School Library Journal The world's largest reviewer of books, multimedia, and technology for children and teens Sat, 25 Feb 2017 05:00:05 +0000 en-US hourly 1 What Today’s Teens Have To Say About George Orwell’s ‘1984’ Fri, 24 Feb 2017 17:26:26 +0000 1984first

The original 1949 cover of Orwell’s novel.

Bow-wielding teen girls, love triangles, underground bands of scrappy young freedom fighters, or wrong-colored skies are surefire markers of a hit dystopian novel. But this month’s surprise best-selling dystopia has few of those trappings. The protagonists are pencil-pushing adults. It wasn’t written for teens. It’s not even new. George Orwell’s 1984, which shot to the top of Amazon’s bestseller list days after the first mention of “alternative facts” by Kellyanne Conway on the January 22 Meet the Press, is nearly 70 years old.

Like much contemporary YA dystopia, 1984 is the disquieting story of an authoritarian regime, of one person’s quest to make a difference, of the idea of love combating apathy, and of an effort to recapture individualism and liberty. 1984 has long been a standard on reading lists in high schools, and drawing comparisons between the ideas in the book and modern life isn’t new. A 2007 podcast created by New York Public Library teens noted the similarities between the idea that “Big Brother is watching” and the invasive nature of social media, the Bush era wiretap controversy, and the USA PATRIOT Act.


George Orwell

Ten years later, it’s still the book’s prescience driving its popularity, but the focus has changed. Winston Smith’s world of Newspeak, doublethink, the Ministry of Truth, and Big Brother’s cult of personality seem all the more relevant in the current cycle of news and politics that includes the terms “alternative facts,”  “fake news,”  “post-truth,” and most recently, “pre-know.”

With the book selling out and recently topping the Amazon best-seller list, some educators have noticed an uptick in teen interest too. “I’ve never had a student ask me for a copy out of the blue,” says Gina Seymour of Islip, NY. “It’s on the AP reading list, but other than that, no one has asked to read it…until last week.” Seymour’s student had heard about the buzz around the book and sought to understand more about the parallels people were noting, telling Seymour, “It sounds like he [Orwell] predicted things.”

Across the country in Albuquerque, NM, Karra Shimabukuro’s students were similarly surprised by the new and different way the news media and politics are interacting. Shimabukuro’s Advanced Placement English students were focusing on the question, “What is the role of journalists today? Why are they important to an educated, informed populace?” when the “alternative facts” comment emerged. “Miss, how come she can just lie like that?” asked one of her students. In response, Shimabukuro changed her lesson plans to make space for 1984 as the next focus.

A passage in “1984.”  © Jason Ilagan, Creative Commons

In Knoxville, TN, Powell High Library media specialist Liz White has noticed a dramatic uptick in interest. After sitting for nearly four years without circulating once, her copies are flying off the shelves and have wait lists. When a copy returned damaged, White ordered two more. “They’ve not arrived yet, but I’ve received at least three requests since.”

A number of the public librarians shared a different observation, noting that dystopia doesn’t provide the kind of escapism many teens are seeking right now. Kathleen March of Anderson’s Bookshop in Downers Grove, IL, concurred. It’s not teens coming in to buy the book, she says, because “If they read it over the summer off of their [school-provided reading] list, it’s only been six or seven months, so it’s still fresh in their minds….It’s adults buying it to reread or to read for the first time.”

For high school students like Zoë Madsen, immersing themselves in something so on the nose might not necessarily be where they want to spend their leisure reading time. “I immediately made the connection to 1984 when I read the tweet from Donald Trump that said ‘Any negative polls are fake news.’ That really freaked me out,” said Madsen. “It was this whole idea that the government can create the facts and anything that goes against the government-issued truth is automatically classified as fake news. It sounds all too close to a dystopian novel.”

Whether or not they’re reading the book for the first time or rereading it, many teens want to be part of the conversation. Fortunately, teachers and librarians can make space for them. At the Brooklyn (NY) Public Library, Nicholas Higgins, director of outreach services, is conducting a series of three-week book discussion cycles about 1984 over the next four years. One teen, Brandon, participated in the first cycle, and Higgins has plans to boost outreach efforts to local high schools as the series rolls on.

“At 13, Brandon’s very familiar with how information can be shifted. He lives in a world that’s constantly online,” Higgins says. Brandon related most directly to Julia, a character with a sense of rebellion and a clear awareness that everything was “fake,” he says. Brandon connected with the idea of choosing to focus not so much on upending the system as finding individual well-being and personal fulfillment. If the news makes him laugh, Brandon said he is more likely to pay attention to it. “It’s all entertainment to him,” Higgins says.

Could it be that growing up with dystopia as a major part of their media diet has given teens a leg up on the issues? Higgins believes so. “I think [teens are] definitely ahead of the game. I’m looking to them to find creative solutions to the problems we face,” he says. For their part, Zoë Madsen and her cohorts are ready for more conversation. “Thanks for listening to young people’s voices,” she says.

heather_boothYA librarian Heather Booth blogs for Teen Librarian Toolbox.


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Kid Lit World Mourns Three Stars Fri, 24 Feb 2017 15:52:54 +0000 Over the course of nine days, we’ve had to say goodbye to three eminent figures in children’s literature. Noted artist Dahlov Ipcar died at her home in Maine on February 10; Dick Bruna, the Dutch creator of the “Miffy” books died in Utrecht, the Netherlands, on February 16; and Newbery Award–winner Nancy Willard passed away in Poughkeepsie, NY, on February 19.

Iconic Illustrator

dahlovipcar_adjDahlov Ipcar, who was 99, is recalled as an artist who in 1945 illustrated her first children book, The Little Fisherman (Scott), which was written by Margaret Wise Brown. It was a story of deep-sea fishing that illustrated the idea of big vs. little. It was originally published by W.R. Scott and was reissued in 2008 by Islandport Press. Ipcar went on to illustrate a total of 44 books, including Hard Scrabble Harvest (Doubleday, 1976), My Wonderful Christmas Tree (Gannett, 1986), and Calico Jungle (Knopf, 1965). In recent years, many of her books have been reissued. In 2015 School Library Journal said of a reissue of Black and White (Islandport) that “Ipcar interweaves black and white in an effortless, celebratory way.”

In 2001, she received the Katahdin Award, a lifetime achievement award from the Maine Library Association, and in 2010, she was awarded the New England Independent Booksellers Association’s prestigious President’s Award for her outstanding contribution to arts and letters.

Miffy’s “father”

Dick-Bruna-in-his-studioDick Bruna is best known for a simply drawn white female rabbit known in English as Miffy. Of his 200 books, 30 featured the bunny, and the books have been translated into 50 languages. “He’s the most translated author in the Netherlands, except for Anne Frank,” said Agnes Vogt, a children’s book specialist at the Dutch Foundation for Literature, “and in that sense he’s one of the most important, not only illustrators, but authors that the Netherlands has ever had.”

The first Miffy book appeared in 1955; the trim size of six inches by six inches made it ideal for young children’s hands. In 2003, NYC & Company, the official visitors and tourist organization for New York City, used Miffy, and the title Miffy Loves New York City (Big Tent, 2003), as part of a marketing campaign. The Rijksmuseum marked the 60th anniversary of Miffy’s creation with an exhibit in 2015. Bruna was 89.

Newbery Medalist

WillardNancy Willard had the honor of winning the 1982 Newbery Medal for A Visit to William Blake’s Inn (Harcourt, 1981), the first book of poetry to achieve that distinction. Subtitled Poems for Innocent and Experienced Travelers, it also garnered a Caldecott Honor for Alice and Martin Provensen, who were Willard’s Hudson Valley, NY, neighbors. The book uses lyrical as well as nonsense verse to tell of events at an enchanted inn.

In her teenage years, her poem “A Child’s Star” was published in the Horn Book, and her illustrations were used on the Horn Book Christmas cards. Following news of Willard’s death, Margaret McDowell, librarian at New York’s Sherburne-Earlville Central School District, posted that The High Rise Glorious Skittle Skat Roarious Sky Pie Angel Food Cake (Harcourt, 1990) was one of her favorites to read to students.

Willard, who never learned to drive, was known in Poughkeepsie as “the lady on the bike,” doing her errands on her touring bicycle. She was 80.

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Rain by Sam Usher | SLJ Review Fri, 24 Feb 2017 14:00:36 +0000 USHER, Sam. Rain. illus. by Sam Usher. 32p. Candlewick/Templar. Mar. 2017. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780763692964.

PreS-Gr 2 –In a suitable sequel to the author’s Snow, Sam can’t wait until he is “out in the rain. You can catch raindrops, splash in puddles, and look at everything upside down.” Granddad and his young grandson watch through the window as drops fall steadily, increasing until the street disappears in a steady downpour. They wait and wait, one reading about sea monsters [...]]]> redstarUSHER, Sam. Rain. illus. by Sam Usher. 32p. Candlewick/Templar. Mar. 2017. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780763692964.

PB-Usher-RainPreS-Gr 2 –In a suitable sequel to the author’s Snow, Sam can’t wait until he is “out in the rain. You can catch raindrops, splash in puddles, and look at everything upside down.” Granddad and his young grandson watch through the window as drops fall steadily, increasing until the street disappears in a steady downpour. They wait and wait, one reading about sea monsters and dreaming of floating cities—the other patiently writing letters. Watery reflections reveal a post-rain world outside of the ordinary, with boats, boots, umbrellas, raincoats, and upside-down escapades. The young “Captain” of his boat greets a watery city of acrobats and carnivals while mailing Granddad’s letters, a treat worth waiting for (“the very best things are always worth waiting for.”). Sharp-eyed children will note the hidden watercolor and pen-and-ink images of toys from the boy’s room—animated in the cartoon dreams of his adventurous thoughts. Written with simplicity for the very young, the text supports the wonder of imagination in children of all ages and the understanding of special family relationships between generations. VERDICT A first purchase recommendation for all libraries.–Mary Elam, Learning Media Services, Plano ISD, TX

This review was published in the School Library Journal February 2017 issue.

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Mandela Bracelets Create School Libraries and Jobs in South Africa Thu, 23 Feb 2017 16:34:25 +0000 MandelaBuilding2

Mandela Bangle, the pet project of Nelson Mandela, has joined together with Long Walk to Freedom, Soul City, Rotary International, Read Foundation, Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory, and the South Africa Department of Education in an initiative to supply fully-stocked “container libraries” (converted shipping containers) to as many disadvantaged schools in South Africa as possible. Several container conversions have been underwritten by corporations in exchange for branding on the containers. The Mandela Bangle bracelet is sold to raise additional funds.

Ninety percent of the schools in South Africa do not have libraries. “Only 32 percent of all grade five learners in South Africa are literate. In our schools with libraries and reading programs, we have managed to improve that to 55 percent on average,” says Robert Coutts, CEO of Mandela Bangle. “Currently we influence just over 200,000 kids, but need to reach our goal of two million kids by the end of 2025 to have the desired impact on the socioeconomic development of youth in Southern Africa.” Coutts’s goal is delivering 100 container libraries to schools, each serving 700–1000 children. To date, about 50 have been delivered.

IMG_2948The beaded version of the bracelet (right) sells for $6.70; copper, silver, and gold styles are priced higher. The making of the bracelets has given some local people a sustainable weekly income. Residents are also being trained and employed in metal work, welding, painting, and installation of electrical wiring to transform the containers, designed to last for 25 years. The cost of each library is 195,000 Rand (about $14,500).

Schools are selected with the help of the social justice organization Soul City. The libraries are stocked with inspirational titles chosen by Rotary International, Room to Read, Write Associates, Read Education Trust, Equal Education, and PRAESA. Mandela Bangle works with other organizations to provide books in regional languages. Although English and Afrikaans are the two official languages of South Africa, nine others are spoken, with Zulu being the most common.

MandelaKids_readingThe final step in the process is training school personnel in how to maintain and restock the 5,000-volume collection. In addition, schools are expected to form book clubs. Ideally, within 15 years the container libraries will be replaced with permanent ones. The containers can then be “handed down” to a new location.

Library openings are major events, often attended by celebrities and dignitaries. When the Phinduzame Intermediate School opened their library, South African actress Hlubi Mboya-Arnold visited (see video below).

