School Library Journal The world's largest reviewer of books, multimedia, and technology for children and teens Fri, 27 May 2016 17:55:55 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Macmillan Fall 2016 Preview Puts Back-to-Cool Creativity on Display Fri, 27 May 2016 17:41:03 +0000  


Everyone please take a moment to admire the playing card sculptures created for Macmillan’s fall 2016 preview by Summer Ogata, inspired by Heartless, Marissa Meyer’s new look at Alice in Wonderland’s tyrannical Red Queen. Lewis Carroll’s classic was not the only old favorite revisited on their upcoming list. Some date back even earlier. Like, to the beginning of the world. Paul Fleischman and Julie Paschkis, creators of Glass Slipper, Gold Sandal have teamed up again for First Light, First Life: A Worldwide Creation Story, combining origin-of-the-world stories from around the globe into one fluid narrative.

A slew of picture book titles feature the classic trope of making new friends—with a cross-species twist. For very young readers, Julie Fogliano and Chris Raschka offer Old Dog Baby Baby, an expressive, repetitious look at the relationship between the title characters. In Gabriel Alborozo’s retro-styled The Mouse and the Moon, a lonely mouse and fish begin a conversation, each believing the other is the moon. In Little Bot and Sparrow, Jake Parker explores migration and separation from friends. And Tony Johnston’s A Small Thing . . . but Big proves, in the words of editor Neal Porter, “the least creepy book about a little girl and an old man in a park that you’ll ever read.” In it, a dog named Cecile anchors a friendship between her child-averse owner and a shy girl.

Connie Hsu of Roaring Brook Press present Little Bot and Sparrow.

Connie Hsu of Roaring Brook Press presents Little Bot and Sparrow.

Old and new favorite creators return as well. Jerry Pinkney provides the warm, precise illustrations for Richard Jackson’s In Plain Sight, a gentle tale of a grandfather and granddaughter playing I Spy. April Pulley Sayre and Steve Jenkins pair up for another rhyming informational text, Squirrels Leap, Squirrels Sleep, loaded with back matter and Jenkins’ signature cut-paper images. Kelly DiPucchio delivers two potential crowd-pleasers. Fans of Everyone Loves Bacon will flip for the companion, Everyone Loves Cupcake, about an overeager baked good. In Dragon Was Terrible, Greg Pizzoli’s bold illustrations depict a dragon behaving suspiciously like a tantruming toddler. Mike Curato, whose earnest elephant Elliott won hearts in two previous books, explores Brooklyn’s iconic Coney Island in Little Elliott, Big Fun.

Readers longing for more adventure may enjoy Nilah Magruder’s How to Find a Fox, in which a girl armed with a camera tromps around seeking a wildlife encounter. Trevor Lai’s Tomo Explores the World kicks off a STEM-filled picture book series about a child inventor who wants to be the first to break away from the family business, fishing.

Neal Porter of Roaring Brook Press showing off the four-page fold-out illustration from Giant Squid.

Neal Porter of Roaring Brook Press showing off the four-page fold-out illustration from Giant Squid.

The STEM-infused stories continue for slightly older readers. Jacqueline Kelly begins an elementary chapter book series, “Calpurnia Tate, Girl Vet” with Skunked!, featuring Cal and her younger brother, Travis, rescuing wildlife. Candace Fleming and Eric Rohmann team up for Giant Squid, a lyrical nonfiction treatment of the mysterious creature, paired with cinematic illustrations in oils. First Second, Macmillan’s graphic novel imprint, debuts a projected 18-book “Science Comics” series covering topics such as volcanoes and coral reefs. If you prefer the absurd to the real world, Marcie Colleen’s Super Happy Party Bears frolic full-color in the Grumpy Woods while John Himmelman returns with Bunjitsu Bunny Jumps to the Moon.


In the Shadow of Liberty: The Hidden History of Slavery, Four Presidents, and Five Black Lives by Kenneth C. Davis combines several sought-after nonfiction features—thorough research, reflection on the omissions of traditional history, and diversification of American stories—in presenting the lives of five people enslaved by founding fathers. Spunky white girls abound, though, on much of the middle grade list. The main character in Kate Beasley’s Gertie’s Leap to Greatness has garnered comparisons to Ramona Quimby and Clementine. Barbara O’Connor applies her talent for small town resilience to a girl-and-dog story titled Wish. The Wolf Keepers marks Elise Broach’s first standalone novel since 2008 and melds history, mystery, and suspense when a zookeeper’s daughter and a runaway get lost in Yosemite National Park. Consider pairing it with James Preller’s The Courage Test, which incorporates the history of Lewis and Clark into a father-son road trip.

Janet Tashjian (“My Life As . . .series) brings some fantastical diversity to the list with Sticker Girl, featuring Martina Rivera and her magical sticker collection. Ben Hatke’s latest graphic novel, Mighty Jack, reimagines Jack and the Beanstalk in rural America (and in the same universe as Zita the Spacegirl—rejoice!). Things get stranger in Patrick Griffin’s Last Breakfast on Earth by Ned Rust, a former James Patterson coauthor, whom editors compared to Kurt Vonnegut and Douglas Adams. Classic children’s literature alert! Ann M. Martin has collaborated with Annie Parnell, Betty MacDonald’s great-granddaughter, for Missy Piggle-Wiggle and the Whatever Cure in which the child-whisperer’s niece moves into the upside-down house in a (slightly) more modern town

A high-concept premise allows for reflection in YA debut Into White. Randi Pink imagines the experience of a black teen who finds herself turned into a blond, white girl at her mostly white high school. In Nicole McInnes’s 100 Days, three narrators reconfigure their friendships in the face of one girl’s rapid aging disease. Kristin Elizabeth Clark (Freakboy) adopts a lighter tone with her second novel, Jess, Chunk, and the Road Trip to Infinity, featuring a trans teen on a Paper Towns-style quest. Kami Garcia goes on supernatural hiatus with The Lovely Reckless, her first contemporary romance, set in an underserved school in a DC suburb.

Grieve not, fantasy readers. Leigh Bardugo offers Crooked Kingdom, the sequel to Six of Crows, and Mary Pearson concludes The Remnant Chronicles with The Beauty of Darkness. The aforementioned Heartless imagines the Red Queen as an ambitious teenager. For fans of grim wasteland dystopia, Flashfall by Jenny Moyers combines mining, radiation, and mutant creatures; fans of shiny tech dystopia should consider The Ones by Daniel Sweren-Becker, exploring the consequences of allowing, then banning, genetic engineering.

Sometimes, real life feels cataclysmic enough. In Blood Red, Snow White, Printz Award darling Marcus Sedgwick fictionalizes the life of Arthur Ransome (Swallows and Amazons), who worked as a journalist in Russia during the revolution and engaged in a love affair with Trotsky’s secretary. Maybe the Red Queen should take a look?









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Six IL High Schools to Use Library App Created by Local Teen Fri, 27 May 2016 16:36:18 +0000 Located in Arlington Heights, IL, John Hersey High School is one of six high schools in Township HS District 214. The district has 12,000 students and is located in the northwest suburbs of Chicago. After an iPad pilot phase, all schools were fully implemented this year as 1:1 iPad schools.

While this was great, a solution was still needed to make resources more readily available to staff and students. Shouldn’t it be possible, I wondered, to put all of the district’s library resources in a single iOS app?

High school senior Blake Spoerry

High school senior Blake Spoerry

The district’s entry level programming class, partnered with Mobile Makers LLC, includes an introduction to app development. So I approached the teacher, Bob Brown, this past fall and asked about the development of a library app. Brown identified a student, Blake Spoerry, who had taken every computer course offered at our high school. Meeting on a daily basis, they worked out together what, ideally, the app would do.

Beginning with a process called storyboarding, Spoerry determined how the app would navigate through all the library resources. He created the user interface to be as clear and concise as possible. Once the planning was completed, he began coding. The app itself was created using Apple’s Xcode software and the code was written in Apple’s programming language, Swift.

With my help, Spoerry made sure that complete information for each of the many library resources was gathered. He then tackled the login process. Using EZproxy, the app authenticates whether or not the user is in District 214. If the credentials provided are correct, the app allows the user full access to all of the district resources. After about five months of planning and coding (and re-coding and re-planning), Spoerry’s app, LibraryXs (pronounced library access), was born.

“Let’s say a student needed to do a research project. Well, with just a one-time login through the app, you can access the entire school’s database for any subject without having to log on multiple times or search through pages on the school website,” explains Spoerry. “It lets you choose the school you attend to load that specific school’s resources and interface.”

Overdrive, Flipster, Schoology, Gale PowerSearch and many other resources are all available with a single sign-on. The library has subscriptions to our local newspapers, which the students can now use without needing to know the various log-ins. Our school newspaper is included, and plans are in place to make our daily announcements available through the app as well.

Almost every resource in LibraryXs contains a help button that provides a description of what the resource covers, making it easy for students to find what they need to complete any research project. LibraryXs also contains a file structure allowing each subject matter its own directory for ease of navigation. Once a resource is found to be relevant to a current project, the app includes functionality to push files to Notability and other apps. This way, teachers can share an article with students, while students can save information found on multiple sources into a single place.

For staff, the app allows access to the school management system, email, and learning management accounts. If an app is not yet installed on the iPad, LibraryXs even takes the user to the app store to be downloaded.

Hersey High School juniors are currently beta testing the app. We plan to have LibraryXs on all District 214 iPads for the 2016-17 school year. With access to resources made easier, we, obviously, hope for an increase in usage.

Right up until his graduation day on June 7, Spoerry will be refining his app. He plans to study computer science at Harper College in Palatine, IL. He has begun the process of creating his own small business in order to work with other school districts on their own versions of LibraryXs.


Katie Alexander is head librarian and divisional technology coach at John Hersey High School in Arlington Heights, IL.

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Video of the Week: ‘Hamilton’ Meets High School Neuroscience Fri, 27 May 2016 16:05:52 +0000 Check it out, Lin-Manuel Miranda: Hamilton meets brain science in this rap video/physics project by student Lauren Michels. “Synapses,” “dopamine,” and “nuclear fusion” never sounded so catchy in “Mental Abnormalities,” the high-schooler’s adaptation of the hit musical’s opening number, “Alexander Hamilton.”

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This Is Not a Picture Book by Sergio Ruzzier | SLJ Review Fri, 27 May 2016 13:00:47 +0000 Ruzzier, Sergio. This Is Not a Picture Book. illus. by Sergio Ruzzier. 40p. Chronicle. May 2016. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781452129075. 

