School Library Journal The world's largest reviewer of books, multimedia, and technology for children and teens Wed, 31 Aug 2016 20:57:03 +0000 en-US hourly 1 “Back to School” | an SLJ Webcomic by Nidhi Chanani Wed, 31 Aug 2016 20:52:16 +0000 An exclusive SLJ webcomic by Nidhi Chanani, author of the forthcoming graphic novel Pashmina (First Second, 2017). Learn more about Chanani, and see a sneak peek of Pashmina, in the SLJ feature Graphic Novels Portray Bicultural America.nidhi_higher_res


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International Dot Day Enters Eighth Year Wed, 31 Aug 2016 20:52:08 +0000 On September 15, nearly 6 million people will be participating in International Dot Day, a global celebration of creativity based on The Dot (Candlewick, 2003) by Peter H. Reynolds. According to the book’s creator, the designated activity for the day is quite simple. All one has to do is to read the book and express yourself in any way you are inspired to. The book is the story of Vashti, who, by making a simple dot on a piece of paper, is led on a journey of self-discovery. Oh, and you can celebrate for as many days as you like. No need to limit the self-enlightenment to September 15.Peter Reynolds's the dot

Due to the growth of the day’s popularity, the Reynolds Center for Teaching, Learning and Creativity has developed On the site, one will find an educator guide that includes activities, Dot Day certificates, links to various resources, and directions on how to Skype with fellow educators. In 2011, early adopters of Dot Day Shannon Miller and John Schumacher spent the whole week Skyping between their two schools, which were 390 miles apart. The activities included Skyping authors, contests and sharing artwork. Celebrities began creating their own dots and posting them on Celebridots. Last year the number of participants was 2.3 million.

On September 5, KidLit.TV will be posting a special International Dot Day Ready Set Draw in which Reynolds will be providing tips to budding artists. On September 14, he will be interviewed on StoryMakers about the growth of Dot Day. Molly Mack, a first grade teacher in Seattle, WA, will be celebrating her third Dot Day. She asks students not only to make their mark, but to write a word or two to go with it. “I’m always delighted with the outcome,” Mack writes on her blog. “Every student’s dot is original, and I’m amazed by how these simple works of art inspire us as our year goes on.”

Reynolds is amazed at the exponential growth of International Dot Day. What he finds most moving is the reminder of “what one great teacher can do–especially one that is brave enough to think outside of the box.” He points to teacher Terry Shay, the founder of Dot Day and a music teacher in Traer, IA, who he finds to be much like Vashti.

Shay did “dot projects” with elementary, middle, and high school students. He was pleasantly surprised when he learned that other educators were doing the same. The number of participants continue to grow, with projects now posted on various social media outlets, such as Pinterest. “It is amazing to me,’ says Shay, “that so many people have taken this message to heart. It’s beyond my wildest dreams.”

Reynolds himself is also stunned at the day’s growth. “I pinch myself, thinking that four decades ago I was being told to stop drawing in my classes and pay attention, and here we are in 2016 with a school sanctioned day to celebrate creativity,” he told School Library Journal. “I wish I could go back in time and sit with my 7-year-old self and paint that picture of over 5 million educators and students around the world splashing color with joy! Perhaps I would instead keep it a secret and say ‘Just keep making your mark and see where it takes you.’”



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Excitement Building for 2016 #AskaCurator Twitter Initiative Wed, 31 Aug 2016 20:30:02 +0000 download2

Your students have questions.

They’ve got answers.

Dozens of museum curators worldwide are taking to Twitter on Wednesday, September 14, 2016, with the hashtag #AskaCurator to field as many questions as they can. It’s an opportunity that comes only once a year. The tradition was started by Mar Dixon, an American museum consultant and blogger who lives in England.

Aside from the inherent fun it is for kids to try to stump experts, the effort has other perks as well. It’s a chance to connect language students to cultural institutions in the country they are studying, as well as an education in what the job of a curator entails. As an extension to the day itself, students can email museums that interest them but aren’t participating, to encourage them to join in next year.

Western Albemarle High School in Crozet, VA, took part in the fun for the first time last year.

The French teacher had the students write (and correct) Tweets in French on paper, and another group of students in the library typed them into Twitter. The teacher had them add their own hashtag, in addition to #AskaCurator. That way, the teacher could search for results of the class’s work easily.

“One of our students, who was in the school production of The Diary of Anne Frank, was thrilled to get an answer from the Anne Frank House museum in Amsterdam,” recalls Melissa Techman, school librarian at Western Albemarle.

Techman is helping out time-strapped classroom teachers who’d like to participate by delivering prepared templates. “Some teachers may give extra credit to their students who come to the library during lunch and participate, either on their own Twitter account or the library’s account at a walk-up laptop station.”


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Libraries Provide Stability for Military Children and Families Wed, 31 Aug 2016 17:35:23 +0000 Operation Military Kids Mural Unveiling During Speak Out With Art Program

A family at the Operation Military Kids mural unveiling during the Speak Out With Art Program at the Belgrade, MT, Community Library.

When her husband was transferred to Ft. Bragg, near Fayetteville, NC, more than two years ago, the Cumberland County Public Library and Information Center (CCPL) was one of the first spots that Lisa Ciampini started visiting.

At her family’s previous station in Tennessee, she took her son to storytimes at the public library and knew it would be a place where she would feel comfortable. Not only have libraries provided Ciampini’s son with a chance to interact with other children in a group setting, they have also served as a place where she can find support from other military wives and mothers.

“Many military wives stay at home and are looking for productive ways to get children engaged in activities outside of the house,” says Ciampini, who now has a daughter as well as her four-year-old son. “By going to the library I am fostering a love and respect for books, as well as gaining an opportunity to meet other women and children in similar situations.”

Amid the frequent transitions and stressful periods that military children and families can face, libraries are often a stable and welcoming destination. In recent years, they have also been increasing their efforts to connect these families through a variety of services.

The needs of military-connected students

Research conducted over the past several years has shown that the long deployments associated with the war on terror since 2001 have left military children at a higher risk of negative outcomes, such as depression, substance use, and even thoughts of suicide. A research team at the University of Southern California published a paper in the Journal of Adolescent Health showing that teens with a parent or sibling deployed multiple times are more likely to feel depressed or have thoughts of suicide than those who have experienced only one deployment. The researchers also found that when the teens changed schools two or more times within a five-year period, they are more likely to be bullied and to be involved with weapons.

A similar study at the University of Iowa found an increase in alcohol and drug use among military children whose parents were deployed or had recently returned. Reintegration—the period after a soldier comes home—can sometimes cause just as much disruption as when he or she left. “We worry a lot about the servicemen and women, and we sometimes forget that they are not the only ones put into harm’s way by deployment—their families are affected, too,” Stephan Arndt, the professor who led the Iowa study, stated in a press release. “Our findings suggest we need to provide these families with more community support.”

Libraries as a home base

Helping military families access financial services and apply for benefits, offering videoconferencing so kids can connect with a deployed parent, and, of course, creating reading programs for military children are just a few ways that libraries are serving these communities.

“For military kids, the summer, a lot of times, means moving,” which can make it hard to participate in a local reading program, says Leah Love, the volunteer training and recruitment coordinator for Blue Star Families. The nonprofit organization provides free resources and services to 1.5 million military families, including children’s books donated by Disney and other partners every year. Blue Star Families’ “chapter directors” typically work with libraries on military installations to share information about their services.

Libraries have created far-reaching support systems as well. The Illinois Library Association formed a partnership with the Department of Defense’s Morale, Welfare and Recreation Office called Joining Forces, so that military children can participate in their iREAD summer reading program from anywhere in the world. It has also established a Military Children & Families Toolkit to help libraries develop collections that reflect experiences such as changing schools, missing a parent, and adjusting to life after a parent returns home. In addition, a librarian at the Williamsburg (VA) Regional Library has created an annotated list of books which feature children and teens with parents in the military.

Helping students get their bearings

At Bonsall West Elementary School in Oceanside, CA, near Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, librarian Mishell Rose has added military books to her collection—not only selections about tanks and helicopters, but also separation. She also has a large international section, because so many students have lived overseas. In addition to children from military families, Bonsall West also serves children whose parents work for military contractors. One, she says, relocated from Dubai and was happy to find a book on the city in the school’s collection.

“A school library can be a neutral place where [new students] can get their bearings,” Rose says. She has learned that children in military families often don’t arrive in time for the slow-paced first day of school and are “really confused when they come in,” she says. So Rose created orientation videos to introduce those students to her library.

Earlier this year, Bonsall West also opened a reading room to make these children feel comfortable, funded by a grant from the Ben Carson Reading Project, a literacy initiative of the former presidential candidate’s Carson Scholars Fund. The space honors the military families at the school. Bookshelves are draped in camouflage material, Marine flags and other insignias cover the walls, and students can lounge on cushions that look like sand bags, giving the room a bunker appearance. One of the teacher’s husbands even made a bench out of an old jeep.

A sense of community and belonging

Children whose parents serve in the National Guard or the Reserves are also impacted by long deployments and sometimes are less likely to receive attention because they live outside the military community and don’t have the same access to services as on military installations.

Often, though, children don’t want special attention and just want to blend in with their civilian peers. “We have integrated the military kids into the regular programs,” says Kellie Tomita, the marketing and communications division manager for CCPL, which has eight branches. “One of the things they didn’t like was being singled out.”

She adds, however, that the library has increased efforts to recognize members of the military community. For example, staff has invited soldiers to speak to children’s reading clubs, created book displays for the Month of the Military Child, and held a birthday party for the Army with stories and cake. Because many military kids are homeschooled, the library also offers STEAM programs and a science fair, both of which draw a large number of military children.

Rebekah Kamp, the youth services librarian at the Belgrade (MT) Community Library, organized Speak Out with Art, which provided teens affected by deployment a chance to express themselves using ceramics, painting, and other forms of artistic expression. The program was open to all teens, so that those from military families could meet others in the community and the civilian teens could learn about military life.

Kamp says her library has since held several Month of the Military Child events in April. Everyone wears purple to represent all the colors of the military branches blended together. In November, teens and children might write messages to veterans or bring in pictures of loved ones who have served. Kamp also held a photography exhibit featuring work by National Guard photographers, who brought their equipment in and taught the teens photography skills.

Quilt made by local military youth at the library at the TK

Quilt made by local military youth at the Belgrade, MT, Community Library.


Military teens often want to get involved in their communities—for example, by serving on youth advisory committees—even though they’ll be moving in a few years. “Libraries can be a really important part of creating a sense of community and belonging for kids who might be moving,” Kamp says.

Engaging the entire family

CCPL used a grant received in 2013 from the State Library of North Carolina to conduct a research project. From interviews and focus groups, the staff learned that military members are unlikely to ask for help for themselves, but will seek it out for their children. So while events for children are highlighted, libraries and schools serving military families often use web links on homescreens, signs, and brochures to discreetly provide information on mental health services, employment, housing, and other resources.

“Parents are very concerned about their children’s welfare and will come to the library for services for them,” Jennifer Taft, reference librarian at the Harnett County (NC) Public Library, and Cynthia Olney, the assistant director of the National Network of Libraries of Medicine Evaluation Office, wrote in an article about the work at CCPL for Public Libraries Online. “Once the parents are in the door, they may find resources that will be of use to them as well.”

Parachute challenge program with military kids

Parachute challenge program with military kids at the Belgrade, MT, Community Library.


On a national level, libraries are partnering with organizations to provide military families with greater access to services. For example, in March 2016, the American Library Association (ALA) announced a collaboration with the National Foundation for Credit Counseling to provide financial education programs to active duty and veteran families. While many of the services will be provided in a group setting, families will also have the option of receiving individual counseling, says Larra Clark, the deputy director of ALA’s Office for Information Technology Policy. So far, library systems in 18 states and the District of Columbia (and the El Dorado High School library in Placerville, CA) have signed on. The Institute for Museum and Library Services has also indicated that as part of its Fiscal Year 2017 budget, it plans to increase services for military and veteran families.

Research has shown that military children weather the frequent moves better when their parents, especially their mothers, maintain positive attitudes. A 2007 study by researchers at Vanderbilt University showed that military children experience fewer negative effects when changing schools if they have “rich social support networks” and access to information about the community and the school where they are moving.

By providing a predictable environment, Kamp believes, libraries are key to this sense of stability. “Each library is a little different,” she says, “but it can be a familiar place.”


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Alpha, Bravo, Charlie: The Complete Book of Nautical Codes by Sara Gillingham | SLJ Review Wed, 31 Aug 2016 14:00:12 +0000 Gillingham, Sara. Alpha, Bravo, Charlie: The Complete Book of Nautical Codes. illus. by Sara Gillingham. 120p. Phaidon. May 2016. Tr $19.95. ISBN 9780714871431.  

Gr 2-6 –Nautical codes, flags, and signals presented with examples of the boats and ships that might use them make this a unique and engaging reference for lower and upper elementary students. Letter by letter, A to Z, each nautical signal flag is listed with its name, its current meaning, and a [...]]]> redstarGillingham, Sara. Alpha, Bravo, Charlie: The Complete Book of Nautical Codes. illus. by Sara Gillingham. 120p. Phaidon. May 2016. Tr $19.95. ISBN 9780714871431.  Alpha, Bravo, Charlie The Complete Book of Nautical Codes by Sara Gillingham

Gr 2-6 –Nautical codes, flags, and signals presented with examples of the boats and ships that might use them make this a unique and engaging reference for lower and upper elementary students. Letter by letter, A to Z, each nautical signal flag is listed with its name, its current meaning, and a short description of a likely situation for its use. Each explanation repeats the use of the phonetic alphabet word (e.g., DELTA) several times and is followed by a full-page rendering of the flag. (The A and B flags have the appropriate V-shaped cutout on the right.) The page immediately after that includes, again, the phonetic alphabet word, the Morse code sound and light signal, semaphore positions (sketched with a sailor with flags), and a short description of a boat or ship that might make use of the signal. The bold colors of the signal flags are carried throughout the volume, making for a lively design. The repetition of the phonetic alphabet word supports learning, and the images of the boats and ships—from diving boats and private yachts to submarines, tankers, and car carriers—add informational appeal. VERDICT More substantial than Chris L. Demarest’s Alpha, Bravo, Charlie, this selection stresses civilian rather than military uses and is appropriate for slightly older readers. Highly recommended for school and public libraries.–Kathleen Isaacs, Children’s Literature Specialist, Pasadena, MD

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

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Vassa in the Night by Sarah Porter | SLJ Review Wed, 31 Aug 2016 13:00:02 +0000 Porter, Sarah. Vassa in the Night. 304p. ebook available. Tor Teen. Sept. 2016. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780765380548. 

Gr 9 Up –Sixteen-year-old Vassa Lisa Lowenstein’s mother is dead, and her father is gone. She has a stepmother and two stepsisters. It’s an odd living arrangement but no more peculiar than a lot of things in her working-class Brooklyn neighborhood. The nights have been especially strange, growing longer and longer. When her stepsister sends Vassa out in the [...]]]> redstarPorter, Sarah. Vassa in the Night. 304p. ebook available. Tor Teen. Sept. 2016. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780765380548. Vassa in the Night by Sarah Porter

Gr 9 Up –Sixteen-year-old Vassa Lisa Lowenstein’s mother is dead, and her father is gone. She has a stepmother and two stepsisters. It’s an odd living arrangement but no more peculiar than a lot of things in her working-class Brooklyn neighborhood. The nights have been especially strange, growing longer and longer. When her stepsister sends Vassa out in the middle of the night for lightbulbs, the only store that’s still open is the local BY’s. Everyone knows about BY’s, and its owner Babs Yagg, but people do tend to remember a store that dances around on chicken legs and has a habit of decapitating shoplifters. When things don’t go as planned in BY’s, it will take all of Vassa’s wits and her enchanted wooden doll Erg’s cunning to escape the store alive and maybe even break whatever curse has been placed on Brooklyn’s nights. This stand-alone urban fantasy is inspired by the Russian fairy tale “Vasilisa the Beautiful.” Although Vassa is described as incredibly pale, the rest of the book is populated with characters who are realistically diverse for its urban location. Evocative settings and imagery help bring this bizarre corner of Brooklyn to life. Vassa is a cynical, no-nonsense character who is quick to make jokes and take risks with the delightfully sharp-tongued Erg at her side. A deliberate lack of romantic tension makes this a refreshing read, and elements of traditional horror blend well with high-concept fantasy in this surprising and engaging tale. VERDICT A must-have for YA urban fantasy collections.–Emma Carbone, Brooklyn Public Library

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

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The Magical and Messy Art of Jean-Michel Basquiat | A Conversation with Javaka Steptoe Tue, 30 Aug 2016 14:17:45 +0000 Radiant Child, Javaka Steptoe explores the life and art of Basquiat through words and pictures.]]> Listen to Javaka Steptoe reveal the story behind Radiant Child, courtesy of

radiant childIn life and art Javaka Steptoe can claim a few things in common with the late Jean-Michel Basquiat. Both men were raised in Brooklyn, NY; both were exposed to the art world as children; and both exude a bold, urban vibe in their work. In his dazzling Radiant Child, Steptoe brilliantly explores the life and art of Basquiat.