“The School Library Project program is a global initiative and involves people from all walks of life and locations,” says Coutts. He adds that the Texas chapter of Rotary International has a large role in storing, sorting, and shipping books.


Bracelets for sale at the Robben Island gift shop. Robben Island is where Mandela was imprisoned.

Meanwhile, two lifelong best friends, Peter and Conrad have made the project the beneficiary of their bike ride in the Joberg2C, a nine-day, 900 km, off-road mountain bike challenge. Peter wrote on his fund-raising page that he hoped that children along the route who receive a library will “discover new worlds through the magic of books and to let their imagination fly over mountains to dream of bigger and better things to come.” Their goal is to raise 60,000 Rand ($4,200), of which $490 has been pledged.


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Talking Baby: Helping Your Child Discover Language by Margaret MacLagan & Anne Buckley | SLJ Review Thu, 23 Feb 2017 14:00:54 +0000 MACLAGAN, Margaret & Anne Buckley. Talking Baby: Helping Your Child Discover Language. 192p. Finch. Nov. 2016. pap. $18.95. ISBN 9781925048605.

In this puddle-jumper from down under, child language development lecturer ­Maclagan and speech-language therapist Buckley set forth a just-technical-enough look at how children acquire language and how to best support its development. Beginning with infancy, the authors encourage parents to talk, talk, talk about anything and to leave time for “response” (anything the baby does is her “turn” in [...]]]> redstarMACLAGAN, Margaret & Anne Buckley. Talking Baby: Helping Your Child Discover Language. 192p. Finch. Nov. 2016. pap. $18.95. ISBN 9781925048605.

PA-MacLagan-TalkingBabyIn this puddle-jumper from down under, child language development lecturer ­Maclagan and speech-language therapist Buckley set forth a just-technical-enough look at how children acquire language and how to best support its development. Beginning with infancy, the authors encourage parents to talk, talk, talk about anything and to leave time for “response” (anything the baby does is her “turn” in the conversation). They do an excellent job of explaining why language and motor development often coincide (first sounds happen after six months when babies become vertical and the tongue is no longer “flopping against the back of the mouth”), and further details what language acquisition parents can best support at that time, such as “performatives,” which are words associated with gestures (e.g., “bye bye”). Librarians would do well to follow and suggest the authors’ reading recommendations, such as choosing books with rhythm and rhyme for infants so they can focus on voice, and then moving on to books that stimulate gleeful recognition of everyday life (bedtime, bathing, block play) for one- and two-year-olds. VERDICT This commendable title provides exactly what parents need without becoming bogged down in research and academics. For all libraries.–Julianne Smith, Ypsilanti District Library, MI

This review was published in the School Library Journal February 2017 issue.

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Unbecoming by Jenny Downham | SLJ Audio Review Thu, 23 Feb 2017 14:00:33 +0000 DOWNHAM, Jenny. Unbecoming. Preloaded digital audio player. 14:14 hrs. Mar. 2016. Scholastic. $30. ISBN 9780545945905.

Gr 9 Up−Although Mary, Caroline, and Katie are three very different generations in the same family, suddenly living under the same roof forces them to confront a complicated past that has kept them estranged for decades. Mary is the grandmother, newly widowed, fighting the dementia that is clouding and tangling memories. Caroline is her angry daughter, unforgiving of the long estrangement and unwilling to [...]]]> redstarDOWNHAM, Jenny. Unbecoming. Preloaded digital audio player. 14:14 hrs. Mar. 2016. Scholastic. $30. ISBN 9780545945905.

AU-Downham-unbecomingGr 9 Up−Although Mary, Caroline, and Katie are three very different generations in the same family, suddenly living under the same roof forces them to confront a complicated past that has kept them estranged for decades. Mary is the grandmother, newly widowed, fighting the dementia that is clouding and tangling memories. Caroline is her angry daughter, unforgiving of the long estrangement and unwilling to work toward a reunited future. Katie is Caroline’s hopeful daughter and Mary’s devoted granddaughter, who at 17 is learning who she is and who she refuses to be any longer. Despite rifts, misunderstandings, and lies, Katie will prove that the bonds of family are everlasting. London-based Downham (Before I Die) voices her third novel, which means she knows exactly how and where to increase the emotion and breathe a little distance into the conflicts. Her ability to seamlessly embody multiple generations is immediately evident (Downham is a former actress), while her tender characterization of the elderly Mary is the most empathy-inducing of all. VERDICT A highly recommended, notable performance of an immensely noteworthy title. [“A strong choice for thoughtful readers”: SLJ 12/15 starred review of the Scholastic/David Fickling book.]–Terry Hong, Smithsonian BookDragon, Washington, DC

This review was published in the School Library Journal February 2017 issue.

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Baby Talk, Physical Play, and More | Parenting Reviews Thu, 23 Feb 2017 13:00:49 +0000 SEEKING MATERIALS TO BOLSTER PARENTING COLLECTIONS? Look no further. The following reviews, which originally ran in SLJ’s sister publication Library Journal, will be useful and edifying for parents. These titles range in subject matter, covering language development, physical play, and more and should appeal to patrons interested in quality selections on child-rearing.

1702-ParentingRev-CVsFaber, Joanna & Julie King. How To Talk So Little Kids Will Listen: A Survival Guide to Life with Children Ages 2–7. 448p. ebook available. Scribner. Jan. 2017. pap. $17. ISBN 9781501131639.

Parent and educator Faber, with educator King, picks up where esteemed mom Adele Faber (How To Talk So Kids Will Listen) left off with this updated “survival guide” for talking to little kids and gaining compliance. Her wisdom is in the same affectionate and funny style of mom: “Enough with all the talk about feelings. It’s lovely to know we’re enhancing our children’s confidence…but we still have to get our kids to do things.” Faber zeroes in on the most common (and irritating) things and tactics little ones employ, and provides caregivers with a clear and supportive path to holding their own. From tattling (“snitches and whistleblowers”) to runaways (“kids who take off in the parking lot and other public places”), the authors describe exactly what life with little kids is like and make neither excuses nor pedagogical pronouncements; their advice is always supportive, appropriate, and ultimately best for the parking lot escapee in question. VERDICT Parents should not be put off by this volume’s length. The “How To Talk” books are treasures to read. All libraries should acquire and recommend with gusto.–Julianne Smith, Ypsilanti District Library, MI

Green, Jarrod. I’m OK!: Building Resilience Through Physical Play. 160p. ebook available. Redleaf. Nov. 2016. pap. $24.95. ISBN 9781605544519;

Some kids seem to plow through injury and pain, while others weep at the merest affront. Here, early childhood educator Green, hoping to create a culture of resilience through play, recognizes that injuries associated with play often involve parental education. “Learning about physical experiences precedes more abstract learning in all domains,” he argues, citing that children must pick up and move blocks before they can count them. Issues of safety, parental overinvolvement, and fears of litigation have all tempered how parents perceive development through play, and the author warns that the joy, growth, and learning that come from physical activity are being lost in our current culture (e.g., “safety first” has become “safety should be maximized, no matter the cost”). He explains how early childhood play is the perfect time for risk-taking and supplies productive tools for discussing injuries and placing concerns into their appropriate context. Although slightly dry in presentation, Green’s teaching is spot on. His goal of giving children “the experiences of learning and joy, challenge and triumph, and the ability to enter the world, with all its challenges and obstacles and setbacks, in the most positive way possible” is holistically delivered. Here’s to horsing around. VERDICT Recommended for education collections.–Julianne Smith, Ypsilanti District Library, MI

Kobliner, Beth. Make Your Kid a Money Genius (Even if You’re Not): A Parent’s Guide for Kids 3 to 23. 352p. ebook available. S. & S. Feb. 2017. pap. $19.99. ISBN 9781476766812.

Best-selling financial author Kobliner (Get a Financial Life) here provides a step-by-step look at developing financial literacy skills throughout childhood. Concerned that we are avoiding teaching our kids the financial facts of life, she outlines specific dos and don’ts that parents can adopt, such as whether or not allowances should be tied to chores. She strongly suggests disclosing neither your salary nor the babysitter’s wage, and presents age-appropriate money skills for preschoolers through college grads (“Research shows that kids whose parents carry the full burden of college costs score lower GPAs than kids who chip in.”). Addressing everything from car loans to moving home after college, Kobliner’s recommendations are practical, thorough, and relevant (e.g., she explains why extended warranties are almost always unnecessary). VERDICT Considering the huge burden of debt that many young people carry today, wise is the parent who starts the youngster saving early. Warmly recommended.–Julianne Smith, Ypsilanti District Library, MI

redstarMaclagan, Margaret & Anne Buckley. Talking Baby: Helping Your Child Discover Language. 192p. Finch. Nov. 2016. pap. $18.95. ISBN 9781925048605.

In this puddle-jumper from down under, child language development lecturer ­Maclagan and speech-language therapist Buckley set forth a just-technical-enough look at how children acquire language and how to best support its development. Beginning with infancy, the authors encourage parents to talk, talk, talk about anything and to leave time for “response” (anything the baby does is her “turn” in the conversation). They do an excellent job of explaining why language and motor development often coincide (first sounds happen after six months when babies become vertical and the tongue is no longer “flopping against the back of the mouth”), and further details what language acquisition parents can best support at that time, such as “performatives,” which are words associated with gestures (e.g., “bye bye”). Librarians would do well to follow and suggest the authors’ reading recommendations, such as choosing books with rhythm and rhyme for infants so they can focus on voice, and then moving on to books that stimulate gleeful recognition of everyday life (bedtime, bathing, block play) for one- and two-year-olds. VERDICT This commendable title provides exactly what parents need without becoming bogged down in research and academics. For all libraries.–Julianne Smith, Ypsilanti District Library, MI

redstarOgden, Paul W. & David H. Smith. The Silent Garden: Raising Your Deaf Child. 3rd ed. 344p. ebook available. index. Gallaudet University. Nov. 2016. pap. $34.95. ISBN 9781563686764.

In this third edition of this esteemed text, coauthors Ogden (department of communicative disorders and deaf studies, California State University, Fresno) and Smith (director, Center on Deafness, University of Tennessee, Knoxville) deliver a foundational approach to raising deaf and hard-of-hearing children, emphasizing that “being deaf is not about hearing but about communication.” Starting with a description of diagnosis, they cover the entire span of childhood and young adulthood of individuals affected by hearing loss, guiding parents in finding the right professionals, how and when to begin communicating, which communication languages are available (and their very important differences), available schools (or considerations for mainstreaming), and transitioning to independent life. The advice includes both specific instructions (tap and signal with babies) and developmental overviews (why discussing deafness and “differentness” is important to convey around age four). Especially informative is the thorough coverage of visual languages, such as ASL, and their current controversies and implications. This timely update includes the growing research into surgical procedures, such as cochlear implants, and the many technologies available that support independence. VERDICT A ­required acquisition for all ­libraries.–Julianne Smith, Ypsilanti District Library, MI


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Get $500 to Spend at the Scholastic Book Store. Here’s how. Wed, 22 Feb 2017 20:17:18 +0000 Burleson reads a picture book to first graders. Courtesy of Todd Burleson/ Hubbard Woods School

Burleson reads a picture book to first graders.
Courtesy of Todd Burleson/ Hubbard Woods School

We had plenty of great reasons to pick Todd Burleson, library media specialist at the Hubbard Woods School in Winnetka, IL, as SLJ‘s 2016 School Librarian of the Year. This is more proof that he’s quite a guy.

Burleson is giving away his entire $2,500 prize to help those less fortunate than he is, in the form of five $500 awards. The announcement on his blog appears below.

“I look at this as part of my mission to bring resources to all students,” Burleson told SLJ. “I’m grateful that Scholastic is supporting [my] unique use of the award…$500 isn’t a lot, but hopefully, it will make a difference in five schools.”

Those who still want to enter have until March 1. So far, there have been 44 entries for the five prizes. “I’d love to have more entries!” says Burleson. “I’m eager to hear about how the winners use the funds in their schools.”

Last year I was named the 2016 School Library Journal’s School Librarian of the Year. It was one of the proudest moments of my teaching career. One of the incredible components of the award was $2,500 to spend at the Scholastic Book Store. I am fortunate to work in a district that believes in and supports my mission as a school librarian. My library is well-funded and properly staffed. Because of this, I wanted to do something different with the Scholastic funds. I’ve decided that I will donate them to five schools in need; each school will be awarded $500.

