School Library Journal The world's largest reviewer of books, multimedia, and technology for children and teens Thu, 05 Mar 2015 11:00:30 +0000 en-US hourly 1 March Stars Wed, 04 Mar 2015 19:00:36 +0000 Will Grayson, Will Grayson fans will delight in finally seeing TIny Cooper's masterpiece come to life, and Avi fans are in for a treat with Catch You Later, Traitor. Graphic novel fans have a wonderfully gruesome new series with "The Lunch Witch," while YA fans looking for a new voice will find it with Claire Fuller's Our Endless Numbered Days.]]>

SLJ1503--Stars-PicBkPicture Books

Argueta, Jorge. Salsa: Un Poema Para Cocinar/A Cooking Poem. tr. from Spanish by Elisa Amado. illus. by Duncan Tonatiuh. Bilingual ed. 32p. (Bilingual Cooking Poems). Groundwood. Mar. 2015. Tr $18.95. ISBN 9781554984428; ebk. $16.95. ISBN 9781554984435.
Gr 1-3 –A boy and his sister make the spicy sauce with the help of family members in the latest entry from Argueta’s “Bilingual Cooking Poems” (Groundwood). The characters make salsa while dancing to salsa—the pan–Latin American musical genre. This lyrical, bilingual text (from Spanish to English) features an easy-to-follow recipe. The extended poem celebrates cooking as a family and cultural event, hearkening back to the Nahua, Aztec, and Maya traditions of using a molcajete (small black bowl) to grind ingredients to make the tasty treat. A symbol denotes tasks that require adult supervision and help. A suggestion for composting leftover materials is tied to fostering a relationship with Mother Nature. Complementing the heartwarming text are Tonatiuh’s pre-Columbian, Mixtec-inspired illustrations. The earthy tones, onomatopoeic word art, and borders peppered with pertinent images, such as tomatoes; limes; and musical notes, work together to serve up a completely satisfying offering. VERDICT A delectable work of art perfect for food-themed, bilingual, and Día storytimes.–Shelley Diaz, School Library Journal

Barnett, Mac. The Skunk. illus. by Patrick McDonnell. 40p. Roaring Brook. Apr. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781596439665.
K-Gr 3 –A man is stalked by a silent skunk in this charmingly neurotic offering. Leaving his home one day, a bespectacled, tuxedo-clad gentleman discovers a small skunk sitting on his doorstep. As the man makes his way about town, the creature remains close on his heels (“…after a mile I realized I was being followed.”) He speeds up, he slows down, he takes many wild turns, but to no avail. Still the skunk remains. Barnett’s text is delivered in short, clipped sentences that convey the man’s annoyance and increasing paranoia. McDonnell’s distinctive pen-and-ink illustrations (the little skunk bears a striking resemblance to a couple of familiar mutts) harken back to classic comic strip humor, with expressive body language, dynamic action lines, and thoughtful compositions, creating tension and drama. The majority of the book uses a limited palette of black, peach, touches of red (notably for the skunk’s oversized nose and the man’s posh bow-tie), and smart use of white space. The man finally outruns his striped admirer, purchasing a new house in a different part of the city. He throws himself a fancy party with dancing and dessert. But he finds himself wondering about that skunk (“What was he doing? Was he looking for me?”) Roles reverse and the pursued becomes the pursuer, as the man now slinks around corners and behind trees, surreptitiously following the skunk—who, on the last page, looks anxiously over his shoulder at the man. Why did the skunk follow the man initially? Is this a tale of regret and missed opportunities, a lesson on the dangers of letting potential friends slip away? Of not knowing what you’ve got ‘til it’s gone? Barnett and McDonnell offer no explanations, but invite readers to ponder the possibilities. Here’s hoping this talented duo pair up for many more picture book collaborations. VERDICT Clever visual motifs, sly storytelling, and tight pacing make this a picture book that will be enjoyed by children and their grown-ups.–Kiera Parrott, School Library Journal

Gerstein, Mordicai. The Night World. illus. by Mordicai Gerstein. 40p. Little, Brown. Jun. 2015. Tr $18. ISBN 9780316188227. LC 2014006903.
PreS-Gr 2 –The shadows of a summer night sing the promise of morning to a boy and his cat as they venture out into the dark yard surrounding their house. In the introductory scene just before the title page, the redheaded boy, tucked in bed in his darkened room, addresses the black cat curled above him, gazing through the window at the dusky world. “Good-night, Sylvie.” Sylvie, it soon appears, is not ready for sleep and meows insistently until the two tiptoe through the sleeping house and out into the nighttime shadows. Gerstein’s roughly sketched scenes with well-chosen detail are done on gray art paper, a fine choice for these shadowy night views. The early indoor scenes are boxed against the outer page. Heading for the open door, Sylvie hints, “It’s coming…hurry.” The dark outside opens fully on a spread and is soft and comfortable with shadows everywhere. “Are those shadows roses? Are those lilies and sunflowers? Where are their colors?” Soon the shadows reveal a great variety of animals that begin to echo Sylvie’s hint. “It’s on its way…here it comes…It’s almost here.” Eventually a glow appears above the trees, the shadowy animals slip away, and the world gathers color, leading to a full burst of sun. Boy and cat rush into the house to announce the beautiful day. Gerstein adds a personal note about his early childhood discomfort with the outer night world and his lifelong love of sunrise. Children will surely respond to his simple scheme, beautifully crafted with spare text and with much to enjoy in the homely views of house and yard. VERDICT This is fun bedtime fare, but so much more—parents and teachers will find many possibilities for conversations about night and day.–Margaret Bush, Simmons College, Boston

Miyares, Daniel. Float. illus. by Daniel Miyares. 40p. S. & S. Jun. 2015. ebk. $10.99. ISBN 9781481415255; Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781481415248. LC 2014016404.
PreS-Gr 3 –A boy clad in a bright yellow raincoat and hat graces the cover, recalling Ezra Jack Keats’s A Letter to Amy (Viking, 1968). This homage to Peter’s dance with an invitation has its own tale to tell, but those in the know will enjoy noticing the connections: the attire, fence, special effects with water, and paper journeys. Miyares’s wordless adventure, employing panels of varying sizes, opens with a father and son forming an origami boat from a newspaper. The setting is monochromatic except for the child’s clothing and significant spots of pink and blue on the newsprint. Soon after the child rushes outdoors for the launch, rain forces him to shield the boat inside his slicker. Long, gray digital strokes create an impressionistic shower around the blurry boy; clarity resumes as the storm recedes. The artist plays with aerial views and simultaneous succession, e.g., six sun-colored, puddle-jumping protagonists in one scene, until the current sweeps the boat through several pages to a sewer-fed stream. The soppy page is returned to Dad, who has hugs, cocoa, and a new idea for the next sheet of paper. This time when the door opens, sunshine floods the room and a plane is about to lift off. This warm family story models rainy-day fun and just the right amount of parental intervention. Endpapers provide directions for both forms of transportation. VERDICT The thoughtful use of color, perspective, and texture makes following this young “maker’s” projects a visual pleasure.–Wendy Lukehart, District of Columbia Public Library

Shannon, George. One Family. illus. by Blanca Gomez. 32p. Farrar/Frances Foster Bks. May 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780374300036.
PreS-Gr 2 –This deceptively simple concept book celebrates family and community, while also offering young readers a chance to practice counting. Each spread features an increasing number of people who form a family. From babies in buggies to white-haired elders holding hands, families stretch across generations and races. Young listeners will recognize familiar activities such as strolling through the zoo, doing laundry, or baking cookies. The brief text mentions objects to be counted, and children can practice again with a spread that features all the items from 1 to 10. A final view of the city streets brings together many of the people featured in earlier pages to celebrate “One is one and everyone./ One earth. One world./ One family.” Gomez’s rich colors and clean design make the book a good choice for small group sharing, but she also includes many details to be appreciated in solo rereadings. Even the fly leaves are carefully designed. In the front, individual portraits of people and animals gaze ahead as they hang on the wall. In the back, the characters lean from their frames to converse with one another, while some of the pets escape entirely. VERDICT Thoughtful text and great design make this counting book a top choice for most libraries.–Kathy Piehl, Minnesota State University Library, Mankato

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Middle Grade

SLJ1503--Stars-MiddleAvi. Catch You Later, Traitor. 304p. Algonquin. Mar. 2015. Tr $16.95. ISBN 9781616203597.
Gr 4-6 –Pete Collison’s dad is a commie sympathizer: that’s the accusation Pete’s teacher makes in front of his entire seventh grade class. It’s 1951 Brooklyn, during the height of the Red Scare, so Pete is instantly shunned at school, his best friend avoids him, and the only person who wants to talk to him is an FBI agent. Unsure of whom to trust, Pete decides to emulate his detective hero Sam Spade. He will investigate his father’s past—could his dad really be a communist?—and find out who reported his family to the FBI. Avi, a master of historical fiction, vividly recreates not only the neighborhoods and pop culture of period Brooklyn, but the runaway paranoia that dominated daily life in the early years of the Cold War. With each clue Pete uncovers, the tension picks up, engaging readers in solving the dual mystery of his father’s past and identifying his accuser whose name is kept a well-concealed surprise until the last moment. In clever digressions, detective Pete mentally rewrites mundane observations with hard-boiled hyperbole. He describes the sunlight in his bedroom: “It didn’t promise much and left early.” Strong supporting characters add subtle but important details about a period in American history that may not be fully studied in classrooms. Insightful readers will pick up on warnings about the abuse of government power. VERDICT As a mystery, historical fiction, and love letter to 1950s Brooklyn, this novel succeeds on every level.–Marybeth Kozikowski, Sachem Public Library, Holbrook, NY

Holt, Kimberly Willis. Dear Hank Williams. 224p. Holt/Christy Ottaviano Bks. May 2015. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780805080223.
Gr 4-7 –The year is 1948, and Tate P. Ellerbee is writing to her favorite singer, Hank Williams, as part of a pen pal assignment at school. Although her letter writing is one-sided, Tate continues to send Hank details of her life. She tells Hank about her actress mother and famous photographer father. Tate lives with her Aunt Patty Cake, who she describes as being like the sun because no matter what happens, she’s always there. Her Uncle Jolly is the comic relief, as he has one heartbreak after another in his pursuit of a wife. Holt skillfully uses foreshadowing and the element of surprise in a twist ending. Included are some glimpses into the anti- Japanese and anti-communist feelings after the war. The author also highlights the Louisiana Hayride and Grand Ole Opry shows broadcast on radios throughout the country during that time period. The strength of this novel lies in the insight Tate develops as she deals with tragedy and depends on the love of family. VERDICT Artfully told, this middle grade novel pleases on many levels.–D. Maria LaRocco, Cuyahoga Public Library, Strongsville, OH

KELLY, Jacqueline. The Curious World of Calpurnia Tate. 352p. Holt. Jul. 2015. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780805097443.

Gr 4-6 –Thirteen-year-old Callie Vee returns in this stand-alone sequel to the Newbery Honor–winningThe Evolution of Calpurnia Tate (Holt, 2009). Callie’s thirst for scientific discovery remains strong, as does her parents’ disregard for any plans for the future that don’t involve debutante balls and marrying a well-respected gentleman. In between recording questions and observations in her journal, Callie and brother Travis attempt to make pets of an armadillo, a blue jay, and a coyote mix, to mostly disastrous results. Humor and little heartbreaks abound as Callie learns animal care under the tutelage of Dr. Pritzker, the town’s veterinarian, but her accomplishments are ignored and even ridiculed in favor of Travis’s smaller contributions. The devastating 1900 Galveston hurricane drops 17-year-old cousin Aggie, traumatized by the storm, into their household. Relationships with secondary characters, such as the family’s cook, Viola, and Dr. Pritzker, are charming and well developed. Mother remains cold and lacking in fondness for Callie. A brief overview of Callie’s relationship with her grandfather and their scientific inquiries provide a basic background for readers unfamiliar with the story. Aggie is not a particularly sympathetic character, but her business and financial sense are great influences on Callie. Chapters are introduced by quotes from Charles Darwin’s The Voyage of the Beagle. Callie and Travis’s relationship is tender and believable yet still reflects the imbalance and unfairness of the gender divide. The conclusion leaves open the possibility for further adventures. VERDICT Recommended for fans of the original novel and strong readers who enjoy character-driven narratives.–Jennifer Schultz, Fauquier County Public Library, Warrenton, VA

Williams-Garcia, Rita. Gone Crazy in Alabama. 304p. HarperCollins/Amistad. Apr. 2015. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780062215871; lib. ed. $17.89. ISBN 9780062215888; ebk. $9.99. ISBN 9780062215901.

Gr 4-6 –In this final volume in the trilogy that began with the acclaimed One Crazy Summer (2010), and continued with P.S. Be Eleven (2013, both HarperCollins), sisters Delphine, Vonetta, and Fern Gaither have been sent for the summer from Brooklyn to rural Alabama to reunite with their grandmother, Big Ma; their great-grandmother, Ma Charles; and their Uncle Darnell, a Vietnam vet recovering from drug addiction. Caught in the middle of a family feud between Ma Charles and her half-sister, Miss Trotter, the girls grapple with mixed feelings and new revelations about their family and its history. Narrator Delphine, 12, is charged with keeping her sisters in line and keeping the peace amidst their constant bickering, as well as readjusting to Big Ma’s discipline. When Vonetta disappears during a tornado, Delphine must confront her guilt and resentment as well as face her mother, Cecile, who has traveled from California in concern for her missing daughter. Much of the narrative includes backstory from the previous titles, which is important for context, though new readers will want to read the previous books to fully appreciate this novel. This final installment is rich in atmosphere and clearly conveys the sisters’ distinct personalities, their loyalty to one another, and their special place in their complex family. An author’s note elucidates the connection between Native and African Americans, and a family tree details the Gaither girls’ roots. VERDICT A must-have conclusion to this beloved middle grade series.–Marie Orlando, formerly at Suffolk Cooperative Library System, Bellport, NY

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SLJ1503--Stars-YABenwell, Sarah. The Last Leaves Falling. 368p. ebook available. S. & S. May 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781481430654. LC 2014022950.
Gr 8 Up –Abe Sora loves baseball, wants to be a professor, spends much of his time reading history and literature—and is dying of ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease, or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis). No longer able to attend school, as he is now wheelchair bound—and the school is not equipped to handle his physical needs—Abe spends his days either alone or with his mother and doctors. He joins a chatroom anonymously, never telling anyone of his illness. When his mother, worried about her son’s isolation, insists that he invite his two online friends over for dinner, he agrees but does not inform them his health situation. Despite the initial shock, the three become good friends, giving Abe a chance to have normal teen experiences. As his condition grows worse, he thinks more and more about death. His counselor gives him a book on samurai death poetry, which helps him realize that he wants to die with dignity. Written by a British author and set in Japan, this unique title deals not just with the days leading up to death but with facing it on one’s own terms. This is more a tale of friendship than of romance and one of living life to the fullest for as long as possible. Abe is a strong, introspective teen who reads, thinks deeply, and wants more out of life than pity. VERDICT Not just another “dying teen novel,” this thought-provoking read offers teens a different perspective on living and loving life.–Janet Hilbun, University of North Texas

Frank, E.R. Dime. 336p. S. & S./Atheneum. May 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781481431606; ebk. $10.99. ISBN 9781481431620.
Gr 9 Up –Thirteen-year-old Dime is a product of the foster system. She finds an escape in the books she reads, but she struggles academically because she is called on to help out with the younger foster children at home. One day she meets a girl who takes her in. Dime finds acceptance here, but is slowly groomed into becoming a prostitute. The book takes the form of a note that Dime is trying to write, whose purpose is unclear until the last chapters. The multiple nested flashbacks and the attempts to have other concepts contribute to the note (such as Money or Truth) much as Death narrated Marcus Zusak’s The Book Thief (Knopf, 2006) (Dime herself credits Zusak for this idea) would have failed at the hands of a lesser writer, but they are effective here. The simple, one-line note that the protagonist ultimately writes is heartbreaking. The conditions in which Dime and the other trafficked girls live are horrendous and difficult to read about; however, this novel serves to illustrate that small acts of kindness can make a difference. This title will appeal to fans of grittier problem novels, like those written by Ellen Hopkins, and will provoke discussion. In spite of the gritty content, there is good reason to make this title accessible to middle schoolers as well. There is a helpful resource list in the back matter, including information for victims and survivors of trafficking. VERDICT An important work that should be an essential part of library collections.–Kristin Anderson, Columbus Metropolitan Library System, OH

Fuller, Claire. Our Endless Numbered Days. 388p. Tin House. Mar. 2015. pap. $15.95. ISBN 9781941040010.
Gr 9 Up –In 1970s London, eight-year-old Peggy Hillcoat lives somewhat contentedly with her survivalist father and her concert pianist mother. When her mother goes on tour, her father abruptly kidnaps Peggy, taking her to a German forest. He claims that the world has ended and that her mother, along with every other human on Earth, has died. She resigns herself to a life in the cold, remote woods with her mentally unstable father, little food, and no medical care, not resurfacing until 1985. This is a dark but poignant coming-of-age story reminiscent of Geraldine McCaughrean’s The White Darkness (HarperCollins, 2007). Told from the perspective of now 17-year-old Peggy, the narrative is lyrical and, aside from a slow start, well paced. British author Fuller’s debut novel is solid and sets her firmly among her young adult author peers. VERDICT This gripping tale will be well received by fans of survivalist fiction and psychological thrillers.–Pilar Okeson, Allen-Stevenson School Library, New York City

Hodge, Rosamund. Crimson Bound. 448p. ebook available. HarperCollins/Katherine Tegen Bks. May 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780062224767.
Gr 8 Up –With this romantic mash-up of classic fairy tales that touch on elements from the familiar “Little Red Riding Hood” and the lesser-known “Girl with No Hands,” Hodge has created a chilled cocktail of creep and gore shaken, stirred lightly, and poured over villains who fall in love and heroines who commit murder. Featured in this delicate and skillfully written romantic horror is Rachelle Brinon, who has been trained by her aunt to serve as a woodwife. It’s her responsibility to protect the village from the dark magic of the forest. While venturing into the forest, Rachelle is eventually tricked by a humanlike wolf creature, to whom she becomes bound to it by a thin crimson thread that only she can see. The connection is filled with passion and also gives her superhuman skills with the possibility of immortality. Now one of the king’s assassins, Rachelle has many responsibilities and soon realizes that there are just as many dangers and threats within the kingdom as they are without. Loyalties are stretched when she’s assigned the job of protecting Prince Armand, and a romantic triangle develops among Rachelle, the prince, and the captain of the bloodbounds. Teens will gladly join this quest to find out if there’s a happy ever after in this intricate web of friendship, fear, loyalty, love, and hate. VERDICT With a thoroughly developed setting and so many shadowed nods to the Brothers Grimm, this novel will captivate readers. Outstanding.–Sabrina Carnesi, Crittenden Middle School, Newport News, VA

Kephart, Beth. One Thing Stolen. 280p. ebook available. Chronicle. Apr. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781452128313.
Gr 9 Up–This is an intense and ultimately hopeful look at a debilitating mental disorder and a family in crisis. The setting is Florence, where the Caras, Americans from Philadelphia are residing while the professor researches the 1966 flood that nearly destroyed the storied city. His precocious children should be thriving there, especially his daughter and biggest fan, but 17-year-old Nadia is in deep trouble. She has been isolating herself, slipping out on her own, and stealing random items that she compulsively weaves into elaborate nests. She cannot explain her behavior and seems to be losing her ability to speak altogether. Kephart deftly switches between the girl’s past and familiar life at home and the scary, precarious existence she is experiencing in Italy. The real-time narrative consists of short staccato sentences, sensory descriptions, and snippets of actual or imagined visions (a boy, a Vespa, and a fluorescent pink duffle). Nadia’s psychic pain and confusion are palpable. Once she hits bottom, her loving, but distracted family members rally round and mobilize to get her the professional help she needs. That her father just happens to know a famous, retired neurologist who can devote herself to Nadia’s care is almost too good to be true. She is also able to find just the right doctor to immediately identify Nadia’s rare disorder. But this novel is about much more than medicine. Nadia’s parents arrange for her best friend from home to join them aboard, and she picks up the narrative at the two two-thirds mark and searches for the elusive boy with whom Nadia is obsessed. The boy, Benedetto, narrates the last section, which leaves readers with a measure of hope for the future. VERDICT Kephart’s artful novel attests to the power of love and beauty to thrive even in the most devastating of circumstances.–Luann Toth, School Library Journal

Konigsberg, Bill. The Porcupine of Truth. 336p. Scholastic/Arthur A. Levine Bks. May 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780545648936; ebk. ISBN 9780545648943.
Gr 9 Up –Carson’s mother thwarts his summer plans when she drags him from New York City to Montana. He wasn’t especially looking forward to working at a frozen yogurt shop, but it couldn’t be worse than staying with his ailing (and alcoholic) father, a man he hasn’t seen in 14 years. Aisha Stinson has been sleeping at the Billings Zoo since coming out to her ultra-conservative father. After a chance meeting, Carson and Aisha recognize each other as kindred spirits. Aisha comes to stay with Carson’s family, and the pair soon unearth family secrets in the basement. They set off on a roadtrip to uncover the root cause of three generations of estrangement. As they pursue a reconciliation with Carson’s missing grandfather, both teens wrestle with their own strained family relationships. Konigsberg perfectly depicts the turbulent intensity of a new friendship. Carson is an intensely likable, hilarious, and flawed narrator. There are no true villains in the well-developed cast of characters, just people trying to do their best and frequently failing. VERDICT Konigsberg weaves together a masterful tale of uncovering the past, finding wisdom, and accepting others as well as oneself.–Tony Hirt, Hennepin County Library, MN

Levithan, David. Hold Me Closer: The Tiny Cooper Story. 208p. ebook available. Dutton. Mar. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780525428848.
Gr 10 Up –Written as a two-act musical complete with stage directions and 25 provocatively titled songs, such as “The Ballad of the Lesbian Babysitter” and “Summer of Gay,” this companion to John Green and Levithan’s award-winning Will Grayson, Will Grayson (Dutton, 2010) shines a spotlight on the larger-than-life Tiny Cooper, who was born “big-boned and happily gay.” Accepted by his supportive parents, Tiny suffers no angst over his sexual orientation, despite having to contend with schoolmate bullies and a homophobic coach. Phil, his straight BFF, offers advice through Tiny’s unsuccessful relationships with 18 different boyfriends, helping him eventually to realize that love is painful but worth it. Replete with laugh-out-loud one-liners (“sort of like a gay dance club has opened on Sesame Street”), in-your-face language (faggot and the invented term dickstracting), and showcasing Will and Tiny’s “onstage” kiss, this edgy, au courant novel tackles a potentially difficult subject head-on, while giving sound, if liberal, counsel on sexual issues for gays and straights alike. Its solid story line and realistic, “colorful” dialogue will appeal to high school readers. VERDICT A welcome addition to progressive library collections, this unapologetic gem will encourage teens’ discussion of a sensitive topic and potentially broaden their understanding of the meaning of “tolerance.”–Nancy Menaldi-Scanlan, formerly at LaSalle Academy, Providence, RI

Suma, Nova Ren. The Walls Around Us. 336p. ebook available. Algonquin. Mar. 2015. Tr $17.95. ISBN 9781616203726.
Gr 9 Up –This haunting and evocative tale of magical realism immerses readers in two settings that seem worlds apart. The book is told in alternating first-person voices from the perspective of two teenagers: lonely Amber, who at age 13 was convicted of murdering her abusive stepfather and sent to Aurora Hills, a juvenile detention facility, and Vee, an insecure yet ruthlessly ambitious Julliard-bound ballerina. Through Vee’s and Amber’s recollections, readers learn about talented, kind-hearted Ori, Vee’s former best friend and a dancer herself, who after being convicted of a heinous crime is sent to Aurora Hills, where she becomes Amber’s roommate—and where soon after a strange tragedy occurs. Though the plotting of this taut, gripping suspense leans heavily on ghosts and murder and will easily attract teens, this is no mere thriller. The prose is mesmerizing, laced with visceral, gorgeous figurative language, and draws subtle parallels between the disciplined, constricting world of ballet and the literal prison in which Amber and Ori find themselves. Believable and well developed, Vee and Amber have strong, unforgettable voices that ring true. Suma’s unflinchingly honest depiction of the potentially destructive force of female friendship and skillful blending of gritty realism with supernatural elements is reminiscent of Laurie Halse Anderson’s Wintergirls (Viking, 2009), and the eerie mood she evokes is unnervingly potent. VERDICT A powerful story that will linger with readers.–Mahnaz Dar, School Library Journal

Wein, Elizabeth. Black Dove, White Raven. 368p. Disney-Hyperion. Mar. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781423183105; ebk. ISBN 9781484707807.
Gr 8 Up –In her latest World War II–era novel, Wein returns to themes of aviation and the enduring bonds of platonic love and friendship. Best friends Rhoda, a white Quaker, and African American Delia were “barnstorming” pilots, a team who performed in air shows across the United States as White Raven and Black Dove, their children, Emilia and Teo, in tow. When Delia is killed in a plane crash, Rhoda commits to fulfilling Delia’s dream for Teo—to live in a land where he wouldn’t be judged by the color of his skin—and moves them all to Ethiopia, where Teo’s father was born. Life on the coffee farm at Tazma Meda is wonderful, especially since Rhoda is teaching the children to fly, but rumors of invasion by Italy become reality, and bureaucratic snafus mean that the family can’t leave the country. Then the war becomes even more personal when all young men of Ethiopian heritage are conscripted. Wein continues to present multidimensional characters within her effortless prose. VERDICT Highly recommended for all libraries, especially where her previous titles have flown off the shelves.–Stephanie Klose, School Library Journal

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SLJ1503--Stars-NonficBurleigh, Robert. Trapped!: A Whale’s Rescue. illus. by Wendell Minor. 32p. ebook available. further reading. websites. Charlesbridge. Apr. 2015. RTE $17.95. ISBN 9781580895583.
PreS-Gr 2 –In 2005, an adult female humpback whale became caught in nets left by crab fishermen. This beautiful picture book vividly describes how divers cut through the ropes that held her in place, saving her life. The prose is spare yet captivating, without a single wasted word (“The struggle begins. The web of ropes cuts into her skin. She flails, starts to sink, fights for air.”). The gouache illustrations are exceptional and expertly complement the text. The final spread is particularly glorious, depicting the whale splashing away, her tail gleaming under the light of a starry sky and a full moon. An appended section includes more details about the actual event that inspired the book, information about whale rescue in general, and facts about humpbacks. Educators will also appreciate a page of extensive resources. This is an enchanting portrayal that demonstrates the positive impact that humans can have upon the natural world, and few readers will come away unaffected. VERDICT The inviting language, gorgeous images, and uplifting tone make this an excellent addition to any collection.–Anne Chapman Callaghan, Racine Public Library, WI

Christensen, Bonnie. Elvis: The Story of the Rock and Roll King. illus. by Bonnie Christensen. 32p. chron. notes. Holt/Christy Ottaviano Bks. Apr. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780805094473.
Gr 2-5 –The King may be gone, but this gorgeous picture book biography ensures that he won’t be forgotten. With this enchanting and intimate glimpse at a beloved icon, Christensen takes legendary singer Elvis Presley from a child growing up in Mississippi and Tennessee to a young man cutting his first record and taking his first steps into the limelight. The portrait of Presley that emerges will be new to most readers, adult or child. Far from the strutting, hip-swiveling crooner of the stage and big screen, Presley comes across as shy and earnest, a sweetly baby-faced youth. Christensen deftly conveys her subject’s vulnerability through softly rendered oil paintings. The inspired choice to use photocollage for the backgrounds imbues the singer’s hardscrabble early years with tenderness, suggesting the nostalgia-tinged look of a 1940s postcard. Written in verse, the text is stripped down; refreshingly free of artifice, it’s as soulful as one of the many songs the singer performed. The author touches briefly upon Presley’s role in introducing R&B music to white audiences, dropping hints about how music performed by blacks was often dismissed as “race music,” but educators may want to provide further context for young readers. Pair this outstanding title with G. Neri’s Hello, I’m Johnny Cash (Candlewick, 2014) for an up-close look at the childhoods of two founders of rock and roll. VERDICT An excellent addition to biography collections, and a superb way to introduce the history of rock to a new generation.–Mahnaz Dar, School Library Journal

Frydenborg, Kay. Chocolate: Sweet Science & Dark Secrets of the World’s Most Favorite Treat. 256p. bibliog. chron. further reading. photos. reprods. websites. Houghton Harcourt. Apr. 2015. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9780544175662.
Gr 6-8 –This fascinating book presents a deep, multifaceted glimpse at a delectable dessert: chocolate. Engaging—even witty in places—and enlightening, it gives a history of the sweet treat, speculating about its little-known origins 1,500 years ago in the Upper Amazon Basin of South America, exploring its role in the European conquest of Central and South America, and discussing the dark side of chocolate: the use of slave labor to grow and harvest it. Frydenborg examines the development of chocolate as an industry in Europe and America in the 18th and 19th centuries. The book also goes into the science of the confection, such as why it’s considered so tasty and its potential health benefits. Along the way, Frydenborg seamlessly weaves in information about relevant historical figures, including confectioner Milton S. Hershey; Russian scientist Nikolai Vavilov, who traced the origins of the cacao tree; and explorers such as Hernán Cortés and Francisco Pizzaro. Photographs enhance readers’ understanding, though the recipes and sidebars are occasionally distracting. Robert Burleigh’s celebrated Chocolate: Riches from the Rainforest (Abrams, 2002), aimed at elementary school students, is better designed, but those looking for a more detailed history for an older audience would do well to consult Frydenborg’s work. VERDICT An excellent and highly original addition to history collections.–Shauntee Burns-Simpson, New York Public Library, Staten Island