When did you first learn about Basquiat?

Basquiat’s imagery started popping up for me when I was in my teens, when I had freedom to move about the city. I wasn’t looking for his graffiti as I traveled around the East Village, but even so, I remember seeing one of his SAMO tags. What interested me about it wasn’t the name, but the line drawing of a face that accompanied it. Later, in 1985, when I was still in high school, I saw the poster, featuring Andy Warhol and Basquiat (both wearing boxing gloves), that advertised a gallery show. It really stood out for me; I thought both looked kind of goofy. But still, I didn’t know who Basquiat was. Then came the story in the New York Times Magazine. Back then, you didn’t see a lot of black people on the cover of the magazine. I thought Basquiat looked cool—he was wearing a suit but no shoes—looking like the world was his, so I sat down and read the article. That day, his name, face, and art came together in my mind. That was when I began to look for Basquiat.

Cover of The New York Times Magazine dated

Cover of  the New York Times Magazine dated February 10, 1985

What impact did he have on you as an artist?

Basquiat signified a different generation of black artists than that of Romare Bearden, Betye Saar, or Augusta Savage. Although he was older than me, he represented my generation’s experiences in his art—from the games we played to the drawings of the pointy S’s in our notebooks to the crowns we used in hip-hop graffiti. Jean-Michel validated our culture within the context of the fine art world. Claiming the position he did helped to pave the way for the explosion of black artists such as Kehinde Wiley, Wangechi Mutu, and Theaster Gates, artists who have garnered national and international attention.

In your author’s note you commented that you experienced some of the downtown art scene that Basquiat lived and worked in. What was that like?

It was fun and exciting! During that time the city was racially polarized, but in the Village we all came together: black, white, Latino, Asian, etc. Dressed in our unique outfits we would meet at the fountain in Washington Square Park and roam around until we discovered where the party was that night. Back then “opening” and “party” meant the same thing. They were the places to go dressed to the nines and to rub elbows with everybody from the guy on the corner to superstars.

In your book, you don’t include Basquiat’s artwork, which you describe as “magical” and “messy,” but your art is the perfect vehicle to convey its essence and tell his story.  What considerations went into that decision?

As artists, we have similar sensibilities and processes. This includes a natural sensitivity, rawness, and playfulness in our image creating, so it was a natural fit. I studied Basquiat extensively; Jean-Michel experimented with many materials in his art, and these materials became my materials. Since it was a story about him, I had to be careful not to compete with his style; my goal was to have my art serve as a container for his creativity and to allow viewers to reflect on his growth from child to mature artist. When the book opens, it’s both my art and his art on the page. As the story progresses, I release more of him and I become the wall that his canvases hang on. The last three illustrations in the book reflect actual works at different phases of his career.

Close-up look at art created by Javaka Steptoe for Radient Child

Close-up look at art created by Javaka Steptoe for Radiant Child

Can you talk a bit about the materials you used to illustrate the book?

Found wood, acrylic paint, oil pastels, and copies of photographs. The sources of the wood include molding from brownstone rehab projects in Flatbush, Brooklyn (similar to what Basquiat would have seen growing up). Some of the wood also came from a deconstructed exhibit; those pieces were found in the dumpster at the Brooklyn Museum—the same museum Basquiat visited as a child and where he had a junior membership. The Brooklyn Museum’s collections left a palpable influence on his work. The wood was also sourced from dumpsters in the East Village and curbs in Soho—places where Basquiat roamed and might have crashed when he eventually left home. I believe every aspect of the work shares the burden of telling the story. If these sourced objects can trigger connections to places and experiences with readers, then the work collecting them was worth it.

The influence Basquiat’s mother had on the child and the artist is undeniable. How did growing up in a household with an artist—one who wrote and illustrated children’s books—influence you?

When it came to school and school assignments, the adults in my life would always debunk information told to me by teachers or that which appeared in textbooks that was questionable. Sometimes this meant I would get a whole new history lesson when I got home. I was always asked to think, to question; they cared about what was happening inside my head. If I just accepted all the information America was feeding me about black people, who knows what I would be today. My dad always talked to me about the importance of seeing yourself in books, television, movies, etc. The images you see and the stories you hear help you to form an image of yourself, and others to form an image of you. Children’s books are my way of fighting a good fight: to share who I am, what I know, to hopefully inspire, to correct a misconception or block one from being formed.

TB-imageListen to Javaka Steptoe reveal the story behind Radiant Child, courtesy of


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A “Buzzwangling,” “Dahl-icious” Centennial Tue, 30 Aug 2016 14:10:42 +0000 Dahl-5CoverBanner

 A Master Storyteller

“I is a nice and jumbly giant!” So states Roald Dahl’s BFG in the book of the same title (1982), but the words could easily be those of the author himself. Donald Sturrock, author of Storyteller: The Authorized Biography of Roald Dahl (S. & S., 2010) described his first impression of his subject as “…a gigantic figure in a long red cardigan…He was six foot five inches tall, craggy and broad of beam. His body seemed larger than the doorway and far, far too big for the proportions of the cottage.” This September 13, libraries, bookshops, teachers, and children all over the world will celebrate the inimitable storyteller’s 100th birthday.

Though his parents hailed from Norway, Dahl was born in South Wales, the only male child in the family. His father died when he was young and his mother, Sofie, “a great teller of tales,” raised him. Honoring her husband’s wishes that their son be educated in English schools, “Boy” (which is how he signed his letters home) was sent to boarding school at the age of nine. Readers can learn about these early years in Dahl’s fanciful memoir, Boy (1984).

boyIt’s easy to see how the author’s childhood experiences influenced his novels. One memorable character in that memoir was Mrs. Prachett, a “small, skinny old hag with a moustache on her upper lip and a mouth as sour as a green gooseberry” who ran the neighborhood sweet shop. But, “…by far the most loathsome thing about Mrs. Prachett was the filth that clung around her. Her apron was gray and greasy. Her blouse had bits of breakfast all over it, toast-crumbs and tea stains and splotches of dried egg-yolk…”

The woman seems a likely inspiration for the eponymous characters of The Twits (1980), as well as for the Grand High Witch’s diabolical sweet shop plan in The Witches (1983), a book that also offers an appreciative nod to Dahl’s Norwegian grandmother. In More About Boy, the author notes that at boarding school, “Every now and again, a plain grey cardboard box was dished out to each boy in our House….Inside the box there were twelve bars of chocolate, all of different shapes, all with different fillings.…Eleven of these bars were new inventions from the factory…” Thanks to the market researchers at Cadbury who provided the students with candy all those years ago, readers can enjoy Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (1964) today. A far less appetizing side of boarding school life involved fear. In More About Boy, Dahl also comments, “On the dormitory floor the Matron ruled supreme. This was her territory…even the eleven- and twelve-year-old boys were terrified of this female ogre, for she ruled with a rod of steel.” Surely, these fearsome matrons had something to do with the author’s portrayal of the Trunchbull in Matilda (1988).

For more information on the author and his books, students and teachers can visit The Official Roald Dahl Website which offers archival photos, plot synopses, and character sketches along with video and sound clips, lesson plans, and a virtual tour of the Roald Dahl Museum and Story Centre at his home in Great Missenden, a country village about 20 miles northwest of London. After reading, booktalking, and displaying Dahl titles, teachers and librarians will want to mark September 13 with a few book-themed events.

Celebrating the Centennial

big friendly doodle bookIn honor of the upcoming anniversary, Penguin has reissued Dahl’s children’s books along with The BFG’s Gloriumptious Journal and The Big Friendly Doodle Book, an activity-filled title with excerpts from the chapter book followed by matching games, mazes, drawing and writing activities, stickers, and the Ultimate BFG Quiz (following on the heels of the release of the Disney/Spielberg movie).

Librarians and educators can also register to download the “Roald Dahl 100 Gloriumptious PARTY PACK!”, which includes invitations, place mats, hat and decoration templates, coloring and activity sheets, and ideas for some Dahl-inspired merrymaking. One suggestion involving a plate of cooked spaghetti, gummi worms, a blindfold, and a timer challenges players to “See how many jelly worms you can get out of the plate of spaghetti in a minute!,” while a “Find Your Roald Dahl Name” chart invites youngsters to match their initials to a list of character traits and behaviors. Youngsters can also enjoy a game of “Pin the Newt on the Trunchbull.”

Sweets feature throughout Dahl’s tales; other book-inspired party ideas might include a giant chocolate birthday cake such as the one Bruce Bogtrotter was forced to single-handedly devour in Matilda—shared by all. Kids can wash it down with homemade frobscottle—raspberry seltzer with a touch of green food coloring—but be prepared for some unavoidable phizz-whizzing.

Rifting on Willy Wonka and Charlie themes, teachers and librarians might hide five golden tickets on the bottom of cafeteria trays and grant the lucky winners free ice cream for a month of Fridays. Or, students can bring in their favorite candies or wrappers to create a candy bar collage, or take a poll of favorite sweets and type them into WORDLE to create a unique class candy poster.

To celebrate Matilda, bring your class to the local library or have a spelling bee or team math challenge. Drink water or fruit punch with gummy frogs—in lieu of newts. A guest BFG on stilts, a week-long marathon of  read-alouds or movies during lunchtime or afterschool featuring Matilda, the Witches, James and the Giant Peach, The BFG, and both Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, are all additional options.

Screen from Roald Dahl's House of Twits

Screen from Roald Dahl’s House of Twits

Create upside down pictures and dioramas in homage to The Twits and download the free app, Roald Dahl’s Twit or Miss  in which players use their fingers to deflect bits of food aimed at a sleeping Mrs. Twit, earning extra points if food particles land in Mr. Twit’s beard or cup. Also available is Roald Dahl’s House of Twits, a far more intricate game in which players gain access to different rooms and activities. One level involves painting the ceiling with glue; another feeding Mrs. Twit scrambled eggs, moldy cornflakes, bird droppings, monkey sick, and maggots until—it all comes back up. If this sounds a bit revolting, one only need remember Dahl’s assertion that “books that ‘irritated librarians’ generally entertained children.”

Dahl’s titles can also inspire children throughout the academic year. Begin school with The BFG and a unit on dreams. Encourage students to record their dreams in a journal or write snippets of their own reveries on slips of paper. Mix the papers in a large jar and ask students choose two or three elements to create their own story.

When it’s time for nonfiction reports, divide the class into small groups and assign each an insect from James and the Giant Peach—grasshopper, spider, ladybug, centipede, earthworm, silkworm, or glowworm. After researching the creatures, they can present illustrated nonfiction reports or poems about them. To add a hands-on element to the unit, students can create clay models of their assigned animals or create papier-mâché  peaches and paint them “rich buttery yellow with patches of brilliant pink and red.”

Read The Witches prior to Halloween—use the Grand High Witch’s address in the ballroom to perform a readers’ theater skit. Have kids design “How to Recognize a Witch” posters, drawing and labeling the distinct Dahl witch characteristics—gloves to conceal fingerless claws and wigs to hide bald scalps; red, itchy rashes and large, curvy nostrils; and fiery pupils and blue teeth. The protagonist of Witches transforms from boy to rodent and narrates his story from a mouse’s point of view. Ask youngsters to choose an animal they would like to morph into, research it, and write a first person narrative about an adventure they might have.

Finally, Dahl’s delightful language and rowdy verses can be enjoyed by children throughout the year. Encourage your students to plumb Susan Rennie’s Oxford Roald Dahl Dictionary (Oxford, Sept., 2016) to write a Dahl-inspired story or poem. Be sure to share excerpts from Dirty Beasts (1983) and Revolting Rhymes (1982) during National Poetry Month for a rollicking good time—remember, a Roald Dahl celebration should be silly, a bit naughty (lots of sweets!), and filled with fun!

Around Town

Baked in New York City’s raspberry jam cupcake with lavender buttercream (for Matilda’s friend Lavender, and topped with chocolate flakes from Miss Honey’s chocolate box). Photo courtesy of Wunderkind PR

Baked in New York City’s raspberry jam cupcake with lavender buttercream (for Matilda’s friend Lavender, and topped with chocolate flakes from Miss Honey’s chocolate box). Photo courtesy of Wunderkind PR

Outside the classroom, libraries, zoos, bakeries, and creameries have been inspired by the birthday to organize “buzzwangling” events and design “scrumdiddlyumptious” treats for the Wondercrump Weekend (September 16–18) and throughout the month of September.  Gardens and zoos in Memphis, Chicago, Dallas, Washington, DC, and NYC, will be hosting events from readings and screenings to performances and tastings (chocolate, of course). Meanwhile, a portion of the proceeds from the “Dahlicious Delights” created and sold in LA, Boston, Austin, Denver, NYC, Portland, OR, and other cities, will be donated to Partners in Health, an organization that brings health care to communities in 10 countries. (The organization was cofounded by Ophelia Dahl, Roald Dahl’s daughter.)

Twenty-four cities around the country are on the route of the high-energy Roald Dahl Splendiferous Showdown Bus Tour, which kicks off on September 10th at the Eric Carle Museum in Amherst, MA. The Showdown, a live interactive game show inspired by Dahl’s stories and presented by Story Pirates and Penguin Young Readers, will feature trivia, challenges, and an improv story that asks for audience participation. The tour will be visiting both schools and art centers including The Delaplaine Visual Arts Education Center in Frederick, MD (Sept 17), and The Gorton Community Center in Lake Forest, IL, (Sept. 24). For a full list of events happening around the country, visit

Barbara Auerbach (aka the Phizz-Whizzing Humpy-Rumpy), is a librarian in the New York City Public Schools



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When the Sea Turned to Silver by Grace Lin | SLJ Review Tue, 30 Aug 2016 14:00:01 +0000 Lin, Grace. When the Sea Turned to Silver. illus. by Grace Lin. 384p. Little, Brown. Oct. 2016. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9780316125925; ebk. $9.99. ISBN 9780316317696. POP  

Gr 3-6 –The Tiger Emperor is conscripting all the men of the mountain villages to build the Vast Wall surrounding the kingdom. But when they reach Pinmei’s village, they also take her grandmother, the Storyteller. In order to save her, Pinmei and her friend Yishan embark on a voyage [...]]]> redstarLin, Grace. When the Sea Turned to Silver. illus. by Grace Lin. 384p. Little, Brown. Oct. 2016. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9780316125925; ebk. $9.99. ISBN 9780316317696. POP  When the Sea Turned to Silver by Grace Lin

Gr 3-6 –The Tiger Emperor is conscripting all the men of the mountain villages to build the Vast Wall surrounding the kingdom. But when they reach Pinmei’s village, they also take her grandmother, the Storyteller. In order to save her, Pinmei and her friend Yishan embark on a voyage to find the Luminous Stone That Lights the Night—the only thing the Emperor will trade for a prisoner’s freedom. From the top of Never-Ending Mountain to the City of Bright Moonlight to the bottom of the sea and back, their journey brings readers to familiar characters and settings as well as new ones. Combining the epic quest of Where the Mountain Meets the Moon and the tight, cyclical plotting of Starry River of the Sky, this is the strongest addition yet, binding the previous volumes together even more closely. As in the earlier companion novels, stories inspired by Chinese folktales are frequently interspersed, giving astute readers critical background information and clues and letting them see the future of their favorite characters, as many stories gain additional chapters. The framing narrative is bleaker and darker, and greater emphasis is placed on the importance and role of stories and storytellers. Lin’s vibrant chapter decorations and full-color, full-page paintings add to the work’s beauty. VERDICT A stunning addition to a deservedly beloved set of novels; recommended for all middle grade collections.–Jennifer Rothschild, Arlington County Public Libraries, VA

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

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Conquering Middle School Miasma Tue, 30 Aug 2016 13:56:35 +0000 Looking at the torn and tattered copies of Juliana Farrell, Beth Mayall, and Megan Howard’s Middle School: the Real Deal from Cafeteria Food to Combination Locks (HarperTrophy), Arlene Erlbach’s The Middle School Survival Guide (Walker), and titles in the “Middle School Confidential” series (Free Spirit) in my K-Gr 8 library, it’s clear that guidance about this uncharted territory is of perennial interest to our rising and incoming students. Cubbies have given way to lockers and indoor lunches to snacking and socializing outdoors, as these students navigate new subjects, teachers, classmates, and schedules. Fortunately, two new books can help guide the way.

surviving middle school1In Surviving Middle School: Navigating the Halls, Riding the Social Roller Coaster, and Unmasking the Real You (Aladdin/ S. & S., 2016; Gr 5-7), Luke Reynolds, a middle school teacher, offers practical advice and encouragement. He covers a range of topics from friendships and self-confidence to teachers and parents, understanding that these years can be both scary and challenging. Throughout the book, the author shares abundant stories from his school years and his work with students, while stressing the importance of being true to oneself even in the face of changing relationships. Occasional writing (and thinking) activities will help readers put their experiences in perspective; for example, he asks that readers look at an incident (the “bad thing” that happened at school today, witnessed or experienced), then try to list some aspects that were unknown about it, or might have been happening “below the surface.” Knowing that responding to these exercises might be difficult for many, Reynolds walks students through them as he underscores that sometimes “…life exists below the surface of what we can see” and that by exploring that level, we tend “to treat ourselves (and others) with more kindness.” Before sending students on their way, a final chapter addresses the “other stuff”—the day-to-day beyond grades and relationships—initiative, organization, sleep, etc. Throughout, Reynolds’s empowering messages are replete with humor, pull-quotes, and gray tone spot-art drawings that help make the advice go down smoothly.

middle school academic successSome of the most successful programs and conversations to ensure that students who want to pursue higher education are able to do so, occur early in a child’s academic career. Consequently, many elementary and middle school administrators schedule group and individual meetings to encourage early planning to make college a reality. For motivated parents and students, Blake Nemelka and Bo Nemelka’s  The Middle School Student’s Guide to Academic Success: 12 Conversations for College and Career Readiness (S. & S., August, 2016; Gr 7 Up) will be a useful tool.  In a note to parents and mentors, the authors stress that their book should not be forced on a student; it’s a guide for the willing, with “action” items that require assistance and/or feedback from an adult. They admit that some of the work may “sound suspiciously like homework,” but emphasize that these can be “life-changing” steps for those who take them. Topics covered include setting goals, time management, grade point averages, extra- and cocurricular activities, service and work experiences, college testing and applications, and more. Each of the 12 chapters is divided into “things to do now” and “things to start thinking about” and structured with “listen,” “learn,” reflect,” and “act” exercises.  Worksheets, which can also be accessed and downloaded from a website (address provided), are included. Throughout, chapters open with quotes from historical, literary, sports, and pop-culture figures, while shaded boxes offer additional tips and inspiration. This is a book that takes time to advance through, but students who stick with it will be rewarded with having established clear personal goals and knowledge of the work that will be required of them in the future.