PreS-Gr 2 –In this winsome examination of the power of words, a little duckling is delighted to find a red book lying on the ground. “Where are the pictures?!” the fuzzy yellow bird exclaims in dismay upon opening it up. The duck flips through the pages, scanning the plethora of print, and begins to recognize some [...]]]> redstarRuzzier, Sergio. This Is Not a Picture Book. illus. by Sergio Ruzzier. 40p. Chronicle. May 2016. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781452129075. This Is Not a Picture Book

PreS-Gr 2 –In this winsome examination of the power of words, a little duckling is delighted to find a red book lying on the ground. “Where are the pictures?!” the fuzzy yellow bird exclaims in dismay upon opening it up. The duck flips through the pages, scanning the plethora of print, and begins to recognize some of the words. His interest and enthusiasm flourish as he continues, reading words that are funny and sad, wild and peaceful. His imagination takes off, and along with his tiny cricket friend, the duckling is swept away on a fantastic adventure. He tells the little insect, “All these words carry you away…and then…they bring you home.” The straightforward tale is enhanced by endpapers featuring lines of text, which are jumbled in the front and placed in order to relate the duck’s story in the back. The eclectic pen, ink, and watercolor illustrations add color and energy to the narrative. At first, the pictures are set against a canvas of white space and then slowly expand as the duck begins to envision scenes with each additional word he reads. One of the final spreads portrays the duck and his friend safe at home in his bedroom, which contains a shelf crammed with books. VERDICT This sweet title effectively demonstrates the magic of reading and the power of imagination. Recommended for all collections.–Linda L. Walkins, Saint Joseph Preparatory High School, Boston

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

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How Remix Culture Informs Student Writing & Creativity Thu, 26 May 2016 15:19:21 +0000

Let’s get something out of the way: pretty much anything you or your students are making is a remix. Most often remixing is associated with music (usually hip hop and electronica). However, popular rappers and producers are far from the only people who get to take an existing work and transform it into something wholly new. As the title of a popular web series suggests, Everything Is a Remix.

Writing is also an important, accessible way that young people are remixing today: from fan fiction based on their favorite author’s worlds to retelling of a popular story from a new perspective—on a vlog, podcast, or on paper—remixing is, intentionally or not, part of the process. While this opens an abundance of creative avenues for students, it also allows educators and librarians to study and challenge what changes through remix—and how identities are re-shaped.

For simplicity, I’m using the word remix here to describe the process of making something new from preexisting materials. Be it a novelist’s creative worlds and characters spun anew, a track of music that’s altered, or a work of art changed physically or digitally, remix is the foundation for much of what we read, watch, play, and listen to today. There are a few fundamental questions we should be asking alongside youth: What kinds of power implications tie into remixing? How it is changing our relationships with media and each other? We are overdue for a dialogue about why understanding remix culture is so important for teachers, librarians, and communities.


A culture of remix, starting with music

In the halcyon days of social networking—the late 1990s and early 2000s—remix was something of a fringe culture: individuals with the savvy and time to utilize digital technologies could share in UseNet groups. Theirs were remixes and compositions spliced from others’ work that highlighted technical expertise. To be clear, remixing was popular in music and film production long before the Internet, and musicians often release unofficial “mixtapes” today, even if they are never offered on physical media (let alone a cassette). A hip-hop mixtape often finds a rapper sharing rhymes over popular beats already on commercial airwaves. Building on this culture of passing around songs that blended preexisting music with new rhymes, mixtapes allow musicians to share new music that may not be sold commercially.

R&B musician Erykah Badu, for example, released a mixtape in 2015 called But You Caint Use My Phone. In addition to playful allusions to her own previous work, the tape included a remix of Drake’s massive summer hit “Hotline Bling.” Badu’s version, “Cel U Lar Device,” changes the timing and rhythm of the original chorus and moves the song into a fresh category. The success of “Hotline Bling” could arguably be found, partly at least, in its playful sampling of Timmy Thomas’s 1973 track “Why Can’t We Live Together”: Badu’s is a remix of a remix. Likewise, Chance the Rapper’s first mixtape, 10 Day, has him spewing verbal gymnastics over the Balkan-inspired harmonies of indie band Beirut, in his song “Long Time II.” Such musical choices, while creating something new, is part of the power of remix culture.

When the tools for composition aren’t simply instruments, lexicons, and paints, but creative works, the entire premise of what counts as composition is upended. The soul classics I grew up with, the furry-footed denizens of Middle Earth that I read about as an adolescent, the politically charged artwork I studied in school: all of these are now building blocks for my own thinking. Like nesting matryoshka dolls, remixing offers brain-twistingly complex means of understanding the world around us. It’s everywhere.

If remix is such a ubiquitous part of youth culture, why bother talking about it? Because we must think critically about who’s implicated in the remixed messages our students consume and create. We have to understand what youth are doing in these powerful forms of learning, production, and communication, and offer context for the remix tributaries flowing through social media, the radio, books, and marketing. Sarah Schmelling’s book Ophelia Joined the Group Maidens Who Don’t Float (Plume, 2009), for instance, profits from playful remix by imagining classic authors on Facebook. In a corporate example, during a rap-focused feud between Drake and Meek Mill in 2015, the brands Hamburger Helper and White Castle chimed in on Twitter, with White Castle tweeting to Meek Mill, “Maybe beef isn’t your thing.” Hamburger Helper’s own hip-hop mixtape, Watch the Stove, has garnered more than four million plays since April 1.

With the abundance of tools for creating remixes in genres from written word to digital games, the practices of remix are here to stay. It has upset how students interpret media and learn about culture and history. We’re overdue to unpack three fundamental questions about what it means to be a remixer now.

The Lizzie Bennet Diaries vlog is a retelling of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.

The Lizzie Bennet Diaries vlog is a retelling of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.

What’s being remixed?

I know, I know, everything. A remix—by a kid, celebrity, or corporation—can draw further attention to things that are already popular, or use that popularity to gain audience. As a literary example, The Lizzie Bennet Diaries is a modern-day retelling of Pride and Prejudice told in the form of a teen vlog. The Lizzie Bennet Diaries and similar vlog remix projects such as Green Gables Fables modernize classic literature, making it accessible for a new audience and offering opportunities for contrasting viewpoints and ideas. Musically, Badu’s “Cel U Lar Device” added a feminist perspective to Drake’s “Hotline Bling.” Likewise, cover songs on YouTube, fan fiction, and digital art that incorporates photos and iconic images all build off cultural meaning of past work, providing commentary and attracting new audiences.

Critical educators like to view remix as a means of transgressing mainstream media, but I’m not convinced. Sure, anybody with a few simple digital tools can remix and publish their work (and potentially develop a substantive audience). While one refrain of remix culture is that it is allows underdog success stories (anybody can attract an audience), large media conglomerates, from Sony to DreamWorks to Random House, are also extraordinarily savvy at remixing media. That ear worm song that you can’t get out of your head? Perhaps that’s due to a sampled hook and a slick producer paid lavishly to ensure that youth consume.

Remixing is a two-way street. As part of the business-as-usual approach to marketing, it can reinforce traditional, problematic portrayals of women, people of color, and LGBTQI individuals.

There is a bit of a light at the end of this tunnel. Remixing also means that traditional messages and stereotypes can, and should, be inverted. DJ Spooky’s ongoing multimedia project Rebirth of a Nation, for example, is a feature-length remix of D.W. Griffith’s 1915 film Birth of a Nation. Widely regarded as a landmark film in terms of cinematography and filmmaking, Griffith’s film also celebrates America’s racism. DJ Spooky’s digital remix forces viewers to confront a legacy of racism that persists today and contextualizes Griffith’s work through hip hop, video, and digital culture. Remix can turn troubling messages to offer analysis and reinterpretation. It can also involve primary sources that may be offensive and triggering for some audiences—a fraught process in terms of the images, sounds, language, and ideas conveyed.

How do we remix?

The conversation around fair use and appropriation is complex. Copyright laws are increasingly restrictive in ways that suppress an open culture. Lawrence Lessig, a lawyer, author, and proponent of looser copyright restrictions, offers an important insight into how new production is being suppressed by large companies and their lobbyists.

Mozilla’s Webmaker and media tools are a great place for youth and educators alike to practice remix skills and better understand production, ownership, and sharing practices. As educators, we must foster understanding of fair use and how copyright laws prevent the public from engaging in democratizing remix. One easy way to guide such practices with youth could be to have them retell a fairy tale such as “Cinderella” or “Goldilocks” from a new point of view (see “Strategize: Great Ideas for Library Writing Programs”) to see that the characters and ideas of the story are ripe for remix—and that utilizing passages of published versions of these stories could cause copyright concerns.

Why remix?

Though artistic expression is often the initial impulse for remix—we are a culture that likes to make things, after all—we make deliberate choices about what we remix, be those grounded in what is familiar (“Hotline Bling”) or troubling (Birth of a Nation).

We must encourage students to consider remixing more than surface-level content. Race, gender, sexuality–the texture of our individual identities–should be a focus for why we remix. It can be a critical consciousness-raising activity, but we need to offer support. Looking at the Tumblr community’s remixes of Hermione from the “Harry Potter” series as a black character (long before a black actress was cast in the forthcoming Harry Potter and the Cursed Child) illustrates how individuals are allowed to see themselves in remixes. Likewise, online fan fiction and video remixes of Star Wars: The Force Awakens casting rebel pilot Poe and reformed storm trooper Finn in a romantic relationship offer a counter-narrative to the heteronormative assumptions most viewers make of the film. Remixing can be a liberatory act.

Case in point: crossing the boundaries of music, theater, history, and literature, the smash hit musical Hamilton (see “Teaching with Hamilton”) is a hip hop-influenced musical that retells and remixes the story of an American founding father. Written by Lin-Manuel Miranda, Hamilton and its nearly all-black and Latino cast illustrates contemporary messages that ours is a nation built by (and for) immigrants. Meanwhile, the music makes numerous nods to hip-hop history and its own founding fathers. A memorable moment in the play is the song “The Ten Duel Commandments,” a playful nod to Notorious B.I.G.’s famous “Ten Crack Commandments.” The show has resonated with educators—as well as teens and kids posting covers and adaptions on YouTube. Related remixes also abound online, including annotations of the lyrics on (some by Miranda).

Cycles of remix

“You could find the Abstract listening to hip hop,
My pops used to say,
It reminded him of be-bop
I said, ‘Well daddy don’t you know that things go in cycles.’ ”

      —“Excursions,” Tribe Called Quest, 1991

Over a propulsive bass line remixed from 1973’s “A Chant for Bu” by Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers, the hip-hop group Tribe Called Quest rapped one of the most definitive statements about remix culture and artistic lineage. In my discussions with teachers, I’ve looked at how the statement reflects that of poet T.S. Eliot:

“We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.”

      —“Little Gidding,” 1943

Remix is about participating in a dialogue linking creators and producers and challenging these binary roles. It’s been going on long before the first MP3 was chopped up in Garage Band—and before a tape was dubbed on a cassette deck. It is how we challenge the status quo and forge new pathways for critical expression as we move further into a society enmeshed in the remixing of the past.

