a rising ninth grader walk out of a device distribution fair with a big smile on his face because he now has the solution he needs—a laptop and bandwidth—it’s priceless,” he says. Many kids are finally able to close their personal homework gap that they know was keeping them from achieving more in middle school, he adds.

What advice does Yesowith have for public librarians seeking to start a similar program? A strong partnership with local schools is beneficial, as is being a part of the ConnectED challenge, she says. “We were able to purchase the devices at a lower cost because of ConnectED.”, a national non-profit dedicated to bridging the digital divide, was also extremely helpful to the library, Yesowitch says. “EveryoneOn is a great resource for low-cost home connectivity solutions, especially if a library system doesn’t have the sort of partnership with schools required for ConnectED.”

In addition to supporting the success of CMS students, hotspot lending is an important aspect of the library’s digital inclusion initiative. “The library is part of a community-wide task force working to ensure that no one is left behind when it comes to bridging the digital divide,” explains Blair. The demand for digital resources in Charlotte, and the county at large, is growing—with an expected circulation of 1,000,000 ebooks and other materials this year alone. That means that fast, reliable access to these materials is more important than ever. As Blair puts it, “digital inclusion is just the right thing to do.”


Manhattan-based editor Jennifer Kelly Geddes writes regularly for and 



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Old Dog Baby Baby by Julie Fogliano | SLJ Review Tue, 27 Sep 2016 13:00:48 +0000 FOGLIANO, Julie. Old Dog Baby Baby. illus. by Chris Raschka. 32p. Roaring Brook/Neal Porter Bks. Oct. 2016. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781596438538.

PreS-K –Those privileged to have known a mild-mannered dog, a martyr to baby love, a dog that will withstand any annoyance from an infant and still adore him, will appreciate this sweet story told in verse. Fogliano’s spare, pitch-perfect rhymes capture the joyful meeting between a blond-haired diapered baby and a shaggy dog on the kitchen floor. Simple [...]]]> redstarFOGLIANO, Julie. Old Dog Baby Baby. illus. by Chris Raschka. 32p. Roaring Brook/Neal Porter Bks. Oct. 2016. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781596438538.

old-dog-baby-babyPreS-K –Those privileged to have known a mild-mannered dog, a martyr to baby love, a dog that will withstand any annoyance from an infant and still adore him, will appreciate this sweet story told in verse. Fogliano’s spare, pitch-perfect rhymes capture the joyful meeting between a blond-haired diapered baby and a shaggy dog on the kitchen floor. Simple rhymes create the mood: “Baby hurry/baby wiggle/‘puppy! puppy!’/baby giggle.” The exploration is mutual: “Old dog sniffs/with old dog nose/baby fingers/baby toes” until they are down for the count, sleeping flat out on the floor. Raschka’s illustrations add hilarity and an additional layer to the narrative. He includes different legs and shoes on the periphery of the page, and readers can guess who is entering and who is leaving the kitchen. The illustrator mirrors the minimalist verse with his simple brushstrokes of watery oranges, blues, and greens. VERDICT Great for preschool storytime or for one-on-one sharing.–Teresa Pfeifer, The Springfield Renaissance School, MA

This review was published in the School Library Journal September 2016 issue.

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International Awards for Spanish-Language Books | Libro por libro Tue, 27 Sep 2016 13:00:20 +0000 1610_libro-opener

We are all still giddy celebrating Matt de la Peña’s recent Newbery win. For educators looking for other excellent titles, specifically those by Latin@ authors and illustrators to add to Spanish-language collections, there are numerous children’s book awards given in Spain and Latin America.

An important caveat to consider is that children’s book awards in the Spanish-speaking world are quite a bit different than what we are familiar with in the United States. There is not an exact equivalent to the Newbery or Caldecott awards. In Spain, many of the awards are given or sponsored by publishers. Other prizes are sponsored by cities or other entities, but not library associations. In Spain, awards are often given to books published in Catalan which, while an official language in that country, is different from the Spanish most often found in the U.S. The same is also true for Basque. Aside from the language issues, books receiving awards in Spain can sometimes be hard to obtain here. The prices of the books from Spain (when available) are often listed in euros. Working through a jobber or distributor who is familiar with the Spanish or Latin American book market can be a huge help. It is also possible to purchase some of these books in digital format directly from the publisher.

You can also find information about Spanish-language book awards by visiting the Spain chapter of the Society for Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators.

The following is a selection of prizes given to children’s literature in Spain and Latin America.

1610_libro-cv1International Awards

Hans Christian Andersen Award
Sometimes referred to as the “Nobel Prize” for children’s literature, the Hans Christian Andersen Awards “are a pair of biennial literary awards by the International Board on Books for Young People (IBBY), recognizing one living author and one living illustrator for their ‘lasting contribution[s] to children’s literature.’” Only two Spanish-language writers have been recipients of this prize—José María Sanchez-Silva from Spain in 1968 and María Teresa Andruetto from Argentina in 2012.

ANDRUETTO, María Teresa. Huellas en la arena. (Footprints in the Sand). Sudamericana. 2013. pap. $6.99. ISBN 978-9500740814.
Gr 3-6 A collection of 13 stories that have the feel of myths, legends, and the oral tradition. Andruetto’s tales leave much unsaid, and depend on the power of single images, such as a woman who wears only one glove. What readers will remember from these somewhat elliptical tales is the narrator’s voice, transporting ancient stories from the past into the present.

SÁNCHEZ-SILVA, José María. Marcelino, pan y vino. (Marcelino, Bread and Wine). Andres Bello. 1996. pap. OP. ISBN 9789561309180.
Gr 3-5 –An orphan appears at the door of a monastery. Named Marcelino, he is raised and cared for by the friars. A statue of Jesus on the cross that Marcelino finds in the attic of the monastery comes alive and takes the bread and wine Marcelino brings him. This is a beloved story that is much better known as the 1955 Spanish film Miracle of Marcelino, which is readily available on DVD. It is also a prime example of how religion, especially the Catholic faith, can be a driving force in much of older Spanish literature for children.

Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award
The Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award is the world’s largest award for children’s and young adult literature with a SEK 5 million prize (almost $6,000) awarded annually. Sponsored by the government of Sweden, and administered by the Swedish Arts Council, the award bears the name of author and activist Astrid Lindgren, the beloved creator of Pippi Longstocking. It is a lifetime achievement award, the object of which is “to increase interest in children’s and young people’s literature, and to promote children’s rights on a global level.”

The only Latin American writer and illustrator to win this award is Isol, an Argentinian who has always been one of my favorite Latina authors for storytimes and for programs for adults. The universality of her work is particularly notable. It is not culturally specific but celebrates the doubts, fears, and foibles of children everywhere. There are numerous English translations of her work available, primarily from Canadian publisher Groundwood. Isol blogs at

ISOL, Petit, the Monster. illus. by author. tr. by Elisa Amado. Groundwood. 2010. Tr $16.95. ISBN 9780888999474.
––––. Petit, el monstruo. illus. by author. Serres. 2009. Tr $15.96. ISBN 9788478716654.
K-3 Petit is a child who can’t decide exactly who he is. He’s a good boy because he plays with his dog, but he’s a bad boy because he pulls girls’ hair. Is he nice or mean? Petit is confused, and comes to the conclusion that he must be some sort of good-bad boy—a monster. Isol’s distinctive illustrations are particularly good at portraying Petit in all of his goodness and badness. This is a perfect example of how Isol captures the universal doubts and worries of childhood.

spanish and latin american awards

Cervantes Chico Prize
According to the prize’s website, “The Cervantes Chico Prize honors a Spanish-language writer whose creative career has excelled in the field of children’s literature. In addition to the writer’s literary merits, criteria such as popularity and use of the writer’s work as an educational and teaching resource are taken into account for this designation.” This is a lifetime achievement prize awarded by the City of Alcalá de Henares, a World Heritage City and birthplace of Don Quixote author Miguel de Cervantes.

Author Ana Alcolea was announced recently as the 2016 Cervantes Chico winner. She is published in Spain by Anaya.

ALCOLEA , Ana. Castillos en el aire (Castles in the Air). illus by Mercè López. Lectorum/Anaya. 2015. pap. $13.99. ISBN 9788467871128.

K-3 –When Santiago was young, he liked to go to the beach and make drawings in the sand. But every day the waves would come in and erase what he had drawn. He dreams of being able to create something that cannot be erased. As an adult, he travels and comes to a place where he decides to build an indestructible castle in the air. This is a book that is ideal for adults to share with children, and is an example of how books from Spain are not always about children, but rather childhood itself.

1610_libro-cv2Premio Lazarillo
The Premio Lazarillo is the oldest Spanish-language book prize. It was originally given by the now-defunct National Book Institute in Spain. Since 1986, the award has been under the care of La Organización Española para el Libro Infantil y Juvenil or OEPLI (The Spanish Organization for Infants and Juvenile Literature). OEPLI is the Spanish section of IBBY. Awards are given for picture books and “literary creation.” This prize is the closest to the Newbery and Caldecott awards. Many of the recent prizes have been given to books in Catalan.

ARBOLEDA , Roberto. Prohibido leer a Lewis Carroll. Anaya. 2013. ebk. $5.99. ISBN 9788467839739.
Gr 6-9 –Eugene Chignon is a governess from France who has come to New York City to care for a child named Alice who is obsessed with Lewis Carroll’s “Alice” books, to the extent that her parents have banned them from the house. The governess has to hide the fact that the real Alice, 80-year-old Alice Liddell, is going to visit New York. This is a tale as quirky as Lewis Carroll’s original.

Premio Nacional de Literatura Infantil y Juvenil
The Premio Nacional is a Spanish prize sponsored by the Spanish Ministry of Culture. Recent award-winner Laura Gallego García’s work in fantasy, such as The Legend of the Wandering King, rivals that of Lloyd Alexander and others.

GALLEGO GARCIA, Laura. Donde los árboles cantan. (Where the Trees Sing). SM. 2011. ebk. $6.99. ISBN 9788467557763.
Gr 7 Up –Viana has grown up with legends of the Great Forest, which is the place where the trees sing. She, the only daughter of the Duke of Rocagrís, has been betrothed to Robian of Castelmar since she was a child. Their nuptials are interrupted by the threat of the barbarians of the steppes. Robian is forced to go to war, and Viana has to wait for his return. This is when the legends of the forest come into play.

Premio Boolino de Narrativa Infantil
The Boolino prize is a fairly new children’s literature award that is designed to discover new talent. It is given in collaboration with Penguin Random House Publishing Group, Ediciones B, and Bruño. The most recent winter is Cristina Alfonso Ibañez, whose Entre todas las estrellas was a unanimous choice of the award jury.

IBAÑEZ, Cristina Alfonso. Entre todas las estrellas. (Among All the Stars). Blok. 2015. pap. $12. ISBN 9788416075713.
Gr 5-8 –Once in while you find a gem that you wish was published in an English translation. This is one of those books. One by one, three kids—Natalia, Pedro and Lucía—find their way to a seemingly abandoned house in a remote area. Each of them has left home for various reasons. They are joined by mysterious figure Iván, who says that this house belongs to his grandfather. Through the course of the evening, they each reveal their stories and their reason for estrangement from their families. News of a horrible accident on the freeway and a trip to the hospital reveal that Iván is not exactly who he seems. The threads are tied together in one of the most satisfying conclusions that I have recently read. It is distinguished by gorgeous writing with lyrical passages that readers will want to keep as quotes.

Premio El Barco de Vapor
SM is a publisher based in Spain that has a global reach with offices throughout Latin America. The SM Foundation has given the Barco de Vapor (Steamboat) awards since 1978. The award is presented to “promote the creation of a literature for children and youth to foster a taste for reading and transmit, with literary quality, human, social, cultural or religious values.” Besides Spain, the Barco de Vapor awards are also given in Peru, Puerto Rico, Argentina, and Colombia. The 2016 winner in Spain is Roberto Santiago.

SANTIAGO, Roberto. Los protectores. illus. by Paula Blumen. (The Protectors). SM. 2015. Tr $12.50. ISBN 9788467586145.
Gr 7 Up –Victor Friman is old and new. He and his family return to what was once his home and find that everything has changed. Victor meets an irresistible girl named Barbara, who turns out to be a member of a secret group known as “The Protectors.” There is also a gang on the streets known as Los Apaches. Victor is drawn into a situation where nothing is familiar and he has to figure out what inner resources he truly possesses.