The most democratic way I could come up for distributing these funds is to create a Rafflecopter page. Here’s how it works: if you tweet about the contest and/or leave a comment on the blog, you will receive an “entry” in the raffle. On March 1, the Rafflecopter “engine” will randomly choose five lucky recipients. The more entries you have, the better your chances. So, go ahead and submit an entry on behalf of your school or a deserving school you know about. Share with as many folks as you can and I can’t wait to see how this turns out!  Good luck!


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“Information Literacy in the Age of Fake News” Kicks off SLJ ISTE Webcast Series Wed, 22 Feb 2017 17:58:15 +0000 A new season of SLJ’s webcast series in conjunction with ISTE starts off with a bang this month. “Information Literacy in the Age of Fake News,” an hour-long program on March 16, will feature four experts who will weigh in with their perspective and provide resources and tips to address this critical topic.

The program will cover how to vet information, consider point of view and bias, establish best practices for students, and manage the digital fire hose of information. The panelists are:

technology_clipart_grid3Joyce Valenza, assistant professor, Rutgers University, School of Communication and Information, and “NeverEnding Search” blogger, will moderate the program, which is sponsored by Mackin Educational Resources and Rosen Publishing Group.

Then, get ready for a rapid-fire tool share in the next webcast in the SLJ/ISTE series: “60 Tools in 60 Minutes.” This April 20 presentation features Monica Cabarcas, librarian, Albemarle High School, Charlottesville, VA; Heidi Williams, head of school, Jefferson Lighthouse, Racine, WI, and author of No Fear Coding; and Daryl Grabarek, senior editor, School Library Journal.

Moderating will be Kathy Ishizuka, executive editor, School Library Journal.

This session will cover the best applications and gear for your school or library, including must-have multimedia content, cool coding platforms, and top choices for your maker space.

On May 18, it’s “Technology to Aid the Struggling Reader” with Michele Haiken, English teacher, Rye (NY) Middle School and author of Gamify Literacy; and K.C. Boyd, lead librarian, East St. Louis (IL) School District. Panelists will share tips on how to leverage technology to help new and struggling readers. Resources include the best storytelling apps, digital sources of high-interest content for kids and teens, and more.

All webcasts are free of charge and run live 3:00-4:00 pm ET/12:00-1:00 pm PT, with an archive available for on-demand viewing.

For more information, visit the registration page.

ISTE (International Society for Technology in Education) is the largest teacher-based, nonprofit organization in the field of educational technology, according to its site.

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Long Way North | SLJ DVD Review Wed, 22 Feb 2017 14:00:54 +0000 Long Way North. 81 min. Dist. by Shout! Kids Factory. 2016. $16.99 UPC 0826663172027. Blu-ray $22.99 UPC 0826663172034.

Gr 5 Up –Viewers are introduced to 15-year-old Sacha as she explores her lavish Russian home and dances with a prince at a ball. This lovely animated film quickly reveals that Sacha Tchernetsov is no princess wannabe, but a strong-minded adventurer. She feels kinship with her explorer grandfather, who disappeared while seeking the North Pole. When she finds his notes in [...]]]> redstarLong Way North. 81 min. Dist. by Shout! Kids Factory. 2016. $16.99 UPC 0826663172027. Blu-ray $22.99 UPC 0826663172034.

DVD-LongWayNorthGr 5 Up –Viewers are introduced to 15-year-old Sacha as she explores her lavish Russian home and dances with a prince at a ball. This lovely animated film quickly reveals that Sacha Tchernetsov is no princess wannabe, but a strong-minded adventurer. She feels kinship with her explorer grandfather, who disappeared while seeking the North Pole. When she finds his notes in the family library, Sacha is sure she can locate his missing ship. Traveling on horseback and by train, she arrives at a fog-shrouded dock. Sacha won’t take no for an answer, and among the crew, she proves herself equal to every challenge that comes her way. Director and animator Rémi Chayé and screenwriter Claire Paoletti create a heroine who has a navigator’s mind and an explorer’s heart. The animation uses large blocks of richly toned, muted colors without much detail. The indoor scenes are often beautifully dark and murky, with only Sacha’s blonde hair to lighten things up. In the snow-covered north, opaque fields of whites, blues, and grays give a gorgeous old-world feel, appropriate to the 1880s setting. Middle school teachers could pair this film with nonfiction books such as Martin Sandler’s The Impossible Rescue and Jennifer Armstrong’s Shipwreck at the Bottom of the World. VERDICT The distinctive animation style may not draw in every viewer, but the adventurous plot, visual humor, and saturated colors should hold the attention of most. The film does not lend itself to direct curricular tie-ins but is worthy of viewing for enrichment or for discussion of grit, bravery, and perseverance.–Maggie Knapp, Trinity Valley School, Fort Worth, TX

This review was published in the School Library Journal February 2017 issue.

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Nikki Robertson Shares Tips for YALSA’s Teen Tech Week Tue, 21 Feb 2017 19:00:44 +0000 nikki profile

SLJ‘s Teen Tech Week guest pinner Nikki Robertson.

The Young Adult Library Services Association’s Teen Tech Week (March 5–11) takes place the first full week of March each year as a way to spotlight the rich and diverse texture school libraries have beyond print resources and the critical role played by school librarians across the nation as leaders in technology in today’s 21st-century schools.

When approached by SLJ to create a 2017 Teen Tech Week Pinterest Board, I didn’t want to pin just blog posts by librarians who had done something in years past but rather items that would give users pause for thought. With this intent in mind, it is important to read the notes I have added to each pin before actually proceeding to the actual link included with the pin. The notes are intended to take an article that at first glance would appear to have little to nothing to do with Teen Tech Week and encourages users to think beyond the obvious to the possible.

One of my favorite examples of this is the pin to Andy Plemmons’s Annual Picture Book SmackDown. My notes on the pin urge Teen Tech Week participants to organize something similar to Andy’s Picture Book SmackDown but with a technology theme that empowers students. The elementary school librarians from my school district liked what Andy had done with his Picture Book SmackDown so much that they organized their own but just within our own school district. However you approach this idea is fine. You can go big and invite the world or keep it small and just include those in your own school district. The important part is showing students and teachers alike the ease of being able to make authentic, real-world connections and giving students opportunities to express their voice regarding the technologies they rely on at school, at home, and just for fun.

teen tech pinterestOne pet peeve of mine with Pinterest is the inability to rearrange or group pinned items inside of a board, as I am more visually inclined. Thus, I designed the pins in categories that are labeled in ALL CAPS to make finding what you are looking for a little easier.

The categories include

  • ACTIVITY: Activity pins can be used in your existing maker space, in isolation, or as a vehicle to get a maker space area started in your school library.
  • FUNDING: Most of the funding ideas on the official Teen Tech Week website deadlines have already come and gone. Go ahead and mark your calendars now to be ready for next year. Rather than pinning out-of-date funding resources, I have pinned two of my favorite funding resources, PledgeCents and DonorsChoose, which you and your students could work on together during Teen Tech Week to find funding for the items they would like to see most in their library.
  • MAKERSPACE: The ideas categorized as maker space activities could easily be used in your library during Teen Tech Week even if you do not currently have a maker space. The idea behind these pins is to start the exploration, tinkering, experimenting, and creating that is the heart of most school library maker spaces.
  • PROFESSIONAL RESOURCE: Pins labeled PROFESSIONAL RESOURCE are meant to be exactly that. A resource that you can take, learn from, and share with teachers and administrators to better understand how libraries are an essential cog in the Future Ready framework. It also includes sage advice from those to whom I personally look for professional guidance.
  • TECHNOLOGY: This category mainly references pins that would require items that need to be purchased, although not all require monetary funds. My personal favorite “free” technology resources include Augmented Reality from DAQRI and NASA’s SpaceCraft 3D. Carvey and Bloxels are my favorite pins (this year) for technologies that will cost you a penny or two.

Once Teen Tech Week draws to an end, I urge all of you to challenge yourselves to write a blog post sharing your Teen Tech Week adventures and celebrate student and teacher successes from throughout the week and beyond. Sharing our stories as school librarians is critical to letting our administrators, superintendents, parents, community members, and legislators know that school libraries are essential and touch all aspects of the school community. Don’t have a blog? Take this year’s Teen Tech Week as an opportunity to start one and include special student guest bloggers. You could also ask someone whose blog you read and admire if you could post a guest blog on their site.

Nikki Robertson is a veteran educator, librarian, and instructional technology facilitator for James Clemens High School, in Madison, AL. She is a frequent presenter at education conferences, including International Society for Technology in Education, Model Schools Conference, SimpleK12, Florida Educational Technology Conference, EdSpeaker Group, and many more.


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This Is “Me” | Touch and Go Tue, 21 Feb 2017 17:11:41 +0000 Tinybop’s Me was the first app that the designer and illustrator Ana Seixas worked on. While she confessed to feeling somewhat overwhelmed initially, she states, “When I finally saw the ‘big picture,’ it was amazing: the infinite possibilities made me realize that this was a unique project.” Learn more about the artist’s work and inspirations and the decisions that went into creating Me.

Screen from Me (Tinybop)

Screen from Me (Tinybop) Ana Seixas

Me (Tinybop, iOS, $2.99; K-Gr 2) clearly illustrates to children that what they think, feel, and experience contribute to making them who they are. On opening the app, users create an avatar. Myriad skin tones, hair colors and textures, and accessories, including religious head wear, are available–so many options that any child may accurately represent themselves.

After viewers enter a name and a favorite color (for the background), an avatar appears. Floating above that image are bubbles containing questions or prompts. The bubbles contain icons that indicate whether the question/prompt should be responded to with a drawing, text, a photo, or a recording. Children may add additional avatars for friends and family. Sample questions/prompts include, “I would like to live here when I’m older,” “This is my hero,” and “If I had a band we would play this song.”

The app contains hundreds of questions and prompts to respond to. In addition to soliciting information and preferences, emotions are explored. Users may choose to enter artistically designated areas to respond to questions/prompts about being angry, sad, or happy.  A few of them may make users feel uncomfortable, such as one that asks them to reveal a secret, or another that asks users to respond to “When I do this my parents feel disgusted”—both of which require a written answer. “This is my enemy” requires a verbal response. However, children can choose to skip any of the questions and/or keep their responses private. The app is available in 60 languages; a trailer offers a sneak peek. VERDICT An excellent opportunity for self-exploration delivered with artistic appeal.—Cindy Wall, Southington (CT) Public Library


Screen from Me (Tinybop) Ana Seixas

Screen from Me (Tinybop) Ana Seixas

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Checking the Bear-omator | SLJ Spotlight on Picture Books Tue, 21 Feb 2017 17:00:58 +0000 Bear stories are perennial favorites for the toddler and preschool set to curl up with and these new titles are no exception. Universal childhood experiences like getting ready for bed, making friends, discovering sweet treats and learning to share, or figuring out how to fit in are all made more bearable and fun with these fuzzy protagonists.

Blackburn, Katie. Dozy Bear and the Secret of Sleep. illus. by Richard Smythe. 32p. HarperCollins. Mar. 2017. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780062564269.

PB-SP-Blackburn-DozyBearPreS-K –Dozy Bear doesn’t know how to go to sleep. Mama, Papa, Nana, and Grampy Bear help Dozy find slumber by teaching him to listen to the quiet sounds of the night and by showing him how to practice deep breathing. Meant to be read aloud, the text uses unspecified “tried-and-true techniques” to teach children how to fall asleep. A lot of the success of this selection may depend upon the tone and cadence of readers’ voices. The rhythmic language and the repetition and emphasis of certain words create a tranquil mood. Words such as heavy, cozy, settled, and snuggled encourage body awareness and mindfulness. The mellow illustrations reinforce the text’s gentle progression toward sleep as they transition from the warm colors of sunset into the soft and cool hues of night. Children will appreciate Dozy Bear and his forest friends. Parents whose children struggle to fall asleep may benefit from integrating this story into the bedtime routine. Outside of naptime and bedtime, the title may lack the versatility necessary for general classroom and library use. VERDICT An optional purchase for library collections that already include soothing bedtime tales.–Alyssa ­Annico, Youngstown State University, OH

Na, Il Sung. Bird, Balloon, Bear. illus. by Il Sung Na. 32p. ebook available. Knopf. Mar. 2017. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780399551550.

