School Library Journal The world's largest reviewer of books, multimedia, and technology for children and teens Tue, 26 Jul 2016 04:00:54 +0000 en-US hourly 1 How To Crowdsource a Library Mon, 25 Jul 2016 20:38:17 +0000 img_7930

The fully-stocked junior/senior high school library in Greenville, CA

“Just. One. Book.” On June 7, writer and mom of two Margaret Elysia Garcia opened her blog, “Throwing Chanclas,” with those three powerful words. It was a crowdsourced plea for donations to rebuild the library at the Greenville Junior/Senior High School (GHS) in her rural hometown of Greenville, CA. The Indian Valley Academy charter school, which has shared the building since 2012, would benefit from the new collection as well.

The current stacks were woefully out of date. Perennially short on funds, the school had stopped purchasing new texts for the library approximately 20 years earlier. Administrators made the collection completely off-limits to students once the part-time librarian’s aide position was eliminated in 2006. When Garcia and other parents volunteered to check out and re-shelve books, they were told that staff union restrictions prohibited it.

“So here’s what I’m asking,” Garcia continued. “Will you donate a book? A real book. Something literary or fun—something that speaks to your truth, [the kids’] truths. Something that teaches them something about the world. Makes them feel less alone?”


Margaret Elysia Garcia

Garcia had wanted to launch a similar campaign for years. “We’re a very rural community that doesn’t have a lot of resources,” she says. “We’re pretty isolated here. A lot of our kids don’t have access to many age-appropriate books.” Garcia felt the need was especially urgent since the town’s small branch library wasn’t open on weekends and there is no bookstore in Greenville, a town of only 1,100 roughly 175 miles north of Sacramento. She also knew the transformative power of reading firsthand: A self-described shy Army brat who moved often as a child, she relied on the characters of books to serve as companions as she made the transition to each new town. Plus, her 13-year-old attends the charter school and her 11-year-old will be entering in the fall. “I wanted these kids to be able to physically browse shelves,” she says. “It’s one thing to search for a specific book online; it’s a completely different experience to discover that perfect book that you didn’t even know existed.”

Where previous GHS administrations had replied no to her offer to help rebuild the library, new principal Jerry Merica-Jones said yes, as did Indian Valley Charter School director Sue Weber. “Anything we have to do to get books in kids’ hands,’” says Weber. “I never expected this reaction, though. I thought we’d get a few hundred books.”

As Garcia’s call for help spread, texts poured in. Thousands of them.

Her original blog post was shared more than 3,000 times, helped by two online writers’ organization to which she belongs. Author Neil Gaiman retweeted one of her Twitter posts, as did Monty Python’s Eric Idle.

At the request of donors, Garcia posted a wish list to and to the bookstore in a neighboring town, which offered a twenty percent discount on all volumes purchased for the project. The wish lists made it easier for donors to know what the schools needed and to avoid duplication – or in some cases to duplicate deliberately in order to create classroom sets.

She and the faculty at the schools particularly wanted books by women, by people of color, and those told from the LGBTQ point of view. They requested graphic novels and zines and comics as well as science books and poetry books and classics to grab the attention of both devoted and reluctant readers, provide resources for teachers, and help instill a love of reading that would hopefully last a lifetime. “Books provide a window to the world that you don’t get in any other context — a different cultural experience — especially for kids in a small town, and we need that,” says Merica-Jones.

As the volume of donations became apparent, the community pitched in to help. Neighbors arrived to recycle boxes and packaging. Students from both schools, through with classes for the summer, volunteered to unpack, sort, and shelve books; send a thank you note to every donor; and begin scanning texts. “The kids felt like it was Christmas opening the boxes,” says Garcia. “A title would catch someone’s eye and I’d hear, ‘Can I take a break? I want to stop and read this one!’”

After discussion with students, the schools have decided to organize the library by genre for easy browsing and will use the TinyCat system to catalog the new collection. Students and volunteers, led by Garcia, will check out and re-shelve books once classes begin. The staff union restrictions expired after the position was vacant for five years, confirms Merica-Jones.

Volunteers are also giving the physical space a much-needed makeover. In fact, students at Indian Valley Academy had brainstormed ways to reimagine the library space as part of an XQ: The Super School Project competition just months earlier. Among their ideas now being implemented: repaint the walls a friendly blue with clouds (art students will tackle this task in the fall), separate the junior high books to make them easier to locate, add area rugs and bean bag chairs (already contributed by donors), and provide dedicated computer stations (made possible by grants and donations).

Garcia estimates the schools have received approximately 10,000 books, as well as a telescope, bookshelves, gift cards, school supplies, DVDs, offers from authors to Skype throughout the school year, and more. The collection has grown so robust, Greenville has been able to donate more than 2,000 duplicates to nearby schools.

A few of the happy benefactors of Just. One. Book.

A few of the happy benefactors of Just. One. Book.

“We really struck a chord,” says Garcia. “We received so many books from librarians and signed books from authors. And we got a lot of donations with notes from people who said, ‘I grew up in a small town, and I lived in the library, and books saved me. I know there has to be a kid in your town like me. I want to give back.’” There were so many touching messages that Garcia and Weber have decided to keep them in a notebook in the new library as a reminder of the outpouring of generosity that the town experienced.

As Merica-Jones says, “This has just been a miraculous, serendipitous experience.”

Mary Giles, the former deputy editor of Family Fun, reports and writes on a variety of topics surrounding children from her home in Massachusetts. 

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Trend Alert: Kite-Making Workshops Mon, 25 Jul 2016 20:36:09 +0000 We’ve caught wind of a new trend—kite-making workshops taking place in public libraries across the country. We asked around to see what’s up—and away!

Seasonally inspired in Larchmont, NY

larchmont kites

Program participants test their homemade kites. Photo courtesy of Larchmont Public Library

Kite-making workshops at the Larchmont (NY) Public Library are an annual favorite. For six years, the library has offered this program for kids during April, national kite flying month. The program has become so popular that it is now offered at other times of year, and for expanded age groups.

Rebecca Teglas, head of the children’s department, has always loved kites. “I was inspired to start the kite program because flying kites forces people to slow down in a busy world,” she says. “Also, there’s a lot to learn about science and math when it comes to flying kites.”

Teglas uses a recycled paper kite project she found online as the core of the program, and she begins with an inspiring video of a kite flying festival. The kite-making activity incorporates STEM skills such as measuring precisely and understanding the concept of lift. Plus, she always starts the program with an age-appropriate story—about kites, of course.

Crafty customers in Madison County, GA

baseball kite

The proud maker of a baseball kite. Photo courtesy of Madison County Library

The Madison County (GA) Library’s program began as a patron’s idea. She suggested the library try a kite making workshop—and offered to lead it. The library paid for the materials and provided staff assistance, but the patron planned the activity, making paper kites with a wooden dowel structure, decorated with paint and tissue paper. The program was offered as part of the library’s summer reading activities and was filled to capacity.

The experience was overwhelmingly positive for the library and reminded the staff that successful program ideas can come from anyone. Branch manager Jennifer Ivey reflects, “We paid attention to what our patrons are asking for, and if they really want something, maybe they can help make it happen! I don’t see any reason not to repeat this program.”

Science in the sky in Brooklyn, NY

The Clinton Hill branch of the Brooklyn (NY) Public Library was awarded a grant from the JM Kaplan Fund last year to spend on presenters and supplies, which allowed it to experiment with new programs. The branch is very close to a park with wide open spaces—perfect for flying kites—so they gave it a try.

brooklyn kite

A plastic bag kite in progress. Photo courtesy Brooklyn Public Library

Library supervisor Tracey Mantrone recalls the inspiration. “Living in an urban area, kids and families are clamoring to learn about science and nature,” she says. “We were working with a local summer camp on developing nature walks, and we thought this would tie in well.” She used the book Kites for Everyone: How to Make and Fly Them by Margaret Greger and Del Greger (Dover, 2006) to find instructions for a simple kite that would fly well, and developed a program for two groups of seven- to 12-year-old campers. Participants cut and decorated durable colored plastic trash bags and fit them over a dowel frame. The library provided kite string and a device to prevent tangling, and with simple safety instructions, the campers went straight from the library to the park to fly their kites. “The best part was that the kids got to actually use something they’d made from scratch, and it worked!” says Mantrone. Books about wind, lift, and flight deepened the science connection, and the library repeated the program in April to celebrate national kite flying month.

Arts and culture in Madison, WI


Artist Julio Flores with his own kite. Photo courtesy Madison Public Library

Madison (WI) Public Library’s recent kite program stood out because it is for adults. Led by artist Julio Flores, the program incorporated art, culture, and spiritual history. Flores led a series of workshops on kite-making, as he learned it from his grandfather as a child growing up in Cataño, Puerto Rico. The workshops were offered through the library’s maker space, the Bubbler, and were part of a series of craft programs representing diverse cultures.

Flores specializes in traditional Puerto Rican paper crafts, particularly masks and kites. This workshop, like most Bubbler programs, was artist-initiated. The library provided space and materials and handled all the promotion and other logistical arrangements, while the artist developed and led the workshop.

Like many of the library’s programs for adults, this one began as a workshop for kids. Adults accompanying their children requested a more in-depth version for older participants, and Flores was happy to oblige. “We see adults as an underserved population when it comes to maker programs, so we were excited to host this,” says Rebecca Millerjohn, whose title is deputy bubblerarian. “These experiences can help adults understand that maker spaces are for all ages.”

So are kites. There are a lot more library kite programs out there. Clearly, something is in the air!

Melanie Baron is the marketing and communications specialist for the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library Foundation in North Carolina. She has consulted with libraries and museums around the country, and is proud to have been a founding staff member of ImaginOn: The Joe & Joan Martin Center.

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Neal Bascomb on “Sabotage” and the Norwegian Fight Against the Nazis Mon, 25 Jul 2016 17:41:55 +0000 Sabatoge, about a riveting moment in World War II history.]]> From British SOE (Special Operations Executive) training camps to the harsh Norwegian winter landscape to an actual secret Nazi fortress perched above a gorge, Neal Bascomb has vividly brought to life the terror and intrigue that surround the heavy water sabotage operations, otherwise known as “the greatest act of sabotage in all of World War II.” SLJ spoke with Bascomb about his research process and what he hopes teen readers will take away from this lesser-known World War II account. Bascomb will be speaking at SLJTeen Live on August 10 as part of the “Stranger than Fiction” panel. Register for the free virtual event here!

In Sabotage, each of the Norwegian commandos who were involved in the heavy water sabotage, regardless of how big or small their role, received a full and complex portrait. Was it important for you that readers come away with not only a great story but a sense of empathy and understanding for the resistance fighters and the trials they went through for their country?Sabotage_ hires cover

Absolutely. As much as this narrative is about atomic science and the race to build a weapon unlike any before, it is a story of people at its heart. They drove the events; they shaped them. I wanted to know what motivated them, were they afraid, and how they managed to overcome those fears to execute these incredible missions that halted a key ingredient to the Nazi atomic research program. These individuals were not born heroes. Before the war, they were clerks, engineers, scientists, plumbers, and the like. Ordinary folks. History thrust great trials upon them, and they rose to the occasion.