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Celebrate Banned Books Week with Nonfiction Tue, 27 Sep 2016 13:00:19 +0000 Considering what qualifies nonfiction as nonfiction, it’s no surprise how unlikely the connection between the words nonfiction and banned are in most minds, yet works of nonfiction are contested quite regularly. Four out of the 10 titles on the ALA’s Office of Intellectual Freedom’s (OIF) 2015 list of the top 10 most challenged books were nonfiction. What happens to collections when communities routinely challenge, and in extreme cases petition to ban, works that are based in fact? Does it skew or shape how children and teens encounter history, science, and the world in general?

In keeping with Banned Books Week’s 2016 theme of diversity, here is a selection of high school nonfiction titles from the SLJ (and in two cases Library Journal) archives that have been banned or challenged at one time or another—and in most cases repeatedly.

Likely the most contested work to be featured in this list, high school curriculum mainstay Maya Angelou’s I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, first published in 1969, has been widely restricted throughout the 40-plus years it has been in print. In the 2000s alone, the title makes the OIF’s challenged list four times (2001, 2002, 2004, and 2007). Below is the original 1970 review of the title from our sister publication, Library Journal.


Photo scan of LJ‘s review of I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. (LJ 3/15/70)

ANGELOU, Maya. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. 288p. Random. 1970. $6.95. LC 73-85598.

This autobiography covering the childhood and adolescence of a black girl in rural Arkansas, St. Louis, Missouri, and San Francisco has many strong points. The story of Maya and her brother Bailey is horrifying and painful to read; yet the strong and sensitive young woman who endures and overcomes is fascinating. Angelou is a skillful writer; her language ranges from beautifully lyrical prose to earthy metaphor, and her descriptions have power and sensitivity. This is one of the best autobiographies of its kind that I have read. Especially recommended for public libraries.Elizabeth M. Guiney, Department of English, North Hennepin State Junior College, Osseo, Minn.

This review was published in the Library Journal March 15, 1970 issue.

Despite its ongoing commercial and critical success, including its adaptation into a Tony Award–winning musical, Alison Bechdel’s 2006 graphic novel memoir Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic was number seven on the OIF’s 2015 list. While this is a work better suited for mature readers, a surprising number of college students have led challenges against it. In 2015, a group of incoming Duke University freshman publicly vocalized their objection to the work on social media, calling for Duke to remove the book from the voluntary summer reading list. Other objections from students have occurred at the University of Utah and the College of Charleston. Here is Library Journal‘s starred review of it in their Collection Development feature “Developing Definitions” by Lisa N. Johnson (LJ 3/1/14).

bechdel_fun-homeredstarBECHDEL, Alison. Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic. Mariner. 2007. 232p. ISBN 9780618871711. pap. $14.95; ebk. ISBN 9780547347004.

Bechdel, author of the award-winning comic strip Dykes To Watch Out For, paints her own story in this stunning graphic memoir. Her black-and-white line drawings, brushed with a blue wash, bring to life her childhood with her distant actress mother and her mysterious father, the proprietor of a funeral home. Bechdel’s coming-out process is stifled when her father commits suicide, and she realizes that he, too, was gay. One of the best graphic memoirs to date, this book was the basis of a long-running off-Broadway play. (LJ 7/06)

This review was republished in the Library Journal March 1, 2014 issue.

Juno Dawson’s This Book Is Gay was such a source of a contention in the Wasilla (AK) Public Library in 2015 that a city council meeting was flooded with angry parents over the book’s depiction and exploration of gay sex. According to Hank Reichman’s article in the Journal of Intellectual Freedom and Privacy‘s spring 2016 issue, the entire YA nonfiction section was moved to the adult stacks, with plans in the future to house all nonfiction in one section permanently.

DAWSON, Juno. This Book Is Gay. illus. by Spike Gerrell. 272p. glossary. websites. Sourcebooks Fire. Jun. 2015. Tr $15.99. ISBN 9781492617822; pap. $9.99. ISBN 9781492617839.

Gr 10 Up–This witty, no-holds-barred look at the LGBTQ experience provides information that parents or school friends often can’t or won’t give. The book covers dating, religious perceptions of LGBTQ people, bullying, coming out, and more. Employing occasionally snarky, informal language, Dawson provides very direct, frank guidance (among the subheadings are “Doing the Sex” and “Why Are Gay Men So Slutty?”), including sexual advice (complete with labeled anatomical cartoons). However, these are all topics about which teens are curious. Though the book has an intended audience, a variety of readers will appreciate it. VERDICT An insightful option for those with questions about what it’s like to be LGBTQ.April Sanders, Spring Hill College, Mobile, AL

This review was published in the School Library Journal June 2015 issue.

kurklin_beyondmagentaSusan Kuklin’s Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out was the fourth most contested work of 2015, according to the OIF. Curiously, one of the many reasons the book was challenged was to “ward off complaints,” signalling that not just patrons but librarians themselves were uneasy about the presence of this lauded work. For more about this title, check out SLJ‘s interview with Kuklin from February 2014.

KUKLIN, Susan. Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out. photos by Susan Kuklin. 192p. Candlewick. Feb. 2014. RTE $22.99. ISBN 9780763656119; ebk. $22.99. ISBN 9780763670351.

Gr 9 Up–Extended interviews with six very different transgender, genderqueer, and intersex young adults allow these youth to tell their stories in their own words. Author-interviewer-photographer Kuklin interjects only briefly with questions or explanations so that the voices of these youth—alternately proud and fearful, defiant and subdued, thoughtful and exuberant—shine through. While the interview subjects do occasionally ramble or become vague, the power of these 12- to 40-page interviews is that readers become immersed in these young adults’ voices and experiences. The youth interviewed here do not uniformly share “It Gets Better”–style happy endings, but their strength is nonetheless inspirational as they face ongoing challenges with families, sexual and romantic relationships, bullies, schools, transitions, mental health, and more. The level of detail about their lives, and the diversity of their identities—including gender, sexuality, ethnicity, religion, and geography—provide a powerful antidote to the isolation and stigma that some transgender youth experience. Photographs of four of the subjects, including some before-and-after transition pictures from childhood and adolescence, help tell their stories and bring their transitions to life. Extensive back matter includes an interview with the clinical director of a health program for LGBTQI youth, a glossary, and books, media, websites, and organizations of interest to transgender youth. While this book’s format and subject matter are probably never going to attract a broad audience, there is much here that will resonate with and hearten the kids who need it, and will foster understanding and support among those who live and work with transgender teens.Sarah Stone, San Francisco Public Library

This review was published in the School Library Journal February 2014 issue.

Mark Mathabane’s 1986 memoir Kaffir Boy was banned from a middle school in Burlingame, CA, back in 2007, as reported by the Washington Post. Another challenge came to the book in 2010, but a review committee for the San Luis Obispo High School (also in California) voted to keep the book despite the anonymous letters sent to the school board objecting to its content.

mathabaneMATHABANE, Mark. Kaffir Boy: The True Story of a Black Youth’s Coming of Age in Apartheid South Africa. 354p. photos. index. Macmillan. Apr. 1986. ISBN 0025818007.

Gr 7 Up—Those needing graphic confirmation of the harrowing experience of growing up poor and black in apartheid South Africa will find it in Mathabane’s autobiography. His earliest memories were those of violent midnight visits from the dreaded black police, looking for those without the crucial passbook. His parents lived illegally in Alexandra; his father went to jail for a year because he had no job. Daily life was a struggle for food, shelter, and existence. The fact that he was at the top of every class, plus his newly discovered ability in tennis, gained him local recognition. American tennis star Steven Smith was instrumental in pushing for his journey to America, where he attended college and where he is now a writer on his homeland. Mathabane writes with compelling energy, and the details of his struggle will grip readers with immediate intensity. His story, while only one side, is a microcosm of the black African’s fight for independence.Diana C. Hirsch, PGCMLS, Md.

This review was published in the School Library Journal December 1986 issue.

In 2013, the Chicago Public School system ordered the district-wide classroom and curriculum removal of Satrapi’s wildly praised and beloved autobiographical graphic novel Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood. While the book was allowed to remain on library shelves, the news still came as a shock.

SATRAPI, Marjane. Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood. illus. by Marjane Satrapi. 153p. Pantheon. Apr. 2003. Tr $17.95. ISBN 9780375422300.satrapi

Gr 9 Up–Marji tells of her life in Iran from the age of 10, when the Islamic revolution of 1979 reintroduced a religious state, through the age of 14, when the Iran-Iraq war forced her parents to send her to Europe for safety. This story, told in graphic format with simple, but expressive black-and-white illustrations, combines the normal rebelliousness of an intelligent adolescent with the horrors of war and totalitarianism. Marji’s parents, especially her free-thinking mother, modeled a strong belief in freedom and equality, while her French education gave her a strong faith in God. Her Marxist-inclined family initially favored the overthrow of the shah, but soon realized that the new regime was more restrictive and unfair than the last. The girl’s independence, which made her parents both proud and fearful, caused them to send her to Austria. With bold lines and deceptively uncomplicated scenes, Satrapi conveys her story. From it, teens will learn much of the history of this important area and will identify with young Marji and her friends. This is a graphic novel of immense power and importance for Westerners of all ages. It will speak to the same audience as Art Spiegelman’s Maus.Susan H. Woodcock, Fairfax County Public Library, Chantilly, VA

This review was published in the School Library Journal August 2003 issue.


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Even More Awards for Spanish, Latin American, and Latin@ Kid Lit Tue, 27 Sep 2016 12:58:28 +0000 Banner_horizontal.jpg_Looking for more award-winning titles to add to your Spanish-language collections and to include more Latin@-focused acclaimed children’s and young adult books?  Here are other book prizes that are given in Spain, Latin America, and in the United States that can help fulfill that need.

City of Málaga Prize for Children’s Literature (Spain)

In its seventh year, this award is given to aspiring children’s authors with an opportunity for publication by Anaya, a Spanish publisher. Juana Cortés Amunarriz won the 2016 Premio de Literatura Infantil “Ciudad de Málaga” for her Esmeralda, una mula y un buey.

barcanovaPremio Barcanova

The Barcanova Prize is a literary prize from Spain for children’s and young adult novels written in Catalan. It’s sponsored by the Editorial Barcanova imprint, which is part of Grupo Anaya.

The 14th Premio Barcanova de Literatura Infantil y Juvenil was awarded in December 2015 in the children’s category to Juan Bustos  for his Fina Ensurts, and to Aina Sastre in the young adult category for her Quan arriba el moment.  Each author was given a publishing contract with Anaya and 10.000 euros.

Premio Edebé de Literatura Infantil y Juvenil

This is a prize given by Editorial Edebé, a Spanish publishing group based in Barcelona. The 24th prizes were given to Jordi Sierra i Fabra for his El aprendiz de brujo y Los Invisibles and Luis Leante for his Huye sin mirar atrás.

Premio Hispanoamericano de Poesía para Niños

A Mexican prize for children’s poetry given by the Fundacion Para las Letras Mexicanas (Center for Mexican Letters).

The most recent winners of the Fundacion .....

The most recent winners of Mexico’s Premio Hispanoamericano de Poesía para Niños.

Premio Luna de Aire

The Luna Air Award is a literary prize for poetry written for a young audience. It is organized by the University of Castilla La Mancha, specifically CEPLI Cuenca, in Spain. Beatriz Berrocal won the most recent award with La revolución de las perdices, published by Ediciones SM, and illustrated by Raquel Saiz.

BOP – Bologna Prize Best Children’s Publisher of the Year

At the recent Bologna Children’s Book Fair in Italy, Editions Ekaré received the award for Best Children’s Book Publisher of the Year for Central and South America.  According to the award jury, Ekaré “has established a bridge between old Europe and the New World. Its rich catalog contains important works from Europe, and great attention to culture, the traditions of the entire continent of South America.”  Take a look this publisher’s online catalog as a great source for collection development.  Ekaré’s books are known for their quality. Besides Venezuela, Ekaré has a strong presence in Chile as well.

Other Latin@ Book Awards in the United States

NF_Tonatiuh_FunnyBonesThere is a bit of crossover between these awards and the Pura Belpré award, as they are drawing from the same eligible titles.