Grant, John. Debunk It!: How to Stay Sane in a World of Misinformation. 288p. bibliog. index. Zest. 2015. pap. $12.99. ISBN 9781936976683.
Gr 9 Up –This enlightening new title not only successfully debunks myths and commonly held beliefs—it’s an essential primer for encouraging critical thinking skills. Grant explains that individuals are constantly under siege from misinformation spread by bloggers, politicians, talking heads, pundits, and those who believe the lies and repeat them without questioning. He describes some of the dangers of disseminating misinformation; defines logical fallacies, such as ad hominem or straw man attacks; and gives a basic explanation of the scientific method. Once teens are armed with a healthy sense of skepticism, Grant moves on to tear apart some of what he considers to be the worst examples of misinformation: creationism, alternative medicine, the claim that vaccines lead to autism, and climate change denial, among others. Teen readers will appreciate Grant’s brutal honesty and snarky tone, as well as his liberal use of the term bullshit (to describe distorted or fabricated info). However, he never stoops to merely mocking those he believes to be spreading erroneous information, instead using logic and evidence to dismantle poor arguments piece by piece. Grant’s enthusiasm for his subject is infectious, and students and educators alike will appreciate both his style and substance. Pair this one with Paul Fleischman’s Eyes Wide Open: Going Behind the Environmental Headlines (Candlewick, 2014) for a lesson on questioning authority, recognizing bias, and vetting sources. VERDICT This can’t-miss title is great recreational reading for budding skeptics as well as an outstanding addition to units on science, current events, or debate. A must-have.–Mahnaz Dar, School Library Journal

Lewin, Ted & Betsy Lewin. How to Babysit a Leopard: And Other True Stories from Our Travels Across Six Continents. illus. by Betsy Lewin and Ted Lewin. photos by Betsy Lewin and Ted Lewin. 144p. index. Roaring Brook/Neal Porter Bks. Jun. 2015. Tr $22.99. ISBN 9781596436169.
Gr 6 Up –This thrilling collection of travel adventures from this celebrated husband-and-wife, author-illustrator team will appeal to a variety of readers, from aspiring biologists and globe-trotters to those who prefer traipsing the face of the planet from a comfortable chair. Featuring short, conversational pieces, and spectacular photos and vibrant artwork laid out like a journal, this enticing title describes the duo’s experiences all over the world. This is a deceptively slim volume, brimming with details of fascinating creatures, locales, and people. The narrative is quite gripping in places, such as in a scene depicting the authors’ attempt to outrun a charging lion that was chasing their truck. The book also paints quietly compelling portraits of individuals, such as an old leper woman in Botswana, squatting in the corner of a roofless home of twisted sticks. There is humor, too: in one chapter, an Irish farmer watches the Lewins struggle to pull a wagon out of mud, a task that would have been more easily performed by a horse. The couple’s joie de vivre is infectious, and the intimate, familiar tone running through this work underscores the idea that while this planet hosts an incredible variety of humans, animals, and destinations, it’s a small world after all. VERDICT A captivating tribute to this glorious orb we call home.–Alyson Low, Fayetteville Public Library, AR

Paul, Miranda. Water Is Water: A Book About the Water Cycle. illus. by Jason Chin. 40p. further reading. glossary. illus. notes. websites. Roaring Brook/Neal Porter Bks. May 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781596439849.
PreS-Gr 2 –Paul’s poetic text highlights various forms water takes as it follows a brother and sister through the year. It includes autumn fog and rain, frozen ponds and falling snow, steam from cups of cocoa, and snowmelt turning dirt to mud. Chin once again demonstrates his mastery of nature illustration, infusing familiar outdoor scenes with simple kid-centric activities that will hold readers’ attention while they listen to the text. Although not as dramatic as George Ella Lyon’s All the Water in the World (S. & S., 2011), Paul’s introduction to the water cycle includes more information that will help extend learning. She provides examples of the water content of various living things and stresses Earth’s limited supply of fresh water. The author ties explanations of processes such as evaporation and condensation to pages of the text. VERDICT A first-rate introduction to the water cycle for young readers.–Kathy Piehl, Minnesota State University Library, Mankato

Sayre, April Pulley. Woodpecker Wham! illus. by Steve Jenkins. 40p. further reading. websites. Holt. May 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780805088427.
PreS-Gr 3 –A northern flicker, a yellow-bellied sapsucker, and other woodpeckers of the eastern deciduous forests “chip,” “chop,” and “wham” their way through the seasons through crisp verses and paper collages in this informational picture book. There are quiet moments as well: woodpeckers “pluck and feed” at the cherry tree while cherries dangle against an azure sky. Jenkins’s illustrations are top-notch, beautifully depicting the different subspecies of woodpeckers, such as the flicker’s subtle grays and golds, which contrast with its neck rings, and spotted chest. With metronomic precision, Sayre’s verses describe the woodpecker’s activity: “Hawk’s a-hunting./Stop. Drop. Hide./Quiet/on the other side,” and along with the illustrations, mostly spreads, make for engaging read-alouds. The end pages, supported by information from Cornell’s Laboratory of Ornithology and other biologists, offer more information that will be key for students engaged in Common Core activities, paired with small images, which name the featured woodpeckers. Readers learn how these birds forage, build shelter and nests, avoid predators, and instruct their young, among other topics. VERDICT Lovely and exciting, this title is a great hook for young researchers, as well as fledgling ornithologists.–Teresa Pfeifer, The Springfield Renaissance School, Springfield, MA

Shingu, Susumu. Wandering Whale Sharks. illus. by Susumu Shingu. tr. from Japanese by Ann B. Cary & Yasuko Shingu. 48p. Owlkids. Mar. 2015. Tr $18.95. ISBN 9781771471305. LC 2014947493.
PreS-Gr 1 –Instead of glistening rows of terrible teeth, frothy waves, and the gruesome Jaws-inspired action scenes readers have come to expect from shark books, here Shingu offers children a mellow meditation set in the deep blue depths—wholly appropriate for a profile of this gentle giant. Employing spare text infused with rich vocabulary and poetic imagery, Shingu introduces readers to the largest living fish on Earth, the majestic whale shark. Swimming only 2.5 miles per hour and feeding on plankton and shellfish, the whale shark provides safety and shelter for many smaller fish. Using shades of aquamarine, cerulean, and black, Shingu varies perspective, showing the creature from underneath (“His abdomen is like a white balloon.”), from the vantage point of his wide back (“like a mountain range”), and rising toward the surface to swallow enormous gulps of water in his “extraordinarily huge mouth.” Never scary, the dark palette and contemplative prose at once evoke both a sense of coziness (the animal is “a comfortable home for suckerfish”) and reflect the expansiveness of the deep ocean. For librarians looking to introduce informational picture books in storytime, the brevity and strong artwork make this title ideal. Early elementary students working on ocean units may also find this useful as an inspirational jumping-off point for further research. VERDICT A poetic and visually stunning introduction to one of the ocean’s largest and gentlest creatures.–Kiera Parrott, School Library Journal

Thompson, Laurie Ann. Emmanuel’s Dream: The True Story of Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah. illus. by Sean Qualls. 40p. ebook available. Random/Schwartz & Wade Bks. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780449817445. LC 2014005767.
K-Gr 2 –This powerful and winning picture book tells the story of a young man overcoming the odds. Born in Ghana with a deformed left leg, Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah experienced stigma as a result of his disability: his father abandoned the family, and many assumed that the boy would be little more than a burden. However, with the encouragement of his mother, Yeboah refused to give up, hopping to school (instead of walking) and even learning to play soccer and cycle, despite receiving no extra help or accommodations. Thompson’s lucidly written text explains how Yeboah cycled 400 miles in 2001 to raise awareness, forever changing how Ghanaians perceived those with disabilities. The narrative is simply and clearly written, and the illustrations are skillfully rendered in charmingly emotive ink and watercolor collages. A brief author’s note explains how Yeboah inspired legislation upholding equal rights for the disabled and how he continues to make strides, working with organizations that provide wheelchairs to those who need them and setting up a scholarship fund for children with disabilities. VERDICT This uplifting account will resonate with readers and supplement global and cultural studies. A triumph.–Kathryn Diman, Bass Harbor Memorial Library, Bernard, ME

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Graphic Novels

SLJ1503--GN-LuckeLucke, Deb. The Lunch Witch. illus. by Deb Lucke. 180p. (The Lunch Witch: Bk. 1). Papercutz. Mar. 2015. pap. $14.99. ISBN 9781629911625.
Gr 3-7 –Bad business has left the witch Grunhilda with no choice; she must find a new job. Her limited skill set leaves her with few options, though, for “nobody really believes in magic anymore.” On her first day as lunch lady for the local elementary school, her secret is discovered by an underachieving little girl who decides to blackmail her. Nonetheless, Grunhilda chooses to help, but her good intentions lead to trouble. Funny thing is, turning into a toad is the exact lesson Madison needs. Muted colours, irregular human designs, and brown, food-stained paper give the impression that something is a little bit off…just like a cafeteria lunch. This is quite a fitting look for a witch now serving her potions to school children. At first glance, this uncommon yet internally consistent style may deter children accustomed to the usual fare. However, given the chance, the misadventures of this witch will have no problem pulling readers in. VERDICT A quirky, sometimes murky, but always silly graphic novel tale.–Rachel Forbes, Oakville Public Library, Ontario, Canada

SLJ1503--GN-OConnorO’Connor, George. Ares: Bringer of War. illus. by George O’Connor. 80p. (Olympians: Bk. 7). bibliog. chart. notes. Roaring Brook/Neal Porter Bks. 2015. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781626720138; pap. $9.99. ISBN 9781626720145.
Gr 4-8 –In this nuanced, multilayered view of the usually vilified bringer of war, O’Connor continues his exceptional graphic novel series about the Greek gods. Less a biographical take on the subject and more of a character study, this entry is seen through the lens of the events that take place in Homer’s iconic battle-driven epic poem The Iliad. Just like the original source material, the complex relationships among the deities and the tension and drama that arise when the glory and fate of their own demigod sons are at stake, take center stage. Ares is presented in many ways as his father’s son, as evidenced by his affair with Aphrodite, but he also tries to rebel against Zeus’s practice of using humans for sport. O’Connor highlights that of all the gods, Ares is the only one who grieves the death of his mortal son, shedding light on his own strained relationship with his father. Humor and zingers combine with the author’s adept handling of Greek mythology, history, and popular culture. The variety of panels lends a dynamic feel to the battle scenes and confrontations between the dueling sides. The mostly scarlet-tinged color scheme is in perfect tune with the raging, bloodthirsty god of war’s modus operandi. The author’s extensive notes amusingly explain connections to The Odyssey, The Aeneid, and the series’ previous works. VERDICT This expertly executed graphic novel will have fans anxiously awaiting even more adventures of mythological proportions.–Shelley Diaz, School Library Journal

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From the Adult Books 4 Teens blog

BROWN, Pierce. Golden Son. 464p. (The Red Rising Trilogy: Bk. 2). Del Rey. 2015. Tr $25. ISBN 9780345539816. LC 2014031015.
Darrow is back. Having risen from the deadly mines of Mars and won the lethal competition to become a select warrior among the Golds, he is able to infiltrate the inner sanctum of the most politically powerful Gold family. From there he can achieve his destiny—to topple the rule of the Golds and liberate the lesser castes from exploitation. But now that his mortal enemies from Red Rising (Del Rey, 2014) are allies, friends, and even lovers, can anyone be trusted? Can Darrow trust himself as he is further seduced by the indulgences of life as a Gold? Deceits and betrayals abound when The Sons of Ares, the group that recruited Darrow and transformed him into a Gold, terrorize the society and threaten the revolution Darrow feels is his alone to lead. The plot twists and turns as mayhem reigns, civil war is fomented, and internecine feuds become murderous conflict. But whenever Darrow begins to succeed, disaster ensues as others more purposeful and ruthless than him wreak havoc on his plans. It is Brown’s genius that he is able to blend hi-tech science fiction (“carvers” creating super humans out of flesh and bone) with primitive magic (scorpions that detect liars and punish them with a deadly sting) into a believable world. That he wraps it in a page-turner in which action often leaves readers breathless will make it irresistible to teens. The only caveat is that reading the previous volume is a prerequisite to understanding the multitude of characters and motivations in this entry.—John Sexton, Greenburgh Public Library, NY

JOHNSTON, Tim. Descent. 384p. Algonquin. 2015. Tr $25.95. ISBN 9781616203047. LC 2014024023.
This intense, literary thriller begins with a typical American family summer vacation in the Colorado Rockies. Caitlin, 18, is headed to college on a track scholarship, and is excited to practice running at a high altitude. The first morning, Caitlin sets off up a mountain road with her younger brother Sean riding his bike alongside her. Hours later, the local sheriff arrives at the motel to take their parents, Grant and Angela, to the hospital where Sean is in surgery after being run down by a vehicle. Caitlin is nowhere to be found, as if she disappeared into thin air. After weeks of searching, Angela returns home to Wisconsin. But Grant can’t leave. He sets up house on the property of the sheriff’s father’s ranch, helping elderly Emmet with daily chores. After his leg heals, Sean takes Grant’s truck and drives away, finding work as he needs it, coming of age as a drifter pretending to be 18. What became of Caitlin? Chapters in her voice lend the novel a nearly unbearable suspense. The horror of the situation and the power of the writing come together to create something wholly unique, with echoes of Alice Sebold’s The Lovely Bones (Little Brown, 2002), the beautiful prose of Ron Rash, and the Western setting of Kent Meyers’s Work of Wolves (Houghton Mifflin, 2004). This is family drama, psychological suspense, survival, and coming of age all set in an awesome, vast wilderness where anything can happen. A frightening but also life-affirming read thanks to the love, hope, and determination of these wounded, imperfect characters.—Angela Carstensen, Convent of the Sacred Heart, New York City

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SLJ1503-DVD-Invasion-of-the-Killer-WhalesInvasion of the Killer Whales. (Nature). 53 min. Dist. by PBS. 2014. $24.99. ISBN 9781627892049.
Gr 5 Up –The rapid melting of the Arctic polar ice is resulting in unusual ecological changes in that remote area. The Arctic is experiencing the most rapid warming of any region in the world. The depletion of ice leads to the loss of hunting grounds for the largest of Arctic predators, the polar bear. But this change is also allowing the most successful of marine predators, the orca, also known as the killer whale, to make inroads into areas previously unsuitable for them. This magnificently filmed and highly relevant documentary reveals the consequent changes in wildlife populations of the Arctic as the killer whale becomes the top hunter in areas previously dominated by polar bears and the bears’ numbers are significantly decreasing as their food sources are diminished. In startling footage, starving polar bears attempt to climb cliffs to hunt birds, wade in water to try to catch salmon, and even resort to eating seaweed. In contrast, the killer whales have developed strategies to feed on the once populous narwhal and even the much larger bowhead whales of the region. Research scientists and film crews document the long and purposeful journeys of the killer whales to their new hunting grounds. Interviews with involved scientists and some Inuit of the area provide first-hand information on the environmental effects of global warming on the region. The attempts by the polar bears to change their hunting habits in order to survive offer a rare look at the possible evolution of a species. VERDICT Highly valuable for students studying climate change, environment or the Arctic region.–Eva Elisabeth VonAncken, formerly with Trinity-Pawling School, Pawling, NY

SLJ1503-DVD-MentorHSMentor. DVD and online streaming. 75 min. Dist. by Garden Thieves Pictures. 2014. $24.95. ISBN unavail.
Gr 8 Up –From the outside, the small town of Mentor, OH, seems idyllic and all-American. However, five local students have committed suicide due to bullying in recent years, and this powerful documentary focuses on two of the victims and their families. Through on-camera interviews with two sets of grieving parents, viewers learn that the victims, Eric and Sladjana, suffered constant bullying, threats, and harassment, in person and online. In Sladjana’s case, the cruelty did not stop even in death, with bullies showing up to mock her as she lay in the casket and later continuing their vicious campaign online. According to the film, the Mentor school district did not take action, and after Sladjana’s suicide, a school counselor admitted to shredding notes that documented the many occasions when the student begged for help. No one from the school district agreed to appear on camera. (Though their grief is palpable and heartbreaking, there is a slight over-reliance on interviews with the parents, while comments from attorneys and an anti-bullying expert are cut somewhat short.) VERDICT Librarians everywhere should make this film available to their students and even more importantly, to their administrators.–Bernie Morrissey, The Harker School, San Jose, CA

SLJ1503-DVD-SlothVelcroA Sloth Named Velcro. (Nature). 53 min. Dist. by PBS. 2014. $24.99. ISBN 9781627892032.
Gr 5 Up –Spanish journalist Ana Salceda takes viewers to Panama, Costa Rica, and Colombia to learn about the plight of the world’s sloths. Salceda learned much about the mammals when she ended up rescuing an orphaned baby sloth, which she named Velcro. The home movies and photos of her with Velcro, as well as the story of its eventual release back into the wild, are quite touching. Salceda’s experience with Velcro compelled her to learn about saving these animals. The excellent quality video, coupled with informative narration, provides viewers with a glimpse into a world that is enlightening, inspiring, and at times quite moving. Myths about these fascinating creatures are dispelled (they sleep far less than previously thought). Efforts by various people to save them from being hit by cars are depicted, and the perils that sloths face from habitat loss and the illegal wildlife trade are discussed. Facilities and individuals involved in rescue efforts are shown along with the services they provide. VERDICT Useful for biology, environmental science, and social studies classes, this program has cross-curricular appeal and supports the common core standards. The animals are endearing and will no doubt move viewers to learn more about them.–Cynthia Ortiz, Hackensack High School, NJ

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SLJ1503--Stars-AUBlack, Holly. The Darkest Part of the Forest. 8 CDs. 8:30 hrs. Hachette Audio. 2015. $25. ISBN 9781478955894. digital download.
Gr 8 Up –A small town, sibling pairs, a beautiful horned boy who has been entombed in a clear casket for as long as anyone in the town can remember, and a dark forest inhabited by Fae folk of all shapes, sizes, and temperments—these are just a few of the elements Black blends together to create this riveting and engrossing story that pits four teens against an evil ruler. Hazel made a bargain at age 11 with one of the Fae, trading seven years of her life so her brother Ben could perfect his musical skills at a school in Philadelphia, but things went terribly wrong, and now she feels completely alone, and Ben no longer plays. When the horned boy is freed and tells Hazel and Ben why he was entombed, they must risk more than they ever imagined to help him. Narrator Lauren Fortgang is perfect for this book. VERDICT This terrific fantasy is highly recommended for teens who like magical creatures, a bit of mystery, unusual romances, and plenty of action.–John R. Clark, Hartland Public Library, ME

MCGHEE, Alison. Making a Friend. 1 CD. 5 min. Dreamscape Media. 2014. $14.99. ISBN 9781633794955.
K-Gr 3 –Snow is wonderful, creating a snowman is better, and making a snowman friend is the best. But what happens when the weather warms and spring returns? What happens to our snowfriend? Where does he go—could it be into the falling water or rain on the ocean or frost on the window? Narrated by Susie Berneis, this lyrical gem evokes the rhythmic turning of the seasons. Accompanied by piano music and the sounds of spring, this poetic story about a friendship between boy and snowman is a metaphor for loss. The refrain, “What you love will always be with you” weaves itself throughout the tale and captures the beauty within nature. Berneis’s gentle voice, which adds texture and dimension, will captivate young listeners. VERDICT This exceptional story is well suited for both schools and public libraries.–Jennifer Mann, Ann Arbor, MI

Myers, Christopher. H.O.R.S.E.: A Game of Basketball and Imagination. 1 CD w tr book. 11 min. Live Oak Media. 2014. $31.95. ISBN 9781430117469.
Gr 1-5 –Basketball and imagination soar in a game of one-upmanship; H.O.R.S.E., or Ghost, as it is also known, is described as “an anything-you-can-do-I-can-do-better contest.” Myers and narrator Dion Graham team up to read this original, funny, and entertaining book. Their playful banter incorporates drama and humor as they try to best each other by describing one amazing, outrageous basketball feat after another. Listeners will be thoroughly engaged and waiting intently for the next crazy shot. Sound effects include a basketball swooshing into a net and a jet passing overhead. The game of H.O.R.S.E. is further explained at the end of the book as Myers shares his childhood memories of playing the game with his friends and families. He stresses the reliance on verbal skills, imagination, and the equal playing field nature of the game in which no one has any particular advantage over anyone else. VERDICT This outstanding selection will appeal to basketball fans, boys, girls, parents, and teachers.–Mary Oluonye, Shaker Heights Public Library, OH

WOODSON, Jacqueline. This Is the Rope: A Story from the Great Migration. 1 CD. 7 min. Weston Woods. 2014. $12.95. ISBN 9780545790512.
Gr K-2 –Something as simple as a discarded rope has tied a family story together through several generations. In the middle of the 20th century, an African American family moves from South Carolina to Brooklyn, NY, making the great migration north as many other families bravely did at the time. This tale follows a family through several generations, always coming back to the rope and its impact on the family as it’s used to jump rope and tie suitcases to their car for the drive north. Channie Waites narrates with soothing and rhythmic tones. The story ends on a heartwarming, positive note with a family reunion which lends itself to further classroom discussion about the importance of family. VERDICT Woodson’s story of family is a wonderful addition to any collection and will prove helpful for discussing civil rights with students.–Jessica ­Gilcreast, Bedford High School, NH

Kinney, Jeff. The Long Haul. (Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Bk. 9). 2 CDs. 1:45 hrs. Recorded Bks. 2014. $25.75. ISBN 9781490635255. Playaway, digital download.
Gr 5-8 –When Greg’s mom, who’s obsessed with family time, insists on a road trip, things are bound to get interesting. With a pacifier-stealing pig, hungry seagulls, a broken-down car, and the Heffleys’ luck, this family vacation turns into a disaster that ends with a day at a water park. As a result, they’re stranded without any money, a long way from home. Will the Heffley family make it home? Narrator Ramon de Ocampo animates Kinney’s book. His intonations easily bring the author’s unique, realistic characters to life. His fast-paced, entertaining narrative style is ideal for Greg’s story and will have the whole family laughing out loud. Don’t miss this selection. VERDICT Great for reluctant readers, this latest “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” audiobook is a must-have for every library collection.–Jessica Moody, Olympus Jr. High, Holladay, UT

Martin, Ann M. Rain Reign. 4 CDs. 4 hrs. Brilliance Audio. 2014. $54.97. ISBN 9781491530504.
Gr 4-6 –Because she has Asperger’s syndrome, Rose Howard is obsessed with homonyms, rules, and order. She has a hard time containing her emotions and a teacher’s aid must sit with her during class. Dealing with her condition is difficult for Rose’s father, who is raising her alone, but thanks to her dog, Rain, a caring uncle, and a new friend, Rose may just find the strength to be her very best self. Laura Hamilton takes on the challenging role of Rose without missing a beat. She puts just the right pauses in her speech as she struggles to make herself understood and takes on a slightly robotic tone each time Rose comes across a homonym and must carefully repeat each of the words. Her matter-of-fact yet youthful tone is perfect, and her use of pitch emphasizes each time Rose becomes upset or frustrated. Hamilton also is able to expertly use a lower range for Rose’s emotionally distant father and her uncle. VERDICT This is an ideal family listen about the power of family and the bond between a girl and her dog.–Shari Fesko, Southfield Public Library, MI

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“This is the Rope” discusses importance of family and history | Audio Pick Wed, 04 Mar 2015 14:00:55 +0000 WOODSON, Jacqueline. This Is the Rope: A Story from the Great Migration. 1 CD. 7 min. Weston Woods. 2014. $12.95. ISBN 9780545790512. Gr K-2–Something as simple as a discarded rope has tied a family story together through several generations. In the middle of the 20th century, an African American family moves from South Carolina to Brooklyn, NY, making the great migration north as many other families bravely did at the time. This tale follows a family through several generations, always coming [...]]]> thisistheropeWOODSON, Jacqueline. This Is the Rope: A Story from the Great Migration. 1 CD. 7 min. Weston Woods. 2014. $12.95. ISBN 9780545790512.
Gr K-2–Something as simple as a discarded rope has tied a family story together through several generations. In the middle of the 20th century, an African American family moves from South Carolina to Brooklyn, NY, making the great migration north as many other families bravely did at the time. This tale follows a family through several generations, always coming back to the rope and its impact on the family as it’s used to jump rope and tie suitcases to their car for the drive north. Channie Waites narrates with soothing and rhythmic tones. The story ends on a heartwarming, positive note with a family reunion which lends itself to further classroom discussion about the importance of family. VERDICT Woodson’s story of family is a wonderful addition to any collection and will prove helpful for discussing civil rights with students.–Jessica ­Gilcreast, Bedford High School, NH

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Serving Conservative Teens Wed, 04 Mar 2015 14:00:37 +0000 Illustration by James Steinberg

Illustration by James Steinberg

When we think about being inclusive in our library service, are we truly taking all perspectives into consideration? Given the important conversation about diversity, I have been wondering recently if librarians need more support in serving their young conservative patrons well.

The word “conservative” has all kinds of baggage. It’s an imperfect term, but it’s the closest description for the kind of teen patron, usually a religious young person, that I’m talking about. “Traditional” can imply the view that there’s one fixed way of doing things, which I don’t believe. “Religious” leaves out patrons who enjoy books with a secular perspective.

Conservative teens

In the end, “conservative” seems accurate to describe my subject here: teens who prefers not to read about certain kinds of things—sex, drug use, and teens who are perceived as being bad influences—in their recreational reading. Other types of conservative voices might get themselves into trouble with libraries by demanding that books be removed from these public spaces due to religiously motivated concerns. My patrons, however, may not be asking you to remove anything. Rather, they might simply request that you include more titles from different perspectives.

These teens may not read much of anything from the YA area, either. They might voluntarily skip from the children’s room to reading “classics” such as Jane Austen books, not realizing that the YA section also contains great choices. These adolescents may even have become convinced that the public library is not for people like them.

It doesn’t have to be that way, particularly given the current passion with which youth librarians have embraced the call for more diverse titles and perspectives. This isn’t about getting “special” books for religious youth. Great titles for conservative teens are probably already in your collection—you just need to know what to look for.

My diverse team

Along with a group of colleagues from different religious backgrounds, I’ve started making presentations to teachers and librarians about the conservative voices in their communities. I’m a PhD student in Information Science at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and a teacher of conservative teens at Kolbe Online Academy, an Internet-based junior and senior high serving homeschooled families. My colleagues are Dorene Alama, Rabia Davis, and Zaynab Martin, all Muslim teachers from the Charlotte (NC) Islamic School. My friend Beth Meister, a teacher-librarian and Orthodox Jew from the Milwaukee (WI) Jewish Day School, rounds out our group. Some of us are converts, and other were raised in our current faiths.

How did such an eclectic group get together under one banner? It began when my academic adviser, Laretta Henderson, who teaches multicultural literature to teachers and librarians, suggested that I consider presenting a program at the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA) YA Literature Symposium in Austin, TX, in November, 2014. The symposium’s theme was “Keeping it Real: Finding the True Teen Experience in YA Literature,” and it intrigued me.

When working on my MLIS thesis, I explored literacy at the Catholic, urban middle school where I used to teach. Some of the students, now teachers themselves, thought that the library could have used more books that were “culturally relevant” to them. In other words, they wanted more books about Latinas. I asked a graduate, whom I’ll call Araceli, if she would have read these books if they were available when she attended. She thought a bit and said that she wouldn’t have, because she thought that the options for books about Latina teens in the early 2000s were somewhat limited. (More recent titles with Latino characters and conservative story lines include Donna Freitas’s Gold Medal Summer [Scholastic] and Guadalupe Garcia McCall’s Summer of the Mariposas [Lee & Low, both 2012], among others.)

SLJ1503_ConservTeens-PQPersonal values and ethnic focus

“I’m not in a gang, and I’m not a migrant farmer!” Araceli told me, referring to some of the prevailing Latino themes in books for young people available to her. Was her arrival from Mexico more relevant than that she was a quiet, bookish, Catholic teen? It was difficult to find a book that matched her reality: a Latina Midwestern Catholic middle school student who got good grades and stayed out of trouble. She felt that she had to choose between reading about Latinas or about non-Latina teens who were like her in other ways.

Araceli typically opted for fantasy and fun stories about intelligent protagonists. She and her friends borrowed one of the “Three Investigators” mystery books, created by Robert Arthur, and got so excited that they set off to make a code of their own to serve as a treasure hunt. She also liked “stretch” titles—books about people not like herself. She enjoyed the Logan family’s adventures in Mildred D. Taylor’s novels, including Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry (Dial, 1976), and learned to “disturb the universe” with Robert Cormier’s The Chocolate War (Pantheon, 1974) during my eighth grade religion class.

I remembered that many of my students gravitated toward older YA titles, such as Lurlene McDaniel’s Six Months to Live (Willowisp, 1985), featuring teens who were obsessed with a first kiss, not going to bed with someone. Sure, some liked “gritty” books, describing a bleak teen experience in frank terms. But more often, my students picked up more middle grade books than ones with scenes about sex, drugs, or violence, even though I had a wide range of titles in my library.

Connection among faiths

Thinking about how to develop a booklist for conservative teens, I considered my friend Beth’s stories. She is a born school librarian who loves passing on her love of books. Since her father helped create several Jewish schools in Milwaukee and her mother taught in public schools, she has always had something interesting to share about education and how people select books.

Beth had told me that it wasn’t unusual for Orthodox Jewish teens to skip the YA section. Struck by our similar experiences, I spoke about my idea with Zaynab, a teacher and my new “work bestie.” She had similar concerns about teens avoiding YA lit, and suggested that her Muslim colleagues Dorene and Rabia join our conversation.

“Kosher books” with broad relevance

The more we talked, the more we found we had in common. Beth showed me a “Kosher books list,” begun by two Orthodox Jewish parents, listing areas of concern in titles their children wanted to read. It resonated with Zaynab and me, though our Catholic and Muslim students might have different specific issues.