Throughout Sabotage, you showcase quieter instances of resilience and quick thinking that may be unfamiliar to readers long accustomed to bombast in war stories. I’m thinking of leader Jens-Anton Poulsson’s brilliant way of keeping his men busy with chores during the day and lectures at night. With your work do you aim to present an alternative take to mainstream narratives on war?

I’m so glad this came through in the reading. Take Einar Skinnarland. He was incredibly tough and brave, but he still had moments where he was far from an unalloyed hero. On his parachute drop into Norway, he stood at the edge of the hole in which he would drop through, and he hesitated. He was not sure he could jump. The dispatcher almost had to shove him through. This did not make Einar any less of a hero, but it showed his humanity. Same with Jens-Anton Poulsson and his men telling each other stories at night to solidify their bond, to keep them together in a situation where they had thoughts of giving up and giving in. This is the truth, and to paint it any different would have been a disservice to them—and history. Also, I hope readers come away believing that they, too, could rise to the occasion because I show how much these Norwegians had their own doubts.

A hallmark of your work is the incredible amount of attention and care you dedicate to the bibliography, source notes, and other forms of back matter. When tackling such a rich subject such as World War II, where do you begin?

In researching my books, I always start with what has been written before. There were already a few works on the heavy water sabotage mission. I plumbed their bibliographies and read everything that they based their histories upon. I also read books on related subjects (German atomic history, Norway during World War II, British SOE history). Then I looked for magazine, newspaper, and scholarly articles. Once I felt like I knew everything that had already been written on the subject, I began my primary research. I scoured archival collections throughout the world. For Sabotage, there was great treasure in the Norwegian Resistance Museum in Oslo, as well as the British archives. After collecting everything possible there (and I am talking thousands of documents), I started reaching out to the individuals who experienced these events, as well as their families. I was looking for their recollections and any primary resources (diaries, memoirs, letters, etc.) that they may have had. Researching is typically a two-year process for me, but it’s one of the most rewarding parts of writing a book!

Photo by Meryl Schenker

During your research process, did you ever find yourself in disbelief over a piece of evidence (a record, a recounting, a diary excerpt, etc.)? How did you manage to sync together so many different perspectives?

Of all my books, I probably had more first-hand, primary source material on this one than any other I’ve written. There were secret reports, diaries, memoirs, letters, and more. Every memoir looks at events in a different way, sometimes in terms of how they unfolded, but more often, they are slanted to the perspective of the individual who is telling them. By reviewing the source material, I can judge where perspectives overlap and where they contradict. Often it’s a judgment call on whom to believe, whose recollections appear closest to the “truth.” Thankfully with Sabotage, I had so much material that my judgment was as well informed as possible.

I found your discussion of the psychological effects World War II had on the men of Operation Grouse and Operation Gunnerside in the epilogue refreshing. Was it difficult interviewing the family members of the Norwegian commandos?

Interviewing the family members was absolutely essential to telling this story in a real way. They [the families] were very open. Talking with them was not difficult, really. In some ways, I felt like I was almost allowing them to remember and understand who their fathers were. Furthermore, some of these individuals [discussed in the book] have been lost to history. They never earned the credit they deserved. In writing Sabotage, I hoped to restore the Norwegian resistance fighters to their proper place. Now that the book has come out, I’ve received some great letters from the families—their happiness is praise enough.

One of the larger things that I took away from Sabotage was just how long it can take to properly plan, prepare, and execute a military operation, even for missions such as parachute drops (waiting weeks for the right amount of moonlight). Do you hope readers will have a deeper understanding of just how complex and time consuming war is?

Yes. Yes. Yes. We often only hear about the great moments of action, but so much goes into preparing for these missions—and they are often the most dramatic part. Of course, the infiltration and sabotage of [the power station] Vemork by [Operation] Gunnerside is an edge-of-your-seat narrative, but that operation lasted only a few hours. Months went into gathering the necessary intelligence and assembling and training the team. And even more time went into preparing and surviving before the operation could take place. In these periods, the grit, intelligence, and skills of the saboteurs is tested every bit as much as they were during Gunnerside itself. Further, Leif Tronstad, the scientist turned spymaster who planned these operations, but was never on the ground, is every bit as interesting as the commandos themselves. Without him, the destruction of Vemork would never have been possible. Readers need to know why—and how.




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Gain Support When You Support District Goals | Take the Lead Mon, 25 Jul 2016 15:26:46 +0000 AltobelliIn a relatively large district like mine—Albuquerque (NM) Public Schools—tying the school library to district priorities can seem simultaneously obvious and impossible. I have encountered few district initiatives that wouldn’t be improved by their close and careful integration with school library programs and resources, but school and district administrators sometimes do not realize the potential lurking helpfully within their walls.

This past year, the Lilead Fellows project has helped me refine and articulate strategies that yield results, fitting library programs into and around existing district goals. The way to success, for me, at least, has been to start small, build a network of library advocates, dream big, and never stop working for transformative change.

Sometimes, especially during times of administrative transition, it can be difficult to sync up with academic goals that are not yet fully defined. Through these changes, of which my district has had several recently, my department focuses on aligning library programs with our district’s practical and logistical priorities.

My department has never had a formal role in hiring or placing teacher librarians, but this year, we placed librarians in elementary schools for summer school. I might dream of inquiry-based curriculum throughout the district, but help with placement was what my district needed, and the project was successful. Since we knew each librarian’s background, we were able to align placements with their philosophies, experience, and commuting preferences, the latter being surprisingly important in a sprawling city. Now we have happy principals who have one less thing to worry about, and happy regular-year librarians who will come back to organized libraries. Plus, we have laid the groundwork for more in-depth collaboration with administrators.

It’s hard to predict where the best future partnerships might develop. I try to be proactive about promoting what our librarians are doing—and what they could do in the future with the right support. Every district meeting, no matter the official subject, is an opportunity to figure out how librarians can help fix problems or improve practices. A series of meetings about student logins offered a chance to position librarians as the potential digital integrationists my district increasingly needs. This led to the inclusion of our library department as a presenter at the annual district Tech Camp for teachers and principals.

Our participation will support district goals as they relate to digital resources and give us a chance to show, with real-life examples, everything that libraries and librarians offer. The amazing work of our librarians is the most powerful argument we have, and hearing about what has worked with students in our district resonates more than any study could. That power is amplified when a teacher returns to her school site and talks about how she’s improved her practices through working closely with her librarian and using library resources.

Between the librarians and my department, we surround our colleagues with information and options. Wherever they turn, there’s a friendly librarian with a potential solution or improvement. As a district administrator, I might have a meeting about new furniture with a principal who has chosen not to hire a librarian. In the course of that meeting, I might mention some of the great things teacher-librarians are doing in our district. The principal will be much more likely to follow through and hire a librarian. The same applies if they attend a larger principals’ meeting and hear about the ways other schools are successfully integrating technology in the classroom through collaborations between teachers and librarians.

Ultimately, I’ve found that the best way to promote successful partnerships is to, well, be a librarian. We listen to questions and help people figure out what they really want to know or do. We help people be successful, whatever they’re trying to accomplish or create. We offer solutions, and we help people figure out how to find solutions on their own. We show up, listen carefully, offer guidance, help with other people’s projects, collaborate, teach, and learn. We have all the answers—or we know how and where to look them up, which is just as good.

Rachel Altobelli is director of library services and instructional materials for Albuquerque Public Schools and a 2015–16 Lilead Fellow.

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Reflections on the National Week of Making Mon, 25 Jul 2016 15:16:23 +0000  

20160618_120037I attended the National Week of Making in Washington, D.C. from June 17 to 23. While, of course, this was exciting to me as a middle school librarian, it was truly meaningful to me personally. Why? The day I arrived was my grandmother’s birthday. What could be more appropriate than the granddaughter of immigrants visiting our nation’s capital to participate in a conversation about the push for innovation and ingenuity in our schools, communities, and workforce?

My grandparents arrived in America in the 1950’s from Europe with my young mother and aunt in tow, and almost nothing to their names. With only elementary schooling under his belt, my grandfather was the educated patron of the family. The day they stepped foot on free ground was the beginning of a legacy.

If they were alive today, my grandparents would have been proud that I was invited by my dear friend Adam Bellow, a former White House fellow and present CEO of Breakout EDU, to participate in a nationwide discussion with representatives from all 50 states about the maker movement. But I think they would have also been bewildered. Making for them was not a hobby, or an outlet for creative expression. Making was a way of life, to survive in a country where they didn’t know the language and had no family support.

Holzweiss dressed for the occasion!

Holzweiss dressed for the occasion!

Making isn’t new. Why then should we celebrate a designated National Week of Making? Why are maker spaces and maker faires cropping up everywhere from schools to libraries to museums, and even in community spaces? Creativity, progress, and innovation are all qualities that make us who we are. When we say “I made this” or “I have an idea,” we are making a contribution to the world.

The spirit of teamwork and active participation was the theme of the National Week of Making kickoff. Andrew Coy, senior advisor for making for the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, welcomed us to the event. The morning discussion revolved around getting more minorities and women involved in the maker movement. The think tank included Rafael Lopez, commissioner of the administration for children and families of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and Tom Kalil, deputy director of tech and innovation of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.


A simple circuitry project is explained to an attendee.

Garnering support from other government departments, federal opportunities for making as a national initiative were presented by Albert Palacios (U.S. Department of Education), Lakita Edwards (National Endowment for the Arts), Brian Burkhardt (U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs), Katelyn Schreyer (National Science Foundation), Sanjay Koyani (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services), and Dave Cranmer (National Institute of Standards and Technology, Manufacturing Extension Partnership). As a commitment to our young innovators, 10 high schools were announced as winners of the CTE Makeover Challenge, each receiving $20,000 in cash and a share of in-kind prizes from the $375,000 sponsor prize pool.


The Challenge Coin Holtzweiss and the others in her group received, similar to ones given to members of the military embarking on special missions.

Sitting in on discussions about how we need to encourage our young people to pursue careers in science, technology engineering, and mathematics, I couldn’t help but remember two pivotal moments in American history: the Great Depression and the Space Race. Through FDR’s New Deal, engineering marvels of public works projects helped to save citizens from unemployment. Decades later, to stay ahead of the former Soviet Union, President Kennedy vowed to land a man on the moon. In those times, as well during our most recent economic recession, our presidents looked to technology and engineering to help build on our past to prepare for our future.


Holzweiss takes a seat in the War Department Library in the Dwight D. Eisenhower Executive Office Building. Afterwards, she visited the Treaty Room and the Truman Bowling Alley in the basement with fellow educator Krissy Venosdale.