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Georgia Peaches and Other Forbidden Fruit by Jaye Robin Brown | SLJ Review Tue, 30 Aug 2016 13:00:53 +0000 Brown, Jaye Robin. Georgia Peaches and Other Forbidden Fruit. 432p. ebook available. HarperCollins/HarperTeen. Aug. 2016. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780062270986. 

Gr 9 Up –Brown orchestrates a fast-paced narrative that is powerful, moving, and relatable. Jo Gordon, a proudly queer teen, has recently been uprooted from her home in Atlanta to a more rural part of the state during her senior year of high school. Her father also has recently remarried, is a man of faith, and has [...]]]> redstarBrown, Jaye Robin. Georgia Peaches and Other Forbidden Fruit. 432p. ebook available. HarperCollins/HarperTeen. Aug. 2016. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780062270986. YA-HS-Brown-Georgia Peaches and Other Forbidden Fruit

Gr 9 Up –Brown orchestrates a fast-paced narrative that is powerful, moving, and relatable. Jo Gordon, a proudly queer teen, has recently been uprooted from her home in Atlanta to a more rural part of the state during her senior year of high school. Her father also has recently remarried, is a man of faith, and has asked her to keep her sexuality hidden from the greater community. Jo manages to make friends and discovers an unexpected romance but is torn between love and the commitment she made to her father. Readers are then left to follow Jo and her friends as they attempt to navigate unfamiliar terrain that challenges ideals surrounding faith and sexuality. This work will resonate with those who enjoy a female protagonist who is bold, brave, candid, and thoughtful. The language is realistic, and the author accurately captures queer and Southern cultures. Themes such as deception, trust, and sexuality are present throughout. Brown expertly describes the complex nuances of faith and sexuality. This plot-driven story is humorous, and the characters are effortlessly likable. Teens who root for underdogs will be pulling for this dream team of characters. VERDICT For fans of Sandy Hall’s Been Here All Along and David Levithan and John Green’s Will Grayson, Will Grayson; this title is a worthwhile purchase for all YA collections.–Katie Flynn, Williston Northampton School, MA

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

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Go to the Head of the Class | Back-to-School Roundup Tue, 30 Aug 2016 13:00:31 +0000 1608-BacktoSchoolRoundupAshburn, Boni. The Class. illus. by Kimberly Gee. 40p. ebook available. S. & S./Beach Lane. Jul. 2016. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781442422483.

PreS-K –Twenty children from 19 different homes are getting ready for the first day of school in this illustrated story in rhyme. Some of the students-to-be are eager, others are nervous, but there are plenty of antics all around. “Three have pancakes./Juice for eight./Two eat toast./One drops a plate. Some have butterflies;/they just nibble./One’s distracted–/dribble…dribble.” The children are from diverse backgrounds, and Gee skillfully infuses their faces with emotion in the digitally colored pencil drawings. With such a variety of experiences early in the morning, viewers will be able to identify with the characters depicted. It’s also fun to follow the individual kids as they get ready, meet up with friends, and make their way to class. VERDICT An appealing look at one group of students who come together to form a class. Suitable for small group sharing, but most first-time students will want to pore over the engaging artwork.–Jennifer Steib Simmons, Anderson County Library, SC

redstarBirdsall, Jeanne. My Favorite Pets: By Gus W. for Ms. Smolinski’s Class. illus. by Harry Bliss. 40p. Knopf. Jul. 2016. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780385755702.

K-Gr 3 –Gus writes a report about his favorite pet(s): his family’s 17 sheep. He begins with some basic facts about sheep but quickly slips into relating amusing details about his mischievous antics with the animals. Gus writes about his efforts to trade his little brother for a lamb, the time he dressed up a sheep in his teacher’s borrowed scarf, and his attempts to teach the sheep to ride a skateboard and a bicycle. He includes brief references to his parents’ reactions (“What were you thinking, Gus?”). But the last straw comes when the boy leads the sheep into the house, where they create quite a mess. “But we were only upstairs for a minute!” Gus’s mother exclaims. Bliss’s delightful illustrations take Birdsall’s funny text to the next level by showing the extent of the trouble that Gus’s grand ideas cause as well as the innocent-looking sheep. As fitting with an elementary school report, the text appears to be handwritten on notebook paper; Ms. Smolinski gives Gus a B+ and comments on his improved penmanship. VERDICT A thoroughly engaging book that children are bound to giggle through. A first purchase.–Heidi Grange, Summit Elementary School, Smithfield, UT

Border, Terry. Milk Goes to School. photos by Terry Border. 32p. Philomel. Jun. 2016. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780399176197.

PreS-Gr 2 –Following the success of Peanut Butter and Cupcake and Happy Birthday, Cupcake!, Border returns with the latest entry in his cuisine-inspired series. Milk tries to make friends on the first day of school by sharing her best crayons with Carrot, offering to get Celery a new raisin, and asking Cupcake to sit next to her. Despite her efforts to be friendly, Milk is prone to boasting and snobbery and is soon labeled as “spoiled” by her classmate, Waffle, for her haughty attitude. This eventually leads to her being ostracized by the rest of her class. But when she accidentally slips on Banana’s peel and temporarily becomes a puddle on the floor, her classmates recall the title character’s kindness and Milk finally admits that she has been acting a bit spoiled. By the end of the book, Milk finds her way back into her carton and has some new friends, including Waffle. As with his previous works, Border manipulates and photographs three-dimensional objects to create his strange assortment of food-related characters, resulting in uniquely stylized and creative illustrations. Several clever food-themed gags are sprinkled throughout, providing plenty of giggles. Though this is a seemingly silly story, its themes of friendship, bullying, and fitting in still ring true. VERDICT A quirky read-aloud with offbeat humor and fun images that young readers will appreciate. A good choice to address the challenges of making new friends at school.–Laura J. Giunta, Garden City Public Library, NY

Czajak, Paul. Monster Needs To Go to School. illus. by Wendy Grieb. 32p. (Monster & Me). ebook available. Mighty Media Kids. Jun. 2016. Tr $16.95. ISBN 9781938063749.

PreS-Gr 1–Czajak and Grieb’s newest installment in their series addresses the topic of first day of school jitters and playground bullying. After much convincing and reassurance from the school-age boy narrator, Monster agrees that he does have a lot to learn and gets on the bus to go to school with his human. In art, music, and French class, Monster proudly enjoys all that he is absorbing at school, even though he self-consciously stands out among classmates. Initially afraid of being teased by bullies himself, particularly because he’s “blue and very hairy,” Monster is able to stand up to his friends when they become the bullies. At recess Monster notices children teasing one another and he quickly speaks up: “I know we’re friends, but teasing’s wrong./It’s something I despise./No one should be ridiculed. There is no compromise.” Grieb’s fun, animated, and bold illustrations are vivid and packed with detail for lively visual impact. However, the rhyming text, while playful and feel-good, is somewhat forced and uninspired. Further, the message about how to deal with bullies is handled in a quick and facile manner. VERDICT Order where the earlier titles in the series are popular. An additional purchase for most libraries.–Brianne Colombo, Pequannock Township Public Library, NJ

Garton, Sam. Otter Goes to School. illus. by Sam Garton. 32p. HarperCollins/Balzer + Bray. Jun. 2016. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780062352255.

PreS-Gr 1–Fans of Otter will be pleased to see the pint-size creature going on a new escapade. While her guardian, Otter Keeper, is at work, Otter dresses up as a teacher and decides to school her stuffed toys. Giraffe excels at math, and Pig shows off his talents during music class, but what about Teddy, Otter’s stalwart companion? When Otter realizes that Teddy feels like he isn’t good at anything, her spirits sag—until Otter Keeper encourages her to have more faith in herself as an educator. Garton employs mild pastel colors and plenty of white space, giving his digitally rendered illustrations a soft, gentle quality. Otter herself is utterly charming, and images of her sporting her teaching outfit, complete with glasses and a pearl necklace, will have kids and adults cooing with delight. However, the tone never veers toward the cloying, and there’s genuine wit that comes from the contrast between Otter’s self-assured narration and the reality of the situation. Adults will appreciate Garton’s wry sensibility as he spoofs well-known moments of the school routine (taking on the role of the weepy parent before class begins, Otter muses, “I made sure everyone was settled in, and then I said good-bye. This part was a bit sad.”). Beneath the humor, though, there’s a true understanding of children’s fears, and Garton offers simple but sincere reassurance. VERDICT A wonderful storytime offering to soothe back-to-school blues; Otter devotees and newcomers will savor this one.–Mahnaz Dar, School Library Journal

Goldfinger, Jennifer P. Hello, My Name Is Tiger. illus. by Jennifer P. Goldfinger. 40p. HarperCollins. Jul. 2016. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780062399519.

PreS-K–The transition from home to school can be intimidating for any child. Young Toby, who has an animal alter ego, is a playful kitten at home and turns into an apprehensive tiger when he attends his first day of school. Knowing no one, Toby the Tiger shies away from the other children during recess, preferring to play by himself, and eventually climbs up a tree to observe the others playing. There he befriends Pete the Monkey, who is experiencing the same anxieties that Toby feels. They climb down out of the tree and start to play together. As they form a bond, they notice Lottie, and she joins in their activities. Together, they play and learn that although pretending to be animals is fun, so is being themselves. With simple, colorful chalklike drawings, this picture book is sensitive to how overwhelming new environments and situations can be to young children and delivers its message of adapting in an unassuming manner. VERDICT A good selection for children apprehensive about going to school and making new friends. Perfect for one-on-one and small group sharing.–Vivian Ho, Port Washington Public Library, NY

Gutman, Dan. Rappy Goes to School. illus. by Tim Bowers. 40p. HarperCollins. Jun. 2016. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780062291813.

Gr 1-3–Rappy the Raptor is back, and this time he tackles the universal experience of the first day of school. Rappy expresses his enthusiasm through rhyme to the excitement of his parents and schoolmates. When he encounters one of his classmates being bullied, he uses the power of rap to come to his aid and stands up to the big bad bully in the process. He makes a new friend and shows everyone that school can be cool. The author’s note in the beginning of the volume implores parents not to read the book but to “RAP IT!” Many readers, especially younger ones, may find this difficult, as the rhythm of many of the lines is off and will prove to be a challenge. Bowers’s digital illustrations capture the happy expressions of many of the characters. This is a slight story that readers may not find enthralling. Those seeking this type of tale may want to turn to Chris Raschka’s Hip Hop Dog. VERDICT Readers may want to look elsewhere for a rapping good time.–Christopher Lassen, BookOps: The New York Public Library and Brooklyn Public Library

Hites, Kati. Winnie & Waldorf: Disobedience School. illus. by Kati Hites. 40p. HarperCollins/Harper. Jun. 2016. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780062311627.

PreS-Gr 1–In this follow-up to Winnie & Waldorf, the child discovers that her dog has chewed up some toys and books and enrolls him in Winnie’s Disobedience School. While there, Waldorf leans everything there is to learn from the perspective of a young child. Thus, lessons involve finding a cubby for his belongings and singing the ABCs, as well as all of the finer points of nap time. When it is time for gym class, Waldorf saves another “student” from running into the street by playing fetch. After a long, action-packed day teaching, Winnie must herself head to bed for her own visit to school the next day. The story is full of positive messages for children who may be anxious or worried about starting school. It’s also a playful and warmhearted tale about a girl and her dog. The simple plot and short sentences make it a good segue for newer readers into larger picture books. The watercolor illustrations are cute and cuddly. VERDICT A great addition to any collection and a solid read-aloud at the beginning of the school year.–Kaitlin Malixi, formerly at Virginia Beach Public Library

Hood, Susan. Mission: Back to School. illus. by Mary Lundquist. 32p. Random. Jul. 2016. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780385384711.

Gr 1-3–Students are treated like special agents in this tongue-in-cheek training manual for returning to spy school. The vocabulary is rich, catering to budding espionage aficionados. But Lundquist’s soft, friendly sketches balance out the intrigue by depicting normal school routines. Student agents “suit up” when getting ready for school and arrive and meet their “Intelligence Officer,” a bespectacled yet youthful man. They “build diplomatic relations” when making friends and practice “decoding information” while sounding out words. When the whirlwind of recapturing a suspiciously furry rogue agent is over, they return home for their final reports. VERDICT Humorous details, diverse agents, and a full day’s worth of elementary school fieldwork make this an excellent choice for students on the first day of school.–Jenna Boles, Greene County Public Library, Beavercreek, OH

Janousky, Peggy Robbins. Move It, Miss Macintosh! illus. by Meghan Lands. 32p. Annick. Oct. 2016. Tr $17.95. ISBN 9781554518630; pap. $9.95. ISBN 9781554518623.

PreS-Gr 1 –Everyone gets nervous on the first day of school, even teachers. Miss Macintosh, a kindergarten teacher, has a case of the butterflies and decides to stay home instead. Luckily, Principal Bellwether and an assortment of other teachers arrive at her home to coax her into leaving bed. Each teacher helps her with an important task such as getting dressed, eating, and brushing her teeth. However, the true star is Miss Melody, the music teacher, who loves to sing when she’s nervous. Miss Melody begins to sing at the top of her lungs: “We’re in the same boat, we’re both kind of new. So let’s stick together just like paper and glue!” After an anxiety-filled bus ride, Miss Macintosh finally arrives at her kindergarten classroom and realizes that the children have butterflies, too. She makes up her own silly song instead of using Miss Melody’s, and the kids quickly begin giggling and laughing. The bright pen and ink illustrations and Miss Macintosh’s expressive face will keep readers turning pages in this reassuring story. VERDICT This is a perfect first day of school book for anyone who is feeling anxious. Hopefully we will be seeing more of Miss Macintosh and her fun colleagues in the future!–Brooke Newberry, La Crosse Public Library, WI

Katz, Alan. That Stinks!: A Punny Show-and-Tell. illus. by Stephen Gilpin. 32p. S. & S. Jul. 2016. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781416978800.

K-Gr 2 –In this clever picture book, a school day goes from boring to absurd when recess is cancelled because of bad weather. It all begins innocently when the teacher suggests show-and-tell and one student shouts out, “That stinks!” to the horror of everyone. However, when the page is turned, the child innocently introduces his pet skunk Harry. Another kid, seemingly enraged, shouts, “This totally bites!” and then goes on to show everyone a tarantula. The stakes and laughs increase as the remaining students top one another with wordplay and puns. Each child who “shows and tells” is added to the montage of proud students holding their treasures, which include a rotten banana and smelly cheese. The tale culminates with the teacher reciting all of the outrageous utterances only to have the principal come in and steal the show. The illustrations portray a diverse group of children and objects and are digitally depicted in a cartoon style that matches the story’s tone. VERDICT This selection will have kids roaring as they quickly catch on and gleefully wait to see what is actually being described.–Amy Nolan, St. Joseph Public Library, MI

Marshall, Linda E. Kindergarten Is Cool! illus. by Chris Chatterton. 32p. Scholastic/Cartwheel. Jul. 2016. Tr $8.99. ISBN 9780545652667.