As librarians, our job is to help young people find the right book for who they are now, without judgment. If we do, they’ll know that we will be there for them later—supporting their choice to read something they previously avoided. We felt blessed to have the opportunity to share our commonalities, and differences, with teachers and librarians who might not know how to serve our communities. And you’d be surprised what you can learn from your conservative teens.

Plan Inclusive Displays, and Other Tips

Be aware of the big issues. Here are the areas likely to cause friction for some teens:

• Boy/girl relationships (even socializing may not be appropriate, depending on faith)

• Unrepentant characters (the bad kid who doesn’t change)

• Language (for some teens, this may include words like “stupid” or “dummy”)

• Violence

• Drugs/alcohol

Know your collection. If you don’t, you can’t know what to recommend.

Think “right age,” not “stretch age.” Many students gravitate toward books about characters who are older. Try characters closer in chronological age to your patron. Often, the big “issues” will become nonissues.

Plan inclusive displays. A display about Muslims, much like one about gay and lesbian teens, might create an unintended barrier for some teens who think, “this section is not for me.” Create displays that are inclusive, such as Valentine’s selections that include books about chaste dating and arranged marriages alongside ones about gay and lesbian couples. Everyone really is invited to browse.

Consider an “in-between” section. We have “easy readers” for the kids who move past picture books, but aren’t ready for chapter books. Why not have “older middle grade” novels that can invite tweens to get “close” to the YA section? They can transition further when they feel ready.

Avoid school stories. When you’re getting to know someone, suggest mysteries, fantasy stories, and historical fiction rather than contemporary fiction. Typically, if characters are busy saving the kingdom, they’re not engaging in romance (or intense romance). Try these, until you learn the nuances of a reader’s preferences.

Be careful what you weed! A lot of “oldies” are loved by conservative teens. They can get very excited about Lloyd Alexander titles, for instance.

Don’t toss the baby with the bathwater. Let’s say there are a few pages in a book with content that the patron would find offensive. Let him or her know approximately where it is, what the content is generally (dating, drugs, sex, etc.), and mention why the book otherwise fits his or her needs. We all skip around in books. If a title is a great fit, there’s no harm done by skipping that passage. Being open about problem passages, you respect the teen’s choices and autonomy without censoring yourself.

Great Titles for Conservative Teens

Dating and boy-girl relationships are often a given in YA fare. While Christian teens don’t mind “chaste dating,” or dating where the kiss is as far as it goes, Muslim and Orthodox Jewish teens may not date at all—at least not in the way contemporary society expects. So boy-girl relationships can be problematic. Areas that are usually acceptable are genre books such as historical fiction, fantasy, and mystery. Also, younger teen/middle grade titles, including some on this list, are less likely to include serious dating.

Finally, consider how things work out in the end. Often a “bad teen” who learns from his or her mistakes is OK. So if you have a Muslim teen like Amal in Randa Abdel-Fattah’s Does My Head Look Big in This? (Orchard, 2005) attending drinking parties but later choosing to stop attending, drinking, and dating herself, it might be appropriate. Unfortunately, such a book can be controversial to families who believe that choosing to wear hijab means always making appropriate decisions.

This list is just a start. What books and magazines have religious teens gravitated to in your library? Join the conversation in the comments section.


Realistic Fiction

Abdel-Fattah, Randa. Does My Head Look Big in This? (Orchard, 2005)

Carlson, Melody. “Carter House Girls” series (Zondervan) Note: includes some drinking/partying.

Clipston, Amy. Roadside Assistance; Reckless Heart; and Destination Unknown (Zondervan; 2011, 2012, 2014)

Ellis, Deborah. Breadwinner (Groundwood, 2000) and sequels

Frank, Christian M., and others. “John Paul 2 High” series (Chesterton)

Lockhart, E. We Were Liars. (Delacorte, 2014) Note: some light romance and talk of sex in a very bookish way.

Weiss, Rebecca Bratten and Regina Doman. Catholic Philosopher Chick Makes Her Debut (Regina Dorman, 2012)

Woodson, Jacqueline. Brown Girl Dreaming (Penguin, 2014)


Aiken, Joan. “The Wolves of Willoughby Chase” series (Doubleday)

Raskin, Ellen. The Tattooed Potato and Other Clues and The Westing Game (Dutton; 1975, 1978)

Taylor, Mildred D. Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry (Dial, 1976) and shorter works

Historical Fiction

Anderson, Laurie Halse. Chains (S. & S., 2008)

Nixon, Joan Lowery. A Family Apart (Gareth Stevens, 2000)

Park, Linda Sue. The Kite Fighters; A Single Shard (Clarion; 2000, 2001)

Ryan, Pam Muñoz. Esperanza Rising (Scholastic, 2000) Note: some romance toward end.

Schmidt, Gary D. The Wednesday Wars (Clarion, 2007)

Vanderpool, Clare. Moon Over Manifest (Delacorte, 2010)

Wood, Mary Rose. “The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place” series (HarperCollins)


Anderson, M.T. “The Norumbegan Quartet” series (Scholastic)

Bloor, Edward, Tangerine (Harcourt, 1997). Note: for high school students.

Colfer, Eoin. “Artemis Fowl” series (Hyperion)

Haddix, Margaret Peterson. Running Out of Time (S. & S., 1995)

Nixon, Joan Lowery. Whispers from the Dead (Laurel-Leaf, 1989)

Roberts, Willo Davis. What Could Go Wrong; Hostage; The Kidnappers; and The One Left Behind (S. & S.; 2000, 1998, 2006, 1989)

Stewart, Trenton Lee. “The Mysterious Benedict Society” series (Little, Brown)

Bergren, Lisa Tawn. “The Remnants” series (Blink)

Dickerson, Melanie. All books

Doman, Regina. “Fairy Tale” series (Ignatius) Note: Rapunzel Let Down is best for older high schoolers.

DuPrau, Jeanne. The “Ember” series (Random) Note: book three delves into religious issues in a not-so-flattering way.

Ibbotson, Eva. All books except The Secret of Platform 13 (Dutton, 1998), due to nudity

Jacques, Brian. “Redwall” series (Philomel)

Key, Alexander. Escape to Witch Mountain and Return from Witch Mountain (both Westminster, 1968)

Lewis, C. S. “The Chronicles of Narnia” (Macmillan) Note: Some families have trouble with Lewis’s Christian message.

Park, Linda Sue. Archer’s Quest (Clarion, 2006)

Treskillard, Robert. “The Merlin Spiral” series (Zondervan)

Wright, Betty Ren. “Ghost” stories (Scholastic)

Nicole Jenks May is a PhD student in the Information Science program at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and also teaches for Kolbe Online Academy.

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Where the Stories Come From: Up Close with YA Author Laurie Boyle Crompton Wed, 04 Mar 2015 14:00:14 +0000 BLazeLaurie Boyle Crompton is the YA author of Blaze (or Love in the Time of Supervillains) (2013), The Real  Prom Queens of Westfield High (2014, both Sourcebooks) as well as her most recent title, Adrenaline Crush (Farrar, 2014).

School Library Journal’s review of Adrenaline Crush says “Thoughtful teens will enjoy this satisfying read with well-crafted characters and a nice sense of place.” Of Blaze, “Crompton offers an interesting perspective on how a rumor can affect its victim. Blaze is a likable character, and the snarky dialogue will hold readers’ interest.”

DonnaLaurie2Crompton has written for national magazines, such as Allure, as well as numerous trade publications, and has appeared on Good Day New York several times as a toy expert—yes, that is an actual thing that people sometimes get to be. Crompton recently stopped by Floral Park (NY) Memorial High School and chatted with SLJ reviewer Donna Rosenblum. Here’s what she had to say.

When did you discover your love of writing?

I made up stories when I was little, but really began writing in high school. I was not the best student and did what was needed to get by. I received an assignment for my English composition class and decided to recount a story about a babysitter that my aunt and I had (my aunt was only four years older than me). It was the funniest story that I knew, but I never expected the reaction I got. Not only did the teacher love it, he had me read it in front of the class. I still remember the students laughing at all the right places. I was so empowered and felt on top of the world. This became my favorite class and I looked forward to going to school to receive my next assignment.

I went on to major in English with a minor in journalism. I thought that writing nonfiction would be my focus because fiction seemed too overwhelming at the time. I had read Reviving Ophelia: Saving the Selves of Adolescent Girls (Putnam, 1994) by Mary Pipher and the book resonated with me. Its focus is on why adolescent girls fall prey to depression, eating disorders, suicide attempts, and crushingly low self-esteem became a call to arms [for whom?], offering important tactics, empathy and strength, and urging a change to rediscover their sense of self. I decided that this theme would be my first project. It deals with body image based on my experiences and struggles as an adolescent. It was sort of a memoir. I sometimes go back to that project, but it is not in the cards right now.

Why did you decide to write for the young adults?

prom queens

I connect the most with this time in a [young person’s] life. It is [a time in which] the decisions [that are] made make such a huge difference and impact down the line. I write from that place—the place of raw emotion, or shall we say, “from the gut.” The ability to overcome obstacles and challenges and to persevere is something that is so meaningful to me, and why I love this genre.

Is this why many of the themes in your novels revolve around body image, bullying, and self-esteem?

Yes, most definitely. My parents got divorced during my teen years and my way of coping was to control my eating. I understand firsthand the struggle with eating disorders and the effects. Talking about this issue will not only continue to shed light on it, but also remind teens that they are not alone and should seek out someone they can trust.

In terms of bullying—it has been an important focus in recent years and I am glad that is not taken lightly. In the past, bullying was seen as a teen rite of passage and something that kids have to work through and deal with on their own. Thankfully that is not the case anymore. I want readers not to accept bullying and understand that they can stand up and take action.

I have gotten a lot of feedback from fans stating how much they identify with Blaze and the responsibility that is thrown on her shoulders to take care of her younger brother. Many have similar circumstances and share the role of being “a surrogate parent.”

Adrenaline CrushAdrenaline Crush is different from Blaze and Prom Queens—where did the idea for this come from?

I had read an article that discussed how most of the population was filled with extroverts while authors tend to be introverts. So I began the journey of writing a novel where the main protagonist is bold, confident, and a bit reckless. All of my books are different and I am always challenging myself to write out of my comfort zone.

How has your family, particularly your children, dealt with your success as an author?

My family is very open and communication is an integral part of our family dynamic. When I compare [it to] the things we discussed [during] my own upbringing, it is like night and day. We are a close-knit group, but I think the real key is that my family has seen me struggle over the years. They have seen the rejection, the years of trying, all the hours spent [writing], and how hard I have worked. Now they are part of the celebration and come to my events with me. My daughter dyed her hair pink for Blaze and wore a prom dress for Prom Queens. It is wonderful to have their support.

Do you think you might try writing from a male perspective?

I have never really given it much thought. But I do have a 12-year-old son who is not an avid reader, so writing books for boys has been on the radar.

Where did the comic connection come from for Blaze?

When my stepfather moved in, he brought a giant comic book collection with him. I read them all and have been always been of huge fan. I have also gone to ComicCon in New York City and it was a blast!

What are you working on now?

I do have a few irons in the fire that I am excited about, but it is too soon to say. I am waiting to hear from my agent, so we shall see what comes to the surface.

Donna Rosenblum is a longtime SLJ reviewer and a librarian at Floral Park (NY) Memorial High School.


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Spring Giveaways from Merit Press and Chronicle; International Reading Association Renamed | SLJTeen News Wed, 04 Mar 2015 08:37:36 +0000 A Work of Art and the ridiculously useful Funny on Purpose.]]> A Work of Art Questions Parental Honesty and One Daughter’s Loyalty

What if the one who should protect you is the one who betrays you most of all? Tera looks up to her famous artist father. With a scholarship to a top-notch art school in France, she hopes to impress the man who’s been her role model all her life. But when police arrest her dad for an unspeakable crime, Tera’s hopes for the future explode, and she gives up her studies abroad to pay for his defense.

AWorkofArt-smallerMelody Maysonet’s debut young adult novel, A Work of Art (Merit Press, 2015, ages 14+), is a deeply felt and beautifully written story about self-image, self-deception, and the difficulty we all experience when we have to face the whole truth about the myths of our childhoods.

Five lucky winners will receive a copy of A Work of Art; to enter, please send an email with your name, library, and mailing address. Emails must be received by midnight (EDT) on March 18, 2015. Winners will be selected in a random drawing and notified via email. One entry per person, prizes will only be shipped to U.S. addresses. Find out more about Melody Maysonet.

International Reading Association Evolves into International Literacy Association

ILA logoChange came to the International Reading Association (IRA) in a big way this year. Not only were the dates of the annual conference shifted from April to July, IRA has also undergone a name change. IRA is now ILA—the International Literacy Association. The change was made to reflect the broader set of skills required in our fast-changing world that are needed to be truly literate.

You can be sure this will be quite the buzz at the annual conference, July 18–20 in St. Louis, MO, which will feature over 300 workshops and programs, and 120 plus exhibitors. For more information about the conference and the name change, visit ILA’s brand new website.

Fantastic Spring Giveaways from Chronicle Books

paddlePaddle Against the Flow by Huck (Age 12 & Up)

Nas on language, Cat Power on looking inward, Spike Jonze on loving what you do, and Kim Gordon on feeling the flow. These are just a few of the surprising insights collected in this gorgeous book by Huck magazine. Bringing together the best insights from over 60 indie stars of the most inspiring people Huck has spoken to over the years, this book presents a diverse range of truths, creative wisdom, and life lessons from those who paddle against the flow. To request a finished book, please fill out this Google Form.

unpredictableFunny on Purpose: The Definitive Guide to an Unpredictable Career in Comedy Standup + Improv + Sketch + TV + Writing + Directing + YouTube by Joe Randazzo, foreword by John Hodgman (Age 14 & Up)

It takes guts to be a comedian, and it takes smarts to make a living off it. In this insider’s guide, former Onion editor Joe Randazzo delivers a funny and insightful blueprint for those looking to turn their sense of humor into a vocation. Explaining how it works and how to break in, Joe provides tips and guidance, outlines successful career paths, and solicits advice and stories from the likes of Judd Apatow, Jack Handey, Tim & Eric, and more. To request an ARC, please fill out this Google Form.

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Teens Review the Latest from David Almond, Elizabeth Wein, and More Wed, 04 Mar 2015 04:45:59 +0000 Black Dove White Raven and The Tightrope Walkers. And unsurprisingly, power struggles are at the heart of The Witch Hunter, The Winner’s Crime, and Powerless, a theme that continues to run through teens’ favorite reads.]]> Elizabeth Wein and David Almond place readers in new and unusual settings in their latest offerings, Black Dove White Raven and The Tightrope Walkers. Power struggles are at the heart of Virginia Boecker’s The Witch Hunter, Marie Rutkoski’s The Winner’s Crime, and Powerless, cowritten by Tracy Deebs and Tera Childs, a theme that continues to run through teens’ favorite reads.

tightrope walkersALMOND, David. The Tightrope Walkers. Candlewick. Mar. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780763673109.
Gr 9 Up—Dominic Hall is growing up in the shipyards of northern England, where he is destined to work if he doesn’t do well in school. Throughout his youth, different pressures are pushing him. There’s Holly, the girl next store who dreams of being an artist and a tightrope walker, and there’s Vincent McAlinden, who teaches Dom how to fight, hunt, and kiss. Almond takes the struggles of a young boy growing up and puts it into an environment unlike any that we’ve seen in other popular YA novels. Most YA novels these days are dystopian, or magical, or take place in basic America, but this new setting, the shipyards of England, is refreshing.—Maddie, age 17

witch hunterBOECKER, Virginia. The Witch Hunter. Little, Brown. Jun. 2015. Tr $18.00. ISBN 9780316327008.

Gr 9 Up—This book is about a girl who is a witch hunter, betrayed by the very people she works for, who then begin to hunt for her. Elizabeth is forced to join the people that she hunted, including Nicholas Perevil, the most powerful and dangerous wizard in the kingdom. I would have to say that it did not have enough detail and I found myself kind of skipping over words. I thought that it would have an end, but it is set up for another book to come after it. The publisher notes say that people who liked Game of Thrones would like this book.—Sam C., age 13

Powerless-240x360CHILDS, Tera & Deebs, Tracy. Powerless. Sourcebooks. Jun. 2015. Tr $16.99.ISBN 9781492616573.
Gr 9 Up—Being powerless in a city full of powerful people can be challenging. When Kenna, an ordinary girl who works in a lab with her mom, is suddenly caught between the heroes and villains, she must make up her mind and choose a side to save herself, her mother, and a close friend’s relative. This book has all the power, romance, chocolate, and plot references you crave. Maybe it’s me, but I am completely obsessed with eyeball close-ups. That’s probably why I picked up this book—even if you shouldn’t judge it by its cover. I just think eyes are very attractive and EYE-catching!  The sparks on (Kenna’s) irises are quite curious and intriguing.

The conflict is well woven throughout the book, and I loved the overall creativity. I found it fascinating that two authors could blend together the word of Marvel and DC Comics into the modern-day version of superhero and villain-filled streets. Well, don’t tell anyone this, but I also wanted to read this book because I wanted to get inspiration and draw lines between Miss Childs’s and Deebs’s Powerful to my own book series. I wanted to make sure I wouldn’t be “stealing” from them in any way, shape, or form, but I also could draw conclusions and make observations from their writing style to my own.

I thought Powerless was awesome. I would also appreciate if the authors could make it clearer if there will or won’t be another book. You could go so much farther with the topic of superpowers. This book could become the next Hunger Games!—Sam G., age 13             

winners crimeRUTKOSKI, Marie. The Winner’s Crime. (Winner’s Trilogy: Bk. 2) Farrar. Mar. 2015. Tr $17.00. ISBN 9780374384708.
Gr 8 Up—This is the sequel to The Winner’s Curse (Farrar, 2014), but I would not recommend reading it until the next book is out because it ends, honestly, in the middle of the story arc, without climax or resolution. If it were possible (but I know it’s not), I’d say don’t publish the last couple chapters, save them for the next book. The story is really well written, with strong characters, and I wanted to know more about what was going to happen after the second book. But I was really disappointed. The book did not follow a story arc. It ended in the middle, never had a climax, and never had any resolution.

It would have been fine to end the story earlier, when Arin realizes Kestrel might be deceiving everybody, tricking everyone into thinking she doesn’t care for the citizens of Herran at all. But then the book continued, and everything went downhill; the continuation should have been the start of the next book, or followed up by some kind of resolution. It was exhausting and unrewarding to read. And the cover—I can’t say I’m a fan of the whole “girl in distress in a dress” theme. I guess it works, but it feels a little cliché.—Anika, age 17

black dove white ravenWEIN, Elizabeth. Black Dove White Raven. Disney-Hyperion.  Mar. 2015. Tr. $17.99. ISBN 9781423183105.
Gr 8 Up—Teo and Em were practically brought up in planes, but when Teo’s mother Delia dies in the one terrifying instant, due to a bird strike, the makeshift family is jolted cruelly back to reality. In a battle to find closure, Em’s mother Rhoda orders them to pack their bags in order to move to Teo’s home country, Ethiopia. However war is not far off, and some secrets are unearthed that would be better off forgotten.

There were many compelling aspects of Black Dove White Raven, but if I had to pick one it would be the sense of equality between the two main characters, Emily and Teo. In the 1930s, racism was still going strong but from the beginning, Emily never doubted the Teo was her equal and they were very close friends. The same could be said for their mothers, Rhoda and Delia. When Teo’s mother Delia died there was no doubt in Emily’s or Rhoda’s minds that they would continue to take care of him as if he were part of the family. I absolutely loved, loved, loved this book. It was inspiring and sweet and thrilling. If you liked Code Name Verity, this is the book for you.—Isabel, age 13

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Adult Books for Teens from Macmillan Tue, 03 Mar 2015 16:32:05 +0000 Librarians are always asking for recommendations of adult titles that their teen patrons will enjoy. These adult titles are in-house favorites at Macmillan, and are perfectly appropriate and accessible to teens. Mix it up by giving them a taste of reading choices that they won’t find on the young adult shelves.

DISGRUNTLED by Asali Solomon

“Will Kenya flourish at her new school, go to college, and become upwardly mobile, as her hardworking but dissatisfied mother wants? Where does Kenya belong? How will she find her own path, and her own identity, not one defined by her past and her parents? Solomon addresses all these questions with consummate grace.” —Library Journal

“Solomon’s cultural references resound, her dialogue stings, and the intricate and surprising relationships she choreographs are saturated with racial, sexual, and political quandaries of intimate and epochal repercussions. A deft, knowing, bold, and witty debut.” —Booklist, starred review

YA/Mature Readers: Young Kenya is an exceptionally entertaining narrator as she recounts her coming-of-age complicated by race and politics in Solomon’s smart and funny first novel. 

FIND ME by Laura van den Berg

“Van den Berg’s enveloping novel of a plague and a seeker in an endangered world reveals what it feels like to grow up unwanted and unknown in a civilization hell-bent on self-destruction. It is also a beautifully strange, sad, and provocative inquiry into our failure to love, cherish, and protect. But ultimately, FIND ME is a delving story of courage, persistence, and hope.”—Booklist, starred review

Find MeYA/Mature Readers: Young adults with a penchant for dark, subtly speculative fiction will be captivated by Joy and her struggles for selfhood and survival in a poisoned world.

“Like Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale or Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go, van den Berg’s debut novel presents a frighteningly plausible near-future dystopia grounded in human elements. Not everything is explained, and things take an increasingly surreal turn in the novel’s second half, but Joy’s quest, and her need to feel cared for, is heartbreakingly real and compellingly wrought. The book’s ambiguous conclusion may lead to rereading as the possibility of multiple interpretations is opened. Highly recommended.”–Library Journal, starred review

pretty isPRETTY IS by Maggie Mitchell

“What binds together Lois Lonsdale, who teaches British literature at a small college in upstate New York, and lonesome, possibly washed-up actress Chloe Savage? At age 12, they were abducted independently by a handsome stranger and held at an Adirondack hunting lodge for two months, bonding to survive. They’re drawn together again by a movie script bearing an uncanny resemblance to their story. Lots of buzz on this one, plus multiple foreign sales.” –Library Journal, Pre-Pub Alert

THE MIME ORDER by Samantha Shannon

A Clockwork Orange meets A Tale of Two Cities meets Harry Potter in this clever, caring, and spellbinding tale, which promises more to come.”—Booklist, starred review

THE ANCHORESS by Robyn Cadwallader

“Cadwallader’s vivid period descriptions set a stunning backdrop for this beautiful first novel as Sarah rejects a larger world that will not allow her to live on her own terms and goes about creating a smaller one that will. Sarah’s path will intrigue readers at the crossroads of historical fiction, spirituality, and even feminism as she faces the internal and external pressures on women of the Middle Ages.” —Booklist, starred review

** For more information about our teen titles, download the 2015 Books for Teens poster now or request a copy by emailing your full name, title, and mailing address to

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Intelligent Machines: Robots in Film and Teen Fiction Tue, 03 Mar 2015 16:01:36 +0000 You may not meet RoboCop, the Terminator, or R2D2 on the street any time soon, but the next generation of robots will represent a remarkable variety of designs and purposes. For example, the U.S. Navy is developing a six-foot-tall humanoid robot designed and equipped to fight fires at sea, and a robo-dog manufactured by Boston Dynamics can climb stairs and smoothly navigate rough terrain. A first version of JIBO—an 11”-tall personal robot that looks like a chubby plastic desk lamp and acts as personal assistant, entertainment center, automatic photographer (you smile it snaps), communications avatar, and companion—will begin to ship in December 2015. And soft robots, machines made from pliable materials that possess the elasticity of a living organism, have the potential to revolutionize the human-machine interface.

chappieOf course, Hollywood has long been ahead of the curve with a well-established tradition of movies featuring intelligent machines, and several spring releases star automated protagonists (and antagonists). In Chappie (R; releases March 6), a droid stolen from the ranks of a mechanized police force is provided with new programming and becomes the first robot with the capacity to think and feel, opening up a whole new can of worms for the human race, some of whom will do anything to ensure that this new life form remains the last of its kind. The British psychological thriller Ex Machina (R; releases April 10) centers around a young man who wins a competition to spend the week at the secluded home Ex Machinaof an internet billionaire. Once there, he discovers that he will participate in a Turing test to evaluate the capabilities of a cutting-edge artificial intelligence…contained in the form of an incredibly lifelike—and stunningly beautiful—robot girl. And Marvel’s Avengers: Age of Ultron (May 1) reunites Earth’s Mightiest Heroes to take on a technological miscreant determined to extinguish all of mankind.

Fantastic fiction

Catch the eye of teens who love movie and TV robots with a lineup of titles that run diagnostics on coming-of-age themes and personhood conundrums while also providing plenty of gear-turning, technology-pushing, cyborg-centered action.

Who am I?

Robots5William Campbell Powell’s Expiration Day (Tor, 2014; Gr 9 Up) is set in the year 2049, when a radical decline in fertility has placed humanity on the edge of extinction. In order to prevent societal collapse and provide a sense of normality, the Oxted Corporation has developed teknoids, sophisticated androids nearly identical to human children that are leased to would-be parents. Assured by her own loving Mum and Dad that she is a flesh-and-blood “rarity,” 11-year-old Tania Deeley begins to wonder which of her contemporaries are human and which are mechanical. The book really gets interesting after she discovers the truth of her own origins. Spanning six years, Tania’s diary entries gradually and believably mature from gleefully chatty to searingly insightful, reflecting her intellectual and emotional evolution as she becomes aware of her body image, grieves deeply for a family loss, falls in love, and explores her own creativity through music and acting. However, the clock is always ticking, since all teknoids are returned to Oxted on their 18th birthdays when the lease runs out. Featuring a multifaceted heroine and brimming with real emotion, this compelling coming-of-age tale raises fascinating questions about what it means to be human.

Robots1Still reeling from the traumatic death of her father in a fire, Mila, 16, is unable to recall details from her past. She struggles to settle into life in the small Minnesota town where she and her mother have just relocated, but things begin to look up when the handsome new boy at Clearwater High asks for her number. Then she injures her arm—revealing tubes and silver wires—and her shocking past begins to come to light. Her name isn’t a shortened form of Mia Lana like her mother told her, but is actually MILA 2.0 (2013; Gr 7 Up), an acronym for Mobile Intel Lifelike Android. She is in fact a super-covert secret weapon designed and built by the government, and Mom is a project scientist who stole Mila away when she began to develop human emotions. Talk about identity crisis! There’s no time to wallow, however, since they must flee the federal agents and violent thugs who have found them and are in hot pursuit. Debra Driza’s thriller sizzles with fast-paced action, spy-style intrigue, tantalizing secrets, and a touch of romance, while also exploring themes of individuality and humanity. The second installment, Renegade (2014) is already available and Redemption pubs in fall 2015 (all HarperCollins).

“Be afraid, be very afraid.”

Robots8Daniel H. Wilson and John Joseph Adams’s short story collection inventively—and often spine-chillingly—delves into the theme of Robot Uprisings (Vintage, 2014; Gr 10 Up). Penned by adult and YA authors, including Cory Doctorow, Ian McDonald, Robin Wasserman, and Nnedi Okora for, these tales take a (mostly) futuristic tack to deal with timeless themes such as hubristic humans playing God and generating life (à la Frankenstein); the complex relationship between creator and the created; the fear of fashioning technology that will ultimately destroy us; and what it means to be human. The tone of the offerings ranges from humorous to heartbreaking and to harrowing. Today’s increasingly omnipresent technological trappings are mixed with visons of innovations-to-be—as automated cars and Roombas go rogue, artificial intelligence is repeatedly weighed against human intelligence (don’t place your money on the meatsacks), and the stakes are as high as human survival—providing a terrifying sense of this-could-be possibility.

Robots7Teens wanting to fully immerse themselves in a post-robot-apocalypse world will be mesmerized by Gregg Rosenblum’s Revolution 19 (2012; Gr 8 Up). It’s been 14 years since military robots designed to fight wars turned their weapons on their commanders, killing many, and forcing survivors to live in closely controlled cities. Some humans still remain at liberty, however, living in Freepost settlements and staying alive by scavenging food and “pre-Rev” objects and materials. When their parents are captured by a robot raiding party, 17-year-old Nick, tech-savy 13-year-old Kevin, and their 15-year-old adopted sister Cass, set off to try and rescue them. Heading for the nearest City, they discover a thriving metropolis that is nothing like they expected, a robot-run totalitarian society where they must either hide or try to live within the strict rules imposed by their oppressors. Danger lurks everywhere, but so do the beginnings of another revolution. Heavy on action and suspense, this book is followed by Fugitive X (2013) and City 1 (2015, all HarperTeen).

Robots4Oisín McGann’s Rat Runners (Open Road, 2015; Gr 7 Up) is set in a near-future London where WatchWorld, an all-powerful corporation, keeps eyes and ears on everything and everyone with constant surveillance, and Safe-Guards, half-human and half-robot sentinels, patrol the streets. Crime lords have gone underground and now rely upon teenagers—still-off-the-grid orphans able to swiftly navigate the alleyways, rooftops, and abandoned buildings that remain unmonitored (aka “rat-runs”)—to do most of their leg work. When a valuable box goes missing after a murder, a particularly fearsome gangster conscripts a crew of rat runners to track it down—Nimmo, talented con-artist, obtrude, and track-coverer; Manikin, mistress of disguises; her younger brother, hacking-whiz Fx; and Scope, brilliant at observation, supposition, and forensics. Each member of this multi-cultural cast is brought to life with his or her own personality, hidden motivations, and close-kept secrets. Clever plot twists and heart-pounding action ensue as the sought-after goods are finally revealed—it’s a technology that will change human existence—and the teens pool their skills and bind their fates together in order to survive.