PB-SP-Na-BirdBalloonBearPreS-K –Bird looks for a friend on his first day in the new forest. He spies Bear but is too shy to introduce himself. Before he builds up the courage to speak to the stranger, Bear finds a handsome though silent red balloon. Bear’s play with Balloon is watched from afar by isolated, lonely Bird. When the wind blows Balloon away, Bird tries to rescue it, but the balloon pops. Bird and Bear now become friends and share great fun. Perspectives change on each spread, as does the placement of figures on the white backgrounds. The result is a dramatic pacing as the tale moves from richly hued spreads to smaller portraits of Bird and Bear on open pages. This simply told tale of unlikely friendships and resilience is as appealing as the creator’s Opposite Zoo and Welcome Home Bear. VERDICT A sweet, endearing tale just right for sharing one-on-one or with small groups.–Maria B. Salvadore, formerly at ­District of Columbia Public Library

Gavin, Ciara. Bear Likes Jam. illus. by Ciara Gavin. 32p. ebook available. Knopf. Feb. 2017. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780399551796.

PB-SP-Gavin-BearLikesJamPreS-Gr 1 –Bear and his duck family return in this third installment, which features a sweet lesson about the virtues of foods that don’t come in jam jars. Having never tried such perfect preserves, Bear is astonished at how delicious they are and vows never to eat anything else. He refuses to share, starts to sneak into the pantry at night, and generally begins to worry wise Mama Duck. She insists that her big bear have no more jam until he eats his vegetables. Bear’s subsequent histrionics include lying prostrate, furry paw thrown across his face, convinced “he would become seriously ill.” After a night of hunger pangs, Bear accepts the help of his clever siblings and makes a game of eating his peas, corn, and potatoes. Bear learns to enjoy his jam after a balanced meal and to share with his feathered family. Gavin’s warm watercolor illustrations perfectly play up Bear’s comical proportions in comparison with his duck family. VERDICT A sweet title that’s perfect for storytime and sure to satisfy persistent parents and jam-loving kids.–Jenna Boles, Greene County Public Library, Beavercreek, OH

Rim, Sujean. Chee-Kee: A Panda in Bearland. illus. by Sujean Rim. 40p. Little, Brown. Feb. 2017. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780316407441.

PB-SP-Rim-CheeKeeK-Gr 3 –Inspired by her family’s journey from Korea, Rim addresses the challenge of moving to a new community. Traveling by boat across the vast ocean from the Island of Coney, a panda named Chee-Kee Loo and his family come to live in Bearland. Watercolor and collage are used to depict the sometimes daunting process of adjusting to a new land with new rules. Thought bubbles reveal that the residents of Bearland have lots of questions. But what they actually say is, “Hello! It’s nice to meet you, Loo family.” Some plot choices are surprising. Why does Chee-Kee need to help the other bears in order to fit in? Why does he get a ball out of a tree that both bears and pandas could climb? And why does he use bamboo (panda food) to create a pole vault? These questions could be used as a teaching moment. Welcoming new members into the community or the classroom is complicated. What could the bears have done differently? How do we deal with assumptions and questions about newcomers? Be sure to read the backstory provided by the author for a discussion of the topic. VERDICT This is a simple, gentle selection that works as a good conversation starter to nurture empathy and encourage inclusion and a sense of community. Pair it with an interactive exercise to illustrate the important issues introduced.–Eva Thaler-Sroussi, Glencoe Public Library, IL

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First Things First: YA Debuts | SLJ Spotlight Tue, 21 Feb 2017 17:00:35 +0000 From fun romances to royal intrigue and from a harrowing tale of Hurricane Katrina to a teen’s journey from Haiti to Detroit, the following YA debut novels offer new stories and voices on the teen lit scene.

Alene, Catherine. The Sky Between You and Me. 496p. ebook available. Sourcebooks/Fire. Feb. 2017. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781492638537.

YA-SP-Alene-TheSkybetweenYouandMeGr 10 Up –Raesha is determined to win Nationals. She and her horse, Fancy, must make the best time in the barrel race, and Rae has to be as light as possible. So she begins to deprive herself of food. To complicate matters, a new girl is flirting with Rae’s boyfriend, Cody, and trying to steal Rae’s best friend, Asia. Rae copes by creating her own world, where everything is about control, from keeping track of calories to counting seconds on the clock. Her mantra is “lighter, leaner, faster,” and the scale must be “minus five.” Drawing from personal experience referenced in an author’s note, Alene has crafted a novel in verse that articulates the slow decline and ongoing recovery of a teen battling anorexia nervosa. The story’s scope shows how deep and complicated anorexia’s hold can be; Rae’s need for control extends beyond her own immediate situation to her grief over her mother, also an equestrian, who died of cancer. What if Rae can no longer fit on her mother’s saddle? What if she can keep the scale at minus five? What if she could have stopped her mother from dying? Raw and heartbreaking, Alene’s work tackles a very sensitive topic with accuracy and compassion. VERDICT This title will resonate with readers on many levels. A first purchase for most older YA collections.–Erin Holt, Williamson County Public Library, Franklin, TN

Brant, Wendy. Zenn Diagram. 328p. Kids Can. Apr. 2017. Tr $17.95. ISBN 9781771387927.

YA-SP-ZennDiagramGr 7 Up –Eva Walker is content to be a self-described math nerd, but she doesn’t like being considered a germaphobe by her classmates. It’s true that she shies away from touching other people, but they don’t know the truth: when Eva touches others, she is immediately able to get a sense of their innermost thoughts and feelings. Overwhelmed by this onslaught of unsolicited knowledge, she turns inward, focusing on her beloved math formulas, her three-year-old quadruplet siblings, and her best friend, Charlotte, who is also lingering on the social fringes. But Eva’s life turns upside down after she begins tutoring new student Zenn. The dark maelstrom of emotions that Eva receives when she accidentally touches his jacket are complicated by her immediate attraction to Zenn’s rebellious, artistic nature. Brant deftly navigates changing friendships and parental bonds with a taciturn, angst-ridden teen protagonist who is also loving and thoughtful—a refreshing yet authentic balance. With the added boost of a surprising (but well-resolved) plot twist and a hint of the paranormal grafted onto a main trunk of realistic YA fiction, this sophisticated debut depicts teen issues with nuance and aplomb. Eva and Zenn’s sexual relationship is referenced, but with a light, not-too-graphic touch. VERDICT Readers who love quirky, character-driven romances, such as John Green’s An Abundance of Katherines and heartstring-yanking melodrama in the vein of Lauren Oliver’s YA books will enjoy this novel, which seems to be an intriguing blend of both.–Evelyn Khoo Schwartz, Georgetown Day School, Washington, DC

Belasco, Sonia. Speak of Me as I Am. 272p. ebook available. Philomel. Apr. 2017. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780399546761.

YA-SP-Belasco-SpeakofMeasIAmGr 8 Up –How does one cope with loss? How can a person move on from the death of a mother? Or that of a best friend? These are the issues Melanie and Damon have to confront as they embark on another year of school. Damon’s best friend, Carlos, committed suicide, so Damon’s family moved to give Damon a fresh start at a new school. Melanie’s mom passed away over the summer from cancer, and Melanie and her father have a hard time dealing with the giant hole in their lives. Hoping to keep his connection to Carlos alive, Damon takes pictures with Carlos’s camera, while Melanie, who has been avoiding any kind of artistic urge since losing her mom, a larger-than-life artist, is convinced to help paint the sets for the school’s play, Othello, in which Damon is playing the lead. Maybe together they can figure out how to live with loss and sadness, instead of trying to ignore it. Chapters that alternate between Damon’s and Melanie’s perspectives begin by addressing the teens’ late loved ones. Readers will come away with a strong sense of not only the protagonists but also the secondary characters, including the departed. In a moving author’s note, Belasco includes helpful links to a variety of supportive organizations whose missions link to the story’s themes. VERDICT A good purchase for realistic fiction collections and for readers looking for books about survivor’s guilt and healing.–Natalie Struecker, Atlantic Public Library, IA

Cagan, Kayla. Piper Perish. 416p. ebook available. Chronicle. Mar. 2017. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781452155838.

YA-SP-Cagan-PiperPerishGr 9 Up –High school senior Piper Perish is an art monster. She and her two best friends, Kit and Enzo, find opportunities to embrace their artistic talents in just about any situation, especially when it comes to designing their own outfits. But when their collective plan to attend art school in New York City starts to fall apart, Piper must come to terms with not only her friendships but also her chaotic family life. Although the book takes place in Houston, the setting could really be anywhere-America, as Piper and crew mainly shuttle back and forth among school, one another’s houses, and a local diner. Written in Piper’s voice, the novel is in journal format, which results in an easy reading experience; however, entire scenes of dialogue are recorded word-for-word, making this title closer in style to Samuel Richardson’s classic Pamela than Laura Amy Schlitz’s The Hired Girl. Piper’s email correspondence with Silas (a student already enrolled in art school) is a bright point in the narrative. Though few and far between, Silas’s contributions manage to sketch out, in one case literally, New York City and college life in a way that is alluring and realistic, and his voice is a refreshing contrast to Piper’s often tiresome naïveté: “I asked Mom if we were low-income.” VERDICT While readers will likely give the happier-than-happy ending the side-eye, the peek into Piper’s creative process (and ultimate success) will embolden budding teen artists. Consider wherever realistic fiction is popular.–Della Farrell, School Library Journal

Gallagher, Diana. Lessons in Falling. 250p. ebook available. Spencer Hill. Feb. 2017. pap. $9.95. ISBN 9781633920378.

YA-SP-Gallagher-LessonsinFallingGr 9 Up –Savannah decides to quit gymnastics after one too many injuries. After focusing so intensively on the sport that she hoped would land her a college scholarship, she is struggling to discover who she is. Her dad wants her to resume training, and her longtime best friend, Cassie, wants her to ditch gymnastics and move to the city with her. Then Cassie attempts to take her own life, and in addition to feeling guilty for not recognizing any signs of Cassie’s unhappiness, Savannah no longer has her friend’s support. Fellow student Marcos, who helped to rescue Cassie, brings a new perspective, and as Savannah starts tutoring him, she falls for him, too. Gradually, she begins to feel that he is the only person who supports her and believes that she can achieve her dreams. In her debut novel, Gallagher draws on her deep knowledge of gymnastics to add authentic sports details to familiar YA novel territory of the friends-vs.-relationship drama. Her narrative also reaches into contemporary headlines with Marcos’s story: he’s an immigrant who faces racism and bullying from other students at school. VERDICT Fans of realistic fiction and coming-of-age books will enjoy this touching tale about dealing with difficult friendships, growing up, and finding oneself. A strong choice for most YA collections.–Morgan O’Reilly, Riverdale Country School, NY

redstarJackson, Tiffany D. Allegedly. 400p. ebook available. HarperCollins/Katherine Tegen Bks. Jan. 2017. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780062422644.

YA-SP-Jackson-AllegedlyGr 9 Up –Jackson delivers a requiem about systemic issues of injustice in this debut novel that portrays the juvenile justice system, meant to rehabilitate youth who have gone astray, and the social service system, which is intended to defend those whose rights have been infringed upon. Interwoven with case study excerpts, depositions, and inmate interviews, this gripping thriller centers on 16-year-old Mary Beth Addison, who was incarcerated for the alleged murder of a three-month-old infant. Not all of the clues point to then nine-year-old Mary’s guilt, though. Now Mary is in a group home with hopes of moving into the world and maybe even to college. But she’s been unable to get her birth certificate from her mother, and she needs the document to take her SATs. She’s also just learned that she’s pregnant, which threatens to turn her macabre existence into a permanent nightmare. Because Mary is underage and her 18-year-old boyfriend, Ted, is also in a group facility, their child will be put up for adoption after Mary gives birth, but Mary will go to any length to prevent that from happening. With remarkable skill, Jackson offers an unflinching portrayal of the raw social outcomes when youth are entrapped in a vicious cycle of nonparenting and are sent spiraling down the prison-for-profit pipeline. VERDICT This dark, suspenseful exploration of justice and perception raises important questions teens will want to discuss. An excellent selection for YA shelves.–Sabrina Carnesi, ­Crittenden Middle School, Newport News, VA

Laurence, Matthew. Freya. 352p. ebook available. Imprint. Mar. 2017. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781250088178.

