School Library Journal The world's largest reviewer of books, multimedia, and technology for children and teens Mon, 20 Feb 2017 15:34:19 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Big Cat, Little Cat by Elisha Cooper | SLJ Reviews Mon, 20 Feb 2017 14:00:41 +0000 COOPER, Elisha. Big Cat, Little Cat. illus. by Elisha Cooper. 40p. Roaring Brook. Mar. 2017. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781626723719.

PreS-Gr 1 –Bold and simple illustrations perfectly depict life with cats. Elegant, expressive black line drawings on white backgrounds capture the essence of all things feline and call to mind the work of Clare Turlay Newberry and Nikki McClure. The book follows a lone white cat who gains a small black companion, their life together, and the eventual loss of [...]]]> redstarCOOPER, Elisha. Big Cat, Little Cat. illus. by Elisha Cooper. 40p. Roaring Brook. Mar. 2017. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781626723719.

PB-Cooper-BigCatLittleCatPreS-Gr 1 –Bold and simple illustrations perfectly depict life with cats. Elegant, expressive black line drawings on white backgrounds capture the essence of all things feline and call to mind the work of Clare Turlay Newberry and Nikki McClure. The book follows a lone white cat who gains a small black companion, their life together, and the eventual loss of the elder cat (“Years went by—and more years, too—”) and ends with the addition of a new kitten. The spare text does an excellent job of conveying the story from the animals’ point of view. Readers are told that “the older cat got older and one day he had to go…and didn’t come back. And that was hard. For everyone.” VERDICT A gentle, loving look at the life cycle of pets; young readers will be able to gain confidence in retelling the story using the text and the pictures. A must-have for all collections.–Paige Mellinger, Gwinnett County Public Library, Lawrenceville, GA

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

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A Call to Action in Canada | Picture of the Week Fri, 17 Feb 2017 21:34:06 +0000 LauraReed_Ontario_ret2Laura Reed, the manager of children’s and teen services at the Kitchener Public Library in Ontario, found the perfect use for the poster by artist Calef Brown that was included in the February issue of SLJ: A “Call to Action” book display in the children’s area.

“I saw the poster on Twitter, and made sure to track it down as soon as our copy of SLJ arrived,” shares Reed. “I was impressed with the content and message of the poster. We are very interested in U.S. politics up here, and are following and participating in the protest and resist movements. I knew that we had a good collection of activism themed books for children, so I made an impromptu decision to put up the display on Thursday. I am lucky to have the freedom to make decisions, and know that I have the support of the [library] administration. We have received lots of compliments and comments, especially on the poster. Staff and customers love it! I have even received a request to have a program where kids and adults can make their own protest signs. Makes me love my community!”

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Real Friends by Shannon Hale | SLJ Review Fri, 17 Feb 2017 14:00:55 +0000 HALE, Shannon. Real Friends. illus. by LeUyen Pham. 224p. First Second. May 2017. Tr $21.99. ISBN 9781626724167; pap. $12.99. ISBN 9781626727854. POP

Gr 3-6 –Hale revisits her elementary school years in this insightful exploration of the ups and downs of friendship. Young Shannon meets her BFF Adrienne in kindergarten, and the two bond until Adrienne moves away. When Adrienne returns, Shannon is thrilled—until Adrienne joins a clique. In over her head, Shannon copes with feelings of inadequacy as she [...]]]> redstarHALE, Shannon. Real Friends. illus. by LeUyen Pham. 224p. First Second. May 2017. Tr $21.99. ISBN 9781626724167; pap. $12.99. ISBN 9781626727854. POP

NF-GN-Hale-RealFriendsGr 3-6 –Hale revisits her elementary school years in this insightful exploration of the ups and downs of friendship. Young Shannon meets her BFF Adrienne in kindergarten, and the two bond until Adrienne moves away. When Adrienne returns, Shannon is thrilled—until Adrienne joins a clique. In over her head, Shannon copes with feelings of inadequacy as she compares herself to pretty and seemingly perfect ringleader Jen, as well as resentment and intense anxiety as callous Jenny throws barbs her way. There’s trouble at home, too: middle child Shannon often feels lost and is bullied by older sister Wendy. The author reflects on her life from the vantage point of adulthood, displaying a mature awareness of her own flaws and an understanding of the behavior of unsympathetic kids such as Wendy and Jenny, and her accessible writing and hopeful tone will speak to readers. Pham’s gentle cartoon images make effective use of perspective and composition to underscore Shannon’s sense of alienation. Her various flights of fancy reinforce her budding storytelling abilities and provide relatable metaphors (for instance, Shannon imagining her friends as members of a royal court and herself as the jester). In Hale’s afterword, she acknowledges that though she attempted to faithfully represent her experiences, she re-created some dialogue and made changes for the sake of the plot. VERDICT This tender, perceptive graphic memoir is bound to resonate with most readers, especially fans of Raina Telgemeier and kids struggling with the often turbulent waters of friendships and cliques.–Mahnaz Dar, School Library Journal

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

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Giraffes: Africa’s Gentle Giants | SLJ DVD Review Fri, 17 Feb 2017 14:00:50 +0000 Giraffes: Africa’s Gentle Giants. (Nature). 53 min. Dist. by PBS. 2016. $24.99. ISBN 9781627898744. POP

Gr 5 Up –Dr. Julian Fennessy has spent the last two decades studying giraffes. Astonishingly little is known about them, especially compared with other high-profile animals whose populations are also under threat, such as elephants and rhinos. Alarmed that giraffe populations have declined 40 percent in the past 20 years and are thus threatened with extinction, Fennessy developed a relocation project for 20 giraffes. [...]]]> redstarGiraffes: Africa’s Gentle Giants. (Nature). 53 min. Dist. by PBS. 2016. $24.99. ISBN 9781627898744. POP

DVD-GiraffesGr 5 Up –Dr. Julian Fennessy has spent the last two decades studying giraffes. Astonishingly little is known about them, especially compared with other high-profile animals whose populations are also under threat, such as elephants and rhinos. Alarmed that giraffe populations have declined 40 percent in the past 20 years and are thus threatened with extinction, Fennessy developed a relocation project for 20 giraffes. If it is successful, more could be relocated to encourage an increase in herds and, hopefully, provide a way back from the brink of extinction. Visually stunning and at times amusing, moving, and inspiring, this documentary presents many facts about the animals (they are not mute, and they are active at night, for example) and the relocation endeavor. Viewers who think they know giraffes will be surprised. Footage of other African wildlife and scenery offer context, and infographics convey material succinctly. The new findings about giraffes and the scope of the conservation undertaking are impressive. VERDICT Fascinating and enlightening, this film will be of interest to nature enthusiasts, conservationists, environmental science classes, and general science classes.–Cynthia Ortiz, Hackensack High School, NJ

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

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Amina’s Voice by Hena Khan | SLJ Review Thu, 16 Feb 2017 14:00:58 +0000 KHAN, Hena. Amina’s Voice. 208p. ebook available. S. & S./Salaam Reads. Mar. 2017. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781481492065.

Gr 4-6 –A satisfying read about an 11-year-old girl navigating friendship, family, religion, and dreams of becoming a soul-singing sensation. In a quiet Milwaukee suburb, Amina and her best friend Soojin grapple with their own ethnic identities and the pressure to Americanize. Soojin is Korean American and on the pathway to citizenship. She’s contemplating changing her name to solidify her American identity, [...]]]> redstarKHAN, Hena. Amina’s Voice. 208p. ebook available. S. & S./Salaam Reads. Mar. 2017. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781481492065.

MG-Khan-AminasVoiceGr 4-6 –A satisfying read about an 11-year-old girl navigating friendship, family, religion, and dreams of becoming a soul-singing sensation. In a quiet Milwaukee suburb, Amina and her best friend Soojin grapple with their own ethnic identities and the pressure to Americanize. Soojin is Korean American and on the pathway to citizenship. She’s contemplating changing her name to solidify her American identity, while Amina, who is Pakistani American, must reconcile her love of singing Motown with her Muslim faith. Popular Emily, a white girl, who has a history of bullying, creates a wedge when she tries to befriend the pair, drawing skepticism from Amina. Things begin to unravel when Amina’s uncle comes to visit from Pakistan and her deficiencies in Urdu and Arabic are exposed—along with the fact that Amina and her older brother, Mustafa, aren’t necessarily the perfect children her father would like them to be. When the neighborhood mosque is vandalized, the greater community comes together. Amina’s struggles to balance her faith, friendship, and aspirations are all resolved—albeit a bit too neatly. VERDICT A universal story of self-acceptance and the acceptance of others. A welcome addition to any middle grade collection.–Christina Vortia, Hype Lit, Wesley Chapel, FL

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

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Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor | SLJ Review Thu, 16 Feb 2017 14:00:09 +0000 TAYLOR, Laini. Strange the Dreamer. 544p. ebook available. Little, Brown. Mar. 2017. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9780316341684. POP

Gr 9 Up –Lazlo Strange is a foundling who has grown up alone and unloved, sustained only by his fantasies and stories of a city known as Weep. As an adult, Lazlo finds his way to the Great Library of Zosma and becomes a librarian, tasked with supporting scholars in their work. His fixation with Weep continues, and he searches for scraps [...]]]> redstarTAYLOR, Laini. Strange the Dreamer. 544p. ebook available. Little, Brown. Mar. 2017. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9780316341684. POP

YA-Taylor-StrangetheDreamerGr 9 Up –Lazlo Strange is a foundling who has grown up alone and unloved, sustained only by his fantasies and stories of a city known as Weep. As an adult, Lazlo finds his way to the Great Library of Zosma and becomes a librarian, tasked with supporting scholars in their work. His fixation with Weep continues, and he searches for scraps of information about it and its inhabitants and even teaches himself its language from books in the library. Then Eril Fane, the liberator of Weep, pays a surprise visit to Zosma. Lazlo seizes the chance to join an expedition to the city he has dreamed of for so long, and he is caught up in an old conflict between Weep’s mortal residents and blue godlike beings who had terrorized the city until Eril Fane slew them. Unbeknownst to the inhabitants of Weep, five children of these magical beings have survived and live in the giant seraph that hovers over the city, blocking the light. When Sarai, one of these Godspawn, visits Lazlo in his dreams, their growing relationship leads to the revelation of long-hidden secrets and opposition from other Godspawn, who desire revenge on mortals. This is the first in a pair of planned companion novels by the “Daughter of Smoke and Bone” author, and it has all the rich, evocative imagery and complex world-building typical of Taylor’s best work. There is a mythological resonance to her tale of gods and mortals in conflict, as well as in Lazlo’s character arc from unassuming, obsessed librarian to something much more. VERDICT This outstanding fantasy is a must-purchase for all YA collections.–Kathleen E. Gruver, Burlington County Library, Westampton, NJ

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

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An Inside Look at Librarians, Schools, and the Political Climate Thu, 16 Feb 2017 00:01:40 +0000 RainingDonkeysandElephantsAfter we asked librarians to describe the political climate in their schools and communities, this much became abundantly clear: They’re all trying really hard to be fair and supportive to all, but that isn’t so easy in this unprecedented, continually changing landscape. So what are the new rules, if any, for how librarians express their opinions—whether through what they say, wear, or post online—at a time when emotions are running high among colleagues, parents, and students?

It’s worth nothing that nearly half the professionals we reached out to did not reply to our invitation to comment, even off the record. Several others would only refer us to district memorandums, which typically offered broad directives, such as “staff should not engage in political discussions during class” or “students should feel safe on campus.”

Here’s a snapshot of what librarians around the country were willing to share, describing what the mood is, what they’re doing and saying—and what they’re not.

Montville, NJ

Robert R. Lazar Middle School is in a diverse community, says librarian Suzanne Metz, one comprised of Jews, Christians, Muslims, and Hindus, as well as both Republicans and Democrats. Yet Metz reports that staff hasn’t received any formal rules for political discussion. While students and faculty are, for the most part, discussing politics with discretion, there was one teacher “who freely posted anti-gay and anti-immigrant screeds on social media,” Metz says. “Another teacher complained to our principal. The teacher met with a union rep and the administration; she is no longer employed here.”

Austin, TX

At Westlake High School, librarian Carolyn Foote started a lunchtime civil discourse club last fall. In moderating discussions with up to 30 students, Foote worked with a retired teacher of U.S. government to set up lists of questions and expectations for civil discourse. “No name-calling, no ridiculing,” Foote explains. “And try to offer reasons for why you’re saying what you’re saying.”

She adds that the group has been especially valuable to students who are Trump supporters in a school where Hillary Clinton won the mock election last November. “I realized that for some students who were adamant Trump supporters, this was an outlet because they weren’t discussing this in class. They didn’t have a format [for these dialogues].”

While school policy has prohibited teachers from wearing political paraphernalia long before the 2016 election, administrators did recently remind staff to be “respectful” of colleagues. Foote is careful not to advocate for a particular political stance. “It’s important that students feel you’re trusted to be a moderator,” she explains.