PreS-K –Books to get kids ready for kindergarten are always welcome, and this title will help fill the need. With rhyming text that flows well, Marshall introduces readers to all aspects of the school day. “Go by bus, car, or walk…/On the way, there is talk/About new friends and school—/Teachers, pencils, books, rules.” Throughout the day, all the kids look happy. The brightly colored illustrations clearly represent the text while still feeling childlike and fun. The standard topics are covered: playtime, storytime, recess, and lunch, as well as a few pages devoted to making new friends. VERDICT A very good choice for those starting kindergarten, but it doesn’t extend beyond that audience.–Laura Stanfield, Campbell County Public Library, Fort Thomas, KY

Miller, Pat Zietlow. Sophie’s Squash Go to School. illus. by Anne Wilsdorf. 40p. ebook available. Random/Schwartz & Wade. Jun. 2016. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780553509441; lib. ed. $20.99. ISBN 9780553509458; ebk. $10.99. ISBN 9780553509465.

PreS-Gr 1–Who needs a friend when you have a squash? When readers last encountered the stubborn protagonist of Sophie’s Squash, the girl’s beloved Bernice was becoming freckled with spots and mushy. On the advice of the farmer, Sophie provides Bernice with fresh air, clean soil, and love (the squash gets buried by its favorite outdoor spot). Along with the arrival of the warm weather, a sprout appears, and, ultimately, Bernice’s two offspring arrive. Now Sophie is starting school, and with her go the small fruits named Bonnie and Baxter. Once there, the kindergartner encounters and vehemently rebuffs the friendly overtures of the persistent Steven Green (who carries around a frog). Slowly, the classroom activities and outdoor games of her classmates begin to attract Sophie’s interest, but it isn’t until Bonnie and Baxter are tucked in for their “winter nap” and her teacher’s question, “What makes a good friend?”, followed by a tussle with Steven, an apology, and a plan, that she realizes that friends come in all forms, including human. Young children will relate to Sophie’s unease in a new environment and her difficulty letting go of the familiar and comforting. Wilsdorf’s watercolor and ink art, filled with details, depict a colorful classroom complete with art projects, books, blocks, and enough activity (and humor) to tempt the most reluctant of preschoolers to give kindergarten a try. VERDICT A warm and encouraging look at starting school, perfect for reading aloud and small group sharing.–Daryl Grabarek, School Library Journal

Parr, Todd. Teacher’s Rock. illus. by Todd Parr. 32p. Little, Brown. Apr. 2016. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780316265126; ebk. $9.99. ISBN 9780316265119.

PreS-Gr 1–A superb selection about teachers and all they do for their students. They teach children new things, inspire creativity, and help them realize their talents. The best ones make kids laugh, provide comfort, and help when it is needed the most. Teachers do their best to make their classrooms feel like they are the greatest place to be. They celebrate events throughout the year, take the class on field trips, and make families feel welcome. Teachers buy supplies and decorations, allow an assortment of creatures for show-and-tell, and assist students with all types of problems. A section at the end of the book helps young ones understand that teachers are regular people who sleep at night, spill things on the floor, brush their teeth, and even buy underwear. As with all of his titles, Parr has included simple and powerful, kid-friendly illustrations. The colors are bright, vivid, and eye-catching. Animal characters help make this book entertaining and truly diverse. VERDICT A fun offering to share with any preschool class.–Barbara Spiri, Southborough Library, MA

Rabe, Tish. On the First Day of Kindergarten. illus. by Laura Hughes. 32p. HarperCollins. Jun. 2016. pap. $9.99. ISBN 9780062348340.

PreS-K–This cumulative verse describes the joyful activities of the first few days of kindergarten. Only the first two verses rhyme and most, but not all, contain alliteration. Still, the lines scan well and beg to be sung to the tune of “The Twelve Days of Christmas.” For example, “On the third day of kindergarten/I thought it was so cool/counting up to ten, making lots of friends,/and riding the bus to my school!” The ink, paint, and collage digital illustrations have the hectic feel of a kindergarten class and feature a diverse group of students. VERDICT A general purchase for libraries looking to add to their first day of school collections, this one makes a good read/sing aloud.–Kelly Roth, Bartow County Public Library, Cartersville, GA

redstarRex, Adam. School’s First Day of School. illus. by Christian Robinson. 40p. Roaring Brook. Jun. 2016. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781596439641.

PreS-Gr 1–Step aside, other first day of school books: there’s a new school in town. After construction and a summer of tender loving care from the janitor, Frederick Douglass Elementary’s first day finally arrives. And what a day it is: hordes of children with all their feelings, mess, noise, new concepts, and even a fire alarm (which the school finds deeply embarrassing). Worried but curious, impetuous, and vulnerable, the school works as a perfect proxy for nervous child readers. Rex’s warm and goofy text is brought to life by Robinson’s vivid collage illustrations. His signature round-headed, tulip-handed figures are diverse and appealing, from the supportive janitor to the “little girl with freckles” who slowly warms up to school at the same time that the school is warming up to the children. VERDICT A+: an essential purchase that is simultaneously funny, frank, and soothing. A perfect first day read-aloud.–Sarah Stone, San Francisco Public Library

Robertson, Rachel. A Teacher’s Promise. illus. by Priscilla Prentice. 32p. Redleaf Lane. Apr. 2016. Tr $15.95. ISBN 9781605544717.

PreS-Gr 1–Teachers do much more than provide instruction. This title highlights the positive aspects of a good teacher and the promises she makes to her students. She encourages children to dream and think big thoughts and will help them learn at their own pace. She wants to inspire them to explore their feelings and be sensitive to the feelings of others. She promises to help her students discover the importance of patience and kindness. She will motivate them to make friends and will be there to assist when they are learning to share. She wants to help young ones realize that mistakes are going to happen and that it’s okay—because everyone grows and learns from them. She also wants children to recognize that the classroom can be a magical place to learn. This is a short book told in verse. The rhyming words are straightforward and predictable. The simple illustrations are composed of bright colors and complement the text. Many parents hope that their children will encounter teachers who would make such promises and carry them through. VERDICT While this offering is a suitable gift for a new teacher or one who is well loved, its appeal to children is minimal and its saccharine tone limits its use in a library collection.–Barbara Spiri, Southborough Library, MA

Sauer, Tammi. Ginny Louise and the School Field Day. illus. by Lynn Munsinger. 32p. Disney-Hyperion. Jun. 2016. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781484730447.

PreS-Gr 1–The irrepressible star of Ginny Louise and the School Showdown is back, and this time she’s literally having a field day. Just the thought of sack races, ball tosses, and long-jump competition sends the exuberant little hedgehog over the moon with excitement. The prizes also catch the attention of the school’s troublemakers—Cap’n Catastrophe, Destructo Dude, and Make-My-Day May—who are determined to win them by hook or by crook. At each event, their dastardly schemes go awry and Ginny Louise prevails, fueled by her sheer enthusiasm. When the scalawags try to make off with her prizes during the refreshment hour, Ginny Louise calls for an impromptu parade with the whole school, and the scamps are guilted into apologizing for their bad behavior. This is a sweet and amusing story to share with preschoolers and kindergartners obsessed with winning and losing. Munsinger’s adorable animal characters and the silly scenarios help drive home the point that kindness counts and having fun with one’s friends is more important than besting them. VERDICT A winning choice for storytime and classroom sharing, especially in preparation for a field day or any other competition.–Luann Toth, School Library Journal

Shreeve, Elizabeth. Captain Freddy Counts Down to School. illus. by Joey Chou. 38p. Amazon/Two Lions. Jul. 2016. Tr $17.00. ISBN 9781503950955.

PreS-Gr 1–Freddy is apprehensive about his first day of school, as he hides under the covers and imagines how far away and big it is, along with all the strange new faces he will encounter. In order to prepare himself for this overwhelming transition, “Captain” Freddy launches himself into important work at his pretend space station. The rocket ship is loaded, fuel tanks are filled, and engines are humming before he courageously steps onto the launchpad for the initial countdown. At liftoff, Freddy’s rocket zooms out of control until he is ejected and lands on an alien planet millions and millions of miles away from home, where he befriends an alien (his baby sister) who can communicate with him after an awkward start. Once home, he is finally able to “blast off to school.” Chou’s bright, meticulous illustrations and Shreeve’s text present just enough detail, albeit in simple fashion, to keep space lovers happy. Fans of all things space related should readily gravitate to this offering and will enjoy the informative space facts at the end. VERDICT A picture book adventure best appreciated by lovers of the solar system and planets who are about to confront the challenges of the first day of school.–Etta Anton, Yeshiva of Central Queens, NY

Staub, Leslie. Time for (Earth) School, Dewey Dew. illus. by Jeff Mack. 32p. Boyds Mills. Jun. 2016. Tr $16.95. ISBN 9781590789582.

PreS-Gr 2–Click-Clack Waddle-Waddle Dot-Dot Dewey Dew does not want to go to school. Not on his planet or on the moons of Jupiter or on the Space Station Zoomalot. And he definitely does not want to go to Ms. Brightsun’s School for Little Learners on Earth. Nonetheless, his mom makes him go because everyone has to go to school somewhere. Dewey Dew feels out of place. His new shoes pinch, his socks droop, his pants come up too high, and his shirt doesn’t fit. His mother tells him everything is going to be okay and sends him on his way. But nothing is okay. Dewey Dew knows he is out of place at this new school, which makes him even sadder. Then he meets his classmate J.J., who invites Dewey Dew to stand with him in line with a smile, and that instantly makes Dewey Dew feel better. He smiles so brightly, his happiness flies all the way past the space station and the moons of Jupiter to his home planet, and he knows that everything will be okay. Children who have never been to school or are having to switch schools will instantly relate to Dewey Dew. His feelings of alienation and loneliness in a new place are ones that many children have despite assurances from parents that everything will be okay. The linear story follows Dewey throughout his day, and his colorful vocabulary conveys his feelings of not belonging. The illustrations are lovely, and the faces in Dewey Dew’s classroom are diverse and reflective of classrooms today. VERDICT A fun read-aloud and a wonderful discussion starter for most collections.–Paige Garrison, Augusta Richmond County Library System, GA

redstarSullivan, Deirdre. Ming Goes to School. illus. by Maja Löfdahl. 32p. Sky Pony. Jul. 2016. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781510700505.

PreS-Gr 2–A sweet and spare text introduces a preschool girl named Ming on her first day of school. A vibrant and multiethnic cast of children share and grow with Ming throughout the year. The seasons shift subtly, as conveyed through the changing artwork of the students, displayed on a classroom window in softly burnished tones with fuzzy, rather than sharp, lines. Ming’s school is where “magic fairy castles are built from sticks…/and growing up takes time.” A thoughtful teacher watches a pensive Ming as she observes the other students on the big red slide—not ready to join them. The narrative ends with the declaration, “It’s where all things…/Are worth waiting for,” and the final spread shows Ming leaving her backpack behind as she runs toward the red slide, ready to give it a try. The symbiotic nature of the text and diffuse watercolors carries this quiet offering, distinguishing it from other school stories and making it one that should be shared. VERDICT This beautiful tale with gentle illustrations is an ode to the milestone of attending school for the first time and all it entails.–Lisa Kropp, Lindenhurst Memorial Library, NY

Van Slyke, Rebecca. Dad School. illus. by Priscilla Burris. 32p. Knopf. Apr. 2016. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780385388955.

PreS-Gr 1–What is Dad School? Lucas, the young narrator of this picture book, envisions it as a place where studious men gather to learn how to fix boo-boos, mend leaky faucets, and make fabulous food like giant sandwiches with pickles and chips. Van Slyke fills the pages with affectionate commentary and only occasional snark: “Sometimes I think my dad missed the days they taught about matching clothes, brushing hair, and cleaning the bathroom…. But I’m glad he was there when they taught about making ice cream sundaes, telling silly stories, and giving piggyback rides when I’m too tired to walk anymore.” Lucas decides that his father must have been the best student at Dad School and that he takes his position seriously. Children will be swept along by Burris’s upbeat, endearing illustrations. VERDICT A likable and loving tribute to dads and a worthy successor to Mom School, an earlier collaboration.–Susan Weitz, formerly at Spencer-Van Etten School District, Spencer, NY

Yoon, Salina. Bear’s Big Day. illus. by Salina Yoon. 40p. ebook available. Bloomsbury. Jun. 2016. Tr $14.99. ISBN 9780802738325.

PreS–Bear is very excited about going to school, and these pages will prepare readers for what will surely be a grand adventure. Bear can cut his own pancakes. He has a backpack full of supplies. But as he gives his precious Floppy a goodbye hug, it takes no more than Yoon’s deft alteration of the little bear’s mouth for viewers to know that things may not turn out as he had hoped. Indeed, missing Floppy practically ruins his day. Luckily, Bear’s perceptive teacher helps him make a little pocket on his backpack so that the two can continue on their adventures. Preschoolers will have noticed that some of the other students depend on their own “special friends” during the school day, too, and can easily connect with the notion that “being big doesn’t mean you have to do everything by yourself.” Yoon’s trademark digital black-outlined illustrations provide a vivid background for this tight little tale aimed at the youngest students. VERDICT A great read-aloud for the beginning of preschool and perfect for one-on-one sharing.–Lisa Lehmuller, Paul Cuffee Maritime Charter School, Providence, RI



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Virtual Reality & Augmented Reality: What’s Next Mon, 29 Aug 2016 20:38:04 +0000 Tuesday, September 13th, 2016, 3:00 PM - 4:00 PM ET / 12:00 PM - 1:00 PM PT
Is there life after Pokémon Go? Get up to speed on VR and AR, with advice from an expert panel on where this fast-evolving technology is headed, and what applications educators can use now.
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Presented by: ISTE & School Library Journal

Event Date & Time: Tuesday, September 13th, 2016, 3:00 PM – 4:00 PM ET / 12:00 PM – 1:00 PM PT
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Is there life after Pokémon Go? Get up to speed on VR and AR, with advice from an expert panel on where this fast-evolving technology is headed, and what applications educators can use now.


Chris Carnahan – Assistant Professor & Doctoral Program Coordinator in Educational Technology, New Jersey City University

Laura Zieger – Chair and Professor of Educational Technology, New Jersey City University

Ted Brodheim – VP, Samsung Education

Guido Kovalskys – CEO, Nearpod


Kathy Ishizuka – Executive Editor, School Library Journal
Register NowCan’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!

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Hot New Titles for Your Middle School Readers Mon, 29 Aug 2016 18:46:46 +0000 Register Now!Seeking something to hook your middle grade readers? Look no further than SLJ’s free, one-hour webcast on the latest and greatest titles coming out this fall. Join moderator Marybeth Kozikowski, of the Sachem Public Library in Holbrook, NY, for a sneak peek at intriguing new books from Boyds Mills Press, Penguin Young Readers, and Shadow Mountain Publishing.
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Presented by: Boyds Mills Press, Penguin Young Readers, Shadow Mountain Publishing, & School Library Journal

Event Date & Time: Wednesday, September 7th, 2016, 3:00 PM – 4:00 PM ET / 12:00 PM – 1:00 PM PT
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Seeking something to hook your middle grade readers? Look no further than SLJ’s free, one-hour webcast on the latest and greatest titles coming out this fall. Join moderator Marybeth Kozikowski, of the Sachem Public Library in Holbrook, NY, for a sneak peek at intriguing new books from Boyds Mills Press, Penguin Young Readers, and Shadow Mountain Publishing.

You’ll hear about many enthralling offerings that tackle a variety of subjects and formats: Nikki Grimes’s latest, Garvey’s Choice, a novel in verse about a lonely misfit who finds his voice when he joins the school chorus; Ruth Behar’s Lucky Broken Girl, the moving tale of a young Cuban Jewish immigrant girl recovering from a devastating car accident; and Loki Mulholland’s She Stood for Freedom, the biography of a teenager who braved obstacles that included jail time to take part in the civil rights movement.


Rebecca Davis – Senior Editor, WordSong/Boyds Mills Press

Ilise Levine – Sales and Marketing, Shadow Mountain Publishing

Nancy Paulsen – President & Publisher of Nancy Paulsen Books, Penguin Young Readers

Carolyn Yoder – Senior Editor, Calkins Creek/Boyds Mills Press


Marybeth Kozikowski – Librarian at the Sachem Public Library in Holbrook, New York
Register NowCan’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 #SLJMiddleGrade

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Audio Xpress Reviews | September 2016 Mon, 29 Aug 2016 17:59:08 +0000 My Name Is Not Friday; the can’t-miss conclusion to Margaret Peterson Haddix’s “Missing” series.]]> 1609-Xpress-Audio

For more of this month’s
Xpress Reviews:

Bavis, Cyril. The Sorcerer’s Apprentice. 1 CD. 6 min. Dreamscape. Jan. 2016. $14.99. ISBN 9781682629161.