To celebrate this “American spirit of innovation and entrepreneurship,” 10 men and women from across the country were named Champions of Change in the field of making, chosen from over 600 nominations. These leaders reflect technology and innovation in making and education, working here in America and abroad. A few of the honorees were Dara Dotz, co-founder of Field Ready which uses 3-D printing technology to help people in disaster areas; Gregg Behr, instrumental in organizing Remake Learning Days; Felton Thomas, Jr., current director of the Cleveland Public Library and an Library Journal Mover & Shaker, and retired army sergeant Lisa Marie Wiley, whose work has contributed to the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs’s Innovative Creation Series.

As President Obama so eloquently expressed in his proclamation: “The same American spirit of innovation and entrepreneurship that has steered our nation through the industrial and digital revolutions–and led our people to explore the depths of the oceans and the distant planets in our solar system–has enabled us to reimagine our world through new ideas and discoveries.”



The group on the steps of the Dwight D. Eisenhower Executive Office Building, facing the west wing of the White House.

The group on the steps of the Dwight D. Eisenhower Executive Office Building, facing the west wing of the White House.  Now “deputized,” they were inspired to continue their work and to encourage others to join the maker movement.

Kristina Holzweiss is the school library media specialist at Bay Shore (NY) Middle School and2015 School Librarian of the Year. She also received the Lee Bryant Outstanding Teacher Award from the New York State Association for Computers and Technologies in Education and the Fred Podolski Leadership and Innovation in Technology Award by the Long Island Technology Summit. She is the founder and director of SLIME (Students of Long Island Maker Expo). Check out her website and follow her on Twitter at @lieberrian, Reach her at

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Juana and Lucas by Juana Medina | SLJ Review Mon, 25 Jul 2016 14:00:58 +0000 Medina, Juana. Juana and Lucas. illus. by Juana Medina. 96p. Candlewick. Sept. 2016. Tr $14.99. ISBN 9780763672089. 

Gr 2-4 –Juana lives in Bogotá, Colombia, with her dog Lucas. She loves brussels sprouts, drawing, and especially the comic book superhero Astroman. She most definitely does not like learning “the English.” When her teacher says learning English is going to be a “ton of fun,” Juana knows that it will really be “nada de fun.” Her abuelo, or [...]]]> redstarMedina, Juana. Juana and Lucas. illus. by Juana Medina. 96p. Candlewick. Sept. 2016. Tr $14.99. ISBN 9780763672089. CHAP-Medina-Juana and Lucas

Gr 2-4 –Juana lives in Bogotá, Colombia, with her dog Lucas. She loves brussels sprouts, drawing, and especially the comic book superhero Astroman. She most definitely does not like learning “the English.” When her teacher says learning English is going to be a “ton of fun,” Juana knows that it will really be “nada de fun.” Her abuelo, or Abue for short, is a brain surgeon and tries to explain to Juana how learning English can be very useful. He also has a bribe—if Juana learns English, he will take her to the Spaceland amusement park in Florida, where only English is spoken, even by her hero Astroman. Medina has written a first-person narrative filled with expressive description. Spanish words are used throughout, and their meaning is made clear through context. As both author and illustrator, Medina is able to integrate the text and illustrations in unique ways, including spreads in which Juana tells us why, for example, she strongly dislikes her school uniform or why Mami is the most important person in her life. Font design is also used creatively, such as when Medina traces the arc of a soccer ball hit hard enough to be sent “across the field.” VERDICT An essential selection that creates multicultural awareness, has distinguished and appealing design elements, and has a text that is the stuff of true literature.–Tim Wadham, formerly at Puyallup Public Library, WA

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

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Nonfiction Xpress Reviews | August 2016 Mon, 25 Jul 2016 06:45:36 +0000 1608-Xpress-NonFic

Amstutz, Lisa J. The Ultimate Guide to Gardening: Grow Your Own Indoor, Vegetable, Fairy, and Other Great Gardens. 112p. (Craft It Yourself). photos. Capstone. Apr. 2016. pap. $12.95. ISBN 9781623706494.

Gr 3-5 –Children and parents will learn about a variety of gardening styles with this charming DIY guide. The book opens with some general tips about gardening and plant care and then presents ideas for growing edible, indoor, creative, and enchanted gardens. Many of the ideas can easily be altered to use materials available to readers. Amstutz provides suggestions for different varieties of plants, containers, and decorations for readers looking to modify the projects. While some suggestions, such as the Teacup Garden or the Scrappy Kitchen Garden, could be accomplished by children, most activities require adult assistance. Some of the projects, such as the Topsy Turvy Tin Cans and the Living Wall Art, are a bit advanced but could be fun for parent-child teams. The instructions are clear to follow, and the pictures give a good idea of what to expect. Sidebars offer interesting gardening tips and insights. The “Plant Problems” section in the back gives short but helpful explanations of issues that may plague plants. VERDICT A solid offering for libraries in need of additional DIY or gardening materials for young students.–Ellen Norton, Naperville Public Library, IL

Bedell, Jane (J.M.). So, You Want To Be a Coder?: The Ultimate Guide to a Career in Programming, Video Game Creation, Robotics, and More! 256p. (Be What You Want). chron. ebook available. further reading. glossary. illus. notes. websites. Beyond Words/Aladdin. May 2016. pap. $11.99. ISBN 9781582705798.

Gr 5-7 –Bedell has packed this title with information perfect for aspiring coders. Sections cover writing code, website coders, artificial intelligence and robots, coding languages, and more. Early on, readers are asked to take an “Is Writing Code Right for Me?” quiz. Each chapter is prefaced with a cheesy but fun joke (for example, “What do you call a programmer in Scandinavia? A Nerdic.”). The writing is chatty and engaging. The text is peppered with biographical spotlights of famous and influential people in the coding world—from Charles Babbage (1791–1871), the father of computing, to Henry Edward Roberts (1941–2010), the father of the personal computer. Profiles of more current people are also included, for instance, Kelly Clarke, a software engineer for NASA, and Louise Stinnett, a retired senior systems programmer, who in her profile explains what it was like to be a woman coder in the 1960s. Cartoon illustrations dot each page. Although the pictures aren’t colorful, they don’t hamper the overall upbeat tone. A glossary and an extensive list of resources finish off the text. VERDICT A timely and lighthearted addition to the careers section for tweens.–Anne Chapman Callaghan, Racine Public Library, WI

Brockenbrough, Martha. Shark Week: Everything You Need To Know. 160p. index. photos. websites. Feiwel & Friends. May 2016. Tr $19.99. ISBN 9781250097774.

Gr 4-6 –Promoting the conservation of these feared—and often misunderstood—sea creatures, this work emphasizes the awesomeness of sharks. It covers dozens of shark species, from the smallest (the pale catshark at eight inches long) to the most elusive (the pocket shark, with only two recorded sightings). Shark anatomy, how scientists study fossilized remains, and common shark myths are discussed. Reproduction is covered in detail. A “Who Would Win?” section that pits sharks against other fearsome animals is high in kid appeal. The winner is calculated based on physical features and attack modes. Stories about shark attacks bring this thick read to a close. A useful index helps pinpoint areas of interest. Readers will appreciate the high-quality photos throughout. The advanced vocabulary, in combination with minimal pronunciation guides for scientific terms, makes this title suited for upper elementary and middle school readers. VERDICT This volume will swim off the shelves. Catch it to beef up shark collections.–Sandra Welzenbach, Villarreal Elementary School, San Antonio, TX

Burk, Rachelle. Painting in the Dark: Esref Armagan, Blind Artist. illus. by Claudia Gadotti. 36p. further reading. notes. reprods. websites. Tumblehome Learning. Jul. 2016. Tr $19.95. ISBN 9781943431151; pap. $14.99. ISBN 9781943431144.

Gr 2-5 –Blind since birth, Esref Armagan is a well-known painter of landscapes and portraits. With the support of his father, Armagan mastered many techniques to assist his painting process, including carving into cardboard to reproduce shapes he felt with his hands, placing his colored pencils in a specific order, using stencils, and making relief paintings with raised surfaces so he could paint by touch. The narrative begins with Armagan’s childhood and discusses the challenges he faced pursuing a career in art as a blind man. Letters of encouragement from other blind people, television fame, and the support of doctors kept him working. Gadotti portrays elements of Armagan’s story alongside a peppering of reproductions of the artist’s paintings. The color palette of Gadotti’s illustrations mirrors Armagan’s own work. VERDICT A thoughtful biography that celebrates diversity and perseverance. Recommended to expand and deepen elementary school art collections.–Jessica Cline, New York Public Library

Colson, Rob. Dinosaur Bones: And What They Tell Us. illus. by Elizabeth Gray & Steve Kirk. 96p. chron. glossary. index. Firefly. Feb. 2016. Tr $19.95. ISBN 9781770857179; pap. $12.95. ISBN 9781770856943.

Gr 2-5 –A field guide to 20 unique prehistoric creatures. Each topic is given two spreads, with the information moving from specific to general. In the first spread, a specimen is presented in skeletal form accompanied by facts related to its physical structure. In the following spread, it is then fleshed out in color and discussed in relation to other members of its group or closely related species. Thus, readers gain an appreciation for the various families of dinosaurs. There are the usual favorites, like Tyrannosaurus rex, Ankylosaurus, and Apatosaurus, as well as lesser-known species, such as Psittacosaurus, Scelidosaurus, and Montanoceratops. Flying reptiles and marine reptiles are also included. Scale silhouettes that compare the size of certain dinosaurs to humans are helpful. Colson provides a general chronology of natural history, beginning with life before dinosaurs and concluding with the Ice Age and saber-tooth cats and mammoths. Every folio is a visual feast, brilliantly illustrated by Gray and Kirk. Some images reveal the sheer size and majesty of these creatures. Others show action poses of predators stalking prey. The illustrations vary among color paintings, computer graphics, and color photos of fossils. The text flows around the images, providing readers with material about each creature’s anatomy and behavior and the origin of its name. The book concludes with a handy geologic time line that illustrates the movement of the continents. VERDICT Exactly what young paleontologists are looking for: big, beautiful pictures of dinosaurs. A solid addition to school and public libraries for elementary students to pore over.–Jeffrey Meyer, Mt. Pleasant Public Library, IA

de la Bédoyère, Camilla. Bugs in the Backyard. 80p. glossary. index. photos. Firefly. Mar. 2016. pap. $9.95. ISBN 9781770856974.

Gr 3-6 –An overview of all the scary and slimy, winged or spineless, creatures found in most backyards. Each bug is given its own spread, complete with close-up photos and short paragraphs. Life cycle, diet, predators, and habitat are covered. “Fact File” sidebars go on to list class and order, size in inches and millimeters, and further information on where they commonly proliferate. Readers will come to learn how most of the insects featured are essential for a healthy ecosystem. The content is not limited to bugs: earthworms; tardigrades (water bears), a close relative of arthropods; and gastropods like snails, which inhabit the same environment as many of the covered insects, are included. VERDICT Recommended as an additional purchase for students with a strong stomach and a passion for our creepy-crawly friends.–Debbie Tanner, S.D. Spady Montessori Elementary, FL

Hamilton, Sian. Now I Can Sew: 20 Hand-Sewn Projects To Make. 128p. index. photos. websites. Guild of Master Craftsman. Jul. 2016. pap. $17.25. ISBN 9781784941161.