Something old, something new

Robots3In Stitching Snow (Hyperion, 2014; Gr 7 Up), R.C. Lewis skillfully embroiders the familiar Snow White canvas with colorfully futuristic sci-fi circuitry. An apparent orphan, Essie, 17, lives in a mining settlement on the bleak planet Thanda, where she earns her keep by “stitching” together computer tech—focusing mostly on fixing, coding, and fiddling with the crew of seven loyal drones that she has rigged to perform the most dangerous merinium-extracting jobs. When a mysterious boy her own age crash-lands on the planet, she reluctantly agrees to help him repair his shuttle. However, Dane, who is on a quest to find the missing Princess Snow, soon makes a few connections of his own, and kidnaps Essie before launching into space. So begins an intricately plotted tale of interplanetary warfare, complex political intrigue, old secrets revealed, burgeoning romance, and a young woman who risks everything to finally face her responsibilities and free her people from a despot. Readers will enjoy echoes of the original story (a Dopey-style drone named Dimwit, for example), but they will also revel in the adventures of a unique protagonist who ultimately charts her own course. Point fans of this book to Marissa Meyer’s Cinder (Feiwel & Friends, 2012) and its memorable part-human part-cyborg heroine.

Robots2Set in an alternate version of the DC Comics universe, Teen Titans: Earth One (DC Comics, 2014; Gr 10 Up) reboots and reimagines the origins of this well-known squad of adolescent superheroes. Jeff Lemire and Terry Dodson’s graphic novel introduces four teens leading typically misunderstood and alienated adolescent lives in suburban Oregon who suddenly begin to experience strange powers (i.e., Tara Markov can make the earth quake, Gar Logan transforms into a beast, and Vic Stone seems to be turning into a cyborg right before their eyes). They band together to confront the uncaring (and pretty much awful) grownups in their lives and try to get to the truth of their new abilities, uncovering secrets about an alien vessel that crashed years ago (yikes, the reprehensible Dr. Stone incorporated the ship’s mysterious “living metal” into Vic’s very being) and the young alien survivor imprisoned ever since. The artwork is slick and action-packed, and the characterizations and world-building refreshingly original. In addition to the adults’ amorality, violence and mature content make this book appropriate for older readers.


Robots6Maybe a robot is destined to save the world after all…if he can ever learn to read a roadmap. The star of a large-size volume, Brian Ralph’s Reggie-12 (Drawn & Quarterly, 2013; Gr 7 Up) is a robot boy who can fly, defeat all manner of giant metallic bad guys, and repeatedly save the day—all while keeping take-out pizza warm on top of his engine. This collection of short comics also features Reggie’s absentminded creator, Professor Tinkerton; Casper, a cat with a penchant for litter-box humor; and Donald-14, a robot who prefers the couch to crime-fighting, all of whom who serve up sarcasm from the peanut gallery. Illustrated with black-ink drawings, this tongue-and-cheek send up of manga classics such as “Gigantor” and “Astro Boy” has an appropriately nostalgic feel but also percolates with hilarious slapstick moments, self-deprecating humor, and a snarky 21st-century sensibility.

Publication Information

DRIZA, Debra. MILA 2.0. 2013. Tr. ISBN 9780062090362; pap. $9.99. ISBN 9780062090379; ebook ISBN 9780062090386.

_____. MILA 2.0: Renegade. 2014. Tr. ISBN 9780062090393; ebk ISBN 9780062090416.

Ea vol. HarperCollins/Katherine Tegen Bks. Tr $17.99. ebook $9.99.

LEMIRE, Jeff. Teen Titans: Earth One: Volume One. illus. by Terry Dodson. DC Comics. 2014. Tr $22.99. ISBN 9781401245566.

LEWIS, R. C. Stitching Snow. Disney-Hyperion. 2014. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781423185079.

MCGANN, Oisín. Rat Runners. Open Road. 2015. pap. $16.99. ISBN 9781497665804. ebk $9.99. ISBN 9781497665729.

POWELL, William Campbell. Expiration Day. Tor. 2014. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780765338280; pap. $9.99. ISBN 9780765338297; ebk $9.99. ISBN 9781466838406.

RALPH, Brian. Reggie-12. illus. by author. Drawn & Quarterly. 2013. Tr $21.95. ISBN 9781770461321.

ROSENBLUM, Gregg. Revolution 19. 2012. Tr ISBN 9780062125958; pap. ISBN 978006212596-5; ebk $11.99. ISBN 9780062125989.

_____. Fugitive X. 2013. Tr ISBN 9780062125972; pap. ISBN 9780062125996; ebk $9.99. ISBN 9780062126009.

_____. City 1. 2015. Tr ISBN 9780062126016; ebk $10.99. ISBN 9780062126030.

Ea vol: HarperTeen. Tr $17.99. pap. $9.99.

WILSON, Daniel H. & John Joseph Adams, eds. Robot Uprisings. Vintage. 2014. pap. $15.95. ISBN 978-0-345-80363-4; ebook $11.99. ISBN 9780345803641.


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Findaway Debuts Playaway Launchpad Tue, 03 Mar 2015 15:30:29 +0000 PlayawayLaunchpad2

Findaway has launched Playaway Launchpad, a preloaded learning tablet. Image courtesy of Findaway

Findaway, a provider of digital technology solutions, has introduced Playaway Launchpad, the first ever secure, preloaded children’s learning tablet designed specifically for circulation, according to Playaway brand manager Brittany Gonzalez.

The Launchpad delivers high quality, ad-free learning apps grouped together by subject area, theme, grade level, and age. The apps are preloaded and secured onto each tablet.

It is designed for library and classroom environments, durable enough to withstand multiple users. A one-touch reset feature erases previous user data and requires no staff maintenance,so that Launchpad is ready for the next checkout.

“We’re incredibly excited to debut Playaway Launchpad and change the way tablets are circulated within libraries and schools,” said Jennifer Leombruno, vice-president of Playaway Preloaded Products Group.

Findaway has partnered with leading app developers and Fingerprint Digital, a prominent app aggregator and technology partner, to custom-curate thousands of best-selling apps selected and quality-tested just for children. The content collection spans subject areas from math and science to critical thinking and creativity, and features themed learning packs, including animals, princesses, fantasy, nature, and more.

A custom-designed user interface gives children the opportunity to create a personal avatar, plus an informational console gives parents and educators feedback about time spent on the tablet.

Launchpad is powered by an Android operating system and features a 7-inch high-definition touchscreen, external speaker, universal audio jack, and a protective bumper. The tablet is free of Wi-Fi and camera capabilities for a controlled user experience.

The tablet is sold exclusively through Findaway and comes with a shelf-ready circulating case and a USB/AC power adapter. Prices start at $99.

Early adopters of the new learning tablet include Baltimore (MD) County Public Library, Cambridge (MA) Public Library, Chicago Public Library, and Nashville Public Library. Each library system will be among the first in the nation to circulate Launchpad to their patrons at multiple branches.

Visit the Playaway Launchpad website for more information.

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“Rosie Revere, Engineer” Headed to Space Tue, 03 Mar 2015 14:49:02 +0000 Rosie Revere, Engineer by Andrea Beaty, will travel to the International Space Station as part of the Story Time from Space program from the Global Space Education Foundation. ]]> RosieRevere

The title character from children’s book Rosie Revere, Engineer (Abrams, 2013) by Andrea Beaty will be joining space pioneers Sally Ride, Valentina Tereshkova, and Barbara Morgan as another female making history when the book, which stars a brilliant young tinkerer and future engineer, travels to the International Space Station (ISS) to be part of the space station’s Story Time from Space (STFS) program this summer.

STFS is a project from the Global Space Education Foundation that aims to foster literacy and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) learning by having astronauts on the ISS record their reading selected titles with STEM concepts, as well as conducting concept demonstrations. Previous reading videos can be found on the STFS website under “Library.”

STFS is a venture that was cooked up by educator and former Director of Education at Space Center Houston, Patricia Tribe, while she was preparing dinner one night. Tribe approached Benjamin Alvin Drew Jr., an astronaut who’d traveled to the ISS twice and was the 200th person to ever do a spacewalk, to form the program.

“The idea for Story Time from Space was pilot tested in February 2011 on the last flight of the Space Shuttle Discovery STS-113,” says Tribe. “[Astronauts] Alvin Drew, Michael Barrett, and Nicole Stott tested the idea by reading and providing feedback.  Since then we have been working with NASA and CASIS (Center for the Advancement of Science in Space) on getting items up to orbit, agreements in place, and etc. It takes determination and commitment to get something to orbit. because it takes a while to work through everything, but it is worth the effort.”

Story Time From SpaceThe STFS team also includes educator Debbie Brown-Biggs, veteran astronaut Bjarni Tryggvason, who is designing the science demonstrations, Jack Moore, a public relations specialist at Space Center Houston who is in charge of the website and marketing, and author Jeffrey Bennett, who joined the team after five of his children’s books about science adventures in the “Max the Dog” series (Big Kid Science) were chosen for the first STFS mission in early 2014.

“The astronauts read the [‘Max’ series] and sent the videos back down over several months,” says Tribe to SLJ. “The books are still up there flying at 17,500 mph as we speak.”

The selection of Rosie Revere, Engineer for the program began last spring when Beaty met Drew at the USA Science and Engineering Festival in Washington, DC, and gave him a book as a thank you for doing so much to educate kids about science and space and for his service to our country.

“He and Patricia Tribe loved Rosie Revere, Engineer and decided that it might be a good choice for the program,” Beaty told School Library Journal. Tribe then asked Beaty if she would be interested in having the book as part of the program.

“I have been floating ever since,” says Beaty.” Talk about living in zero gravity!”

Beaty credits the idea for Rosie, a plucky second-grader trying to build a flying machine, to David Roberts, the illustrator of her earlier book, Iggy Peck, Architect (Abrams, 2007). In that story, a little girl hides behind her bangs, trying to be invisible. That shy character eventually evolved into Rosie, her face also half-covered by bangs. Beaty also pays tribute in Rosie Revere, Engineer to her Aunt Emaline, who’d worked in a munitions plant during World War II. Aunt Emaline became personified by the character of Rosie’s great great aunt, named Rosie the Riveter.

“[Having the iconic] Rosie the Riveter as a character [in Rosie Revere, Engineer] was my way of saying ’thanks‘ to the women who did so much on the home front during that war,“ Beaty explained. “After Rosie the Riveter came into the story, it all clicked together and became the story it is now.”

The book has been on the New York Times best-seller list for over 30 weeks, and Beaty has heard from parents of both girls and boys whose kids are encouraged by Rosie’s story to brush failure off and try again. She is thrilled to hear such stories, because the purpose of her writing the book was to teach kids that “failure is not the end of the world but very liberating,” she says. “Perseverance lets us pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and start all over again. And that’s where the good stuff happens.”

Beaty tells SLJ that “a program like STFS has the potential to connect [space exploration] to kids around the world, to get them excited, and to empower them to do things we can’t even imagine in the future.”

Although Tribe says she does not know which astronaut will be reading Rosie Revere, Engineer, the recording of the reading and its accompanying classroom activities will be available on the Story Time from Space website in the fall of 2015.

Watch Astronaut Mike Hopkins read Max Goes to the International Space Station (2013).

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Making Storytime and Curriculum Connections to 2015 Pura Belpré Award Winners Tue, 03 Mar 2015 14:00:37 +0000  

A scene from 2015 Pura Belpré illustrator honor book Little Roja Riding Hood. Illustration by Susan Guevara.

A scene from 2015 Pura Belpré illustrator honor book Little Roja Riding Hood. Illustration by Susan Guevara.

The Youth Media Awards announcements on February 2, during the American Library Association’s (ALA) Midwinter Meeting, were in many ways historic. Diversity was in full view, graphic novels came into their own, and for the first time, a Latina illustrator—Yuyi Morales—was honored both as a Pura Belpré Medalist and a Caldecott Honor recipient. This was a huge step forward in terms of people of color getting recognized for their distinguished work on its own merits, divorced entirely from their ethnicity, or the themes of their book. ¡Viva, Yuyi!

This year’s Pura Belpré winners and honor books provide the ideal opportunity to get to know these authors and illustrators better, look back at some of their previous children’s books, and use these distinguished titles in a library or classroom setting.

In the spirit of full disclosure, I was the chair of the 2015 Pura Belpré committee. Now that the committee’s choices are public, I can speak for myself about this year’s winners. The following represents my opinion, and my opinion only, and should not be construed as representing the opinions of any of the other members of the (absolutely fabulous, I should point out) committee.

Pura Belpré Author


SLJ1503-Libro-Agosin-I-Lived-On-Butterfly-HillAGOSÍN, Marjorie. I Lived on Butterfly Hill. illus. by Lee White. S. & S./Atheneum. 2014. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781416953449.
Gr 5-8– Agosín is a Chilean American writer whose work is probably not familiar to many. That is understandable, since I Lived on Butterfly Hill is Agosín’s first book for young readers. The author has been honored by the United Nations, and the Chilean government awarded her with the Gabriela Mistral Medal of Honor for Life Achievement in 2002. Her work deserves attention.
This middle grade historical novel is narrated by preteen protagonist Celeste Marconi, who observes the growing tensions as warships enter the Valparaíso harbor in the early 1970s. From Celeste’s perspective, this is certainly an ominous event, but she does not fully realize the full portent of the vessels’ arrival until her parents, who are doctors, must go into hiding to escape retaliation by the new dictatorship. The protagonist then travels from Chile to Maine to stay safely with her Aunt Graciela for the duration. Celeste eventually returns to Chile and her family, and her journey, which takes place over several years, feels epic.
It is not often that young readers in this country, especially Latino readers, get such a lovely picture of South American culture. The fact that the story takes Celeste from Chile to Maine also serves to illustrate cultural differences with an eye toward acceptance and understanding. The character’s culture shock will resonate with anyone who is an immigrant, or who has been forced, for whatever reason, to leave the place they call home.

CURRICULUM CONNECTION: This book can be incorporated into social studies and history curricula. It can tie in to a historical discussion of dictatorships, military coups, and what happens to so-called “intellectuals” when someone like Augusto Pinochet takes power, as he did in Chile. The title can also be a springboard for talking about immigration issues and fitting in.


SLJ1503-Libro-Herrera_Portraits-of-HispanicHERRERA, Juan Felipe. Portraits of Hispanic American Heroes. illus. by Raúl Colón. Dial. 2014. Tr $19.99. ISBN 9780803738096.
Gr 4-8A prime example of how nonfiction can be great literature. Herrera distills the life of each of these heroes into a three-page vignette that somehow manages to convey the essence of the subject without being oversimplified. His sketches often end with a poetic flourish, such as his entry about the Puerto Rican writer Julia de Burgos: “A lyric poet of her beloved Carolina landscapes and rivers, and a heartfelt orator for an independent Puerto Rico, Julia wrote tirelessly. She was her own road, and the road for her land and her people.” The stunning “Sestina for Victoria Leigh Soto” is about an unlikely hero, a teacher who was killed while trying to protect her students in the 2012 tragic shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Connecticut. Writing about Soto, Herrera states,“Voices sing your inner strength,” but he might have been talking about any of these heroes, well known or more obscure. He could also be describing Colón’s painted portraits of each figure, each displaying a quiet inner strength and resolve that drove these individuals to make a difference in the world.

CURRICULUM CONNECTION: This is exemplary nonfiction. The source notes, bibliography, and recommended reading titles are all top-notch. This is the sort of book that students can easily read for biography assignments. Herrera’s book of poems Laughing Out Loud, I Fly: Poems in English and Spanish (HarperCollins, 1998) was also a Pura Belpré honor book for text. Herrera writes verses about growing up in a world with two cultures and two homes, and how to bridge the confusing gap between the two.

Pura Belpré Illustrator


SLJ1503-Libro-VivaMorales, Yuyi. Viva Frida. illus. by author. photos by Tim O’Meara. Roaring Book/Neal Porter. 2014. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781596436039.
Gr 1 Up –This is pure Yuyi, what more can you say? She is a maker in every sense of the word, and this book uses multimedia illustrations that include photographs of puppets that Morales created. The text begins with simple bilingual statements from Frida (“Veo/I see”; “Juego/I play”), and this minimalism sweeps readers along Frida’s journey. Paired with Morales’s illustrations, however, the book becomes something truly magical; the real story happens in the pictures. Frida searches, finds a yellow box, and opens the box to reveal a skeleton marionette, which then takes her into a dream in which she realizes that because she creates art, she lives. In the dream sequence, the art style changes from photographic collage to acrylic paints, and then at the end, back to the puppets. Viva Frida celebrates the creative impulse found in artists and creators.

STORYTIME CONNECTION: There is a lovely YouTube video that shows Morales’s creative process. Share this with kids when exploring this breathtaking picture book.


SLJ1503-Libro-Tonatiuh_Separate-Is-Never-EqualTONATIUH, Duncan. Separate Is Never Equal: Sylvia Mendez and Her Family’s Fight for Desegregation. illus. by author. Abrams. 2014. Tr $18.95. ISBN 9781419710544.
Gr 2-5 –Tonatiuh uses composition to highlight the issue of segregation in a powerful and dramatic way. The cover shows three white children on the left, and three Latino children on the right, in the same formation, but with their backs to one another. Their expressions convey mutual distrust. In one of many striking images, the Mendez children look through a fence at a public swimming pool where the white children are swimming. A sign by the pool states “No dogs or Mexicans allowed.” The fence through which the Mendez children are looking is prisonlike and visually creates a strong sense of how discrimination keeps people from full participation in society. Tonatiuh’s illustrations also connect the story of the Mendez family with their heritage and roots with his pre-Columbian, Aztec-inspired art style.

CURRICULUM CONNECTION: Like Portraits of Hispanic American Heroes, this book is a natural for history and social sciences. It should be used when having a classroom discussion on segregation. It would pair naturally with Pam Muñoz Ryan’s new book, Echo (Scholastic, 2015), which has a long section devoted to a fictional California Latino family facing the same struggle. Readers will inevitably want to read Tonatiuh’s acclaimed Pancho Rabbit and the Coyote (Abrams, 2013), also a nuanced exploration of immigration.

SLJ1503-Libro-Parra_Green-Is-a-Chile-PepperTHONG, Roseanne Greenfield. Green Is a Chile Pepper: A Book of Colors. illus. by John Parra. Chronicle. 2014. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781452102030.
PreS-Gr 2 –This concept book explores colors through the lens of Latino culture—orange, for example, represents Day of the Dead marigolds, and yellow is the masa used to make tamales. Parra’s paintings illustrate the joy of Latino cultural celebrations and hit all the right notes—in his art readers can see so many cultural influences, such as Mexican murals by Diego Rivera, folk art, as well as the beauty of folkloríco dance costumes.

STORYTIME CONNECTION: This title would also pair well with the duo’s wonderful Round Is a Tortilla (Chronicle, 2013). Check out a sample storytime using Viva Frida and Green Is a Chile Pepper on the “¡Es divertido hablar dos idiomas!” blog.

SLJ1503-Libro-Guevara_Little-Roja-coverELYA , Susan Middleton. Little Roja Riding Hood. illus. by Susan Guevara. Putnam. 2014. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780399247675.
PreS-Gr 2Little Roja Riding Hood takes the familiar tale and puts it right smack in the middle of a forest that feels like the barrio. The highlight of this book is certainly El Lobo, who looks like a motorcycle dude with his bandana and his skull necklace bling. El Lobo is the latest in Guevara’s long tradition of hip, urban animal characters. Hilarious beyond belief is the artist’s depiction of Grandma’s santo—a statue of St. Jude, Patron Saint of the Impossible, who sports suitably puzzled and angry expressions as Grandma appears to be about to use him to bash El Lobo on the head. Guevara’s illustrations are filled with little amusing details that place this fairy tale in a more modern setting—Grandma is using a laptop in her bed to write romance novels, and there’s a security keypad on the wall in the final spread. Mention should also be made of Elya’s superb rhyming text, which perfectly blends Spanish and English.

STORYTIME CONNECTION: As a read-aloud, this book will certainly rule. Pair with Elya’s Rubia and the Three Osos (Disney-Hyperion, 2010). Be inspired by this “Caperucita Roja” Pinterest page.
The success of Guevara’s latest work brings to mind her illustrations for the delightful “Chato” books done in collaboration with author Gary Soto, Chato’s Kitchen (1997) and Chato and the Party Animals (2004, both Putnam). Originally released in English, there are now Spanish editions available that would work nicely in a program with Little Roja.

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Game Changers: Women Making History | Focus On Tue, 03 Mar 2015 13:00:57 +0000 Above image: Papercut artwork by Miriam Klein Stahl, from Rad American Women A-Z, published by City Lights Books (Mar. 2015).

Papercut artwork by Miriam Klein Stahl, from Rad American Women A-Z, published by City Lights Books (Mar. 2015).

Listen to Louisa May Alcott in Little Women: “I’m not afraid of storms for I’m learning how to sail my ship.” Or consider the words of Amelia Earhart: “Courage is the price that life exacts for granting peace.” And finally, it was Rosa Parks who said, “I have learned over the years that when one’s mind is made up, this diminishes fear; knowing what must be done does away with fear.” These three women led by their exemplary strength, determination, and willingness to make a stand. Author, aviatrix, and activist, they broke new ground for all who follow them. On the heels of the second-wave feminist movement, in the 1980s, March was designated as Women’s History Month. This year the National Women’s History Project has chosen “Weaving the Stories of Women’s Lives” as its theme. The titles listed here are a tapestry that cannot highlight all the women who’ve opened doors through the centuries. However, they do offer today’s students a mix of emblematic standard-bearers and lesser-known figures, past and present. From literature to sports, they represent efforts to address gender and racial inequality, secure basic civil rights, and protect freedom of expression. With a concentration on biographies published in the last four years, most are nonfiction. Many are picture books suitable for pre-K to grade 8 with potential use as models for informal reports in upper elementary and middle school.


MARTIN, Jacqueline Briggs. Alice Waters and the Trip to Delicious. illus. by Hayelin Choi. Readers to Eaters. 2014. Tr $18.95. ISBN 9780983661566.
Gr 2-4–Waters’s food-focused life started when she won a contest wearing an asparagus crown. As owner of Berkeley’s Chez Panisse, she’s a premier chef and founder of the Edible Schoolyard Project, a national movement to teach children about growing and preparing seasonal foods. Colorful, lively images follow an informative biography. Concludes with the chef’s simple culinary suggestions. Audio version available from Live Oak Media.

SCHROEDER, Alan. Baby Flo: Florence Mills Lights up the Stage. illus. by Cornelius Van Wright & Ying-Hwa Hu. Lee & Low. 2012. Tr $18.95. ISBN 9781600604102.
Gr 1-4–Born into poverty in 1896, Florence Mills was a singing/dancing prodigy on vaudeville stages, and her talents led to international performances. While Mills grew to be a Harlem Renaissance star, Schroeder concentrates on her childhood competitions. Expressive watercolor and pencil illustrations add depth. A rare glimpse into a niche not often seen.

WOELFLE, Gretchen. Write On, Mercy!: The Secret Life of Mercy Otis Warren. illus. by Alexandra Wallner. Boyds Mills/Calkins Creek. 2012. Tr $16.95. ISBN 9781590788226.
Gr 3-6–Growing up in colonial Massachusetts, Mercy was fortunate to receive an education and encouragement to write. Later identified, she anonymously penned Revolution-era poems, political plays, and books. Each of the demure gouache illustrated spreads includes period quotes. An instructive view of women’s role in American literature as well as the American Revolution.


HARNESS, Cheryl. Mary Walker Wears the Pants: The True Story of the Doctor, Reformer, and Civil War Hero. illus. by Carlo Molinari. Albert Whitman. 2013. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780807549902.
Gr 1-4–Hard for today’s jean-clad kids to believe, but Mary Walker was considered odd when she wore pants in the mid-1800s. She was also a female doctor caring for wounded Civil War soldiers. Awarded the Medal of Honor, Walker was a staunch civil rights advocate. Deeply hued, detailed illustrations match the period in tone and style.

HOPKINSON, Deborah. Annie and Helen. illus. by Raul Colón. Random. 2012. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780375857065; lib. ed. $20.99. ISBN 9780375957062; ebk. $10.99. ISBN 9780449818015.
Gr 2-5–In 1887, a brand-new teacher faced challenges when she met her deaf and blind student. Determined ingenuity broke through when, at the water pump, Annie finger-spelled w-a-t-e-r in the girl’s hand. Focused on Helen’s early education, the title includes snippets of Annie’s letters and Helen’s first writings. Muted illustrations enhance the careful text.

MCCULLY, Emily Arnold. Ida M. Tarbell: The Woman Who Challenged Big Business—and Won! Clarion. 2014. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9780547290928; ebk. $18.99. ISBN 9780544151604.
Gr 7 Up–McCully offers an in-depth survey, complete with photos, of the life and times of an important pioneering investigative journalist. Working in the early 20th century, Tarbell uncovered corruption and, through a series of articles, faced down Standard Oil. Later, her writing included an authoritative Lincoln biography. Students can compare her methods with present day reporting.

PRÉVOT, Franck. Wangari Maathai: The Woman Who Planted Millions of Trees. illus. by Aurélia Fronty. Charlesbridge. 2015. Tr $17.95. ISBN 9781580896269.
Gr 2-7–Drawing on her rare opportunities for an education, Maathai was determined to reforest Kenya and stand up for democratic rule and women’s rights. Fronty’s buoyant, stylized illustrations convey Maathai’s struggles to institute the Green Belt Movement, which led to her Nobel Peace Prize. A comprehensive time line springboards more study.

RAY, Deborah Kogan. Paiute Princess: The Story of Sarah Winnemucca. illus by author. Farrar. 2012. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780374398972; ebk. $9.99. ISBN 9781466816404.
Gr 3-6–Born in 1844 when her people roamed Nevada, Thocmetony, called Sarah, witnessed how life changed with the arrival of white settlers. Fluent in English, she served as tribal interpreter. Intertwining passages from Sarah’s autobiography, along with details about the Native American experience, this title fully immerses readers. Glowing chalk illustrations, period photos, a map, and endnotes complement the text. Audio version available from recorded books.

TURNER, Ann. My Name Is Truth: The Life of Sojourner Truth. illus. by James Ransome. HarperCollins. 2015. lib. ed. $18.89. ISBN 9780060758998; Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780060758981.
Gr 1-4–Weaving lyrical first-person prose and lush watercolor illustrations, this title follows the abolitionist preacher’s life. Born into slavery as Isabella Baumfree, sold to a brutal master, then owned by other families, Truth attained her freedom and became a powerful speaker. An artful, reader-enfolding retelling of her remarkable life. Ask students if they’d like the name Truth.

WINTER, Jeanette. Malala: A Brave Girl from Pakistan/Iqbal, a Brave Boy from Pakistan. illus. by author. S. & S./Beach Lane. 2014. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781481422949.
Gr 2-4–Simple text and bright clean illustrations introduce the Nobel Peace Prize–winning young woman whose courageous defense of girl’s education almost cost her her life. A dual biography, this title also highlights Iqbal, a Pakistani boy killed for speaking out against child labor. Age appropriate for primary grades, it can also be used to kick start research by older students.


MACY, Sue. Sally Ride: Life on a Mission. S. & S. 2014. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781442488540; ebk. $10.99.ISBN 9781442488564.
Gr 5-8–It took intelligence, dedication, and quiet strength to be America’s first female astronaut in space. Though Sally Ride died in 2012, this well-documented volume presents a vital and private woman whose post-flight life concentrated on science education, especially for girls. Have students imagine Ride’s journey as they write tweets from one of her space shuttle flights.

MONTGOMERY, Sy. Temple Grandin: How the Girl Who Loved Cows Embraced Autism and Changed the World. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 2012. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780547443157; ebk. $10.99. ISBN 9780547733937.
Gr 6-8–Aided by her autism, Dr. Temple Grandin developed an understanding of animal behavior and is a respected authority on both subjects. Studded with personal photos, this title offers valuable insights into her exceptional life and current work and includes Grandin’s suggestions for kids on the spectrum. Check for the well-acted, 2010 HBO biopic, also titled Temple Grandin. Audio version available from Audio Bookshelf.

NIVOLA, Claire A. Life in the Ocean: The Story of Oceanographer Sylvia Earle. illus. by author. Farrar/Frances Foster Bks. 2012. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780374380687; ebk. $9.99. ISBN 9781466808799.
K-Gr 4–As a young girl, the future marine biologist avidly explored ponds and beaches near her childhood homes. In 1970, Earle spent two weeks in a deep-sea station, and she says working deep in the ocean is like “diving into a galaxy.” Detailed watercolor spreads, often softly blue, bring viewers into her underwater world. Audio version available from Recorded Books.

POTTER, Alicia. Mrs. Harkness and the Panda. illus. by Melissa Sweet. Knopf. 2012. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780375844485; ebk. $10.99. ISBN 9780449812020.
K-Gr 3–Though a fashion designer, Ruth Harkness followed her late husband’s 1930s quest to find pandas in China. Despite difficult terrain, Harkness worked with a knowledgeable guide until they discovered a baby panda to bring back to America. Sweet’s collage illustrations echo Asian aesthetics, and an author note addresses animal ecology concerns.


MACY, Sue. Basketball Belles: How Two Teams and One Scrappy Player Put Women’s Hoops on the Map. illus by Matt Collins. Holiday House. 2011. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780823421633.
Gr 2-5–The almost play-by-play account of an 1896 women’s collegiate basketball game is told in a fictionalized, first-person narrative by Stanford player Agnes Morley. Even a damaged hoop didn’t discourage the ladies from playing the then-divided court game. Collins’s demonstrative illustrations spark across spreads. Compare with today’s women’s NCAA March Madness championship.