St. Louis, IL

East St. Louis Senior High School library media specialist K.C. Boyd says that while she hasn’t received formal guidelines, “Our administration encourages us to have conversations with the students and integrate today’s news into our lessons to make them more meaningful.” Of the student body—which is 99 percent African American and one percent Hispanic—Boyd says, “Many echo the feelings of their parents: that some of the changes we have in store may affect their family unit heavily.”

So how does she answer those kids’ questions? “Honestly!” says Boyd, pointing fellow librarians to resources. “One source that is helpful is Gale Opposing Viewpoints in Context [a subscription database], which is helpful when students are writing research papers or participating in a class discussion. Another one is Newsela [free], which breaks down today’s news so that pre-teens and teens will have a good understanding of headlines.”

Leesburg, va

Last November, the Loudon County (VA) Public School District (LCPS), 30 miles outside of Washington DC, issued a reminder that teachers and principals “should not support political candidates or causes during work hours.” However, that does not stop students from asking questions about current events. At one LCPS campus, Tuscarora High School, the student body is about 25 percent Hispanic. “Many of them have expressed fear of being deported,” says librarian Mary Pellicano. “While we are not allowed to ask about a student’s immigration status directly, we do try to offer solace and reassure them of our support.” Tuscarora’s school library collection includes Spanish language books and the bilingual magazine, Motivos. “We were not given explicit instruction about library books, displays, and the like, as our principal is very supportive of the school library and defers to us for best practices and generally trusts our judgment,” says Pellicano.

Brooklyn, NY

Migration_resizeA Brooklyn Public Library display about migration adorned with butterflies and featuring picture books about butterfly or human migration has been shared widely on Twitter. It was created by children’s librarian Katya Shapiro, who works at the Bay Ridge branch, a neighborhood with a large Muslim community, including many Middle Eastern and Arab American families. Shapiro, who describes herself as an “outspoken person,” was inspired by signs at recent marches in reaction to President Trump’s executive orders. She writes messages of welcome and inclusion on a chalkboard, and children have begun spontaneously adding their own messages.

“My branch is doubling down on what we believe are basic public library values: welcoming and including all people, providing thoughtful programming, and access to accurate information. I’m very lucky and proud that BPL has been fully supportive at both the local and institutional levels, with communications, programs, and events that promote civil discourse and literacy.”

Lake Villa, IL

While many librarians are creating displays or programming around diversity and tolerance, some are concerned that all political viewpoints are not being discussed fairly. Kellie Piekutowski, information and learning center director at Lakes Community High School, does not have displays or signage around current events.

“If I did, I would adhere to ALA’s own code of ethics to offer resources on all sides of an argument,” says Piekutowski. “I am seeing posts from my colleagues across the nation in which they are showcasing displays and signage that clearly lean one way on the political spectrum. Even the #librariesresist movement and resource lists are one-sided, providing links to predominately leftist issues, such as Black Lives Matter and the Women’s March. Regardless of whether or not I agree on a personal level, my public school library is not the appropriate place to demonstrate. Rather, we need to step away and make room for the students to come to their own conclusions with the help of the fair and balanced resources we offer to them.”

Seattle, WA

The week after President Trump signed the executive order banning travel from seven predominantly Muslim countries, Seattle Public Schools issued an email reminding teachers and staff what they can do to help students who are worried or confused by the anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim rhetoric. The advice included check-ins and restorative circles, lessons on separation of power, free speech, and understanding diverse perspectives.

However, even in heavily Democratic Seattle, there is a range of political opinions.

“I do hear of a variety of voters among our families,” says teacher librarian Craig Seasholes. “So there is a respectful awareness not to scorn other people’s opinions or to overexert one’s political leanings, while encouraging open discussion and tolerance.”

Seasholes works at Dearborn Park International Elementary School, which has a large immigrant population and high poverty rate. “As the challenging repercussions of the presidential election reverberates through our community, our school library and information technology program has an ability and responsibility to teach the principles and documents on which our nation is founded,” he says. “As activist-teachers, the need to teach critical, yet respectful, thinking and effective action will serve our better collective selves to ensure all students feel welcome and supported at school.”


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How Schools in the Big Apple Built a PD Program to Cross the District Divide – And You Can, Too! Wed, 15 Feb 2017 20:26:43 +0000 Tuesday, Feb 28, 2017, 3:00PM - 4:00PM ET / 12:00PM - 1:00PM PT
Does the thought of building out a Professional Development (PD) program across an entire school district seem like an insurmountable task to you? Where do you start? How do you overcome obstacles such as distance or diverse needs? Learn from someone who has been there. In this webinar, Melissa Jacobs of the NYC Department of Education shares how they were able to roll out a comprehensive city-wide PD program using ASCD eBooks to improve teacher practice and evaluations modeled after Charlotte Danielson’s rubric.
Register Now!]]>
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Presented by: Gale & School Library Journal

Event Date & Time: Tuesday, February 28, 2017, 3:00 PM – 4:00 PM ET / 12:00 PM – 1:00 PM PT

Register Now

Does the thought of building out a Professional Development (PD) program across an entire school district seem like an insurmountable task to you? Where do you start? How do you overcome obstacles such as distance or diverse needs? Learn from someone who has been there.

In this webinar, Melissa Jacobs of the NYC Department of Education shares how they were able to roll out a comprehensive city-wide PD program using ASCD eBooks to improve teacher practice and evaluations modeled after Charlotte Danielson’s rubric.

Key highlights include:

  • Determining resource criteria based on multi-department stakeholder feedback
  • Developing a dynamic web presence as part of their implementation plan
  • Relying on multiple communication channels—including word of mouth
  • Evaluating what’s working through measurable results

At the close of the webinar we’ll take a look at best practices that can help you implement a school and district PD program. As an added bonus, attendees will receive a free publication on how to use eBooks for professional learning.


  • Melissa Jacobs, Coordinator, NYC School Library System
  • Lemma Shomali, Director K-12 Products, Gale, a Cengage Company


  • Rebecca Jozwiak, Editorial & Research Director, The Bloor Group

Register Now

Can’t make the date? No problem! Register now and you will get an email reminder from School Library Journal post-live event when the webcast is archived and available for on-demand viewing at your convenience!

Follow us on Twitter! @SLJournal #SLJGale

Need help getting registered? Send us an email describing your problem.

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Chapter Books for Change | Chapter Book Chat Wed, 15 Feb 2017 15:20:15 +0000 We as educators and professionals who work with children have the responsibility and the privilege to educate them about our ever-changing world. Any time is a great time to introduce themes of tolerance, generosity, and friendship to your students. In this column, I focus on chapter books that feature diverse characters and timely social concepts. There is also a list of web resources that provide lesson plans and classroom activities for a large variety of social justice issues, so if you’re looking for ideas on how to introduce these concepts to your students, they are a great starting place.

Any of the following books can be great conversation starters with your students and help open windows to different experiences or provide mirrors so that students know they’re not alone.000 Tia

How Tia Lola Came to (Visit) Stay by Julia Alvarez. Random. 2001. ISBN 9780375802157.

When Miguel finds out that his Tia Lola is coming to visit from the Dominican Republic where his parents were born, he’s not thrilled. Tia Lola is larger than life and the kids make enough fun of him as it is, mispronouncing his name and asking if his brown skin fades like a tan. But as Tia Lola’s visit continues, she makes many friends in their small town and Miguel begins to appreciate that Lola’s differences are what makes her special and fun.

The Turtle of Oman by Naomi Shahib Nye. Greenwillow. 2014. ISBN 9780062019721.

000 TurtleWhat do you love about your home? Third grader Aref loves his home in Oman, but his family will soon be moving to the United States. He spends a last week in his beautiful home experiencing all the things he loves—camping with his grandfather, fishing in the ocean, walking on the beach—before he leaves for a new country. This thoughtful book gives a glimpse into the mind of a child who is immigrating to a new country and emphasizes the small things that every person loves about their home. Reading about Aref’s country and the journey that he’s facing provides a perspective as children think about newcomers to our country. Although this book is a little longer than other titles I’ve included for this column, it’s a gentle story that would make a good read for younger elementary age kids reading above grade level.

Activities or Lesson-Plan Tie-Ins

Random House has a guide for the “Tia Lola” series, which includes thematic and curriculum connections.

HarperCollins offers a discussion guide for The Turtle of Oman, with discussion questions and extension activities.

Scholastic provides a unit lesson plan on immigration for a variety of grade levels.


George by Alex Gino. Scholastic Press. 2015. ISBN 9780545812542.

Melissa likes to look through fashion magazines and dream about the makeup she might wear when 000 Georgeshe’s older. On the inside, Melissa is a typical girl, but when people look at her they think they see a boy. At school and even at home, Melissa goes by the name she was given at birth, George. When Melissa’s class does a play based on Charlotte’s Web, she is dying to play the lead role, the spider Charlotte. This book is unique for its portrayal of a transgender girl for a younger middle grade audience. For kids hearing about transgender issues on the news or wondering what the big deal with gender-specific bathrooms has been, this is a great book to start a conversation. It also offers an authentic mirror for the experiences of transgender young readers. This would make a great pairing with the picture book I Am Jazz by Jessica Herthel and Jazz Jennings.

Activities or Lesson-Plan Tie-Ins

The Anti-Defamation League has created a guide for talking about George, which includes conversation starters and lots of resources to explore.

Ingrid Abrams of The Magpie Librarian blog shares a detailed post about booktalking and discussing George with fifth and sixth grade students at her school and about their author visit with Alex Gino. If you’re not sure how to introduce this book to students, this is a great place to start. provides information about the gender spectrum that includes suggestions for creating a gender inclusive classroom and they offer a series of lessons on gender expression.


Make Way for Dyamonde Daniel by Nikki Grimes. Penguin. 2009.

Rich: A Dyamonde Daniel Book by Nikki Grimes. Penguin. 2009.000 Diamonde

Dyamonde Daniel is a smart, energetic kid with plenty of confidence, and she’s great at seeing past first impressions and getting to know the kids in her class who don’t have a lot of friends. The second book in the series focuses on Dyamonde’s new friendship with Damaris, a girl in her class who’s been evicted from her home and now lives in a shelter. These books really center on the themes of making friends and getting to know kids before you judge them. Rich is a great introduction to homelessness for the early elementary set as we see Damaris’s struggles through Dyamonde’s eyes.

How to Steal a Dog by Barbara O’Connor. Farrar. 2007.

000 DogGeorgina Hayes is desperate. Ever since her father left them with just three rolls of quarters and a mayonnaise jar full of crumpled dollar bills, the family has been living in her mother’s car. When she sees an old reward poster offering a $500 reward for the return of a beloved lost dog, Georgina starts to come up with a plan. $500 would be enough to get an apartment and start getting their lives back on track. Stealing a dog turns out to be harder than Georgina thought, but desperate times call for desperate measures, right? And even though Georgina kinda knows it’s wrong, sometimes people in bad situations do bad things. Does it make her a bad person?

This is a more in-depth look at homelessness through the eyes of a kid who is experiencing it. Georgina’s story will foster conversations about homelessness and poverty. It also works wonderfully as a classroom read-aloud.

Pair How to Steal a Dog or Rich with Crenshaw by Katherine Applegate or, for older readers, Hold Fast by Blue Balliett for additional perspectives.

Activities or Lesson-Plan Tie-Ins

Penguin provides a guide for the first two “Dyamonde Daniel” books, which includes discussion questions and classroom activities.

Farrar provides a discussion guide for How to Steal a Dog,.

To delve further into the issue of homelessness and how it affects people, take a look at Learning to Give’s lesson plan, A Day in the Life of a Homeless Person.

The Committee on Temporary Shelter in Vermont provides an interdisciplinary activity guide for teaching about homelessness for grades K-12: Unsheltered Lives.


Additional Web Resources

Independent School Diversity Network: What is Diversity?

This site provides terms and information about many different types of diversity to consider when creating a school environment that is cognizant and supportive of a diverse student body.000 Teaching

Teaching Tolerance

This website has lesson plans and activities for a variety of grade levels on topics like immigration, race and identity, gender equity, and more.

GLSEN Educator Guides

GLSEN provides educational resources on creating a safe, respectful school environment and making your school a safe space for children of all gender expressions. Included in their educator guides is a free toolkit called Ready, Set, Respect with resources for kindergarten through second grade and third through fifth grade students.


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The Three Billy Goats Gruff by Jerry Pinkney | SLJ Review Wed, 15 Feb 2017 14:00:32 +0000 The Three Billy Goats Gruff. adapted by Jerry Pinkney. illus. by Jerry Pinkney. 40p. Little, Brown. May 2017. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780316341578.