Gr 3-6 –An adorable introduction to hand sewing for children. The title begins with an overview of the tools needed (e.g., needles, scissors, thread, needle threader), instructions on how to measure and mark fabric, and directions on how to use the aforementioned tools. Step-by-step instructions on specific stitches (e.g., blanket stitch, angled straight stitch) are also included. The 20 projects are organized by increasing difficulty and make good use of the skills introduced in the beginning of the work. Most of the activities are low-key, from finger puppets to book covers and cushions; these are simple but enjoyable projects. Templates to trace and cut out are located at the end of the book. A list of popular stores to find supplies is listed in the back matter. However, this is a UK import—most of the resources listed are in the UK. A list of resources for the U.S. is included, though it is small. VERDICT A colorful volume sure to appeal to rookie crafters.–Cynde Suite, Bartow County Library System, Adairsville, GA

Keizer, Joost. This Is Leonardo da Vinci. illus. by Christina Christoforou. 80p. photos. reprods. Laurence King. May 2016. Tr $15.95. ISBN 9781780677514.

Gr 7-10 –This title mixes Christoforou’s beautiful pencil illustrations among reproductions of Leonardo da Vinci’s most famous works. Within these images are also brief descriptions of da Vinci’s life, from his beginnings as an illegitimate child to his apprenticeship with Andrea del Verrocchio, a highly respected artist in 16th-century Florence. Through this experience with Verrocchio, da Vinci was commissioned for many projects and was able to prove himself on the art scene with this unique talent. It is interesting to note that owing to da Vinci’s upbringing with his grandfather, a notary, he was an exceptional notetaker. This title pieces together much of the master’s life through his notes and rough sketches of projects. Limited descriptions of various aspects of the artist’s life are accompanied by full-page illustrations with captions or asides in a difficult-to-read font. The short passages also include advanced vocabulary words. VERDICT A brief but creative portrait of Leonardo da Vinci. An additional purchase for teen libraries where art biographies are popular.–Jessica Lorentz Smith, Bend Senior High School, OR

Mills, Andrea. The Soccer Book: Facts and Terrific Trivia. 64p. chart. glossary. illus. index. photos. Firefly. Mar. 2016. Tr $24.95. ISBN 9781770857308; pap. $12.95. ISBN 9781770857292.

Gr 3-6 –With this year’s Copa America tournament, the UEFA Champions League, and the Olympics, interest in soccer will be at an all-time high. Enter this slim resource on soccer that focuses on the quirk and fun of the game. Covering everything from coaching strategies and notorious rivalries to the biggest on-field bloopers, this volume offers a general but engaging sense of the sport. A spread on the evolution of men’s and women’s soccer uniforms also informs kids on the tendency of highly successful players to have a pair of custom cleats made for each match. A “Dream Team” spread, which rounds up players from all over the globe, is bound to produce reader response, as some familiar faces (for instance, David Beckham) are absent. The past winners of the UEFA Champions League from 1955 to present are charted as well as the winners of the men’s FIFA World Cup from 1930 to present. The basic rules and setup of the game are listed and explained in the back matter. The large number of bright photographs and graphic elements in combination with short passages of text make this an easy read. VERDICT A great addition to libraries with a dedicated soccer fan base.–Debbie Tanner, S.D. Spady Montessori Elementary, FL

Nippert-Eng, Christena. Gorillas Up Close. photos by John Dominski & Miguel Martinez. 176p. further reading. glossary. index. maps. photos. websites. Holt. Apr. 2016. Tr $19.99. ISBN 9781627790918.

Gr 4 Up –In this visually arresting work, Nippert-Eng bridges the gap between gorillas and humans. Using contemporary and relatable terms (for instance, “A gorilla family is often a blended family” and “Kwan tickles his children with his teeth the way a human dad might with his hands”), the book begins with commonalities between humans and gorillas before branching off to explore biological and emotional differences. This beautifully photographed examination of the gorilla troop living in captivity at Chicago’s Lincoln Park Zoo brings their habitat alive with a variety of shots and perspectives. So many of the animals’ facial expressions are captured throughout the book, driving home what the author also seeks to convey with words: gorillas are not so different from humans. Readers will enjoy seeing happiness, puzzlement, concentration, and more articulated on each face. Subject matter includes the expected (habitat, diet, and care for this endangered species) to the delightfully unanticipated (how to identify a gorilla and tips for watching and photographing). An extensive, usable index guides those readers doing homework or school projects. VERDICT The latest in engaging animal nonfiction for upper elementary and middle school collections. Highly recommended.–Chelsea Woods, New Brunswick Free Public Library, NJ

Proujansky, Alice. Go Photo!: An Activity Book for Kids. 108p. illus. photos. Aperture. May 2016. Tr $19.95. ISBN 9781597113557.

Gr 3-6 –Students looking for projects that give them the opportunity to practice photography skills will treasure this selection of 20-plus photo-related activities. Basic background knowledge of cameras and how to use them will be helpful when approaching this work. Among the projects are a photo scavenger hunt, “selfie fest,” photo face masks, treasure hunt, rainbow book, and time capsule. In addition to a camera, users will also need photo paper and a printer. The work opens with a few introductory pages of guidelines and background info. Descriptions for each project average two pages in length and include a supply list, numbered step-by-step directions, tips, and supplementary photos or drawings. The format is consistent. Informally written, the volume is occasionally a bit wordy and sometimes uses trendy vocabulary such as photobombed and wonky. Bright yellow endpapers and solid binding add to the book’s packaging. The work lacks a glossary, but terms such as point of view and composition are nicely explained within the text. VERDICT Recommended for libraries in need of stimulating photography projects for upper elementary students.–Lynn Vanca, Freelance Librarian, Akron, OH

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Picture Books Xpress Reviews | August 2016 Mon, 25 Jul 2016 06:30:40 +0000 1608-Xpress-PictureBk

Benjamin, A.H. “Oh, No,” Said Elephant. illus. by Alireza Goldouzian. 48p. Minedition. May 2016. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9789888341078.

PreS-Gr 2 –Elephant, Leopard, Zebra, and Monkey are playing. Though Elephant always wants to join in and tries his best, he has trouble with the proposed games. His size makes concealing himself a challenge during hide-and-seek. He is too tall and heavy for leapfrog and too clumsy for jump rope. His friends let their frustrations show: “ ‘You’re useless!’ said Monkey. ‘You’re foolish!’ said Leopard. ‘You’re terrible!’ said Zebra.” A few other suggested games fare no better until finally Elephant suggests a game—tug-of-war. Here the large, strong elephant is in his element and has an opportunity to reverse the roles and shine among his playmates, defeating them all single-handedly. The engaging art’s rich colors, bold shapes, and interesting layouts bring humor to the text and visually exaggerate the physical contrasts among the animals to heighten their difficulties. While the four still have differences to work out before they can truly play well together, they have developed new respect for a wider range of abilities. VERDICT This wild playdate among the animals will show readers a good time and provide a subtle lesson in inclusivity. A great read-aloud choice.–Julie Roach, Cambridge Public Library, MA

Delange, Ellen. I Will Always Be Happy To See You. tr. from Dutch. illus. by Jenny Meilihove. 32p. Clavis. May 2016. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781605372716.

PreS-Gr 1 –In this ode to unconditional love, a girl tells her dog that—no matter what—she will always be happy to see him. Her canine friend demonstrates his admiration for her by trying to do the right thing. He brings her pretty flowers that come from the not-so-happy neighbor’s garden. He attempts to help by taking out the garbage. Unfortunately, his way of accomplishing this task is to dump the trash out the window. Like all of us, the pup has moments of selfishness. He takes the best seat on the train, brings home tons of dirty laundry, and doesn’t always go to bed on time. None of this matters, because his owner will always be happy to see him. Although this is a tale about a girl and her dog, the story can be applied to children and everyday situations. It sends a great message, and the large, bright, and colorful illustrations are simple and appealing to young listeners. The characters are very animated and display fun expressions. VERDICT This is a good book but not necessarily a first purchase.–Barbara Spiri, Southborough Library, MA

Fairgray, Richard. My Grandpa Is a Dinosaur. illus. by Richard Fairgray & Terry Jones. 32p. Sky Pony. May 2016. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781634506328.

PreS-Gr 2 –By most standards, Wanda’s family is pretty odd, but to young Wanda, they’re not so strange. Except for her grandpa, who she’s pretty sure is a dinosaur. He has a tail and scales, and paleontologists follow him around; he just seems to fit the bill. Thing is, no one else believes her. So, with only one option left, she asks her grandpa directly, “Are you a dinosaur?” The answer may surprise. Fairgray and Jones take the often derogatory term and repurpose it to good effect. Their portrayal is at once comical and respectful; this is one grandpa who has an active lifestyle and even rides roller coasters. Humor springs from the discrepancy between Wanda’s serious inquiry and the thought of this anthropomorphized dinosaur doing such commonplace activities. The art only emphasizes this with its comical character designs, serious expressions, and sedate hues. VERDICT Children, parents, and grandparents alike will find much to amuse them in this frankly funny picture book about perception and family.–Rachel Forbes, formerly at Oakville Public Library, Ontario, Canada

Garralon, Claire. Black & White Cat. illus. by Claire Garralon. 30p. Sourcebooks. Jun. 2016. Board $7.99. ISBN 9781492637813.

Toddler-PreS –Suppose the world were just black-and-white? The black cat, who lives in a white house, can’t visit the white cat, who lives in a black house, and vice versa. When one calls on the other, the caller promptly disappears. This enchanting board book features simple black-and-white collages of cats, or cats in houses, until the triumphant, colorful ending. Garralon, a native of France, has a number of delightful titles to her credit, both as illustrator and author. One can hope that all of these works will soon be published in English-language versions. VERDICT Young children will enjoy this board book’s whimsical wit and artistry. A winner.–Susan Weitz, formerly at Spencer-Van Etten School District, Spencer, NY

Gorin, Leslie. Bertie Wings It! illus. by Brendan Kearney. 40p. Sterling. Jun. 2016. Tr $14.95. ISBN 9781454915737.

PreS-Gr 2 –Bertie is a bird who knows he’s ready to leave his too tiny treetop digs and leap out into the wide, waiting world. He spreads his wings and makes a break for it, but the obstructionist Admiral Bird interrupts his progress and convinces him that he lacks the necessary skills to take to the skies. Outfitted with apps, gear, and a badge from flight school, Bertie tries a second time, only to be deterred by the rule-mongering Prunella Flapdoodle of the “Department of Migrating Varmints.” Despite being armed with the appropriate certifications, a beleaguered Bertie is sidelined a third time, by a convincing kiwi named Monique, who assures him that he needs “hipster pants and furs from France.” When Bertie does actually flap into flight, the weight of his unsolicited accessories causes him to drop like a stone. It isn’t until he lets go of the unnecessary accoutrements that he can fly freely because “deep down inside, he knew that he knew—he had always known—how to fly.” Kearney’s saturated, bustling illustrations populate Gorin’s story with wild characters, silly situations, and the suspicion that Bertie just needs a little space. VERDICT Bertie’s journey is one that children and adults will be drawn to, whether shared one-on-one or in a small group.–Jenna Boles, Greene County Public Library, Beavercreek, OH

Graves, Keith. Puppy! illus. by Keith Graves. 32p. Roaring Brook/Neal Porter Bks. Apr. 2016. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781626722255.