Américas Award

The Consortium of Latin American Studies Programs (CLASP) founded the Américas Award in 1993 to encourage and commend authors, illustrators and publishers who produce quality children’s and young adult books that portray Latin America, the Caribbean, or Latinos in the United States, and to provide teachers with recommendations for classroom use. CLASP offers up to two annual book awards, together with a commended list of titles.

In 2016, the Américas Award review committee recognized 16 books. Pam Muñoz Ryan’s Echo and Ashley Hope Pérez’s Out of Darkness were the 2016 winners and Matt Tavares’s Growing Up Pedro: How the Martinez Brothers Made it from the Dominican Republic All the Way to the Major Leagues and Duncan Tonatiuh’s Funny Bones. The authors and illustrators will be honored on September 22, 2016, in an award ceremony at the Library of Congress that is free and open to the public.

International Latino Book Awards

YA_Perez_outofdarknessThe 18th International Latino Book Awards finalists were announced earlier this year. The largest awards in the U.S. celebrating achievements in Latino literature, the event is organized by Latino Literacy Now in partnership with Las Comadres para las Americas and the Instituto Cervantes.   With the 257 finalists this year, it has honored the greatness of 2,171 authors and publishers over the past two decades.   The2016 awards will be presented on September 8 in Los Angeles.

Tomás Rivera Book Award 

The Texas State University College of Education developed the Tomás Rivera Mexican American Children’s Book Award to honor authors and illustrators who create literature that depicts the Mexican American experience. The award was established in 1995 and was named in honor of Dr. Tomás Rivera, a distinguished alumnus of Texas State University.  The 2016 winners were Perez’s Out of Darkness and Tonatiuh’s Funny Bones.

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Creepify Your Library: Molly Wetta Curates SLJ’s Halloween Pinterest Board Tue, 27 Sep 2016 11:00:50 +0000 witch-lanterns

DIY Enchanting Halloween Lanterns from Adventure in a Box.

All Hallows’ Eve is fast approaching, and the holiday is prime time for bringing teens into the library. In need of some inspiration in advance of Halloween? Look no further than School Library Journal’s Halloween Library Ideas Pinterest board. Blogger and collection development librarian at the Lawrence Public Library, KS, Molly Wetta has curated SLJ’s board, showcasing displays, program ideas, YA lit picks, and more.


Edgar Allan Poe display. Saved from

“My favorites for programming are the candy science (teens love this as much as kids, and can do more advanced projects) and the pumpkin book art,” says Wetta. As for the books, she feels that a combination of classic horror and new titles are just right for highlighting scary events in October. “For display, I love doing an Edgar Allan Poe theme and including all the recent YA inspired by him, classics, and Edgar Award winners.”

The member manager at YALSA’s blog “The Hub,” Wetta has pinned her favorite selections of book displays, program ideas, and signage for the yearly event. She will continue to pin new ideas as the holiday approaches. (She’s really looking forward to adding more Stranger Things–related suggestions.)

In addition to reviewing YA titles, Wetta blogs about YA book trends, feminism in teen literature, and how librarians can use social media to reach their students and patrons at “Wrapped Up in Books.”


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Middle Grade Xpress Reviews | October 2016 Mon, 26 Sep 2016 19:15:50 +0000 Quantum Leap–type romp for middle graders. These and more in this month's crop of online-only reviews.]]> 1610_mg-xpress

For more of this month’s
Xpress Reviews:

Arato, Rona. Sammy and the Headless Horseman. 230p. Fitzhenry & Whiteside. Sept. 2016. pap. $12.95. ISBN 9781554552696.

Gr 4-6 –Sammy, a Polish immigrant to New York, is sent to stay with his aunt and awful cousin Joshua at a hotel in the Catskills, just after World War I. His newly remarried dad thinks he’s sending his son on vacation, but Aunt Pearl has other plans for the boy—she has signed him up to work at the hotel to earn his keep. This is fine with Sammy, as he soon befriends 15-year-old Adam, who also does odd jobs around the property. Adam tells Sammy about the Hermit, an escaped slave from Georgia who lives on the hill overlooking the hotel. During their first encounter with the Hermit, they learn that several instances of vandalism have occurred on his property and that he’s seen a black horse with a headless, cloaked rider during each event. The kids form their own sleuth squad and set out to find out who is really haunting their friend. As a mystery, this book lacks tension and is not that successful, but as a historical piece, it’s unique in its portrayal of a time period about which little middle grade fiction is written. It’s also an interesting look at the culture of Judaism and the practice of cooking and keeping kosher. The jacket art and text don’t accurately represent the story, so kids who pick it up hoping for the spooky tale the cover promises might be disappointed. VERDICT For larger collections looking to increase multicultural or historical fiction sections.–Mandy Laferriere, Fowler Middle School, Frisco, TX

Brallier, Max. The Last Kids on Earth and the Zombie Parade. illus. by Douglas Holgate. 304p. ebook available. Viking. Sept. 2016. Tr $13.99. ISBN 9780670016624.

Gr 3-6 –Readers met 13-year-old abandoned foster kid–turned–monster slayer Jack Sullivan and his adolescent makeshift army in The Last Kids on Earth. In this excellent sequel, the zombies are mysteriously disappearing. As the zombies walk in droves toward a shrieking sound, their brains are being sucked out of their skulls. While no fan of the undead, Jack and his squad set out to solve the mystery. New alliances are formed and trusts are broken, culminating in an all-out monster brawl to save their world. The continuation of this hybrid series capitalizes on gross-out fun. The realistic writing style keeps the narrative moving at a fast pace, while the frenzied pencil artwork supports its humorous tone. But what distinguishes this adventure is the character development. The members work through their fears of loss, abandonment, and loneliness to unite as a family. The language is sophisticated, geared toward readers who enjoy rousing adventures. The open-ended conclusion allows for the possibility of more exciting exploits. A gallery highlighting various nefarious creatures is an added treat. VERDICT For fans of the first book, this sequel does not disappoint. This series is a must-have for middle grade collections.–Sada Mozer, Los Angeles Public Library

Heede, Sylvia Vanden. What Dog Knows. tr. from Dutch by Bill Nagelkerke. illus. by Marije Tolman. 124p. Gecko. Sept. 2016. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781776570362.

Gr 3-6 –Dog and Wolf are cousins. Dog is smart, while Wolf is curious and loves talking in rhyme. This illustrated import from the Netherlands centers on their friendship, with a healthy dose of nonfiction information as the canines investigate high-interest topics such as robots, dinosaurs, mummies, skeletons, pirates, and more. Occasional hands-on projects are showcased for readers to make and create, while sporadic quizzes check comprehension of vocabulary. Some topics are dished up with a slice of dark humor, but the entire book exudes a quirky charm. Spot and full-page images add to the volume’s zany presentation and make it a great choice for reluctant readers. VERDICT This companion to Wolf and Dog is a beautifully illustrated and unusual book sure to tickle the funny bone of independent readers.–Helen Foster James, University of California at San Diego

Joseph, Lynn. Dancing in the Rain. 200p. Blue Moon. Sept. 2016. pap. $11.99. ISBN 9789769543690.

Gr 5-8 –Two families marked by the tragic events of 9/11 come together. Twelve-year-old Elizabeth lives in the Dominican Republic with her mother and aunt. Her father works in a restaurant at the top of the tallest tower in New York City and sends money home to his family. Eight-year-old Brandt lives in New York with his Dominican mother and older brother Jared. Brandt’s mother is a lawyer working at a firm in the World Trade Center. The plot unfolds in alternating chapters narrated by each child. Readers learn about imaginative Elizabeth and her love of her father, who is so far away yet seems closer than her no-nonsense mother. Meanwhile, Brandt’s home life is tense, and he must bridge the gap between his mother and brilliant but difficult brother. When the Twin Towers fall apart, so do the two families. In a state of depression and having lost friends, colleagues, and her place of employment, Brandt’s mother moves the family to her father’s home on the Caribbean island. There the two children meet and team up in an effort to bring joy back into their mothers’ lives. But can joy be given to others, or must it come from within? As the children figure out, there is no clear-cut answer to that question. Though the narrative is centered on the fall of the Twin Towers, in a broader sense it is a book on loss and grief. VERDICT Through the two narrators, Joseph presents a look at grief that is very real and relatable. Read this along with Jewell Parker Rhodes’s Towers Falling. Recommended for school and public libraries.–Lucia Acosta, Children’s Literature Specialist, NJ

Lee, C.B. Not Your Sidekick. 294p. Duet. Sept. 2016. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781945053030; ebk. $6.99. ISBN 9781945053047.

Gr 5-8 –Although her parents are the local superheroes, it looks like Jessica Tran is merely “normal.” Taking an internship would be another normal thing for her, except it turns out she’ll be working with her biggest crush as well as for her parents’ nemesis. Can she work alongside Abby without making a total fool of herself? And what is the truth about heroes and villains in this superpowered world? This is a light romp of a middle grade adventure/romance, but the real strength is in its matter-of-fact representation of LGBTQ and first-generation American identities. While the meanings of these identities are explored, they are not the focus of the book and are simply part of the character- and world-building. Coming out has already happened, friendships based on immigrant identity are complicated, and there are many primary and secondary characters who fall into these categories so that no single character has to stand for everyone. It’s unfortunate that the use of the third person is so clunky throughout and that the twists are so obvious, but these are minor issues. VERDICT A good addition to any middle grade library concerned with LGBTQ and racial diversity representation across all genres.–L. Lee Butler, Hart Middle School, Washington, DC

MacHale, D.J. Curse of the Boggin. 256p. (The Library: Bk. 1). ebook available. Random. Sept. 2016. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781101932537; lib. ed. $19.99. ISBN 9781101932544.

Gr 4-6 –Feisty Marcus O’Mara isn’t afraid to do what’s right. He takes a stand against his bullying teacher and earns himself several days of detention. While in detention, Marcus spies a ghostly man clad in pajamas and, more disturbingly, a raging bull trashing the school’s trophy cases. Unfortunately, his principal cannot see the bull, nor is there any evidence of the damage that Marcus witnessed. Instead, he earns himself more detentions and the wrath of his adoptive mother, who really seems to hate him lately. After a second sighting of the pajama-clad ghost and being told to “surrender the key,” Marcus intends to solve this mystery. He is a self-described outsider with just two good friends, Lu, who is into roller derby, and Theo, who is “straight-A smart.” Once Marcus gets his hands on the key, he discovers it leads to a mysterious library curated by an odd, old librarian, filled with unfinished stories of the dead. The boy is tasked with finishing the story of a man in pajamas who happens to have a connection to his birth parents. Middle grade readers eager for horror will find many scary thrills in this cinematic page-turner with a diverse cast of characters. MacHale knows how to ratchet up the suspense as the likable narrator and his best friends pool their talents in an effort to fight an ancient enemy. VERDICT This spine-tingling series starter is sure to attract a quick following of fans eager for the next installment.–Brenda Kahn, Tenakill Middle School, Closter, NJ

MacLachlan, Patricia. The Poet’s Dog. 112p. HarperCollins/Katherine Tegen Bks. Sept. 2016. Tr $14.99. ISBN 9780062292629.

Gr 3-5 –Nikel and his sister Flora are caught in a blizzard. Left in a car by their mother, who went to get help and did not return, they are saved by Teddy; it’s a heroic act for a human but all the more impressive for a dog. Teddy was once rescued himself, taken from a shelter by a poet named Sylvan, who surrounded him with words and read him Shakespeare, James Joyce, and C.S. Lewis, as well as his favorite book, Donald Hall’s Ox-Cart Man. Though Teddy comprehends words, only poets and children can understand the canine. Nikel, Flora, and Teddy spend several days together at the dog’s cabin while the blizzard rages on, and Teddy tells the children about his life with Sylvan and how Sylvan recently passed away. Similar in length to a beginning reader, the novel has sophisticated vocabulary and sensitive subject matter that make it better suited for mature young readers; it would also work as a classroom or one-on-one read aloud. MacLachlan writes with a quiet cadence readers will savor, as the book alternates between the present and Teddy’s life with Sylvan, with italics alerting readers to the shift in time. VERDICT Though this contemplative fantasy explores grief, it is also about overcoming loss and is resolved in a way that will comfort sensitive readers. A strong purchase for larger fiction collections.–Juliet Morefield, Multnomah County Library, OR

Matthews, John. Henry Hunter and the Beast of Snagov. illus. by Nick Tankard. 240p. (Henry Hunter: Bk. 1). ebook available. Sky Pony. Sept. 2016. Tr $15.99. ISBN 9781510710382.