Antero Garcia is an assistant professor at Colorado State University.

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CHOMP On This App | Touch and Go Thu, 26 May 2016 13:22:17 +0000 Petting Zooin novelty and engagement. There's now a contender. ]]>  

Christoph Niemann’s Petting Zoo featured 21 whimsical animals, each with the potential to morph into shapes and animations triggered by viewers. At the time, apps were something new for this author/illustrator/graphic designer, who, in a New Yorker article “The Story of My App, documented his path from artist with an inspiration to app creator who learned how “insanely difficult” it was to make the product he wanted. Petting Zoo was a huge success, no surprise given Niemann’s talent. It was hard to imagine another app that would rival the novelty and engagement of Zoo anytime soon. Well, there’s now a contender, and it’s titled CHOMP.

Christoph Niemann’s latest production, CHOMP (Fox and Sheep GmbH, iOS, $2.99; Android, PreS Up) is designed for children, but one that teens and adults will find as much fun—and as addictive—as youngsters.

The interface is simple and easy to navigate. Niemann has provided approximately 60 hand-drawn, clever templates, each featuring a cut-out paired with an amusing animation. Users position the device’s camera so that a face appears in the cut-out—either theirs or another person’s. By tapping the screen an animation will begin. For example, with faces in place, a drummer plays a set; a strongman, dripping with perspiration, lifts weights; a musician belts out a tune on a saxophone; a faucet drips a photo; the head of a robot springs a gasket, and a shark chases a swimmer around and around in the water, then dances on his or her head.

Christoph Niemann's CHOMP

Christoph Niemann’s CHOMP (Fox & Sheep GmbH/Jon Huang)

Children can move from template to template by swiping and viewing themselves in each drawing, or can create a video of the action with or without audio. Videos can be saved to the device and/or shared on social media.

One of the most winning features of the app is that children can play with on their own or with a group of friends, creating silly animated selfies or a gallery of pictures. Its ease of use and high fun factor will make CHOMP in high demand in programming and perfect for makerspaces. A trailer is available.–Elizabeth Kahn, Patrick F. Taylor Science & Technology Academy, Avondale, LA


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Princeless: Save Yourself! Deluxe Edition by Jeremy Whitley | SLJ Review Thu, 26 May 2016 13:00:07 +0000 Whitley, Jeremy. Princeless: Save Yourself! Deluxe Edition. illus. by M. Goodwin. 168p. (Princeless: Bk. 1). Action Lab. Feb. 2016. Tr $24.99. ISBN 9781632291202.

Gr 4-7 –Princess Adrienne is no hero’s fair maiden, and she is not afraid to say so! She’s the seventh daughter whom her father, the king, has stranded in a tower (his goal is to lure a prince worthy to rule the kingdom of Ashland). Prince after prince has tried to rescue Adrienne, [...]]]> redstarWhitley, Jeremy. Princeless: Save Yourself! Deluxe Edition. illus. by M. Goodwin. 168p. (Princeless: Bk. 1). Action Lab. Feb. 2016. Tr $24.99. ISBN 9781632291202.EXP-GN-Whitley-Princeless

Gr 4-7 –Princess Adrienne is no hero’s fair maiden, and she is not afraid to say so! She’s the seventh daughter whom her father, the king, has stranded in a tower (his goal is to lure a prince worthy to rule the kingdom of Ashland). Prince after prince has tried to rescue Adrienne, and after Prince Wilcome’s failed attempt, she decides to save herself. Along with her protector dragon, Adrienne decides to save her sisters, but their first mission is to find some armor. Blacksmith Bedelia Smith joins their group with her armor-for-ladies collection, and the princess also lets her brother, Prince Devin, in on her plan. After his failed rescue attempt, the very charming Prince Wilcome is banished to the palace’s dungeon, but he doesn’t bargain on Shadira the elf tricking him into helping her escape. This volume includes the first four issues of the dynamic and female-empowering comic book series. Princess Adrienne is a strong woman of color, and she talks about her femininity in a fresh and fierce new way. Other characters are drawn well, and the side stories of Bedelia Smith, Prince Wilcome, and Prince Devin are engaging. On the whole, the series feels current and skewers well-known tropes. VERDICT Princess Adrienne is not to be missed! Recommended for all middle grade graphic novel collections.–Morgan Brickey, Arlington Public Library, TX

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

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Schools Partner with OverDrive to Offer Books 24/7 in June Wed, 25 May 2016 19:41:55 +0000 OverDriveLogoColorDigital distribution platform OverDrive has partnered with schools in all 50 states and parts of Canada for a summer reading program. For the month of June, students can borrow and read from a collection of interactive juvenile fiction and award-winning YA ebooks

See the full press release below.


OverDrive Summer Read Program Keeps Kids Reading This Summer

Schools across the U.S. and Canada partner with OverDrive to deliver eBooks available 24/7, anywhere

CLEVELAND — May 23, 2016 – Summer is approaching, and a break from school shouldn’t be an excuse to take a break from learning. More than 1,700 schools in all 50 U.S. states and six provinces in Canada have partnered with OverDrive for a unique summer reading program to help students improve their language skills while having fun in the sun – because it’s a digital program. For the month of June, these schools will offer the OverDrive Summer Read program in which students can borrow and read from a collection of popular, interactive Juvenile Fiction and award-winning Young Adult eBooks.

Access to the Summer Read collection – unlike the school buildings – is 24/7, on virtually any device including Chromebook, iPad and Kindle (US only), with a valid student ID. Schools in the U.S. and Canada that utilize the OverDrive platform during the school year for eBooks and audiobooks are eligible to participate.

“A large part of summer break ends up being spent in the car on vacations or traveling around doing errands,” said Christina Samek, Summer Read project coordinator, OverDrive Education. “OverDrive’s Summer Read program gives kids digital access to take the books with them anytime and anywhere. From Read-Along books for younger readers to mystery and suspense for the teen or young adult, summer is the perfect opportunity to help all students continue the joys of reading.”

OverDrive’s Summer Read program includes a Juvenile collection of eBooks that will introduce younger readers to siblings with super powers in Justice and Her Brothers, an outcast alien in Tales of an Alien InvaderThe Perfect Summer where a group of kids are having the summer of their lives and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Green vs. Mean Read-Along. The Young Adult collection provides great reads for middle and high school students. They’ll get swept up in a ghostly mystery in Paranormal Properties, get introduced to the Spy Goddess Series and encounter a streetwise smart-aleck just trying to fit in, survive a world on fire with The New Wild and search for answers with a teenage secret agent, They Call Me Alexandra Gastone.

Parents can help keep children’s minds active while they’re away from the classroom. The Summer Read program eBooks are enabled by OverDrive’s industry-leading technology and are easily accessible via the industry’s highest-rated app and on all major eReading devices, computers, tablets and smartphones, including iPad®, Chromebook™ and Kindle® (U.S. only). The Summer Read program is a month-long program that is being provided for free to participating schools through the generosity of participating publishers, Nickelodeon Publishing, Open Road Media, Full Fathom Five Digital, Pants on Fire Press and Brown Girls Publishing. Students can borrow any of the books in the collection with unlimited access during the program.

To get started reading visit your school’s OverDrive digital library.

About OverDrive

OverDrive is the leading digital distribution platform, supplying the industry’s largest catalog of eBooks, audiobooks, streaming video and periodicals to 34,000 libraries, schools and retailers worldwide. We support all major computers and devices, including iOS®, Android™, Chromebook™ and Kindle® (U.S. only). OverDrive delivers all digital media on a single platform, and offers innovations such as OverDrive Read, the breakthrough EPUB and HTML5 browser-based reading experience, and Read-Along eBooks. Founded in 1986, OverDrive is based in Cleveland, Ohio USA and is owned by Tokyo-based Rakuten. For more information, visit or follow us on FacebookTwitterPinterest and our blog.


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Making the Transition: Spanish-Language and Latin@-Focused Beginning Readers and Chapter Books Wed, 25 May 2016 13:00:14 +0000 1605-Libro-JUANALUCAS_copyrighted

While attending the International Book Fair in Guadalajara, Mexico, I happened upon a children’s storytelling program. A large group of schoolchildren sat in rapt attention listening to a storyteller from Spain. The story he was telling sounded familiar, and I realized that it was from Arnold Lobel’s Mouse Tales. Lobel’s work often has the feel of emerging whole cloth from the oral tradition. What is even more remarkable is what Lobel achieved within the limitations of the vocabulary required by the beginning reader format. Beginning readers and early chapter books are essential in the development of children’s literacy. Their short chapters and simple vocabulary help young readers to feel successful and confident in their reading, which is key to helping them become lifelong readers.

There are many classic beginning readers available in Spanish—either translations of works by masters like Lobel and Else Minarik or titles by Latin@ authors like Lulu Delacre.

1605-Libro-CVs-1Beginning Readers

BOLAÑOS, Roberto Gómez. El Chavo: La carrera de autos/The Car Race. adapt. by Samantha Brooke. tr. from English by Juan Pablo Lombano. Scholastic. 2014. pap $3.99. ISBN 9780545722933.
Gr 1-3 This beginning reader, based on El Chavo del Ocho, a culturally significant live-action series in Mexico, will be beloved by families who have grown up with the iconic character. Created by Bolaños, the television series follows the adventures of a little orphan, El Chavo, and his friends in a Mexican low-income housing complex known as La vecinidad. This installment chronicles Chavo’s efforts to build a soapbox-style car for a race. The work stands alone as a satisfying narrative and provides a cultural connection for the audience.

CAPUCILLI, Alyssa Satin. Bizcocho encuentra un amigo. illus. by Pat Schories. HarperCollins. 2008. pap. $4.99. ISBN 9780061435263.
PreS-Gr 1 The adorable and popular puppy character transcends cultures, and this story of his unlikely friendship with a little lost duck shows why. Schories’s illustrations are the very definition of child appeal, and a large part of this series’ success.

DELACRE, Lulu. Rafi and Rosi. ISBN 9780892393770.
––––. Rafi y Rosi. ISBN 9780892393787.
ea vol: illus. by author. Children’s Book Pr. 2016. pap. $8.95.
K-Gr 3 –The spirit of Frog and Toad lives on in Delacre’s “Rafi and Rosi” series. Previously published by HarperCollins in 2004, these titles for emerging readers have just been reissued. These lovely Spanish and English paperback editions feature a charming pair of coqui (tree-frog) siblings having adventures in the Puerto Rican landscape. In fact, the natural flora and fauna of the island is really the star of this book, which begins with the siblings on the beach and Rafi attempting a magic trick. In the second of the three vignettes, Rafi takes Rosi to Parguera Bay, where bioluminescent microorganisms glow when they are agitated. The final tale involves mangrove trees and hermit crabs. An author’s note explains more about the plants, animals, and natural phenomena described in the entries. Essential to a good beginning reader is a rhythmic text that makes music out of short sentences, and accessible language. Delacre’s own Spanish translation remains appropriate for the audience because it has a rhythm of its own. The colorful illustrations wrap in, under, and around the text, interacting with the story on a visual level.