YA-SP-Laurence-FreyaGr 8 Up –Freya is a lesser-known deity from the Norse pantheon. Her bailiwick includes not only love and beauty (eat your heart out, Aphrodite) but also death and war (so take that, Apollo!). In this world built by game designer and author Laurence, gods of all times and cultural traditions remain immortal as long as they are still sustained by believers. But forever is a long time, even for deities, especially when waning belief shrinks divine powers. Sara Vanadi (Freya) has been cooling her heels in a mental hospital for many years when a corporation reaches out through a sinister pitchman, Garen, to recruit her with a nearly irresistible deal. The Norse wisecracker’s refusals are met with escalating violence, semi-deific powers, and magic. Freya pulls Nathan, a new asylum employee, along with her as she reenters society, and he provides the updated savvy she needs about cell phones and fashion while she charms money out of banks and buoys her rising strength, based on the belief of enraptured children at Disney World. Before long, hiding is not an option, and Freya must go the double agent route to try to take down nefarious forces. Hand this to readers ready to move on from the high jinks of Percy Jackson and to fans of Brandon Sanderson’s Steelheart. VERDICT While the characters’ ages best fit in the “new adult” bracket, a lack of sappy romance, a kick-butt heroine, and comic book definitions of good and evil make this a natural choice for YA collections seeking adrenaline-infused adventure.–Suzanne Gordon, Lanier High School, Sugar Hill, GA

Nesbitt, Karen. Subject to Change. 288p. Orca. Feb. 2017. pap. $14.95. ISBN 9781459811461.

YA-SP-Nesbitt-SubjecttoChangeGr 10 Up –In Nesbitt’s debut novel, readers come face-to-face with Declan, a teen living in Quebec and coping with major family issues. Told through Declan’s point of view, the narrative is somewhat slow-paced until the reason behind Declan’s parents’ split is revealed: his father cheated with another man. With his family life further challenged by his older brother Seamus’s bullying attitude toward him, Declan is at a breaking point, receiving so many detentions at school that he is forced to undergo tutoring. He’s paired with Leah, who turns out not to be the “Little Miss Perfect” he assumed she was all along. Writing in mature language, Nesbitt has crafted a sensitive portrait of a teen’s uncertain relationship with a gay parent, as well as a family dealing with the aftermath of an affair. As Declan spends time with Leah and her grandmother, Bubby, a Holocaust survivor, his perspective changes a bit, allowing him to give his father another chance. VERDICT Fans of John Corey Whaley and John Green will enjoy this realistic young adult story. A general purchase for YA collections.–Laura Jones, Argos Community Schools, IN

O’Sullivan, Joanne. Between Two Skies. 272p. Candlewick. Apr. 2017. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780763690342.

YA-SP-OSullivan-BetweenTwoSkiesGr 7 Up –In August of 2005, Evangeline Riley is starting her junior year of high school in Bayou Perdu, LA. While many kids in her school talk about how they cannot wait to escape small-town life, Evangeline cannot imagine leaving her fairy tale–like surroundings. The daughter of a fisherman, Evangeline has inherited her father’s passion for the sea. She feels most at home on the family’s skiff, exploring the hidden treasures of the deep bayous. During one of her sojourns, Evangeline comes to the rescue of Tru, who has run himself aground. Although the teens are almost immediately smitten with each other, their budding relationship comes to a halt when Hurricane Katrina ravages the Gulf Coast. After Evangeline and her family evacuate, their entire town is pulled into the ocean. Tru and Evangeline do find each other again, but love is hard when one has no home. In the years that have passed since Hurricane Katrina, there have been many stories about the immediate devastation to New Orleans. This tale reminds readers that there were millions of people all over the gulf affected by this tragedy and that for many, the horror of the event was only beginning, not ending, when the skies cleared. VERDICT A compelling novel with a tender romance, this debut is a great choice for teens who appreciated Jewell Parker Rhodes’s Ninth Ward or Denise Lewis Patrick’s Finding Someplace.–Ellen Fitzgerald, White Oak Library District, Lockport, IL

Park, Jennifer. The Shadows We Know by Heart. 304p. ebook available. S. & S./Simon Pulse. Mar. 2017. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781481463515.

YA-SP-Park-TheShadowsWeKnowByHeartGr 6 Up –Leah’s life seems to be held together by secrets and lies, especially since her older brother was killed in the woods. After Sam’s death, her preacher father became super strict and angry, her melancholy mother began to sip from a secret flask, and only Sam’s twin, Matt, seems unchanged. Leah keeps the biggest secret of all, because she knows that a trio of Sasquatch live in the woods next door and that a wild boy, with whom she is infatuated, lives with them. Although she is forbidden to go into the woods, Leah is drawn into the handsome wild boy’s world, risking punishment and danger to learn more about him. She keeps this friendship a secret even from her best friend, Ashley, who has lost her father and brother, and from her new boyfriend, the sheriff’s son, on whom she has been crushing for years. As she relates her story, Leah frequently refers to the tragedy that killed Sam 10 years earlier, revealing small clues and memories of the event, and readers may be able to connect the dots of the mystery before Leah does. Peppered with romantic metaphors and flowery descriptions, Leah’s first-person narration is dense and dramatic. The novel’s most satisfying passages are at the conclusion, although many loose ends aren’t entirely wrapped up. VERDICT A fantastical romance that will tug the heartstrings, with a bit of mystery and danger. Recommended for all YA collections.–MaryAnn Karre, Binghamton, NY

Taylor, Whitney. Definitions of Indefinable Things. 336p. ebook available. HMH. Apr. 2017. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780544805040.

YA-SP-Taylor-DefinitionsofIndefinableThingsGr 8 Up –In her engaging debut, Taylor skillfully captures adolescent depression and anxiety. Reggie, 17, feels alienated from her religious family after enduring several serious losses. Feeling emotionally abandoned, she is determined never to be hurt again. While picking up her Zoloft prescription, Reggie meets fellow teen Snake, who is in line for his Prozac. At first she is extremely resistant to Snake’s attention, but he pursues her relentlessly. She eventually succumbs to his charms, but that’s only the beginning of a very complicated relationship. Reggie’s queen bee classmate Carla is pregnant, and Snake, it turns out, is the father. The three teens’ tenuous connections periodically strain, break, and heal as they realistically stumble their way toward a sort of friendship and, ultimately, happiness. The main characters are well drawn and unique. The secondary characters are less so, but this doesn’t lower the overall quality of this novel’s insightful portrayal of complex teens struggling with mental health issues. VERDICT An emotionally engrossing and powerful exploration of depression and healing that many teens will find meaningful. A strong choice for libraries serving teens.–Susan ­Riley, ­Mamaroneck Public Library, NY

Vinesse, Cecilia. Seven Days of You. 336p. Little, Brown/Poppy. Mar. 2017. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780316391115; ebk. $9.99. ISBN 9780316391085.

YA-SP-Vinesse-SevenDaysofYouGr 9 Up –Sophia’s last seven days of living in Japan are supposed to be perfect. She has plans to hang out with her two close friends and see everything that the electric city of Tokyo has to offer. But when Jaime, a friend from her past, makes a jarring reappearance right at the beginning of her final week, Sophia is unable to concentrate on anything. With Jaime in the picture, suddenly everything she thought was secure starts to crumble around her. Will Sophia be able to see the good that can come from change before her time runs out? This highly readable novel about finding home and discovering oneself will have fans of Stephanie Perkins’s Anna and the French Kiss swooning. While the character development makes this title a page-turner, the ways that Vinesse realistically weaves in the Japanese setting are the true strengths of the book. The well-placed details effectively capture not only Tokyo but also the experience of studying or living abroad. Though the story plays with the typical teen romance trope of a girl pining for the guy she believes is out of her league, the plot twists and strong writing will keep even the most jaded reader entertained until the very final pages. VERDICT A recommended purchase that will fit comfortably in both contemporary YA and teen romance sections.–DeHanza Kwong, Central Piedmont Community College, Charlotte, NC

Worsley, Lucy. Maid of the King’s Court. 368p. Candlewick. Mar. 2017. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780763688066.

YA-SP-Worsley-MaidoftheKingsCourtGr 9 Up –The fate of the noble Camperdowne family rests on the marriage prospects of the baron’s spunky but dutiful daughter Elizabeth. After a canceled betrothal, Elizabeth is sent to live with distant relatives in the hopes of furthering her prospects. At the age of 15, she becomes a maid of honor at the court of Henry VIII, along with her cousin and rival, Katherine Howard. Instead of securing an advantageous marriage, Elizabeth befriends Ned Barsby, a courtier of low standing. As it becomes increasingly clear that the king is displeased with his current wife, Elizabeth’s father asks her to aim to become Henry’s mistress. But Katherine beats her to the game and becomes not only the king’s mistress but also his next wife and queen. After two years, word spreads that Katherine is having an affair, and she is arrested and later beheaded. The dialogue-heavy prose and the courtly intrigues make this historical novel a riveting page-turner. Worsley, chief curator at Historic Royal Palaces and a British television personality, uses the perspective of a fictitious cousin to explore the motives of the ill-fated Katherine Howard. Although some historical details are altered—the character of Francis Manham, Katherine’s lover, is a blend of at least three different individuals, for example—much of the novel comes from documented events, such as the scene in which Queen Anne of Cleves’s staff must inform her “exactly how babies were made.” VERDICT Dense but accessible, this title will enhance larger collections where historical fiction is in demand.–Magdalena Teske, Naperville Public Library, IL

redstarZoboi, Ibi. American Street. 336p. ebook available. HarperCollins/Balzer + Bray. Feb. 2017. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780062473042.

YA-SP-Zoboi-AmericanStreetGr 9 Up –After her mother is detained by immigration officials, Fabiola Toussaint has to finish her move from Port-au-Prince to Detroit alone. The tough-as-nails cousins and exhausted aunt who greet her in Michigan bear little resemblance to the warm family she had dreamed of when she was in Haiti. Left with a mother-size hole in her life, Fabiola begins the unsteady process of assimilation, holding on to her family’s spiritual traditions while navigating the disconnectedness and violence of her new home. A sweet romance and her cousins’ fierce and complex support ease the teen into a halfway space between worlds, but her eyes remain on the prize of reuniting with her mother. When Fabiola is approached by the police to inform on her cousin’s volatile boyfriend in exchange for information about her mother, she must work around the gaps in her understanding to make some explosive decisions. In this bright, sharp debut, Zoboi weaves grittiness, sensitivity, and complexity into every character, but Fabiola’s longing, determination, and strength shine especially brightly. VERDICT A breathtaking story about contemporary America that will serve as a mirror to some and a window for others, and it will stay with anyone who reads it. A must-purchase for YA collections.–Beth McIntyre, Madison Public Library, WI

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Blast from the Past | SLJ Spotlight on Middle Grade Tue, 21 Feb 2017 17:00:29 +0000 Are your patrons itching to revisit days of yore and bygone eras? These recent novels take on historical fiction from varied perspectives, from a narrative set during the 1950s that tackles bias and prejudice to a tale of medieval London that incorporates fantasy and magic.

Doan, Lisa. The Alarming Career of Sir Richard Blackstone. 192p. ebook available. Sky Pony. Feb. 2017. Tr $15.99. ISBN 9781510711228.

MG-SP-Doan-AlarmingCareerofSirRichardBlackstoneGr 4-6 –The dark, dangerous streets of medieval London are home, of a sort, to 12-year-old Henry. His days are spent foraging for food, running away from cruel parents trying to sell him into servitude, and seeking his own gainful employment. As the story begins, Henry jumps onto the back of a coach leaving the city. He’s off to answer an ad for a scientist advertising for an apprentice. As luck would have it, Henry finds the correct address and is employed. The cook is a wonderful, generous woman, while the butler is grouchy and suspects Henry of no good. His employer, Sir Richard Blackstone, is well-meaning but a truly unfortunate scientist. His experiments bring excitement, as well as humor, to the narrative. Henry is a smart young man who is able to use his intuition to solve problems. Most important, he pieces together clues necessary to ultimately contrive an antidote for the poisonous spider Sir Richard accidentally enlarged. In so doing, Henry saves the duchess and, perhaps, the whole village. A dishonest, evil man tries to steal the duchess’s fortune by tricking her into marriage, but Henry becomes suspicious of him and follows the trail of clues all the way to his own happy ending. This well-written, engaging tale revolves around missing loved ones, stolen silver, and magic powder. Strong character development, an original plot, and tight pacing all come together for a thoroughly enjoyable reading experience. VERDICT A solid historical fantasy novel, recommended for most public, school, and classroom libraries.–Elizabeth Swartz, Warrior Run School District, PA

Goodman, Carol. The Metropolitans. 368p. ebook available. Viking. Mar. 2017. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781101997666.