PreS-K –Based on the 1797 poem written by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe and made famous as one of the segments of Disney’s Fantasia, the story features Tiernan, the apprentice, who is chosen by the Sorcerer because of his “hidden gifts.” Tiernan’s job at the castle is cleaning and organizing, though he is fascinated by magic and studies spells when he can. When the Sorcerer leaves Tiernan alone for the first time, Tiernan resorts to magic to help him accomplish the final task: sweeping and mopping. However, the magic goes terribly wrong. The bucket won’t stop dumping water on the floor, and the castle is in danger of being destroyed. The Sorcerer returns at just the right moment, and all is saved. Although Tiernan fears the worst, the Sorcerer respects his courage and creativity, acknowledging that the young apprentice’s gifts could cause him trouble but also, if used well, might serve to make him great. Nicholas Mondelli provides a soothing and melodic narration. VERDICT This simplified and abbreviated version of the classic story is ideal for a very young audience.–Terri Perper, Olney Elementary School, MD

Cavanaugh, Nancy J. Just Like Me. 4 CDs. 4:25 hrs. Dreamscape. Apr. 2016. $29.99. ISBN 9781520005928. 1 MP3-CD.

Gr 4-7 –Julia is headed for a week of summer camp, but she’s not looking forward to it, especially since she has to keep a journal for her adoption agency that she would rather forget about. She may have been born in a Chinese orphanage, but that doesn’t have anything to do with her life now. She, Becca, and Avery were all at the orphanage together, but that’s where their similarities end. Once at camp, though, Julia discovers that they might just have more in common than she thought. This coming-of-age tale is perfect for those struggling with their identities. The mean girl characters begin more as caricatures than real people, but they do become more three-dimensional as the story progresses. The narrative touches on divorce and foster care, as well as adoption. It’s a religious camp, but the only references to Christianity are several mentions of having a Bible and one short discussion of a Bible verse. Cassandra Morris narrates, bringing all the characters to life. VERDICT Those looking to add diversity to their shelves will find this fits the bill. [“Filled with slapstick humor and fast-paced action, the novel will engage reluctant readers, while offering fuel for deep contemplation by those ready to tackle questions of identity and belonging”: SLJ 1/16 review of the Sourcebooks Jabberwocky book.]–Elizabeth Elsbree, Krug Elementary School, Aurora, IL

Gibbons, Gail. The Reasons for Seasons. 1 CD. 12 min. Dreamscape. Feb. 2016. $14.99. ISBN 9781682621370.

PreS-Gr 2 –Gibbons has a knack for concisely condensing complex science concepts. Here, she breaks down the seasons, solstices, and equinoxes, as well as how living creatures behave in relation to the seasons. Chris Lutkin reads efficiently and with precise elocution. However, those trying to pair the recording with the printed book (Holiday House, 1995) will find that the recording doesn’t always match the book’s text word for word and that the narrator intermixes the captions with the text. In some parts, it’s a challenge even for experienced readers to follow how his narration moves around the page. Additionally, the simplicity of the scientific illustrations and surprising lack of diversity—residents of the tropical regions along the equator are depicted with light gray skin—in the print book add little to the text. Unremarkable music ebbs and flows amid the narration, supported by basic sound effects: blowing wind, buzzy snoring, falling rain. VERDICT This is introductory information presented in utilitarian fashion, but it does its job. [“Gibbons seems to know just what teachers need to fill that open niche in their curriculum plans”: SLJ 5/95 review of the Holiday House book.]–Jennifer Verbrugge, Minnesota Department of Education, State Library Services, Roseville

HADDIX, Margaret Peterson. Redeemed. (The Missing: Bk. 8). 8 CDs. 9:30 hrs. Recorded Books. 2016. $87.75. ISBN 9781501909412.

Gr 9 Up –In this series conclusion, novice time traveler Jordan deals with elucidators, nasty villains plotting destruction, time agency spies, and the enigmatic character Second Chance while coming to terms with the reality of his identical twin, Jonah, and the lives they lived in different dimensions of time. There are frequent references to previous story lines and characters as well as sundry historical events and figures, including the Middle Ages, the Russian Romanov family, and the Great Depression. Haddix ties together all the books and creates a resolution that answers many questions. Jonah, Katherine, and Jordan are told there will be no more time travel yet are secretly bequeathed an amazing gift. Chris Sorensen’s narration is superb. VERDICT Science, math, history, and logic blend together into a fast-paced, whirlwind story that will delight fans of the series.–Patricia Ann Owens, formerly at Illinois Eastern Community Colleges, Mt. Carmel

Hale, Shannon. The Princess in Black, Books 1-3. 1 CD. 56 min. Listening Library. Feb. 2016. $15. ISBN 97801735209930. digital download.

K-Gr 3 –When her monster alarm ring goes off, Princess Magnolia trades her fluffy princess dresses for her Princess in Black disguise. With the help of her faithful unicorn, Frimplepants, she fights the creatures from Monster Land. Will Magnolia be able to keep her secret while juggling her princess duties and defeating monsters great and small? Can she stop the monsters from destroying her kingdom? Narrator Julia Whelan’s fun and engaging narrative style brings Princess Magnolia to life. Her pace is perfect, keeping listeners engaged and allowing those with a copy of the print books to read along. The installments, The Princess in Black, The Princess in Black and the Perfect Princess Party, and The Princess in Black and the Hungry Bunny Horde, set a new standard for well-written early reader chapter books. Princess Magnolia is a lovable and refreshingly strong character. VERDICT Listeners who want to be a princess and a superhero will love listening to this audiobook.–Jessica Moody, Olympus Junior High, Holladay, UT

McGOVERN, Cammie. Just My Luck. 5 CDs. 5:06 hrs. HarperAudio. Feb. 2016. $29.99. ISBN 9781504695893. digital download.

Gr 3-7 –Benny’s father endures long-lasting effects when he suffers a brain aneurysm. Benny’s life was already tough: his brother George, who has autism, requires special attention; Benny’s best friend moved away, and making new friends hasn’t been easy. Now with his father’s recovery uncertain, the whole family is facing the toughest time ever. Meanwhile, at school, a new program encouraging random acts of kindness awards kids with named footprints displayed on walls, and Benny feels like he’s the only kid who isn’t getting any recognition, no matter how hard he tries. Through LEGO-populated films, a homemade carnival, and a well-placed literary homage, McGovern—herself the mother of a son with autism and here making her middle grade debut—deftly propels Benny toward awareness of his own resilient, amazing soul. Eternally youthful-voiced narrator Kirby Heyborne effortlessly imbues the characters with multifaceted personalities. VERDICT An ideal acquisition for all libraries, especially for summer but recommended for any season. [“Recommend this sensitive novel to fans of Lisa Graff’s Absolutely Almost (Philomel, 2014) and Rob Buyea’s Because of Mr. Terupt (Delacorte, 2010)”: SLJ 12/15 review of the HarperCollins book.]–Terry Hong, Smithsonian BookDragon, Washington, DC

Pearson, Ridley. Disney Lands. (The Return: Bk. 1). 6 CDs. 7:11 hrs. Brilliance. Mar. 2016. $49.97. ISBN 9781511325462. 1 MP3-CD.

Gr 5-8 –With the defeat of the Overtakers behind them, the five teenagers known as the Kingdom Keepers have their futures set. Finn, however, has a nagging feeling that not everything is as it seems. The fountain pen the teens used to save the Magic Kingdom is not on the archive list for Walt Disney’s desk. When he finds some coded messages from his late friend Wayne, Finn realizes that there is an unknown evil trying to destroy the Magic Kingdom, but the other Kingdom Keepers don’t believe him. Can Finn convince them that danger remains? Macleod Andrews’s original narrative style brings Finn’s world to life. Andrews easily navigates between the past and present and seamlessly flows between action and dialogue scenes. VERDICT Listeners who love fantasy, adventure, and mystery will enjoy this fast-paced book. And though it is the first book in a spin-off series, this opener will especially appeal to fans of the author’s “Kingdom Keepers” books.–Jessica Moody, Olympus Junior High, Holladay, UT

Potter, Ellen. Piper Green and the Fairy Tree: Too Much Good Luck. 1 CD w pb book. 58 min. Live Oak. Nov. 2015. $20.95. ISBN 9781430120117.

Gr 1-3 –Piper Green is an inquisitive and imaginative girl who lives on Peek-a-boo Island with her mother, father, and brother, Leo. Piper rides a lobster boat to school, and she and her friend Jacob stay on deck while the other island children ride below with the captain. Piper tells everyone she meets that she is having a lucky day. Her mother is painting her bedroom lime green, Piper has found the perfect strawberry for breakfast, and she has lost a tooth. But when she gets to her classroom, class pet Nacho is gone and a new student with an allergy to rabbits has taken his place. Is Piper’s luck turning? Is this what happens when one has too much good luck? Piper Green, a girl who vocalizes many heartfelt childhood sentiments, is an endearing character. Narrator Tavia Gilbert creates a winsome voice for Piper and convincing voices for the other characters in the story. VERDICT Will appeal to a variety of young readers.–Mary Lee Bulat, Harwinton Public Library, CT

Starmer, Aaron. The Storyteller. (The Riverman Trilogy: Bk. 3). 8 CDs. 8:45 hrs. Recorded Books. Mar. 2016. $87.75. ISBN 9781490616339. digital download.

Gr 5-8 –Eighth grader Keri Cleary is trying to have a normal life—hanging out with her best friend and spending time with her first boyfriend. But after a tumultuous night when a friend is found shot, two other friends go missing, and her sixth grade brother Alistair is shocked speechless, Keri’s life goes into turmoil. To try to stay grounded, she begins to write fantastical stories in her diary. When her brother begins talking again, he tells her about his experiences in another dimension, which parallel what has happened in Keri’s stories. Listeners are treated to multiple narratives at the same time—the stories that Keri creates, the ones Alistair relates, and the realistic life of Keri and Alistair. Are Keri’s tales influenced by what her brother tells her, or is he reading her diary and making up similar stories? Erin Moon narrates with her fresh, youthful voice, competently differentiating among characters and shining when it comes to offbeat ones: monsters, weird creatures, and valley girls. Because so much of the work is built on what has happened in the two previous books, this is not an easy stand-alone. VERDICT Recommended only where the other parts of the trilogy are popular. [“Fans of fantasy and realistic fiction alike will find something to love about this book, in which narrative ambiguity has never been so well leveraged”: SLJ 2/16 starred review of the Farrar book.]–Julie Paladino, formerly at East Chapel Hill High School, NC

redstarWALTER, Jon. My Name Is Not Friday. 9:56 hrs. Scholastic Audio. Jan. 2016. $19.50. ISBN 9780545911061. digital download.

Gr 7 Up –Samuel, almost 13, and his younger brother Joshua are orphans but born free and growing up educated. During the Civil War’s final year, Samuel takes the blame for mischief that he’s convinced that Joshua committed, and finds himself betrayed by the priest who has raised him. He’s stripped of everything familiar and renamed Friday—for the day he’s auctioned off as a plantation slave. As much as he suffers and witnesses the degrading abuse of others, Samuel shares moments of deep connection with fellow slaves and even with the young master. Throughout his captivity, Samuel never stops making good-behavior bargains with God to keep Joshua safe until their promised reunion. British author Walter’s second remarkable novel arrives from across the pond to entertain, enlighten, and inspire stateside readers about their own American past. Narrator Dion Graham elevates the written word with a mesmerizing performance. VERDICT A multilayered epic that weaves together history and humanity while confronting the elusive grays between right and wrong, this work proves to be a significant, resonating addition to the Civil War canon for middle grade audiences. [“Lyrically written historical novel”: SLJ 11/15 starred review of the Scholastic/David Fickling book.]–Terry Hong, Smithsonian BookDragon, Washington, DC


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YA Xpress Reviews | September 2016 Mon, 29 Aug 2016 17:56:04 +0000 A Wish After Midnight combines time travel, romance, and history; Jane Ozkowski “captures the absurdity and magic of the last summer before college.” ]]> 1609-Xpress-YA

For more of this month’s
Xpress Reviews:

Bass, Karen. The Hill. 256p. ebook available. Pajama. Aug. 2016. pap. $11.95. ISBN 9781772780024.

Gr 7 Up –After the private plane Jared is flying in crashes in the wilderness, the first person to reach him is another teen, Kyle, a member of the Cree nation. Desperate to use his cell phone, Jared insists on climbing a hill, though Kyle warns him against it. Kyle ends up going with Jared to protect him. Both boys are thrown into a spirit world; they are pursued by the Wîhtiko, a flesh-eating monster and occasionally helped by the trickster Wolverine as they attempt to find their way back to their own world with Kyle’s grandmother’s prayers as guidance. Along the way, stereotypes are confronted and the boys become tentative buddies in their fight for survival. Told mostly from Jared’s perspective, the narrative shows his personal growth as he follows Kyle’s lead to stay alive. The boys realize that in order to return to their world they must stop the Wîhtiko—or die trying. In the notes, the author explains her use of the Cree language and legends and discusses the individuals with whom she consulted when using them. Kyle often serves as a guide for Jared and helps him realize his own biases, a trope often found in literature. The writing is descriptive and fast-paced, with an impending sense of dread overshadowing everything as the boys try to outrun and outwit the Wîhtiko. VERDICT A survival and buddy story with broad appeal for tweens and teens.–Tamara Saarinen, Pierce County Library, WA

Elliott, Zetta. The Door at the Crossroads. 408p. ebook available. Amazon/CreateSpace. Apr. 2016. pap. $15. ISBN 9781515392163.

Gr 8 Up –This highly anticipated sequel is likely to be a hit among fans who enjoyed Elliott’s A Wish After Midnight. This volume uses time travel, romance, and historical elements to tackle tough topics, such as slavery, racism, and war. The story picks up right where the previous book left off. Genna and Judah find themselves separated by distance within two different time periods and right in the middle of war and tragedy on American shores. While Judah remains in Weeksville, NY, during the 1860s and grapples with what happened to Genna, he decides to fight against slavery in the American South during the Civil War. Genna, however, awakens in Brooklyn on September 11, 2001, just as the Twin Towers have been hit, and is trying to deal with her separation from Judah. She desperately seeks the help of friends and family to find her way back to her boyfriend, but when she finally does, their separation has changed him. Judah seems more concerned about the fight for justice and is hurt by Genna’s absence, which he believes was intentional. Elliott spends most of the work developing the main characters. The alternating chapters and parallel yet intertwining story lines have the makings of an exciting journey, but the plot is sometimes hard to follow because of these elements. However, getting to the last line of the novel will leave teens wanting more. VERDICT For those who appreciate historical fiction with a little fantasy mixed in. It can also be used by educators to encourage discussion among readers who are interested in social justice work.–Nikitia Wilson, Queens Library, NY

Ozkowski, Jane. Watching Traffic. 192p. ebook available. Groundwood. Aug. 2016. Tr $16.95. ISBN 9781554988433.

Gr 10 Up –Everyone in Cavanaugh, Ontario, knows that Emily’s mother killed herself in the local motel and left three-year-old Emily behind, covered in blood. The saccharine sympathy of the adults in town is suffocating, even worse than the cruelty of the young, who call Emily “suicide baby.” It is the summer after her senior year of high school, and the teen’s friends are leaving “Canada’s Armpit” for college and travel. Emily isn’t sure of her next move. She worries she’ll be trapped in Cavanaugh forever, cutting the crusts off sandwiches at Pamela’s Country Catering and watching traffic from the highway overpass. Emily begins her summer binge-drinking at parties, where she meets the new guy in town, Tyler. When Tyler asks Emily about her family, she must choose between the freedom of anonymity and the courage to be honest. The protagonist, her eccentric grandma, her distant father, and her intense best friend Melissa could easily have been clichéd. However, each character in this debut novel is engaging and fully fleshed out. Readers will enjoy Emily’s travails and a surprising subplot featuring Melissa. Ozkowski adeptly captures the absurdity and magic of the last summer before college. VERDICT Recommended for YA and new adult collections at public libraries.–Carly Wiggins, McNeese State University, LA

Paratore, Coleen Murtagh. Roar Like a Girl. 230p. (Always Willa: Bk. 1). ebook available. Little Pickle. Aug. 2016. pap. $9.95. ISBN 9781939775078.

Gr 6-8 –When readers last met Willa, she was enjoying a Cape Cod summer, getting to know new stepdad Sam, taking a break from boyfriend JFK, and flirting with handsome Jessie. In this first spin-off of the series that began with The Wedding Planner’s Daughter, Willa is 14, about to start 10th grade, and totally unaware of the changes that are about to throw her into a tailspin. When a fire destroys the beautifully restored Bramblebriar Inn, the family loses everything, including her mom’s business. Sam is offered a one-year position in Troy, NY, so Willa is forced to leave Nana, her friends, her school, and her beloved Salty Dog, who went missing during the fire. Although she rails against the move, she warms to her new home. Its remarkably friendly inhabitants, including a cute neighbor boy, soon make the heroine want to stay in Troy. Willa joins a group of young girls and teaches them to “roar like a girl” when they petition City Hall for a clubhouse. The teen explains a lot of what happened in previous books, wonders about her future, discusses current news events, and offers reading suggestions but faces no real conflicts or adversaries. Although she is an exceptionally bright, likable, and socially conscious young lady who helps those in need, things seem to always go her way and readers know that she will succeed no matter what. VERDICT Fans of the series could be inspired by the protagonist’s positive attitude, curiosity, and kindness to others; this installment lacks conflict to attract a new audience.–MaryAnn Karre, Binghamton, NY

Struyk-Bonn, Chris. Nice Girls Endure. 256p. ebook available. Capstone/Switch. Aug. 2016. Tr $16.95. ISBN 9781630790479.