DELACRE, Lulu. Rafi and Rosie Carnival! ISBN 9780892393794.
––––.Rafi y rosi ¡Carnaval! ISBN 9780 892393800.
ea vol: illus. by author. Children’s Book Pr. 2016. pap. $8.95.
K-Gr 3 –Where the first “Rafi and Rosi” book celebrated nature, this one centers on celebrations. Rosi finds a princess dress for Carnaval, and Rafi decorates their red wagon to become a float for Princess Rose. The author’s note provides background information on carnival festivities in Puerto Rico and includes instructions for making items that appear in the work, including a periscope and Vejigante mask (Vejigantes are mythical characters portrayed in Puerto Rican festivals such as Carnaval). This is an excellent choice for storytime or other programs that include craft activities, and it lovingly evokes the varied landscapes of the island and the vibrancy of the Carnaval celebration.

1605-Libro-CVs-2DR. SEUSS. Huevos verdes con jamón. tr. from English by Aída Marcuse. illus. by author. Lectorum. 1992. Tr $9.95. ISBN 9781880507018.
K-2– No roundup of early readers can be complete without a discussion of Dr. Seuss, who can lay claim to inventing the format. Seuss’s verse is understandably devilishly difficult to translate, but in this case, Marcuse has succeeded beyond all expectations, maintaining the rhythm and the rhyme while at the same time the joy of language expressed in the original text. Sam I Am becomes Juan Ramón, which is a perfect rhyme for the story’s repeating refrain. Dr. Seuss is for all, as this Spanish translation demonstrates.

LOBEL, Arnold. Historias de ratones. illus. by author. Kalandraka. 2011. Tr $20.95. ISBN 9788484645795.
Gr 1-3 –Framed by a father mouse (who looks suspiciously like Lobel himself) telling bedtime stories—one entry per each of the seven children—Lobel’s gentle mouse bedtime stories have stood the test of time. One of the most memorable tales, “The Journey,” is about a traveling mouse who buys and wears out several pairs of shoes, and then, finally, his feet. No problem, as he is able to purchase new feet from a foot vendor. What is truly important here is the cadence of Lobel’s text, and the meter and rhythm come through in the Spanish translation in fine form. However, this translation comes from Spain, and uses the formal vosotros pronouns. This form is not used in Mexico, or in most of Latin America, so it will not be familiar to many U.S. Spanish speakers. It does add to the timeless feel of Lobel’s work. My experience in Guadalajara taught me that just because a story is written with a limited set of words, it is certainly not exempt from being a strong choice for a storytelling session.

LOBEL, Arnold. Sappy y Sepo, inseparables. illus. by author. Alfaguara. 2000. pap. $8.95. ISBN 9789681910259.
Gr 1-3 A Spanish translation of what is perhaps my favorite of the “Frog and Toad” books—Frog and Toad Together. The chapters in this work include, “The Garden,” in which Toad reads, sings to, and recites poetry to his seeds in order to make them grow. In “Cookies” (translated as pastas—Spanish for pastry or dough), Frog and Toad engage in a test of wills to see how they can keep themselves from eating the treats. As in the translation of Mouse Tales, this title uses the formal Spanish, but regardless, Lobel’s gentle text is translated in a way that any Spanish speaker will understand. This is a good title for beginning readers because of the universality of the feelings with which Frog and Toad have to grapple, whether it be jealousy, impatience, or simply an inability to quash the desire to eat cookies.

MINARIK, Else Holmelund. Osito. illus. by Maurice Sendak. Lectorum. 2016. Tr $19.99. ISBN 9788484648659.
K-3 Lobel was certainly a master of the form of the beginning reader. But Minarik’s absolutely perfect text paired with the art of the legendary Sendak put this book on an even higher plane. Both series are about relationships—Lobel’s is about friends and Minarik’s is about the parent/child bond. Mother Bear takes very good care of Little Bear. She answers his questions, finds him clothes so that he can play in the cold, feeds him hot meals, puts him to bed, and remembers his birthday. What could be more comforting? There is no child, anywhere, regardless of what language they speak, who cannot relate on a basic level to these feelings. Minarik’s spare yet poetic text evokes a forest world of sounds and smells, and the comfort of home. It is accessible yet profound. The storytelling exudes warmth and love. Minarik’s text is a perfect foil for Sendak’s illustrations, which visually conjure the same tender feelings.

1605-Libro-CVs-3Chapter Books

Chapter books, as a step up from beginning readers, provide a more complex vocabulary and sophisticated storytelling. They build confidence as young readers strengthen fluency and feel more invested in plot points and character development. The discovery that reading can transport them mentally and emotionally is critical to developing a lifelong love of reading.

BROWN, Monica. Lola Levine Is Not Mean! 2015. ISBN 9780316258364.
––––. Lola Levine: Drama Queen. 2016. ISBN 9780316258432.
ea vol: illus. by Angela Dominguez. Little, Brown. Tr $15.
Gr 2-5 These two breezy beginning chapter books are short enough not to be daunting, and the language is easy for newly independent readers with burgeoning skills. But even better than that, these two titles present a bilingual/bicultural heroine who is intelligent and spirited—and who is Jewish and Peruvian. Lola Levine exhibits her love for her dual heritage wearing her traditional Peruvian hat with flaps over the ears, and closing her diary entries and letters using the word shalom. In Lola Levine Is Not Mean!, Lola has to deal with an incident in which her competitive enthusiasm in a soccer game gets the better of her, and she ends up accidentally injuring a classmate—hence the “mean” moniker. In Drama Queen, Lola has to deal with the humiliation of getting the nonspeaking role of Squirrel #2 in the school play. Brown creates a very strong first-person voice, and she doesn’t compromise the intelligence of her writing with the need for a simple vocabulary. Snippets of Spanish dialogue and cultural references are the icing on the cake.

JULES, Jacqueline. Zapato Power: Freddie Ramos Stomps the Snow. illus. by Miguel Benítez. Albert Whitman. 2014. pap. $4.99. ISBN 9780807594964.
Gr 1-3 –Freddie Ramos is a young Latino who happens to have the advantage of superpowered shoes made for him by Mr. Vaslov, the super for his apartment complex. These sneakers turn the owner into a superhero who can run incredibly fast. Freddie uses his zapato power to find puppies, shovel snow for his neighbors, and in the case of this latest book, solve a mystery. A snowstorm and a power outage has sent the people in Freddie’s barrio to a school for shelter. When someone steals an old lady’s purse with her rent money, it’s Freddie’s special abilities that help bring the thief to justice. Freddie also gets special zapato-powered snow shoes in this latest installment. With a likable hero, this is a fun read that will especially entice reluctant readers.

MEDINA, Juana. Juana and Lucas. illus. by author. Candlewick. Sept. 2016. Tr $14.99. ISBN 9780763672089.
K-Gr 3– Juana lives in Bogotá, Colombia with her dog, Lucas. In a strong first-person narrative, Juana introduces herself, her likes (Brussels sprouts), and intense dislikes (her school uniform). Conflict arises when Juana is forced to learn “the English” at school, which she neither needs nor wants to do until given an incentive involving travel to the United States by her father. Spanish words and phrases are used throughout, but in a context that makes it easy for English-speaking readers to understand what they mean. What really distinguishes this book is the outstanding design and use of the author’s illustrations, which are perfectly integrated with Juana’s voice and storytelling style. Juana and Lucas is a delightful surprise, and introduces characters who readers will be looking forward to reading about in further installments. This book seems bound for glory at awards season, and deservedly so.

SIEGAL, Ida. Emma Is on the Air: Big News! illus. by Karla Peña. Scholastic. 2015. pap. $4.99. ISBN 9780545686921.
Gr 2-4 –Real-life reporter Siegal has made a splash with this new chapter book series based on her own home life (she is married to a Dominican man). Emma Perez is a part-Dominican girl who wants to be a famous TV news reporter. She enlists the help of her father, a print reporter, to find a story that people should know about. When her friend Javier finds a worm in his hamburger at school lunch, she knows she’s found a big scoop. Emma immediately starts interviewing witnesses—on cell phone camera—trying to figure out “whodunit.” Siegal has stated that she made her character Dominican because she realized there is a dearth of books with multicultural characters, and because her daughter is half-Dominican. Spanish words and phrases are sprinkled throughout the text with plenty of context. The story presents Emma as more of a detective than a reporter. This is an entertaining wish-fulfillment title with a role model for young Latinas and bicultural children.

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United States Encyclopedia: People, Places, and Events | SLJ Review Wed, 25 May 2016 13:00:11 +0000 United States Encyclopedia: People, Places, and Events. 272p. chron. further reading. glossary. index. maps. photos. reprods. websites. National Geographic. Sept. 2016. Tr $24.99. ISBN 9781426320927. 

Gr 4 Up –Every inch of this book is expertly executed. In the first section, “Story of a Nation,” the author explains in a succession of tidy spreads how the United States was shaped socially, politically, and geographically by major forces, such as the arrival of the English in North America. Following this [...]]]> redstarUnited States Encyclopedia: People, Places, and Events. 272p. chron. further reading. glossary. index. maps. photos. reprods. websites. National Geographic. Sept. 2016. Tr $24.99. ISBN 9781426320927. United States Encyclopedia National Geo

Gr 4 Up –Every inch of this book is expertly executed. In the first section, “Story of a Nation,” the author explains in a succession of tidy spreads how the United States was shaped socially, politically, and geographically by major forces, such as the arrival of the English in North America. Following this foundation building, each state is presented in its own gorgeous four-page chapter. In addition to incorporating the expected material regarding state emblems and population stats, the work includes a concise history for each state, an illustrated time line, and a detailed map. The book is packed with facts, all of which are presented in neatly phrased narratives or in bright, eye-catching sidebars. While much of the material presented is of the report-ready, workaday variety—topography, industry, tourist attractions—some details add narrative sparkle. In keeping with National Geographic tradition, the illustrations in this title are first-rate. The bulk of images are full-color photographs. Archival drawings fill in design gaps. VERDICT A first purchase.–Jennifer Prince, Buncombe County Public Libraries, NC

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

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Teens Review Kat Ellis’s “Breaker,” Steampunk, and More Wed, 25 May 2016 12:06:01 +0000 The Picture of Dorian Gray, a historical work set during South Africa's apartheid, and the sequel to Elizabeth May's The Falconer.]]>  

ELLIS, Kat. Breaker. Running Pr. May 2016. pap. $9.95. ISBN 9780762459087.
Gr 8 Up—
It starts out with a good beginning were Kyle beats this guy up for calling his mom. then Kyle gets sent to kill deer academy where he meets a girl named Naomi, whose mom was murdered by Kyle’s dad. Kyle finds out and tries to avoid her but is eventually pulled towards her. This is a great book with great plot twists.