Gr 4-6 –The first installment in a new middle grade series about two English schoolboys who could not be more different. Sheepish Adolphus Pringle, known as Dolf, narrates as he follows the trail of the bold and brilliant Henry, a “twelve-year-old millionaire genius,” to solve a Transylvanian mystery. A strength of the story is the bewildered voice of Dolf, who would have never gotten into any of this drama had it not been for his friendship with the quixotic Hunter. This is a fast-paced and humorous spin on Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Matthews is a folklorist, so it is no surprise that the tale is filled with “revamped” myths of vampires, including a secret society, the Count’s motorcycling daughter, and the mysterious slimy beast referred to in the title. It could be paired with the classic to learn more about the textual references or with a nonfiction book on folklore or Romanian castles. Some readers may find it funny that in this novel Dracula’s daughter, Bella, shares the same name as Stephenie Meyer’s protagonist in the “Twilight” series. That is about where the similarity ends. The vampire Bella frequently saves the two 12-year-olds from danger and despite her cool spiky hair never becomes a romantic interest. The stylized pen-and-ink vignettes by Tankard are atmospheric and playful. Like the author, he consistently portrays these characters with equal amounts of danger and humor. VERDICT An action-filled middle grade adventure series debut with a unique pair of protagonists; may also spark interest through its plays on literature and folklore.–Jennifer Gibson, SUNY Cortland

redstarSands, Kevin. Mark of the Plague. 544p. (Blackthorn Key: Bk. 2). S. & S./Aladdin. Sept. 2016. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781481446747.

Gr 4-8 –This follow-up to The Blackthorn Key places readers right in the middle of the nastiest event the 1600s had to offer—the Black Plague. Not only are Christopher and his friends tasked with avoiding the deadly disease but they must also contend with the prophets, zealots, and frauds who seem to attach themselves to all tragic events. Sands’s writing is gripping and expertly paced. The action spins with breathless twists and turns. The characters react logically without appearing clairvoyant. The deep understanding of herbs, mixtures, and remedies will inspire some and astound others. Christopher and his companions are relatable tweens. This story would make for a great fictional pairing in history class. VERDICT An excellent sequel. Readers who haven’t yet discovered this series are in for a treat.–Chad Lane, Tulip Grove Elementary School, MD

Scott, Kate. Boy in Tights. 192p. (Spies in Disguise: Bk. 1.) Sky Pony. Apr. 2016. pap. $7.99. ISBN 9781634506892.

Gr 3-5 –In this fluffy opener of what promises to be an engaging series for transitional readers, tween Joe discovers that his “cup-of-tea-and-a-cookie-in-front-of-the-TV” boring parents are actually international spies. After their covers are blown, Joe’s parents must assume new identities and start over in a new place. Because their enemies are aware that Joe’s parents are traveling with a boy, Joe must pose as a girl in order to throw off their pursuers. Joe balks at the gender switch, a feeling that deepens when his parents insist that he wear all things pink and sparkly so as to appear convincingly feminine. Initially preoccupied with sexist stereotypes, Joe (now Josie) sees his female peers as makeup-obsessed and frivolous. Gradually, his perceptions shift as he gets to know tomboy Sam, who isn’t like any of the other girls. Though this title may grate on adults, young readers will definitely comprehend that Joe’s understanding of gender performance is narrow. Joe tolerates the role-playing by immersing himself in his favorite spy books, which focus on a character named Dan McGuire. Life imitates art when Joe finds out his teacher is embezzling school monies; the tween decides to catch the culprit with high-tech gadgets pilfered from his parents. While the caper element occasionally stretches credulity, it hardly detracts from the solid pacing and silly humor. VERDICT A suitable addition to collections needing more light mysteries that will resonate with a wide range of readers.–Lalitha Nataraj, Escondido Public Library, CA

Scrimger, Richard. Downside Up. 272p. Tundra. Sept. 2016. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781770498457.

Gr 5-8 –Fred’s dog Casey died two months ago, and the Toronto sixth grader has been carrying around Casey’s tennis ball ever since. Fred drops the ball one day, and it rolls through a sewer grate. When he jumps in to retrieve it, he discovers that Casey is alive and ready to play on the other side. At first, the upside-down world seems almost the same as the one left behind, with upside-down Fred (called Freddie on this side of the sewer) going to the same school with the same students. Freddie and Fred live in identical houses, and each has an older sister named Izzy. Everyone seems happier than Fred remembers. Soon, however, dragons and newfound athletic powers make Fred suspect that there is more to discover in this alternate reality. When Fred’s Izzy follows him through the sewer to the upside-down world, his unnamed but growing feelings of dread and discomfort creep into this idyllic parallel reality and we discover that Casey isn’t the only loved one Fred has recently lost. What initially appears to be a story about the struggle to accept the death of a beloved pet slowly reveals itself to be a sad, sweet, and unexpectedly complex examination of the grieving process, the balance between choice and inevitability, and the power of belief and remembrance. VERDICT A thought-provoking and ultimately hopeful work. Fred’s authentic voice provides a balm to those struggling to understand loss and inspires all to view the world with fresh eyes.–Alyssa Annico, Youngstown State University, OH

Shull, Megan. Bounce. 384p. HarperCollins/Katherine Tegen Bks. Sept. 2016. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780062311726.

Gr 5 Up –It’s Christmas Eve, and 12-year-old Frannie Hudson’s parents left her at home with her two older siblings in order to jet away on a Caribbean vacation. Carmen and Teddy are throwing an out-of-control party, exiling Frannie to her bedroom. She falls asleep, thinking things can’t get any worse. Instead of waking up in her room the next morning, Frannie has “bounced” into another person’s reality. She is thrust into the body of a country girl with a loving family who accept her without question. The preteen is totally confused but feels so much more at home than she ever did in her real life. At the end of each day, Frannie “bounces” into another person’s life, from a pop star, to a girl sailing around the world with her father and little brother, to, most surprisingly, a girl she has seen being bullied at school. Each time she wakes up, the protagonist has to adjust to new surroundings and expectations. Instead of feeling alone and helpless, like she does in her normal life, Frannie rises to the challenge, and through being in other people’s skin, she discovers the truth of who she is and what defines her. Shull uses the surreal narrative to explore the dynamics of family conflicts, taking Frannie on a journey in which she experiences emotions and situations that ultimately teach her to accept her situation but not let it define her. A somewhat unsympathetic narrator in the beginning, she grows more likable and even funny throughout. VERDICT Inspirational without being overly didactic. Hand this empowering novel to readers that need a boost of self-confidence.–Tara Kron, formerly at School Library Journal

Towler, Grayson. The Dragon Waking. 288p. Albert Whitman. Aug. 2016. Tr $14.99. ISBN 9780807517048.

Gr 5-7 –Thirteen-year-old Rose Gallagher shares only one thing in common with her dad: an interest in rock hunting. When she discovers a rare stone in the Nevada desert, she doesn’t expect to find a shape-shifting dragon as well—and there’s no way she can tell her dad about Jade. With the help of her late mother’s friend, Mrs. Jersey, Rose is able to communicate with the green dragon. She, along with Mrs. Jersey and best friend Clay, learns that Jade is the first of her kind to awaken millions of years after the comet that killed the dinosaurs—and, it turns out, drove the dragons into an enchanted sleep to survive. The rare stone is a fragment of that comet, known as the Harbinger, and it can be used to awaken all of the sleeping dragons, which is what Rex Triumph, the sinister casino king who is actually a dragon, desperately wants. Rose and Jade bravely face a fierce battle in the skies of Las Vegas to keep the Harbinger out of Rex Triumph’s hands. This fast-paced, imaginative fantasy adventure will appeal to Percy Jackson fans, who will likely demand a sequel. VERDICT A strong choice for middle grade fantasy collections.–Laurie Slagenwhite Walters, Brighton District Library, MI

Wiseman, Eva. Another Me. 240p. ebook available. Tundra. Sept. 2016. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781770497160.

Gr 5-7 –A heartbreaking account of a young Jewish man, Natan, who defies death in order to save his people. The Jewish inhabitants of Middle Ages–era Strasbourg face daily persecution, intolerance, and even physical violence. They are forced to pay high prices to ensure a tremulous sense of safety and are segregated from the general population, and their way of life becomes even more difficult as the Black Death falls like a shadow over the land. Natan, in the wrong place at the wrong time, stumbles across an active plot to falsely accuse the local Jews of poisoning the town’s water and finds himself the mortal victim of paranoia and hate. While his body lies prone at the feet of his killers, Natan’s consciousness miraculously moves to inhabit the body of a young Christian man, and romantic rival, Hans. Granted a second chance, Natan seeks not only to bring justice to his murderers but also to save the Jews of Strasbourg from further plots. While the historical element of the writing is, at times, a bit heavy-handed, the simple narrative and unique story line serve to engage readers. Although this tale centers on heinous acts, the actual violence is glossed over, making the text palatable for more sensitive readers. VERDICT More broadly approachable, if clunkier, than Karen Cushman’s Catherine, Called Birdy and with a fast-paced narrative reminiscent of Laurie Halse Anderson’s Fever 1793, this offering will engage reluctant readers—even those who are normally averse to historical fiction. Recommended for general purchase.–Rose Garrett, Cliff Valley School, Atlanta, GA

Woodfine, Katherine. The Mystery of the Clockwork Sparrow. 320p. (The Sinclair’s Mysteries: Bk. 3). Kane Miller. Sept. 2016. pap. $6.99. ISBN 9781610674379.

Gr 4-7 –Inspired by the real history of London’s Selfridges, which opened in 1909, this is the tale of Sinclair’s department store and a mystery involving the disappearance of Mr. Edward Sinclair’s jeweled ornament, The Clockwork Sparrow. The heroine, Miss Sophie Taylor, is lucky to work as a shopgirl in the millinery department and gets caught up in the mysterious drama as she stumbles across the valuable ornament the night before the grand opening. The narrative takes place in a time when ladies wore hats, papers were sold by newsboys, and children played with crafted wooden toys. It is a classic whodunit with criminals, gangs, top secret documents, and old-fashioned detective work. The setting is London’s lively Piccadilly Circus, which becomes a character itself as it evokes the grandeur of Harrods and Fortnum & Mason. Sophie teams up with a new friend, Miss Lilian Rose, to clear her name and solve the mystery. This was no ordinary robbery, and the girls uncover a very wicked and evil plan with the help of a colorful cast of characters. VERDICT A truly exciting novel that will appeal to lovers of historical fiction as well as adventure and detective stories. It may also entice readers who enjoy fashion history and city life.–Christina Pesiri, Michael F. Stokes Elementary School, Island Trees-Levittown, NY

Yoder, Eric & Natalie Yoder. One Minute Mysteries/¡Misterios de un minuto: More Short Mysteries You Solve with Science/¡Más misterios cortos que resuelves con ciencias! tr. by Esteban Bachelet & Nadia Bercovich. glossary. photos. 224p. Science, Naturally! Aug. 2016. pap. $12.95. ISBN 9781938492150. BL

Gr 3-6 –In the tradition of Encyclopedia Brown and “Solve Them Yourself” mysteries comes this STEM-friendly book filled with very short science-based mysteries. Each of the stories presents a “how” or “why” question that can be resolved through the application of scientific principles. The short, breezy, and fun entries range in topic from the colors of the rainbow to how to tell if eggs are fresh or hard-boiled. The authors give each tale a familiar and realistic setting—home, school—so that young readers will have an easier time grasping the concepts, which include general, physical, life, and earth science, with a bonus section on math. Each tale is presented in English, with the Spanish translation on the opposite page. At the bottom of each page is a reminder to think/piensa before turning the page to read the solution. The bilingual solutions are also on facing pages. Photos are sprinkled throughout, and a bilingual glossary is also included. VERDICT In a STEM-conscious curriculum environment, this book is a boon for teachers, who can use it to create interest in the subject matter.–Tim Wadham, Children’s Literature Consultant, WA

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Graphic Novels Xpress Reviews | October 2016 Mon, 26 Sep 2016 19:15:34 +0000 1610_gn-xpress-rev

For more of this month’s
Xpress Reviews:

Leth, Kate. Power Up. illus. by Matt Cummings. 160p. Boom! Studios. Jun. 2016. pap. $19.99. ISBN 9781608868377.