Gr 8 Up –Chelsea Duvay loves singing and dreams of opening her own shoe store someday. But first she must endure the daily nightmare of high school, where no one sees past Chelsea’s weight. She manages to, as the title implies, endure these indignities and ridicule from all sides. She even begins a tentative friendship with a classmate during their work on a project. Then Chelsea is attacked by the popular boys in her class. They share humiliating photos of her online, but instead of being pushed to the edge, the protagonist reaches inside herself to find her voice and go on. While Struyk-Bonn makes the smart choice not to tie Chelsea’s empowerment to a hokey plot about weight loss, she still spends much of the novel detailing the teen’s mockery and suffering. This doesn’t really advance the narrative, and Struyk-Bonn’s short, declarative sentences make the narrative feel more clinical than empathetic. This technique also seems intended to engage struggling readers, but instead, it fails to fully develop the characters and thus makes it hard to care about them. Even Chelsea’s supposed strength in the face of her abuse ends up reading more like an unrealistic flat affect than an endearing character trait. This protagonist deserves more than endless abuse and humiliation with a small sliver of hinted-at happiness at the end. VERDICT Not recommended for purchase.–Angie Manfredi, Los Alamos County Library System, NM


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Life (and Learning) After High School: Exploring the Options Mon, 29 Aug 2016 17:54:15 +0000  

undecidedFor every young adult with clear career goals, there are many more still seeking a niche that fits. Others are certain college is the right choice, but opt to take a break from academics for a bit. No matter where your students are headed, Genevieve Morgan’s Undecided: Navigating Life and Learning after High School (Zest/HMH, 2014) will help them navigate the road ahead. Speaking directly to high school students, the author begins with a section that employs quizzes and checklists to foster self-awareness, and offers constructive tips on preparing a post-high school plan. Additional chapters cover the ins and outs of college and trade schools; voluntary service—military, civil, and foreign; full-time employment; and options for the gap year. Throughout, Morgan provides handy worksheets and informative sidebars, along with short profiles of successful adults whose paths weren’t always clear-cut.

Another title to have on hand for the student in doubt is They Teach That in College!?: A Resource Guide to More Than 100 Interesting College Majors, 3rd Edition (College & Career Press, 2015) by Andrew Morkes. Arranged alphabetically, from “Alternative Fuels” to “Zoo Science,” each entry contains a general overview of the major, a list of typical classes, likely employers and career options, schools that offer course work, and additional sources of information, such as professional associations. Many entries incorporate a Q&A with a professor in the field; these interviews generally include a more detailed description of the typical program, the types of students the program appeals to, and the employment outlook. Morkes points out that the type of information he provides can change quickly, so students are encouraged to check out each school’s website for up-to-date course offerings.

college poorFor students headed off to college, there’s no shortage of advice. College Poor No More!: 100 $avings Tips for College Students (New Year Publishing, 2015) by Michelle Perry Higgins, a financial planner and a Wall Street Journal contributor, is a numbered list of easy-to-apply suggestions for stretching a limited budget. The author shares simple, steady financial advice and offers creative ideas for cutting costs on dating, clothing, food, and other typical expenses. Plus, Higgins promises that “100 percent of my profits from this book will go to providing scholarships for deserving students.”

In College 101: A Girl’s Guide to Freshman Year (Prufrock Press, 2014), Julie Zeilinger, founder and editor of, a feminist blog for teens and college-age adults, dispenses frank peer-to-peer advice about academics, dorm life, sexuality, money matters, partying, and much more in a lively, up-front style. Written while she was still in college, Zeilinger’s guide represents a contemporary, feminist perspective.

Halley Bondy’s 77 Things You Absolutely Have To Do Before You Finish College (Zest/HMH, 2014) reminds college students to make the most of a time that often flies by. Suggestions cover dorm and apartment living, taking advantage of academic opportunities, building a social life, maintaining a healthy life style, making time for small indulgences, and planning for life beyond college. Whether it’s learning to cook or studying abroad, students are bound to find something here that enriches their college experience.


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Picture Books Xpress Reviews | September 2016 Mon, 29 Aug 2016 17:54:04 +0000 1609-Xpress-PicBk

For more of this month’s
Xpress Reviews:

Barbieri, Gladys E. A Charmed Life/Una vida con suerte. tr. by Carolina E. Alonso. illus. by Lisa Fields. 32p. Piñata. May 2016. Tr $17.95. ISBN 9781558858275. BL

K-Gr 2 –A bilingual, slice-of-life tale about a Latina girl that subtly explores class and immigration. Felicia accompanies her mother to her housekeeping job at a gorgeous mansion. She’s given a list of dos and don’ts, but the restless child would rather wander around the house instead of coloring in her book. While playing outside, she is met by the homeowner, Mrs. Fitzpatrick, who greets her with a plate of cookies and lemonade. “I wished my house looked like this./Cómo me gustaría que mi casa se viera así,” the little girl tells her mother’s employer. Touched by Felicia’s remarks, the woman looks down at her pregnant belly and brings the protagonist a charm bracelet. She relates to Felicia her own family’s immigration from Ireland and advises her never to stop believing that she will have a better life. The link between the two families’ stories presents U.S. history’s fluctuating and diverse population in an age-appropriate, if oversimplified, way. Race and language barriers aren’t addressed, but the sentiment behind the message is a positive one. The sun-tinged illustrations give the text an added level of charm, and the characters’ expressions often offer another layer to the storytelling, especially when Felicia’s mother initially disapproves of the lavish gift. The charms on Felicia’s bracelet appear throughout, which gives the title a fun twist. The narrative is a bit text-heavy, and the quietness of the work will deter some readers. VERDICT A gentle title that will hopefully spur conversation about privilege, immigration, and families. Best used in a classroom setting or one-on-one.–Shelley Diaz, School Library Journal

Cepeda, Joe. Up. illus. by Joe Cepeda. 24p. (I Like To Read). Holiday House. Jul. 2016. Tr $14.95. ISBN 9780823436552; pap. $6.99. ISBN 9780823436897; ebk. $14.95. ISBN 9780823437467.

PreS-Gr 3 –A fantasy about a little boy and a windy night. The tale opens with two brothers in bed. A mysterious pinwheel blows into the younger brother’s hand. Soon, he is flying over the treetops, encountering a hen, a sheep, a pig, and a cow along the way. They all arrive back at their respective homes, and the little boy hands the pinwheel to his big brother. The narrative has made a full circle, and now it’s readers’ turns to predict what will happen next. Part of a beginning reader series, the title is predicated on ease of reading for beginners, and it meets that standard. Cepeda relies on only 12 different words, all decodable and repeated at least once, and his use of typical farm animals allows for activation of prior knowledge in most young readers. The vibrant, sketchy illustrations make the wind feel almost palpable, and add to the fun. There’s not much story here, but for children just starting out, there is enough for them to feel like empowered readers. VERDICT A great choice for larger collections.–Lisa Lehmuller, Paul Cuffee Maritime Charter School, Providence

Corderoy, Tracey. Squish Squash Squeeze! illus. by Jane Chapman. 32p. Tiger Tales. Mar. 2016. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781680100112.

PreS-Gr 1 –Mouse wants to move into a new home but finds that a bear, a crocodile, and a tiger already live there and there is no room for another housemate. Mouse won’t hear of it and insists there is room for all. Then there is a rumble from below, and a mole pops up and breaks through the floor. Suddenly there is more than enough room for all. The full-page illustrations are well-done and carry this story, giving the text movement. VERDICT The story is perfect for sharing with a group and the pop-out ending is sure to please. A slight, silly selection for large collections.–Melisa Bailey, Harford County Library System, MD

DePalma, Mary Newell. El extraño huevo. illus. by Mary Newell DePalma. 40p. Picarona. Jun. 2016. Tr $17.95. ISBN 9788416117772.

PreS-Gr 2 –This is the Spanish translation of the author’s The Strange Egg. The titular egg is indeed very strange. It is so strange that it’s not really an egg at all but an orange. First a bird finds it, and then a monkey sees the bird. The monkey breaks the “egg.” The two animals discover that they can eat it. They plant the orange seeds. The bird and monkey become friends and have lots of oranges to eat. The story is slight. However, the simplicity of the language lends itself well to a very readable Spanish translation. The book’s illustration and design are stellar. DePalma uses collage elements such as torn bits of newspaper and a map to lead young readers through the story in a logical way. In the spread where the bird listens to, smells, observes, stands on, and finally tries to wake the “egg” with her song, the images present the bird’s actions enclosed in small squares and rectangles of differing sizes. VERDICT While there is not much heft to this selection, this is still an appealing book for younger readers, especially where good Spanish read-alouds are needed.–Tim Wadham, Children’s Literature Consultant, WA

Diesen, Deborah. Catch a Kiss. illus. by Kris Aro McLeod. 32p. ebook available. Sleeping Bear. Apr. 2016. Tr $15.99. ISBN 9781585369614.

Toddler-PreS –This sweet story is a perfect companion to Audrey Penn’s The Kissing Hand. Mama and Izzie are relaxing on a blanket when they begin a game of blowing kisses to each other. The kisses come in all shapes: round, zigzag, triple-decker, and shiny. At one point Izzie misses a kiss and tries in vain to chase it. Her mother comforts her with the reassuring message that Mama-kisses will always find their way to her. The illustrations are as gentle and soothing as the tale itself, though depictions of the kisses themselves are noticeably absent. This could be a distraction, or it could be an opportunity for a postreading art activity. VERDICT A warm and reassuring book for lapsits and one-on-one sharing.–Katie Darrin, Boulder Valley School District, Boulder, CO

Easton, Tom. ¡Fui yo!: Los piratas pueden ser honrados. ISBN 9788416117703.

––––. Ayudar al lorito Polly: Los piratas pueden ser buenas persona. ISBN 9788416117727.

ea vol: illus. by Mike Gordon. 40p. Picarona. Jun. 2016. Tr. $17.95.

Gr 2-4 –These two books are part of a series of British easy readers featuring pirates who, instead of plundering, are kind and honorable. In Ayudar al lorito Polly (originally published in English as Pirates Can Be Kind), Polly the parrot falls asleep on the job. Instead of making her walk the plank (an ineffective punishment for a bird), the pirates treat her kindly, even though her inattention nearly sinks the ship. In ¡Fui yo! (originally published as Pirates Can Be Honest), pirate Davy Jones confesses to making a hole in the ship with a cannonball. Of course he saves the day, the ship, and his own life. The titles of these books telegraph the moral before readers even open to the first page, and the stories exist to drive the message home. There are no immediate glaring issues with the Spanish translation, except that it fails to convey much of the quirky absurd British humor evident in the English originals. And it is this British quirkiness that makes the didacticism more bearable. The illustrations are appropriately silly and provide a welcome distraction from the message-laden tone. VERDICT These didactic works don’t survive the transition to Spanish, which can’t convey the distinctly British humor.–Tim Wadham, Children’s Literature Consultant, WA

Eliot, T.S. Macavity: The Mystery Cat. illus. by Arthur Robins. 32p. Faber & Faber. Jul. 2016. pap. $9.95. ISBN 9780571308132.

K-Gr 2 –Children and poetry lovers alike will delight in this picture book adaptation of Eliot’s famous rhyming poem. Although Macavity the cat burglar often leaves behind a trail of fish bones and paw prints, he proves to be too elusive to capture. Milk and jewels are some of the feline’s favorite items to snatch, much to the chagrin of the canines of Scotland Yard. Robins brings the feline to life with his whimsical watercolor drawings paired with a hand-drawn text. A paw or tail can be found escaping at the edge of every crime scene; however, children will delight in finding (and repeating aloud) that “Macavity’s not there!” VERDICT This joyful read-aloud will make a fine introduction to young children who are learning about famous authors and poetry.–Maria Alegre, The Dalton School, New York City

Gonzales Bertrand, Diane. The Story Circle/El círculo de cuentos. tr. from English by Carolina E. Alonso. illus. by Wendy Martin. 32p. ebook available. Piñata. May 2016. Tr $17.95. ISBN 9781558858268. BL

K-Gr 3 –This important bilingual text begins in the wake of a school flood that has destroyed the books in a primary grade classroom, leaving the teachers to clean up the mess. When the school reopens, the children immediately notice their empty bookshelves, and call out, “What will we do for story circle?/¿Qué vamos a hacer para el círculo de cuentos?” The English phrase story circle is a complex educational concept to capture in another language, and in this text it is translated literally. The teacher smiles and calls the students to the carpet, where she models oral storytelling while they enact and visualize her tale. The children go on to share personal narratives that they later write down and illustrate. The images cross most spreads, depicting a diverse classroom and students demonstrating caring behaviors toward their peers. In addition, the children are each set across from a detailed, sometimes fantastical image of their narratives. At times, the translation from the English text could be less literal so as to sound more natural in Spanish. VERDICT Young U.S. children will be able to make meaning from the Spanish text given the familiar school practice of storytime on the carpet, while all readers can connect in some way with its themes of resiliency and cooperation following a difficult event such as a natural disaster.–Ruth Quiroa, National Louis University, IL

Hart, Caryl. Whiffy Wilson the Wolf Who Wouldn’t Go to Bed. illus. by Leonie Lord. 32p. Barron’s. Jun. 2016. pap. $8.99. ISBN 9781438008639.

PreS-Gr 1 –Whiffy is a high-energy wolf who stays up late every night: “He practiced on his saxophone./He strummed his blue guitar./He sang and banged his big bass drum/Just like a superstar!” One loud night his friend Dotty comes over to coax Whiffy to quiet down. She races him to put toys away and makes a bedtime snack. Whiffy has a warm bath, brushes his teeth, puts on cozy pajamas, grabs his teddy bear, and, once tucked into bed, listens to stories. “ ‘This bedtime has been fun,’ he smiled,/‘And not the least bit boring.’/Then Whiffy Wilson closed his eyes/And very soon…/…was snoring!” Following a night of adventuresome dreams, Whiffy gratefully takes a “wolf-sized breakfast” to Dotty. The flowing, rhyming text offers appropriate details. Lord’s vibrant cartoon illustrations depict Whiffy’s exuberance, toys, and imagination, all of which will attract readers and reluctant dreamers. VERDICT Parents and children will appreciate finding this offering tucked into a picture book collection.–Laura Scott, Farmington Community Library, MI

Lallemand, Orianne. The Wolf Who Visited the Land of Fairy Tales. tr. from French by Susan Allen Maurin. illus. by Eleonore Thuillier. 32p. Auzou. Jul. 2016. Tr $14.95. ISBN 9782733839232.

PreS-Gr 2 –A popular children’s book anti-hero from France attempts to make a cake even though he does not know how to bake. Wolf seeks help from familiar characters in the Land of Fairy Tales who all assume he is the Big Bad Wolf and initially refuse to help him. Wolf wins them over with kindness and the fairy-tale characters all contribute something to his cake, which he shares with his new friends at a tea party. The picture book is fairly predictable, but Thuillier’s illustrations are delightful and fun, and the book is well paced and includes a recipe for the apple cake. VERDICT An additional purchase.–Sarah Wilsman, Bainbridge Library, Chagrin Falls, OH

Lunn, Carolyn. Tomas and the Galapagos Adventure. illus. by Ashley Rades. 48p. Little Adventures. Jun. 2016. Tr $15.99. ISBN 9780692582893.

K-Gr 2 –Readers discover two new worlds through the eyes of young Tomas, one in which he lives every day (Ecuador) and one that he visits in a dream (Galápagos). Or is it a dream? The strength of the story is the ability of the text and illustrations to highlight some of the diverse marine life of the Galápagos Islands. For example, Tomas dreams that he rides on a giant sea turtle, past a pod of humpback whales. The weakness of the title lies in a main character, Tomas, who seems uncharacteristically happy, at times bordering on unbelievable, even in the aftermath of falling and knocking himself unconscious. “Watch out! There is a school of hammerhead sharks just ahead. Tomas doesn’t worry. He knows that hammerheads mostly eat squid.” Rades’s illustrations are bright and inviting, especially the spread of exotic animals. The book includes end pages with some facts about Ecuador and some common Spanish phrases. VERDICT A solid choice for introducing elements of culture from Ecuador or the Galápagos Islands, primarily in one-on-one reading or integrated into a classroom lesson.–Megan Egbert, Meridian Library District, ID

McLaughlin, Lauren. Mitzi Tulane Preschool Detective in What’s That Smell? illus. by Debbie Ridpath Ohi. 32p. Random. Jul. 2016. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780449819159.