BreakerAt first glance the cover caught my eye and I was intrigued, wondering about the boy and girl on the roof and the owl. When I finished the book I looked at the cover again and it amazed me— it connects perfectly to the book after you’ve read it and intrigues you before you’ve read it. The plot moved fast enough to keep my interest piqued and kept me turning pages but it wasn’t too fast and didn’t overwhelm me. Although, the second chapter introduces quite a bit of characters that were hard to remember at first, but then it gets easier quickly. The only thing that disappointed me was the ending. It was a little abrupt and lacked complete closure.—Jacob H., 17


I thought the cover was good for the small portion I read, but overall I felt the cover was confusing. I guess if you read more, the owl will come in somewhere.

I didn’t read much, but characters were probably the best part in the book. The development had started in the second page but Kyle Henry’s mom was super weird. Being very nonchalant on where your son will be for the next year isn’t a good thing.

I was very disappointed with the book because it jumps all over the place. First you’re in a car, next you’re reading a newspaper. Third, you’re across the country and back again to show up at the new school. The school rules were totally relaxed, and don’t get me started on some of the dialogue. You have whispered “aluminum foil” twice in the last two pages. What are you having? A foil boat race?—Emma B., 14 

DoreenMANASTER, Ilana. Doreen. Running Pr. Jun. 2016. Tr $16.95. ISBN 9780762459629.
Gr 8 Up–
Who knew that your life could change forever with the simple click of a camera? Well definitely not frumpy, disappointing Doreen. This was an exciting novel that just forced you to get lost in the twists and turns of the plot! I did enjoy the mysteriousness of the cover and it definitely made me want to grab this book right away.          I absolutely adored the sudden twists in the plot. Manaster did a fantastic job turning an older classic[The Picture of Dorian Grey] into a new and thrilling young adult novel. The setting was also decent, however I most likely would have gone into a little bit more detail about the bridge and the school, but other than that it was fantastic.

Unfortunately, I was disappointed by a few different aspects of the book. One major aspect that almost caused me to stop reading was how the author formatted chapter changes. It bothered me that all of a sudden we were on a different chapter. There should be some sort of title page for each chapter. Or at least a heading at the top of the page so it doesn’t look like the book just continues. Thank you for allowing me to indulge myself by getting lost in this novel.

I feel that some teens may not enjoy this as much because of the scenes involving “joints” and some scenes that almost got a little too up close and personal with the characters.—Sophia B., 13

Vanishing Throne_final front cover.pdfMAY, Elizabeth. The Vanishing Throne. Chronicle. Jun. 2016. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781452128825.
Gr 8 Up–
In the wake of her failure to keep the fae locked in their prison, Aileana now must face the ruinous world left in its wake. In order to protect her remaining friends, she must unlock her full abilities as a Falconer and secrets even the fae have forgotten.

I really liked the cover. It kept up with the theme of the first book, making it easily recognizable as the next one in the series, but like the book, it tells a story. The first cover portrays a young, fierce heroine holding a dagger poised to strike—a perfect representation of the main character on her hunt for revenge. This one illustrates a battle-worn young woman, her dress in tatters and blade drawn, who has come to terms with the past and is now ready to face whatever the future has to offer.

I loved the concept of the plot from the first book. Full of action in a fantasy/steampunk setting with a spice of vengeance and the fate of the world in the protagonist’s hands. I mean, who isn’t the slightest bit intrigued by that description? Now with the world she once knew completely destroyed, she has to face her most epic failure, and with that acceptance, unlock her full powers.

The most disappointing and most infuriating part was the sudden, abrupt cliff-hanger ending. It has left me yearning in anguish for the final installment of this amazing trilogy. So much so that I fear for my sanity come 2017.—Meghan S., 17

world beneathWARMAN, Janice. The World Beneath. Candlewick. May 2016. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780763678562.
Gr 6 Up–Joshua doesn’t realize that black and white people in South Africa don’t get treated equally until he is hiding a black man wanted by the police.  He is swept up in the riots and has to decide how he wants to fight oppression.

The cover of the book mildly reflects the contents, but is very uninteresting.  The main character of the book doesn’t understand that black people are treated differently until he is hiding a black man wanted by the police.  He faces loss, murder, and fighting.  The cover of the book should reflect his struggles, and be more from his point of view.

The most compelling aspect of the book was that the main character, Joshua, is learning about the struggles for black people along with readers.  It is an interesting point of view to tell the story from.

I was disappointed with the content of this book.  The book was based off of the author’s own experiences in South Africa in 1976.  She lived in a wealthy house with a black servant.  The riots and shootings were all around her.  It seems like the book should be much more heartfelt, and with the original experiences of the author, but it was very generic.  I also didn’t have a strong sense of the time and place of the book.  The story isn’t set too long ago, but you don’t get that impression from the text.  The book should make you think about where black people aren’t treated well today.  It also seems like Joshua should have a broader view of the world in 1976 and been less limited to the neighborhood he lived in.

At one point in the book, Joshua is taken away from his mother and to a training camp for people who want to fight against the oppression of black people.  He doesn’t seem sad, and he seems too willing to be there.  The moments in this book where he has to decide between right and wrong, such as when he is deciding to set a bomb or not, don’t feel very meaningful.       —Olivia. C.,

art of being normalWILLIAMSON, Lisa. The Art of Being Normal. Farrar. May 2016. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780374302375.
Gr 9 Up–
David’s always had one wish in life: to be a girl. So when the mysterious Leo shows up at school one day, David’s life is turned upside down, and he realizes he might actually have the strength to be who he really wants to be.

I liked the cover. It was really colorful and bright, which was nice.

I seriously loved everything about this book. It’s such a good story, and it informs kids of others around them who are dealing with these things. The beginning was a little bit slow, but once it got going, I could hardly set down the book, for every page turn held new secrets I was just dying to figure out.

So many of the different scenes made me feel different emotions, like anger, sadness or happiness, and it was so much fun to read! I loved all the characters, how both David and Leo changed throughout the book, and how all of their struggles made me so sad and angry, but the end made everything seem worth it.

The beginning was a little slow, but beside that, everything was great! Such an amazing book!—Zoe D., 13

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Debut Author Meredith Russo on Trans Teens in YA Lit and “If I Was Your Girl” Wed, 25 May 2016 10:30:48 +0000 If I Was Your Girl, what librarians can do about North Carolina's controversial HB2 law, and the ups and downs of being a published author.]]> If I Was Your GirlIn Meredith Russo’s If I Was Your Girl (May 3, 2016), an SLJ Popular Pick and one of the first books published by Macmillan’s new Flatiron Books imprint, Amanda is the new girl at her high school. She recently moved in with her dad and has caught the eye of sweet Grant, a popular athlete. The teen is trying her best to fit in and hopes her new friends don’t discover her secret–when she was born, she was named Andrew by her parents. With nuance, lyrical flashbacks, and much heart, Russo’s debut tackles the timeless topic of coming-of-age and finding your place in the world through the life of a trans teen.

Were there any misconceptions you wanted to dispel with If I Was Your Girl?

That trans people are inherently dysfunctional or that our lives are inherently tragic, since nearly every story told about us either paints us as (mostly…) benign basket cases or kills us off/traumatizes us so cis characters can learn to appreciate life. I wanted to show people that, yes, Amanda has her tics and rough edges, but only because the world makes her existence hard, not as an inherent function of that existence. I wanted to write a story that shows [how] a trans person can come through their own trials, looking after their own interest, mostly okay.

What made you decide to include flashbacks to Amanda’s life pretransition?

I wasn’t going to originally. I was ambivalent about readers knowing her birth name, and I wanted to focus a story on a trans character’s post-transition life, since that’s something you almost never see. I originally wrote the scenes currently included as flashbacks as writing exercises to try and better understand Amanda, but then it turned out they were too good to throw away, and, I realized, they really help to lay out the stakes for readers—Amanda’s fear of being outed isn’t just abstract with these flashbacks in play, because they are a very real demonstration of what her life was like before Lambertville and what it could go back to. There are some flashbacks that aren’t dark, too, of course. I included those because I want as many printed words describing good things happening to trans kids in the world as possible.

The characters Amanda encounters have a wide range of backgrounds and identities that color their reactions to her. How much of that was drawn from your own experience with people?

If we’re talking about their reactions to her transness, I’ve encountered everything you see in the book. I’ve encountered people who are extremely respectful and supportive at first, only to use it to hurt you when they’re upset with you. I’ve encountered Christians who mean very well and have good hearts but who kind of struggle to mesh their theological beliefs with me. I’ve encountered totally normal, seemingly apolitical people who you’d never expect it from who turn out to be my fiercest defenders. I’ve never been attacked, thankfully, but otherwise, if it’s a thing a cis person says to Amanda about being trans in the book, there’s a good chance it’s been said to me (and most trans women) at some point.

We meet an older trans woman who is important to Amanda. Were there any people or characters in your youth who you looked to for strength or inspiration?

I didn’t have any trans role models because even in the late 1990s/early 2000s, where would I have found one? Unless we were being paraded around as tragedies, horror stories, or jokes, trans lives were still lived largely in the shadows when I was younger. Now that I think about it, I didn’t really have anyone I was capable of aspiring to become or anything like that, because you kind of have to be able to imagine yourself as an adult in the first place to strive for that kind of thing, and that wasn’t something I was capable of. Virginia is the person I wish I had when I was young.

Photo courtesy of the author.

Photo courtesy of the author.

What advice would you give to aspiring writers who identify as transgender?

There’s this terrible, awful line you’re going to have to walk between compromise and marketability. The fact of the matter is that cis audiences are going to be the people buying most of your books, and huge numbers of cis people know so little about us that they’re blown away by The Danish Girl (this is the second interview where I’ve thrown this movie under the bus and it won’t be the last). There are things they aren’t ready for yet (though it’s changing quickly!), but, at the same time, if you do everything you can to appease them, you’ll end up with a book that could have been written by a clueless cis author anyway, so what’s the point? It’s tough to strike that balance, but so incredibly important.

What has been the most exciting part about being a debut author? The most disappointing?

The most exciting thing has been all the new people I’ve gotten to know. I’m friends with people I never would have met (a couple of them idols of mine) because of this book. The most disappointing part is that—and I know this probably sounds sarcastic—a beam of light didn’t carry me away to Narnia or whatever. I woke up the day after my release party with a headache, a mouth that tasted like a foot, bad hair, and work to do. You just did this huge thing, and then life goes on almost like it never happened, like the day after you put away the Christmas tree.

What more can librarians and the publishing community do to fight against the prejudice that drives decisions like the one in North Carolina?