MCCULLY, Emily Arnold . Queen of the Diamond: The Lizzie Murphy Story. illus. by author. Farrar. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780374300074.
Gr 1-3–In the early 1900s, Lizzie Murphy not only played semiprofessional baseball, but she insisted her pay match that of her male teammates. This outstanding athlete also swam, played ice hockey, and ran foot races. Ink and watercolor illustrations convey the action and differing emotions. Share news coverage of Mo’ne Davis, a 2014 Little League World Series pitcher.

WALLACE, Rich & Sandra Neil Wallace. Babe Conquers the World: The Legendary Life of Babe Didrikson Zaharias. Boyds Mills Pr. 2014. Tr $16.95. ISBN 9781590789810.
Gr 5 Up–The well-researched text, nicely interspersed with photos and quotes, leads readers as they follow Babe to the 1932 Olympics, basketball courts, and golf courses. Sometimes considered abrasive, she nonetheless opened doors and affirmed the muscular strength of women. Ask students to identify today’s women athletes who gained from her efforts.

Collected Biography

COOPER, Ilene. A Woman in the House (and Senate): How Women Came to the United States Congress, Broke Down Barriers, and Changed the Country. illus. by Elizabeth Baddeley. Abrams. 2014. Tr $24.95. ISBN 9781419710360.
Gr 6-10–From suffrage to the present-day, this chronologically organized title gives an overview of eight periods of U.S. history while providing details on women who have served in Congress. Cartoon-style illustrations mixed with documentary and close-up photos make for a lively and informative presentation. Clear, informal text can help students create a mock forum speaking as these women.

NATHAN, Amy. Yankee Doodle Gals: Women Pilots of World War Two. National Geographic. 2001. Tr $21. ISBN 9781419710360.
Gr 6-8–More than 1,000 women piloted noncombat missions during World War II. By ferrying supplies and equipment as well as working as instructors, these Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASPs) made a significant contribution to the war effort. Documented with numerous photos, this also includes brief biographies of several women pilots. Let students choose one for a reaction essay.

OTTAVIANI, Jim. Primates: The Fearless Science of Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey, and Biruté Galdikas. illus. by Maris Wicks. Roaring Brook. 2015. Tr $19.99. ISBN 9781596438651.
Gr 7 Up–Louis Leakey recruited these women to study primates, and they’ve made international reputations with their investigations of chimpanzees, gorillas, and orangutans. With some creative fictionalization, the title utilizes a graphic novel format. Panel palettes reflect primate habitats and shift among the three observers. Endnotes explain this is a tale, not a textbook.

SCHATZ, Kate. Rad American Women A-Z: Rebels, Trailblazers, and Visionaries Who Shaped our History…and Our Future! illus. by Miriam Klein Stahl. City Lights. 2015. Tr $14.95. ISBN 9780872866836.
Gr 4-8–Strong, graphic print images and single-pages of worthwhile text introduce a diverse lineup of powerful females, from Angela Davis to Zora Neale Hurston, with obvious choices, such as Rachel Carson, and a rarely profiled transgender writer, Kate Bornstein, found in between. Read one profile per day in March (or any other month).

Barbara Wysocki, a retired children’s librarian in Rocky Hill, CT, also writes about travel and art.

For Students

MAKERS: The Largest Video Collection of Women’s Stories. Makers. (Accessed 1/22/15)
Gr 6 Up–Describing itself as a “digital and video storytelling platform,” this site offers video profiles of more than 125 women in business, entertainment, politics, and the arts. Also features one-hour documentary specials about groundbreaking American women that first aired on PBS.

National Women’s History Project. National Women’s History Project. Santa Rosa, CA. (Accessed 1/22/15)
Gr 4 Up–Founded in 1980, the NWHP devises yearly themes for Women’s History Month. The site’s calendar includes detailed lists of historic events and noteworthy birthdays. Resources for teachers and librarians include quizzes to test student knowledge and a registry of women’s history performers.

NCWHS: National Collaborative for Women’s History Sites. National Collaborative for Women’s History Sites. Evanston, IL. (Accessed 1/22/15)
Gr 6 Up–Dedicated to preserving and promoting American landmarks, such as the birthplace of Abigail Adams, the Clara Barton National Historic Site, and the Harriet Beecher Stowe Center, the NCWHS works closely with like-minded organizations to make “women’s contributions to history visible.”

For Teachers

National Women’s History Museum: Education & Resources. National Women’s History Museum. (Accessed 1/22/15)
Lesson plans for middle and secondary grades related to the museum’s online exhibitions come complete with objectives, materials, and procedures. Subjects include “Women’s Voting Rights (Suffrage),” “American Women in the Olympics,” “Women in Early Film,” and more.

Women’s History Month for the Classroom. National Education Association. (Accessed 1/22/15)
Offering links to lessons on women’s achievements for grades K–12, the site also includes activities, bibliographies, speeches, quizzes, and resource links. Nature, art, music, politics, and history are among the topics.

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Girl Power to the Max: SLJ Chats with the Creators of the “Lumberjanes” Comics Tue, 03 Mar 2015 13:00:05 +0000 SLJ1503-UpClose_Lumberjanes_pg20SLJ1503-UpClose-Lumberjanes-CVThe all-female conceived and created “Lumberjanes” series is truly a unique team effort. Boom! Studios has collected the first four issues of the friendship-centered comic about a crew of girls who fight monsters at a sleepaway camp into one volume. SLJ caught up with three of the creators, Shannon Watters (cocreator and coauthor); Noelle Stevenson (coauthor); and illustrator Brooke Allen to discuss their collaborative process and inspiration for the campy series.

How did you all come to collaborate on “Lumberjanes”?
Shannon Watters (SW): I’m a senior editor at Boom! It kind of came out of an idea that Grace Ellis (cocreator) and I had about a Girl Scout camp where weird supernatural stuff happens. Brooke and Noelle came on early. We’re really lucky. Without one piece of this puzzle, it never would have gotten off the ground. Brooke has such an understanding of the characters and the way that they move is so organic.

Brooke Allen (BA): The script and the writing were already there. Characters were already so realized I didn’t have to do much—just bring them to the page.

Shannon Watters Photo by Carolyn Yates

Shannon Watters
Photo by Carolyn Yates

Why do you think that this was the right moment to work on this project?
SW: The industry is waking up to what’s been true for a long time: That there are diverse readers. That there are women working in comics, such as DC editor Karen Berger, the incredible visionary who discovered Neil Gaiman and Alan Moore.

Noelle Stevenson (NS): I know that I wouldn’t be in this industry at all if it weren’t for the many women comics creators who are doing inspiring work on the web. We’re all here as a result of this environment that has been nurtured by these very smart badasses on the Internet. Female-created and female-led stories have always been there. Maybe the visibility wasn’t as clear then as it is now. We’re all bringing something to this that is uniquely our voice. It’s the fact that we all ended up here together that this specific thing exists the way it does now.

What is your creative process like?
SW: We [the writers] brainstorm elevator pitches. One of us will expand it into a longer draft. The others will tear it up a little bit. After a few rounds of that, we switch off and write the bones of the script. We continue to pass it back and forth. Then it goes to Brooke, and she elevates it, adding great visual jokes.

NS: In terms of the creative process, Brooke’s art influences us, too. We write a scene in a certain way, knowing that Brooke will be able to bring it to life in a satisfying [manner]. In the first issue, I wasn’t sure where Ripley was going as a character, but Brooke fleshed her out. The type of working relationship that we shoot for is one in which everyone’s voice is spotlighted in every possible way.

SW: In a medium like this, it’s really all about graphic storytelling. Artists could create comics without writers, but writers couldn’t create comics without artists.

BA: Maarta [Laiho]’s colors are also amazing. She does a gorgeous job. Everybody on the “Lumberjanes” team is great and essential.

Why do you think the series has become such a success?
SW: People are hungry for stories that are different from the usual content—including white cisgender males. It makes our industry healthier to have different points of view represented. Ensemble stories like this one truly seem to resonate with people

Noelle Stevenson Photo by Leslie Ranne

Noelle Stevenson
Photo by Leslie Ranne

NS: When parents bring their children into comics stores, I think they don’t have that much selection for kids in general. Maybe superheros—but nothing else in the vein of an adventure story. But finding a nonsexualized portrayal of girls is even more difficult to find. There’s definitely a gap. It’s foolish to ignore that demographic. And even though we’re writing it for young women, it doesn’t mean that they’re the only ones who can enjoy it.

We wanted to provide stories with girls that people can look up to and boys that are sweet and caring. We want to round out the offerings that typical comics shops tend to have. There can be a girly girl who is really strong or a tomboy who gets scared: there are so many different ways to write female characters.

My favorite parts of the series are the offhand references to powerful female cultural icons. 

SW: I think that was a Grace inspiration. I usually choose a person based on the story. In issue #10, they were running from dinosaurs, so I chose to include a pioneering paleontologist. “For the love of Mary Anning,” I think it was. It’s usually ladies that are cool and that we think nine-year-olds should Google.

Diversity has become such an important conversation in children’s literature and publishing. Where do you think “Lumberjanes” fits in that conversation?

NS: I think the stories that kids grow up on change their perception of how they see themselves. For kids, characters are very important, because they project themselves onto the protagonists and learn life lessons through them. If a boy grows up reading about people who are like him, going on adventures, slaying dragons, and rescuing princesses, that can affect how he will see himself and what he believes he’s capable of as he grows up. Whereas a girl who sees female characters behave only in a certain way, might not think the same possibilities that exist for a boy can exist for her. The same thing can be said for a kid of color. You’re putting limitations on their imaginations. If kids see someone who looks like them succeeding and failing in the pages of a book and learning lessons, their ideas of themselves broaden.

When you have a character like April, who likes to do her hair and cute things, but still is the strongest person on her team, a girly girl can say, “I’m a girly girl, but I can be strong too.” Or they can be more like Mal, who is a tomboy, but often is afraid of things. And it’s okay to be scared. There can be a future where limits don’t exist.

SW: And we want show kids that gay people exist, that they have stories too, and they’re not bad or going to die at the end of the story as a result of being gay.

Brooke Allen  Photo by Kevin Panetta

Brooke Allen
Photo by Kevin Panetta

Why do you think that it’s important for kids and comic fans of all ages to read about these girls who’s battle cry is often “Friendship to the Max!”

SW: Female friendship in pop culture, because of patriarchy, usually plays into the same mentality: Girls have to be at each other’s throats.

BA: If you’re not, then you’re too close—like The Craft.

SW: I think it’s really important for there to be positive depictions of young female friendships. It’s one of the most important things for girls. Female friendships are so lovely and wonderful. It doesn’t seem right that it’s not depicted that way in pop culture. We wanted to show friendship as a positive force.

BA: Growing up, there weren’t many franchises or shows depicting a group of girls whose relationships weren’t strained by popularity or a boy.

SW: I’m a “Baby-Sitter’s Club” (Scholastic) scholar and advocate. It was such an incredible behemoth. You can talk to any woman of a certain age about it, and BSC was so important and influential to her. But it’s totally written off because it’s about and written for girls.

“Lumberjanes” is based on the idea that this group of young women, who are ambitious and smart, become friends for life.

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Heartrending YA Novels by Blockbuster Female Authors Tue, 03 Mar 2015 03:30:51 +0000 Suicide, genocide, arranged marriages, and safaris-gone-wrong are on the menu in this selection of novels from the editors at Junior Library Guild. From fan favorites like Holly Black and Gayle Forman to newcomer Aisha Saeed, the following female authors have created works that attest to the power of the imagination and world-building. Pam Muñoz Ryan returns after five years of no new publication with a hard-to-put-down fairy tale on the power of music. Jessica Khoury recently released another gripping companion novel in the “Corpus” series. Marsha Skrypuch adds to her growing list of novels about Armenian Genocide. The following titles and their resources are now included in the new JLG Booktalks to Go: Spring 2015 LiveBinder.

Darkest Part of the ForestBLACK, Holly. The Darkest Part of the Forest. 336p. Little, Brown. 2015. ISBN 9780316213073. JLG Level: FH : Fantasy/Science Fiction High (Grades 9–12).

Black is back with a fairy tale reminiscent of the books that shot her straight to stardom. Since childhood, Hazel and her brother Ben have watched the sleeping prince in the glass coffin. He’s always been part of the forest and their dreams of knighthood and monster slaying. When someone finally releases the horned prince, the town of Fairfold finds themselves in a deadly war that only magic can bring.

Fans who haven’t already discovered Black’s website will find tips for writers as well as readalikes for her best-selling works. Though a teacher’s guide is not available, research resources can also be found on the author’s website. The book trailer may be enticing enough to forever keep the book from the shelf.

I Was HereFORMAN, Gayle. I Was Here. 288p. Viking. 2015. ISBN 9780451471475. JLG Level: HI : High-Interest High (Grades 10 & Up).

The day after Meg took her own life, Cody received an email. “This has nothing to do with you and everything to do with me. It’s not your fault.” But how can your best friend plan a perfect suicide, while you have no idea she’s even struggling? When Cody meets Meg’s college friends, she wonders if she knew Meg at all. Finding an encrypted computer file makes her even more determined to find out what really happened.

A visit to the author’s website reveals “13 Things You May Not Know About Gayle.” Follow her on Twitter, Facebook, and Tumblr.

KalahariKHOURY, Jessica. Kalahari. (Corpus, Bk. 3) 368p. Razorbill. 2015. ISBN 9781595147653. JLG Level: CTH : Current Trends High (Grades 9 & Up).

An educational safari goes wildly out of control when Sarah and five city teens are left alone in the Kalahari Desert. Sarah’s father, the zoologist, and his Bushman guide disappear while tracking poachers. It’s up to her to lead the group to find her father. An alarming discovery makes the desert the least of their worries.

Learn more about the “Corpus” series companion books on Khoury’s website. Fans will find her on social media, including the novel’s Pinterest board. Read more about life on the Kalahari by visiting the Mabalingwe Nature Reserve and Deception Valley Lodge in Botswana, which also assisted the author in her research.

EchoRYAN, Pam Muñoz. Echo. 592p. Scholastic. 2015. ISBN 9780439874021. JLG Level: C+ : Advanced Readers (Grades 6–9).

One fairy tale, three kids, and a harmonica converge in a story where lives are changed. Friedrich in Germany, Mike in Pennsylvania, and Ivy in California face prejudice and injustice in a time of world war and turmoil. The magic of one musical instrument diverts their paths until it joins them together.

Readers can read about how Ryan kept track of the story lines in a Children’s Book Council article. You can follow her on Twitter. Fans who find the history of the harmonica interesting should check out the Hohner Harmonica Factory website. Be sure to share the video of the Philadelphia Harmonica Band. Wonderopolis has a great lesson, “How Do You Play a Harmonica?” Additional resources can be found in the new JLG Booktalks to Go Spring 2015 LiveBinder.

Written in the StarsSAEED, Aisha. Written in the Stars. 304p. Penguin/Nancy Paulsen Bks. 2015. ISBN 9780399171703. JLG Level: Y: Young Adults (Grades 9 & Up).

Naila’s Pakistani parents have forbidden the senior from dating. When she’s caught going to the prom, a quick trip to their homeland seems more of an interruption of her life rather than the end of it. Her irritation quickly changes to fear when she learns her parents intend to leave her in Pakistan as a new bride in an arranged marriage.

Saeed’s debut novel highlights the conflicts between a Pakistani American girl and her conservative, traditional parents. An interview reveals why the author shared this particular story. She is also the Vice President of Strategy for We Need Diverse Books. Fans can follow her on Twitter and learn more about her on her website. Resources in the author’s note can be found online at JLG’s BTG Spring 2015.

Dance of the BanishedSKRYPUCH, Marsha Forchuk. Dance of the Banished. 288p. Pajama Press. ISBN 9781927485651. JLG Level: PBH : Paperbacks High (Grades 10 & Up).

Ali leaves his village in Anatolia so that he can earn enough money to bring his fiancé, Zeynep, to Canada. Shortly after his departure, the Young Turk revolutionary forces turn on Zeynep’s Armenian Christian neighbors. While she struggles with trying to save the lives of her friends, Ali is captured and sent to an internment camp. Can they survive the war and reunite from an ocean apart?

For readers without prior knowledge of the Armenian genocide and Canadian internment camps from 1914, a visit to provides background, while the Kapuskasing Internment Camp website sheds light on Canadian immigration fears. Fans may read the author’s blog. How do you pronounce her name? has an audio file.

Additional Resources

The resources for the above titles have been organized in JLG Booktalks to Go: Spring 2015 LiveBinder. Titles are sorted by interest level, PreK–3, 3–6, 5–8, and YA. All websites are posted within each LiveBinder, along with the accompanying booktalk. As I write more columns, more books and their resources are added. Everything you need to teach or share brand new, hot-off-the-press books is now all in one place. Booktalks and resources are also included on JLG’s BTG Pinterest board.

For library resources, tips, and ideas, please visit JLG’s Shelf Life Blog.

Junior Library Guild (JLG) is a collection development service that helps school and public libraries acquire the best new children’s and young adult books. Season after season, year after year, Junior Library Guild book selections go on to win awards, collect starred or favorable reviews, and earn industry honors. Visit us at (NOTE: JLG is owned by Media Source, Inc., SLJ’s parent company.)

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Meet Amy Randazzo, Ferguson’s New Crowdfunded Librarian Mon, 02 Mar 2015 16:16:06 +0000 Amy_RandazzoWhat do you do with an unexpected $350,000? Scott Bonner, director of the Ferguson Municipal Public Library (FMPL), MO, had two items on his wish list: new carpeting and a children’s librarian. The carpeting is still forthcoming, but FMPL has just hired Amy Randazzo to serve as its long-awaited children’s services librarian starting March 9.

Bonner’s actions in August and November of 2014, when he joined forces with local teachers and volunteers to provide a safe, engaged space at FMPL for all of Ferguson, notably children and teenagers during school closings, prompted an outpouring of gratitude and generosity. Social media campaigns brought in donations of several thousand new books and the aforementioned money—an unprecedented bounty for a small library with a $400,000 annual budget. “We have a very, very frugal board and I’m frugal myself,” Bonner told LJ in December, and explained that—as FMPL’s sole full-time employee—along with replacing the worn mid-1990s carpeting, hiring a children’s librarian was his first priority. The job was posted in January 2015, and Bonner announced Randazzo’s hire February 26.

Although the position is, essentially, crowdfunded, Bonner assured LJ that it is a permanent one. The board, he said, has committed to using the donated surplus to supplement the salary for a couple of years “and use that time to rearrange the budget elsewhere, to make sure we don’t leave anyone in the lurch. We’re confident that we can find a way to make it work out.” In the meantime he’s looking forward to working with Randazzo, a Ferguson resident with degrees in political science and library science from the University of Missouri.

She will be leaving two part-time jobs for FMPL: working with the Ferguson-Florissant School District in its elementary school before- and after-school care program, and as a reference librarian with the University City Public Library. LJ caught up with Randazzo the week before she started work to find out a bit more about Ferguson’s newest team member.

LJ: How did you hear about the FMPL position?

Amy Randazzo: I heard of the position through several different places—Twitter, the news (especially library media), coworkers, and job listservs. I also live in Ferguson so it would have been next to impossible for me to miss, especially with friends of my mom telling her, since they knew I was looking for a full-time library position.

Did you have any concerns going in that this is, essentially, a crowd-funded position? Does that feel any different from walking into a standard budget line item job?

That was my main concern going into my interview with Scott, about what would happen when the money runs out. It does feel a little different, knowing that I have this job due to some very generous people, and that I’m not only serving our patrons and our community but also them, to an extent. As for job security, Scott has reassured me that they will find a way to keep this position going after the donations run out. For now, I’m just going to focus on doing the best job I can and on serving our community.

What appeals to you about being a children’s librarian in a small library in a small community?

For me, it’s not just about working in a small library as it is about working in my community. Like I said before, I live in Ferguson (in fact, I grew up here), and I’m well aware of the challenges that we and the communities surrounding us face. Getting this job feels like my opportunity to not only give back, but to also help make a difference in the lives of our children and teens.

What are your plans once you settle in at the library?

I think, right now, my immediate plans are to see what we’ve already got in the works and help with that. We recently learned that we’re participating in StoryCorps, so that’s likely to be the first major project for the library that I’ll be a part of. For the long term, I would love to get some recurring programming going, though what that might be, I haven’t quite decided yet! Ferguson hasn’t had a dedicated person for programming before, so I’m feeling like I can do anything. We’ve also been lucky in that there are a lot of groups and organizations focused on Ferguson right now, so I’m hoping that I’ll be able to make some connections and see how we can work together to benefit everyone.

Will you be cataloging all those donated books?

Cataloging is a part of the job, but I know that the library has already been busy adding the donated books to the collection. I’m sure I’ll do my fair share once I’ve officially started!

Anything else Library Journal readers should know about you?

The only other thing that I would like LJ readers to know is how deeply grateful I am for their generosity. If it wasn’t for the kindness of strangers who wanted to help out in some way, I wouldn’t have this opportunity now. I only hope that they will feel that their money has been put to good use!

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The 2015 Youth Media Awards: A Crossover Year for Diversity Mon, 02 Mar 2015 12:00:55 +0000 SLJ1503_CoverDetail

Illustrations by Lee White

The announcement of the Youth Media Awards—the “Oscars” of children’s and young adult (YA) literature—is always a high point of the year. There are usually plenty of gasps and hurrahs, and a standing ovation or two at the press conference, held annually at the American Library Association (ALA) Midwinter Meeting. But something ticked up a notch on February 2, 2015. When I tried to explain it, I found myself breaking into tears. I was not alone. The emotional response that day, while focusing on different aspects of the award outcomes, seemed to stem from a single current. What was it?

Initial reactions to the winners have centered around diversity of all varieties. There’s the happy proclamation from Betsy Bird and Lori Prince during the School Library Journal Post-Game Show that the winners were “all diverse!” Then there was this comment on a blog (purposefully anonymized, as it is only one of many), regarding the Newbery selections:

“I sure hope that the committee wasn’t out to make a statement about diversity this year and overlooked other well-deserving novels in the process. As X says, these three titles are all pretty limiting in audience.”


Illustration by Lee White

The idea that “diverse books” limit potential readership assumes that the Newbery and Caldecott awards should, by default, reflect a white experience. Perhaps that assumption exists because, for much of their history, they have.

Building on recent conversations about diversity in children’s books was the subject of the January 30 invitational “Day of Diversity” (co-sponsored by the Children’s Book Council and the Association for Library Service to Children [ALSC]), which prompted many formal and informal conversations throughout the weekend. But as much as “diversity” was at the top of people’s minds as the award results unfolded, Junko Yokota, chair of the 2015 Caldecott Medal committee, was quick to point out that diversity is not a criterion of these awards. “However, as professionals in the field, we are attuned to issues related to diversity, and our personal commitments to representation are always part of the lens with which we view the world. That said, I cannot imagine a committee that would elevate a book solely for its [racial] representation.” The awards do consider child appeal, though with a broad definition of “child.” Winners of the Newbery, Caldecott, and Sibert awards must display “respect for children’s understandings, abilities, and appreciations. Children are defined as persons of ages up to and including 14, and books for this entire age range are to be considered.”

YMA_CALLOUT2The­ charge is evident in this year’s winners, particularly in the Newbery and Caldecott awards, but also in the Robert F. Sibert Informational Book Medal and other awards, all demonstrating child appeal for a diverse range of ages, interests, and experiences. Racial diversity stood out at first glance: how could it not? In the previous three years, the Newbery and Caldecott committees recognized just one person of color between them. This year: five. But perhaps more stunning was the diversity of genre and format among the lauded titles, most notably, the selection of a graphic novel for a Caldecott honor, This One Summer (First Second) by Mariko and Jillian Tamaki, and a Newbery honor: El Deafo (Abrams) by Cece Bell.

2015 Newbery Winners

SLJ1503_YMA_NewberryWinnersThe John Newbery Medal honors the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children.

Winner, Newbery Medal

The Crossover, written by Kwame Alexander and published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

Newbery Honor books:

El Deafo, written and illustrated by Cece Bell and published by Abrams/Amulet.

Brown Girl Dreaming, written by Jacqueline Woodson and published by Penguin/Nancy Paulsen Bks.

The artful word balloon

Tapped as a favorite in many mock Newbery discussions, El Deafo challenged us to interpret the criteria: “The committee is to make its decision primarily on the text. Other components of a book, such as illustrations, overall design of the book, etc., may be considered when they make the book less effective.” How can one evaluate a graphic novel solely on its text? The criteria don’t require that the text stands on its own. Acknowledging that text and illustration in a graphic novel accomplish what they accomplish together, we can still isolate what part the text has to play in each step, and find it distinguished. Bell’s creative use of shading and artful word balloons can be likened to manipulation of font in narrative prose to characterize voice. The pacing of text from frame to frame conveys rhythm, just as author Kwame Alexander uses line breaks and spacing to create a rhythmic emotional architecture in his novel-in-verse The Crossover (HoughtonHarcourt), winner of the 2015 Newbery Medal.

The examination of a graphic novel under Caldecott criteria is utterly different. The Caldecott award honors “the most distinguished American picture book for children,” and “picture book” is further defined so that, when taken literally, it may include graphic novels. The 2008 Caldecott committee first overturned assumptions about the award by giving the medal to Brian Selznick’s The Invention of Hugo Cabret (Scholastic), a novel told through both prose and illustration. As the award’s namesake Randolph Caldecott revolutionized “the picture book” in the 1870s, the 2008 medal gave the award’s definition of “a visual experience” broader meaning. The 2015 committee has affirmed that expanded definition by recognizing This One Summer (a traditional graphic novel), simultaneously reminding us that the award, like the Newbery, must consider books whose potential audience extends to age 14. Following the announcement, the outcry on social media against the book’s “mature” themes was balanced by its strong appeal to children at the award criteria’s upper age range. Age-level controversies have typically surrounded the Newbery award, but it seems the Caldecott has finally caught up. While this crossover age range poses real complications for many adults who have to explain why a Newbery or Caldecott book might not be appropriate for a particular grade level or is shelved in the YA section, this award reminds us that “children’s literature” is not defined by its labels, but by its readers.

YMA_CALLOUT1More remarkable than either of these single awards going to a graphic novel is the fact that they happened in the same year, suggesting a “sea change,” as observed by Eva Volin of SLJ’s “Good Comics for Kids” blog. Still, these were not the only notable statements at the YMAs. The Newbery committee recognized no books with standard narrative prose, and poetry was well represented across the board, gaining recognition from the Coretta Scott King (CSK) and Sibert committees as well. The Caldecott committee recognized an unprecedented six honor books, most of them upsetting other titles with more “buzz.” And more titles than usual were recognized by multiple committees; for instance, Jacqueline Woodson’s Brown Girl Dreaming (Penguin) received the CSK Medal, a Newbery Honor, and a Sibert Honor. Each of these awards is determined by an entirely separate jury, the makeup of which changes from year to year, ruling out the potential for any secret agenda. However, surveying the award winners collectively, we have to address the skepticism that the 2015 committees may have overcompensated in heeding the call for diverse books.

2015 Caldecott Winners

The Randolph Caldecott Medal honors the most distinguished American picture book for children.

Winner, Caldecott Medal

SLJ1503-YMA-Beekle-SantatThe Adventures of Beekle: The Unimaginary Friend, illustrated by Dan Santat. The book was written by Dan Santat and published by Little, Brown.


Caldecott Honor Books:

Nana in the City, illustrated by Lauren Castillo, written by Lauren Castillo and published by Clarion Books, an imprint of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

The Noisy Paint Box: The Colors and Sounds of Kandinsky’s Abstract Art, illustrated by Mary GrandPré, written by Barb Rosenstock and published by Alfred A. Knopf.

Sam & Dave Dig a Hole, illustrated by Jon Klassen, written by Mac Barnett and published by Candlewick Press.

Viva Frida, illustrated by Yuyi Morales, written by Yuyi Morales and published by Roaring Brook/Neal Porter Bks.

The Right Word: Roget and His Thesaurus, illustrated by Melissa Sweet, written by Jen Bryant, and published by Eerdmans.

This One Summer, illustrated by Jillian Tamaki, written by Mariko Tamaki and published by First Second.

“D” is for distinguished

“Of course the diversity reflected in the awards is wonderful to see,” says Deborah Taylor, Sibert committee chair. “Having been on many awards committees, I know that the focus is always on the quality of the titles examined, and it was terrific that there were so many outstanding books created by diverse authors.” Newbery chair Randall Enos concurs: “I think the diverse selections reflect the publishers’ commitment to offering quality materials that reflect the diversity of our communities…the good news is that there were plenty of distinguished titles by authors from all segments of our population, but we chose the ‘most distinguished’ rather than representation from authors representing various groups.”

When I examine the Newbery and Caldecott selections and consider the charge of each committee, I don’t see so much a selection of diverse books, as more diverse appreciations of excellence in books—a broader view of our standards. Looking just at the Newbery, we find diversity in format: poetry/novel, free verse/memoir, and graphic memoir. Diversity in style: one sporty, one contemplative, one funny. Brown Girl Dreaming is the closest we get to a typical Newbery…and how is it that we can even say “typical Newbery”? What circumstances allow us to think such a thing exists? Given that the award is for ages zero to 14, and that “there are no limitations as to the character of the book considered except that it be original work,” how can we account for the homogenous nature of the long list of past Newbery winners and honors? Hasn’t children’s literature developed and broadened over the past few decades much more dramatically than we see revealed in the winners we have on record?

This year is about “us” finally starting to catch up, and it’s about recognizing appeal and reading interest for the diversity of readers the literature serves. This year’s awards have not answered the lack of diverse award winners, nor addressed the white privilege that stands in the way of achieving more diverse books, but they do, collectively, whether intended or not, ask us to confront it. They show us that it is not just the presence of “diverse books” that matters, but how we assign value to our standards for excellence among them.