PreS-Gr 2 –Employing his signature pencil and watercolor compositions, Pinkney brings a thoughtful, nuanced perspective to this classic tale. The story begins as expected, with the goats “trip-trapping” across the bridge in search of food—the first two urging the troll to wait for the bigger animal coming next. Each goat has a distinctive appearance; the troll is [...]]]> redstarThe Three Billy Goats Gruff. adapted by Jerry Pinkney. illus. by Jerry Pinkney. 40p. Little, Brown. May 2017. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780316341578.

PB-Pinkney-ThreeBillyGoatsGruffPreS-Gr 2 –Employing his signature pencil and watercolor compositions, Pinkney brings a thoughtful, nuanced perspective to this classic tale. The story begins as expected, with the goats “trip-trapping” across the bridge in search of food—the first two urging the troll to wait for the bigger animal coming next. Each goat has a distinctive appearance; the troll is fierce, with green skin, horns, and exceptionally large teeth. The halcyon, rainbow-studded river valley is surrounded with rocks on one side and lush vegetation on the other. While the story retains familiar cadences, subtle decisions about language and behavior elevate the telling, ensuring multiple readings. As the drama progresses, the design changes, incorporating ever-stronger personalities until a gatefold opening accommodates the standoff between the largest goat and the troll. Hand-lettered sound effects enhance the text’s dynamic potential. An artist’s note mentions that Pinkney was “confounded by the ending of the original tale, in which the troll disappears or turns to stone…. It seemed he never had a chance to learn his lesson.” Here, after the troll is catapulted into the water, he faces a monster fish who gives him a taste of his own medicine. A visual epilogue on the endpapers allows readers to form their own conclusions about the encounter’s impact on all involved. VERDICT With a seasoned storyteller’s ear for language and an extraordinary mastery of his medium, this wise and gentle bookmaker helps readers see that cleverness, community, and confrontation all have a time and place in dealing with a bully. Sure to become a storytime staple.–Wendy Lukehart, District of Columbia Public Library

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

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The Choice | SLJ DVD Review Wed, 15 Feb 2017 14:00:29 +0000 The Choice. (Frontline). 120 min. Dist. by PBS. 2016. $24.99. ISBN 9781627899031.

Gr 8 Up –The PBS series presents a biography/documentary to examine the latest presidential candidates, an election year tradition since 1988. This edition concentrates primarily on the psychological makeup of Hillary Rodham Clinton and Donald Trump and the influences that combined to create their well-known personas. The candidates are presented in an evenhanded manner that allows their primary personality traits to surface through archival footage that reaches [...]]]> redstarThe Choice. (Frontline). 120 min. Dist. by PBS. 2016. $24.99. ISBN 9781627899031.

DVD-The Choice 2016Gr 8 Up –The PBS series presents a biography/documentary to examine the latest presidential candidates, an election year tradition since 1988. This edition concentrates primarily on the psychological makeup of Hillary Rodham Clinton and Donald Trump and the influences that combined to create their well-known personas. The candidates are presented in an evenhanded manner that allows their primary personality traits to surface through archival footage that reaches back to their parents’ generation and interviews with friends, colleagues, critics, and historians. In Clinton’s case, secretiveness, suspicious behavior, and caution are key characteristics, along with an early desire to serve the nation. Trump is shown as a great manipulator whose penchant for revenge is an essential factor in his run for the presidency. Without any apparent bias, the work allows the lives and deeds of the two candidates to speak for themselves. In a time when entertainment has generally co-opted news, this is an important analysis of the new leader of the United States and of Clinton. VERDICT Highly valuable for social studies, history, political science, and economics classes. It will become even more useful as the Trump presidency evolves.–Eva Elisabeth VonAncken, formerly at Trinity-Pawling School Library, Pawling, NY

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

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Where Empathy Begins | The Work of Bob Graham Tue, 14 Feb 2017 16:29:24 +0000  

From OSCAR’S HALF BIRTHDAY. Text copyright © 2005 by Bob Graham. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Candlewick Press, Somerville, MA on behalf of Walker Books, London.

From OSCAR’S HALF BIRTHDAY. Text copyright © 2005 by Bob Graham. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Candlewick Press, Somerville, MA on behalf of Walker Books, London.

Bob Graham is an award-winning Australian author/illustrator. His whimsical stories are tender, childlike, adventurous, and kind. His families are messy, loving, and endearingly real, and his communities filled with “small heroes doing quiet deeds.” Graham explains that “As well as cosy home grown certainties…through books, children can imagine what it might be like to be in someone else’s shoes. This is surely where empathy starts.…” And surely, that’s what we all need now.

VANILLA ICE CREAM. Text copyright © 2014 by Bob Graham. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Candlewick Press, Somerville, MA on behalf of Walker Books, London.

VANILLA ICE CREAM. Text copyright © 2014 by Bob Graham.

In Vanilla Ice Cream (Candlewick, 2014; K-Gr 2), a hungry little sparrow visits a samosa stand in India in search of a meal. His life changes forever when he discovers a truckload of rice headed to the docks to be shipped overseas. As he forages greedily in an open bag, no one notices the little stowaway, who lands in a great city and eventually, at a café where a toddler sits in her stroller, as her grandparents are about to enjoy ice cream cones. When the family’s dog leaps for the sparrow, grandpa’s ice cream flies into his granddaughter’s lap, and her life, too, changes forever—for what could be better than an introduction to vanilla ice cream? “I wanted to give a small and seemingly unremarkable creature a story, for us to know that it has a life of its own and that it has worth and that by chance it might affect our own lives,” explains Graham. Ink-and-watercolor artwork filled with quiet details offers a variety of perspectives from close-up views of the samosa stand’s patrons  to a sparrow’s-eye view of scenes below.

a bus called heavenSparrows make a difference once again in a bus called heaven (Candlewick, 2012; K-Gr 2). One day an old, abandoned bus with a hand-painted sign “heaven” suddenly appears in a no parking zone in front of Stella’s house in the city. Where the adult world sees an obstacle, the child sees an opportunity. “‘It could be…ours,’ she whispered.”
Curiosity gives way to enterprise as neighbors come together to give new life to the bus as a stationary community center in Stella’s driveway, complete with toys, games, food, and furnishings. The only problem is the wheels extend onto a public walk, so a tow truck arrives to take the bus to the junkyard. Young Stella suggests that the driver play her at table soccer—winner decides the fate of the bus. When the driver demands to know why he should bother, Stella explains that there are “sparrows nesting in the engine.” Needless to say, she wins, and so do her neighbors, who help push their bus to the vacant lot behind Stella’s house.

MaxA sparrow again turns the tide in Max (Candlewick, 2000; PreS-Gr 1), the story of a baby superhero from a family of superheroes, complete with masks, capes, and the power to fly. Though he talked and walked early, the tot couldn’t get off the ground. His parents and grandparents worried, and his classmates teased, until the morning Max spied a baby bird fall from its nest. “Max saw it from his open window. This bird was not ready to fly. The baby bird fell. Max flew to save it.” After that, there was no stopping him, but would he follow in his parents’ footsteps, fighting criminals and bullies? “‘Not important,’ said Madame Thunderbolt. ‘Let’s call him a small hero doing quiet deeds. The world needs more of those.’”

healWith minimal text, How to Heal a Broken Wing (Candlewick, 2008; PreS-Gr 2) tells of another little boy who rescues a bird in trouble. “High above the city, no one heard the soft thud of feathers against glass.” Everyone in the bustling square is too busy to notice the felled creature, but Will sees and lifts the wounded pigeon, which his mother wraps in her scarf and carries home in her purse. As mother, father, and son nurse the patient back to health, a calendar and changing moon signify the passage of time “With rest…and time…and a little hope…a bird may fly again.” This beautiful book utilizes full spreads as well as small panels—akin to a wordless comic strip—to tell the story. In the beginning of the book, the bright colors of the small figure’s clothing on the street of gray skyscrapers draws readers’ eyes to the child. Throughout the book, Graham uses color to direct the eye and to highlight small details.

Like Stella, Kate is a child who knows how to make things happen. In “Let’s Get a Pup!” said Kate (Candlewick, 2003; K-Gr 2), the child’s lonely feet ache each night ever since Tiger the cat died. Then one sunny morning she awakens with new resolve…Her mom sees an ad for the animal rescue center, and they’re off. They see all sorts of dogs, but settle on Dave—small and cute and full of energy. But on the way out, they spy Rosy, “old and gray and broad as a table.” Reluctantly, they go home, but by morning they head right back to fetch the old girl. “Kate’s feet are no longer lonely under the blankets. It seems like Dave and Rosy have always been there. Their weight is comfortable and reliable, and will stop Kate’s bed from floating away into the night.” Graham knows what children need to feel grounded, and this caring, modern family (mom has a tattoo and nose ring), with all their domestic clutter, is all any child could want.

oscarIn Oscar’s Half Birthday (Candlewick, 2005; PreS-Gr 1), a family heads to “The half country…for a half birthday.” Baby Oscar is six months old today…what better way to celebrate than with a picnic? Mom, dad, big sister Millie, and Boris, the dog, all head out—Oscar in his stroller and Millie, with coat-hanger fairy wings and dinosaur puppet in hand, past the canal, through the woods, to a grassy meadow. “Oscar sits on the picnic blanket, swaying like a tightrope walker, trying to keep his balance” as people in the park gather round to ooh and aah and to sing “Happy Birthday” before the homemade chocolate cake is served. Graham’s writing about babies, children, and families, is playful and knowing, full of love and endearment. After bath time, the siblings conk out on the couch as mom and dad slow dance in the living room.

april and esmeGraham’s whimsical touch reaches new heights in April and Esme Tooth Fairies (Candlewick, 2010; K-Gr 2), when the two young sisters in a family of tooth fairies—even their dog has wings—are summoned to the house of Daniel Dangerfield by the boy’s grandma. Though their mother insists that they are too young, April wisely replies, “…Mommy…children still lose their first teeth…and ducklings still have to take their first swim.” Having thus convinced their parents, the “ducklings” fly off into the night to the sleeping boy’s room only to find Daniel’s lost tooth floating in a large cup of water. April bravely dives in to retrieve it, but awakens the child in the process—something her father has warned her never to do. Still, they muddle through and the wind carries them home to two very proud parents who “…hugged them till their wings crackled.” Though their house seems ordinary at first glance, clever details such as a thimble sink, teacup tub, postage stamp painting, and tiny two-story house hidden behind a tree stump all reveal their minuscule—though bighearted—world.

silver buttonThe Silver Button (Candlewick, 2013; PreS-Gr 2) begins with a drawing of another duckling. Jodie lovingly draws this creature “…with a top hat, cane, and boots of the softest leather. On the boots, she put silver buttons: one…two…” Meanwhile, her baby brother Jonathan shakily takes his first step. In the next minute, a pigeon loses a feather, a man buys a loaf of bread, a soldier hugs his mom goodbye, a little girl and her granddad play in the leaves, a blackbird finds a worm, a homeless woman pushes her worldly goods in a shopping cart, and “…phones rang in a thousand offices and pockets…Then down came Jonathan on his little pink knees.” Jodie alerts their mom that the baby has taken his first step, and adds the last silver button to the duck’s boots. A baby is born, two dogs play in the sand, a tanker heads to China…all in the space of a minute—just long enough for that first step. Again, small, but meaningful moments celebrate the life around us, and signature ink-and-watercolor illustrations convey  both the poignant and mundane in our world.

how the sunSimilarly, How the Sun Got to Coco’s House (Candlewick, 2015; PreS-Gr 1) describes how the rising sun connects us. It makes shadows in Jung Su’s footsteps, balances on the wing of a plane, waits outside an elderly woman’s window, catches a father and son off to market before it “…barged straight through Coco’s window!” After traversing the globe throughout the night, the sun is finally free to spend a winter’s day with the little girl and her friends as they frolic in the snow and build a snowman. Says Graham, “There is nothing more predictable than the rising of the sun, and in the writing of this book, I knew that there was nothing more certain than that it would eventually burst through Coco’s window and light up her day.” Spare, poetic text is paired with generous watercolor-and-ink illustrations to capture the sun’s sojourn across the globe, touching the lives of creatures young and old in the city and the country.

tales from the waterholeSlightly older, new readers will delight in the author’s Tales from the Waterhole (Candlewick, 2004; K-Gr 3). Four chapters with names as intriguing as “Fruit Salad Swimsuit” and “Daredevil Stunt” offer entertaining tales of Morris the crocodile and his myriad animal friends. “Summer on the sweltering African savanna has never been so much fun!” states the book’s blurb. Moms in silly bathing suits, boys trying to impress girls, family vacations, and shopping for new party clothes are universal experiences served up with humor and good nature. Those who search will almost always find a lovely, personal note from the author somewhere on his book jackets or author notes. “About Tales from the Waterhole, he says, ‘In the making of this book, I have been able to send my characters down to swim and play at the waterhole for endless hours—unaccompanied by their parents. What freedom! I have heard that it can get dangerous at dusk around a waterhole. Well, here they string up colored lights, dance, and take party photos. I might just go and live there.’” Readers will feel the same about Graham’s kind, unexceptional stories—with all that’s happening in our lives today, who wouldn’t like to lose themselves in the world of Bob Graham?