Librarians can do two things. First, make it widely known that your physical building itself is a place of acceptance and respect. Place signs clearly stating that trans people won’t be punished for using the correct bathrooms; prominently feature artwork and decorations celebrating diversity or declaring your stance on these issues. Second, make sure you’re paying attention to LGBT releases and working to put them on your shelves (with a preference for books written by LGBT authors) but, just as important, work hard to make your visitors aware of them.

Publishers can also do two things, besides the bare minimum they should already be doing as employers to protect and respect their LGBT employees. First, if you have two manuscripts about a trans character, one by a cis author and the other by a trans author, buy the one by the trans author (unless it’s garbage, I guess, but only then). If you’re looking for an artist or a model for the cover of your trans book, hire a trans artist or model if you can find one. And so on. Second, I want you to go back and read the advice I gave to aspiring trans writers. Remember how I told them to be ready to compromise? It’s your responsibility to do everything in your power to make sure they’re compromising as little as possible.

What are you working on next?

Two books, one adult, one YA, both about very different trans characters. The YA’s got this magical realism vein going through it that I’m really excited about, and the adult fic’s a nonstop ride of disillusionment and disappointment. Good times all around.


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The Latest and Greatest (Free!) Summer Learning Resources Tue, 24 May 2016 19:46:58 +0000 Summer-reading-HangingPoloroids-r

Summer presents numerous learning opportunities for children and teens—in and outside of the library. For a selection of program ideas, lists of valuable resources and recommended reading, as well as news related to summer learning, click through the links below. Don’t forget to share your own suggestions in the “comments” section. We’ll add updates to our summer learning resources page and keep you posted.


Get Ready for Endless Summer Learning

Sign Up for the Event of the Summer: SLJ TeenLive!

Bright Ideas Abound at YALSA’s Summer Learning Workshop

Three School Library-Based Summer Learning Programs

The Evolution of Summer Reading | Editorial

Libraries Included in Lawmakers’ Summer Learning Proposals

Children’s Book Council Diversity | 2016 Summer Reading List

myOn Launches Summer 2016 Reading Challenge, “Get in the Game and Read!”

ALSC 2016 Summer Reading Lists

Buckle Up! The Best YA Road Trip Books

10 New YA Books to Read This Summer

The Ultimate YA Summer Reading List

Resources for Summer Fiction Reading Lists JLG’s Booktalks to Go



Summer Reading and the Rich/Poor Achievement Gap

Nashville Public Library Reinvents Its Summer Reading Model, Sees Early Success

LRNG Offers Summer Connected Learning Grants

How To Create a Knockout Summer Literacy Program

National Summer Learning Association

SLJ’s Summer Reading Resources 2015 and 2014 are brimming with additional resources. Don’t miss them. Good ideas never go out of style.

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Around the World | Adult Books 4 Teens Tue, 24 May 2016 18:37:48 +0000 Today we take another of our periodic trips around the world, with a group of novels set in four countries that don’t get nearly as much attention in our fiction reading as the usual suspects in Western Europe and Eastern Asia. With two novels set in the Baltics, one in India, and one in Lebanon, these stories should offer a welcome variety to teens interested in other countries and cultures.

Rufi Thorpe’s Dear Fang, with Love begins in America but quickly brings its two protagonists, an estranged father and daughter, to Lithuania. Seventeen-year-old Vera has had a mental breakdown, and her absentee father Lucas tries to help her heal by bringing her with him to his grandmother’s hometown of Vilnius. Vera, and her emails home to her boyfriend, will be the main draw for teens, but Lucas’s search for answers about his grandmother’s life in Lithuania, especially her daring escape from a Nazi concentration camp, will give readers a new look at the familiar topics of World War II and the Holocaust. This is a story about mental illness and the troubled relationship between a father and a daughter, but don’t discount teen interest in new-to-them corners of the world.

Crossing the Baltic Sea to Finland brings us to Johanna Sinisalo’s The Core of the Sun. Finland has been lauded in recent years as a model of public education and progressive attitudes. Sinisalo explores the dark side of this Finnish progress, setting her novel in an alternate present in which the very things many Americans find admirable about Finland have turned it into a dystopia. Sinisalo coins the term eusistocracy—an extreme welfare state—for her alternate Finland, and extremity is its undoing. Focusing on public health and social stability above every other societal need, Finland has begun breeding submissive women called eloi (named after the race of so-called perfect humans in H.G. Wells’s The Time Machine). This dystopian landscape is the background for the story of two sisters, Manna and Vanna, who have been bred as eloi but may not be what they appear. This is a challenging novel, but with its obvious comparisons to Margaret Atwood’s A Handmaid’s Tale, fascinating take on the line between dystopia and utopia, and central teen characters, it should be a natural fit for strong YA readers.

Bringing us solidly back into the real world of dysfunctional government is Rabee Jaber’s short but powerful novel Confessions, set during the brutal 15-year-long Lebanese Civil War. In some ways, the novel, about a teen who is trying to get an education and leave his old life behind, is structured as a classic coming-of-age story. But the awful secrets of the protagonist’s family—one brilliantly given away in the opening line, but others even more provocative—make this work something much more. Our reviewer’s comparison to Khaled Hosseini’s The Kite Runner is apt, and as with that novel, look for Confessions to give teen readers a strong connection to a country and conflict they have probably given little attention to.

Our final stop is India, where Karan Mahajan’s The Association of Small Bombs presents another look at the recent past. The novel begins in 1996 as a small bomb kills two boys and leaves behind a physically and psychologically scarred boy named Mansoor. It traces Mansoor’s life as he tries to recover from his wounds, moves to America to go to school and back to India for medical reasons, and grapples with the realities of being a victim of terrorism. Mahajan also explores the lives of the bombers and the family of the bombing victims offering a comprehensive look at the way terrorism affects all members of society.

These four novels provide teens glimpses at four different time periods and cultures, using these settings to locate deep human drama and thought-provoking ideas. Heady stuff, but important and engaging.

ConfJABER, Rabee. Confessions. tr. from Arabic by Kareem James Abu-Zeid. 120p. New Directions. Mar. 2016. pap. $14.95. ISBN 9780811220675.

“My father used to kidnap people and kill them.” Who can resist that opening line? In a long and sometimes rambling narrative, Maroun describes growing up in Beirut during the Lebanese Civil War. His father and older brother disappear for days with no explanation, and no one dares ask where they go. Maroun has an ailing mother, and he lives in the shadow of his dead older brother who shared his name. He doesn’t learn all the family secrets until his older brother tells all while their father is on his deathbed, and the guilt and turmoil almost destroys Maroun. Teens will understand the boy’s desire to use education to escape from his existing life—he learns English because he knows he wants to move away from Lebanon. Maroun copes with depression in college as he comes to terms with his personal history and the emotional abuse he endured as a child. Give to teens who enjoy reading coming-of-age novels that take place in other countries, such as Khaled Hosseini’s The Kite Runner. VERDICT This is an accessible Middle Eastern novel that will fill a gap in most libraries.–Sarah Hill, Lake Land College, Mattoon, IL

AssocMAHAJAN, Karan. The Association of Small Bombs. 276p. Viking. Mar. 2016. Tr $26. ISBN 9780525429630.

Just as the author describes a market in Delhi, this novel “begins everywhere at once.” Readers are immediately thrown into urban India, piecing together the important players of this drama. Mahajan begins the novel by describing a singular, almost routine event of 1996: a car bomb in a crowded Delhi marketplace. In the years that follow, the lives of a survivor, the family of two deceased boys, and the bombers themselves become intertwined. For the most part, the story takes place in India, and readers could easily become bogged down with unfamiliar terminology in the first third of the book. However, the narrative begins to pick up speed when Mansoor, the bomb survivor and a Muslim, leaves India to pursue his education in the United States. He returns to his homeland because of medical concerns complicated by his injuries from the bombing. Teens will be interested in the change Mansoor undergoes after his return to Dehli and intrigued by the human side of both the bombers and those affected by this act of violence. VERDICT Purchase where there is a demand for titles set in India or an interest in antiheroes.–Krystina Kelley, Belle Valley School, Belleville, IL

coreSINISALO, Johanna. The Core of the Sun. tr. from Finnish by Lola Rogers. 320p. Grove Atlantic/Black Cat . Jan. 2016. pap. $16. ISBN 9780802124647.

Reminiscent of Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale and borrowing expressions from H.G. Wells’s The Time Machine, yet set in contemporary Finland and uniquely thrilling in terms of voice, plot, and characterization, this dystopian newcomer offers meaty food for thought about what is worth sacrificing to make a “good society.” This heartbreaking story of two teenage sisters who were formerly close will resonate with young adults. One, Manna, conformed to her society’s rules, but now is missing. The other, Vera/Vanna, successfully hid the traits that her society considered flaws—her intelligence and her synesthesia. Now she relies on the capsaicin fix she gets from illegal chili peppers to stay sane as she tries to find her sister. It is becoming increasingly dangerous for Vera/Vanna to stay in Finland, but she can’t leave without knowing what happened to Manna. The disjointed storytelling style may challenge some readers, but others will appreciate the way the parts all come together in the end. VERDICT A discussion-worthy addition in a classic novels curriculum, this offering also makes for good recreational reading.–Hope Baugh, Carmel Clay Public Library, Carmel, IN

DearfangTHORPE, Rufi. Dear Fang, with Love. 320p. ebook available. Knopf. May. 2016. Tr $24.95. ISBN 9781101875773.

Lucas has been an absentee father for most of his daughter Vera’s 17 years. After she has a psychotic break at a party and is diagnosed as bipolar, he decides it would be a good idea to take her to the city of Vilnius, his grandmother’s homeland. He signs up for a tour to learn about his family history, with the intention of helping his daughter heal. It immediately becomes clear to Lucas that he has no idea how to be a father. Through emails to her boyfriend, Fang, and comments to her father, readers become privy to Vera’s unraveling. The novel focuses as much on Lucas and his self-doubt as it does on Vera’s undoing. There’s a mystery involving Lucas’s grandmother and her escape from the Nazis as well as information on Lithuanian history. Vera has another psychotic break on the trip, with heartbreaking results. Crisp and captivating, the writing powerfully portrays a host of well-drawn characters. VERDICT Thorpe has created a persuasive, compelling, and heartfelt portrait of a troubled yet loving family. A striking look at mental illness that will long stay with readers.–Jane Ritter, Mill Valley School District, CA

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S. & S.’s Preview Yields a Bountiful Crop of Summer 2016 Books Tue, 24 May 2016 15:32:20 +0000 IMG_1315

I will start with the best, instead of saving it for last. My three favorites of this publishers preview were, in no particular order: the picture book Sleepyheads (Aug.) by Sandra J. Howatt. It has lovely illustrations by Joyce Wan [I’m confused by this one. Amazon says it was published in 2014]. With the 15th anniversary of 9-11 coming up this September, the historical novel Nine, Ten: A September 11 Story (June) by Nora Raleigh Baskin will stir emotions. A combination of superhero and LGBTQ themes will make Draw the Line (May), written and illustrated by Laurent Linn, a book that will have real sticking power with teens.