In her guest post “Reader Know Thyself,” at the blog “Heavy Medal,” (which I co-author with Jonathan Hunt, county schools librarian at the San Diego County Office of Education), Vicky Smith, children’s and teen editor, Kirkus Reviews, asks: “Now, we all bring ourselves as readers to the books that we open, but how conscious are we as we do it?” Who determines what sets the standard for a distinguished book for children? The Newbery and Caldecott committees do. The criteria for these awards are fairly broad. They have to be, because literature changes over time. ALSC tweaks them occasionally, and carefully, but the gist remains. Every committee interprets the criteria, and may look to previous winners as standards of excellence. But when those standards are borne, over time, from the same generally homogenous experience represented by the mostly white, female, college-educated, non-working-class award committee members, we end up with a feedback loop.

A seat at the table

ALSC has committed, with variable success, to appoint diverse members to its award committees, but at some point is limited by the diversity or lack thereof in our professions. Amy Koester, blogger at “The Show Me Librarian,” says, “It can make all the difference if the members who sit around that table have the experience and worldview to be able to see stories that don’t resemble their own on the same plane as the stories that do. There are always distinguished diverse books eligible for awards, but committees are not always equipped to discuss them in the manner that they deserve.”

Why are some kinds of reading experiences valued and others are not? I think that any of us reading this would stake our reputations on striving against value judgments of this sort. Yet, we see it, in the range of books recognized over time, even recent time, by the Newbery and Caldecott awards. Jennifer Holliday, a former director of “Teaching Tolerance,” an educational project of the Southern Poverty Law Center, reminds us that white privilege has determined what is “valuable” in terms of education: “I rarely have to question the validity … how or why some things are valued and others are not—why some things are important to ‘us’ and other things are not” (from “On Racism and White Privilege,” Teaching Tolerance). Whiteness is only one element of the feedback loop we see in our awards, but it is the most important part to confront, because it is the barrier to the change we say we want. We have yet to tackle, publicly, the fact that the standards of excellence that we promote through these awards are defined by an all-white lens.

Other 2015 YMA Honorees


While the selections of 2015 committees suggest a different tack, in themselves they do nothing to permanently shift the enduring white privilege that defines today’s children’s literature. “Diversity” is not about more brown faces appearing in 32-page picture books or middle grade fiction, or about awarding a small handful of amazing books by diverse authors and illustrators. Diversity is about inviting and including more opinions and experiences in the tastemaking. It’s about “knowing thyself” not just as individual reviewers of children’s books, but knowing ourselves as a profession, honoring the value of what we’ve done so far, and recognizing that while we have done amazing work, we have also been shortsighted, relying too heavily on the default standards of our racialized society. Diversity is about empowering those outside the privileged culture.

Jason Low, publisher of Lee & Low Books, points out: “These results would have logically taken place at least three to five years from now in the future, after we as an industry had done some intense (blood, sweat, tears) work to get on the same page…I want to see what happens at next year’s YMAs. Is this a one-off or a cultural sea change?”

Something did change this year, and it wasn’t the diversity of professionals at the award-making tables. So if “diversity” was at play in this year’s committees’ decisions, I think that it simply equipped more minds to be open in their approach to validating “excellence” in children’s literature. Whose literature, and in what way? The 2015 awards suggest that these committees took a broader view of who the young readers are in this country and what appeals to them. I hope, and think, that they considered the diversity of readers out there and were rigorous in exercising the criteria to make sure they addressed today’s child audience. We see it reflected in the diversity of authors and illustrators honored. We see it in gutsy affirmations of graphic novels as “literature” and “picture books.” We see it in the breadth of reader ages and interests represented. As these winners force us to consider the award criteria more broadly, let’s also examine the privilege that led us to limit the approach in the first place. Only by doing so can we make this year’s seemingly dramatic change a real and lasting one.

Nina Lindsay is children’s services coordinator for the Oakland (CA) Public Library. She currently chairs the ALSC education committee. She coauthors, with Jonathan Hunt, “Heavy Medal: a Mock Newbery Blog.”

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]]> 5 Winds of Change at the YMAs | An ALA Midwinter Comic Mon, 02 Mar 2015 12:00:04 +0000 SLJ1503_YMA_NowlainComic-1200pix
Lisa Nowlain is a children’s librarian; Harold W. McGraw, Jr. Fellow at Darien Library (CT); and an artist. If she’s not crafting open-ended arts programs at the library, she’s going long on the ultimate frisbee field, hiking, or drooling over picture books and graphic novels. To see more of her work, go to

See also:

The 2015 Youth Media Awards: A Crossover Year in Diversity
(SLJ‘s March 2015 cover story)

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Aliens, Mean Girls, and “Speak” Readalikes | What’s Hot in YA Fri, 27 Feb 2015 22:42:48 +0000 From Michael Buckley’s alien-infested YA debut to poignant explorations of sexual violence and mental illness, the following titles for teens will keep young people coming back for more.

Science fiction fans have their pick among several action-packed narratives, including Cori McCarthy’s high-flying Breaking Sky and Jen Brooks’s In a World Just Right. Graphic novel connoisseurs can dip into the campy Lumberjanes by Noelle Stevenson and company and All You Need Is Kill, manga based on Hiroshi Sakurazaka’s novel, which the science-fiction movie Edge of Tomorrow was based on. 

For readers of more informational fare, check out nonfiction titles about women’s history, faeries, robotics, and much more. There’s even a short story collection, Love & Profanity, that features works by the hottest teen authors.

The original reviews of the following works appeared in SLJ’s February print magazine.

Grades 9 & Up

Aguirre_Queen of BrightAguirre, Ann. The Queen of Bright and Shiny Things. 320p. ebook available. Feiwel & Friends. Apr. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781250047502.

Gr 8 Up–Sage Czinski just wants to do her time in high school. Though not popular, she is not relegated to burner status either. Her calling card is leaving positive Post-it notes on her classmates’ lockers, earning the nickname “Princess Post-it.” She used to have a crush on her best friend Ryan, but otherwise has never really fallen for any guy—until Shane Cavendish arrives at her small-town Illinois school. He plays guitar, has dreamy eyes, and lets Sage meddle in his life, despite his hardened surface. Sage knows that he is hiding something, but then, so is she, and she is afraid to let him know the real girl behind her upbeat facade. Aguirre’s first stand-alone novel has a slow-building story line, more focused on character development than external action. Sage’s positive nature is a hidden gem in this pleasant tale. VERDICT For teens who can’t get enough of YA romance.–Sarah Wethern, Douglas County Library, Alexandria, MN

Angel, Ann, ed. Things I’ll Never Say: Stories About Our Secret Selves. 320p. ebook available. Candlewick. Mar. 2015. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780763673079. LC 2014944916.

Gr 10 Up–In this collection of dramatic short stories by various authors, all of the protagonists have secrets, though some are more intense and life-altering than others. Other than fulfilling this unifying theme, the entries are quite diverse. They span across several genres, including realistic, paranormal, and historical fiction. Regardless of the setting, these tales tackle often taboo subjects, such as inappropriate relations with teachers, gender issues, and mental disorders. Inclusion of drugs, alcohol, swearing, and liaisons between teens and more mature adults make this work appropriate for older readers. Overall, this collection will resonate with many young adults who have their own secrets as well as readers who vicariously live through the risqué lifestyles of others. VERDICT A very discussible title for fans of Chris Lynch’s and Ellen Hopkins’s hard-hitting realistic fiction.–Carol Hirsche, Provo City Library, UT

Barnholdt, Lauren. Heat of the Moment. 304p. (The Moment of Truth: Bk. 1). HarperCollins/HarperTeen. May 2015. pap. $9.99. ISBN 9780062321398.

Gr 9 Up–Lyla McAfee cannot escape her younger self as she gets a daily email reminding her of the promise she made to herself as a freshman: “Before graduation, I will learn to trust.” With this in mind she heads off for her senior trip to Florida which does not go as planned. She is hoping to lose her virginity to her boyfriend, Derrick, but cannot help but be entranced by Beckett who bails her out more than once. The teens lack supervision on the trip; trouble and adults rarely find them. Even though Lyla is an idealistic teen who could use some guidance, readers will like her and forgive her for the decisions she makes. This series opener leaves readers at an intriguing cliff-hanger, wanting to know what comes next for Lyla and her two friends, who have also made promises to themselves. VERDICT A frothy summer beach read for older teens.–Karen Alexander, Lake Fenton High School, Linden, MI

Beaufrand, M.J. The Rise and Fall of the Gallivanters. 304p. ebook available. Abrams/Amulet. May 2015. Tr $16.95. ISBN 9781419714955. LC 2014013556.

Gr 9 Up–It’s the early 1980s in Portland, OR, and girls are disappearing without a trace. Punk protagonist Noah believes that he knows who’s to blame. In what seems to be threads of magical realism, he discovers a mysterious David Bowie look-alike, Ziggie, who helps him uncover and work to defeat the Marr, a “toxic darkness” that threatens the girls in the city as well as his best friend Evan. Only music seems to stop the Marr, and Noah hopes that by playing at the battle of the bands being held in the sinister PfefferBrau Haus, he may be able to save his friend. As Noah delves deeper into his memories of his abusive father, his friendship with Evan, and his relationship with the girls in his band, the Gallivanters, he uncovers answers he wasn’t expecting. This engaging story of friendship, mystery, music, and romance illuminates the vivid life of a complex teen. Readers experience and discover along with Noah, and, after a roller coaster of emotions, are ultimately left with hope. VERDICT A sound addition to any YA collection.–Genevieve Feldman, San Francisco Public Library

SLJ1502-Fic9up_BodgerBodger, Holly. 5 to 1. 256p. Knopf. May 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780385391535; lib. ed. $20.99. ISBN 9780385391542; ebk. ISBN 9780385391559.

Gr 7 Up–In this debut novel told in alternating points of view, one in poetry and one in prose, Bodger explores a future in which gender selection in India has led to there being five boys for every girl. The prose is captivating in its authenticity, portraying Kiran’s point of view very well. The poetry is appropriately jarring and nuanced, showing many aspects of Sudasa’s culture and lifestyle. Sudasa is about to come of age, meaning that she, along with many other girls just like her, will watch eight boys compete for her hand in marriage. Kiran is one of those boys, but he has a plan to escape the tests, his inevitable military assignment, and the oppression of his country. Sudasa struggles against her grandmother’s strong and repressive influence, while Kiran battles pressures from the other boys in his testing group. Over days of trials and judging, Sudasa comes to realize that Kiran may have another agenda besides winning her hand in marriage. In a not-so-distant future, readers see the possibilities of giving too much power to one gender or the other, and the negative impact that inequality can have on young people and an entire country. VERDICT An engaging dystopian novel set in India that poignantly explores gender politics.–Eden Grey, Kenton County Public Library, KY

Brooks, Jen. In a World Just Right. 432p. S. & S. Apr. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781481416603; ebk. $10.99. ISBN 9781481416627.

Gr 9 Up–High school senior Jonathan Aubrey is a world-maker. After surviving a plane crash that killed nearly everyone onboard, including his family, Jonathan discovers that he can simply will new worlds into being. This comes in handy, because in the real world he has no friends, isn’t graduating, and watches his crush, Kylie Simms, from afar. In the Kylie-Simms-Is-My-Girlfriend world, Jonathan has friends, a spot on the track team, college prospects, and Kylie’s undying devotion. One day he confuses the two worlds, almost kissing the real Kylie Simms. Suddenly, the Kylie in Kylie-Simms-Is-My-Girlfriend grows distant, while real Kylie feels an inexplicable pull toward Jonathan. As the Kylies from the two worlds become increasingly intertwined, Jonathan must determine what is happening and how to fix it before both girls suffer catastrophic fates. Brooks’s debut novel will find wide readership. Elements of science fiction, mystery, and romance combine in a well-paced story that still manages a surprising conclusion. VERDICT A thoughtful story that still feels fresh amid the many other sci-fi/romance combinations out there.–Kelsey Johnson-Kaiser, La Crosse Public Library, WI

SLJ1502-Fic9up_Buckley_ UndertowBuckley, Michael. Undertow. 384p. Houghton Harcourt. May 2015. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9780544348257; ebk. ISBN 9780544348622.

Gr 8 Up–In his first YA novel, Buckley delivers a solidly entertaining adventure with the perfect amount of romance and danger. Lyric Walker used to be a “wild thing.” At 14, she and her friends ruled the dilapidated beach community of Coney Island in Brooklyn, NY. Then one night, Lyric witnesses the arrival of the Alpha, strange creatures from the depths of the ocean, and learns a terrible secret her family has been keeping from her. Three years later, Coney Island is a police state, with the Alpha living in a containment camp on the beach, and furious protestors roam the streets. When six Alpha teenagers are forcibly integrated into the public high school, Lyric’s complicated web of hidden truths threatens to unravel. Smart and snarky, with rough edges and killer fashion sense, Lyric is a girl to be celebrated. Sharp political commentary and strong parallels to the treatment of minorities in the U.S. ground the world in reality, while the well-rounded and ethnically diverse supporting cast will cause readers to root for them. VERDICT Give this one to fans of Suzanne Collins’s “The Hunger Games” trilogy (Scholastic) searching for the next big thing.–Elisabeth Gattullo Marrocolla, Darien Library, CT

Cotugno, Katie. 99 Days. 384p. Harper Collins/Balzer & Bray. Apr. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780062216380.

Gr 9 Up–Molly Barlow is back in her hometown near the Catskill Mountains. A year ago, Molly fled to a faraway boarding school in the wake of a disastrous betrayal that left her the most hated girl in town. Now that she’s back, all of her fears are justified—the girls who used to be her friends want nothing to do with her, especially not the Donnelly siblings, who used to be her closest friends. She is getting used to all the bullying, when the arrival of the two Donnelly boys turns her world upside-down. Patrick, Molly’s first boyfriend, has a new girlfriend who doesn’t seem to hate Molly despite her past transgressions. And Gabe is there for her when nobody else seems to care if she exists. When Gabe wants to spark up a romance, Molly starts to feel like she may be able to right some wrongs and put her past behind her. But things are never simple, and Molly finds herself dreading as well as clamoring for the 99 days of summer to be over. VERDICT This book will appeal to fans of E. Lockhart’s The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau Banks (Hyperion, 2008), offering complex characters, plot twists, and an insightful look at society’s double standards.–Tara Kron, School Library Journal

Dela Pena_The Huntedde la Peña, Matt. The Hunted. 384p. Delacorte. May 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780385741224; lib. ed. $20.99. ISBN 9780375989926; ebk. ISBN 9780375984365. LC 2014036148.

Gr 9 Up–Previously, in The Living (Delacorte, 2013), Shy Espinoza’s cushy summer job aboard a cruise ship was short-lived. A tsunami sunk the luxury liner, and Shy survived harrowing moments at sea, after learning that some of the passengers were working for Laso Tech, an evil biotech company responsible for Romero’s Disease, a deadly contagion ravaging Southern California. In this episode, Shy and three friends survive in a dinghy for a month with some stolen vials of the precious Romero’s vaccine, only to wash ashore and see the California coast devastated. Leveled by earthquakes, Los Angeles is an apocalyptic wasteland of rotting corpses and fearful survivors unable to contain Romero’s epidemic. Vigilantes patrol the streets looking for the ill to kill, and the healthy have few places to isolate themselves. Shy’s friends Marcus, Carmen, and Shoeshine hope to make their way to Arizona where scientists can duplicate the vaccine samples and save the masses. It is a race against time as they dodge Laso Tech’s henchmen and desperate citizens willing to kill to survive—occasionally helped by a mysterious stranger on a motorcycle. Readers will be drawn to the raw and gritty setting, fast-moving plot, and diverse characters. VERDICT A more focused and linear sequel for fans of YA survival novels.–Vicki Reutter, State University of New York at Cortland

Easton, T.S. Boys Don’t Knit. 272p. ebook available. Feiwel & Friends. Mar. 2015. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781250053312.

Gr 8 Up–Seventeen-year-old Ben Fletcher is on probation for an incident involving a bottle of Martini & Rossi and the lollipop lady. Although the initial plan was against his better judgment, his knucklehead friends talked him into stealing alcohol, thus landing him in trouble with the law. In order to fulfill the terms of his probation, Ben not only has to complete community service, but he also has to take up an extracurricular activity and maintain a journal chronicling his daily experiences. Rather than sign up for his father’s car maintenance course (due to his lack of interest in anything his father deems fun), he takes up knitting. However, the protagonist soon discovers he is a natural knitter, a fact that he has to hide from his dad and friends. As he takes on this new hobby, he learns a valuable lesson about gender stereotypes, relationships, and self-worth. Easton creates a humorous story told through the fast-paced format of Ben’s journal entries. VERDICT Teens will laugh out loud as they read about the protagonist’s knitting and non-knitting escapades in this honest coming-of-age yarn.–Lindsey Dawson, Saint John’s Catholic Prep, Frederick, MD

Engel, Amy. The Book of Ivy. 304p. Entangled Teen. 2014. pap. $9.99. ISBN 9781622664658.

Gr 9 Up–After the brutal war that decimated most of the country, Ivy Westfall’s grandfather founded Westfall and envisioned a democratic nation in which everyone had a right to vote. However, after a conflict between the Westfall and the Lattimer families, the Lattimers won power and governed Westfall as a dictatorship. All of her life, Ivy has been trained to hate President Lattimer for his imposed laws—specifically arranged marriages. When it is her turn to marry, she is assigned to Bishop, President Lattimer’s son. Going into the marriage, Ivy’s father and sister encourage her to kill her new husband and return the Westfall family to their rightful position. This mission becomes increasingly difficult as Ivy develops feelings for her husband. She is forced to make a decision that will alter her entire life. The novel quickly separates itself from the mediocre and presents a fantastic plot that makes readers think about the blurred lines between right and wrong. VERDICT Well-developed characters and intricate world-building combined with complex relationships, political corruption, and betrayal, leave readers begging for the second book in this series.–Lindsey Dawson, Saint John’s Catholic Prep, Frederick, MD

SLJ1502-Fic9upSpot_Fixmer_Down from the MountainFixmer, Elizabeth. Down from the Mountain. 276p. ebook available. Albert Whitman. Mar. 2015. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780807583708. LC 2014027714.

Gr 9 Up–Fourteen-year-old Eva and her mother are members of the Righteous Path, a 17-member cult located in Colorado. Eva struggles to be obedient and is justifiably afraid of Prophet Ezekiel’s fierce moods and demands. Her faith is further shaken when her mother must suffer a difficult pregnancy without medical attention or proper nutrition. Eva and Rachel, the youngest of Ezekiel’s 10 wives, are sent down the mountain to purchase supplies and sell Eva’s handmade jewelry in the nearby town. Eva is fearful and amazed at the contrast between her stark, strict life and the freedom of the “heathen” world. She is also surprised at the kindness of the people she meets, contradicting everything Ezekiel has told them. Meanwhile, Ezekiel has become paranoid that outsiders may try to attack them and spends most of their money buying guns instead of food to last through winter. Her forced betrothal to Ezekiel pushes Eva to take action, leading to a gripping climax. The first-person narrative sustains a tense mood throughout, with frequent referrals to tragic real-life cults, such as the Branch Davidians of Waco, TX. VERDICT Readers will be caught up in this realistic story of a brave girl rebelling against a fundamentalist society.–Martha Simpson, Stratford Library Association, CT

Halbrook, Kristin. Every Last Promise. 288p. ebook available. HarperCollins/HarperTeen. Apr. 2015. pap. $9.99. ISBN 9780 062121288.

Gr 9 Up–Unlike her three best friends—Jen, Bean, and Selena—high school junior Kayla wants to remain in their small town of Winbrook, MO, forever. When Kayla causes a car wreck after a party that kills a classmate and injures Jen’s twin and high school football star, Jay, Kayla spends her summer with her aunt in Kansas City. Upon her return, she is a temporary outcast and the foursome becomes a threesome with Bean forging new friendships. Though Kayla pretends not to remember what happened the night of the accident, she does. She remembers wanting to crash the car and the reasons why. Told in alternating chapters between the spring before and the fall after the accident, Halbrook slowly reveals the truth of what happened that night. The author explores the effects a “boys will be boys” mentality can have on a town, and how personal safety and comfort are often valued more than a friend’s justice. VERDICT Halbrook presents a fictionalized exploration of why so many sexual assault cases are never reported that is on par with yet different from Laurie Halse Anderson’s Speak (Farrar, 1999).–Adrienne L. Strock, Teen Library Manager, Nashville Public Library

SLJ1502-Fic9upSpot_Eden-West-Pete-HautmanHautman, Pete. Eden West. 320p. Candlewick. Apr. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780763674182; ebk. ISBN 9780763676902.

Gr 10 Up–Since he was five years old, Jacob has lived inside the Nodd, 12 square miles of Montana land that he works on along with other members of the Grace. Jacob has been taught that the world is wicked and that the Grace will return to Heaven on an ark that the Prophet Zerachiel will be sending shortly—it is The Truth. Jacob’s world begins to turn upside down with the arrival of several beings. Tobias’s family travels from Colorado to join the Grace—and yet Tobias won’t stop questioning and pushing against The Truth. During his patrols along the Grace’s border, Jacob meets Lynna, a worldly girl with whom he should not interact—but he cannot help but be attracted to her. The third newcomer, a lone wolf, begins to slowly kill off the sheep and threaten the well-being of all the Grace. Jacob’s faith is tested as he struggles to reconcile what he knows to be The Truth and what is happening around him. Hautman delivers a captivating character study, studiously demonstrating the reasons why some people are drawn into cults and quietly revealing how unquestioned power turns rotten. Jacob is a realistic and relatable protagonist and his complex relationships with those around him—and himself—ring true. VERDICT A heartbreaking, uplifting, and fantastic read.–Emily Moore, Camden County Library System, NJ

SLJ1502-Fic9upSpot_Heathfield_SeedHeathfield, Lisa. Seed. 336p. Running Pr. Teen. Mar. 2015. Tr $16.95. ISBN 9780762456345. LC 2014949872.

Gr 9 Up–Seed is at the center of 15-year-old Pearl’s life: it is the isolated family of which she is part, it is the house in which she lives, and it is the remote patch of land around that house where she sows and gathers crops for her family’s sustenance. Pearl is happy at Seed. She does not often leave because according to Papa S., the leader of Pearl’s family, Seed is pure and leaving risks contact with poisoned Outsiders who may taint Pearl’s spiritual core. The teen knows Papa S. is truthful, but when three Outsiders unexpectedly join the family, the patriarch’s word—and Pearl’s entire reality—is challenged. The smooth pacing and sophisticated yet age-appropriate style of the work lend credence to the story as it transforms the everyday activities of Seed into complex issues of physical and emotional abuse, budding self-esteem and increasing self-reliance, fear as a means of control, and belief as an expression of faith or as a means of deception. VERDICT Seed will hold readers’ attention as the story’s mood slowly changes and the work builds to an ultimately stunning conclusion.–Maggie Mason Smith, Clemson University R. M. Cooper Library, South Carolina

Hesik, Annameekee. Driving Lessons. 264p. (The You Know Who Girls: Bk. 2). Bold Strokes. 2014. pap. $11.95. ISBN 9781626392281.

Gr 9 Up–Abbey’s sophomore year is already in trouble. She’s scared to learn to drive after her father’s fatal accident, afraid to come out to her mother, and is suddenly targeted by the meanest girl in school. That, plus baggage from her last not-girlfriend, confusing dynamics with her very straight BFF, and a flirtatious straight girl all mean that this year will be one for the books. A fun, contemporary, lesbian heir to Alex Sanchez’s “Rainbow Boys” trilogy (S. & S.), this series seems to be a wonderful and relatively light realistic look at the specific trials of being a teenaged girl who likes girls. Hesik does a good job of filling new readers in on the relationships and plot points established in Freshman Year (Bold Strokes, 2012) without bogging down the opening chapters. There is also a very well-handled relationship between a Deaf character and the hearing protagonist. The interactions ring true to the way that Deaf and hearing individuals and culture rub up against each other. VERDICT A strong read for girls just coming out who want to see their own experiences reflected back at them.–L. Lee Butler, Hart Middle School, Washington, DC

Hogan, Edward. The Messengers. 224p. Candlewick. May 2015. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780763671129; ebk. ISBN 9780763676988. LC 2014939364.

Gr 9 Up–After her older brother almost kills someone in a bar fight and disappears, Frances, a promising young artist, starts seeing strange things in her drawings. They materialize out of nowhere after she blacks out. She can’t figure out why these images are hazy and imprecise—until she puts one of them under a scanner, and learns with the help of her mentor Peter, another “messenger,” that each one reveals where and when someone is going to die. Peter’s convinced that they’re just a couple of killers, but Frances might have a plan to change all that, using their premonitions to save lives rather than end them, and maybe find her brother, presumed dead, in the process. But do they have the power, or the right, to change fate? That’s only one of the weighty questions explored in this clever page-turner. VERDICT A mash-up of philosophy, mystery, and horror, this haunting YA novel takes on all of these subjects with satisfying results.–Georgia Christgau, Middle College High School, Long Island City, NY

SLJ1502-Fic9upSpot_Hoyle_ThirteenHoyle, Tom. Thirteen. 240p. Holiday House. May 2015. Tr $16.95. ISBN 9780823432943; ebk. ISBN 9780823433827. LC 2014028416.

Gr 7 Up–In this dark thriller by a first-time British author, a sadistic self-appointed messiah leads his brainwashed cult in murdering boys born on New Year’s Day of 2000. Now 2013, only a few remain, including protagonist Adam, who runs, fights, and kills for his life, aided by his love interest and neighbor, Megan. Interspersed with Adam’s action-packed running around are various scenes of gruesome murders, torture, and cinematically threatening posturing by the cultist leader, Coron, and his fit teenage disciples. Hoyle removes Coron’s mystique fairly early by explaining that the “Master” he serves is merely a “shadowy production, a sort of echo, in Coron’s sick mind.” He also ends the novel with a list of real-life cults gone bad. Descriptive passages and well-formed chapters keep this work thrilling. VERDICT This gruesome survival story will most likely garner a readership among violence-craving, action-loving anglophiles.–Rhona Campbell, Georgetown Day School, Washington, DC

Katcher, Brian. The Improbable Theory of Ana and Zak. 336p. ebook available. HarperCollins/Katherine Tegen Bks. May 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780062272775.

Gr 7 Up–When slacker and sci-fi enthusiast Zak Duquette meets type-A scholar Ana Watson, he is strangely attracted; unfortunately, Ana has no time for anything but academics, as her parents’ demands for perfection will ensure. But the two are forced to work together when Zak is coerced by a teacher to join the quiz bowl team with Ana and her whiz-kid younger brother, Clayton. Unfortunately for Zak, the quiz bowl takes place on the same weekend as WashingCon—the sci-fi convention where Zak has had many amazing adventures every year. After Zak extols the glories of the fest, Clayton sneaks away to experience it for himself. In order to keep Clayton’s disappearance from her overly controlling parents, Ana must team up with Zak and brave the gathering of geeks, zombies, Vikings, and aliens to find her brother before curfew. In alternating chapters, as they meet one obstacle after another, this seemingly incongruous couple slowly begins to open up and to appreciate each other’s talents. Strong personalities, a cast of out-of-this-world characters, and a fast-paced manhunt in an imaginative setting make this an appealing title for tweens and teens. VERDICT A zany romantic comedy for pop culture geeks and “Con” enthusiasts.–MaryAnn Karre, West Middle School, Binghamton, NY

Kirby, Jessi. Things We Know By Heart. 304p. HarperCollins/HarperTeen. Apr. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780062299437.

Gr 8 Up–Junior Quinn Sullivan finds it hard to forget the night that her life changed in an instant when her boyfriend, Trent, was killed in a car accident. Healthy and only 17, his organs were donated to five different people. After 282 days and several written letters, Quinn meets the recipients of Trent’s organs—all but one of them. Who received Trent’s heart and why didn’t that person come forward? Quinn needs to know and begins combing websites looking for clues. She eventually finds the receiver, Colton Thomas, and sets out to meet him in person. The love story that follows will hook readers. The author has created believable and likable characters who will remind readers to seize the moment and live each day to the fullest. Kirby brings attention to the importance of organ donation without sounding preachy. VERDICT This memorable romance will ring true with teens, and librarians won’t be able to keep it on the shelf.–Karen Alexander, Lake Fenton High School, Linden, MI

Krossing, Karen. Punch Like a Girl. 228p. ebook available. Orca Bks. Apr. 2015. pap. $12.95. ISBN 9781459808287.

Gr 9 Up–Tori Wyatt shocked her family and friends when she shaved her head in the middle of the night. She tells everyone that she wanted to donate her hair to deflect from the real reason—her need to feel strong and tough after being sexually assaulted by her ex-boyfriend at a party. She gets in an altercation at the mall that further surprises everyone and to avoid arrest, agrees to do community service at a shelter for women and children who are victims of domestic violence. Bonding with one young girl at the shelter, Tori finds her strength in defending others and is then able to talk about what happened to her and start on the path to recovery. The first-person present-tense narration gives a sense of immediacy and pulls readers along with the protagonist as she seeks ways to stop feeling helpless in the aftermath of the assault. VERDICT While comparisons to Laurie Halse Anderson’s Speak (Farrar, 1999) are inevitable, Tori’s journey is her own and will provide another option for encouraging necessary discussions on sexual assault.–Amanda Raklovits, Champaign Public Library, IL

SLJ1502-Fic9up_LathamLatham, Jennifer. Scarlett Undercover. 320p. Little, Brown. May 2015. Tr $18. ISBN 9780316283939; ebk. $9.99. ISBN 9780316283892.