Subjects in the Curriculum Connections series “Authors to Study” by Barbara Auerbach include Shane W. Evans, Rukhshana Khan, and Shana Corey, among others.


Reproduced here:
VANILLA ICE CREAM. Text copyright © 2014 by Bob Graham. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Candlewick Press, Somerville, MA on behalf of Walker Books, London.
A BUS CALLED HEAVEN. Text copyright © 2012 by Bob Graham. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Candlewick Press, Somerville, MA on behalf of Walker Books, London.
OSCAR’S HALF BIRTHDAY. Text copyright © 2005 by Bob Graham. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Candlewick Press, Somerville, MA on behalf of Walker Books, London.

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Comical Information | Nonfiction Notions Tue, 14 Feb 2017 16:09:06 +0000 Nonfiction graphic novels can seem like a weird hybrid. After all, the term “nonfiction novel” is an oxymoron. How does that even work? But set nomenclature aside and add in a skilled author and/or illustrator, and nonfiction graphic works can be a superb blend of fiction and nonfiction, imagination and facts.

The first thing you have to remember when looking for great nonfiction graphic works is that there’s always going to be an element of fiction. Very few of these titles will work as research sources, but they do inform, educate, and entertain readers, introducing them to narrative nonfiction at its finest and inspiring them to further research and reading.

The hands-down, most popular graphic nonfiction at my library is Nathan Hale’s “Hazardous Tales” series. These historical narratives are densely written and illustrated, with copious research and sources000 Alamo cited. They focus exclusively on North American history, the conceit of the series being that narrator Nathan Hale is telling stories from history to put off his execution. My personal favorite is Big Bad Ironclad!, which focuses on the Civil War, but I think the best, from a literary standpoint, is the powerful Alamo All-Stars. This title takes a legendary historical event, the story of the Alamo, and explains the complex history, individuals, and pivotal events that led up to its fall and the aftermath of the tragedy. Hale’s graphics and poetic license—he often turns key historical figures into animals, gives them motifs, or focuses on little-known but fascinating aspects of the historical event—draw kids into the story while never losing sight of the events, characters, and context, or trivializing the lives and struggles of the people involved. As Nathan Hale says, “It’s history; no one gets out alive.”

Another source I turn to for nonfiction graphic novels is Capstone’s Graphic Library imprint. They offer fiction titles with nonfiction elements sprinkled throughout as well as nonfiction titles with exciting visuals. 000 EscapeWhile not reaching great literary or artistic heights, they’re nevertheless great additional purchases for nonfiction graphic collections and are ideal choices for reluctant and struggling readers. Their newest series, “Great Escapes of World War II” is an excellent example of the best features of this imprint. Each of the four titles cover a daring and dangerous wartime escape, from prisoners devising a way out of the Sobibor concentration camp to the breakout of Norwegian spy Sven Somme to the true story of Robert Grimes and other downed pilots on the Comet Line to tale of the prisoners of war who tunneled out from Stalag Luft III. Each title includes an introduction, approximately 20 pages of graphic narrative, and an epilogue following up on the main characters, as well as back matter. While the stories do touch on the violence and horrors of war, the facts are presented in a way that allows readers to think over the information and draw their own conclusions without bias. Readers will pick these up for the exciting escapes and find themselves reflecting on the difficult choices made during war. The art and text of these and other series from Graphic Library are generally uniform, making them a good choice for getting kids interested in various time periods in history or other nonfiction subjects, rather than a specific author or illustrator.

A new player on the graphic nonfiction scene, “Science Comics” from First Second, is rapidly gaining ground with readers. Each volume, written and illustrated by a different creator, addresses a different historical or scientific concept in a unique way. For example, one of the first (and so far the most popular) titles, Dinosaurs: Fossils and Feathers, at first appears to be about prehistoric life. But while 000 Volcanoit does cover many interesting scientific concepts surrounding dinosaurs, the main narrative of the book is dedicated to the scientific research about dinosaur fossils, from Mary Anning to the Bone Wars and up to the present day. Another example, the recent Volcanoes: Fire and Life, uses a fictional story of a futuristic, frozen society to explain the science behind volcanoes and other powerful forces beneath the earth’s surface. These titles bring the narrative to the forefront of narrative nonfiction, challenging readers to view things like bats, dinosaur fossils, and coral reefs in a new way and go behind the scenes to explore how events fit into history and science.

Each of these titles or series mixes fictional aspects with nonfiction facts. Abrams’s “Nathan Hale” books tell history against a fantastical background, from a humorous hangman to characterizing World War I countries as different animals. Capstone’s “Great Escapes” series is the closest to pure nonfiction but does include dialogue and thoughts of historical figures. First Second’s “Science Comics” often use fictional framing stories to present scientific knowledge and, depending on the author, may include humorous cartoons and anthropomorphic animals and inanimate objects. By skillfully using these devices, graphic nonfiction not only offers information, but also gives readers the opportunity to differentiate between fact and fiction, to think about how historical personages and scientists thought and felt about events and their work, and to be inspired to explore further into the world of nonfiction.

Titles Referenced

Big Bad Ironclad! by Nathan Hale, illus. by author. (Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales). Abrams. 2012. ISBN 9781419703959.

Alamo All Stars! by Nathan Hale, illus. by author. (Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales). Abrams. 2016. ISBN 9781419719028.

Behind Enemy Lines: The Escape of Robert Grimes with the Comet Line by Matt Chandler, illus. by Dante Ginevra. (Great Escapes of World War II). Capstone. 2017. ISBN 9781515735304.

Death Camp Uprising: The Escape from Sobibor Concentration Camp by Nel Yomtov, illus. by Michael Bartolo & Wilson Tortosa. (Great Escapes of World War II). Capstone. 2017. ISBN 9781515735328.

Outrunning the Nazis: The Brave Escape of Resistance Fighter Sven Somme by Matt Chandler, illus. by Daniele Nicotra & Douglas A. Sirois. (Great Escapes of World War II). Capstone. 2017. ISBN 9781515735298.

Tunneling to Freedom: The Great Escape from Stalag Luft III by Nel Yomtov, illus. by Alessandro Valdrighi. (Great Escapes of World War II). Capstone. 2017. ISBN 9781515735311.

Dinosaurs: Fossils and Feathers by M.K. Reed, illus. by Joe Flood. (Science Comics). First Second. 2016. ISBN 9781626721449.

Volcanoes: Fire and Life by Joe Chad, illus. by author. (Science Comics). First Second. 2016. ISBN 9781626723610.


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Celebrating Black History: Real People and Real Lives Tue, 14 Feb 2017 15:46:31 +0000  

Thoughtfully written and handsomely presented, these recently published books for middle grade and high school students invite readers to dig into the past and explore the historical events, personal perspectives, and challenges and achievements that have contributed to the black experience in the United States. The first section features three outstanding collective biographies that introduce the lives, trials, and triumphs of black men and women while clearly placing their stories against the backdrop of contemporary history. Next, three examples of narrative nonfiction, each well researched and captivatingly written, invite readers to explore specific topics. Finally, three works of historical narrative poetry blend fact with imagination to provide fresh and more personalized viewpoints of history, a compelling approach that also invites discussion about interpreting source material, point of view, and the many ways an author can tell a story.

Elucidating Biographies
PathfindersIn Pathfinders: The Journeys of 16 Extraordinary Black Souls (Abrams, 2017; Gr 5-9), Tonya Bolden highlights the lives of inspiring individuals who dared to dream big, pursued their passions, and found innovative ways to succeed despite having the odds stacked against them. Chronically arranged chapters blend compellingly readable text with beautifully reproduced contemporary photos and facsimiles, timelines of important life events, and sidebars providing historical context, all arranged in a logical and eye-appealing format. The book begins with Venture Smith (c. 1727-1805), captured from his West African village as a boy and enslaved for decades, who purchased his own freedom as well as that of his family, became a landowner in Connecticut, and penned a memoire. Also included are Richard Potter (1783-1835), a magician who “wowed audiences with his hocus-pocus” from Canada to New Orleans; Mary Bowser (c. 1841-?), a spy for the Union during the Civil War; bank founder Maggie Lena Walker (1864-1934), who had no formal training but possessed an “aptitude for turning can’t into can”; Indiana speed racer and “matchless mechanic” Charlie Wiggins (1897-1979); architect Paul R. Williams (1894-1980), who preservered despite a high school teacher’s advice not to, and built a storied career; and mathematician Katherine Coleman Goble Johnson (1918- ), a “human computer” who was instrumental in charting courses and calculating trajectories for NASA space missions throughout a “long and stellar career” (she was one of the subjects featured in the 2016 bio-drama, Hidden Figures). Covering a wide variety of life paths and passions and many years of American history, this book will captivate readers and motivate them to “dream, reach, soar.”

answering the cryGretchen Woelfle introduces 13 African American men and women who lived during the American Revolution and explains how they dedicated their lives to Answering the Cry for Freedom (Calkins Creek, 2016; Gr 4-9). The book is divided into thematic sections that invite readers to compare and contrast a variety of experiences. The first focuses on three soldiers: Boston King, an enslaved South Carolinian who joined the British army in hopes of gaining his liberty; Massachusetts freeman and Continental army enlistee Agrippa Hull; and enslaved Virginian James Armistead Lafayette, a spy for the Americans and the Marquis de Lafayette. The next section looks at individuals who lived in Massachusetts, the “Cradle of Liberty,” but still had to fight for their own natural rights: poet Phillis Wheatley, Elizabeth “Mumbet” Freeman, and social activist and Masonic Lodge founder Prince Hall. “Enslaved Women in the South” introduces Mary Perth, Ona Judge, and Sally Hemings, each of whom took a different route in pursuit of freedom. The last section highlights blacks who took the first steps along “the long road to equality”: wealthy ship-owner and abolitionist Paul Cuffee; John Kizell, who worked to end slavery in Africa; African Methodist Episcopal Church founding minister, Richard Allen; and church member Jarena Lee, who fought gender discrimination to become a preacher. Set clearly against historical events, these well-written vignettes make stirringly clear each individual’s motivations, the hard times and difficult choices he or she faced, and the significance of their accomplishments. Pull-out primary quotes and R. Gregory Christie’s elegant silhouettes grace the book’s pages, and notes, timelines, resources, and citations are appended, aiding further research.

in the shadowSimilarly contrasting the fight for freedom and justice with the grim reality of human bondage, Kenneth C. Davis’s In the Shadow of Liberty (Holt, 2016; Gr 6 Up) sheds light on the lives of five enslaved individuals and the men who kept them in chains—four of our most-revered Founding Fathers and Presidents. Well-researched and absolutely gripping, the text delves into an area of history that has long been obscured, exploring the contradictions intrinsic to a nation “conceived in liberty” yet “born in shackles,” and revealing important truths and insights about America’s past. Throughout, the author skillfully weaves together primary quotes, statistics, and contemporary reproductions to relate mesmerizing biographical portraits set against vividly described historical backdrops. Introduced here are William “Billy” Lee, George Washington’s personal servant and constant companion, and the only slave freed at Washington’s death; Ona Judge, lady’s maid to Martha Washington, who courageously escaped her bondage during the first couple’s tenure in Philadelphia; Isaac Granger, born into slavery at Monticello in 1775, whose memories about life among “Mr. Jefferson’s People” were later collected and written down; Paul Jennings, enslaved servant of James Madison, who was at the White House when Dolley fled British invasion during the War of 1812; and Alfred Jackson, who grew up at Andrew Jackson’s Tennessee plantation, and lived there until his death in 1901, telling stories about Jackson to visitors after the Hermitage became a museum. This much-needed re-examination of American History is unflinching, fascinating, and illuminating.