Gr 7 Up –What do a pet shop employee, a busy mom, a manly construction worker, and a goldfish all have in common? They are the four warriors who were long ago prophesied to lead the universe into a new age. Together they explore their new superpowers and, in some cases, new looks. Amie learns that she can heal rapidly and has super strength; Sandy discovers her powers of flight; Kevin has the ability to morph into a Sailor Moon–style character, complete with pink costume and staff; and Silas turns from a simple goldfish into an ultrapowerful magical whale. Not only do these characters battle the forces of evil, they also explore issues such as friendship, gender norms, sexuality, acceptance, and love. For example, when burly Kevin transforms, his body remains the same but he wears a pink dress with a heart-shaped bow. The others don’t make a big deal about it, and the only time the wardrobe change is addressed is when Amie asks, “Um…what’s with the outfit?”—to which Kevin replies, “It’s my armor.” This title is among the ever-growing new generation of graphic novels that are extremely entertaining and cover important topics. The vibrant illustrations add humor to this creative story. VERDICT For fans of “Lumberjanes,” “Miss Marvel,” and Nimona.–Annalise Ammer, Henrietta Public Library, NY

Lieberman, Zack. Max & Charlie. illus. by Louis Neubert. 136p. Exit Strategy New Media. Sept. 2016. Tr $34.95. ISBN 9780996929806; pap. $19.95. ISBN 9780996929813.

Gr 4-8 –A long, beautifully illustrated chase scene through a dreamscape of New York City. Charlie is a wildly imaginative young boy who falls asleep in a park with his beagle pup, Max. In the dream, Max takes off and Charlie pursues him through some very unusual interpretations of a few of Manhattan’s most famous landmarks. The artwork is spectacular, but the dialogue is odd: everywhere Charlie goes, strange people accost him with weird, long rambling lectures, mostly about making decisions and taking actions that can change the world, when all the poor kid wants to do is find his dog. As a result, it’s not clear who this book is for. Thankfully, the visuals tell most of the story. Vibrantly colored, expressive, and often surreal, the illustrations will keep readers turning pages because each and every spread is a new delight. VERDICT An unusual graphic novel that may confuse some. However, the artwork will charm most graphic novel fans, even adults.–Kelley Gile, Cheshire Public Library, CT

Tabata, Yuki. Black Clover: Vol. 1. illus. by Yuki Tabata. 192p. Viz Media. Jun. 2016. pap. $7.66. ISBN 9781421587189.

Gr 8 Up –Asta is a boy who dreams of becoming the most powerful magic user in his kingdom. After training his mind and body extensively, he discovers that he possesses absolutely no magical ability at all. Rather than giving up, Asta perseveres and acquires a power called “anti-magic,” which may turn out to be the most effective ability of all in a world where “magic is everything.” This title is the work of a relatively inexperienced author—and it shows. Tabata has clearly taken his inspiration from popular shonen manga, and elements from series such as “Bleach,” “Naruto,” “Fairy Tail,” and “One Piece” will be instantly recognizable to veteran manga readers. The art is solid: the characters are well-defined and expressive, the panels flow well together and are easy to follow, and the depictions of magic are whimsical. Though Tabata relies heavily on ideas from other series, there is potential here. If the series improves, it could well become the “Naruto” replacement die-hard fans have been longing for. VERDICT Though experienced readers won’t find anything new here, this volume is a good introduction to shonen for manga neophytes.–Kelley Gile, Cheshire Public Library, CT

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YA Xpress Reviews | October 2016 Mon, 26 Sep 2016 18:54:53 +0000 Crooked Kingdom to Gaby Triana's latest, October's online-only reviews include works for teens in a variety of genres—fantasy, realistic fiction, and more.]]> 1610_ya-xpress

For more of this month’s
Xpress Reviews:

Adams, Alane. Kalifus Rising. 365p. (Legends of Orkney: Bk. 2). ebook available. BookSparks/SparkPress. Sept. 2016. pap. $16.95. ISBN 9781940716848.

Gr 6-10 –This sequel to The Red Sun opens with hero Sam stranded on Orkney while his friends Howie, Keely, and Leo have returned home to Midgard (21st-century Earth). Prophetic dreams prepare them to be sucked back into the alternate realm where Odin rules, and upon arrival, each of the three is given a special name and a task to complete to prevent Sam from being compelled by the evil witch Catriona to accept the dark side of his magic and use it to kill Odin. Enemies close in; Howie, The Protector, tries to use his new skills to ensure that the witches don’t obliterate the city. Keely, The Seeker, must find the Moon Pearl before engaging the Varin frost giants—but, more important, she must find a way to free her own benign powers. As The Sacrifice, Leo must enter the underworld, where circumstances force him to free Loki as part of the setup for the next installment. Despite the author’s preference for short, choppy sentences, the story rises above the technical drawbacks, and readers will be intrigued by the friends’ quests. Familiarity with the previous novel is essential. VERDICT Purchase where The Red Sun is popular; this series will do well with the Percy Jackson crowd and fans of Norse mythology.–Elizabeth Friend, Wester Middle School, TX

redstarBardugo, Leigh. Crooked Kingdom. 560p. ebook available. Holt. Sept. 2016. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781627792134.

Gr 7 Up –Teens will be excited to return to Bardugo’s marvelous world, first visited in her “Grisha Trilogy” and in this duology’s previous Six of Crows. They will be treated to a visit from old friends—the graceful (and deadly) Inej; Nina, the Grisha Heartrender; Wylan, the discarded, illiterate merchant’s son; and the mysterious and vengeful Kaz. Characters from the original trilogy (most notably Stormhund, prince-turned-privateer) also make an entrance in the heart of the slums of Ketterdam. Plots to take control of the city’s underworld abound as Kaz rallies his allies and takes on the might of the rapacious merchant class and Pekka Rollins, King of the Barrel and ruler of the dregs of the city. Following the death of his brother, the antihero has surrounded himself with the castoffs of Ketterdam, all of them very young, defective in some way, and abandoned. Together they will either rule the city victoriously or fail magnificently. While it isn’t absolutely necessary to have read the other titles in Bardugo’s series, readers will be better served by this continuation if they are already familiar with the complex world and characters. This fast-paced dive into the Barrel, where fortunes are made and lost and life itself hangs in the balance, will keep readers enthralled long past bedtime. VERDICT A must-purchase for all YA collections.–Jane Henriksen Baird, Anchorage Public Library, AK

Barrowman, John & Carole Barrowman. Conjuror. 320p. (Orion Chronicles: Bk. 1). ebook available. Trafalgar Square. Jul. 2016. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781781856376.

Gr 9 UpTorchwood and Doctor Who actor Barrowman collaborates with his sister on a new YA series. The first installment teams up twins Matt and Emily Calder, the heroes from the Barrowmans’ “Hollow Earth” trilogy, with a powerful teen, Rémy Dupree Rush, the last Conjuror capable of stopping two evil entities from bringing to fruition the Second Kingdom and the coming of the dead. This work skips around in the first half, making it difficult to get into, and there is a good deal of exposition, but once the narrative gets going, the novel hits some good notes. It is fast-paced and intelligently written, but the real strength is in the characterization, with even minor and one-off characters being fully fleshed out. As with their previous titles, there is a heavy influence of the arts throughout. Music and works of art are referenced, and the people responsible for those works also play a part in the narrative. These references will hopefully stimulate interest in great paintings and music and send teens off to the stacks looking for more information. While the siblings’ previous books were written for middle grade, this series is firmly YA. The Calder twins are now in their mid-teens, there is some strong language, and mature situations are implied. VERDICT A slow start gives way to a very strong first installment in this promising new series; purchase where fantasy is popular.–Erik Knapp, Davis Library, Plano, TX

Florence, Melanie. One Night. 192p. (SideStreets). ebook available. Lorimer. Aug. 2016. lib. ed. $27.99. ISBN 9781459409842.

Gr 9 Up –Luna Begay is studious and has college plans, until she is drugged and raped at a party and ends up pregnant. Too far along for an abortion after confirming her pregnancy, she takes a Native American “miscarriage tea” that her younger sister Issy helps her brew. It doesn’t work. Shunned at school once her pregnancy is apparent, the teen is offered support and a secret from the school’s queen bee. Luna decides to put her child up for adoption. The book reads quickly and lightly, glossing over most of the emotional impact and trauma of the rape and resulting pregnancy. Luna, her sister, and her parents are one-note characters. Her parents are disappointed that she didn’t confide in them but remain supportive. The protagonist finds the perfect adoptive family with some “indigenous blood” in them, who took Native Studies courses in college. Powwows and relatives on the reservation are mentioned, along with a few Native terms sprinkled throughout, but there is no clear sense of place or tribal affiliation in this hi-lo work. Luna is called an “Indian slut,” but no context for the racial slur is provided, nor is violence against indigenous women addressed in a nuanced way. VERDICT A hi-lo title that reads like a Lifetime made-for-TV movie. An adequate choice for struggling readers.–Tamara Saarinen, Pierce County Library, WA

Ingram, Dayna. All Good Children. 202p. ebook available. Lethe. May 2016. pap. $15. ISBN 9781590215890.

Gr 8 Up –Jordan, a fearless and curious teenager, has heard stories of the ominous “Over” and “summer camp” stories her whole life. The Over are nine-foot tall birdlike creatures that have somehow taken over the entire world, watch humans from the sky, and are instilling fear into society just to “keep the peace.” They also make sure that their own existence is maintained. Summer camp isn’t quite what it sounds like, and Jordan’s rebellious behavior gets her noticed in the most unexpected way. While trying to figure out her own path in this world, Jordan finds herself in the middle of a life-altering process that could bring down the current establishment, and she figures out why all of her peers’ dreams are extinguished (quite literally) at birth. Ingram uses this beautifully written novel to bring Jordan and her family’s fears to life—separation, the possibility of aliens taking over the world, and the frightening but enticing idea of a revolution. This new and invigorating addition to the YA category spotlights the bond of family and explores women’s rights. Jordan develops from a naive teenager who is just trying to make it through her “special-needs” class to a very aware young woman, growing more and more skeptical of the government and her surroundings. This work ends with a cliff-hanger, as the protagonist finds herself at the beginning of a potential revolution. VERDICT A worthy selection for YA sci-fi collections.–Annette Muyumba, Purdue University, Lafayette, IN

Kanakia, Rahul. Enter Title Here. 352p. ebook available. Disney-Hyperion. Aug. 2016. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781484723876.

Gr 9 Up –Any student who has ever been the victim of a teacher’s favoritism toward a classmate or felt the sting of subtle but undeniable discrimination will love to hate Reshma Kapoor. Determined to get into Stanford despite her relatively low SAT scores, she’ll stop at nothing to be top of her class. But to guarantee her acceptance, Reshma needs to stand out from all of the other Silicon Valley overachievers, and she thinks she’s found the perfect hook. She’s going to publish a novel before the end of senior year. There’s just one problem; her publisher wants a story that young people will appreciate, but Reshma knows nothing about being a normal teen. So she assigns herself a six-week research project in which she must make a friend, attend a party, find a boyfriend, and have sex—and she is not afraid to use blackmail. Just as she’s beginning to accomplish her goals, however, she’s accused of plagiarism. Everything she’s worked so hard for her entire academic career is on the line. But there is not a defeatist bone in Reshma’s body, and she won’t go down without dragging everyone else with her. Teens will relate to the outrageous academic pressure, subjective bias, ethnic discrimination, and cutthroat business dealings that have led to Reshma’s deplorable behavior. Her encounters with friend Alex and her unbalanced therapist will keep readers laughing. VERDICT This book will do well among teens wherever academic expectations run high.–Cary Frostick, formerly at Mary Riley Styles Public Library, Falls Church, VA

Lundgren, Jodi. Gone Wild. 176p. ebook available. Lorimer. Aug. 2016. lib. ed. $27.99. ISBN 9781459409897.