MG-SP-Goodman-TheMetropolitansGr 4-7 –A work of historical fiction set during World War II. Madge McGrary doesn’t know where she belongs anymore. After moving in with her aunt Jean when her mother died, Madge does her best to stay out from underfoot. When her Sunday afternoon takes her to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Madge, along with Joe, Kiku, and Walt, encounters a very peculiar, if not a bit eccentric, curator named Dr. Dashwood Bean. Dr. Bean entrusts the four children with an important mission: locate the missing Kelmsbury Manuscript, an ancient volume of Arthurian legends, which has been hidden somewhere in the library. With the Kelmsbury’s help and a little bit of magic as well, the kids begin to act as though they are the real Lancelot, Guinevere, Morgan le Fay, and King Arthur. And they are the only thing standing against a successful attack by the Nazis that could kill millions—even as that which brought them together threatens to tear them apart. In an adventure worthy of Indiana Jones or Allan Quatermain, the action unfolds at a page-turning pace. VERDICT A strong female protagonist, a great supporting cast, a timeless myth, and the undercurrent of World War II combine for an engaging and memorable tale. A solid choice for book clubs.–Wayne R. Cherry Jr., St. Pius X High School, Houston

Holbrook, Sara. The Enemy. 244p. ebook available. Boyds Mills/Calkins Creek. Mar. 2017. Tr $17.95. ISBN 9781629794983.

MG-SP-Holbrook-TheEnemyGr 5-8 –One aspect of becoming an adult—and a dominant theme in this book—is developing the understanding that our perceptions of the truth can be wrong. Marjorie is 12 years old and lives in 1950s Detroit. Not only is her family affected by the fear of communism but her father still struggles as a result of his time fighting in World War II. When Inga Scholtz, a new student from Germany, is seated next to Marjorie in class, the protagonist begins to grapple with her preconceptions and prejudices. Furthering Marjorie’s anxiety and confusion, her friends create the “Slam Book” to shame Inga. When everything comes to a head, Marjorie learns that true bravery is standing up to those who use prejudice and untruth to bully and humiliate others. Marjorie is a young woman living in a time when biased opinions are too easily distorted into fact. Holbrook uses her own firsthand knowledge, from her childhood in the 1950s, to demonstrate the impact that the outside political and social climate has on Marjorie and her family. Read-alikes include Christine Kohler’s No Surrender Soldier, Monika Schröder’s My Brother’s Shadow, and Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch’s Making Bombs for Hitler. VERDICT A fine example of historical fiction for middle school readers. This will tie in to most curricula and is a good choice for any public or school library collection.–Meaghan Nichols, Archaeological Research Associates, Ont.

Rose, Caroline Starr. Jasper and the Riddle of Riley’s Mine. 304p. ebook available. Putnam. Feb. 2017. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780399168116.

MG-SP-Rose-JasperandtheRiddleofRileysMineGr 4-7 –The dreams and dangers of the 1879 Klondike gold rush fuel Rose’s first novel in prose, and it’s a rousing historical adventure. By the end of the first chapter, news of the strikes reaches 11-year-old Jasper and 16-year-old Melvin’s rural Washington town. The brothers quickly forsake their abusive father and set out for the gold fields of Canada. Harsh weather and physical challenges aren’t the only perils along the way. Stampeders are more likely to steal from than help one another, especially two boys traveling alone. Tall tales of gold that grows on trees keep the brothers’ hopes high; Jasper is spurred on by the legend of a million-dollar stake abandoned by miner One-Eyed Riley, who left behind a series of riddles leading to the gold. It’s unlikely that readers will be able to solve the riddles and locate Riley’s claim on the included map, but that won’t deter them. Rose’s carefully plotted clues, along with colorful supporting characters and narrow escapes, keep the pace brisk until Jasper finds Riley’s mine in a suspenseful climax. Complementing a narrative rich in details about life on the frontier, the author’s note provides more intriguing facts, including profiles of characters in the book who were true historical figures. VERDICT Highly recommended for fans of adventure and historical fiction, or as a classroom read-aloud.–Marybeth Kozikowski, Sachem ­Public Library, Holbrook, NY

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An Antidote for the Winter Blues | SLJ Spotlight on Nonfiction Tue, 21 Feb 2017 17:00:00 +0000 Cold, blustery days got elementary students down? These spring-related titles are just the ticket to get kids energized for longer and warmer days ahead. Jacqueline Briggs Martin’s Creekfinding: A True Story is dedicated to the caretakers of the earth; Shelley Rotner’s Hello Spring introduces little ones to the season; and Libby Walden’s Things That Grow investigates the transformational power of nature.

Martin, Jacqueline Briggs. Creekfinding: A True Story. illus. by Claudia McGehee. 36p. University of Minnesota. Mar. 2017. Tr $16.95. ISBN 9780816698028.

NF-SPOT-Martin-CreekfindingGr 1-3 –Dedicated to “those who take care of our green places,” this true account of how native Iowan Michael Osterholm “found” and restored a lost creek teaches children about ecosystems, problem-solving, and determination. When a neighbor told Osterholm that he once caught a brook trout in Osterholm’s newly acquired cornfield, a dream was born. (“Mike knew there must have been a creek on that prairie. He wanted to find the creek, make a place for brook trout, birds, bugs, and frogs…. Others laughed, said Mike’s plan was foolishness. Lost is lost.”) With a little help from his friends and some heavy machines, he located the bottom of the creek and cleared its path. But Osterholm’s dream required both hard work and patience—he planted grass and green shoots on the banks and waited three summers for them to grow. Gradually plants grew, and insects and small fish appeared. Finally, it was time to introduce the trout. McGehee traveled to the actual site to witness the water and wildlife firsthand before producing her stunning illustrations. (“I wanted to re-create the textures and colors I saw, so readers could ‘walk’ alongside Brook Creek as they learned about its restoration.”) The text is broken up with chapter headings, such as “Trout in a Cornfield” and “Fish Squiggles,” and small, italicized sidebars in blades of grass or streams of water provide additional information. VERDICT Eloquent narrative nonfiction to inspire the future caretakers of our planet.–Barbara Auerbach, New York City Public Schools

Rotner, Shelley. Hello Spring! photos by Shelley Rotner. 32p. glossary. Holiday House. Feb. 2017. Tr $16.95. ISBN 9780823437528

NF-SPOT-Rotner-HelloSpring!PreS-Gr 2 –A joyous and simple ode to spring and all its glory. Winter is over, and flora and fauna are waking up with the arrival of spring. (“Birds return with song, busy building nests and laying eggs. Daffodils dance. Dandelions dot. Forsythia shouts!”) Large color photographs of nature and a diverse array of children enjoying the spring season accompany the spare, poetic text. Young readers will appreciate seeing children their own age interacting with nature and will glean spring-related facts and vocabulary along the way. A glossary with highly accessible definitions is included. VERDICT A vibrant, welcome addition to school and public library collections, this title introduces all that the spring season has to offer for preschoolers.–Megan ­Kilgallen, Packer Collegiate Institute, Brooklyn

Walden, Libby. Things That Grow. illus. by Becca Stadtlander. 76p. Tiger Tales/360 Degrees. Mar. 2017. Tr $12.99. ISBN 9781944530051.

NF-SPOT-Walden-ThingsThatGrowGr 2-5 –This beautifully illustrated small-format book investigates various types of growth in nature. The text starts with plant life, followed by animals and, finally, the universe. Each spread within a section examines different types of growth, from the very typical seed-to-plant sequence to more unique examples, such as the axolotl lizard’s life cycle. Human evolution is discussed briefly as well, but there is little information beyond the explanation that people have evolved. The visuals are well tailored to reflect the text and are welcoming and detailed. The content is presented in a conversational tone, and the browsable facts are accessible for even young readers. VERDICT Kids interested in the natural world will devour this quiet but fascinating selection.­–Ellen Norton, Naperville Public Library, IL

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Science Award Opportunity; #BlackSTEMLikeMe | News Bites Tue, 21 Feb 2017 16:21:36 +0000 (Updated February 23)

Emperor Science Award Program Seeks Entries Through March 17

esa-stand-up-logoPBS Learning Media and Stand Up To Cancer are encouraging high school students to explore careers in science, including cancer research, through the second annual Emperor Science Award Program. Entries are open through March 17, 2017, for 10th and 11th grade U.S.-based students. The program will award 100 students a mentoring opportunity to work with a university-level research scientist on a multi-week cancer research project. To apply, students must submit an application and a 750-word essay.

American Historical Association recognizes librarian and historian for creating TeachArchives.Org

Robin Katz award

Robin Katz, left, and Julie Golia

University of California, Riverside Outreach & Public Services librarian Robin Katz and Julie Golia, director of public history with the Brooklyn Historical Society, have received the James Harvey Robinson Prize from the American Historical Association.

The James Harvey Robinson Prize is awarded to the creators of a teaching aid that has made the most outstanding contribution to the teaching and learning of history for public or educational purposes. Katz and Golia were recognized for their work on, making information available online for free to a global audience.

The pair was awarded a three-year grant from the U.S. Department of Education through the Fund for the Improvement of Post-Secondary Education.

Virginia librarian named 2017 Sister Sally Daly Memorial Grant recipient

The Catholic Library Association (CLA), together with Junior Library Guild—a Media Source Inc. company—established a grant in 2007 in memory of Sally Daly, SSJ, an ardent supporter of recruiting new members to CLA and its Children’s Library Services Section.


Sister Sally Daly

Angie Bush, a librarian at St. Anne Catholic School in Bristol, VA, is this year’s recipient of the $1,500 grant, intended to enable her to attend CLA’s annual convention in St. Louis, MO. Bush is a member of the Virginia Association of School Librarians, the Southwest Virginia State Reading Association, and serves on Virginia’s Reader’s Choice committee. She earned her Library Media Certification from the University of Virginia College at Wise in 2011.

“While we’ve always been supportive of the Catholic school community, we’ve recently introduced a number of products and services that make it even easier for Catholic educators to get high quality, new-release books that meet their standards for content for their libraries,” says Andrew Thorne, vice president, marketing, for Junior Library Guild.

Sesame Workshop named semi-finalist for the MacArthur Foundation 100&Change grant

refugeesContenders for the MacArthur Foundation’s new $100 million grant for a single proposal that solves a major global problem have been narrowed down to eight, from nearly 2,000 applicants. One of those semi-finalists is Sesame Workshop. Together with the International Rescue Committee, they submitted educational multimedia content designed to meet the critical development needs of and mitigate the effects of adverse childhood experiences in crisis settings for the world’s 12 million refugee children.

National Society of Black Engineers launches campaign

Leveraging the popularity of the hit movie Hidden Figures, about three African American women who contributed crucial STEM work to early U.S. space missions, the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE) has launched a nationwide campaign, #BlackSTEMLikeMe. The multimedia initiative is aiming to encourage black students and professionals in STEM to share their stories and passions; bring visibility to the important work they’re doing; and show black boys and girls that a future in STEM is an attainable career path. They can do that by sharing STEM stories on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat or via  using the #BlackSTEMLikeMe hashtag. The best stories will be entered in NSBE’s national social media webisode series.

Texas Teen Curates Digital Reading List on OverDrive

San Antonio Public Library teen volunteer and Fox Tech High School senior, Cecelia Gonzalez, has parlayed her love of reading into the first teen-curated digital reading list on OverDrive.