PreS-Gr 2 –Trog has everything that a cave boy could possibly want, from sticks to stones—even mud. But what he really desires more than anything is a puppy, which he finds one day out in the prehistoric fields. The “puppy” is of course a baby dinosaur, but that doesn’t stop Trog from dragging the reluctant animal back to his cave. Trog tries to get his puppy to adapt to life with his family, but it clearly does not want to stay no matter how hard Trog tries to please it. The boy then must decide whether keeping his puppy at home is truly fair to his animal. The story does seem fairly familiar, but children will enjoy seeing Trog’s reptilian puppy tear through his house, and the simple language makes this title a great choice for beginning readers. Graves’s simple cartoon illustrations add to the lighthearted feel of the book, while his gritty outlines match the crudeness of the time period. VERDICT A fun addition to pair with Tammi Sauer and Bob Shea’s Me Want Pet! for a great storytime.–Peter Blenski, Greenfield Public Library, WI

Gravett, Emily. El gran libro de los miedos. tr. from English by Raquel Mosquera. illus. by Emily Gravett. 32p. Obelisco. Jan. 2016. Tr $21.95. ISBN 9788416117444.

K-Gr 3 –This playful title is presented as a clinical book on overcoming fear, which Ratoncito (or Mouse) has taken over. Each page contains the word for a type of fear, from arachnophobia to sciophobia, with Ratoncito’s specific examples added. As in other works by Gravett, the illustration style is engaging and eclectic; included are a foldout map, newspaper clippings, and photo collages. A twist at the end will be an easy lead into an age-appropriate discussion of the irrational nature of many fears. The translation makes for an easy read-aloud, although the many details on each page make this title more suitable for smaller groups. VERDICT A humorous, interactive Spanish-language look at the things that make us jump; for collections in need of Spanish translations of popular titles.–Gesse Stark-Smith, Multnomah County Library, Portland, OR

Guest, Patrick. That’s What Wings Are For. illus. by Daniella Germain. 32p. Little Hare. Jul. 2016. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781742978291.

PreS-Gr 2 –After Bluey the dragon hugs another dragon, he gets his wings tied to prevent it from happening again. His wings are too floppy to fly, and he wonders if he is a real dragon. After he goes on a long, dangerous journey, Bluey meets a wise lizard and a brave boy. His interactions with them make Bluey feel proud of himself because he discovers he has the ability to do something the other dragons cannot do, and that realization makes him feel like he’s flying. The ink, watercolor, and gouache illustrations are surreal in style, mixing the modern landscape with a dragon’s world. The story crosses from a land up in the clouds to ones down below in the city and the desert. VERDICT This book tells a wonderful story about kindness; a good choice for large collections.–Tanya Boudreau, Cold Lake Public Library, AB, Canada

Highway, Tomson. Dragonfly Kites. illus. by Julie Flett. 32p. Fifth House. Apr. 2016. Tr $19.95. ISBN 9781897252635. BL

Gr 1-3 –A bilingual book in English and Cree. Joe and Cody are two Cree brothers who live in Northern Manitoba. With their vivid imaginations and isolation from others, they roam the world. While their parents are fishing, they make toys out of sticks and rocks to play with and befriend the terns, loons, eagles, and squirrels they meet. Their favorite creature are the dragonflies. During the day, the boys tie thread around them and turn them into magic kites. At night in their dreams, they run behind their dragonfly kites, bounding up into the sky, into the sunset until morning light. Flett’s illustrations are full of color with clear, sharp lines. The dragonflies’ wings look like they landed on the page. VERDICT This charming tale is an engaging look at the universal joys of childhood. Recommended.–Amy Zembroski, Indian Community School, Franklin, WI

Kosinski, Colleen Rowan. Lilla’s Sunflowers. illus. by Colleen Rowan Kosinski. 32p. Sky Pony. Jul. 2016. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781510704640.

PreS-Gr 2 –A way to make sure a loved one will always be thinking of you is to give them a memorable object as a reminder. Lilla has a special bond with her father. One thing they enjoy doing is spending warm summer days in the sunflower patch. When Lilla learns that Papa has to leave for a long trip (military deployment), she wants to give him something so he’ll remember her. She gives him the perfect thing…a sunflower seed. Time goes by, and waiting for her father to return is difficult. She thinks of him as she plants more sunflower seed and watches them grow and change throughout the year. Lilla finally learns that Papa is coming home. He sends her a special note with a picture. In the photo she sees that the seed has changed. After he returns home, Papa tells Lilla how one little seed helped many other people feel so much better. This is a unique tale about how one little thing can spread happiness among many people. The warm and lovely illustrations are expressive and add to the book’s charm. VERDICT Many children will find this story helpful if they have parents who travel a lot or friends who live in different locations. An excellent choice for communities with large populations in the military.–Barbara Spiri, Southborough Library, MA

Lendler, Ian. Saturday. illus. by Serge Bloch. 40p. Roaring Brook/Neal Porter Bks. Jul. 2016. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781596439658.

PreS-Gr 1 –Saturday is a great day to play and pretend and have fun with family. In this tongue-in-cheek picture book, a boy revels in the joys of the weekend: reading a stack of books with his dad, playing spies with his little brother, and going to birthday parties. Each of the activities he loves, however, has a less enjoyable side for his parents, who are woken up early on their day off and are responsible for the three family meals a day; by dinner, the boys are shown sitting in front of a shoe on a plate as their parents finally put their feet up in the background. Just when it seems like Saturday is finally over, the boy announces, “Tomorrow is Sunday and we can do it all over again!” The juxtaposition of the text and pictures is charming, with the sweet-faced boy blissfully unaware of the work he’s creating for his parents. The simplicity of the retro-looking pencil and digital illustrations perfectly complements the innocence of the main character. Young readers will relate to the joy of a weekend and be tickled by the boy’s antics, and grown-ups will recognize the fun, and the reality, of free time spent with little kids. VERDICT A clever selection that is worth reading, on Saturday or any day of the week. Children will want to pore over the humorous artwork again and again.–Marian McLeod, Convent of the Sacred Heart, Greenwich, CT

Long, Ethan. Pug. illus. by Ethan Long. 24p. (I Like To Read). Holiday House. Jul. 2016. Tr $14.95. ISBN 9780823436453; pap. $6.99. ISBN 9780823436880; ebk. $14.95. ISBN 9780823437405.

PreS-Gr 1 –One snowy day, Pug sees his friend Peg outside and wants to join her, but no one is willing to leave the cozy house to go for a walk. Only when the pup threatens to misbehave does Tad give in to his insistent pleas. By the time they make it outside, Peg is nowhere to be seen. Pug’s frantic yapping results in a burst of answering yaps, and Pug is happy at last to be with Peg. With a large font and a vocabulary of only a dozen words, this beginning reader is designed at the easiest level. It’s sure to delight pug owners and Long’s many fans. VERDICT A fun story for beginning readers, with a supersimple vocabulary.–Gaye Hinchliff, King County Library System, WA

MacKenzie, Emily. Wanted!: Ralfy Rabbit, Book Burglar. 32p. Bloomsbury. May 2016. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781681192208.

K-Gr 2 –This is the endearing tale of Ralfy, a little rabbit who can’t get enough to read. While other rabbits dream of lettuce and carrots, Ralfy dreams of nothing but books. When he’s not reading, he’s making lists of his favorites (The Catcher in the Vegetable Patch, The Hoppit) and lists of books he wants to read (The Rabbit with the Dandelion Tattoo, A Hutch with a View). While it is unlikely that most children will get most of the references, they are indeed quite clever (A Tale of Two Warrens, One Flew over the Rabbit Hutch). Then, Ralfy begins sneaking into houses and reading other people’s books; next, he’s nabbing novels and pinching poetry. Arthur, who also loves to read, discovers gaps in his bookshelves along with half-eaten carrots and lies in wait one night. He spots Ralfy, but no one believes his story about a bunny book thief. However, when Ralfy sneaks into Officer Puddle’s house, he is captured and identified in a lineup because all the other rabbits wearing “I Love Books” T-shirts grab the carrots from the conveyor belt while Ralfy goes for the books. Arthur feels sorry for Ralfy, and comes up with the perfect solution, taking Ralfy to a place where he can borrow all the books he wants. The volume is accompanied by charming, child-friendly cartoon-type illustrations with lots of details that enhance the humor. VERDICT This sweet tribute to libraries and reading has lots of child appeal and deserves a place in every collection.–Grace Oliff, Ann Blanche Smith School, Hillsdale, NJ

Manushkin, Fran. Katie Woo, Super Scout. ISBN 9781479561780.

––––. Katie’s Happy Mother’s Day. ISBN 9781479561797.

ea vol: illus. by Tammie Lyon. 32p. glossary. Picture Window. Aug. 2016. Tr. $19.99.

Gr 1-3 –Slice-of-life predicaments are explored in two new additions to the beginning reader series. In the first book, the young girl lovingly tends to her mom, who is feeling under the weather. Katie fluffs her mom’s pillow, offers up her teddy bear, and sings a lullaby. With Mother’s Day fast approaching, Katie worries that she doesn’t have a gift to give. More pampering inspiration strikes when Katie notices her mom wiggling her unpainted toes. Bright red nail polish and a relaxing pedicure make for a perfect Mother’s Day surprise. In the second title, Katie and her scout troop embark on a hike through the woods. Katie partners with a new girl during a treasure hunt and is jealous when Janine proves to be more adept at the search. Feelings are hurt, but a truce is called when the friends find a common interest and collaborate to build a fairy house out of twigs. Lyon’s cheerful watercolor illustrations feature a diverse cast of characters. New readers can use the spot vignettes to help understand the meaning of the text. Emotions are clearly discernible, from crossed-armed annoyance to supportive hugs. The text in both volumes is arranged in three short chapters, features plenty of repetition and is displayed in a large-font size for readability. Each title also contains a glossary (which defines vocabulary such as yawn and acorn), discussion questions, writing prompts, and an extension activity. VERDICT Katie Woo is a relatable and likable character, and fans will enjoy her latest adventures; a good choice for most beginning reader collections.–Linda Ludke, London Public Library, Ontario, Canada

Mayer, Mercer. Little Critter: Just a Baby Bird. illus. by Mercer Mayer. 32p. (My First I Can Read). HarperCollins. Mar. 2016. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780062265357.