Gr 6-10–Sixteen-year-old Scarlett is a Sam Spade-talking, fedora-wearing Muslim American who runs her own detective agency in the gritty city of Las Almas. Scarlett’s usual cases involve adultery and insurance fraud until a 10-year-old girl hires her to investigate a suicide. The minute the teen takes the case, she is tailed by two strange girls with gold circles in their eyes. Someone breaks into her apartment and steals a family heirloom. Even her closest friends start acting like the world is ending. Scarlett quickly discovers that her case isn’t just about a suicide, but rather an ancient war between genies and the descendants of King Solomon. There is a relic that could tip the balance of power. Scarlett is tough and fiercely independent. While her older sister takes comfort in religion, the protagonist finds solace in her father’s old copy of One Thousand and One Nights. The supernatural mystery is engaging and the Muslim American teenage sleuth will be a welcome addition to YA shelves. VERDICT A fun whodunit with a diverse protagonist who is an heir apparent to Veronica Mars.–Kimberly Garnick Giarratano, Rockaway Township Public Library, NJ

Leaver, Trisha & Lindsey Currie. Creed. 288p. Flux. 2014. pap. $9.99. ISBN 9780738740805. LC 2014025039.

Gr 9 Up–A dark, disturbing story that will appeal to teens on the cusp of reading Stephen King. Seventeen-year-old Dee, for many years an abused child, has lived in countless foster homes before finally settling in with a loving older couple. As a surprise for her boyfriend Luke, Dee arranges a fun night to attend a concert several towns over. She has enlisted Luke’s younger brother Mike to aid in lying to their parents about their whereabouts. Things progress smoothly and the trio sets off on the trip, but tension builds quickly when the teens forget to get gas. They eventually end up stranded in a desolate, snow-covered landscape with no cell phone service. The characters come across a tiny, eerily silent, and deserted settlement. They fruitlessly search for gas and eventually break into an isolated cemetery shed where they discover mysterious papers. Mike also finds a sign denoting the name of the town as Purity Springs. Trapped, the protagonists make the fatal choice of looking for help in one of the homes along the street. The houses are identical and all contain a bizarre manual entitled “Fashioning Children in the Image of God.” For Dee, the volume hits too close to home as it describes punishing children through beatings. This book pulls no punches: There is swearing, sexual references, violence, underage drinking, and drug use. VERDICT A fine choice for teens who crave horror.–Julie Shatterly, W. A. Bess Elementary School, Gastonia, NC

MCCarthy Breaking SkyMcCarthy, Cori. Breaking Sky. 416p. Sourcebooks Fire. Mar. 2015. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781492601418; ebk. $9.99. ISBN 9781492601425.

Gr 9 Up–The year is 2048. Teenager Chase, better known by her call sign, Nyx, is a pilot in training for the American military’s topmost secret project. Back in 2020, American pilots were massacred in an airfight by drones—dictator Ri Xiong Di’s most effective weapon. The entire world has endured a second Cold War ever since. No other countries are allowed to aid the U.S. at all, and the people are suffering. The military is secretly testing two new plane prototypes that might outrun the drones. However, their pilots must be young and strong enough to withstand the tremendous force on the human body that occurs when traveling at high speeds. In order to get funding for more prototypes, Nyx and her comrades must prove the worth of the project. On a training mission, Nyx spots a third prototype that she didn’t know existed. In her haste to discover the identity of its pilot and country, Nyx endangers the entire project and many lives as well. But, if she can start dismantling the wall she’s built around herself since her difficult childhood, she might be able to trust someone, fall in love, and save the day. The dialogue is authentic, and the characters are nuanced. The description of her flights is breathtakingly realistic. VERDICT Strong characterizations, action, adventure, and emotion combine to produce a sci-fi novel that is more than just the sum of its parts.–Kelly Jo Lasher, Middle Township High School, Cape May Court House, NJ

MacColl, Michaela. The Revelation of Louisa May. 256p. ebook available. further reading. notes. Chronicle. Apr. 2015. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781452133577.

Gr 7 Up–Readers are immediately drawn into Louisa’s 19th-century world as her mother departs for work in the city and Louisa discovers a runaway slave, named George, hiding outside the Alcott home. The teen capably manages the various conflicts in the novel: money struggles, her relationship with her father, George’s safety, and romantic tensions between her and her distant cousin, Fred. Unsavory characters like Fitch, who is a slave catcher, and a disreputable woman named Miss Whittington, bring additional tension to this plot-driven novel. MacColl creates a strong sense of place, both in time and with her presentation of the physical environment. Her fluid incorporation of the transcendentalists and their movement aligns well with her attention to the novel’s setting. VERDICT Though light on character development, MacColl has created a page-turner that satisfies.–Hilary Writt, Sullivan University, Lexington, KY

McGann, Oisín. Strangled Silence. 372p. Open Road. Apr. 2015. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781497665798; ebk. $9.99. ISBN 9781497665712.

Gr 10 Up–Originally published in the UK in 2008, McGann’s novel sometimes feels dated, but makes for an entertaining pick for mature readers. In her second year at university, Amina Mir lands an internship at the Chronicle. Her mother is a well-known and respected journalist, but Amina intends to make her own way. She expects the internship to start out as making coffee and keeping the copier working. When she is asked to do a human interest story on a veteran who has won the lottery but is not spending any of the money, she is glad just to have received a story assignment. What she does not expect is to find herself in the middle of a huge government conspiracy. The characters are well developed and believable. Hovering UFOs, a rogue surgeon, and mindwashed schoolchildren are just a few of the pieces that readers will need to put together to figure out what is really going on in this suspenseful tale. VERDICT This fast-paced and cinematic conspiracy thriller will keep teens’ attention.–Deanna McDaniel, Genoa Middle School, OH

Meyer, Carolyn. Diary of a Waitress. 348p. Calkins Creek. Apr. 2015. Tr $17.95. ISBN 9781620916520. LC 2014948477.

Gr 7-10–It is 1926, and Kitty Evans is looking forward to finishing high school and going to college to become a journalist. Unfortunately, her father informs her that there isn’t enough money to educate both her and her brother and that she will have to get a job. With her dreams shattered, Kitty answers a newspaper ad for a Harvey Girl. After six weeks of training, she’ll be transferred to one of many Harvey restaurants located along train lines in the western United States. Little does Kitty know that the rules and expectations of a Harvey Girl are very strict. She meets some new friends including Cordelia, a debutante from Philadelphia who wears short flapper dresses and bright red lipstick, and Emmy, another girl who hopes to make money to send back to her family. Cordelia encourages the girls to try new things, Emmy reminds them of the rules, and Kitty documents it all. The narrative is told through a series of diary entries in which Kitty notes her challenges—from the job interview and telling her parents about life-changing decision to making friends and meeting all kinds of characters. Kitty records interactions with everyone from railroaders to politicians to hobos. She also has many admirers and is asked to “go for walks” and to “save a dance” at local gatherings. Readers will feel connected to Kitty and her group of girlfriends and hope for their success. VERDICT A fast and interesting read about a part of history of which many readers may be unaware.–Jessica Lorentz Smith, Bend Senior High School, OR

Moore, Meredith. I Am Her Revenge. 336p. Penguin/Razorbill. Apr. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781595147820; ebk. $10.99. ISBN 9780698157743.

Gr 9 Up–The circumstances under which Vivian comes to The Madigan School are anything but typical. Arriving at the school in the British countryside midyear, she takes the place of a young woman reputed to have been fraternizing with a member of the faculty, a charge that few seem to believe, including the student’s roommate. Nonetheless, Mother needs Vivian to attend this school and Mother is accustomed to getting what she wants. For her part, Vivian is accustomed to bending to her mother’s every whim, or suffering very real consequences for her disobedience. She has been bred to take on any role needed to further Mother’s plans for revenge, but Vivian’s task at Madigan is to cultivate a plot ending in the ultimate humiliation of the man who had betrayed Mother years before. While playing out this plan upon the man’s son, also a student at Madigan, Vivian begins to unravel quite a bit of her mother’s secret history. This journey of discovery will prove to be the undoing of each character’s precariously balanced life. Moore leads readers through carefully constructed paths, set on the English moors, in her debut novel. The tightly concocted plotlines and clearly drawn characters are delivered in digestible pieces. VERDICT A refreshing and dramatic tale with a fearless and fragile protagonist.–Colleen S. Banick, Westport Public Schools, CT

SLJ1502-Fic58_NielsenNielsen, Susin. We Are All Made of Molecules. 256p. Random/Wendy Lamb Bks. May 2015. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780553496864; lib. ed. $19.99. ISBN 9780553496871; ebk. $10.99. ISBN 9780553496888. LC 2014017652.

Gr 7-10–Thirteen-year-old Stewart and 14-year-old Ashley could not be more different. Stewart is a quirky, gifted intellectual who is coping with the loss of his mother, while Ashley is a popular fashionista still reeling from her parents’ divorce—brought about by her father’s announcement that he is gay. When a serious relationship develops between Stewart’s father and Ashley’s mother, the two teens find themselves living under the same roof. By turns humorous and heartbreaking, the story is told in alternating chapters narrated by both protagonists. The contrast between the two characters makes for a compelling read, particularly as they begin to challenge and influence each other. Their overlapping journeys will leave readers with much to think about, as Nielsen unflinchingly tackles issues such as bullying, bigotry, and tolerance; the true nature of friendship; and what it means to be a family. VERDICT This work of realistic fiction should find a place in most libraries serving teens.–Lauren Strohecker, McKinley Elementary School, Abington School District, PA

Oakes, Colleen. The Crown. Vol. 1. ISBN 9781940716022.

––––. The Wonder. Vol. 2. ISBN 9781940716213.

ea vol: 222p. (Queen of Hearts). ebook available. BookSparks/SparkPress. 2014. pap. $15.

Gr 9 Up–Readers get a peek into the story behind the darkly twisted world of Wonderland before Alice arrived. Fifteen-year-old Princess Dinah, heir to the throne of Wonderland, tries to navigate her way to power around the ruthlessly brutal King; her half-sister, Vittore; her much adored “mad” brother Charles, who is the direct heir, but not able to take on the responsibilities of the throne; and an interesting hierarchy of characters who are either in support of or in opposition to her becoming the “Queen of Hearts” once she turns 18. In The Crown, readers catch a glimpse of the causes of the future Queen’s anger-management issues and mistrust of people. Surrounded by few friends and numerous enemies—with the shape-shifter and king’s advisor Cheshire being the most dangerous of all—Dinah lives in constant fear and is forced to hide her true feelings for mere survival. In The Wonder, Dinah is in exile, hiding from the king’s assassins, and purported to be a traitor and murderer. Oakes expertly expands the children’s classic into a complex and compelling series of plot twists that uncover the future Queen of Hearts’s true origins. VERDICT Complete with a mad tea party in the woods, this cinematic series has just the right amount of fantasy and epic suspense to keep even the strongest of hearts on the edge of their seats.–Sabrina Carnesi, Crittenden Middle School, Newport News, VA

Saft, Lauren. Those Girls. 336p. Little, Brown/Poppy. Jun. 2015. Tr $18. ISBN 9780316403665; ebk. $9.99. ISBN 9780316403672. LC 2014009416.

Gr 10 Up–Alexandra and Mollie have been friends for as long as they can remember. In middle school, they befriended the risqué but adorable Veronica. The three of them now attend a posh, private all-girls school. Once Mollie starts dating high school jock Sam, the dynamic of the trio changes. Alex spends more time with Drew, her platonic best friend and unrequited crush. Veronica becomes promiscuous and gets a reputation for it. Alex, the frizzy-haired rebel of the group, decides to join a band in order to pursue her musical interests and establish a separate identity for herself. As the new school year begins, Veronica throws a massive party at her often-empty house. She eventually begins an innocent flirtation with Drew, which her friends notice, and secretly hooks up with Sam on the sly as well. With two different love triangles developing, tensions mount as feelings between all invested parties threaten to break beyond repair. In this debut novel, Saft gives readers a look at the complicated relationships between high school girlfriends. The female characters she crafts are complex. The drama between the girls combined with their first-person perspectives proves to be a delightful, guilty read. VERDICT Fans of Cecily Von Ziegesar’s “Gossip Girl” series will no doubt love this more nuanced story.–Ryan P. Donovan, Southborough Public Library, MA

shusterman_Challenger DeepShusterman, Neal. Challenger Deep. illus. by Brendan Shusterman. 320p. HarperCollins/HarperTeen. Apr. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780061134111.

Gr 9 Up–Caden Bosch lives in two worlds. One is his real life with his family, his friends, and high school. There he is paranoid for no reason, thinks people are trying to kill him, and demonstrates obsessive compulsive behaviors. In his other world, he’s part of the crew for a pirate captain on a voyage to the Challenger Deep, the ocean’s deepest trench. There he’s paranoid, wary of the mercurial captain and his mutinous parrot, and tries hard to interpret the mutterings of his fellow shipmates as they sail uncharted waters toward unknown dangers. Slowly, Caden’s fantasy and paranoia begin to take over, until his parents have only one choice left. Shusterman’s latest novel gives readers a look at teen mental illness from inside the mind of Caden Bosch. He is a credible and sympathetic character, and his retreat into his own flawed mind is fascinating, full of riddles and surrealism. VERDICT This affecting deep dive into the mind of a schizophrenic will captivate readers, engender empathy for those with mental illnesses, and offer much fodder for discussion.–Heather Miller Cover, Homewood Public Library, AL

Skrypuch, Marsha Forchuk. Dance of the Banished. 234p. Pajama Pr. Feb. 2015. pap. $15.95. ISBN 9781927485651.

Gr 8 Up–Skrypuch continues to tell the stories of young refugees in her latest historical novel. Set between 1913 and 1917, it features two Alevi Kurd teenagers in Anatolia as World War I breaks out and Turkey begins the Armenian Genocide. Ali emigrates before the war begins and gives his girlfriend, Zeynep, a journal to write in for when they meet again. While in Canada, he is locked up in an internment camp because of his nationality, though he does not identify as Turkish. Meanwhile, Zeynep is witness to the genocide of her neighbors and is called to help. The author sheds light on an often overlooked piece of history. The setting is fascinating, the research is thorough, and the story is made all the more interesting due to current events in the region. The author’s note is full of source notes and historical details, though it lacks a bibliography. In a world that continues to be violent, readers may find solace in the novel’s joyful ending. VERDICT Dance of the Banished is a good book for teens who enjoy historical fiction.–Lisa Nowlain, Darien Library, CT

SLJ1502-Fic9up_SMith_the alex crowSmith, Andrew. The Alex Crow. 304p. ebook available. Dutton. Mar. 2015. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9780525426530.

Gr 9 Up–The author weaves several odd yet connected story threads: the 19th-century Arctic exploration aboard the ill-fated Alex Crow ship; a madman’s bizarre U-Haul road trip; and the Merrie-Seymour Research Group and its de-extinction program. But the most compelling narrative is that of Ariel, a teenage refugee of an unnamed country, who is adopted into an American family. He and his brother, Max, are sent to Camp Merrie-Seymour “where boys rediscover the fun of boyhood.” The camp’s purpose is to wean teenage boys off of their technology addictions. Unfortunately for Max and Ariel, their father works for Merrie-Seymour, so they’re forced to attend because it’s free. Smith deftly combines Ariel’s harrowing wartime horrors juxtaposed against his hilarious six weeks at an American summer camp with maladjusted teenage boys. The teen protagonist is the lens through which readers see how society exerts its control over teenage boys’ thoughts and actions. And Camp Merrie-Seymour is the satirical showcase for how often these boys are expected to deal with the harsh world on their own without any real guidance from adults. VERDICT A must-have for all YA collections.–Kimberly Garnick Giarratano, Rockaway Township Public Library, NJ

Spalding, Amy. Kissing Ted Callahan (And Other Guys). 312p. Little, Brown/Poppy. Apr. 2015. Tr $18. ISBN 9780316371520; ebk. ISBN 9780316371513; Audio ISBN 9781478903499. LC 2014015563.

Gr 8 Up–Sixteen-year-old Riley is pretty happy with her life so far. She has her best friends Lucy and Reid; their band, the Gold Diggers, is getting better; and school is not horrible. After walking in on Lucy and their other bandmate Nathan, Riley and Reid decide they need to do something to bring a bit of romance into their own lives. They make a pact: help each other with their respective crushes and document everything in a notebook. Reid tries to overcome his insecurity and anxiety; Riley gets in over her head with three different guys—Garrick, Milo, and her crush, Ted. While trying to figure out what to do about the men in her life, Riley also avoids Lucy, feeling like they no longer know each other. The band starts to take off but everything gets jumbled as emotions escalate and things get complicated. Then the notebook disappears and Riley and Reid must tell the people closest to them the truth. Character-driven enough to keep the story moving, this book will appeal most to teenagers questioning and exploring romantic relationships. VERDICT Recommended for teens looking for realistic stories without a hefty amount of drama.–Natalie Struecker, Rock Island Public Library, IL

Sullivan, Derek E. Biggie. 269p. Albert Whitman. Mar. 2015. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780807507278.

Gr 9 Up–In this debut novel, Henry is an obese high school student weighing in at 300 pounds. Because of his weight, everyone calls him Biggie, and he has little desire to try to lose the weight. That is, until one day when he is forced to participate in gym class and pitches a perfect game in a Wiffle ball match. The unathletic son of a baseball legend, he’s always had little hope of living up to everyone’s expectations—until that Wiffle ball game, when he catches a glimpse into his possible future. Most of his motivation to lose weight and play baseball comes from Annabelle, the popular girl he’s been crushing on since elementary school, but his chances with her are ruined when she finds out that he’s been hacking into her email account for years. Some teens may find Biggie’s attitude off-putting. In the end, however, Biggie redeems himself by realizing that he just might be the villain of the story. This novel is well written and fairly quick-paced, but only skims the surface on the topic of bullying. VERDICT Readers who persevere through the unlikable characters will find a thoughtful conclusion.–Candyce Pruitt-Goddard, Hartford Public Library, CT

Van Ark, Katie. The Boy Next Door. 288p. Feiwel & Friends/Swoon Reads. Feb. 2015. Tr $9.99. ISBN 9781250061461.

Gr 9 Up–Fans of ice-skating and romance will fall in love with this debut novel. Maddy and Gabe, both seniors at Riverview Prep in Kansas, grew up next door to one another and have been figure skating as a pair since they were in preschool; Gabe even gave up a place on a championship hockey team to skate with Maddy. The two are close friends and practice for hours every day. Their relationship was just fine until trainer Igor asked them to do Romeo and Juliet as a long program. Gabe considers Maddy to be like a sister and at first, he’s not interested in even pretending to be in love with her. Maddy, nursing a secret crush, would like nothing more than a romance to develop with Gabe. As they prepare for the competition, the two friends toy with the idea of dating. As Gabe’s past relationships have only lasted two weeks or less, he worries about what will happen if this one doesn’t work. Could he lose skating and his friend? Underlying the frothy plot are some serious themes and issues, including sex, pregnancy, cancer, money problems, family stress, lies, and complicated relationships. VERDICT For unapologetic romance lovers, this is a first purchase.–Jesten Ray, Seattle Public Library, WA

SLJ1502-Fic9up_Wallace_The Storyspinner-highWallace, Becky. The Storyspinner. 432p. S. & S./Margaret K. McElderry Bks. Mar. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781481405652; ebk. $10.99. ISBN 9781481405676.

Gr 7 Up–Santarem and Olinda are two lands divided by a magical wall. Those with powers live on the north side while the non-magical people live in Santarem, south of the wall. King Wilhelm of Santarem is murdered and his heir is allegedly dead as well, which jeopardizes the safety of everyone on both sides of the wall. Johanna Von Arlo, a 16-year-old Performer who specializes in the art of spinning stories, travels with her family to perform throughout Santarem, until her dad dies from a mysterious fall and the entire Von Arlo family is exiled from the Performers community. To make ends meet, Johanna takes employment at the DeSilva’s estate, performing for nobility, including the honor-bound, handsome, and frustratingly stubborn Duke-to-be, Rafael. Jo finds herself at the center of an age-old story—one she has told many times—and discovers the magic of her tales may be more real than she could ever have imagined. In this beautifully constructed first installment of a new fantasy series, Wallace creates a lush environment, interweaving unique characters. VERDICT Recommended for fans of classic fantasy (J.R.R. Tolkien) as well as more modern fantasy adventures by Melina Marchetta, Kristin Cashore, and Sarah J. Maas.–Stephanie DeVincentis, Downers Grove North High School, IL

Wallach, Tommy. We All Looked Up. 384p. S. & S. Mar. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781481418775. LC 2014004565.

Gr 10 Up–It’s spring of senior year, and four students are questioning whether they’re headed for the futures they want. For Peter (the popular jock), Anita (most likely to succeed), Andy, (the slacker stoner), and Eliza (the photographer with a reputation), the pressures of school, friends, and family feel massive—until the announcement that an asteroid is on a collision course with Earth. Suddenly the future isn’t so important. Wallach has created an accessible cast of realistic teens struggling with identity, family, and loyalty. Substantial language, casual sex, drugs, and occasional violence occur throughout, but it almost always feels authentic to these teens and the world they’re living in; even their worst mistakes feel relatable and worthy of empathy given the world-ending circumstances. In following his four protagonists as their lives converge, Wallach has written a coming-of-age novel with a captivating existential twist. VERDICT Fans of gritty and apocalyptic fiction won’t be disappointed.–Amy Koester, Learning Experiences Department, Skokie PL

Whiting, Sue. Portraits of Celina. 352p. Capstone/Switch Pr. Apr. 2015. Tr $16.95. ISBN 9781630790240.

Gr 8 Up–After her father dies suddenly, 16-year-old Bayley finds herself uprooted by her mother to their family’s abandoned lake house in the middle of nowhere with the intention of starting over and moving on. Inside her new room, Bayley discovers a chest containing clothes and other items that belonged to her relative Celina, who mysteriously disappeared 40 years earlier. When Bayley tries on Celina’s clothes she makes a startling discovery—she can sense Celina trying to contact her from beyond the grave. The ghost wants Bayley to “make him pay.” Bayley must now solve the mystery of who “he” is and what exactly happened to Celina all of those years ago. Bayley learns that the deeper she digs, the more she struggles with Celina trying to take over her body. The plot is one part ghost story and one part a story about loss. Bayley and her family ineffectively deal with the tragic death of her father, which sets up an atmosphere rife with emotional instability and ideal for ghostly revenge. There’s plenty of gradual tension and foreboding to keep readers interested from start to finish. Bayley finds a love interest in Oliver, a teenager from across the lake, who serves as a device to keep her occasionally grounded in reality. VERDICT Give this to fans of paranormal mysteries with a touch of romance.–Kimberly Castle-Alberts, Hudson Library & Historical Society, OH

FICTION Graphic Novels

SLJ1502-Fic9upGN_Fifee_All New UltimatesFiffe, Michel. All-New Ultimates Vol. 1: Power for Power. illus. by Amilcar Pinna. 136p. Marvel. 2014. pap. $17.99. ISBN 9780785154273.

Gr 9 Up–There’s a new superhero crew in town and they’re off to a rough start. Led by Jessica Drew, aka Spider-Woman (later Black Widow), the Ultimates include Spider-Man (Miles Morales, not Peter Parker), the romantic duo Cloak and Dagger, the volatile Bombshell, and the famous Kitty Pryde. This group of young superheroes must face a scientist developing a drug that endows the subject with horrifically destructive powers, the band of villains known as the Serpent Skulls, and the vigilante Scourge. What they lack in experience, they make up for in enthusiasm and loyalty. Refreshingly, while the girls are athletic (we see lots of short shorts and toned legs), they’re not excessively busty. There’s some violence and gore in these pages, so this graphic novel isn’t for the faint of heart. VERDICT An exciting addition to the Marvel universe.–Heather M. Campbell, formerly at Philip S. Miller Library, Castle Rock, CO

SLJ1502-Fic9upGN_SakurazakaSakurazaka, Hiroshi & Ryosuke Takeuchi. All You Need Is Kill: 2-in-1 Edition. illus. by Takeshi Obata. 550p. Viz Media. 2014. pap. $14.99. ISBN 9781421576015.

Gr 9 Up–Based on Sakurazaka’s novel, which served as the basis for the science-fiction movie Edge of Tomorrow, this manga was available digitally as two volumes, and is now released in this ominbus print edition. Live, die, repeat. Earth has been invaded by aliens known as Mimics. The fate of humanity rests with the United Defense Force. Suiting up in battle armor called a jacket, soldier Keiji Kiriya prepares to deploy on his first combat assignment, alongside the elite U.S. Special Forces lead by Rita Vrataski. During the battle, Keiji dies. He wakes up to the day before his death, only to go out into battle and die again. His memories intact, Keiji realizes that he is trapped in a time loop where his death is seemingly inevitable, “like hitting the reset button on a video game.” To save the human race, Keiji must solve the mysterious connection between himself, Rita, and the Mimics. The writing is compelling as the plot moves between fast-paced military action and reflective, philosophical moments. The tone is intense as characters are pushed to the limits, mentally, emotionally, and physically. Obata’s stunning artwork offers textured designs of mechanized suits and weaponry, exciting battle sequences, and expressive human characters. being gratuitous. VERDICT A complex manga that’s highly recommended for fans of science fiction, the Edge of Tomorrow film, strong female characters, and video games.–June Shimonishi, Torrance Public Library, CA

SLJ1502-Fic9upGN_Hinds_MacbethShakespeare, William. Macbeth. adapted by Gareth Hinds. illus. by Gareth Hinds. 152p. Candlewick. Feb. 2015. Tr $21.99. ISBN 9780763669430; pap. $12.99. ISBN 9780763678029. LC 2014939338.

Gr 8 Up–On the opening page, three Witches sit atop a barren tree in the midst of a bloody battlefield against the backdrop of a gloomy sky, setting the stage for one of Shakespeare’s most popular plays. Macbeth, a valiant general of the King’s army, is told a prophecy by the three witches that he will one day become King of Scotland. Unwilling to wait for the prophecy to come true on its own, Macbeth and Lady Macbeth plot to expedite the process, murdering the current King Duncan in his sleep. Shakespeare’s text has historically been linked to theatrical productions, the story enhanced by the visual performance, making his plays perfect source material for graphic novels. Hinds, widely praised for his graphic novel adaptations of classic literature, succeeds yet again in bringing Shakespeare to life for modern readers. He captures the haunting and dramatic tone of Macbeth with expert pacing, skillful usage of shadow and color within the panels, and emotional close-ups of Macbeth and Lady Macbeth, depicting their journey into madness. VERDICT Hinds’s Macbeth will make a solid addition to any graphic novel collection, especially those looking for accessible, enjoyable, and quality Shakespeare adaptations.–Marissa Lieberman, East Orange Public Library, NJ

SLJ1502-Fic58GN_Stevenson-LumberjanesStevenson, Noelle & Grace Ellis. Lumberjanes Vol. 1: Beware the Kitten Holy. illus. by Brooke Allen & Shannon Watters. 128p. Boom! Studios. Apr. 2015. pap. $14.99. ISBN 9781608866878.

Gr 5 Up–The first four issues of this female-created and female-starring comic, set at summer camp with creepy happenings, are collected here in this kick-butt volume. The graphic novel begins mid-adventure as five campers are out after hours investigating a strange event that they all witnessed: a woman turning into a giant bear. This is just the first of many odd occurrences that Jo, April, Molly, Mal, and Ripley encounter at the summer camp for “Hardcore Lady Types.” The Lumberjanes, as the scouts are called, band together to solve puzzles, defeat three-eyed creatures, and escape the ire of their watchful counselor Jen. Each protagonist has a skill that helps the group conquer each obstacle. Spunky, lovable characters sparkle with exuberant personality and challenge gender stereotypes. Small details make these episodes stand out—the hipster Yetis guarding a mysterious lighthouse, Molly and Mal’s tender glances at each other, and Ripley’s penchant for animals and all things cute. At the opening of each chapter, an excerpt from the Lumberjanes field guide is included and a gallery of cover images append the book. References to female heroines (invocations of Bessie Coleman and Joan Jett as well as Rosie the camp director’s striking resemblance to Rosie the Riveter) and phrases such as “Friends to the Max!” and “What the junk!” add to the charm of this feel-good title that celebrates female empowerment. The vibrant art exudes humor and reinforces themes of teamwork and friendship. VERDICT A must-have graphic novel for those who have graduated from Raina Telgemeier’s works.–Shelley Diaz, School Library Journal

SLJ1502-Fic9upGN_WatsonWatson, Andi. Princess Decomposia and Count Spatula. illus. by Andi Watson. 176p. First Second. Feb. 2015. Tr $19.99. ISBN 9781626722750; pap. $14.99. ISBN 9781626721494.

Gr 6-10–In this graphic novel by longtime comic artist Watson, harried Princess Decomposia is so busy running the Underworld for her overbearing and hypochondriac father that she never has time to eat properly. With state affairs hanging in the balance, she hires pastry chef Count Spatula as the new cook, hoping he will finally be able to assuage the King Wulfrun’s cantankerous belly, so that he can go back to running the gloomy kingdom. When Wulfrun discovers the growing friendship and romance between the Princess and the cook, all hell breaks loose as the burgeoning couple take a day trip aboveground. Visual and textual puns abound in this Downton Abbey-esque romp, which balances serious discussions on class, gender, and politics with humor and wordplay. Decomposia learns to stand up for herself, inspired by her new friendships, and comes into her own, a lesson that could border on preachy, but is delivered with nuance. The inky black-and-white illustrations on the mostly three-tier, six-panel pages denote movement and facial expressions with aplomb. VERDICT This comedy of manners and errors is a delightful confection for graphic novel fans looking for a quirky, tame romance.–Shelley Diaz, School Library Journal

SLJ1502-Fic9upGN_Wilde_Yo Miss_Wilde, Lisa. Yo Miss: A Graphic Look at High School. illus. by Lisa Wilde. 160p. Microcosm. Mar. 2015. Tr $12.95. ISBN 9781621069874.