“Teen Favorites: Cece’s Picks” is available on the library’s website. The ebooks and eAudiobooks can be checked out and downloaded directly. The items also return themselves when lending periods are over, so borrowers never receive late fees for digital items. Included among Cece’s picks are Death Cloud by Andrew Lane; Me Before You by Jojo Meyers; Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur; The Immortal Instruments by Cassandra Clare; Macbeth by William Shakespeare; and “Harry Potter” titles by J.K. Rowling

Gonzalez, who has been a library volunteer for two years, was recently accepted into Texas Tech University.

snowyThe Snowy Day stamp to be issued

In late 2017, Ezra Jack Keats’s most beloved story, The Snowy Day, will be showcased on a U.S. postage stamp. It was one of the first prominent 20th-century picture books centered on an African-American child. Each of the four new stamps in this 20-stamp booklet features a different illustration of Peter, the main character. Art director Antonio Alcalá designed the stamps with Keats’s original art.

YouTube Channel aims to inspire youth to jump into STEM 

Millennials Xyla Foxlin and Andrew Dupuis are producing “Beauty and the Bolt” with the hope of making STEM-centric projects understandable and accessible to teens, especially young women. Their goal is to share what is happening in the engineering and the maker movement in an engaging manner and make it available to the pockets of the “population that aren’t currently being reached.” Videos are separated into categories, such as the “Zero to Hero” series, which is geared to beginners. Many tutorials have a matching project video.






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Celebrate Black History Month with Afro-Latinx Kid Lit Tue, 21 Feb 2017 14:30:51 +0000 1702-Libro-Tree-r

Top to bottom: Shelley Diaz with her paternal grandmother and twin sister; the author with her father.

Pelo malo.” “Mejorar la raza.”/“Bad hair.” “Better the race.”

These are phrases that I’ve heard all of my life. Piri Thomas’s Down These Mean Streets opened my eyes to the dark truth. This anti-Blackness aspect of my Dominican culture was as much a part of me as my love of plátanos and salami. The African influences within the Latinx culture are indicative of the thousands of years of slavery in Latin America. From the dark hues of our skin to the origins of our celebrated dishes, from the drum beats in our music to the Yoruba facets of our religions, the Black roots within the Hispanic people cannot be denied, even though it took me a while to acknowledge how inherent it was to my own identity.

A Pew Research Center survey of Latinx adults shows that one-quarter of all U.S. Latinxs self-identify as Afro-Latinx, Afro-Caribbean, or of African descent with roots in Latin America. Of that same group, only 18 percent reports their race as “Black.” In fact, higher shares of Afro-Latinx identified as white alone or white in combination with another race–39 percent. There are others who have trouble accepting their African roots.

On February 9, 2016, kid lit bloggers and scholars Edith Campbell, Sujei Lugo, and Guinevere and Libertad Thomas hosted a Twitter chat with the theme, “Where are the Afro-Latinxs in American History?.” Special guests included Torrey Maldonado, author of Secret Saturdays, Sofia Quintero, author of Show and Prove and Efrain’s Secret, and Robert Liu-Trujillo, a visual artist and illustrator. That conversation sparked the idea for this column.

1702-Libro-CVsPicture Books

Brown, Monica. Pelé, King of Soccer/Pelé, El rey del fútbol . illus. by Rudy Gutierrez.HarperCollins/Rayo. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780061227790; pap. $6.99. ISBN 9780061227806.
Gr 1-3 –A bilingual picture book biography about Pelé, the first man in the history of the sport to score 1,000 goals and become a living legend. From the poverty-filled streets of Brazil to the packed stadiums of the World Cup, the dynamic illustrations convey the vigor and verve of the athlete’s life.

Chambers, Veronica. Celia Cruz, Queen of Salsa. illus. by Julie Maren. Dial. 2007. pap. $7.99. ISBN 9780142407790.
Gr 2-4 –This picture book biography of the Cuban songstress pays tribute to the child from Havana who became salsa royalty. The lyrical text and lovely jewel-tone illustrations successfully portray the struggles and triumphs of the Afro-Latina. An excellent introduction to Celia Cruz and her music.

Colón, Raúl. Draw! illus. by author. S. & S/Paula Wiseman Bks. 2014. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781442494923.
PreS-Gr 3 –Based on the Afro-Puerto Rican artist’s childhood, beloved and award-winning illustrator Colón’s wordless work, created with watercolor and colored pencils, depicts a sickly boy who uses his creativity to escape the confines of his bed. Traveling through his drawings to Africa, the boy makes friends with the animals he encounters.

Engle, Margarita. Drum Dream Girl: How One Girl’s Courage Changed Music. illus. by Rafael López. HMH. 2015. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780544102293.
Gr 1-4 –The award-winning Cuban American author has made her mark on children’s literature with her powerful portrayals of little-known aspects of Cuban history, often shedding light on the Afro-Cuban experience. This work is inspired by the childhood of Millo Castro Zaldarriaga, a Chinese-African-Cuban girl who broke down traditional taboos against female drummers. López’s luminous illustrations represent the island’s diversity. Details of Cuba’s and the protagonist’s Chinese, African, Taíno, and Spanish roots are interwoven into the lyrical narrative and the vibrant acrylic paintings.

Steptoe, Javaka. Radiant Child: The Story of Young Artist Jean-Michel Basquiat. illus. by author. Little, Brown. 2016. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780316213882.
Gr 1-5 –A visually stunning picture book biography about modern art phenomenon Jean-Michel Basquiat. Coretta Scott King Award–winner Steptoe’s vivid text and bold artwork reflect the Haitian Puerto Rican artist’s collage-style paintings that rocketed him to fame in the 1980s. Back matter and an introduction to symbolism in Basquiat’s work help readers appreciate the layers of Black identity and Yoruba influences at play in Steptoe’s illustrations.

Velasquez, Eric. Grandma’s Records/Los discos de mi abuela. illus by author. Walker. pap. $9.99. ISBN 9780802776600; Spanish edition ISBN 9781933032184.
Gr 1-3 –Each year, a boy spends the summer with his grandmother in her apartment in Spanish Harlem listening to her records. Grandma is given two tickets to a live concert by a nephew, a percussionist in a well-known Puerto Rican band. When the lead singer dedicates the last song to her, the child is surprised to see everyone singing “Grandma’s special song” (“In My Old San Juan”) with eyes closed and a hand placed over the heart. Velasquez was one of the first children’s book creators to celebrate and bring light to the Afro-Latinx experience. The companion, Grandma’s Gift, won the 2011 Pura Belpré Award.

Velasquez, Eric. Looking for Bongo. illus. by author. Holiday House. 2016. Tr $16.95. ISBN 9780823435654; pap. $6.99. ISBN 9780823437672.
PreS –An Afro-Latino boy searches for his missing stuffed toy. The adorable toddler, depicted charmingly with a puffy Afro, protruding tummy, inquisitive eyes, and pj’s, inquires after the whereabouts of his beloved Bongo. The warm oil paintings illuminate in obvious and not-so-obvious ways the family’s love of music, literature, and their African roots. Velasquez’s Grandma’s Records makes a cameo during the boy’s bedtime ritual. And as in that previous title, this work’s celebration of the diversity within Latinx culture will warm hearts.

Middle Grade

Engle, Margarita. Lion Island: Cuba’s Warrior of Words. S. & S./Atheneum. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781481461122.
Gr 5-8 –In this middle grade novel in verse, Engle transports readers to the world of 1870s Cuba. Antonio Chuffat is of African and Chinese descent and acts as a messenger for Chinese diplomats trying to argue for better conditions. While fighting for liberty for the Chinese, Antonio notices that no one is attempting to free the African side of his family. A beautifully written work that addresses social justice issues that are more important now than ever.

Engle, Margarita. The Poet Slave of Cuba: A Biography of Juan Francisco Manzano. illus. by Sean Qualls. Holt. pap. $9.99. ISBN 9780312659288.
Gr 7 Up –This 2008 Pura Belpré Medal-winning biography presents the true story of a Cuban slave who escaped to become a celebrated poet. Born into the household of a wealthy slave owner in Cuba in 1797, Juan Francisco Manzano was denied an education but showed an exceptional talent for poetry. Qualls’s breathtaking illustrations create a portrait of a life in which even the pain of slavery could not extinguish the capacity for hope. This title serves as a reminder that much of the history of the Caribbean was written on the backs of Black people.

Maldonado, Torrey. Secret Saturdays. Putnam. 2012. pap. $7.99. ISBN 9780142417478.
Gr 5-8 –Friends Justin and Sean, both 12, live in the Red Hook projects in Brooklyn, are Puerto Rican and African American, and have absentee fathers. Sean is straying further from their friendship, avoiding their scheduled sleepovers, lying, and not doing as well in school. He’s been getting into more and more fights when he used to advocate dissing instead of fists. Where is Sean going on Saturdays? Maldonado explores issues of manhood, friendship, and family in this heartfelt, humorous, and poignant urban tale.

Vigilante, Danette. The Trouble with Half a Moon. Putnam. 2015. pap. $7.99. ISBN 9780147515506.
Gr 5-8 –Ever since her brother’s death, Dellie’s life has been quiet and sad. When new neighbors move into the housing projects, Corey, an abused five-year-old boy, is often left home alone and hungry. Dellie strikes up a friendship with this little boy who reminds her so much of her brother. This debut novel authentically captures the diverse community and the characters’ grief, anger, and heartbreak.

1702-Libro-CVs-2Young Adult

Acevedo, Elizabeth. Beastgirl and Other Origin Myths. YesYes. 2016. pap. $12. ISBN 9781936919451.
Gr 10 Up –This book of poems highlights the civil rights abuses affecting Dominican people throughout history. The 21 verses are peppered with Spanish words and cover heavy topics such as rape, abuse, harassment, discrimination, and lynching in a short but resonant volume. Acevedo’s debut YA novel, The Poet X, is slated for publication by HarperCollins in 2018. The author’s own slam poems have gone viral, including the stirring “Afro-Latina.

Elliott, Zetta. A Wish After Midnight. Skyscape. 2010. pap. $12.95. ISBN 9780982555057.
––––.The Door at the Crossroads. CreateSpace. 2016. pap. $15. ISBN 9781515392163.
Gr 8 Up –A speculative fiction series about a teen of Panamanian descent who time travels to Civil War–era Brooklyn with her love interest Judah. In the sequel, The Door at the Crossroads, the young people are separated and Judah struggles to stay alive during the Civil War while Genna travels to New York City during September 11. Elliott’s lyrical writing, thorough research, and excellent pacing make these books a perfect fit for future fans of Octavia Butler and those who enjoyed A Wrinkle in Time.

Herrera, Juan Felipe. Cinnamon Girl: Letters Found Inside a Cereal Box. pap. $9.99. ISBN 9780062447593.
Gr 9 Up –Originally published in 2005, this Americas Award winner was recently reissued for the 9/11 anniversary. A contemplative novel in verse by the 2015-16 U.S. Poet Laureate, the work follows Yolanda, a Puerto Rican young woman, in the aftermath of the attack on the Twin Towers. Through letters and poems, readers experience Yolanda’s loss. Her family’s strength amid tragedy will touch readers.

Myers, Walter Dean. On a Clear Day. Crown. $17.99. ISBN 9780385387538; pap. $9.99. ISBN 9780385387569.
Gr 7-10 –In one of his last books, the former National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature ventured into the dystopian genre. Dominican American heroine and computer whiz Dahlia joins with a diverse group of young adults to stand up to the eight corporations and a global terrorist that have taken over the world. Perfect for reluctant readers, this work explores social, economic, and racial divides in a slim and accessible novel.

Older, Daniel Jose. Shadowshaper. Scholastic/Arthur A. Levine Bks. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780545591614; pap. $9.99. ISBN 9781338032475.
Gr 7 Up –The 2015 SLJ Best Book follows Afro-Latina Sierra Santiago as she discovers that she’s part of a long line of shadowshapers, people with the ability to infuse magic into their art in order to fight off demons. The Brooklyn teen embraces her Blackness and defends it against the critique of her family members—a powerful statement in YA lit. Fresh dialogue and exceptional world-building will have readers anticipating further adventures in the upcoming Shadowhouse Fall slated for September 2017.

Quintero, Sofia. Show and Prove. Delacorte. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780375847073.
Gr 8 Up –Set in 1983 in the South Bronx, this coming-of-age tale by Afro-Latina Quintero presents the friendship between African American Smiles and Puerto Rican Nike against the backdrop of hip-hop, Reaganomics, and war in the Middle East. Quintero explores the racial tensions but also collaborations that flourish between the Latino and Black community with a deft hand. Teens will be fully immersed in the 80s setting.