Dive into the Past
ShacklesMichael H. Cottman’s absorbing Shackles from the Deep (National Geographic, 2016; Gr 6 Up) begins in 1972 with Captain “Moe” Molinar, a black underwater treasure hunter from Panama who was searching for the wreck of a gold-laden 17th-century Spanish galleon off the coast of Key West, Florida. Instead, in the sand, he discovered, “a pair of hardened, ancient shackles—heavy manacles the he knew were designed specifically to handcuff the wrists of enslaved Africans, wrists that—he couldn’t help thinking—had probably looked much like his own.” Looking further, he found another pair of shackles, tiny enough to sit in the palm of his hand, made to fit children. It would take years for marine archeologists to identify the source of these artifacts, an English slave ship called the Henrietta Marie that sunk in the early 1700s. When Cottman, an African American journalist and avid Scuba diver, was asked to chronicle the story of this ship in 1992, he embarked on a quest to research its origins and route—an emotional journey that took him from the historical tomes and captain’s logs located in England’s National Maritime Museum, to the Caribbean ports of call where enslaved Africans were sold at public auction and forced into backbreaking labor on sugar plantations, and all the way to House of Slaves on Senegal’s Gorée Island, now a museum and memorial. The author combines carefully conducted research, invaluable insights, and a page-turning adventure of investigation and discovery into a riveting book that is affectingly personal, emotionally harrowing, and historically impactful.

brown vsSusan Goldman Rubin’s Brown v. Board of Education: A Fight for Simple Justice (Holiday House, 2016; Gr 6-8) provides a very readable look at this 1954 landmark case, the history of school segregation, and the importance of social activism. An introduction provides background on Jim Crow laws, the 1896 Plessy v. Ferguson ruling that “established ‘separate but equal’ as the law of the land,” and the early career of Thurgood Marshall, legal counsel for the NAACP and champion of civil rights. Beginning with the family of Linda Brown and 12 other plaintiffs in Topeka, Kansas, chapters delve into all of the cases that were grouped together by the Supreme Court, tracing them from their local origins in four different states and the District of Columbia. Covered in depth are the careful and intelligent planning by the legal team, which also included African Americans Spottswood Robinson III and Robert L. Carter, as well as the effects of the proceedings upon the individuals involved, ordinary people who faced hostility, job loss, hate mail, and more. These personal stories, along with well-chosen quotes and contemporary photos (many starkly showing that in no way were schools for whites and blacks “separate but equal”), make history real and immediate. The final chapter offers an overview of the long and difficult road toward desegregation in public schools, a goal not yet achieved. Compelling and inspiring, this book informs while honoring those who faced hostility and danger in order to fight for justice.

how to build a museumIn How to Build a Museum (Viking/Smithsonian, 2016; Gr 5 Up), Tonya Bolden describes the planning, construction, and collections of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History, which opened in Washington, DC, in September of 2016. This “hundred-year dream” is rooted in a 1915 reunion of Civil War soldiers. Tasked with establishing a monument honoring African American servicemen, the National Memorial Association soon expanded its objective and began campaigning for a museum devoted to black contributions in all areas of American life. Though a Congressional bill passed in 1929 to create a planning committee, it would be many contentious years before the project moved forward (the law establishing NMAAHC was signed by President George W. Bush in 2003). Describing everything from soup to nuts, the invitingly written chapters cover early development and the establishment of a vision (led by Director Lonnie G. Bunch III), the various ways that artifacts were acquired (including a “Treasures” program that invited people to bring family heirlooms to public institutions where they were viewed by experts who provided advice about preservation), and the architectural design and construction. Sprinkled throughout are crisp, carefully captioned images of artifacts, ranging from a Harriet Tubman’s shawl (a gift from Queen Victoria) to a biplane used by Tuskegee Airmen for training. The final section introduces readers to the 11 permanent exhibits, organized around themes of history, community, and culture. Throughout this handsome volume, the dynamic text and well-chosen reproductions emphasize the museum’s purpose of focusing more on people than events, and making all visitors feel, as Bunch suggests, “This is not a black story. This is my story. This is the American story.” Expand the reading experience by having your students explore the museum and its exhibits at the NMAAHC website (

History Through a Different Lens: Narrative Poetry
freedom-over-me1-e1473697640988Blending evocative free verse and stunning watercolor artwork, Ashley Bryan’s Freedom Over Me (Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy, 2016; Gr 4-8) brings to life 11 enslaved individuals. The opening poem sets the scene: after her husband’s death, Mrs. Mary Fairchilds chooses to sell the estate’s slaves and return home to England. (A reproduction of the 1828 appraisal of the Fairchilds estate—listing the first names and dollar values of 11 men, women, and children along with cattle and equipment—is appended, reminding readers that the cruel circumstances framing these portrayals are solidly based in fact.) From only these names and figures, Bryan imagines detailed daily existences, distinctive personalities, and resonant inner lives. Each individual is introduced with a stark portrait set against a backdrop collaged from historical deeds and other documents. A page turn provides a vibrant second image, awash with warm colors and exuberant motion, showing that person leading the life that he or she can only dream about. First-person poems touch upon each individual’s daily tasks and the talents that have made the plantation prosper, recollections of childhood and/or long-ago homes in Africa, the tight bonds and deep emotions that hold together this family of slaves, and an impossible-to-extinguish hope for freedom. The verse and images glow with the power of artistic creativity and self-expression, revealing a quiet sense of pride in accomplishment and breathtaking inner strength and resiliency. Both affecting and informative, compassionate and eye-opening, this beautifully wrought book vivifies America’s past and gives voice to those who had their very humanity stolen away.

you can flyIn You Can Fly: The Tuskegee Airmen (Atheneum, 2016; Gr 5 Up), Carole Boston Weatherford’s soaring verses prove that dreams cannot be grounded, despite impossible-seeming obstacles. Told from a second-person point of view that immediately puts readers into the cockpit, 33 poems trace the trajectory of the dedicated African American individuals who were determined to become pilots, from entry into the civilian training program at Alabama’s Tuskegee Institute to finally engaging the enemy in the skies above Europe. Packed with historical facts, the entries cover in detail the rigors, pressures, and prejudices faced by “The First Cadets” during aviation training (“The burden of past and future,/heavier than any aircraft./The eyes of your country are on you;/the hopes of your people/rest on your shoulders”); the joys of flying “Solo, At Last” (“You have never felt freer./Never”); the important work of African American support staff and Army nurses; the fight on the home front against racism and inequality; the distinguished service that earned the Tuskegee pilots the nickname, “Red Tail Angels;” and the reality these decorated soldiers faced upon returning home (“Your fight is by no means finished”). An epilogue reveals the far-reaching legacy of these pioneers (including full integration of the U.S. military in 1948), and an author’s note and timeline support the historical context. Jeffery Boston Weatherford’s scratchboard illustrations appear throughout, adding an appealing visual element to this compelling exploration of history.

lovingWritten in vivid free verse, Patricia Hruby Powell’s Loving vs. Virginia (Chronicle, 2017; Gr 8 Up) presents an intimate and multifaceted look at the real-life individuals behind the landmark Supreme Court case that legalized interracial marriage. Beginning in the 1950s with their younger years, the two protagonists take turns describing how they met in their tight-knit Virginia community and fell in love. However, Virginia’s anti-miscegenation laws banning interracial marriage made it illegal for Mildred Jeter, who was considered “colored,” and Richard Loving, who was white, to wed. Married at a preacher’s house in Washington, DC, in June of 1958, they were arrested when they returned to Virginia, and served jail time. It would take nine long years of working with ACLU lawyers, living apart from the extended families that loved and supported them, and heartfelt courage and hope-filled determination before the unanimous 1967 Supreme Court ruling finally brought them joy and peace. Contemporary photographs, pull-out quotes and statistics, and reproductions of documents provide historical context and highlight civil rights milestones. Shadra Strickland’s lovely illustrations of the book’s subjects, designed to reference a 1950s style of visual journalism, enhance the narrative’s up-close-and personal mood and add to the emotional resonance.  Filled with small, quietly eloquent moments and honest emotion (“Richard takes/my hand,/now we’re/strolling—/makes me feel like/I belong/right next to him”), this documentary novel brings the past to life.

Whether incorporated into classroom studies, recommended for independent reading, or featured in library displays, these books make excellent resources to help students delve deeper into American History, gain greater insights into the experiences of African Americans, and perhaps contemplate the many ways that the past informs the present.

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From Refugees to Voting Rights, Books to Inspire a Just, Inclusive Society Tue, 14 Feb 2017 15:30:40 +0000 Information gathered by the Southern Poverty Law Center indicates that hate incidents and other forms of oppression have risen as a direct result of the 2016 campaign and election, as have anxiety and fear among students and teachers from marginalized groups. The Bank Street College of Education’s mission states, “we seek to strengthen not only individuals, but the community as well, including family, school, and the larger society in which adults and children, in all their diversity, interact and learn.”

The Bank Street Credo, authored by our founder Lucy Sprague Mitchell nearly a century ago, talks about developing “flexibility when confronted with change and [the] ability to relinquish patterns that no longer fit the present” and “gentleness combined with justice in passing judgments on other human beings” in children and adults alike. We find ourselves asking: what are the special responsibilities of educators and librarians in the year 2017?

Indeed, a divisive election has shown us that there remains much work to do to help promote a deeper understanding and acceptance of our human differences. At Bank Street, we see in education the opportunity to make great strides in this effort. Learning about identity—including race, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, and more—is key to our curricula. We strongly believe that educators and librarians have a heightened responsibility to create safe and meaningful learning environments that nurture thoughtful, empathetic, and productive citizens of tomorrow.

The following booklists—which include contributions from the Bank Street Children’s Book Committee, the Bank Street College Library, and School Library Journal—are intended to be a starting place (not a comprehensive list) to help educators and librarians create a supportive space to explore these issues and help promote an inclusive, democratic, and just society.


I’m New Here

by Anne Sibley O’Brien, illus. by author. Charlesbridge. ISBN 9781580896122.000I'm New Here

Three children, immigrants from different lands, face the challenge of adjusting to school in the United States. Featuring digitally enhanced watercolor illustrations. (6–8)

Pancho Rabbit and the Coyote: A Migrant’s Tale

by Duncan Tonatiuh, illus. by author. Abrams. ISBN 9781419705830.

Pancho Rabbit, guided by a coyote, sets out to find Papa, who has been away working in the fields of El Norte far too long. Flat, Mixtec codex-inspired artwork sets an ominous mood. (6–10)

The Sun Is Also a Star

by Nicola Yoon. Delacorte. ISBN 9780553496680.

An unlikely series of events unite Natasha, an undocumented Jamaican immigrant being deported, and Daniel, a Korean American going to a college admissions interview, changing both forever. (13–17)

Lucy and Linh

by Alice Pung. Knopf. ISBN 9780399550485.

When Lucy, an immigrant from Vietnam, wins a prestigious scholarship, she must learn how to navigate the world of privilege without losing herself or her beloved heritage. (14–18)  

Mamá the Alien/Mamá la extraterrestre

written and translated by René Colato Laínez, illus. by Laura Lacámara. Children’s Book Pr. ISBN 9780892392988.

A young girl discovers her mother is an alien—or is she? Featuring acrylic and collage illustrations. (8–10)




by Miriam Halahmy. Holiday House. ISBN 9780823436941.

Fourteen-year-old Alix confronts racial prejudice and moral dilemmas when an Iraqi refugee washes up on the beach near her home. (14–18)

000 Long WalkA Long Walk To Water

by Linda Sue Park. Clarion. ISBN 9780547577319.

Separated from his family at the height of the 1985 Sudanese civil war, 11-year-old Salva describes his long journey to safety. His true story is juxtaposed with Nya’s 2008 story, giving both a historical and contemporary view of life in that area of the world. (10–14)

Inside Out and Back Again

by Thanhha Lai. Harper. ISBN 9780061962783.

Ha and her family find new battles to fight in Alabama when they flee South Vietnam in 1975. (9–12)


by Melanie Crowder. Philomel. ISBN 9780399168994.

Clara Lemlich’s life story, from her childhood in Russia to her groundbreaking labor activism in New York, is told in vivid verse. Includes historical notes and glossary. (12–15)

The Whispering Town

by Jennifer Elvgren, illus. by Fabio Santomauro. Kar-Ben. ISBN 9781467711951.

In Denmark during World War II, young Annet, her parents, and their neighbors help a Jewish family hide from Nazi soldiers until it is safe for them to leave Annet’s basement. (5–8)



Layla’s Head Scarf

by Miriam Cohen, illus. by Ronald Himler. Star Bright. ISBN 9781595721778.

Shy Layla, a first grader at a new school, navigates hurtful comments from classmates about her head scarf, with the help of some new friends. (4–7)

Big Red Lollipop

by Rukhsana Khan, illus. by Sophie Blackall. Viking. ISBN 9780670062874.

Not accustomed to celebrating birthdays, Rubina is excited to attend her first party, but her mother, Ami, insists that she bring her little sister along. (5–9)

Growing Up Muslim: Understanding the Beliefs and Practices of Islam

by Sumbul Ali-Karamali. Delacorte. ISBN 9780385740951.000 Growing Up

Learn about the teachings of the Qur’an, Ramadan, the hajj, and more. The author also explains Islam’s similarities to Christianity and Judaism and the differences among them. (10–14)

Does My Head Look Big In This?

by Randa Abdel-Fattah. Scholastic. ISBN 9780439922333.

Sixteen-year-old Amal navigates school, friendships, and romance, while also battling intolerance and bullying when she decides to wear the hijab full time. (14–18)

Written In the Stars

by Aisha Saeed. Penguin/Nancy Paulsen Bks. ISBN 9780399171703.

When her conservative Pakistani parents discover that 17-­year-­old Naila is seeing a boy, they suddenly visit Pakistan where they try to force her into an arranged marriage. (13–17)



Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe

by Benjamin Alire Sáenz. S. & S. ISBN 9781442408920.