Gr 8 Up–This is a selection of semi-autobiographical vignettes in the life of Ms. Wilde—teacher of seniors in John V. Lindsay Wildcat Academy—and her students. The black-and-white artwork, while lacking the sophisticated shading of many slicker graphic novels, plays a supporting role and moves readers through scenes of heartbreak and triumph. Whether it is William and his myriad attempts to escape the call of a gang and the street; Natalie, who is struggling to be a student even as she is becoming a mother; or Danny, who insists on calling Ms. Wilde “Snowflake” and masks his fear of failure with bravado and bullying; each of the characters ring true. Struggling students will recognize the scenarios, burned out teachers will find their passion rekindled for trying just one more time with that difficult student, and both sets of readers will be refreshed by Wilde’s conclusion to the story with a graduation ceremony that is filled with hope that realistically transcends the grim reality her characters must overcome. VERDICT When it comes to portraying life in an alternative high school setting, Yo Miss is a direct hit.–Jodeana Kruse, R. A. Long High School, Longview, WA

SLJ1502-Fic9upGN_Wolfman_Teen Titans_Wolfman, Marv & Geoff Johns. Teen Titans: A Celebration of 50 Years. illus. by George Perez. 400p. DC Comics. 2014. Tr $39.99. ISBN 9781401251772. LC 2014032614.

Gr 7 Up–This book covers the entire publication history of the team known as the Teen Titans, whose core membership has primarily consisted of Robin, Wonder Girl, Kid Flash, Speedy, and Aqua-Lad with support from several others throughout the years. The team started out as a hip alternative to their adult counterparts designed to appeal to a younger audience; the early stories reflect that in content and language. This first section, featuring the original Titans, also contains a story from the “Teen Titans: Year One” series (DC Comics, 2008). The work also highlights “The New Titans” era to present-day, including some “Tiny Titans” (a children’s cartoon-style comic with the Titans as little kids) and the graphic novel version of the Teen Titans Go! television show geared toward adolescents. This is a good selection of stories that represent the place and the growth of the team through the years as the original heroes have given way to an even younger generation in much the same way their own mentors did. Each era and team of Titans is given adequate space to give a good flavor of that group. One quibble about this work is that there are a few stories that are unresolved, leaving readers with little or no recourse to finding the conclusions, since many of the follow-ups to these tales have not been previously collected—especially in the case of the original team. VERDICT A collection that certainly warrants inclusion in any library, especially those that already have strong graphic novel collections.–Erik Knapp, Davis Library, Plano, TX


For those interested in nonfiction, take a look at these stellar offerings with subjects as diverse as rad women in history, Chinese fairy tales, LEGO Mindstorm robots.

Alifirenka, Caitlin & Martin Ganda with Liz Welch. I Will Always Write Back. 400p. photos. Little, Brown. Apr. 2015. Tr $18. ISBN 9780316241311; ebk. $9.99. ISBN 9780316241342. LC 2014030355.

Gr 6 Up–The true story of two young pen pals who forge a life-altering connection. In 1997, Caitlin, a typical 12-year-old girl from a middle class American family, began writing to Martin, a studious 14-year-old from a Zimbabwe slum. In her letters, Caitlin described her life, which consisted of shopping trips, quarrels with friends, and problems at school. Martin was initially far more circumspect in his responses. Inflation had rocketed in Zimbabwe, and even finding money for postage was a struggle for the boy. Staying in school, which required paying costly fees, became merely a dream. Eventually, Martin revealed the harsh realities of his life to Caitlin, who began sending money and gifts. What started as chatty letters turned into a lifeline for Martin and his family, as Caitlin and her parents helped the boy stay in school and achieve his goal of studying at an American university. This is a well-written, accessible story that will open Western adolescents’ eyes to life in developing countries. Told in the first person, with chapters alternating between Caitlin’s and Martin’s points of view, this title effectively conveys both of these young people’s perspectives. VERDICT A useful addition to most collections and an eye-opening look at life in another culture.–Michelle Anderson, Tauranga City Libraries, New Zealand

SLJ1502-Nfic5up_CapitalDaysBolden, Tonya. Capital Days: Michael Shiner’s Journal and the Growth of Our Nation’s Capital. 96p. chron. glossary. index. maps. notes. photos. reprods. Abrams. 2015. RTE $21.95. ISBN 9781419707339. LC 2014024668.

Gr 4-6–This well-designed read details the story of Michael Shiner (1805–80), a slave in 19th-century America who eventually gained his freedom and who left a diary behind detailing an account of his life. Born into slavery in Maryland, Shiner came to Washington, DC as a child, where he was later leased by his owner Thomas Howard to the Navy Ship Yard. Shiner eventually purchased his freedom, started a family, and learned to read and write—skills that would allow him to start writing his journal. Bolden tracks Shiner’s life, giving readers a unique view into the history of America’s capital. Shiner wrote about major historical events, such as the burning of Washington, DC in 1814, as well more personal anecdotes that shed light on attitudes of the day, such as facing aggression from those who erroneously assumed that he was a runaway slave. VERDICT Well written and impeccably researched, this excellent title offers a uniquely personal look at history. A must-have.–April Sanders, Spring Hill College, Mobile, AL

Casey, Susan. Women Heroes of the American Revolution: 20 Stories of Espionage, Sabotage, Defiance, and Rescue. 240p. (Women of Action). bibliog. filmog. further reading. photos. reprods. websites. Chicago Review. Mar. 2015. Tr $19.95. ISBN 9781613745830.

Gr 7-10–In a clear writing style, Casey profiles 20 female figures in this collection of biographies of women involved with the American Revolution. While some of the names are legendary and recognizable, most are not. These ordinary girls and women who accomplished amazing feats usually thought of as masculine make for interesting reading. From spies to soldiers to slaves, the women profiled here are engaging enough to keep students interested, and some may even seek out further information. VERDICT This well-researched book sheds light on lesser known women of this period and is an excellent way to incorporate diversity into the curriculum.–Glynis Jean Wray, Ocean County Library, Toms River, NJ

SLJ1502-Nfic5up_RememberingInezCooney, Robert P.J., Jr. Remembering Inez: The Last Campaign of Inez Milholland, Suffrage Martyr. 90p. American Graphic. Mar. 2015. pap. $14.95. ISBN 9780977009527. LC 201493850.

Gr 9 Up–When a friend spoke at suffragist Inez Milholland’s funeral in 1916, she said that Inez “is one around whom legends will grow up.” In her time, certainly, Milholland was a celebrity. Young, beautiful, rich, and articulate, she was a passionate and active proponent of women’s suffrage. Somehow, her name is lesser known compared with her predecessors, such as Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony, and her contemporary Alice Paul. Even though Milholland died when she was 30, her contributions to the cause of women’s suffrage are immeasurable. This slim volume consists largely of articles, speeches, and resolutions from issues of the magazine The Suffragist, all of which concern Milholland’s background, character, beliefs, and work. The excerpts are accessible to modern-day readers, being largely devoid of the stiff, formal language common in writings of the day. Cooney’s introduction provides ballast to the laudatory articles, pointing out aspects of Milholland’s life that were controversial, especially her advocacy of socialism and free love. In addition, Cooney describes in brief the political clime of the nation, couching Milholland’s attitudes and actions in a larger historical context. VERDICT This is a vivid, engaging account of a young woman who filled her short life with activity and meaning. Perhaps this book will bring Milholland’s life and works back into the spotlight.–Jennifer Prince, Buncombe County Public Libraries, NC

Froud, Brian & Wendy Froud. Brian Froud’s Faeries’ Tales. 144p. Abrams. 2014. Tr $35. ISBN 9781419713866.

Gr 9 Up–This elegant presentation of well-known and more obscure fairy tales from the point of view of the fairies combines the mysterious and magical with cold calculation and complexity: successful ingredients for sophisticated readers. The authors whimsically present the perspectives of the different fairies, thus revealing their thoughts and motivations. Breaking up the first-person accounts is a story about the little Duster fairies, which gives structure and ongoing focus. This treatment puts all the stories in a different light and makes fresh and new even the most well-known tales, such as “Tam Lin,” “Cinderella,” and “Sleeping Beauty,” as well as the lesser known fairies, such as Moon Dancer, the King’s Knight, Alyssa the Changeling-Maker, and the Shadow Man. The art is rich with deep colors, intricate borders, fanciful sketches, and searching portraits, creating a background for the humorous, romantic, sad, or dangerous tales. VERDICT The Frouds’ quality work is so well known and popular that this title will be a welcome addition to the genre.–Nancy Call, Santa Cruz Public Libraries, Aptos, CA

SLJ1502-Nfic5up_LoveandProfanityHealy, Nick, ed. Love & Profanity: A Collection of True, Tortured, Wild, Hilarious, Concise, and Intense Tales of Teenage Life. 232p. index. Capstone/Switch Pr. Mar. 2015. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781630790127.

Gr 8 Up–Short yet powerful autobiographical stories comprise this collection of consistently excellent, vivid writing. The 43 authors from various backgrounds include a few YA well-knowns—John Scieszka, Joseph Bruchac, Carrie Mesrobian, Will Weaver—and many new and upcoming names. The stories reflect the writers’ adolescent experiences with conflict, bullying, family, school, friendship, unrequited love, sex, and more. Love, or the abysmal lack of it, is central to many of the stories, while profanity is primarily reflected in situations rather than word choice (though the language is occasionally graphic). The stories are, by turns, edgy, nostalgic, poignant, sad, and humorous, with some offering a combination of these qualities. VERDICT Readers of Break These Rules: 35 YA Authors on Speaking up, Standing out, and Being Yourself edited by Luke Reynolds (Chicago Review, 2013) and Dear Teen Me: Authors Write Letters to Their Teen Selves edited by E. Kristin Anderson and Miranda Kenneally (Zest, 2012), may appreciate this compilation.–Diane P. Tuccillo, Poudre River Public Library District, CO

Rauch, Georg. Unlikely Warrior: A Jewish Soldier in Hitler’s Army. tr. from German by Phyllis Rauch. 352p. glossary. illus. photos. Farrar. Feb. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780374301422.

Gr 8 Up–In this glimpse into history, Rauch, a young Jewish man in Third Reich Vienna, describes his experiences during World War II. Strongly opposed to Nazi rule, Rauch and his mother hid Jews in their apartment, helping them escape to safety, and worked with the underground resistance. But when Rauch was drafted into Hitler’s army (though he admitted to having Jewish heritage), he was stationed on the Russian Front, facing the constant threat of death from hunger, the elements, and Soviet soldiers. The story is well paced, offering a fascinating and intriguing look at the era. VERDICT A good supplementary purchase for libraries looking to expand their historical memoir section, complementing titles such as Leon Leyson’s The Boy on the Wooden Box: How the Possible Became Possible…on Schindler’s List (S. & S., 2013).–Clair Segal, LREI, New York City

Schatz, Kate. Rad American Women A-Z: Rebels, Trailblazers, and Visionaries who Shaped our History..and Our Future. illus. by Miriam Klein Stahl. 64p. City Lights. Mar. 2015. Tr $14.95. ISBN 9780872866836.

Gr 5 Up–Colorful and hip potraitures create a visual sensation that immediately draws in readers. Profiled are 26 American women from the 18th through 21st centuries, who have made—or are still making—history as artists, writers, teachers, lawyers, or athletes. The women come from a variety of economic and ethnic backgrounds and many had to overcome extreme hardships. One woman represents each alphabetical letter beginning with Angela Davis, an activist, teacher, and writer, and concludes with Zora Neale Hurston, an anthropologist and writer. Readers will also encounter Carol Burnett, the Grimke Sisters, Lucy Parsons, Rachel Carson, and Sonia Sotomayor, among others. Interestingly, the letter X is designated for the women, “we haven’t learned about yet, and the women whose stories we will never read.” The book’s conclusion challenges readers to be strong and to make a difference in their own communities and suggests 26 things that students can do to be rad. VERDICT Classes across the curriculum can utilize this informative book.–Patricia Ann Owens, formerly with Illinois Eastern Community Colls., Mt. Carmel

LEGO MindstormsValk, Laurens. The LEGO® MINDSTORMS® EV3 Discovery Book: A Beginner’s Guide to Building and Programming Robots. 352p. further reading. index. photos. websites. No Starch Press. 2014. pap. $34.95. ISBN 9781593275327. LC 2010011157.

Gr 6 Up–A tome for fans of robotics and LEGO Mindstorms EV3 Kits. Hyper-detailed instructions—with full color, easy-to-read and understand illustrations—help budding enthusiasts navigate EV3 Kits with clear language and step-by-step directions. Readers learn the basics of assembling a simple robot before being introduced to various programming tricks to be used on the EV3 Brick, the colloquial term for the Mindstorms mini-computer. Be forewarned that in order to take full advantage of the programming functionality of the kit, including the ablity to create and edit programs, users must have a computer to connected to their EV3 Brick (though basic programming on the EV3 Brick can be done without one). Each chapter contains several short challenges, dubbed “discoveries,” which are cleverly accompanied by a legend: whimsical gear wheels represent the estimated amount of building time; tiny Microsoft Windows–esque blocks show the expected level of programming expertise; and a small clock estimates the length of time it should take to solve the challenge. The size, advanced vocabulary, and organization of the book evokes a science or physics textbook, which is warranted due to the amount of complex and detailed programming information contained within. However, colorful images keep it from feeling too academic. VERDICT This book will find a home in libraries with makerspaces and/or those that offer robotics or science clubs, LEGO teams, or other STEM-oriented groups.–Amy M. Laughlin, Darien Library, CT

Yee, Paul, retel. Chinese Fairy Tale Feasts: A Literary Cookbook. illus. by Shaoli Wang. 160p. notes. Interlink. 2014. Tr $25. ISBN 9781566569934.

Gr 4 Up–This is a fine collection of quintessential Chinese fairy tales and recipes. The stories are told with tangy and intriguing details that invite American readers to consider the Chinese perspective. The symbiosis between the recipes and the stories is impressive; paired with each dish is a traditional tale. Yee and Wang share the Chinese characters that go with proverbs that pair traditionally with dishes. The stories are short, requiring only 15 or 20 minutes to read aloud. The renditions of the tales are impressive and will be appreciated by a wide age range; they are easy to read but not oversimplified. VERDICT Educators may find this valuable for geography units or lesson plans involving Chinese culture.–Amy Thurow, New Glarus School District, WI

NONFICTION Graphic Novels

treasurycomp2cover.inddGeary, Rick. A Treasury of Victorian Murder Compendium II. illus. by Rick Geary. 400p. bibliog. NBM. 2015. lib. ed. $29.99. ISBN 9781561639076.

Gr 10 Up–With an amazing eye for detail, Geary chronicles five different Victorian-era murders previously published as individual volumes. They include the Borden Tragedy, Mary Rogers, the Bloody Benders, Madeleine Smith, and the assassination of President Lincoln. Geary so thoroughly researches each and every case that he is able to portray events from all sides. Backed by numerous sources, the murders chosen for this anthology are presented in such a way that readers can’t help but become engrossed in the drama. The events prior to each murder are meticulously provided, as are the aftermaths. The stories unfold as if one were watching a classic black-and-white noir film. In the case of Madeleine Smith and her secret lover, Emile, the story is enhanced by bits and pieces of their actual correspondence. The illustrations are a perfect accompaniment to these rather bleak and sordid moments in history and the use of pen and ink makes some of the content less graphic and more tolerable than if it were in color. History fans, true crime aficionados, and readers of nonfiction graphic novels will all find something quite enthralling in this collection. VERDICT Fans of Geary’s other historical adaptations won’t want to miss this one and this compendium will likely make fans of those new to his work.–Carol Hirsche, Provo City Library, UT

SLJ1502-Nfic5upGN_Rehr_TerroristRehr, Henrik. Terrorist: Gavrilo Princip, the Assassin Who Ignited World War I. illus. by Henrik Rehr. 232p. maps. Graphic Universe. Apr. 2015. lib. ed. $33.32. ISBN 9781467772792; pap. $11.99. ISBN 9781467772846. LC 2014021939.

Gr 8 Up–In the words of Prussian statesman Otto von Bismarck, turn of the century Eastern Europe was a powder keg simply waiting for the right spark to explode into what we now know as World War I. The nationalist, revolutionary, and terrorist, Gavrilo Princip, was just the man to set the fire that would ignite the keg. The assassination of Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand was the inciting factor that instigated what was one of the 20th century’s bloodiest wars. But little is known about the motives behind the assassination. Here, Rehr imagines the circumstances leading up to the killing. Princip and his coconspirators were real people living in a desperate time. They yearned for a free Serbia, Bosnia, and Yugoslavia and were willing to do anything in order to achieve their dream. This intriguing and ultimately harrowing narrative humanizes a historic event. The author is able to breathe life into this confusing and conflict-filled portion of European history. The stark black-and-white artwork and theatrical art-filled splash pages transport readers to 19th-century Eastern Europe. VERDICT This fictionalized account based on historical fact is an excellent contribution to graphic novel collections.–Morgan Brickey, Marion County Public Library System, FL

From the Adult Books 4 Teens blog

And from SLJ’s Adult Books 4 Teens blog, the following titles are perfect for teens looking to cross over to adult books.

Knisley_Age of License_KNISLEY, Lucy. An Age of License: A Travelogue. illus. by Lucy Knisley. 189p. Fantagraphics. 2014. pap. $19.99. ISBN 9780345544926. LC 2014023994.

This short, absorbing travelogue is based on a journal the graphic novelist kept during her travels through Europe and Scandinavia in September 2011. Heartbroken after ending a relationship, Knisley accepted an invitation to participate in a Comics convention in Norway, which inspired a month of visiting friends and family. Shortly before leaving, Knisley met a boy from Stockholm, Henrik, who invited her to visit him, too. Knisley chronicles her pre-trip jitters (traveling “unhomes” you), as they vied with excited anticipation of a new perspective on life. The conference went well, as did her time with Henrik. So well that he accompanied her to Berlin for a few days, and arranged to meet her in Paris for a romantic finish to her adventures. It was while visiting a friend in Bordeaux that she met an older man who termed this period of her life “L’Age Licence”—a time of exploration before familial or career obligations make experimentation impossible, a time to decide what kind of life you want to have. As in the Alex Award-winning Relish (First Second, 2013), friends, family and food continue to be Knisley’s preoccupations. Predominantly black & white panels are punctuated by full-page color paintings of a pretty view, a delectable snack, the portrait of a friend, or a dress in a shop window. The many teens who travel for exchange programs, volunteer activities, or family trips will recognize Knisley’s nervousness about leaving the familiarity of home, the freedom and pleasures of exploration, insecurity about the future, and the revelations afforded by time away from routine. This ingenuous and wise travel narrative will charm readers of any age.—Angela Carstensen, Convent of the Sacred Heart, New York City

SLJ1502-AB4T_Stevenson_Just MercySTEVENSON, Bryan. Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption. 316p. notes. Spiegel & Grau. 2014. Tr $28. ISBN 9780812994520.

Only a handful of countries condemn children to death row, and America is one of them. What is the one commonality of people on death row? The race of the victim. If the victim is white, the perpetrator is 11 times more likely to be condemned to die than if the victim is black. In heartbreaking and personal details, Stevenson interweaves these statistics with real stories and his fight to change the injustices. He was 23 years old, studying law at Harvard when he was called to an internship in Georgia where his first assignment was to deliver a message to a man living on death row. This brought him face to face with what became his calling: representing the innocent, the inadequately defended, the children, the domestic abuse survivors, the mentally ill— the imprisoned. This fast-paced and relentless book, told in short chapters featuring different people’s stories, reads like a John Grisham novel. Walter, who was at a barbecue with over 100 people at the time of the murder he was accused of, spent more than six years on death row. All Jenkins wants from Stevenson is a chocolate milkshake, as he cannot understand what is going on. The stories include those of children, teens, and adults who have been in the system since they were teens. This is a title for the many young adults who have a parent or loved one in the prison system and the many others who are interested in social justice, the law, and the death penalty. A standout choice.—Amy Cheney, Alameda County Library, Juvenile Hall, CA

The original reviews of the following works appeared in SLJ’s February print magazine.

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Growing Up in a Cult | SLJ Spotlight Fri, 27 Feb 2015 14:00:08 +0000 There’s been such a rise of young adult novels set in cultlike environments that, however queasy-making, has been difficult to ignore. The teens in the following works grapple with coming of age in restrictive communities and must eventually choose between forging their own path or holding onto the beliefs they’ve long-treasured. From Lisa Heathfield’s debut novel to acclaimed author Pete Hautman’s latest offering, these titles explore ideas of faith, family, and freedom with honesty and respect.

downfrommountainFixmer, Elizabeth. Down from the Mountain. 276p. ebook available. Albert Whitman. Mar. 2015. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780807583708. LC 2014027714.

Gr 9 Up –Fourteen-year-old Eva and her mother are members of the Righteous Path, a 17-member cult located in Colorado. Eva struggles to be obedient and is justifiably afraid of Prophet Ezekiel’s fierce moods and demands. Her faith is further shaken when her mother must suffer a difficult pregnancy without medical attention or proper nutrition. Eva and Rachel, the youngest of Ezekiel’s 10 wives, are sent down the mountain to purchase supplies and sell Eva’s handmade jewelry in the nearby town. Eva is fearful and amazed at the contrast between her stark, strict life and the freedom of the “heathen” world. She is also surprised at the kindness of the people she meets, contradicting everything Ezekiel has told them. Meanwhile, Ezekiel has become paranoid that outsiders may try to attack them and spends most of their money buying guns instead of food to last through winter. With the help of a young man whom she meets in town, Eva learns more about the broader world. Her forced betrothal to Ezekiel pushes Eva to take action, leading to a gripping climax. Fixmer, a therapist who has counseled former religious cult members, has written a taut psychological drama with believable and sympathetic characters. The first-person narrative sustains a tense mood throughout, with frequent referrals to tragic real-life cults, such as the Branch Davidians of Waco, TX. This book is similar in theme but less violent than Carol Lynch Williams’s The Chosen One (St. Martin’s Griffin, 2009). VERDICT Readers will be caught up in this realistic story of a brave girl rebelling against a fundamentalist society.–Martha Simpson, Stratford Library Association, CT

edenwestredstarHautman, Pete. Eden West. 320p. Candlewick. Apr. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780763674182; ebk. ISBN 9780763676902.

Gr 10 Up– Since he was five years old, Jacob has lived inside the Nodd, 12 square miles of Montana land that he works on along with other members of the Grace. Jacob has been taught that the world is wicked and that the Grace will return to Heaven on an ark that the Prophet Zerachiel will be sending shortly—it is The Truth. Jacob’s world begins to turn upside down with the arrival of several beings. Tobias’s family travels from Colorado to join the Grace—and yet Tobias won’t stop questioning and pushing against The Truth. During his patrols along the Grace’s border, Jacob meets Lynna, a worldly girl with whom he should not interact—but he cannot help but be attracted to her. The third newcomer, a lone wolf, begins to slowly kill off the sheep and threaten the well-being of all the Grace. Jacob’s faith is tested as he struggles to reconcile what he knows to be The Truth and what is happening around him. Hautman delivers a captivating character study, studiously demonstrating the reasons why some people are drawn into cults and quietly revealing how unquestioned power turns rotten. Jacob is a realistic and relatable protagonist and his complex relationships with those around him—and himself—ring true. Eden West is both quiet and loud, understanding and judging, and absolutely engrossing. Readers will be quick to judge the Grace but may find themselves looking inward to their own beliefs as they move through the story. VERDICT A heartbreaking, uplifting, and fantastic read.–Emily Moore, Camden County Library System, NJ

seedHeathfield, Lisa. Seed. 336p. Running Pr. Teen. Mar. 2015. Tr $16.95. ISBN 9780762456345. LC 2014949872.

Gr 9 Up –Seed is at the center of 15-year-old Pearl’s life: it is the isolated family of which she is part, it is the house in which she lives, and it is the remote patch of land around that house where she sows and gathers crops for her family’s sustenance. Pearl is happy at Seed. She does not often leave because according to Papa S., the leader of Pearl’s family, Seed is pure and leaving risks contact with poisoned Outsiders who may taint Pearl’s spiritual core. The teen knows Papa S. is truthful, but when three Outsiders unexpectedly join the family, the patriarch’s word—and Pearl’s entire reality—is challenged. Heathfield’s debut novel is the first in a two-book series. Pearl’s development over the course of the novel is realistic and relatable, and readers will become attached and even frustrated with the heroine. The smooth pacing and sophisticated yet age-appropriate style of the work lend credence to the story as it transforms the everyday activities of Seed into complex issues of physical and emotional abuse, budding self-esteem and increasing self-reliance, fear as a means of control, and belief as an expression of faith or as a means of deception. VERDICT Seed will hold readers’ attention as the story’s mood slowly changes and the work builds to an ultimately stunning conclusion.–Maggie Mason Smith, Clemson University R. M. Cooper Library, South Carolina

thirteenHoyle, Tom. Thirteen. 240p. Holiday House. May 2015. Tr $16.95. ISBN 9780823432943; ebk. ISBN 9780823433827. LC 2014028416.

Gr 7 Up –In this dark thriller by a first-time British author, a sadistic self-appointed messiah leads his brainwashed cult in murdering boys born on New Year’s Day of 2000. Now 2013, only a few remain, including protagonist Adam, who runs, fights, and kills for his life, aided by his love interest and neighbor, Megan. Interspersed with Adam’s action-packed running around are various scenes of gruesome murders, torture, and cinematically threatening posturing by the cultist leader, Coron, and his fit teenage disciples. Hoyle removes Coron’s mystique fairly early by explaining that the “Master” he serves is merely a “shadowy production, a sort of echo, in Coron’s sick mind.” He also ends the novel with a list of real-life cults gone bad. Descriptive passages (“Gasoline was spilled carefully, thoughtfully, arteries linking to veins”) and well-formed chapters, which almost all end in dramatic single-sentence cliff-hangers, keep this work thrilling, if readers can keep track of the very large cast of dispensable bad guys. VERDICT Though characterization and dialogue are a bit weak, this gruesome survival story will most likely garner a readership among violence-craving, action-loving anglophiles.–Rhona Campbell, Georgetown Day School, Washington, DC

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March 2 Is Seuss Day | Touch and Go Thu, 26 Feb 2015 15:40:23 +0000 Each year, in celebration of Dr. Seuss’s birthday on March 2, we offer reviews of Seuss apps published during the previous 12 months—and check to see if we might have missed a few earlier titles. Oceanhouse Media (OM) is the place to go if you are looking for any of Geisel’s books in digital. To date, OM has published dozens of Seuss and “Dr. Seuss Learning Library” titles for iOS, Android, and other devices. Earlier round-ups of Seuss apps have included Happy Birthday Dr. Seuss! and The “Very Serious” Nonsense of Dr. Seuss. And FYI, the Dr. Seuss Camera – Happy Birthday to You! Edition is still free, if you would like to create a few birthday cards in his honor. This year we report on three apps.

camel 2The Cat in the Hat is at it again—this time with Dick and Sally on an adventure to discover: Is a Camel a Mammal? (Oceanside Media, iOS $5.99; PreS-Gr 2). The app is an interactive version of Tish Rabe’s book by the same title (Random, 1999) in the “Dr. Seuss Learning Library” series. The rhyming text includes bits of information about a variety of mammals both large and small from elephants to pygmy shrews, including where they live, what they eat, and how they move.

The app’s interactive features are mostly language-based; viewers can tap on any word in bold to learn its meaning, or touch a picture to see its label appear and hear it voiced. A tap to an image of Seuss’s Thing 1 or Thing 2 characters will provide additional facts.

The home screen offers “Read to Me” and “Read It Myself” options. The narration provided is exuberant and humorous, suited to Seuss’s lyrical text. Users may also choose to record their own voice. Sound effects can be heard throughout the production: lions roaring, elephant trumpeting, mice squeaking, and so forth. While this app doesn’t contain many added features, fans of The Cat in the Hat will gravitate to this book-based app.–Stephanie Rivera, Naperville Public Library

Screen from 'Why Oh Why Are Deserts Dry" (Oceanhouse Media) Ruiz & Mathieu

Screen from ‘Why Oh Why Are Deserts Dry” (Oceanhouse Media) Ruiz & Mathieu

In addition to answering the question Why Oh Why are Deserts Dry? (Oceanhouse Media, iOS $3.99; PreS-Gr 2) Tish Rabe’s story app, based on her book by the same title (Random, 2011), and featuring familiar Seuss characters, quickly dispels the notion that deserts are only hot, empty, and bare places.Rather, while their climates are harsh, they are ecosystems where many animals and plants thrive, and in some cases, snow falls. Desert denizens—from honeypot ants and Gila woodpeckers to vultures and kangaroos—and how they regulate their body temperature, find food, and avoid predators is explained  through an accessible text and animated graphics and other visuals by Aristed Ruiz and Joe Mathieu. Information on plants offers facts on root and storage systems. In addition, individual deserts, including the Namib, Sahara, Mojave, and Gobi, and the creatures and weather particular to each, are considered along with how dunes are formed and what an oasis is, among other topics. Animated details such as how the sandgrouse finds and offers water to its offspring will delight viewers. Several reading and listening modes are provided as well as recording option. An accessible intro to ecosystems packed with information.—Daryl Grabarek, School Library Journal 

kingExploring the themes of “work hard, play hard,” The King’s Stilts (Oceanhouse Media, iOS $4.99; Android, $4.99; PreS-Gr 4) is one of Seuss’s earliest stories (Random, 1939), and one of few the author wrote in narrative form. John Bell’s expressive narration captures the Seuss’s trademark cadence and flow with a lively pace in this story.

App operation is straightforward with options to “Read to Me,” “Read it Myself,” or “Auto Play.” Original illustrations in Seuss’s familiar black, white, and red style appear side-by-side with the text. Children can tap on individual words to hear them spoken aloud or tap on pictures to showcase new vocabulary. Personal narrations can be recorded.

This long-playing story will appeal to older preschoolers and elementary children, and may revive this classic story for a new generation.—Deborah Cooper, Savona Free Library, Savona NY

For additional app reviews visit our Touch and Go webpage.

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