PreS-Gr 1 –Little Critter is back with another fun adventure sure to appeal to the bird lover in us all. The story is told with simple, repetitive text that is perfect for new readers. Little Critter and Little Sister find a bird, and with the help of Mom and Dad, they learn the importance of how to care for a baby bird. The colorful images add to the story and show how Little Critter has changed with the times; for instance, Father uses his cell phone to take a photo of the baby bird’s new family. VERDICT Little Critter never fails to delight children and is a welcome addition to your collection.–Andrea Pavlik, Huntington Public Library, NY

Miyanishi, Tatsuya. You Are My Best Friend. illus. by Tatsuya Miyanishi. 40p. (Tyrannosaurus). Museyon. May 2016. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781940842103.

K-Gr 2 –In a prehistoric world, there is a “mean and fierce, nasty and selfish” Tyrannosaurus. While terrorizing a herd of small Styracosauruses, the Tyrannosaurus falls off a cliff into the ocean. Saved from drowning by a gentle and gigantic Elasmosaurus, the Tyrannosaurus lies about his true identity to his new friend. From that time on the two dinosaurs do everything together. The story reaches a climax when the Elasmosaurus is wounded by an ocean bully. The devastated Tyrannosaurus pours his heart out to his unconscious friend. Happily, the Elasmosaurus recovers and the two vow to be together “forever and ever.” Originally published in Japan in 2004, this friendship story has a strong antibullying message tempered by bold illustrations and a fablelike narrative. The flat illustrations use thick black lines and an unusually saturated yet captivating palette. Overall, the illustrations are humorous and dynamic, although occasionally the darker backgrounds make it difficult to read the black text. The narrative, which begins on the title page, has moments of wry humor, as well as touching scenes of friendship. The flow among dialogue, thoughts, and narrative is easy and natural. Owing to the lengthier text, this title is a great choice for a lower elementary read-aloud. VERDICT This unusual selection is a general purchase that will find an audience among young dinosaur lovers.–Amy Seto Forrester, Denver Public Library

Novesky, Amy. Finding Dory: Three Little Words. illus. by Grace Lee. 40p. Disney Pr. May 2016. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781484725856.

PreS-Gr 2 –Appropriate for kids, as well as a potential gift book for all ages. The motivational message—just keep swimming—is written over beautiful watercolor images based on the film Finding Dory. This offering is evocative of the “Pete the Cat” series’ positive mantras and also comparable to Barbara Kerley’s The World Is Waiting for You, as both mention troubles one might experience in life, but pair them with encouragements for readers never to give up in spite of those difficulties. VERDICT The sure-to-be-popular film and positive advice may increase demand for titles featuring the characters.–Paige Mellinger, Gwinnett County Public Library, Lawrenceville, GA

Reagan, Jean. Cómo cuidar a tu abuela. ISBN 9788416117888.

––––. Cómo cuidar a tu abuelo. ISBN 9788416117895.

ea vol: illus. by Lee Wildish. 32p. ebook available. Obelisco. Apr. 2016. Tr $17.95.

K-Gr 3 –A Castilian Spanish translation of the best-selling picture books How To Babysit a Grandma and How To Babysit a Grandpa. The titles are narrated by a nameless girl and unidentified boy, respectively, who inform readers of all the important details necessary to care for a grandparent when parents leave for the evening. The children speak directly to readers and provide lists of important grandparent snacks and activities, all the while actively engaged in the exploits they narrate. Teachers and librarians should note that the version of Spanish in this book may not be easily comprehensible for young U.S. Latin@ children, particularly for those of Mexican or Central American heritage, given its use of Iberian Spanish terms for common vocabulary words (e.g., tentempiés rather than meriendas for snacks), as well as the employment of the vosotros verb conjugation. The translation is also a bit forced at times, presenting a literal translation of the original English, rather than its meaning and effect. This factor makes the visual representation of the text in its engaging illustrations particularly important for young readers. VERDICT This translation may require significant adult assistance for children to comprehend, unless their linguistic background is Peninsular Spanish.–Ruth Quiroa, National Louis University, IL

Reich, Kass. Hamsters on the Go! illus. by Kass Reich. 24p. Orca. Mar. 2016. Board $9.95. ISBN 9781459810167.

Toddler-PreS –A concept book featuring charming and friendly pastel hamsters using a mix of typical and unexpected modes of locomotion. Traditional conveyances like a bus and train contrast with “Hamsters on a unicycle” and “Hamsters on a Moon rover.” The rhyme and repetition make this an easy title to share with babies or toddlers. The cartoon-style illustrations introduce humorous detail, as shown in the facial expressions of the hamsters and the reaching tentacle on the “and even way down low” spread, while still maintaining a simplicity appropriate for a toddler audience. VERDICT Recommended for board book collections, this is a work that caregivers will enjoy sharing.–Amanda Foulk, Sacramento Public Library

Rubin, Susan. Roy’s House. illus. by Roy Lichtenstein. 40p. Chronicle. Jun. 2016. Tr $15.99. ISBN 9781452111858.

K-Gr 4 –Pop artist Lichtenstein is best known for his larger-than-life paintings composed of dots and featuring black outlines, primary colors, and comic book themes, but it’s a photo of the sculpture House 1, created to his specifications, that opens this volume. Readers are invited to “come on in!” and take a tour of the abode, his living room, with a “great big couch,” a bedroom with “yellow pillows and lamps,” and a counter where they can sit and “have a tasty snack…maybe a hot dog in a bun.” Each highlighted room, nook, appliance, or food item is an image from a Lichtenstein oil, drawing, or screenprint. The text, which reflects the hyperbolic tone (and font) of many early comic books (and his paintings), serves to highlight the art in the book; thus the image of a ringing phone (“R-R-R-R-Ring!”) stands opposite the words “In Roy’s House, A Telephone Rings. COMPANY IS COMING!” An endnote and information on the images included fill in a few details. Steer older students to Rubin’s WHAM!: The Life and Art of Roy Lichtenstein for material on the artist’s life, influences, and processes. VERDICT While those looking for a story may be disappointed, this entry will provide children with a gallery’s worth of images by one of the 20th century’s most celebrated artists.–Daryl Grabarek, School Library Journal

Schaefer, Carole Lexa. Monkey and Elephant and the Babysitting Adventure. illus. by Galia Bernstein. 48p. Candlewick. Apr. 2016. Tr $14.99. ISBN 9780763665357.

K-Gr 2 –Best friends Monkey and Elephant embark on their final adventure. Together they volunteer to watch cousin MeeMee’s three children so she can pick up her Yum-Yum Baking Contest prize. Babysitting isn’t as easy as it seems, so they decide to come up with several rules along the way. Monkey and Elephant make one last rule for themselves and promise to stay adventure friends and of course best friends forever. The colorful digitally created images enhance the story and help guide readers through the tale. VERDICT Fans of the earlier titles will delight in Monkey and Elephant’s last escapade.–Andrea Pavlik, Huntington Public Library, NY

Spelman, Cornelia. Cuando estoy triste (Spanish Edition). illus. by Kathy Parkinson. 24p. ebook available. Obelisco. Jan. 2016. pap. $9.95. ISBN 9788416117505.

PreS-Gr 1 –This smooth translation of Spelman’s When I Feel Sad uses simple language to describe experiences common to all children. Spelman is a social worker, and in a note to parents and educators, she stresses the importance of helping children to recognize and share their own feelings. The author avoids didacticism by taking the child’s point of view on situations that can produce sadness (missing someone, losing something, feeling excluded, etc.). Parkinson clearly but subtly illustrates the characters’ feelings, giving readers an excellent starting point for conversations about emotions. VERDICT A great Spanish-language pick to discuss coping mechanisms for sadness in a classroom or one-on-one setting.–Gesse Stark-Smith, Multnomah County Library, Portland, OR

Stark, Ulf. The Midsummer Tomte and the Little Rabbits. tr. from Swedish by Susan Beard. illus. by Eva Eriksson. 120p. Floris. May 2016. Tr $24.95. ISBN 9781782502449.

K-Gr 2 –Grump the tomte feels lonely. The farm he protects has long been abandoned, and his friend the bumblebee has flown away. “I’ve been too friendly,” he thinks. “I’ve not been grumpy enough. That’s why I’m feeling sad. It’s time to make a few changes.” Changes are coming, but not the kind Grump expects. It starts with a rabbit family and their plans for a midsummer festival. Father longs for a chance to show off his hat, philosophical but forgetful Grandfather hopes to give speeches and write poems, and the others wish for dancing, food, love, and magic. When a great storm forces all the woodland animals to seek shelter at the tomte’s farm, his carefully structured, solitary life is thrown into chaos. Interwoven through the plot is the story of Rory, a newcomer rabbit who captures the affections of young Binny and the ire of Father, who cannot forgive Rory for mistaking his beloved hat for a bucket for dandelion leaves. Translated from Swedish, Stark’s tale, with its whimsical characters and engaging narrative tone, brings to mind Tove Jansson’s “Moomin” books and A.A. Milne’s “Winnie-the-Pooh” stories. The oversize format and delicate, expressive colored pencil illustrations give the work a timeless flair. VERDICT This selection’s mix of childlike wonder and kernels of wisdom will appeal to child listeners and their adult readers, making it perfect for reading aloud at bedtime.–Suzanne Myers Harold, formerly at Multnomah County Library System, Portland, OR

Sullivan, Mary. Treat. illus. by Mary Sullivan. 40p. HMH. Mar. 2016. Tr $14.99. ISBN 9780544472709.

PreS –In her follow-up to her Geisel Honor Ball, Sullivan once again tells the tale of a canine with a one-track mind, this time obsessed with getting a treat. This equally whimsical and funny volume uses the exact same format as its predecessor. The dog, this time a pudgy Boston terrier, desperately tries to draw the attention of his humans to get the object he so desperately desires. When the pup cannot attract them, he falls asleep and has a trippy dream where he is haunted by the object he wants the most, always just out of reach or held hostage by some ridiculous captor. The dog finally does wake up and gets the treat that he so rightfully deserves. Sullivan’s artwork features exuberant facial expressions and a faded color scheme, giving this offering a warm, retro feel. VERDICT Nothing new but still a wonderful experience. This is a welcome addition to the series and any collection.–Peter Blenski, Greenfield Public Library, WI

Tiscareño-Sato, Graciela. Captain Mama’s Surprise/La sorpresa de Capitan Mamá. illus. by Linda Lens. 42p. glossary. websites. Gracefully Global Group. Jul. 2016. pap. $15.99. ISBN 9780997309003. BL

K-Gr 3 –Marco’s second grade class goes on an Air Force base field trip. His mom is the navigator on an aerial refueling tanker, and the kids are excited about touring the plane and meeting the crew. In an easygoing first-person narrative, Marco describes the adventure. Everything from the refueling process to the manual landing gear crank is explained to the eager students. The smiling, accommodating crew members outline their responsibilities and the importance of working as a team. However, it is somewhat odd that the narrator’s mother fails to introduce herself or provide her rank to the children in spite of having done so for the rest of the aircrew. Lens’s simple but colorful illustrations reinforce the childlike quality of the book. Tiscareño-Sato is a Mexican American military veteran/aviator, and in this continuation of her bilingual series “Captain Mama,” the author affords young readers the opportunity to observe a coed, multiethnic crew performing their vital tasks. In addition, the final six pages include an English/Spanish glossary, a list of educational resources and their respective links, and an art/engineering project. VERDICT An accessible and positive portrayal of the mothers and people of color who serve proudly in the military; a good purchase for bilingual collections.–Mary Margaret Mercado, Pima County Public Library, Tucson, AZ

Walsh, Melanie. Isaac and His Amazing Asperger Superpowers! illus. by Melanie Walsh. 32p. websites. Candlewick. Mar. 2016. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780763681210.