Gr 8 Up –Two troubled teens meet by chance in a Vancouver wilderness park where they have gone to escape seemingly insurmountable personal problems. Eighteen-year-old Brooke fears that she is pregnant and will not go to university as her parents wish. A laid-back student but confident camper, she packs for a short trip to clear her head and think about the future. Nearly 16, Seth bolts from his house after his adoptive mother’s abusive boyfriend chides him about trying to locate his birth mother. With nothing but the clothes on his back, he enters the park with no forethought and is soon drinking untreated water and willing to steal food. The two come together out of necessity after Brooke has a bear encounter, gets stuck in the mud, and is suffering from cramps. Seth tends to her for a share of the food and thinks she looks like how he imagined his birth mother would look. The relentless chill of wet clothing, the metallic taste of iodine-treated water, and diarrhea and other personal hygiene issues are among the realistic and gritty survival details. Chapters alternate between characters, as the omniscient narration strives to provide the thoughts and actions of both, but neither character is fully developed. The isolated setting forces them to deal with their problems, though resolutions come too easily, in lightbulb revelations and tidy endings. VERDICT The low reading level will appeal to struggling teens who want quick reads about characters their own age dealing with problems.–Vicki Reutter, State University of New York at Cortland

Oakes, Colleen. Seas. 311p. (Wendy Darling: Bk. 2). ebook available. BookSparks/SparkPress. Sept. 2016. pap. $16.95. ISBN 9781940716886.

Gr 8 Up –This second installment in the series picks up the action without missing a pounding heartbeat. With Wendy and Michael now in the clutches of Hook, the pirate captain becomes the focal point of this volume. Life on board Hook’s boat, the Sudden Night, is harsh and cruel. Hook sees in Wendy a solution to his long-running feud with Peter Pan. He now possesses what Peter desperately desires: Wendy. But as Hook and Wendy plot a revenge that satisfies both of them, the heroine begins to see the cracks in Hook’s fierce facade. As the two scheme, and Michael sweetly worms his way into the affections of the crew, the pirate captain’s backstory emerges. Years ago, a mysterious client tricked his father into sailing through a portal leading to Neverland. Young Hook, aboard the ship, became friends with Peter Pan, until he realized that Peter intended to possess Hook’s father for himself. When the friendship ended in tragedy, the pirate swore revenge on Peter. The crux of the novel centers on the one element that keeps the battles between the pirates and Pan from being nothing more than a game of strategy: Pan’s shadow. Only when the identity of the shadow is revealed and conquered can Peter be defeated for good. Fully nuanced characters balance the riveting plot. The shocking ending will leave breathless readers anxious for the next book. VERDICT This series just gets better. But readers should start at the beginning to fully enjoy the ride.–Nancy Nadig, Penn Manor School District, Lancaster, PA

Peterson, Jay D. & Collette A. Morgan, eds. Sky Blue Water: Great Stories for Young Readers. 240p. Univ. of Minnesota. Sept. 2016. Tr $19.95. ISBN 9780816698769.

Gr 5 Up –A diverse range of authors with Minnesota ties present 20 stories and poems for tweens and teens. A few marvelously weave the supernatural into the everyday: a girl discovers a troublesome sprite in the schoolyard foliage; a boy gets caught in an ancient war between a lake and a road. Even the selections that are more grounded in reality often include a surprising twist, such as an unexpected and unearthly message from a grandfather or the fierce love of a boy for the doll his mother cherished. Those entries that do stick to realism are some of the most emotionally resonant: a young boy relishes the brief visits and fishing trips he has with his Mexican half brother; an Ojibwe teen stuck in the foster system connects to her father and her heritage for the first time. Featuring Joyce Sidman’s evocative, accessible poetry, this is a well-curated volume that expertly showcases the art and power of short form writing. The Minnesota theme is only lightly applied—readers in other regions will have no trouble relating to these common adolescent emotions and experiences. However, this may prove to be a difficult collection for libraries to classify. The first few pieces are clearly aimed at upper elementary readers, but those in the second half of the book transition quickly to more mature teen concerns. Extensive back matter contains author reflections on the writing process, writing prompts, and classroom activities paired with many of the stories. VERDICT A high-quality anthology full of classroom potential, sure to inspire budding writers and hook casual readers, too.–Chelsea Couillard-Smith, Hennepin County Library, MN

Rosen, Lev AC. The Memory Wall. 368p. ebook available. Knopf. Sept. 2016. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781101933237; lib. ed. $19.99. ISBN 9781101933244.

Gr 7 Up –Nick is struggling to accept his mother’s diagnosis of early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. The story opens as Nick and his dad bring his mom to live at an assisted living facility—but Nick refuses to believe that his mother is truly ill. Severkin is the character Nick plays in Wellhall, a video game. Severkin is a courageous and adventurous gray elf. While Nick searches for connection with his mother, who may be slipping away more each day, Severkin discovers clues in the game world, and Nick believes they evidence of his mother trying to communicate with him. There are multiple layers and themes explored in this work. Nick’s mother’s family history links to East Berlin and the fall of the Berlin Wall. There are references to Germanic mythology. Themes about outsider experiences and racism (Nick is biracial) are woven throughout. Most poignant, the details and realities of Alzheimer’s are depicted with care and accuracy. The severity of the disease and the impact that it has on an entire family are brought into sharp focus. The video game world of Wellhall is well built, and Severkin’s story seamlessly ties into Nick’s own. VERDICT A complex and emotionally rich selection that offers a nuanced and needed perspective on the grieving process. A strong addition for middle and high school collections.–Chad Lane, Tulip Grove Elementary School, MD

Shrum, Brianna. How To Make Out. 240p. ebook available. Sky Pony. Sept. 2016. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781510701670.

Gr 9 Up –This laugh-out-loud coming-of- age novel engages readers immediately and never lets go. Renley’s best friend April and her neighbor Drew provide the protagonist with support as she decides to run a paid blog to raise money for a math club trip to New York. As Renley survives cooking class (she prefers classrooms she cannot set on fire and would rather be solving for x), she comes up with answers to common questions she finds on Google. Soon her anonymous blog is a bigger hit than she ever imagined, but there are some questions she finds that she will never answer. How far will she go to uncover answers to some of the other questions? This book distinguishes itself with peripheral characters who are also well-developed and support Renley and the fast-paced plot. Shrum addresses many bildungsroman issues throughout the narrative in a believable and interesting way and still manages to pull off a thought-provoking story that will let young adults understand and relate to Renley’s many crises and how she comes to handle them. VERDICT Readers of Carrie Jones’s Tips on Having a Gay (Ex) Boyfriend will love this.–Cathleen Ash, Manor High School, TX

Smith Meloche, Heather. Ripple. 336p. ebook available. Putnam. Sept. 2016. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780399175909.

Gr 9 Up –Tessa hangs out with her best friend Juliette, can be seen on the arm of her star football player boyfriend, and often hooks up with unknown guys in other towns, just far enough from the prying eyes of her own classmates. She knows full well that she’s walking a dangerous line but can’t seem to find any other escape from her drunken stepfather and her controlling grandmother. At her core, Tessa is an artist. She feels it in every inch of her being. But that doesn’t match up with Grandma Leighton’s plans for her. Jack just moved to town. He, too, shows the wider world only a small piece of himself and wears his reputation as a master prankster and authority “bucker” on his sleeve. Yet when he goes home at night, he assumes his self-prescribed primary role in life, his mother’s caregiver. His mom always had mental health issues and a drinking problem, but when her negligence caused Jack’s brother’s death, she was no longer able to keep it from unraveling her law career and marriage. Despite the dark underbelly and potential for gratuitousness, this is a well-crafted, sweet story of Tessa’s and Jack’s ability to bring out the best in the other. Both are fully realized, nuanced characters, and while their journeys to redemption are filled with some plot points that almost teeter on the edge of contrived, the tale works well. VERDICT Recommend this debut novel to fans of Ellen Hopkins.–Jill Heritage Maza, Montclair Kimberley Academy, NJ

Stampler, Laura. Little Black Dresses, Little White Lies. 352p. ebook available. S. & S./Simon Pulse. Jul. 2016. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781481459891.

Gr 10 Up –Harper Anderson isn’t looking forward to spending the summer making smoothies and going to boring backyard parties, so when she receives the call from the editor of a popular teen magazine offering her a summer internship as the magazine’s dating blogger, Harper says yes, and she’s on a plane to New York City 48 hours later. However, Harper forgot one tiny detail in her application—she knows nothing about dating. The protagonist is quickly thrown into the high fashion, calorie counting, and glamorous world of magazine publishing in the digital age. Under the watchful eye of her editor McKayla (who would give Miranda Priestly a run for her money), Harper writes whatever it takes to get the most clicks on the magazine’s website. The teen has it all under control…until she doesn’t. Debut author Stampler shows she knows her stuff in this first work that can be described only as The Devil Wears Prada for the teen set. She accurately depicts the glitz and glam of New York City while seamlessly creating a fun story where consequences are real and there is no such thing as perfection. Full of pop culture references, well-known landmarks, fleshed-out characters, and multiple well-crafted plotlines, this novel will be devoured by teens. VERDICT A great addition for collections where contemporary teen fiction is popular.–Erin Holt, Williamson City Public Library, Franklin, TN

Trevayne, Emma. Gamescape: Overworld. 416p. ebook available. HarperCollins/ Greenwillow. Sept. 2016. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780062408761.

Gr 9 Up –Miguel Anderson spends all his free time playing Chimera, a virtual reality game, just like everyone else in his dying world, a futuristic Earth. But whereas others are playing for fun, fame, or prizes, Miguel is trying to save his life. He is in need of a biometric heart and the only way to get one is to earn it through the game. When the mysterious Gamerunners announce a team-based competition to test a new version of Chimera, Miguel knows this is his chance. As the protagonist and his team progress through the new Chimera, they start to uncover the sinister truth behind it. First in a duology, this fast-paced story keeps readers guessing until the end. Although answers to most questions are slowly unraveled, a fantasy twist leaves the narrative far from complete. While readers looking for a straight science fiction novel may be let down by the ending, others might find that this differentiates it from other, similar stories. The portrayal of the game is complex and inventive, but the secondary characters don’t have this same level of depth. Names and minor physical descriptions imply a racially diverse cast, but any sense of culture seems to be a thing of the past. Relationships all feel underdeveloped. VERDICT A suitable choice for sci-fi/fantasy readers looking for an action-packed story.–Jenna Friebel, Oak Park Public Library, IL

Triana, Gaby. Wake the Hollow. 304p. ebook available. Entangled Teen. Aug. 2016. pap. $9.99. ISBN 9781633753518.

Gr 7 Up –From the opening pages, this spooky YA immerses readers in an atmosphere reminiscent of the “real” Sleepy Hollow—a dark train station, late at night, a chilly wind, mysterious voices echoing in the air. Micaela Burgos, a prodigal daughter of the town Washington Irving’s headless horseman made famous, returns to belatedly make things right with her mother, who died six weeks earlier. Mica has been living the good life with her father in Miami; her mother stayed behind to pursue her obsession with Irving; she claims to be a direct descendant of him (though her parents were both Cuban exiles). She and Mica have barely spoken since, and the teen’s grief at the nature of this loss gives the book a strong emotional core to hang some of its more haunting happenings on (a haunted graveyard, Micaela’s own encounters with ghosts). The complicated narrative includes lost literary masterpieces and generational grudges. Frankenstein author Mary Shelley even makes an appearance. The work’s literary hook may be lost on some teens not as well acquainted with these figures, but the thoroughly modern heroine and prominent love triangle will keep most of them reading. The protagonist’s ethnic background serves the plot well, adding nuance to her status as an outsider in the small, mostly homogeneous town. VERDICT A good addition to any YA mystery collection.–Bobbi Parry, East Baton Rouge Parish School System, LA

Vick, Christopher. Kook. 400p. ebook available. HarperCollins. Aug. 2016. pap. $9.99. ISBN 9780008185374.

Gr 10 Up –Fifteen-year-old Sam, his mother, and his younger sister have recently moved back to England’s Cornwall coast, where Sam’s father lost his life at sea years before. Sam’s paternal grandmother still lives there, battling cancer. His mother is attempting to reestablish a family connection, although the relationship between the two women is strained. Sam’s mother is also motivated by her desire to raise her children in a wholesome environment, away from the temptations of London. Sam finds his own trouble, however, as he falls in with the teasing, enigmatic Jade and her band of hard-partying surfer friends. Largely to impress Jade, Sam takes up surfing, earning the nickname Kook, slang for a newcomer to the sport. He quickly falls in love with surfing, and the rapturous descriptions of the thrill of riding a great wave are the highlight of the book. As he becomes more involved in the surfing scene, Sam is inevitably drawn into the accompanying drug culture. Armed with his father’s charts of the local waters, which he discovered in his grandmother’s house, Sam leads the band to a dangerous area called the Devil’s Horns, where they surf mammoth waves in treacherous conditions. None of the characters in the novel are likable—and the author perhaps overreaches in his attempt to lend significance to Sam’s teen angst. VERDICT While not a first purchase, this book may have appeal to those interested in exploring the nature of this exciting sport.–Richard Luzer, formerly at Fair Haven Union High School, VT

Wright, David & Luc Bouchard. Away Running. 312p. ebook available. Orca. May 2016. pap. $14.95. ISBN 9781459810464.