Two Latino teens forge an uncommon friendship and come to terms with family secrets, homosexuality, and what it means to love and be loved. (14–18)

000 This DayThis Day in June

by Gayle E. Pitman, illus. by Kristyna Litten. Magination. ISBN 9781433816598.

Welcomes readers to a Pride parade. Back matter serves as a primer on LGBTQ history and culture and explains the references made in the story. (3–7)


by Malinda Lo. Little, Brown. ISBN 9780316040099.

This fresh, elegant retelling of Cinderella abounds in fantasy and mystery and ends with a compelling twist. (11–14)

The Misadventures of the Family Fletcher

by Dana Alison Levy. Delacorte. ISBN 9780385376525.

The Fletchers—two dads, four adopted sons, one invisible cheetah—face the challenges and rewards of school and life with a grouchy new neighbor. (9–­12)


by Kody Keplinger. Scholastic. ISBN 9780545831130.

Unlikely best friends Bo and Agnes skip town on a quest to find Bo’s father. Chapters alternate between the two girls’ points of view to tell the story of how they met, as well as their adventures on the road, as both grapple with reputations they do not deserve. (14–18)



Worm Loves Worm

Written by J.J. Austrian, illus. by Mike Curato. Harper. ISBN 9780062386335.

Worm and worm are in love and plan to get married. But does it matter which worm will be the bride and which will be the groom? Featuring whimsical pencil and Photoshop illustrations. (4–6)

I Am Jazz

by Jessica Herthel and Jazz Jennings, illus. by Shelagh McNicholas. Dial. ISBN 9780803741072.000 I Am Jazz

A transgender girl tells the story of how she realized she was a girl, in spite of having male body parts, and how she taught her family and friends who she was. (5–8)

Call Me Tree/Llamame Arbol

by Maya Christina Gonzalez, illus. by author. Children’s Book Pr. ISBN 9780892392940.

A bilingual lyrical tale that follows one child/tree from the depths of Mami/Earth to the heights of the sky. (5–8)

Symptoms of Being Human

by Jeff Garvin. Harper. ISBN 9780062382863.

Blogging anonymously helps gender-fluid Riley cope with isolation and terrifying anxiety attacks—until the blog goes viral and Riley fears being outed and abused. (13–17)


by Alex Gino. Scholastic. ISBN 9780545812542.

When people look at George, they think they see a boy. But she knows she’s a girl. George thinks she’ll have to keep this secret forever, but when her class puts on a play of Charlotte’s Web, George comes up with a plan so that everyone can know who she is. (8–11)



000 NoneNone of the Above

by I.W. Gregorio. Harper. ISBN 9780062335319.

A visit to the doctor reveals that Kristin is intersex: although she looks and feels like a girl, she has male chromosomes. When her diagnosis is leaked to the whole school, Kristin’s entire identity is thrown into question. As her world unravels, can she come to terms with her new self? (14+)


Sexual Harassment/Sexual Assault

Your Body Belongs To You

by Cornelia Maude Spelman, illus. by Teri L Weidner. Albert Whitman. ISBN 9780807594735.

Teaches children what to do and say if someone touches a body part that would be covered by a bathing suit. Also includes helpful language for adults to use with children. (3–7)


by Laurie Halse Anderson. Farrar. ISBN 9780312674397.

Melinda, struggling to cope with trauma after being raped, becomes increasingly isolated and selectively mute during her freshman year of high school. Art and newfound inner strength help her find her voice. (12+)


by Chris Lynch. S. & S. ISBN 9781481432023.

Keir, a self-professed “good guy”, gradually loses the ability to take responsibility for his actions, becoming less and less compassionate and more and more reckless—until he crosses the line and rapes his friend Gigi. (13+)

What We Saw000What We Saw

by Aaron Hartzler. HarperTeen. ISBN 9780062338747.

When a sexual assault occurs at a high school party, friendships are tested and an entire town becomes embroiled in controversy. (15–18)

Sex Is a Funny Word: A Book about Bodies, Feelings, and You

by Cory Silverberg, illus. by Fiona Smyth. Triangle Square. ISBN 9781609806064.

A nonfiction comic book that includes information on bodies, gender, and sexuality. Features children and families of all makeups, orientations, and gender identities. (8+)



When Reason Breaks

by Cindy L Rodriguez. Bloomsbury. ISBN 9781619634121.

Emily and Elizabeth, paired together for a project on Emily Dickinson, fight to conceal monumental secrets, battling depression, anxiety, and rage. (13–18)

000 KingKing For a Day

by Rukhsana Khan, illus. by Christiane Krömer. Lee & Low. ISBN 9781600606595.

Stationed in his wheelchair on a rooftop in Lahore, Malik celebrates the Festival of Basant, expertly bringing down competitors’ kites with his small, speedy kite. Featuring colorful mixedmedia collages. (610)

Kinda Like Brothers

by Coe Booth. Scholastic. ISBN 9780545224963.

Jarrett’s life is jarred when a new baby and her older brother show up as foster children. Forced to share a room, Jarrett and Kevon instantly distrust each other; their relationship grows and falters over the course of summer. (11–14)

Handbook for Dragon Slayers

by Merrie Haskell. Harper. ISBN 9780062008169.

Yearning for life in a cloistered scriptorium, 13-year-old Princess Matilda, whose lame foot brings fear of the evil eye, escapes her scheming cousin Ivo and joins her servant Judith and an old friend, Parz, in hunting dragons and writing about them. (11–14)

The Real Boy

by Anne Ursu, illus. by Erin McGuire. Harper/Walden Pond. ISBN 9780062015075.

Eleven-yearold Oscar, an orphan, struggles to understand and express himself while working as an apothecary’s assistant in a town experiencing strange illnesses. (1114)


Women in Leadership

Seeds of Change: Wangari’s Gift to the World

Written by Jen Cullerton Johnson, illus. by Sonia Lynn Sadler. Lee & Low. ISBN 9781600603679.

Tells the story of Wangari Maathai’s life, from earning her doctorate in biology, to working for women’s rights, to being unjustly jailed, to the revolutionary movement she led to plant 30 million trees in Kenya. (6–10)

Rad American Women A-Z: Rebels, Trailblazers, and Visionaries Who Shaped Our History… and Our Future!

Written by Kate Schatz, illus. by Miriam Klein Stahl. City Lights. ISBN 9780872866836.

U.S. history was made by countless rad—and often radical—women. Featuring information about a fresh and diverse array of women role models. (10–14)

Night Flying Woman: An Ojibway Narrative000 Night

by Ignatia Broker. Minnesota Historical Society. ISBN 9780873511674.

The author tells the story of her great-great-grandmother and subsequent generations of women who survived the shock and trauma of European invasion. (9–14)

Sonia Sotomayor: A Judge Grows in the Bronx/La juez que crecio en el Bronx

Written by Jonah Winter, illus. by Edel Rodriguez. S. & S./Atheneum. ISBN 9781442403031.

Sonia Sotomayor’s mother instills a sense of pride and a love of learning in her, so that by the time she turns eight, she knows she wants to be a judge. (5–8)

Heart and Soul: The Story of America and African Americans

by Kadir Nelson, illus. by author. HarperCollins/Balzer + Bray. ISBN 9780061730740.

A grandmother relates the history of African Americans up to the present day. Accompanied by brilliant oil paintings. (9–13)


English/Spanish Bilingual

Salsa: Un poema para cocinar/A Cooking Poem

by Jorge Argueta, translated from the Spanish by Elisa Amado, illus. by Duncan Tonatiuh. Groundwood. 000 SalsaISBN 9781554984428.

A young girl and her family make red salsa and musically celebrate their culture and ancestry. Featuring flat, stylistic illustrations. Spanish and English text. (5–10)

How Do You Say?/¿Cómo Se Dice?

by Angela Dominguez, illus. by author. Holt. ISBN 9781627794961.

Two giraffes meet, become friends, and party, exchanging simple words in Spanish and English. (2–5)

El Violín de Ada/ Ada’s Violin: The Story of the Recycled Orchestra of Paraguay

by Susan Hood, illus. by Sally Wern Comport. S. & S. ISBN 9781481430951.

Ada grows up hopeless in a garbage-dump town until she learns how to play a violin made of debris and joins an orchestra. Featuring mixed-media illustrations. Also available in Spanish. (6–8)  

Mango, Abuela and Me/Mango, Abuela Y Yo

by Meg Medina, illus. by Angela Dominguez. Candlewick. ISBN 9780763680992.

When Mia’s Abuela comes to live with Mia and her family, Mia helps Abuela learn English while Mia learns Spanish, both with the help of a parrot named Mango. (5–8)

Viva Frida

by Yuyi Morales, illus. by author, photos by Tim O’Meara. Neal Porter Bks. ISBN 9781596436039.

Artist Frida Kahlo, manifested both as a puppet and as an acrylic-painted figure, sees, plays, dreams, creates, and lives. With vivid, powerful colors and dynamic spreads. (6–10)


Voting Rights

Marching For Freedom: Walk Together, Children, and Don’t You Grow Weary

by Elizabeth Partridge. Viking. ISBN 9780670011896.

The story, including music and photos, of the three-month protest that took place before Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s landmark march from Selma to Montgomery to promote equal rights and help African-Americans earn the right to vote. (11+)

“March” trilogy

by John Lewis and Andrew Aydin, illus. by Nate Powell. Top Shelf. ISBN 978160309­3002.

Activist and Congressman John Lewis provides an intimate portrayal of the American Civil Rights movement, powerfully told in a graphic novel format. (1215)


by Eileen Christelow, illus. by author. Clarion. ISBN 9780547059730.

Explains the U.S. voting process, from campaigns to recounts, in colorful illustrations and clear, accessible text. (7–11)

Ida B. Wells: Let the Truth Be Told

by Walter Dean Myers, illus. by Bonnie Christensen. HarperCollins. ISBN 9780060544683.

Tells the story of how Ida B. Wells, born into slavery, became a writer, speaker, activist, and educator 000 Fannieas she spoke out for the rights of Black people and women, and against injustice, in particular the horrors of lynching. (8–12)

Voice of Freedom: Fannie Lou Hamer: The Spirit of the Civil Rights Movement

by Carole Boston Weatherford, illus. by Ekua Holmes. Candlewick Press. ISBN 978­07636­65319.

Born into extreme poverty in Mississippi in 1917, African American activist Fannie Lou Hamer fought tirelessly for voting rights and social justice. Told in free verse with vibrant collages. (10–13)


Democratic Process

Grace for President

by Kelly Dipucchio, illus. by LeUyen Pham. Disney-Hyperion. ISBN 9781423139997.

Shocked to learn that a woman has never been president of the United States, Grace decides to run for president of her school. When the electoral votes are counted, will she triumph? (6–9)

If I Ran for President

by Catherine Stier, illus. by Lynne Avril. Albert Whitman. ISBN 9780807535448.

Details the process of running for president, from primaries and conventions to debates and being sworn in. (6–9)

See How They Run: Campaign Dreams, Election Schemes, and the Race to the White House

by Susan E. Goodman, illus. by Elwood Smith. Bloomsbury. ISBN 9781599908977.

Tells the history of democracy, complete with funny stories, witty illustrations, and solid information. (8–12)

Duck for President

000 Artby Doreen Cronin, illus. by author. S. & S. ISBN 9780689863776.

When Duck becomes dissatisfied with the farm, he aspires to change his job, and, after several elections and many recounts, is elected president. (5–8)

The Art of the Possible: An Everyday Guide to Politics

by Edward Keenan, illus. by Julie McLaughlin. Owlkids. ISBN 9781771470681.

An accessible but thorough exploration of Western politics and democracy. Delves into polarization, checks and balances, activism, and the ideology behind practice. (11–15)


Children’s Rights

Malala, a Brave Girl from Pakistan/Iqbal, a Brave Boy from Pakistan: Two Stories of Bravery

by Jeanette Winter, illus. by author. S. & S./Beach Lane. ISBN 9781481422949.

The biographies of two Pakistani children’s rights activists, Malala Yousafzai and Iqbal Masih, join together in one to create a radiant whole. Featuring flat, child-centric illustrations. (6–9)

Brave Girl: Clara and the Shirtwaist Makers’ Strike of 1909

by Michelle Markel, illus. by Melissa Sweet. HarperCollins/Balzer + Bray. ISBN 9780­061804427.

Newly arrived in New York City as an immigrant, Clara Lemlich went from overworked factory seamstress to pioneering labor leader. With mixed-­media illustrations and solid references. (79)

Kids at Work: Lewis Hine and the Crusade Against Child Labor

by Russell Freedman, photos by Lewis Hine. Clarion. ISBN 9780395797266.

Lewis Hine uses the art of photography to expose the brutality of child labor and advocate for children’s rights. (12–16)

We’ve Got a Job: The 1963 Birmingham Children’s March000 Job

by Cynthia Levinson. Peachtree. ISBN 9781561458448.