PreS-Gr 2 –Walsh’s sweet and significant picture book depicts Asperger’s syndrome as a superpower that makes its protagonist, a young boy named Isaac, different than his peers. The first-person narrative frames Asperger’s syndrome in positive and cheerful way, with Isaac saying that “it just means my brain works a little differently.” The book is an accessible introduction to the syndrome for younger children, describing the positive and more challenging aspects of Isaac’s Asperger’s superpowers. For example, the narrative depicts Isaac’s wonderful memory and energy and his sensitivity to particular sounds and difficulties making eye contact. The simple, straightforward language used throughout is supported by the bright, colorful, and expressive illustrations. These images, along with the kid-friendly superhero theme, work together to craft a story that is informative and engaging. A helpful list of links about Asperger’s and autism spectrum disorder directed at educators is appended. VERDICT A very effective way to build awareness of and sensitivity toward children with Asperger’s syndrome.–Kathryn Justus, New Hartford Public School Library, CT

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Graphic Novels Xpress Reviews | August 2016 Mon, 25 Jul 2016 06:20:28 +0000 1608-Xpress-GN

Browngardt, Peter. Uncle Grandpa and the Time Casserole. illus. by Kelsey Abbot. 144p. KaBOOM!. Apr. 2016. pap. $14.99. ISBN 9781608867912.

Gr 6 Up –Based on the Cartoon Network series Uncle Grandpa and written by an Adventure Time writer, this work has the fast, zany pace of those cartoons. Uncle Grandpa and his crew, who include a talking fanny pack called Belly Bag and a sentient pizza slice named Pizza Steve, must travel back in time to gather the ingredients for a very important casserole. They travel to ancient Egypt, ancient Rome, and 1992. The scenes of the different time periods are illustrated by different artists, but all of the images are drawn in a lively cartoon style and with bright colors. The tone is absurd and satirical, and there are numerous subversive and sophisticated references. Pizza Steve scoffs at the use of melting clocks that resemble those in Salvador Dali’s The Persistence of Memory (“Reeeeeel original!” he sneers). The scenes that take place in 1992 are full of pop culture references and mentions of obsolete technology, interrupted by Uncle Grandpa “before we remind our older readers how old they are.” This title is written with this more mature audience in mind, but the pure nonsense and appealing artwork will carry along younger readers for the ride. VERDICT Tweens and teens may not get every reference, but the vibrant visuals and fast-paced humor and action will keep them interested.–Lisa Goldstein, Brooklyn Public Library

Brrémaud, Frédéric. The Lion. illus. by Federico Bertolucci. 80p. (Love). Magnetic Pr. Jun. 2016. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781942367093.

Gr 6 Up –Brrémaud continues his series (previous books include The Tiger and The Fox) with this visually stunning wordless tale of a lion searching for his pride. The author takes readers deep into the Serengeti, as the lion passes many animal families who look at him with hostility. Brrémaud makes sharp comparisons between the lion’s situation and homelessness, underscoring how primal survival is. The art pulls readers in and keeps the plot moving through close-ups of the animals’ expressions. Nothing is sugarcoated: hunger pains, gory kills, desperation, fear, and loneliness are showcased. There are also playful moments: cubs playing with an armadillo or tugging on an adult lion’s whiskers. The muted colors dramatically evoke a harsh sense of realism and match the mood of the work perfectly. There are many classroom connections, and literature classes could use this visual narrative as a starting point for writing prompts. There is one potentially confusing moment, where one lion falls off a cliff while the protagonist lion is fighting off other lions; it might take some students a few close reads to distinguish between the two lions. VERDICT Recommended for graphic novel collections, especially those where the previous two titles are popular.–Laura Dooley-Taylor, Lake Zurich Middle School North, IL

Chelsea, David. Snow Angel. illus. by David Chelsea. 122p. Dark Horse. May 2016. pap. $9.99. ISBN 9781616559403.

Gr 3 Up –Though the protagonist of this title needs cold weather in order to conjure up her super alter ego, this is a warm take on the importance of doing the right thing. Snow Angel goes by Angel when she is without her powers, and time and time again she is spurred to action. Humor and timely cultural references abound, making the positive message fun. Kids will enjoy an episode in which Snow Angel nabs a man for ignoring a “keep off the grass” sign—not realizing that he’s just robbed a bank. Young readers will relate to the heroine, whose parents disapprove of her superpowers, while parents will appreciate the emphasis on good behavior, so as not to get some “snow in the face.” A master illustrator of comics for adults as well, Chelsea conveys various situations, moods, points of view, and character expressions with minimal line work and fresh color. VERDICT A strong offering for graphic novel collections, especially those where superheroes are popular.–Jennifer Gibson, SUNY Cortland

Enna, Bruno. X-Mickey #1: In the Mirror. illus. by Alessandro Perina. 64p. (Disney Graphic Novels #2). Papercutz. Mar. 2016. pap. $7.99. ISBN 9781629914466.

Gr 3-5 –At first glance, this offering resembles a typical Disney cartoon. The style of illustration and the colors are traditional. Beautifully detailed backgrounds make readers feel like they’re part of the action. The plot, however, is another matter. This mildly spooky ghost story revolves around a haunted mirror. Somehow Minnie and Mickey end up with the trinket, and Mickey tries to get it back where it belongs, encountering alternate dimensions and odd characters that help and hinder him. The writing is disjointed, making the plot hard to follow. Dialogue is stiff and awkward at times. Bonus material, such as a comic short featuring Pipwolf, a character from the book, and a preview of a Disney Fairies graphic novel, is enjoyable. VERDICT Die-hard Disney fans will likely look beyond the poorly executed writing, but this volume will likely not draw in many new readers.–Carol Hirsche, Barnett Elementary, Payson, UT

Frampton, Otis. Oddly Normal Book 3. illus. by Otis Frampton. 136p. . Image Comics. May 2016. pap. $9.95. ISBN 9781632156921.

Gr 4-6 –Oddly Normal is anything but normal, no matter where she is. She used to live in the real world with her father, who is supposedly normal, and her mother, who is in fact a witch from the world of Fignation. Because Oddly looked just a little different, people would often tease her and she felt like she didn’t fit in. Things don’t get better when she goes to Fignation; she looks too “normal” to fit in with the supernatural beings who live there. Yet Oddly never lets it get her down. She finds a ragtag group of misfits to call her friends, including a ghost, a hunchback, and a monster boy who is constantly losing his appendages. Together they try to navigate the routine trials of childhood, such as peer acceptance and homework. They also look for information that might help them find Oddly’s missing parents. Strangely enough, their questions often lead right back to their strange new teacher. Readers might feel a little bit lost at first if they haven’t read the previous two volumes, but this tale does stand on its own, and newcomers might be inspired to seek out previous installments. The artist’s colorful and quirky art is perfect for his story. The palette enhances the atmospheric emotion of the narrative, while the panel layout adds to the sense of action. VERDICT Fans of Frank Cammuso’s “Salem Hyde” and Mike Maihack’s “Cleopatra in Space” series will find another entertaining adventure here.–Carol Hirsche, Barnett Elementary, Payson, UT

Fridolfs, Derek. Clarence: Chicken Phantom. illus. by J.J. Harrison. 144p. KaBOOM!. May 2016. pap. $14.99. ISBN 9781608867929.

Gr 3-5 –Clarence, the titular star of a Cartoon Network show, goes away to camp with friends and fellow Chicken Scouts Jeff and Sumo. By the end of camp, they hope to earn enough merit badges to go from Eggs to Chicken Hawks. During a camping trip in the woods, the kids find out about a hidden treasure and learn of the dangers of the Chicken Phantom, a vengeful, immortal chicken. A parody of sleepaway camps and scout programs, this title is full of absurd and slapstick humor, much of which derives from the interaction among Clarence, Jeff, and Sumo. Written and illustrated by the Adventure Time creators, this title lacks some of that series’s sophisticated subversion. All three of the main characters are characterized by simplistic stereotypes: Sumo is skinny and conniving; Jeff is tall and athletic and a sanctimonious stickler; and Clarence is overweight, greedy, and naive. The cartoon illustrations have a flat style similar to that of The Simpsons and Family Guy but lose some appeal and expression when they aren’t animated. VERDICT Hand only to avid fans of the TV show.–Lisa Goldstein, Brooklyn Public Library

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YA Xpress Reviews | August 2016 Mon, 25 Jul 2016 06:00:55 +0000 1608-Xpress-YA

Baksh, Imam. Children of the Spider. 208p. Blouse & Skirt. Jul. 2016. pap. $12.95. ISBN 9789768267016.

Gr 7 Up –Desperate to find her father in an unknown land, Mayali flees the only home she has ever known to search for him. When she arrives in Zolpash, a land that is consumed by harsh weather and suffocating sulphur, Mayali meets Joseph, a mute boy. Upon meeting him, Mayali discovers that although he cannot speak, he communicates with her in other ways—through his mind. This comes as a surprise to both of the children, as they had not had this silent ability previously. Soon, strange things begin to emerge. Mayali is confronted by creatures that seem unreal and threaten to destroy her world. This leads Mayali and Joseph to embark on a cross-country adventure to save Earth from the invading Spider gods and their armies. The settings are described in visualized detail as the author merges colonial times with the harsh, contemporary world. This adventure fantasy won an award in 2015 for Caribbean Literature. The dialect might be difficult for some readers, but strong fantasy readers will want to pull through. VERDICT For collections that are lacking literature from Caribbean myth and mythology.–Amy Caldera, Dripping Springs Middle School, Dripping Springs, TX

Lou, Rachel. The Bridge. 224p. ebook available. Harmony Ink. Jun. 2016. ebk. $6.99. ISBN 9781634768832.