Gr 9 Up –Matt and Free are in Paris for different reasons. Matt, a wealthy white Canadian football player, has fled Montreal to get away from parental pressure to take a collegiate and career route that will not fulfill him. While staying with his cousin, he meets up with Moose, an Algerian kid who lives in the projects in Paris. Moose had stayed with Matt’s dad as an exchange student the previous summer. Freeman is African American and has earned a scholarship to study abroad in Paris for the summer. He feels guilty for leaving his family behind in San Antonio, especially because they are going through a tough time, but he couldn’t pass up the chance of a lifetime. When the two main characters meet, Matt convinces Free to extend his stay in Paris to play for the Diables Rouges, the under-20 team from Moose’s neighborhood. As the two foreigners learn more about their teammates and the neighborhood they represent, they see a darker side of Paris than they ever knew existed. Through the lens of football, readers learn about prejudice and racism in Paris. The alternating points of view of Matt and Free add a richness to the story that makes it relatable to a wide variety of readers. The language and some violence, while not overly graphic, make this a choice for mature readers looking for a change of pace. VERDICT This eye-opening offering deserves a spot on most high school library shelves. Hand to readers who seek to broaden their perspectives of the world.–Carli Worthman, Carmel Middle School, IN

Zarins, Kim. Sometimes We Tell the Truth. 448p. ebook available. S. & S./Simon Pulse. Sept. 2016. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781481464994.

Gr 8 Up –This updated version of The Canterbury Tales is a compelling LGBTQ coming-of-age story. When things get rowdy on a class trip to Washington, DC, English teacher and chaperone Mr. Bailey tells the students they each have a chance at an A—all they have to do is tell a story. Jeff Chaucer, a student on the bus, writes down the tales as they are told and compiles them. Though the frame of the narrative is the same as the classic, between the pieces there are interludes focusing on Jeff, and this is where Zarins’s novel really shines. Jeff is a self-conscious writer who just wants to get to DC and see Georgetown, where he is matriculating in the fall. Through hearing his classmates’ tales, the protagonist begins to question who he is, what he believes, and whether he is as alone as he thinks. Zarins is adept at giving the students their own voices, making the entries genuinely feel like the product of many different narrators. Each individual selection matches up with a story in The Canterbury Tales, sometimes down to the names of the characters and every plot point. This could frustrate readers of the original, but the more tongue-in-cheek references should keep these teens grinning. For new readers, it should serve as an enticing entry point into the original. VERDICT An updated version of Chaucer’s classic that will appeal to fans of Rainbow Rowell and David Levithan.–Alexandra Patterson, Mercersburg Academy, PA

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Nonfiction Xpress Reviews | October 2016 Mon, 26 Sep 2016 18:49:49 +0000 1610_nf-xpress

For more of this month’s
Xpress Reviews:

Anderson, Amy & Brian Anderson. Space Dictionary for Kids: The Everything Guide for Kids Who Love Space. 192p. illus. index. photos. Prufrock. Aug. 2016. pap. $13.95. ISBN 9781618215154.

Gr 3-6 –This specialized dictionary features fascinating information paired with stellar illustrations. The book is organized into six major sections. The first four are alphabetically ordered definitions of words related to cosmology, stars, galaxies, our solar system, astrobiology, and exoplanets. The last two sections are an overview of space exploration, from the creation of telescopes to manned missions and the International Space Station. Detailed images and sidebars help to keep the reading level in the upper elementary range. However, the “for Kids” in the title may lessen its appeal to tweens. The book is as up-to-date as possible in a field that is constantly making new discoveries, with major findings from 2015 included and numerical facts consistently prefaced with “As of 2016….” Though a dictionary format may not appeal to all readers, the design is attractive and the content is especially useful as a counterpoint in collections that already contain narrative nonfiction titles on the topic. VERDICT A valuable astronomy resource with a place in juvenile collections of any size.–Kacy Helwick, New Orleans Public Library

Christopher, Neil. Those That Cause Fear. illus. by Germaine Arnaktauyok. 40p. Inhabit Media. Jun. 2016. Tr $16.95. ISBN 9781772270853.

Gr 3-6 –The Arctic contains many known perils, but there may be even greater, unknown dangers lurking about. This book introduces 20 strange beings from Inuit mythology, giving each a full-page illustration and a few paragraphs of descriptive text. Most accounts are straightforward and perhaps a bit dry, though a few expand on the lore surrounding the subjects. Christopher says in the introduction that he “spent many years listening to these old stories, and researching the journals of Arctic explorers from long ago.” However, readers are not made privy to his actual research, as a bibliography or list of sources is not included. An ending note urges readers to “study Inuit oral history and talk to the people who have lived in the Arctic for generations.” A pronunciation guide breaks down the Inuktitut words previously featured in the text. Arnaktauyok’s captivating illustrations, rendered primarily in brown with touches of gray, blue, and green, add to the eerie tone. Readers who are drawn to tales of cryptids, giants, and fantastical beasts will enjoy perusing the pages of this well-designed volume. VERDICT A brief introduction to Inuit mythology for folktale collections.–Misti Tidman, Licking County Library, Newark, OH

Davis, Julia A. I Like My Brown Skin Because…: Celebrating the Heritage of African American Children. 162p. glossary. illus. photos. Epps-Alford. Feb. 2016. Tr $24.95. ISBN 9780996788021.

Gr 4 Up –In response to her grandson’s surprising question (“Does your brown skin ever make you sad?”), Davis has written a set of 12 engaging essays celebrating African American heritage. Titled with positive mantras, such as “I Am Beautiful,” “I Am Brave,” and “I Believe in Myself,” the selections highlight African Americans who have made significant contributions to U.S. history. Readers will meet historical figures such as Harriet Tubman, Daniel Hale Williams, and Ida B. Wells; sports stars like Jackie Robinson; and brave fighters like the Buffalo Soldiers. Each essay presents facts in an anecdotal style that is appealing. Accomplishments of Americans who are not black are also featured in many of the essays. Dramatic pencil illustrations are interspersed throughout the text along with photos and portraits of the individuals mentioned. Each essay ends by encouraging children to see how the people profiled can inspire their own lives. Messages of positivity abound, and opportunities for conversation are limitless. VERDICT A great option to accompany a discussion and celebration of African American history.–Carol Connor, Cincinnati Public Schools, OH

Edge, Christopher. How To Write Your Best Story Ever!: Top Tips and Trade Secrets from the Experts. 128p. illus. Barron’s. Aug. 2016. pap. $12.99. ISBN 9781438009094.

Gr 2-5 –A great guide for students interested in developing their creative writing skills. This manual takes prospective writers on a journey to create new worlds and tales, with spelling, grammar, and punctuation tips along the way. The topics are arranged in a manner that allows students to browse and flip through to find whatever interests them most. A range of genre-specific subjects are explored; for example, the chapter “How To Write Your Best Scary Story Ever!” includes tips on how to set the scene and avoid clichés, as well as a word web (“The Language of Horror”) with relevant vocabulary (e.g., poisonous, catacombs, macabre). Everything from character development to script writing to genre mash-ups is covered and accompanied by brightly colored cartoon illustrations. The layout can be a bit busy, but overall this is a valuable resource. VERDICT Recommended for elementary classroom collections in need of an accessible introduction to creative writing.–Elizabeth Anne Ragain, Springfield Public Schools, MO

Eliot, Hannah. Monsters Are Real!: And Other Fun Facts. illus. by Aaron Spurgeon. 32p. (Did You Know?). S. & S./Little Simon. Jul. 2016. pap. $6.99. ISBN 9781481467810.

Gr 2-4 –Using a humorous, conversational tone, Eliot takes her readers through a substantial gallery of monsters that fall roughly into three categories. The first describes real animals that have characteristics that could be considered monsterlike, but are nonetheless real, such as the platypus, the giant squid, and the Komodo dragon. The second category covers creatures that are the result of vivid imaginations, such as King Kong, Godzilla, and Dracula. The third category includes beings possibly based on or inspired by real animals (e.g., did the narwhal and the oryx inspire tales of unicorns?). Spurgeon’s colorful cartoon illustrations match the lighthearted tone of the text and will have lots of child appeal. VERDICT While not an essential mythology purchase, this title is sure to find an enthusiastic audience.–Grace Oliff, Ann Blanche Smith School, Hillsdale, NJ

Evans, Shira. ¡Sígueme!: Animales papás y bebés. 48p. photos. National Geographic. Jul. 2016. pap. $4.99. ISBN 9781426325991.

K-Gr 2 –This Spanish-language beginning reader introduces children to the daily lives of animals and their young. With chapters about hunting, movement, habitats, and tools, the short volume presents a quick overview that animal lovers will enjoy. The left-hand page of each spread has longer text for adults to read to kids, and the right-hand page has a simpler narrative for children to read, with the same keyword highlighted. These keywords are in bold but are never defined. Higher-level vocabulary words are often not explained in context, either, such as manada (herd) or sabana (savannah). Though the subtitle uses the paternal descriptor “animales papás,” most of the parent animals are female. The engaging photographs are the star here; they depict images of creatures and their young in various activities. The occasional round insets make the presentation even more dynamic. Each chapter concludes with an activity that children can participate in, such as fill-in-the-blanks and matching the critter with its young. These exercises can be done at home but might be more appropriate for classroom use. VERDICT A serviceable addition to early elementary nonfiction collections.–Shelley M. Diaz, School Library Journal

Harrington, Jamie. The Unofficial Guide to Crafting the World of Harry Potter: 30 Magical Crafts for Witches and Wizards—from Pencil Wands to House Colors Tie-Dye Shirts. 192p. illus. index. Adams Media. Jul. 2016. pap. $17.99. ISBN 9781440595042.

Gr 6 Up –What happens when serious crafters combine with devoted Harry Potter fans? Cue this well-organized batch of ideas for the creation of Potter-related items. The book begins with wearables such as tie-dyed T-shirts (in the school colors of Hogwarts, of course), and accessories, and each chapter takes on a different aspect of the series, including characters and related objects. Directions for making a “sorcerer’s stone paperweight,” “dementor soap,” a “lumos/nox light switch,” and “nargles for the yard” encourage the use of themed crafts throughout the house, as gifts, or as unique school supplies. While clever and clearly explained, the ideas presented here are not for novices or young children but rather for more mature and experienced crafters. Additionally, specialized material (e.g., sheets of Shrinky Dinks, a glue gun, charcoal capsules) may not be readily available and could become costly. VERDICT Recommended for the sophisticated crafter who doubles as a Harry Potter fan.–Maria B. Salvadore, formerly at District of Columbia Public Library

Hughes, Katherine D. Little Kids First Big Book of Birds. 128p. glossary. index. photos. National Geographic. Jul. 2016. Tr $14.99. ISBN 9781426324321.

PreS-Gr 3 –Parents, teachers, and curious children will be fascinated by this excellent introduction to birds. The chapter divisions reflect the features and behavior of a broad range of birds. End-of-chapter games and interactive questions encourage children to personally engage with the subject matter, while the “Parent Tips” section provides activity ideas and further resources. Sidebars with basic information about specific avian species also show the scale of those birds by depicting the animals next to a child’s hand. Subject headings, a wealth of fact boxes, a glossary, and an index make this a great choice for teaching nonfiction text features. Use a small section for read-alouds or storytime and then encourage children to pore over the pages on their own. VERDICT Lush nature photography, concise language, a large print size, and a browsable layout: this offering is ideal for home, school, and library use.–Rachel Anne Mencke, St. Matthew’s Parish School, Pacific Palisades, CA

Korpella, Bob. Dinosaur Dictionary for Kids: The Everything Guide for Kids Who Love Dinosaurs. 176p. bibliog. illus. index. websites. Prufrock. Jul. 2016. pap. $13.95. ISBN 9781618215130.