On May 3, 1963, young people all over Birmingham, AL, skipped school to participate in a march protesting segregation, knowing they would probably be arrested. Discover the history of this Children’s March and follow the day-to-day experiences of four young participants. (12–16)

Kid Blink Beats the World

by Don Brown, illus. by author. Roaring Brook. ISBN 9781596430037.

Kid Blink unites the children who sell newspapers for pennies to demand better pay and treatment from powerful mogul Joseph Pulitzer. (7–10)



1621: A New Look at Thanksgiving

by Catherine O’Neill Bruchac Grace. National Geographic. ISBN 9780792270270.

Tells the story and reveals the actual events during the three days that Wampanoag people and European colonists came together in what is often termed “the first Thanksgiving.” (8–12)

A Young People’s History of the United States: Columbus to the War on Terror

by Howard Zinn, adapted by Rebecca Stefoff. Triangle Square. ISBN 9781583228692.

Chapters of U.S. history are told from the points of view of enslaved people, Native people, immigrants, and workers, with an emphasis on telling the truth about often-overlooked aspects of history. (12–18)

000 AintAin’t Nothing but a Man

by Scott Reynolds Nelson. National Geographic. ISBN 9781426300004.

Dual narratives tell the stories of the real John Henry and how a researcher searched until he uncovered the truth about the man who beat a steam drill. (10+)

Baseball Saved Us

by Ken Mochizuki, illus. by Dom Lee. Lee and Low. ISBN 9781880000199.

Playing baseball makes life less grim for a boy who, like all Japanese Americans during World War II, has been sent to an internment camp.  Later, lessons learned from baseball help him deal with prejudice. (7–11)

A Different Mirror for Young People: A History of Multicultural America

by Ronald T. Takaki. Triangle Square. ISBN 9781609804169.

Letters, diaries, and poems share the hopes, dreams, frustrations, oppression, and heartaches of American people young and old. (11–15)



Each Kindness

by Jacqueline Woodson, illus. by E.B. Lewis. Penguin/Nancy Paulsen Bks. ISBN 9780399246524.

When Chloe is given some advice about how small kindnesses can make a difference, she regrets a missed opportunity for friendship. With evocative watercolor illustrations. (5–8)

Oliver Button Is a Sissy

by Tomie dePaola, illus. by author. Voyager. ISBN 9780156681407.

Oliver is an artist, a dancer, a reader, and a dreamer, and nothing, not even his classmates’ cruel taunts, can stop him from doing what he loves. (4–8)

Words Are Not For Hurting

by Elizabeth Verdick, illus. by Marieka Heinlen. Free Spirit. ISBN 9781575421568.

Encourages preschoolers to think before they speak, and teaches them to recognize how words can hurt other people. Includes helpful messages for adults as well. (2–5)


by Christopher Myers, illus. by author. Scholastic. ISBN 9780590033770.

Ikarus Jackson’s wings make him a target for bullies at school, until one girl speaks up to advocate on his behalf.  (6–10)

Red: A Crayon’s Story

by Michael Hall, illus. by author. HarperCollins/Greenwillow. ISBN 978­006­2252074.

His label says he’s red, but everything he draws is blue. Will other crayons ever understand him? Featuring digitally combined crayon and cut­paper art. (3+)


Racism/Injustice Nonfiction

The People Shall Continue

by Simon Ortiz, illus. by Sharol Graves. Children’s Book Pr. ISBN 9780892391257.

An epic poem traces the history of Native peoples, telling stories of community, survival, and strength in the face of invasion and atrocities committed by Europeans. (6+)

The First Step: How One Girl Put Segregation on Trial

by Susan E. Goodman, illus. by E.B. Lewis. Bloomsbury. ISBN 9780802737397.

In 1847 in Boston, an African American family challenges the law that prevents young Sarah Roberts from attending her neighborhood school. With soft-toned watercolor and gouache illustrations and extensive back matter. (8–10)

000 AloneWhen We Were Alone

by David A. Robertson, illus. by Julie Flett. Portage & Main. ISBN 9781553796732.

A young girl asks her kókom a series of questions and learns what her childhood was like at home; at the boarding school she went to; and, when she and her classmates managed to escape from their captors for a few minutes at a time, during which they remembered, and briefly relived, happy times. (6–9)

Separate Is Never Equal

by Duncan Tonatiuh, illus. by author. Abrams. ISBN 9781419710544.

Sylvia Mendez was sent to a segregated school for Mexicans instead of her local public school, but her family fought back, and won, seven years before the Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court case. Featuring hand-drawn, digitally colored and collaged illustrations and extensive back matter. (7–10)

Crossing Bok Chitto

by Tim Tingle, illus. by Jeanne Rorex Bridges. Cinco Puntos. ISBN 9781933693200.

During the 1800s, a young Choctaw girl helps an African American family escape from slavery on a Mississippi plantation to freedom in the Choctaw nation. (8–12)


Climate Change

Eyes Wide Open

by Paul Fleischman. Candlewick Press. ISBN 9780763671020.

Thoughtful essays about the interconnectivity of events, countries, and politics related to the environment address many critical issues. With extensive resources for further research and a special section on how to weigh information. (13–18)

Ship Breaker000 Eyes

by Paulo Bacigalupi. Little, Brown. ISBN 9780316056199.

Nailer, who scrapes out an existence scavenging copper from grounded ships, must decide whether to strip a ship filled with valuables or rescue a stranded heiress. (12–18)

We Are the Weather Makers: The History of Climate Change

by Tim Flannery, adapted by Sally M. Walker. Candlewick. ISBN 9780763636562.

Offers a clear and accessible history of climate change, along with steps teenagers can take to be green and save the earth. (12–16)

First Light

by Rebecca Stead. Random/Yearling. ISBN 9780440422228.

Peter, transplanted to Greenland for the sake of his father’s research, stumbles upon Thea, whose hidden, secret world under the ice is being threatened by climate change. (11–15)

Buried Sunlight: How Fossil Fuels Have Changed the Earth

by Molly Bang & Penny Chisholm, illus. by Molly Bang. Scholastic/Blue Sky Pr. ISBN 9780545577854.

Simple text and bright, stunning illustrations explain carbon and fossil fuels, and the connection between sunlight and all life on earth. (5–8)


Protest and Activism

Kids On Strike!

by Susan Campbell Bartoletti. HMH. ISBN 9780618369232.

Newsies, bobbin girls, and coal workers say “No!” to inhumane and unfair working conditions and pay. The movement culminates in Mother Jones’ 125-mile march for children’s rights. (10+)

Si Se Puede/Yes We Can: Janitor Strike in L.A.

by Diana Cohn, illus. by Francisco Delgado. Cinco Puntos. ISBN 9780938317890.

Carlitos, whose mother is on strike due to bad conditions and unfairly low wages, helps support the strikers by organizing with his classmates to paint signs and join the rally. (6–9)

Harvesting Hope: The Story of Cesar Chavez

by Kathleen Krull, illus. by Yuyi Morales. HMH. ISBN 9780152014377.

Cesar Chavez grows from a shy, quiet boy who is bullied at school to a civil rights hero who leads the historic march for “La Causa” and founds the National Farm Workers Association. (6–10)

000 MarchTeammates

by Peter Golenbock, illus. by Paul Bacon. Voyager. ISBN 9780152842864.

While many of Jackie Robinson’s white teammates tormented him, and Dodgers’ fans harassed him, Pee Wee Reese supported him with the simple act of putting an arm around his shoulders. (6–10)

We March

by Shane W. Evans, illus. by author. Roaring Brook. ISBN 9781596435391.

A mother, father, and their two children get up early to join the historic 1963 March on Washington and hear Martin Luther King Jr. give his famous speech. Featuring watercolor and pencil illustrations. (5–7)


Racism in Fiction

All American Boys

by Jason Reynolds & Brendan Kiely. S. & S./Atheneum. ISBN 97814814­63331.

When a white police officer unjustly attacks him, Rashad’s world changes forever, as does the life of Quinn, a white boy who witnesses the attack. (13–18)

A Wish After Midnight

by Zetta Elliott. Amazon Encore. ISBN 9780982555057.000 Wish

Genna’s world is upended when a wish sends her and her boyfriend Judah back in time to Civil War-era New York City. (14+)

Zombie Baseball Beatdown

by Paolo Bacigalupi. Little, Brown. ISBN 9780316220781.

Three 13-year-old friends discover that an illegal practice in the meatpacking plant have caused cows to turn into zombies. (10–13)

American Born Chinese

by Gene Luen Yang, illus. by author. First Second. ISBN 9780312384487.

Three interrelated stories about Chinese American identity, friendship, strength, oppression, and self-acceptance. (12+)

Unidentified Suburban Object

by Mike Jung. Scholastic/Arthur A. Levine Bks. ISBN 9780545782265.

Chloe thinks she owes everything—her musical talent and her good grades—to the fact that she is the only Korean American person in her school. But life gets stranger. (9–11)

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A Little Heart | New in YA Romance Tue, 14 Feb 2017 15:26:04 +0000  


From coming-of-age stories with a dusting of romance to a modern-day Romeo & Juliet, there’s something here to suit everyone.

Upside of UnAlbertalli, Becky. The Upside of Unrequited. ISBN-13: 9780062348708 Publisher: HarperCollins. April 2017.
★ Gr 9 Up—Growing up can mean growing apart, which is a hard revelation for twins Cassie and Molly Peskin-Suso. When Cassie, who is a lesbian, begins dating Mina, a pansexual Korean American, Molly feels a little cast aside. Molly, who has an anxiety disorder, has silently nursed 26 crushes and is working on finally risking the rejection she fears and starting to date. Cassie wants Molly to hook up with Mina’s best friend, Will, but Molly might be more interested in sweet and endearingly geeky Reid. While the girls are navigating these new worlds of romance, things don’t slow down in other parts of their lives. Cassie and Molly’s moms are finally getting married, so there’s a wedding to plan, much to the delight of Pinterest-savvy Molly; plus there are jobs, friends, and a busy baby brother. Molly, Cassie, and all of the secondary characters are well-developed and distinctive. The outspoken girls have honest, humorous, and sometimes awkward conversations with each other, their friends, and their supportive and loving moms about relationships and growing up. Albertalli’s keen ear for authentic teen voices will instantly make readers feel that they are a part of Cassie and Molly’s world, filled with rich diversity (Cassie and Molly’s family is Jewish and interracial), love, support, and a little heartache. In the satisfying conclusion, Molly and Cassie learn that letting new people into their lives does not have to mean shutting out others. VERDICT Readers will fall in love with this fresh, honest, inclusive look at dating, families, and friendship. A top purchase for all YA collections.

our own private universeTalley, Robin. Our Own Private Universe. ISBN 9780373211982. Harlequin. Jan. 2017
Gr 9 Up—Aki has always been a perfect preacher’s daughter—responsible, polite, safe. This summer, though, things will be different. Aki will be traveling with a group of teens and chaperones (her father included) to help build a new church in a rural Mexico. Aki is hoping for a new distraction after being rejected by the music program of her dreams. She finds it in Christa. Both girls want a simple summer romance, but Aki is only out as bisexual to her best friend, and Christa is terrified that her parents will find out that she likes girls. Talley does an excellent job of portraying how a closeted relationship can start to unravel, despite genuine affection, and the depiction of Christa and Aki’s emotional lives seems honest and real. There are sometimes too many side plots, such as sudden revelations about Aki’s long deceased uncle, but they don’t overwhelm the central themes. And even with her infatuation, Aki never becomes singularly focused. She devotes energy to her brother and to conversations about the upcoming convention, where their church will take official stances on topics such as same sex marriage and foreign aid. Particularly important is the novel’s information on safe sex between two women, so commonly ignored, that is effortlessly worked in. VERDICT This pitch-perfect romance is all heart, touching on serious issues but never becoming too heavy, and will be a strong addition to any teen collection.– Amy Diegelman, formerly of Vineyard Haven Public Library, MA

deaconKatcher, Brian. Deacon Locke Goes to Prom. ISBN 9780062422521. HarperCollins/Katherine Tegan Bks. May 2017.
Gr 8 Up—When Deacon Locke can’t find a date for the senior prom, he decides to invite his grandmother Jean, who missed her own prom because her date (Deacon’s grandfather) was serving in the Vietnam War. Deacon has never been able to depend on his fly-by-night father, and his mother isn’t in the picture: Jean, with whom he has been living for the past two years, has been the sole rock in his life. When a video of the unlikely couple dancing at the prom goes viral, awkward, loner Deacon experiences his first taste of popularity. As he looks toward the future, he grapples with his newfound celebrity; pursues a relationship with his dance instructor, Soraya; and realizes that Jean may be dealing with dementia. While Deacon occasionally comes off as insensitive when it comes to race and gender (“The non-politically-correct part of my mind wonders if [Soraya] has an exotic accent”), he grows and develops as he learns of the bigotry that Soraya, who is Muslim, has confronted. The plot is somewhat predictable in places (Soraya and Deacon’s relationship is temporarily derailed when another suitor asks Soraya out right before Deacon can), and characterizations are a little thin. However, Deacon’s wryly self-deprecating voice will resonate with readers, and Katcher’s commentary on Internet fame rings true. Teens will enjoy this light but touching tale of maturation. VERDICT Those seeking coming-of-age stories with a bit of romance will be pleased with this quick, heartfelt read.–Mahnaz Dar, School Library Journal