Adult Books for Teens

Chambers, Veronica. Mama’s Girl. Riverhead. 1997. pap. $15. ISBN 9781573225991.
Growing up in the 1970s in a home plagued by violence, divorce, and double standards, the award-winning author (who wrote this memoir in her 20s) struggled to exceed low expectations and a fraught relationship with her mother. Chambers, who is of Panamanian descent, takes an honest look at the trials that she and her family had to face in the United States. A title that will resonate with many teens.

Diaz, Junot. Drown. Riverhead. 1997. pap. $12. ISBN 9781573226066.
The Pulitzer Prize–winning author first burst onto the literary scene with this short story collection about a Dominican teen growing up in New Jersey. The entries explore the stark reality of having to juggle the values of two cultures while never completely fitting in with either. This poignant work has become required reading in many high school courses for good reason. Diaz explores the inherent racism in the United States and his native Quisqueya.

Thomas, Piri. Down These Mean Streets. Vintage. 1997. pap. $14.95. ISBN 9780679781424.
Thomas’s classic is as relevant today as when it was originally published in 1967. The lyrical memoir follows the coming-of-age on the streets of Spanish Harlem of a Puerto Rican in English-speaking America—a dark-skinned morenito in a family that refused to acknowledge its African blood. Drugs, street fighting, and armed robbery eventually land the 22-year-old Piri in prison for shooting a cop. An eye-opening account of one young man’s journey of identity, marginalization, survival, and transcendence.




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Alex Awards Check-In | Adult Books 4 Teens Tue, 21 Feb 2017 14:00:56 +0000 Last month in Atlanta, I had the honor of announcing the winners of YALSA’s Nonfiction, Printz, and Morris Awards at the American Library Association’s Youth Media Awards. Serving as one of the emcees of the “Oscars of the Youth Lit World” was a once-in-a-lifetime event, but I’ll admit that while backstage I was listening carefully to the previously recorded announcement that began the show. Alex Awards Chair Kristen Thorp announced the list of 10 Alex winners, and I was silently thinking, “Yes! AB4T reviewed that one!” and “What? I’ve never heard of that book!” As we promised last March, it’s time for some reflection—how well did Adult Books 4 Teens (AB4T) do picking the winners of the Alex Awards?

Last year, the column reviewed four out of the 10 Alex winners and 14 out of the 40 Alex vetted nominations. This year? The column reviewed five of the 10 Alex winners and 11 of the 51 vetted nominations. During this column’s three-month hiatus, two Alex winners and 10 vetted titles were supposed to be reviewed, but unfortunately weren’t. So, I’ll call this year a success!

What were the five titles that both the Alex committee and our reviewers thought were perfect for teens? In the Country We Love: My Family Divided, Arena, Every Heart a Doorway, The Invisible Life of Ivan Isaenko, and Romeo and/or Juliet: A Choosable-Path Adventure. I’ll conveniently not discuss at length the AB4T Best Books list, because none of our selections matched the Alex winners this year. I prefer to think it’s because Mark and I were not sitting around the Alex table in Atlanta—pouring our hearts out to persuade our committee members.

Last year, our 2016 “That Looks Interesting” list had 482 adult books. Of those, our fantastic reviewers examined 278 titles and reviewed 120, and 97 of those reviews were published in this column. Eighty-seven reviews made it into the print version of SLJ, and I hope that our readers found our lists and reviews essential for collection development.

As Mark and I begin our first complete year together as cocolumnists, be assured that we will continue to search for high-quality, teen-friendly materials, like the four curriculum-supporting nonfiction titles reviewed today.

Published in December 2016, Dava Sobel’s The Glass Universe: How the Ladies of the Harvard Observatory Took the Measure of the Stars is too important to not mention, as it highlights women in the astronomical community. Another title that spotlights achievements of women, Dust Bowl Girls: The Inspiring Story of the Team That Barnstormed Its Way to Basketball Glory, is perfect for sports readers. True crime enthusiasts will be fascinated by the last two titles. First, Grace Humiston, a female lawyer in the early 1900s, earned the nickname Mrs. Sherlock Holmes for her ability to solve mysteries as she defended disadvantaged clients. I’d like to think that she would have spoken up for Trayvon Martin if she were still alive today. In Rest in Power: The Enduring Life of Trayvon Martin, Trayvon’s parents present the troubles with their son’s murder investigation, all while acknowledging how his death became a call for social justice action.


RestinpowerredstarFULTON, Sybrina & Tracy Martin. Rest in Power: The Enduring Life of Trayvon Martin. 352p. ebook available. Spiegel & Grau. Jan. 2017. Tr $26. ISBN 9780812997231.

Four years after Trayvon Martin, a black teenager, was killed walking home by George Zimmerman, a white neighborhood watch coordinator with a gun, the teen’s mother and father, in alternating chapters, share the devastating experience of losing a son to senseless violence: “We tell it in hope for healing, for bridging the divide that separates America.” Evident throughout are Fulton’s and Martin’s anger and frustration with the way the case was handled by the Sanford (FL) Police Department, the makeup of the jury, the prosecution’s weak performance, and the often outrageous behavior of the defense. Why was Zimmerman allowed to go home with evidence on his body? Why was Trayvon, but not Zimmerman, subjected to drug and alcohol tests? Why were there background checks on Trayvon but not on Zimmerman? Both parents also chronicle the numerous protest marches that propelled a national movement. Pointing out the blatant missteps they encountered, Fulton and Martin parents come across as caring and compassionate individuals who remain hopeful that their son will live on through their continued work with the Trayvon Martin Foundation. VERDICT A well-told and gripping portrayal of the killing of a son and the subsequent legal process, with all its twists and turns.–Jane Ritter, Mill Valley School District, CA

DustbowlREEDER, Lydia. Dust Bowl Girls: A Team’s Quest for Basketball Glory. 304p. ebook available. notes. photos. Algonquin. Jan. 2017. Tr $26.95. ISBN 9781616204662.

In the early 1930s, Sam Babb recruited farm girls to play for his basketball team at Oklahoma Presbyterian College in Durant. At the time, most women’s teams were sponsored by the companies for whom the players worked. Some, including Lou Henry Hoover, wife of President Herbert Hoover, thought that competitive sports were not an appropriate activity for young women. But Coach Babb knew that basketball helped participants develop critical thinking and good judgment. He also believed that a winning team could bring a whole community together and raise spirits that had been battered by the Great Depression. Reeder employs player interviews and scrapbooks to tell the true story of the Cardinals, who in 1932 became the first women’s collegiate team to win the American Athletic Union’s National Basketball Tournament. Her personable narrative is as much about the daily lives of the players as it is about the sport of basketball, and young adults will love details that bring the time and place to life (for example, because many of the players came from farms with no indoor plumbing or electricity, the hot water in their college dorm seemed extravagant). VERDICT Useful for curriculum support, this compelling offering makes for good recreational reading, too. Hand it to fans of A League of Their Own or to anyone who relishes a good sports underdog tale.–Hope Baugh, Carmel Clay Public Library, Carmel, IN

MrssherlockRICCA, Brad. Mrs. Sherlock Holmes: The True Story of New York City’s Greatest Female Detective and the 1917 Missing Girl Case that Captivated a Nation. 448p. bibliog. ebook available. index. notes. St. Martin’s. Jan. 2017. Tr $27.99. ISBN 9781250072245.

In 1917, an 18-year-old went missing in broad daylight. In 1905, a newly minted female lawyer took on a seemingly impossible case and won. Alternating between Ruth Cruger’s 1917 disappearance and earlier cases, Ricca’s vividly written narrative brings to life the groundbreaking work of attorney Mary Grace Quackenbos Humiston, who championed the rights of immigrants, the poor, and young girls. She often successfully made appeals to overturn wrongful convictions, saving several people from execution at the last minute. As a detective, she took on cases, such as Cruger’s, that the police had abandoned, becoming the first female U.S. district attorney and, later, a special investigator with the New York Police Department. Though this is a thoroughly researched example of nonfiction, with extensive notes and bibliography, Ricca’s storytelling ability easily allows readers to forget they are reading history instead of a novel. The descriptions of Humiston’s work, with its tension and danger, offer a fascinating window on daily life and policing in New York in the early 20th century, and many of the causes she backed remain current social problems. VERDICT A compelling look at a forgotten and inspiring trailblazer, this absorbing narrative will appeal to fans of true crime, history, and mysteries.–Jennifer Rothschild, Arlington Public Library, VA

glassSOBEL, Dava. The Glass Universe: How the Ladies of the Harvard Observatory Took the Measure of the Stars. 336p. bibliog. ebook available. index. Viking. Dec. 2016. Tr $30. ISBN 9780670016952.

Railroad heiress Anna Draper was introduced to a love of the stars by her husband, Dr. Henry Draper, whose stellar photography was recognized throughout the United States. After his death, Anna Draper wished to continue his work photographing stars and reached out to one of his many prominent scientific colleagues, Edward Pickering, a professor at the Harvard College Observatory. Henry Draper’s work reflected the changes in the late 1800s in the field of astronomy as advancements in photography improved the quality of stellar images. As technology progressed, more people were needed to analyze and preserve the images. The Harvard College Observatory expanded their staff (previously only men) to include the wives and other family members of the astronomers working at Harvard; eventually graduates of women’s colleges such as Vassar, Radcliffe, and Wellesley were employed as well. The women were originally hired as human calculators, but their roles grew to encompass cataloging the images as well as participating in the astronomical studies conducted by the male astronomers. Over time, the women’s contributions to the field of astronomy ranged from identifying new stars to developing a stellar classification system that is still in use today. Relying on primary source materials such as letters and memoirs, Sobel crafts a story that illuminates the crucial role women played in the scientific community. VERDICT Teens interested in astronomy and the recent Hidden Figures will be fascinated by the work and discoveries made by these ambitious and talented women.–Lynn Rashid, Marriotts Ridge High School, Marriottsville, MD


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The Whydah: A Pirate Ship Feared, Wrecked, and Found by Martin W. Sandler | SLJ Review Tue, 21 Feb 2017 14:00:45 +0000 SANDLER, Martin W. The Whydah: A Pirate Ship Feared, Wrecked, and Found. 176p. bibliog. index. notes. photos. Candlewick. Mar. 2017. Tr $19.99. ISBN 9780763680336.

Gr 6 Up –Sandler dispels many popular pirate-related myths and offers a more realistic and factual view of the era of piracy in the New World. Instead of living in abject poverty at the mercy of kings and nobles, many men embraced piracy as a means to support their families and live a comfortable life, [...]]]> redstarSANDLER, Martin W. The Whydah: A Pirate Ship Feared, Wrecked, and Found. 176p. bibliog. index. notes. photos. Candlewick. Mar. 2017. Tr $19.99. ISBN 9780763680336.

NF-Sandler-TheWhydahGr 6 Up –Sandler dispels many popular pirate-related myths and offers a more realistic and factual view of the era of piracy in the New World. Instead of living in abject poverty at the mercy of kings and nobles, many men embraced piracy as a means to support their families and live a comfortable life, though one often filled with barbarous acts. The author weaves a fascinating story about piracy and the legendary 18th-century pirate ship Whydah, which sunk off the coast of Cape Cod on April 24, 1717, during a perfect storm. He delves into the fates of the few survivors, early salvage attempts by poor locals and wealthy governors alike, and the long-term work of explorer Barry Clifford to find the sunken ship. In 1985, Clifford and his crew discovered the inscribed galley bell of the Whydah, and for 30 years, divers, marine historians, and archaeologists have continued to retrieve artifacts from the ocean depths. Occasional sidebars on specific topics, such as the mythic origins of the Jolly Roger flag and artifact restoration, break up the narrative flow but do contain valuable information. Sandler’s approach to the Whydah and other submerged ships as “sunken time capsules” is an interesting angle that is sure to resonate with aspiring archaeologists. VERDICT A captivating read on pirates, with insights into contemporary underwater research techniques. Considering the popularity of the subject, this volume will likely not sit on shelves long.–Anne Jung-Mathews, Plymouth State University, NH

This review was published in the School Library Journal February 2017 issue.

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