PreS –Young detectives everywhere will love following along with Mitzi as she uncovers clue after clue that something is up at 123 Maple Street, until the very end, when she is surprised by the best birthday party in all her four years. This brightly illustrated story will be fun for young listeners as they try to guess what is happening. Will they figure it out before Mitzi does? The protagonist is brown-skinned, and her parents, doll, and little brother are white. The scenes of their relatives and friends are equally diverse and reinforce the subtle lesson that people and families come in all shapes, sizes, and colors. VERDICT Mitzi Tulane is a character whom children will enjoy meeting, and they will look forward to her future adventures.–Betsy Davison, Cortland Free Library, NY

Manning, Dorothy Thurgood. Rosita y la noche de los rábanos. illus. by Dorothy Thurgood Manning. 50p. 33 Loretta Kids’ Bks. Mar. 2016. Tr $17.95. ISBN 9780986345432.

K-Gr 2 –On December 23 in Oaxaca, Mexico, a radish-carving competition has been held for more than 115 years. Dating from 1897, this is a high-stakes event for the locals, with a prize of 15,000 pesos. It is no wonder that Rosita wants to win the carving contest to help her parents, who need extra help on their farm. In a twist out of a fairy tale, Rosita receives magic radish seeds from a bird. She hopes this is a sign but ends up losing the carving contest to the disagreeable neighbors, the González family. However, on the night of the festival, a miracle occurs: the three female figures in Rosita’s carving turn into real girls—sisters who can help work on the farm. This Spanish narrative is a bit text-heavy and doesn’t capture the tone of the traditional tales it is trying to emulate. The illustrations are adequate, but the placement of characters on the page spreads seems a bit stagey. The author includes an explanatory note followed by more than 10 pages of actual photographs of radish carvings. While not a quality book from a literary standpoint, this could be used as a tool for introducing a culturally diverse craft activity. VERDICT Overlong and with mediocre illustrations, this book has one saving grace: the photographs of real carved radish displays, which would be useful in introducing and celebrating this beloved Oaxacan tradition.–Tim Wadham, Children’s Literature Consultant, WA

Montanari, Susan McElroy. Who’s the Grossest of Them All? illus. by Jake Parker. 40p. Random/Schwartz & Wade. Aug. 2016. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780553511901.

PreS-Gr 2 –A troll and a goblin, each convinced that he is the grossest creature in the forest, pose the title question to unsuspecting folks they happen to meet. Although both creatures are “utterly horrifying,” a man decides that the troll’s “puke-purple” skin makes him the most disgusting. Realizing that it’s only one person’s opinion and not a fair sampling, they ask an old woman passerby to decide between the two. Although both are “equally loathsome,” she is forced into a decision once the goblin starts making rude noises with his hand in his armpit. Now tied at one vote each, Goblin and Troll query a little girl. Dressed in a familiar hooded red cape and carrying a basket, the girl begins to pick her nose while she is pondering her answer. As the green nose slime on her fingertip gets bandied about in their faces and is finally wiped on the front of her dress, Troll and Goblin decide that she is the grossest creature of all. Repulsed, they run off, and the little girl skips homeward after happily declaring herself the “winner.” The ink and digitally colored illustrations are full bleed, and the expressive faces add some humor. VERDICT Although possibly useful in breaking the habit of a dedicated nose-picker, avoid maligning Red’s character and skip this one.–Sara-Jo Lupo Sites, George F. Johnson Memorial Library, Endicott, NY

Paronuzzi, Fred. Babak the Beetle. illus. by Andree Prigent. 32p. NorthSouth. May 2016. Tr $17.95. ISBN 9780735842519.

K-Gr 2 –In a story that will initially sound familiar to readers of P.D. Eastman’s Are You My Mother?, Babak the beetle sets out to find the parent who has lost an egg. The repetitive tale continuously builds questions as Babak asks the animals in the forest if the egg belongs to them. Prigent has produced a couple of multihued pages amid the drab palette of paper bag tan, teal blue, and black. The small typeface has a typewritten appearance. Happily, the conclusion will bring a surprise to children and adults alike. VERDICT A supplemental tale that could best be augmented using flannel board pieces in a storytime for primary grade youngsters.–Blair Christolon, Prince William Public Library System, Manassas, VA

Piumini, Roberto. El tacto del rey. ISBN 9788416117666.

––––. La narizota de Pozia. ISBN 9788416117659.

ea vol: illus. by Anna Laura Cantone. Spanish ed. 36p. Obelisco. Mar. 2016. Tr. $15.95.

K-Gr 3 –Assumptions play a role in El tacto del rey—a title couched in classic sibling rivalry. A king loses his sight and appoints his kindhearted son to assume the throne. Yet behind the scenes, readers witness the treachery and trickery on the part of his irresponsible brother to outwit the blind king. The expressive, comic-style illustrations are lively on textured paper. La narizota de Pozia, another entry in this series about the senses, tells the tale of a spiteful princess. Since her nose is so big, she makes all her female subjects wear “nose hats” equal in size to her own nose to minimize the beauty of others. The illustrations are modern in hue and sheen and are constructed digitally with a combination of drawing and collage. The collage elements are vintage laces, wallpapers, and old valentines and advertisements, but the lack of texture and contrast in the shiny, saturated finish detracts from the overall quality. Both volumes have endnotes about one of the senses and use all-caps typography. VERDICT Purchase where fun-to-read-aloud stories in Spanish are king and illustrations ancillary.–Sara Lissa Paulson, City-As-School High School, New York City

Piumini, Roberto. Las orejas del hombrecillo. ISBN 9788416117673.

––––. Los besos de Namea. ISBN 9788416117642.

––––. Los ojos mal colocados. ISBN 9788416117635.

ea vol: tr. from Italian. illus. by Valentina Grassini. Spanish ed. 36p. Obelisco. Mar. 2016. Tr. $15.95.

PreS-Gr 2 –These sensory tales are sure to delight curious youngsters who often ask a litany of questions about why things are as they are. The first two stories attribute the creation of man to a patriarchal figure who through trial and error finds the right spot to place the eyes and ears. In the case of the eyes in Los ojos mal colocados, which are first positioned on the knees, readers are taken to “see” why that placement along with a few others is a poor choice. The illustrations are bold with soft integrated lines that are fun to look at. Las orejas del hombrecillo is equally colorful and interesting but simpler, and the illustrations convey the complexity of the tale. This narrative focuses on why we have the ears that we do, not larger or smaller as some animals do. Each entry is followed by a brief poem at the end that reiterates to readers the importance of the sensory attribute explored in the tale. Los besos de Namea is the story of a magical stone statue that people flock to in the forest to seek advice. They whisper their problems in her ear, and she in turn whispers the best advice once they raise an ear to her lips. However, she falls in love with one of her followers and the tale then develops into a love story. There is a dramatic side to this work, as Namea betrays her own good will and gives bad advice in order to ensure the best outcome for herself. The images have a marionette quality—the characters have round rosy cheeks and the backgrounds are reminiscent of a stage. The conclusion is also followed by a brief poem about what the mouth can do. This volume integrates a few of the senses in the development of the story. These enjoyable reads were originally published in Italian and are solid Spanish translations. Purchasers may also want to note that the type setting in the stories is all caps. VERDICT Recommended as read-alouds, especially for units covering the five senses.–Maricela Leon-Barrera, San Francisco Public Library

Root, Phyllis. One North Star: A Counting Book. illus. by Beckie Prange & Betsy Bowen. 36p. University of Minnesota. Aug. 2016. Tr $16.95. ISBN 9780816650637.

PreS-Gr 1 –Turn the pages to play a counting game and find the flora and fauna in the Minnesota environs, namely, the lakes, bluffs woods, prairies, marshes, and bogs. The first one in this North Star state is easy to play, because it begins with one moose browsing “by a cobble beach.” By the 10th spread, though nine practices preceded it, the challenge deepens to try to match 10 totally new plants and animals to the hints in the text. Young readers may not immediately identify goldenrods, milkweed pods, or soldier beetles, but Root’s succinct descriptions work together with Prange and Bowen’s black woodcut prints with watercolors, and all the clues are needed. The narrative leads to the poignant question, “Who else lives there?” There in the beautiful landscape are a parent and two children, representing the human inhabitants. All 55 plants and animals heretofore introduced are briefly described and pictured in the concluding spreads. Every page has a North Star reference. VERDICT Minnesota librarians should purchase multiple copies of this lovely interactive book. Others should follow suit, because most of the plants and animals can be found elsewhere.–Nancy Call, Santa Cruz Public Libraries, Aptos, CA

Sweet, Susan D. & Brenda S. Miles. Princess Penelopea Hates Peas: A Tale of Picky Eating and Avoiding Catastropeas. illus. by Valeria Docampo. 32p. Magination. Feb. 2016. Tr $14.95. ISBN 9781433820465.

PreS-Gr 1 –Princess Penelopea hates peas. She wouldn’t touch them or smell them, and she certainly wouldn’t eat them. This is a problem because Penelopea lives in Capital Pea, where peas are grown, sold, and eaten by the pound. The king and queen try different ways to get their daughter to eat the peas, with no success. In an attempt to make peas disappear forever, Penelopea tries a pea and realizes she actually likes them, and it’s not a “catastropea” after all. Whimsical, colorful artwork turns this into a fun story. A note to parents in the back shares information about getting children to try new foods and strategies for introducing healthy eating. VERDICT This spirited title will work in a food-themed storytime and is perfect for parenting sections.–Sarah Polace, Cuyahoga Public Library System, OH

Szymanik, Melinda. While You Are Sleeping. illus. by Greg Straight. 32p. Starfish Bay. Jul. 2016. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781760360108.

Toddler-PreS –“While you are sleeping, the world turns….” Soothing text and jewel-tone screen prints present tranquil images of what goes on while a child sleeps. Despite initial references to a broader global setting, there is only one day scene, which feels somewhat out of place in the series of nighttime tableaux. More disappointing, humans are exclusively represented as white and dark-haired. The illustrations are accessible and lushly somnolent, but their literal following of the text prevents them from being truly extraordinary. These missed opportunities are frustrating, because the book comes so close to being something more. Phrases like birds with full moon eyes and the moon jumps over cows bring a lyrical quality to this bedtime book, but the text trails off without closure. Readers looking for a more global view of the world beyond the bedroom should turn to Clotilde Perrin’s At the Same Moment, Around the World or Bob Graham’s phenomenal How the Sun Got to Coco’s House. VERDICT A good addition to collections in need of bedtime books, but it falls short in comparison with stronger titles.–Rachel Anne Mencke, St. Matthew’s Parish School, Pacific Palisades, CA


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Nonfiction Xpress Reviews | September 2016 Mon, 29 Aug 2016 17:52:41 +0000 1609-Xpress-Nonfic

For more of this month’s
Xpress Reviews:

Anderson, AnnMarie. Giant Pandas. 32p. glossary. index. photos. Scholastic. Jun. 2016. pap. $3.99. ISBN 9780545935494.

PreS-Gr 1 –A simple introduction to giant pandas. The photos are the key element here. Images depict everything from a tiny newborn to details of panda teeth, claws, and paw shape. The text is age-appropriate and even includes a bit of phonetically explained Chinese. A cute cartoon panda acts as a guide on several pages. Did you know pandas eat around 40 pounds of bamboo every day? Nonfiction text features like the glossary and index will help young students strengthen their newly developing research skills. VERDICT A useful addition to animal collections for the preschool set.–Dorcas Hand, Annunciation Orthodox School, Houston, TX

Bingham, Jane. Anglo-Saxons. illus. by Giorgio Bacchin & Clive Goodyer. ISBN 9780723294429.

Senker, Cath. Ancient Greeks. illus. by Emmanuel Cerisier & Clive Goodyer. ISBN 9780723294436.

ea vol: 64p. (Ladybird Histories). chron. glossary. index. Ladybird. Jun. 2016. pap. $9.99.

Gr 3-6 –These British imports provide accessible, illustrated overviews of select parts of world history. Anglo-Saxons covers how people from Germany and Denmark invaded the British Isles around 400 CE and settled there until the Norman conquest of 1066. Readers learn about daily life in Anglo-Saxon Britain, including a wide variety of subtopics such as food, clothing, sports, religion, and more. A discussion of the impact of the Anglo-Saxons on contemporary culture concludes the title in a meaningful way. Ancient Greeks is more expansive in scope, covering Greek civilization from 2000 BCE till around 250 BCE. Readers learn about daily life, culture, and politics. Students interested in these subjects will find the final chapter of each volume, “Places To Visit,” especially rewarding. While the narrative can occasionally be a bit dry, children will appreciate the humorous, comiclike sidebars and anecdotes that appear throughout both titles. VERDICT Great additions for robust European history collections.–Seth Herchenbach, McHenry City College, Crystal Lake, IL

Burns, Ken. Grover Cleveland, Again!: A Treasury of American Presidents. illus. by Gerald Kelley. 96p. glossary. photos. Knopf. Jul. 2016. lib. ed. $28. ISBN 9780385392105.

Gr 4-8 –Almost 30 years ago, documentary filmmaker Burns told his daughters that he would one day write a book on the U.S. presidents for children: this volume fulfills that promise. Each of the 44 presidents receives a spread covering his time in office, including information on significant historical events and legislation, biographical data, a famous quote, and the president’s official portrait. Soft, muted colors are used in the exquisite illustrations that highlight major events associated with each figure. Although there are no references or bibliography there are a glossary and listing of presidential birthplaces, libraries, and historical sites. Burns acknowledges troubling aspects of U.S. history, and while straightforward, the tone is upbeat. Burns emphasizes the personal abilities of each president and how he used those qualities to serve the nation. VERDICT Consider this superbly illustrated volume for U.S. history and biography collections.–Patricia Ann Owens, formerly at Illinois Eastern Community Colleges, Mt. Carmel

Carson, Mary Kay. Life on Mars. 32p. glossary. index. photos. Scholastic. Jun. 2016. pap. $3.99. ISBN 9780545935487.

K-Gr 2 –Carson packs a lot of information on the eponymous red planet in this effort. Six short chapters offer readers informational bits in large type on fully illustrated backgrounds. “New Word” bubbles (robot, microbe, nutrient) give pronunciation tips and definitions. “It’s a Fact” segments run along the bottom of several pages. The text explains how Mars and Earth are similar; for instance, they both have ice caps and seasons. Spacecraft such as Viking 1 and Viking 2, and rovers Spirit and Curiosity are mentioned. The book details how there might be, or might have once been, life on Mars. A new rover, ExoMars, is scheduled to head to Earth’s space neighbor in March 2018. VERDICT A well-researched and accessible work on a popular topic, great for independent readers.–Anne Chapman Callaghan, Racine Public Library, WI

Evans, Shira. Peek, Otter! 24p. photos. National Geographic. Jul. 2016. pap. $3.99. ISBN 9781426324369.

PreS-K –Making great use of the publisher’s trademark high-quality photography, Evans presents a slim, fun volume on otters for the smallest of readers. Following the title page is a “Vocabulary Tree” that diagrams important words found in the book. The text clearly narrates and explores each accompanying photograph. The words are large and bold and presented on clean backgrounds. After a busy day swimming, eating, and running about, the otter settles down to sleep. At the back of the book is a “Your Turn” section where readers can relate their own daily activities to the otters’. VERDICT Libraries and classrooms looking to expand their preschool and kindergarten collections would do well to consider this title as an economic and engaging addition.–Taylor Worley, Springfield Public Library, OR

Finger, Brad. 13 Skyscrapers Children Should Know. 48p. chron. glossary. photos. Prestel. May 2016. Tr $19.95. ISBN 9783791372518.

Gr 4-8 –While the cover design lends this a textbooklike appearance, the content is anything but. Using sharp photographs and easy-to-read explanatory text, Finger describes the origins and unique architectural features of world-famous buildings such as the Woolworth Building in New York City, the Shard in London, the Burj Khalifa in Dubai, and the Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur. Included are details about what makes each building special in terms of design, use of materials, and aesthetics. For example, the tree trunk–like Shanghai Tower twists as it rises to give it greater stability. The tower also contains sun-drenched parks on every floor so that workers and residents can enjoy greenspace without leaving the building. For each building, there is a sidebar with quick facts: the number of years it took to build, the architectural style, the height, the number of floors, and the designer. A time line spanning 115 years shows what else was happening in the world before and after each building’s completion. Finger includes information and photos about other buildings similar to those featured. VERDICT Students interested in structural design elements, architecture, urban living, or the integration of greenspaces will find plenty to glean from this fascinating look at the evolution of skyscrapers. A solid purchase for collections in need of kid-friendly books on building design.–Maggie Chase, Boise State University, ID

redstarFink, Nadia. Frida Kahlo para niñas y niños. Bk. 1. ISBN 9780997328004.

redstar––––. Violeta Parra para niñas y niños. Bk. 2. ISBN 9780997328035.

redstar––––. Juana Azurduy para niñas y niños. Bk. 3. ISBN 9780997328028.

ea vol: illus. by Pitu Saá. 26p. (Colección Antiprincesas). Books del Sur. May 2016. pap. $12.99.