ronitLaskin, Pamela L. Ronit & Jamil. ISBN 9780062458544. HarperCollins/Katherine Tegen Bks. Feb. 2017.
Gr 7 & Up—Poet Pamela Laskin’s short, lyrical novel-in-verse is a retelling of Romeo and Juliet set in present-day Jerusalem. Ronit is an Israeli girl whose father, Chaim, is a pharmacist, and Jamil is a Palestinian boy whose father, Mohammed, is a physician. Chaim supplies prescription medications to Mohammed’s patients. The two teens first meet at the clinic where both their fathers work, and, as in Shakespeare’s original, the young lovers fall for each other after meeting only briefly. Through secret texts and clandestine meetings, they desperately try to be with each other while facing opposition from their parents and the very real physical barrier between Israel and the West Bank. The story departs from the original, though, with the implication that Ronit and Jamil will escape the conflict and will find a way to be together—an underlying message of hope for the larger Israeli/Palestinian conflict. Laskin frequently quotes Shakespeare’s play, but she also quotes from Arab poets, including Rumi and Mahmoud Darwish, and makes skillful use of Middle Eastern poetic forms, such as the ghazal. Readers may occasionally find it difficult to tell which character is speaking, but the accessible poetic lines and universal questions about crossing cultural lines make for a quick and powerful read. VERDICT An obvious choice to pair with Romeo and Juliet in a literature class, this can also open discussion about the Israeli/Palestinian conflict and about bridging cultural boundaries.– Kathleen E. Gruver, Burlington County Library, Westampton, NJ

the education of margotRivera, Lilliam. The Education of Margot Sanchez. ISBN 9781481472111. S. & S. Feb. 2017.
Gr 9 Up—Margot is disappointed to be spending her summer working in her family’s Bronx-based chain of grocery stores, away from her elite prep school crowd. She is suffering the consequences after misappropriating her father’s credit cards to finance her wardrobe. She would much rather be partying with her friends and her crush in the Hamptons. Teens will recognize the obvious consequences of her decisions as she is rude to her family’s employees, rejects her childhood friend, steals beer from her family to impress her friends, and casually loses her virginity (to a guy who clearly doesn’t value her much) after she’s been drinking. Her attempts to redeem herself as she finally sees the error of her ways are effective, though, and over the course of the summer, Margot slowly learns the value of real friendship, navigates some family secrets, and begins to see her Puerto Rican heritage in a different light, culminating in an unsurprising but happy conclusion. VERDICT A fairly standard problem novel, but the realistic Latinx characters make this a welcome addition to YA shelves.–Kristin Anderson, Columbus Metropolitan Library System, OH

WindfallSmith, Jennifer E. Windfall. ISBN 9780399559372. Delacorte. May 2017.
Gr 9 Up—What would you do if you won the lottery? A question almost everyone has contemplated becomes a reality for high school senior Teddy, who receives a winning ticket from his best friend, Alice. She bought the ticket on a whim, and it sends them down a much different path than either had anticipated. Both have had their share of struggles. Alice, an orphan, has moved to Chicago to live with her aunt, uncle, and cousin. Teddy’s father is a gambling addict who left Teddy and his mother penniless. Winning millions of dollars seems to be the best thing that could have happened to Teddy, but Alice knows that more money means more problems, and she sees how the money changes Teddy and how other begin to behave around him. As Teddy continues to be oblivious to her hopeless love for him, Alice finds herself battling old ghosts—and her heart. Smith weaves a poignant novel of teens coping with loss and change as they balance on the verge of adulthood. A story that could easily skim the surface of emotions plunges head on into the complexities of grief, loss, and love. Healthy doses of humor and small victories for the main characters keep the atmosphere from feeling too heavy, and Smith creates more gentle tension as readers wait to see if love blossoms and if Alice will do something just for herself. VERDICT Fans of Morgan Matson and Deb Caletti’s books will want to curl up with a box of tissues as they fall under Smith’s storytelling spell. Recommended for most YA collections.–Carrie Finberg, South Park High School, PA




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Getting Book Rich | Editorial Tue, 14 Feb 2017 15:12:44 +0000 1702-EditorialBkRich

llustration from Thinkstock/SLJ

Some problems are so persistent and complex that only a whole new approach can break open the potential for a solution. That may just be the case with so-called book deserts, where reading materials are so scarce as to be nearly impossible to find. The recently announced national Book-Rich Environment Initiative promises to be a critical step toward that much-needed new perspective on this intractable problem—with libraries as key partners in the coalition.

As SLJ’s Christina Vercelletto reports, the initiative aims to get books into settings where they are much too rare. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is a key partner; the focus is on families living in HUD-assisted housing. Working in tandem, the National Book Foundation (NBF), the U.S. Department of Education, the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading, and the Urban Libraries Council will look first to deploy a program in 35 communities across the United States. The concept includes distribution of free books, with major donations from Penguin Random House, Hachette Book Group, and Macmillan Publishers, as well as programming designed to engage those families with books over time. Kudos to them all, as well as to Lisa Lucas, who joined the NBF as executive director just over a year ago, for applying a broader meaning to the word “national” in that organization’s name. While the details are still being finalized, and localized factors will inform the particular response in each setting, the promise is significant.

To get a more robust picture of the challenging realities at work in these communities, it’s useful to dig into a 2016 study by Susan B. Neuman and Naomi Moland, “Book Deserts: The Consequences of Income Segregation on Children’s Access to Print” (Urban Education). The researchers went deep in six urban areas, looking at the relative availability of print books for sale for those living in poverty or near poverty versus those living in borderline or middle-income neighborhoods. The findings are stark, confirming that the disparity is real. In the worst circumstance, the researchers discovered that one book would have to be shared by 830 children. In the best of the low-income settings they studied, there was still only one book per child available. “Dividing the total number of children’s books we found for sale by the total number of children in our neighborhoods,” they write, “we found that overall, our borderline and middle-income neighborhoods had 16 times as many books per children than our lower income neighborhoods.”

That’s a far cry from the book-rich environment needed to really support children’s learning. Neuman and Moland cite the 2012 Progress in International Reading Literacy Study of 15,000 children across 49 countries, which found that the “presence of children[’s] books in the home strongly predicts reading achievement, with the average reading achievement difference between students from homes with many children’s books (more than 100) and those from homes with few children’s books (10 or fewer) being very large (91 score points).” Disparity, indeed.

Although Neuman and Moland acknowledge libraries as important assets, they note that they can’t be a single-source solution because of varying hours and offerings depending on funding and capacity. Fines for overdue books, or even the threat of them, can be a deterrent for families in need of library services.

Nonetheless, and smartly, libraries are a critical infrastructure asset at work in realizing the goals of the Book-Rich Environment Initiative. To make the essential impact that is so needed, those worthy goals deserve our attention, support, and ongoing commitment to bringing the riches of books to every community.


Rebecca T. Miller

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Ox & Gazelle? A Valentine’s Day Love Story| SLJ Book Review Tue, 14 Feb 2017 14:28:07 +0000  

Heart-Read-SM rexREX, Adam. XO, OX: A Love Story. illus by Scott Campbell. 40p. Roaring Brook/Neal Porter Bks. Jan. 2017. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781626722880.

K-Gr 2-In this epistolary picture book, Ox, who has admired the lithe and lovely Gazelle from afar, finally sits down with paper and pencil to profess his admiration and affection. Gazelle replies with a form letter and a signed photo of herself. Not one to be dissuaded, Ox writes again, and the vain gazelle’s response is exactly the same. Ox tries flattery, complimenting her intellect as well as her beauty. Not wishing to be repetitive, Gazelle personalizes this her reply: “There is no need to write me again.” Ox next commends her sense of humor. Gazelle lashes out in frustration and states emphatically that she could never love someone “so thick and ungraceful and awful and unlovely. And unlovable.” The thick-skinned ox retorts that at least she is able to admit to having a fault, which makes him love her all the more. This gives Gazelle pause and forces her to reassess her feelings…at least enough to continue the correspondence. This tale of the attraction of opposites and the power of words is simply told and charmingly illustrated. Campbell’s whimsical watercolor and colored pencil artwork features sepia outlines and earthy hues on Ox’s pages and more textured patterns and shades of pink and purple on Gazelle’s. The notes are easy to read, and the sensibilities, emotions, and body language are child-centric and brimming with humor. VERDICT A sweet and tender Valentine choice for storytime or one-on-one sharing.–Luann Toth, School Library Journal

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American Street by Ibi Zoboi | SLJ Review Tue, 14 Feb 2017 14:00:51 +0000 ZOBOI, Ibi. American Street. 336p. ebook available. HarperCollins/Balzer + Bray. Feb. 2017. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780062473042.

Gr 9 Up –After her mother is detained by immigration officials, Fabiola Toussaint has to finish her move from Port-au-Prince to Detroit alone. The tough-as-nails cousins and exhausted aunt who greet her in Michigan bear little resemblance to the warm family she had dreamed of when she was in Haiti. Left with a mother-size hole in her life, Fabiola begins the unsteady process [...]]]> redstarZOBOI, Ibi. American Street. 336p. ebook available. HarperCollins/Balzer + Bray. Feb. 2017. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780062473042.

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

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

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The Importance of Play | Professional Shelf Tue, 14 Feb 2017 03:58:11 +0000  

In our sometimes frantic race to the top and well-intentioned bid to leave no child behind, many early childhood settings have curtailed children’s play. When block and housekeeping corners give way to flash cards and workbooks, children don’t always benefit. The Position Statement on Developmentally Appropriate Practice of the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) maintains, “Rather than diminishing children’s learning by reducing the time devoted to academic activities, play promotes key abilities that enable children to learn successfully.” These abilities include “self-regulation, symbolic thinking, memory, and language.” Whether your early childhood program is rethinking its reliance on paper and pencil tasks or has steadfastly embraced play as an essential component of the curriculum, these titles offer guiding principles for educators who strive to ensure that every child succeeds.

creative block playAn essential resource, Creative Block Play: A Comprehensive Guide to Learning through Building (Redleaf Press, 2017), by educator Rosanne Regan Hansel, provides everything teachers and caregivers need to know about the benefits of block play along with pointers for scaffolding children’s exploration. Hansel outlines the ways in which block play supports social, emotional, cognitive, and physical development as children learn to solve multifaceted problems on their own; use language, writing, and drawing to share their work; and physically interact with their environment. Practical suggestions for getting started include guidelines for choosing blocks, descriptions of various types of blocks, thoughts on storage and organization, and ideas for introducing extension activities, such as writing journals and art materials. Outdoor block play and woodworking are also considered. Finally, Hansel demonstrates the use of block play in long-term learning projects on a variety of topics with detailed examples from actual classrooms. Throughout, crisp color photos highlight the expansive creativity, deep concentration, and obvious joy of young children at work and play.

embracing roughIn Embracing Rough-and-Tumble Play: Teaching with the Body in Mind (Redleaf Press, 2017) Mike Huber shares his commitment to allowing space for physical movement in early childhood classrooms. With the insight that comes from years of teaching, Huber argues convincingly that children need to move more often than is generally allowed, and when teachers and caregivers respect that need, children benefit socially and cognitively. He explains that “much of play labeled rough-and-tumble is neither rough nor does it involve tumbling.” Instead, it includes full-body activities such as climbing, stomping, and roughhousing, play that is often discouraged, usually through concern about safety or behavior management. Huber tackles thorny issues, such as gender and cultural expectations, the difference between play and aggression, the role of physical contact, and the benefits of warplay while offering straightforward, useful advice. Chock-full of specific recommendations, real classroom examples, and enticing color photos, this guide makes active classroom play hard to resist.

The cooperative gamesCreative and active play often calls for teamwork. In The Cooperative Games Bullying Prevention Program: Cooperative Games for a Warm School Climate Pre-K to Grade 2 (Better World Education, 2017), Suzanne Lyons, owner of, discusses the history and positive role of cooperative games. Citing a 1994 University of Nevada, Reno study, Lyons proposes using cooperative games to build relationships and reduce bullying. Her program utilizes four board games for children ages four–seven (published by Family Pastimes) and a set of seven active games developed by Terry Orlick, Ph.D, a professor of kinesiology. Several of the active games put a non-competitive spin on a familiar activity. For example, in Cooperative Musical Chairs, as chairs are removed, children work together to share chairs rather than compete for their own. Directions for 50 additional active games are included. Most require few or no materials, take 10-15 minutes to play, and are welcome additions to any teacher or caregiver’s repertoire, perhaps especially in settings where play has been relegated to the sidelines.

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