While those three are standouts, I found plenty more worth a look.

The stuff of life

The accoutrements of daily existence are being celebrated in some of the more original works that Simon & Schuster showed off at their summer preview. First among them was The Museum of Heartbreak (June), a debut YA novel by Meg Leder. The author, who personally addressed attendees, explained, “I’m very much into physical objects.” Her character, Penelope, creates a personal museum to cope with heartbreak, betrayal, and the bittersweet aspects of growing up. “Heartbreak makes you a stronger person. It helps you write a book,” concluded Leder.

Susan Hood tells the true story of the recycled orchestra of Paraguay in Ada’s Violin (May), illustrated by Sally Wern Comport. It features a girl in an impoverished village and her music teacher who puts an orchestra together with instruments they make from all manner of trash.


Even the humble potty seat is elevated in The Saddest Toilet in the World (June) by Sam Apple and Sam Ricks. After being rejected by a boy reluctant to give up diapers, the diminutive toilet hits the road. Will boy and potty be reunited so that they can take care of business, together?

Middle grade madness

When you put a group of middle schoolers together, there is no telling what will unfold, as the S. & S. summer list proves. Music is the muse in an award-winning novel from Norway, The Ballad of a Broken Nose (June) by Arne Svingen. It features a junior high school boy who loves opera to the consternation of the bullies who dog him.

Jason Reynolds, who has gained popularity in the YA arena, is venturing into the realm of middle grade with As Brave as You (May). It is a coming-of-age story that features family relationships.

Meanwhile, The Sleepover (May) by Jen Malone is lighthearted look at a rite of passage, the first sleepover. Tween girls will eat it up. Gary Paulsen’s latest, Six Kids and a Stuffed Cat (May), about six “misfits” stuck in a school restroom, is described as “The Breakfast Club for middle school.”

Truth or Teen

Oh, what a tangled web this bunch of teen titles weave. Brent Hartinger has four teens in a Washington State cabin playing Three Truths and a Lie (Aug.)—and it doesn’t end well. In Secrets, Lies, and Scandals (July), Amanda K. Morgan has five teens committing a crime and having to decide if they should trust each other. Laura Stampler is following in her mother’s, Ann Redisch Stampler, footsteps as a YA author. Her debut novel, Little Black Dresses Little White Lies (July), was displayed alongside of her mother’s How To Disappear (June). The junior Stampler’s deceitful hybrid of a tale is a cross between The Devil Wears Prada and Sex in the City.

Two debut YA novels play the numbers game. Anna Michels’s 26 Kisses (May) has to do with a challenge to kiss 26 guys, each with a name corresponding to a letter of the alphabet. In 100 Days of Cake (May), author Shari Goldhagen weaves a quirky but relatable story about a mom who thinks a new homemade cake, each one better than the last, will snap her 17-year-old daughter, Molly, out of her melancholy.

Kids will devour these books

That would be my segue into baked goods, which make a respectable showing in their own right. The new installment in Martha Freeman’s “Secret Cookie Club” series is entitled Campfire Cookies (May). Alexis Cupcake Crush (May) by Coco Simon and illustrated by Abigail Halpin joins the list of “Cupcake Diaries” titles. Younger readers can learn the history of cookies in the History of Fun Stuff: The Way the Cookie Crumbled (July) by Jody Jensen Shaffer and illustrated by Kelly Kennedy.

Last, but certainly not least: the beloved Angela DiTerlizzi has two titles on the summer list. They are Seeking a Witch (July) illustrated by Allie Smith and Some Pets (Aug.), illustrated by Brendan Wenzel.





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The SLJ Writing Issue: Your Turn Tue, 24 May 2016 15:29:03 +0000 WritingIssue_YourTurn_TNThis page (download here) is for you to fill as you see fit. You can create a doodling, drawing, or writing contest for the kids you work with, for instance—or have fun with it yourself. Share the results on social media (#SLJwritingissue) or by sending a scan to SLJ via What are you waiting for? Go ahead and write!

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Get Squiggly with It: “The BFG” Movie Review Tue, 24 May 2016 15:07:02 +0000 Get ready for some Gobblefunk, the lexicon created by Roald Dahl for his well-meaning but grammatically incorrect titular Big Friendly Giant (BFG). Humbag translates as humble, scrumdiddlyumptious means scrumptious, and a whizzpopper sounds like what it means, flatulence.

Director Steven Spielberg and his screenwriter, the late Melissa Mathison, have turned Dahl’s 1982 novel into a movie aimed mainly at Dahl’s fans. It well captures the essence of the bond between the 24-foot-tall giant and a no-nonsense 10-year-old orphaned girl, Sophie. Though older viewers will find the tale too elongated, elementary-age audiences will find it glummy (yummy) rather than a bunch of rummytot.

It begins in a timeless England of cobblestone streets and terrace houses (there’s only one direct 1980s reference), where insomniac Sophie keeps watch and wanders the orphanage halls in the middle of the night. Hearing noises outside, she looks out her open window, where a tall shadow has been lurking among the buildings and cats have sprinted away, hissing at what is approaching around the corner. She espies the bushy-browed and long, lean face of a grandfatherly man towering over her. He’s as surprised and bewildered to see her as she him. Sophie darts away from the window to hide under the bedcovers, but the giant’s hand reaches into the dormitory and snatches the girl, using her own bedspread as a net.

photos courtesy of The Cannes Film Festival

Photos courtesy of The Cannes Film Festival

Afraid she’ll reveal to the world that giants do exist, he absconds with her to Giant Country, which looks a lot like the Scottish Highlands. But really, he only wants a friend. An outcast, he’s a runt compared to his kindred, nine multi-storied giants, and the only vegetarian among them. Unlike the others, he refuses to eat humans and instead consumes a slimy vegetable, the Snozzcumber. The movie tones down a bit the novel’s sinister elements of the giants going on a rampage, kidnapping and eating children from England’s finest boarding schools. But the names of the giants, such as Fleshlumpeater and Bloodbottler, more than get their personalities across.

However, after a fast-paced beginning, the rhythm flags. Nearly half of the book is comprised of getting-to-know-you exposition as Sophie becomes acquainted with her new friend. She’s a prisoner in his cave, but as she finds out more about him, her complaints become less strident. Sophie accompanies him on his mission, to catch dreams floating in the air, which appear like multicolored fireflies, and blow them through a horn onto sleeping children during his nighttime jaunts. However, starting at this point, the movie’s pacing feels like that of other films made by the Walt Disney Studio: those starring Hayley Mills in the 1960s.

The main plot kicks in late: Sophie and the BFG hatch a plan to enlist the aid of Queen Elizabeth in curtailing the nine giants from munching on children. However, the film picks up steam in the finale, when Sophie and the BFG break into Buckingham Palace and encounter a queen and staff who go out of their way to accommodate the towering fish-out-of-water.

As the BFG, Mark Rylance has been transformed by the computer-enhanced effects, and though his facial features have been distorted, the actor is nevertheless recognizable. Most noticeably, nine-year-old actress Ruby Barnhill keeps the story grounded in the here and now. Only once does Spielberg offer a shot of Sophie staring slackjawed in wonder, à la Jurassic Park, but the reaction feels one of a piece in a breezy, naturalistic performance.

Still, newcomers to the story may get a little restless. A sequence where the mean giants come smashing into the BFG’s cave searching for something to eat (Sophie) is excessively padded with near misses and mayhem. The script also adds a backstory of a friendship the giant had with a boy a century earlier that came to a tragic end for the youth. It doesn’t add much motivation for the BFG to protect Sophie from his marauding brethren, since the threat has already been well established.

Though the story’s outline is essentially the same as the book’s, the film version lacks bite. It neuters some of Dahl’s more pointed barbs between giant and child, namely Sophie’s derision of the hulks for consuming human beings (or beans, in the BFG vernacular). At least, as he reminds her, giants don’t kill other giants.

The movie may inadvertently be Hollywood’s tribute to the queen’s 90th birthday celebrations this year. Kind, in command, and with a droll sense of humor, the monarch (played by Downton Abbey’s Penelope Wilton) becomes a coconspirator against the man-eaters. She even whizzpops along with the BFG, though not as strongly as her Welsh corgis. (The BFG values whizzpopping as a “sign of true happiness.” Parents, be warned.)

The BFG premiered on May 14, 2016, at the Cannes Film Festival and will open nationwide on July 1.

Directed by Steven Spielberg

115 min.

Rated PG

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A Voice of One’s Own | Editorial Tue, 24 May 2016 14:22:52 +0000 Once upon a time, a writing workshop changed my life. For a week during high school, I spent my days and nights with other Whittenberger Fellows, writing, critiquing, refining, and discussing poetry and other pieces. We bunked in college dorms and ate together in the cafeteria. From this brief but memorable experience sprang the sense that I had a voice of my own, one that I could use to make a contribution and even, potentially, a life’s work. It resonated, took root, and gave me direction.

On the face of it, that intensive program had all the hallmarks of such deep dives: daily assignments and revision, rigorous peer feedback, and an ongoing discourse on life and literature. What was unique was its definition of fellowship, which encompassed high school students and their teachers. What a brilliant, powerful idea to place us together with teachers as peers.

As the editorial team started to bring together this, SLJ’s Writing Issue, I reached out to Linda Harter, the teacher who made Whittenberger possible for me. She had taught English, composition, and drama at my high school in Wallace, ID. I wanted to thank her, reminisce, and learn more about her teaching life. Through our ensuing exchange, I gained perspective on her approach to teaching and a deeper appreciation of her work.

Whittenberger was one of several initiatives launched by the Idaho Language Arts coordinator, who “was instrumental in setting up the statewide writing assessment, which included teaching teachers to blind-grade essays,” Harter says. “I still think it was an outstanding way to both train writing teachers and raise awareness of the importance of writing instruction.” Harter recalls that the fellowship required teachers to apply, and then, if accepted, they could nominate a student to apply as well.

To be nominated by a teacher I greatly respected was a huge vote of confidence. To go through an application process, and be accepted, cemented that thumbs-up for the work itself.

Being centered in the work was the essence of Harter’s approach. I remember her actively creating space and time—opportunity—for us to write. She notes that she used to dedicate time for it at the start of class. “It was work that was not assigned and was not corrected,” she says, “as I think it is important for a writer to be able to freely write without feeling it will always be ‘graded.’”

While I knew Harter had left Wallace, I had no idea how rich her entire career was. When the local economy was hit hard by mine closures, she and her husband, who also taught at the high school, faced a choice. “It became depressing to see staff cut and the once vibrant community suffering the economic losses,” Harter recalls. “We had enough seniority to know we would not lose our jobs, but the atmosphere lacked vitality. There was a sense that one would not continue to grow if we remained in Wallace.”