Gr 3 Up –In this “antiprincess collection,” young readers will have a chance to investigate the lives of women who have not followed what their cultures would deem traditional lives. Children may know about Frida Kahlo and her art, but they might not know about the terrible accident she had while riding a bus. While the books are written in a fun, conversational tone and the illustrations are inviting, the books also do not hide the difficulties these women experienced. The titles explore topics such as poverty and injustice and show how they played important roles in the subjects’ lives, as in the story of Juana Azurduy. Facts about these amazing women are combined with interesting anecdotes, such as the conversation between Violeta Parra and Don Antonio as he gives her a guitarrón. Activities and games follow each story, providing additional ways to explore life as the subject did. While the vignettes at times seem too short, the endings encourage further research. The often graphic novel–like art—vibrant, bold colors outlined in black—depicts scenes from the text and enhances the view of the subjects as strong heroines. In Frida Kahlo, reproductions of a few of Kahlo’s works are featured in Saá’s style. VERDICT An excellent choice for libraries seeking works in Spanish for elementary students, especially where biographies are needed.–Selenia Paz, Helen Hall Library, League City, TX

Lacey, Saskia. The Presidential Masters of Prehistory: Discover America’s Prehistoric Forefathers. illus. by Sernur Isik. 40p. (Jurassic Classics). chron. Walter Foster. Jul. 2016. Tr $14.95. ISBN 9781633221093.

K-Gr 4 –Lacey presents the lives of six U.S. presidents as if they were dinosaurs governing “prehistoric America.” Each subject receives four pages and a minibook devoted to facts about the dinosaur leader, followed by a spread on the human president that repeats many of the same points but with the actual dates and place names. In each dinosaur section, Isik depicts the presidents as cartoonish green-skinned lizards with large round eyes and toothy snouts, upright and clothed. (Though the presidents are identified as different types of dinosaurs in the text, each portrayal is about the same, distinguished only by differences in attire and hairstyle.) The effort to set U.S. historical events into a fanciful prehistory is sometimes strained, as when the Great Depression is presented as the “Great Ice Age,” a time when President Franklin D. Rex put unemployed dinos to work “building canals to help lava flow to cold areas.” Some omission of facts means that presidents (dinosaur and human) can be shown in the most favorable light. For instance, the human president Andrew Jackson is said to have been “tough enough to survive life in the Wild West—and the jungle of politics” but no mention is made of his policies and actions toward American Indians. The text contains a few errors (e.g., the year of George Washington’s death), and although Lacey includes some quotations, there are no source notes. VERDICT An engaging concept, but this volume is unlikely to satisfy readers interested in dinosaurs or U.S. history.–Jennifer Costa, Cambridge Public Library, MA

Montalván, Luis Carlos with Bret Witter. Tuesday Takes Me There: The Healing Journey of a Veteran and His Service Dog. photos by Dan Dion. 48p. websites. Post Hill. Jun. 2016. Tr $17. ISBN 9781682611067.

K-Gr 2 –Another charming tale of service dog Tuesday and his owner Montalván. In this title, Tuesday and Montalván, a 17-year army veteran who now advocates for veterans with disabilities, travel to a variety of tourist sites in the New York City and Washington, DC, area. Tuesday is the narrator throughout the story, explaining how she supports Montalván from morning to night. Dion’s great photographs show the duo having fun throughout the trip. The work highlights key attractions in each city. It is definitely a whirlwind tour: Tuesday and Montalván ride 12 forms of transportation and eventually end up in a library—just in time for storytime. Montalván read his book to an audience of children while Tuesday sleeps. A website that includes activity sheets for teachers is featured. Young readers in need of information about service dogs or reassurance about post-traumatic stress disorder will appreciate the light tone of this book. VERDICT A general purchase for dog lovers and fans of Tuesday.–Dorcas Hand, Annunciation Orthodox School, Houston, TX

Nicolaides, Selene. Gods, Heroes, and Monsters: Discover the Wonders of the Ancient Greek Myths. 80p. illus. photos. Barron’s. Jul. 2016. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9780764168543.

Gr 4-7 –This selection introduces readers to the basics of Greek history and mythology. As explained in the spooky introduction, Nicolaides’s father was a Greek scholar who ran a small museum. After he passed away, he left her a box of supposedly cursed artifacts with a note stating that they should be sent back to Athens. What makes this selection stand out is the author’s inclusion of photographs of said artifacts interspersed with illustrations of Greek myths and icons. The layout of this oversize volume is fun and easy to follow, with text and illustrations appearing in balance. The lack of a glossary and an index makes this more appropriate for casual reading than for research. VERDICT A beautifully packaged and engaging volume that would be most successful in libraries where Greek mythology books are in demand.–Marissa Lieberman, East Orange Public Library, NJ

Peete, Holly Robinson with Ryan Elizabeth Peete & RJ Peete. Same but Different: Teen Life on the Autism Express. 224p. ebook available. further reading. websites. Scholastic. Feb. 2016. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780545094689.

Gr 6 Up –In this book that’s told in alternating narratives and uses pseudonyms, two twins—one with autism (Charlie) and one without (Callie)—share stories of growing up. Courageously honest, their tales illustrate that autism is not an isolated condition but that it affects everyone in the family. The real heart of the work is in the narratives of Charlie and Callie; their authentic, open thoughts and discussions on autism will resonate with readers. Charlie’s narrative reveals that he wants to be treated like any other “normal” kid, make friends, and have a social life. But his actions also show how autism impedes some of his decision-making, ability to read nonverbal clues, and tendency to act impulsively. He finds solace in video games, sports statistics, and solitude. Callie is an outgoing, popular athlete and a constant protector when it comes to Charlie. But watching over her brother is a challenge. Her sincerity about how she wishes Charlie was “normal” and how grating it has been to constantly look out for him shows how deeply autism has shaped their relationship. Bookending the two narratives is Peete’s account of learning of her son’s autism and his accomplishments in spite of the disorder. The last chapter is a plea for more research and advocacy on behalf of children with autism. Acknowledgements and a resource guide are also included. VERDICT A powerful and honest look at autism and a solid choice for most libraries that serve middle school students.–Carol Connor, Cincinnati Public Schools, OH


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Middle Grade Xpress Reviews | September 2016 Mon, 29 Aug 2016 17:51:44 +0000 1609-Xpress-MiddleGrd

For more of this month’s
Xpress Reviews:

redstarAnderson, John David. Ms. Bixby’s Last Day. 320p. ebook available. HarperCollins/Walden Pond. Jun. 2016. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780062338174.

Gr 4-6 –In a school filled with instructors who are either Zombies (old and boring), Caff-Adds (jittery), Dungeon Masters (cruel), or Noobs (overachievers), Ms. Bixby stands out as one of the Good Ones. Topher, Steve, and Brand all have their reasons to treasure their sixth grade teacher. Readers find out early on that their beloved Ms. B. has cancer and has to leave school immediately. The boys come up with an elaborate plan to honor her. In a pilgrimage as involved as Dorothy going to see the Wizard of Oz, the “Nerd Patrol” ditch school and travel to Ms. B.’s hospital in hopes of throwing her the farewell party of her dreams complete with cheesecake, wine, and Beethoven. In alternating chapters, we learn just why it is so necessary for each boy to partake in this adventure. Topher, the artistic one, hasn’t been valued much by his distracted family. His self-worth is bolstered when he realizes Ms. B. has lovingly kept a file of all of his drawings. Brand’s dad, who is disabled, is dependent on his son. When Ms. B. notices the stress Brand is under, she takes him on weekly shopping dates, providing nurturing time while they get groceries. Ms. B. defends brainy Steve when his overly strict dad complains about his grades and unfairly compares him to his perfect sister. During the immensely humorous and touching journey, the boys discover their own bravery and the strength gained through true friendship. VERDICT This story provides a full-spectrum, emotionally satisfying experience that will have readers laughing, crying, and everything in between. As Topher would say, this is one frawesome (freaking awesome) book.–Diane McCabe, John Muir Elementary, Santa Monica, CA

Cassidy, Sara. A Boy Named Queen. 80p. Groundwood. Aug. 2016. Tr $14.95. ISBN 9781554989058; ebk. $12.95. ISBN 9781554989065.

Gr 3-6 –A creative new kid comes to town and opens the protagonist’s eyes to new possibilities: in a twist on usual trope, however, this book features a manic pixie dream boy instead of a girl. Evelyn’s rigidly ordered, conventional existence changes for the better when Queen joins her fifth grade classroom. While Queen’s name and occasional flouting of gender conventions make him a target for the class bullies, the two quickly bond over basketball and their strong imaginations. The plot contains little drama, instead focusing on Evelyn’s feelings of awe and empowerment as she gets to know Queen and his bohemian family. Even Evelyn’s biggest act of rebellion is quite tame: she brings a family heirloom cream jug for show-and-tell and tints the cream purple with food coloring. Her newfound confidence allows her not to care that some classmates find this weird. The ending is a bit abrupt and anticlimactic. VERDICT This brief and extremely low-key story may foster discussion about gender norms and other suffocating conventions, but it lacks the emotional punch of other titles about children who stand out, such as Alex Gino’s George or R.J. Palacio’s Wonder.–Sarah Stone, San Francisco Public Library

Citra, Becky. The Griffin of Darkwood. 128p. ebook available. Coteau. Aug. 2016. pap. $10.95. ISBN 9781550506914.

Gr 4-6 –Twelve-year-old Will Poppy loses the ability to write stories after his mom dies. His writing muses follow him, though, right to Sparrowhawk Hall, where he is forced to live with a cruel relative and servants who want to kill him. When he discovers a piece of tapestry his late grandfather owned is magical, he is able to reverse an ancient curse by writing the ending to a story that had begun hundreds of years ago. Words are magic in Citra’s latest for middle graders. Will sees magic inside the Ex Libris bookstore and experiences it in the secret passage that leads to a griffin. Curses are real and can destroy lives, but they can be broken with acts of bravery. Families and friends connect through stories, even when they are no longer able to be together. Citra gives the characters passions (palindromes, French cooking, circuses) and quirks (eyes that change color, the ability to take on the feelings of animals) that make them memorable. VERDICT With its mix of mystery and fantasy, this story will appeal to a wide range of tastes.–Tanya Boudreau, Cold Lake Public Library, AB, Canada

Lyga, Barry. The Secret Sea. 448p. ebook available. Feiwel & Friends. Aug. 2016. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781250072832.

Gr 4-8 –Terrifying visions of subway stations flooded by ocean water. A somnambulistic journey to the World Trade Center. Things are definitely getting weirder by the day for Zak Killian, and that’s before he uncovers the secret of his twin brother, Tommy, who passed away when they were two. That reveal leads Zak and his best friends Khalid and Moira into an alternate universe where Zak can bring Tommy back to life. Lyga creates a compelling and impressively fleshed out alternate universe; sci-fi, fantasy, and dystopian elements feature throughout, from mysterious wild magic to the glowing electroleum power source. A subplot involving the brutal repression of women by means of a legal system very similar to our own slavery adds depth to the comparison of the two worlds. Though upper–middle grade through young adult readers will appreciate these elements, the narrative’s success ultimately relies on its compelling adventures and character development. However, it is somewhat disappointing that readers have to wait roughly about 100 pages to cross into the alternate universe proper. VERDICT Though it might start a little slow some for some, this work ultimately delivers the sci-fi, fantasy, and dystopian goods and will draw in middle schoolers with its impressive world-building. A strong choice for many young adult and upper–middle grade collections.–Ted McCoy, formerly at Springfield City Library, MA

MacDonald, George. The Golden Key. illus. by Ruth Sanderson. 136p. Eerdmans. Aug. 2016. Tr $16. ISBN 9780802854568; pap. $5.99. ISBN 9781482051759.

Gr 3-7 –This classic, enigmatic Victorian fairy tale of two children who find, lose, and then find each other again as they search for “the place from which the shadows fall” is given a new treatment by Sanderson. The artist has divided the work into nine short chapters and illustrated it with more than 45 bold black-and-white scratchboard pictures. Mossy discovers the key he has heard about in his great-aunt’s stories and is charged with locating the lock into which it fits; Tangle, a neglected orphan, follows a magical fish to a hidden cottage where a beautiful woman takes her in and lovingly cares for her. Here the two meet and venture on a quest, developing a deep friendship, then losing each other, until, with the help of special beings and magical creatures, they are reunited in a new life. Unlike Maurice Sendak’s soft, evocative illustrations in an older edition (Farrar, 1967), Sanderson’s is deeply textured and dramatic, enhancing the vivid imagery of the narrative with many full pages and spreads. An afterword by Jane Yolen provides a snapshot of MacDonald’s life and explores her experience of the story over time. An illustrator’s note describes how Sanderson came to reformat and pictorially interpret the mysterious tale. Young readers may be puzzled by the narrative but will likely enjoy the magic, intriguing characters, and richly detailed illustrations; older readers may recognize religious or metaphorical elements. VERDICT A lovely addition for fairy-tale collections.–Marie Orlando, formerly at Suffolk Cooperative Library System, Bellport, NY

Parvela, Timo. Bicycling to the Moon. illus. by Virpi Talvitie. tr. from Finnish by Ruth Urbom. 128p. Gecko. Jun. 2016. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781776570317.

Gr 3-6 –Barker is a thoughtful, practical, hard-working dog. Purdy is a temperamental, impractical, lazy cat. Incompatible? By no means. These two are best friends and share a little house on a hill by a lake. This charming episodic tale introduces these characters by the much-beloved Finnish children’s author Parvela, capably translated by Urbom. Barker enjoys doing the chores that come with each season and with owning a beloved home. Every now and then, however, he just has to be a dog. He will get the sudden urge to howl and howl, or bury something, or chew on one of his gardening gloves. Purdy’s whims are far more fanciful; he tries to ride a bicycle up a moonbeam. He believes he is a beautiful singer and plans to enter a singing contest even though his caterwauling drives poor Barker mad. Although they sometimes fight, these two friends always make up. They understand each other and value each other’s differences. Talvitie’s amusing illustrations add immeasurably to the text. VERDICT Readers with fond memories of Frog and Toad and those who love Winnie-the-Pooh will adore meeting this new pair of friends.–B. Allison Gray, Goleta Public Library, CA

redstarReynolds, Jason. Ghost. 192p. (Track: Bk. 1). S. & S./Atheneum. Aug. 2016. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781481450157.

Gr 5-9 –Castle “Ghost” Crenshaw lives with his single mother; his father is serving time in prison after firing a gun at Ghost and his mom three years ago—and Ghost has been running ever since. While running one day, he stops to watch a track practice and decides to crash the race. Impressed, the coach offers him a position on the team. His mom reluctantly agrees to let him join as long as he can behave himself and stay out of trouble in school. This is a struggle for the impulsive Ghost, but with Coach’s help, he learns the advantages of diligent practice and teamwork. Reynolds paints a realistic picture of a boy who needs the support of his community to channel his talent and energy. Supporting adult characters, like shop owner Mr. Charles and Coach, are positive, nuanced, and well-developed. The diverse team members are dealing with their own struggles, which will be explored in three future installments. The consequences for Ghost’s misbehavior are somewhat inconsistent, but the detailed and informative descriptions of running and training with an elite track team more than make up for this. VERDICT The focus on track athletics—a subject sorely lacking in the middle grade space—combined with the quality of Reynolds’s characters and prose, makes this an essential purchase.–Karen Yingling, Blendon Middle School, Westerville, OH

Wilkinson, Sheena. Name upon Name. 136p. Little Island. Jun. 2016. pap. $10.99. ISBN 9781910411360.

Gr 5-7 –During World War I, as the world was fighting the Germans, some of the Irish were seeking independence from England, while others were fierce loyalists. In 1916, 14-year-old Helen is living in Belfast and her family is immersed in both sides of the conflict. She has a cousin from each side in the British Royal Army. On Easter Sunday, during what is referred to as the Easter Rising, the Irish rebels stage a bloody rebellion against the British in Belfast. Helen’s cousin is called upon by the British Army to quash the rebellion, causing him to decide whether he will shoot at his own people or desert. Helen’s story is set far away from the conflict and is an internal struggle about right and wrong, family and country, and family honor. Helen hears about both the Great War and the Rising through the adults around her and letters from her cousins. This is a slow story, but Wilkinson explains the conflicts and provides enough context for readers unfamiliar with the history. Helen learns that even if she can’t decide which side of the war she should be on, she can do the right thing and can still be loyal to her family. VERDICT Recommended to fans of Scott O’Dell’s Sarah Bishop. A solid addition to middle grade collections in need of historical fiction.–Terry Ann Lawler, Burton Barr Library, Phoenix


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