Gr 3-6 –Dinophiles, rejoice! One hundred and seventy-six dinosaurs lead the big parade, alphabetically within their periods in the Mesozoic era, followed by floats of mostly Mesozoic fish, insects, early birds, flying reptiles, and more. Each of the entries includes a small illustration and a paragraph or two of facts: name (and pronunciation), size, weight, global distribution, diet. Their brevity will leave some fans champing at the bit for more, but this is a “dictionary,” not an encyclopedia. The Mesozoic era and its periods (Triassic, Jurassic, and Cretaceous) are given tidy explanatory expositions, and interspersed among the dino facts are boxes on a variety of topics such as just how much vegetation a herbivore might need daily, the size of dinosaur eggs, and the niceties of becoming a paleontologist. Note to educators: a final segment includes activities such as matching dino tracks, creating a “new” dinosaur, and visiting geological sites where fossil hunting by the public is permitted, along with a list of sources and websites. VERDICT Ample, up-to-date grist for the dino-mill, sure to have youngsters wheedling for a vacation to those geological sites. While not an essential purchase, this title sure won’t gather much dust on the shelf!–Patricia Manning, formerly at Eastchester Public Library, NY

Lewis, J. Patrick. The Navajo Code Talkers. illus. by Gary Kelley. 32p. bibliog. notes. Creative Editions. Aug. 2016. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781568462950.

Gr 5 Up –In this follow-up to Lewis and Kelley’s And the Soldiers Sang and Harlem Hellfighters, readers are introduced to the Navajo code talkers of World War II. Lewis’s lyrical, enlightening text offers a broad outline of historical events, while Kelley’s evocative illustrations add emotional weight to the narrative. Beginning with the traumatic Long Walk of the 1860s, when the U.S. government ordered the forced removal of the Navajo from their homeland, Lewis goes on to mention the boarding schools that banned the use of the Navajo language, and emphasizes the irony of the U.S. government relying on that same language for military advantage during World War II. Kelley’s atmospheric pastel panels capture the landscape of the Navajo homeland in bright, sandy oranges and browns, while military scenes appear in a contrasting dull gray. Back matter citing the National Museum of the American Indian includes more detailed information on the historical events of World War II involving the code talkers, and a brief bibliography is also appended. However, no sources are provided for any of the material presented, including direct quotes from those involved and an artist’s note that refers generally to the incorporation of “ceremonial” and “traditional” Navajo blanket designs. A few problematic textual choices, such as referring to the Navajo in the past tense when describing how they “called themselves Diné” and stating that, in 1940, “the 20th century had yet to catch up with the desert dwelling Navajo,” unfortunately reinforce stereotypes of Native Americans as people of the past rather than the present. The striking illustrations will capture the attention of readers, but educators should be prepared to provide additional context and discussion. VERDICT Acceptable as an introduction to the subject, but best paired with supplemental resources.–Chelsea Couillard-Smith, Hennepin County Library, MN

Matthews, Rupert. 50 Things You Should Know About the Tudors. 80p. chart. chron. glossary. illus. index. maps. photos. Quarto/QEB. Jul. 2016. pap. $15.95. ISBN 9781609929633.

Gr 4-6 –The reign of the Tudors in England was established in confusion and conflict and ended the same way. Between 1485, with the ascent of Henry VII, and 1603, with the death of Elizabeth I, the nation was transformed from a relatively isolated medieval kingdom to a nation engaged in international commerce. Using excellent time lines, pictures, photographs, and maps, this selection attempts to clarify this period of British history. Laid out in a sound-bite format consisting almost entirely of sidebars and snippets of information, the text highlights key events and people. While this will attract readers first delving into the history, it does not allow for much in-depth analysis. Most glaringly, the section on Elizabeth I does not even touch on the gender-specific issues with which she grappled during her reign. In addition, the format often adds to the confusion fostered by history itself. For example, the section on Henry VII states in a sidebar that the king lived in exile and was at one time so poor that he “borrowed money to buy food.” On the next page, however, the text states that Henry, while a virtual prisoner in exile, was “kept…in comfort.” A cursory glossary defines words bolded in the text, but there is no list of sources provided, limiting use for research purposes. VERDICT A good introduction to the Tudors that may spark further interest in readers. An additional purchase for world history collections.–Katherine Koenig, Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh

Prince, Jennifer S. The Life and Times of Asheville’s Thomas Wolfe. 114p. (True Tales for Young Readers). bibliog. index. photos. North Carolina Office of Archives and History. May 2016. pap. $17.99. ISBN 9780865264847.

Gr 5 Up –Born and raised in Asheville, NC, at the turn of the century, Thomas Wolfe went on to become a celebrated author. Although he achieved success in college as a budding playwright, as an adult he turned to writing lengthy, largely autobiographical novels. Initially, his writings made him unpopular in his hometown because of their candid depictions of specific people, but by the end of his life, in 1938, he had reconciled with the city of Asheville. Prince’s concise biography draws from primary sources, such as Wolfe’s letters and school assignments, to describe his upbringing, education, and career. She portrays him as gifted, commenting that “Tom’s writing talent became evident in his teen years” and asserting that “his importance to American literature is undeniable.” The story of Wolfe’s life is divided into 18 chapters, each just a few pages long, with photographs of Wolfe, his friends and family members, places he lived or visited, and famous people of his day. Prince also offers useful historical context by making references to historic events and popular culture, including the Wright brothers’ first flight, the popularity of the teddy bear, and the performances of Harry Houdini. Although this biography includes vocabulary best suited for middle schoolers or even high schoolers, the book’s brevity and illustrations make it accessible as a read-aloud for older elementary students. VERDICT A handy resource for students studying Thomas Wolfe, U.S. literature, or the history of Asheville, NC.–Magdalena Teske, Naperville Public Library, IL

Thiessen, Mark with Glen Phelan. Extreme Wildfire: Smoke Jumpers, High-Tech Gear, Survival Tactics, and the Extraordinary Science of Fire. photos by Mark Thiessen. 112p. glossary. illus. index. photos. websites. National Geographic. Aug. 2016. pap. $12.99. ISBN 9781426325304.

Gr 4-7 –Wildlife photographer Thiessen shares stories of forest fires he has photographed. He recounts his experience of attending fire school and relates what students (mostly volunteers) learn there. Scientific terms explain how fires get started, what fuels a fire, and the causes of wildfires. Respectful accounts of the jobs these men and women do are detailed without glorification. For each role, the required training, the equipment commonly used, and the dangers involved are covered. Some stories of loss are included to remind readers of the reality of the work. The negative and positive effects of a wildfire on a habitat are presented. Most of the color photographs are Thiessen’s, and they clearly show the power of fires. Candid photos of firefighters battling blazes are also depicted. All contain a caption or additional information. VERDICT Beneficial material for a discussion on the pros and cons of forest fires. An additional purchase.–Sandra Welzenbach, Villarreal Elementary School, San Antonio

Trius, Angie & Mark Doran. Animal Doctors: Incredible Ways Animals Heal Themselves. illus. by Julio Antonio Blasco. 32p. Laurence King. Jul. 2016. Tr $15.95. ISBN 9781780678320.

Gr 3-6 –How do animals in the wild deal with parasites, pain, digestive problems, birth, and more? This work explains the natural ways in which domesticated and wild creatures help keep themselves healthy without human assistance. An elephant about to give birth will go miles to seek out a beneficial tree that will ease her labor. Macaws will ingest clay to rid themselves of the toxins contained in some of their food supply. Dogs lick their injuries to spread their healing saliva, and cats eat grass to induce vomiting. Readers will be fascinated to learn butterflies, ants, rats, and even bears all have developed self-healing practices to ensure a longer, healthier life. Cartoonlike illustrations in muted colors enhance each spread. Information is given regarding characteristics, habitat, predators, and general behavior. Foldout flaps provide additional content in a concise manner. Children interested in animal behavior will find the material appealing, although the somewhat random organization makes this title less useful for research. VERDICT A complex but intriguing selection. Consider for robust animal collections.–Eva Elisabeth VonAncken, formerly at Trinity-Pawling School, Pawling, NY

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Chapter Books Xpress Reviews | October 2016 Mon, 26 Sep 2016 18:38:49 +0000 Book Uncle and Me by Uma Krishnaswami and Julianna Swaney.]]> 1610_chapbk-xpress

For more of this month’s
Xpress Reviews:

Humphrey, Anna. Clara Humble and the Not-So-Super Powers. illus. by Lisa Cinar. 224p. Owlkids/Maple Tree. Sept. 2016. Tr $13.95. ISBN 9781771471473.

Gr 3-5 –Gledhill Elementary School student Clara Humble is convinced she has superpowers; unfortunately, these capabilities, ranging from the ability to spill liquids to being able to wake up every morning at exactly 7:14 a.m. without an alarm clock, are not exactly extraordinary. When Clara’s favorite neighbor Momo plans to move to a retirement home and the students from a rival school that has been temporarily closed because of mold start attending Gledhill, the title character and her friend Bradley devise a plan to use Clara’s supposed newfound powers to try to stop both from happening. Humphrey succeeds in establishing a likable heroine, a spunky comic book fan with a wild imagination. Cinar’s comical drawings featuring @Cat, a superhero created by Clara, work well with the book’s motif. Some children may be disappointed to learn that Clara doesn’t really have any superpowers, but most will appreciate the story’s humor and fast-paced writing, both of which make this an appealing choice for reluctant readers. Although Clara doesn’t achieve either of her goals by the end of the novel (Momo is still moving, and the rival students remain at Gledhill), she does learn that true heroism comes from good deeds rather than special abilities. VERDICT A solid start to a new series. Clara Humble proves she doesn’t need superpowers to win over young readers.–Laura J. Giunta, Garden City Public Library, NY

redstarKrishnaswami, Uma. Book Uncle and Me. illus. by Julianna Swaney. 152p. Groundwood. Sept. 2016. Tr $14.95. ISBN 9781554988082; ebk. $12.95. ISBN 9781554988105.

Gr 2-4 –Nine-year-old Yasmin is a self described book-a-day reader. Every day after school she likes to stop by Book Uncle’s lending library on the corner by her apartment complex. Book Uncle has been on the corner as long as Yasmin can remember, and his motto of Right book for the right person for the right dayhasn’t steered her wrong yet, though she finds herself second-guessing his latest recommendation, which seems too easy. Yasmin has a misunderstanding with her friends Reeni and Anil, who do not seem to understand her love for reading and her questions about this particular story. Meanwhile, the local mayoral election has everyone in the city excited—partly because a famous actor is running. When Yasmin goes back to see Book Uncle, she is perplexed to find him boxing up all of his wares. It seems that he has been issued a summons and told he needs a permit in order to keep operating his lending library. Unfortunately, he cannot afford a permit. What follows is Yasmin’s social awakening. The neighbors she has noticed only in passing before become allies in her grassroots effort to get Book Uncle back in business. VERDICT This sweet slice-of-life tale not only highlights Yasmin’s neighborhood and life in India but also demonstrates that children can be empowered to effect change in their own neighborhoods. This is also a perfect title to shine a light on elections taking place elsewhere.–Stacy Dillon, LREI, New York City

Lewis, Gill. Scout and the Sausage Thief. illus. by Sarah Horne. 128p. ebook available. photos. Holt. Sept. 2016. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781627797948; pap. $5.99. ISBN 9781627798020.

Gr 2-4 –Scout, a German shepherd, wants to be a police dog, just like his mom and dad. They are working on a big case, trying to catch Frank Furter, an ex–police dog who turned to a life of stealing sausages. But on her way to Puppy Academy to test for her Care in the Community badge, Scout finds several sources of distraction, including the owner of a lost teddy bear and a mud puddle. She is then accused of stealing the bag of Crunchie Munchies she was tasked with guarding. Even with the threat of dismissal from Puppy Academy looming, Scout continues her hunt for Frank Furter and saves a large family of mice. Predictably, the story ends well. Entertaining black ink illustrations appear on most spreads, helping to move the narrative along and provide depictions of the emotions expressed by this mostly animal cast. Photos and facts about real police dogs at the end of the book bring an informational element to this fictional tale. VERDICT Fans of animal heroes and K-9 underdogs may enjoy Scout’s lighthearted misadventures.–Lindsay Persohn, University of South Florida, Tampa

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