Vitality. That key word defines my memory of Harter’s modeling. After 12 years in Wallace, the Harters headed overseas. In full, Mrs. Harter taught high school for 25 years and in a university in China for another and spent four years serving as a principal. Today, she keeps a hand in as a senior examiner for the oral IB [International Baccalaureate] exams.

“I went into teaching to have time to work on photography, which was my first love, or so I thought,” writes Harter. “The very first day, I could hardly contain myself as I constantly wanted to laugh out loud; I was having such a good time. All I could think was that I was getting paid to do this and having a ball. Within a few years, I sold all my photography equipment. I had discovered I was a teacher and was never sorry for it.”

I recall having a writing space of my own when I was taught by Harter, which I think speaks to the power of her approach. I have not written poetry in years, but I have used the skills that she taught me, and the voice that eventually emerged, throughout my adult life. I have also often recalled and sought to emulate her intellectual engagement and pleasure in sharing ideas. Oh, and her joy in the work.


Rebecca T. Miller

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Summer 2016 Graphic Novel Roundup: From Agatha Christie to “Star Trek”—and Beyond Tue, 24 May 2016 13:52:13 +0000 htgapWhether you’re in the mood for literature or light reading, there’s something for everyone in this summer’s graphic novel releases: graphic adaptations of works by Neil Gaiman, Ransom Riggs, and Jules Verne; the shonen-est shonen manga ever; and a crazy comedy about a high school girl who can make people fall in love with anyone or anything—except her. Star Trek enthusiasts can enjoy a story about the original cast’s adventures at Starfleet Academy, and a new manga series provides an inside look at the Japanese cosplay scene. There’s plenty here to keep everyone reading until it’s cool enough to go outside again.

GAIMAN, Neil. How To Talk to Girls at Parties. illus. by Gabriel Ba and Fabio Moon. 64p. Dark Horse. June 2016. ISBN 978-1616559557.

Gr 10 Up–Two teenage boys go to the wrong party, and the girls they try to chat up turn out to be more than they bargained for. This sweet, strange science fiction story is adapted from a short story by Gaiman; Moon and Ba bring it to life with expressive figures and beautiful watercolors.

joneseyHUMPHRIES, Sam. Jonesy. illus. by Caitlin Rose Boyle. 112p. BOOM! Studios. Aug. 2016. ISBN 9781608868834.

Gr 7 Up–Jonesy is a high school girl with plenty of attitude and one amazing power: she can cause people to fall in love—but not with her. Whether she causes them to fall in love with other people or inanimate objects (like a cowboy hat), it always seems to backfire spectacularly. Jonesy is not afraid to follow her geeky enthusiasms—she made a zine about her favorite pop musician, and she discovered her superpower by shipping two anime characters. She’s also honest with herself when she messes up. There’s a great moment in the first chapter when Jonesy sits down with the popular girl she resents and they realize their problems are not so different. This comic, which was originally published as a four-issue miniseries, has a diverse, quirky cast and a lot of heart.

star fleetJOHNSON, Mike & Ryan Parrott. Star Trek: Starfleet Academy. illus. by Derek Charm. 120p. IDW Publishing. Aug. 2016. ISBN 9781631406638.

Gr 7 Up–Set just before the 2009 Star Trek film, this story follows three intertwined time lines: Cadet Uhura tries to track down a mysterious signal from outer space; a few years later, a team of cadets compete in an interstellar scavenger hunt; and 100 years in the past, a mutiny is about to take place aboard a marooned spaceship. Smart, funny, and action-packed, this work brings together the iconic characters and adds some new ones. The graphic novel was originally published as a five-issue miniseries.

elf catKOCHALKA, James. Elf Cat in Love. 100p. Retrofit/Big Planet Comics. May 2016. ISBN 9781940398501.

Gr 7 Up–The author of the whimsical “Glorkian Warrior” and “Johnny Boo” graphic novels brings his trademark silliness to a slightly more grown-up story. Elf Cat and his companion Magic Tennis Ball make their way through a forest filled with many hazards. Along the way, they are eaten by a princess, Elf Cat is nearly squeezed to death by an amorous dragon, and they face their fears and the elements on a windy mountaintop. Through it all, Elf Cat holds tight to his Ice Sword (actually a frozen hot dog) and he and Magic Tennis Ball bicker about their feelings toward each other. Drawn in a simple style, this tale is filled with sly humor and little surprises.

agathaMARTINETTI, Anne & Guillaume Lebeau. Agatha: The Real Life of Agatha Christie. illus. by Alexandre Franc. Abrams/SelfMadeHero. May 2016. ISBN 9781910593110.

Gr 10 Up–Originally published in French, this work is drawn in the ligne claire (clear line) style that readers may find reminiscent of Tintin. The book starts with what may be the most interesting part of mystery writer Agatha Christie’s life, her disappearance in 1926. As the police interrogate her unfaithful husband and Christie holes up in a comfy hotel, we flash back to her childhood and see her begin to write, work in a pharmacy during World War I (which gave her the opportunity to study poisons), and travel around the world with her husband. Then, after more interrogation, Christie turns up alive and well, and the story jumps forward from there. The authors tell the story of Christie’s long and fascinating life in a series of short vignettes, and Hercule Poirot and other characters from Christie’s novels pop in from time to time to hold wry conversations with their creator.

RIGGS, Ransom. Hollow City: The Graphic Novel. illus. by Cassandra Jean. 272p. Yen Pr. Jul. 2016. ISBN 9780316306782.

Gr 8 Up–This is an adaptation of the second novel in Riggs’s series, which began with Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. The first volume has been adapted into a graphic novel as well, and the movie based on it will be out in September. In this volume, the main character, Jacob Portman, and his friends, all of whom have special powers, travel to London in hopes of finding a way to rescue their headmistress and protector, Miss Peregrine, who has been trapped in the form of a bird.

complex ageSAKUMA, Yui. Complex Age Vol. 1. 208p. Kodansha Comics. Jun. 2016. ISBN 9781632362483.

Gr 10 Up–This manga mixes the nitty-gritty of the Japanese cosplay scene with some human drama. Nagisa Kataura is 26 years old, lives at home, works at a temp job, and is completely obsessed with cosplaying her favorite character, Magical Riding Hood Ururu (from a fictional magical-girl anime). Nagi spends a lot of time getting every detail right, even remaking a costume when a new element pops up in the anime. Her friend Kimiko is equally serious about doing cosplay photography. Dramatic tension occurs when they help a couple of novice cosplayers and Nagi realizes that one of them looks more like Ururu than she does. The story incorporates a lot of information about Japanese cosplay culture as well as some solid tips for cosplayers.

black cloverTABATA, Yuki. Black Clover Vol. 1. 192p. Viz. Jun. 2016. ISBN 9781421587189.

Gr 8 Up–Naruto meets Harry Potter in this new “Shonen Jump” series that cranks up all the shonen tropes to the max. Asta is a feisty orphan from the boondocks who wants to become a Magic Knight and ultimately the Wizard King—but in a world where you have to have magic to survive, he has no powers at all. He compensates with physical training, building up super strength and speed, but at the ceremony where everyone gets their a special magic power, he gets nothing at all…at first. It turns out Asta’s power is anti-magic, a sword that can negate anyone else’s magic. He is chosen by a ragtag group of knights, the Black Bulls, and the adventures begin. All the shonen ingredients are there, including the former best friend/current rival, the crazy new best friend, the snobby rich kids, and a dollop of fanservice (provided by a fellow knight who lounges around in her underwear and makes suggestive comments). The lead character bears a more than passing resemblance to Naruto, and the action scenes have a kinetic quality that makes them feel like they were designed for animation. As Japanese as this is, it’s set in a world that looks a lot like Hogwarts, complete with stately buildings and flying broomsticks. The series is up to six volumes in Japan and is ongoing.

takaya_lisoTAKAYA, Natsuki. Liselotte & Witch’s Forest Vol. 1. 192p. Yen Pr. Jul. 2016. ISBN 9780316360197.

Gr 8 Up–Not only is Yen Press bringing back one of the most popular shoujo manga of all time, Fruits Basket, starting this June, they have also licensed a second series by creator Takaya. Liselotte & Witch’s Forest is a fantasy romance about a girl who moves to a remote land, far from her noble family, and one day is attacked by a witch—and rescued by a handsome stranger. There are five volumes of this series out so far, but it is on hiatus, as Takaya is recovering from an illness.

VERNE, Jules. The Children of Captain Grant. adapt. by Alexis Nesme. 144p. Papercutz/Super Genius. Jul. 2016. ISBN 9781629914664.

Gr 8 Up–This classic adventure tale of two children searching for their father, a sea captain who is being held hostage under mysterious circumstances, has been adapted into a comic with anthropomorphized animals as the characters. The search begins when three messages are found in a bottle retrieved from the stomach of a shark, but the messages are not only damaged but in three different languages. With only this to go on, Captain Grant’s children, together with Lord Glenarvan, embark on an around-the-world journey to find the lost captain. This gorgeously illustrated book was first published in French.

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The Blobfish Book by Jessica Olien | SLJ Review Tue, 24 May 2016 13:00:58 +0000 Olien, Jessica. The Blobfish Book. illus. by Jessica Olien. 40p. websites. HarperCollins/Balzer + Bray. May 2016. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780062394156. 

PreS-Gr 2 –A misunderstood deep-sea dweller gets its moment in the sun in this tongue-in-cheek informational picture book. The bubble-gum pink blobfish is sketched onto the pages of a nonfiction work that presents facts about and photos of the fascinating creatures that live miles beneath the ocean surface. Snappy dialogue balloons and humorously exaggerated cartoon features [...]]]> redstarOlien, Jessica. The Blobfish Book. illus. by Jessica Olien. 40p. websites. HarperCollins/Balzer + Bray. May 2016. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780062394156. The Blobfish Book

PreS-Gr 2 –A misunderstood deep-sea dweller gets its moment in the sun in this tongue-in-cheek informational picture book. The bubble-gum pink blobfish is sketched onto the pages of a nonfiction work that presents facts about and photos of the fascinating creatures that live miles beneath the ocean surface. Snappy dialogue balloons and humorously exaggerated cartoon features convey the impatient critter’s mental “fin-twiddling” as it waits to hear about its own species. When the big moment arrives, delight turns to dismay as the protagonist discovers that “the blobfish was once voted the world’s ugliest animal.” Tears and self-doubt ensue. However, it doesn’t take long for the other deep-water denizens—now embellished with expressive cartoon eyes and speech balloons of their own—to chime in with a bit of empathy and a crayoned letter of support. Additional facts about the featured animals and their environment, along with a list of web resources, are appended. VERDICT Olien pulls off the humor and the positive friendship message without a hitch, while also whetting the appetites of young readers to find out more about Earth’s most mysterious frontier. A first purchase.–Joy Fleishhacker, School Library Journal

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

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