Gr 8 Up –Seventeen-year-old Everett Hallman learns that he is a special kind of witch: a Bridge Master. When ghosts are ready to leave our world, they find a Bridge Master to help them cross over from our world into the afterlife. Everett’s unique powers put him in danger from witches who might hope to exploit his ability to transcend the bridge. One night, Everett follows a supernatural trail that leads him to the local Korean dojang, where strange paranormal activity hints at a darker presence. To investigate further, Everett signs up for private tae kwon do lessons from Bryce, a cute boy who Everett suspects is far more than he seems. This short novel has two main plot points: Everett’s budding romance with Bryce and the paranormal mystery at the dojang. The romance is sweet and unfolds slowly, as it likely would between two boys unsure if their romantic feelings are reciprocated. Adult characters’ discomfort with Everett and Bryce’s romantic relationship has more to do with disrupting the paranormal world than with the fact that the boys are gay. Though the mystery has potential, interesting plot threads, such as the haunted forest and the witch lore stories, remained unexplored. Motivations of the “bad” characters are fuzzy, and the lackluster world-building will leave readers with more questions than answers. VERDICT Recommended for readers who value romance and character development over solid world-building.–Leigh Collazo, Dulwich College, Suzhou, China

Parker, Amy Christine. Smash & Grab. 384p. ebook available. Random. Jul. 2016. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780553533828.

Gr 8 Up –When rich girl Lexi jumps off the roof of a skyscraper, her latest in a series of thrilling risks, she lands on the hood of a stolen car driven by bad boy Christian. He is being coerced into robbing banks by the Mexican mafia; he wants to take advantage of his full scholarship to UCLA, but the mob doesn’t want to let him, and his bank-robbing skills, go. Lexi’s father is arrested for extortion and fraud, and Lexi is convinced that her father’s business partner is behind it. She goes undercover at her father’s job to find evidence against Harrison, the partner, and unexpectedly runs into Christian again—as he’s robbing a bank. Both teens realize that they need—and can use—the other as they begin working together to scope out the bank for the mafia’s robbery and to gather evidence against Harrison. Complicating things is the undeniable attraction Lexi and Christian feel for each other: Can they trust each other? Fans of Julia Durango’s The Leveller and Jennifer Lynn Barnes’s The Fixer will flock to this novel for its cool Ocean’s 11 references and strong, layered main characters. VERDICT Purchase where spy thrillers fly off the shelves.–Amanda C. Buschmann, Atascocita Middle School, Humble, TX

Robertson, Sadie with Cindy Coloma. Life Just Got Real. 288p. (Live Original Fiction). ebook available. Howard Bks. Jun. 2016. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781501126468.

Gr 7-10 –This title tells the stories of two teen girls in alternating points of view. One is rich; the other is not. One is new in town; the other is the established queen of the school. The one thing AJ and Kate have in common is that neither one is quite sure that she wants to be the costar of a new reality show they are being pressured to participate in. Throw in some classes, prom, and, of course, a little romance, and you get what amounts to a very typical YA book, albeit with a strong dose of Christianity. Nearly every trope is included—a goth who gets a makeover, a rich girl who learns a lesson. The thin plot is predictable, the characters are flat, and the writing is unsophisticated. The 18-year-old author, Robertson, is famous from reality television, and her fans will want to pick this up. VERDICT Only purchase if Duck Dynasty has a large following and where her previous title is popular. Otherwise, this is one to skip.–Sarah Jones, Clinton-Macomb Public Library, MI

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Middle Grade Xpress Reviews | August 2016 Mon, 25 Jul 2016 06:00:32 +0000 1608-Xpress-MiddleGrade

Block, F.L. My Miserable Life. illus. by Edward Hemingway. 192p. Holt. Jun. 2016. Tr $13.99. ISBN 9780805096286.

Gr 3-5 –Ben Hunter, a fifth grader, is convinced that he is having a miserable life. His sister hates him, his mother won’t let him eat sugar, his dog acts like it’s possessed by a demon, and his best friend is taken by his worst enemy. As the story unfolds, readers see Ben overcome his various obstacles with the help of a caring teacher. The novel is told through Ben’s voice, along with journal entries and his teacher’s responses. Block allows readers to peer deep inside Ben’s head, enabling them to truly understand and feel what he is going through. While very humorous, the narrative also touches on some tougher, more realistic issues that children face every day at school and at home. The language is straightforward and accessible. VERDICT A solid additional purchase for larger middle grade collections, especially where readers are looking for a “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” read-alike with a bit more substance.–Danielle Fabrizio, Swanton Public Library, VT

Buckley, Andrew. Hair in All the Wrong Places. 237p. ebook available. Month9Books. Jun. 2016. pap. $15. ISBN 9781942664987.

Gr 5-8 –Like most 13-year-olds going through puberty, Colin Strauss has to deal with extra hair, body odor, and growth spurts, but turning into a fledgling werewolf makes things a lot more complicated. Forced to live with his bitter grandmother because his high-powered lawyer parents couldn’t be bothered with him, Colin slumps through eighth grade, constantly bullied, harassed by figures of authority, and convinced that he is a total loser. A turbulent and hazy night changes all of this when he gets bitten by a werewolf. Fellow middle schoolers will commiserate with Colin’s life challenges. Secondary characters are well-developed, as are the supernatural elements of the story. However, the pace of the first half of the novel often makes it difficult to understand what is happening, requiring frequent rereads. Once the plot is established, though, it is a real page-turner right up until the satisfying end. Several unrealistic characters border on hyperbolic, such as a hired principal who has “absolutely no qualifications,” a teacher who has “a particular hatred for students and other teachers,” and the only doctor in town, “a notorious drunk who [is] just as likely to fall asleep during an appointment, as he [is] to diagnose the common cold as Ebola.” There are explanations for some of this behavior revealed later on, but most of the adults encountered in this work are cruel and incompetent. VERDICT Hand this one to students interested in supernatural creatures of all kinds, light romance, humor, and action.–Carina Gonzalez, Lawrence High School, NJ

Ende, Michael. Momo. tr. from German by Lucas Zwirner. illus. by Marcel Dzama. 316p. McSweeney’s. Aug. 2013. Tr $22. ISBN 9781938073144.

Gr 5-7 –A reissued classic celebrating its 40th anniversary from the author of The Neverending Story. This is a classic fantasy novel whose title character is a young girl of mysterious origin, a most loved orphan living in present-day anywhere (but probably a small village in Italy). Momo doesn’t know how old she is but says, “As far as I remember, I’ve always been around,” and she has built strong friendships with her fellow villagers based on her extraordinary listening ability. Around the time the mysterious men in gray start appearing, Momo’s friends start to have less time to spend enjoying life or hanging out with her. Momo sets out to get her friends and their time back. The tale of Momo is driven by its plot and moves at a comfortable pace, engaging readers as if they are villagers in the story. Ende is a captivating storyteller, and this edition of the book includes occasional illustrations, adding a bit of shaping and mood to the descriptions. Some mild profanity may make this selection unsuitable for more sensitive readers. VERDICT Sure to delight readers of classic fantasy.–Sara Jurek, Children’s English Library, Stuttgart, Germany

Fayers, Claire. The Voyage to Magical North. 320p. Holt. Jul. 2016. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781627794206.

Gr 3-7 –Brine has no recollection of her family or of why she was abandoned on a rowboat three years earlier, and at 12, she is unhappily cleaning house for the magician Magus. She and magic don’t get along, however—she’s allergic to it. She might as well be allergic to Magus’s annoying apprentice, Peter, too. All that interests her are the books in her mentor’s library. When Magus plans to give both children away to the richest man on the island, the kids take a boat and escape, only to end up in the path of notorious pirates who are not quite as terrible as legend tells. Brine and Peter quickly learn that it takes hard work to keep a ship afloat as well as the ins and outs of becoming (and staying) friends. The beautiful cover design reflects the charming adventure within; this multilayered fantasy handles a variety of themes, including the meaning of family, the ability of power to corrupt, and the importance of stories. VERDICT Upper elementary and younger middle grade fans of Lynne Jonell’s The Sign of the Cat will be enchanted by Brine’s high seas adventure.–Kerry Sutherland, Akron-Summit County Public Library, OH

McNiff, Dawn. Worry Magic. 256p. Bonnier Zaffre. Jun. 2016. pap. $9.99. ISBN 9781471403712.

Gr 4-6 –Courtney worries. She worries that her mum can’t get a job and keeps bringing home animals from the shelter they can’t afford. She worries that her dad is always angry. She worries that her best friend Lois doesn’t like her anymore and wants to be friends with horrible Bex. She worries that her loving, caring grandmother, who lives next door, won’t come back from the hospital. She worries that her dad has a girlfriend. She worries so much, she finds a way to use magic to change the bad situations for good. When Mum and Dad yell about a pig in the house, Courtney dreams about Mum bringing the pig back to the shelter and getting pizza. When she awakens, she discovers that’s exactly what happened! Courtney believes so strongly in her “worry magic,” she thinks she can make Gran well again. Not everything is resolved neatly in the end, but readers will know that Courtney and her family will be okay with a little work. Briticisms might be confusing for some readers, but they lend an authentic feel to the story, which is set in an English town. VERDICT A relatable novel for tween readers, with the right amount of drama and British flavor.–Clare A. Dombrowski, Amesbury Public Library, MA

PAULS , Chris & Matt Solomon. The Giant Smugglers. 288p. Feiwel & Friends. May 2016. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781250066527.

Gr 4-8 –Charlie Lawson befriends a giant and names him Bruce. The local bully, whose dad works for Accelerton and is looking for the giant so that he can develop a formula to enhance growth in humans, has it out for the pair. Then there is Hank, who is trying to move the giant to a safe haven. Finally, there is Charlie’s brother, Tim, who works for a traveling carnival and happens to be a giant-smuggler. Charlie is intent on saving Bruce and keeping him safe. The story moves at a quick pace as Charlie is involved in several dangerous altercations and high-speed chases. Though some of the bad guys may be stereotypical, the authors do not talk down to their readers as they paint a vivid picture of Charlie’s trials and triumphs. VERDICT Middle schoolers with a need for action and adventure will scoop up this title.–Elizabeth Kahn, Patrick F. Taylor Science & Technology Academy, Avondale, LA

Yelchin, Eugene. The Haunting of Falcon House. illus. by Eugene Yelchin. 320p. Holt. Jun. 2016. Tr $15.99. ISBN 9780805098457.

Gr 5-8 –When called to live in his family’s ancestral home in St. Petersburg, Russia, 12-year-old Prince Lev is apprehensive. Becoming heir to a foreboding estate that he’s never seen is daunting enough, and it is his first time leaving his mother. Add an aunt who can be harsh to say the least, the misrepresented memories of his glorified grandfather, and a night in a haunted study, and it’s no surprise that Prince Lev is slightly anxious. But he soon develops a friendship with a mysterious boy who is hardly what he seems. Through a cast of thoroughly quirky characters (with often conflicting accounts), Lev learns the truth about his not-so-honorable grandfather, uncovering some unsettling family secrets and freeing the household from possession along the way. Yelchin introduces czarist Russia to young readers through the use of endnotes and footnotes, a novel albeit uncommon method for this readership. While enlightening, much of the historical content will be missed by children unfamiliar with this technique. Readers will enjoy the budding friendship, and the ghost story/mystery is compelling. Absolutely nothing is overlooked—from plot similarities in the author’s introduction to the haunting illustrations, which appear to be drawn by the protagonist. Certainly a different sort of book, this is one that takes time to digest and fully appreciate. VERDICT A unique historical mystery from a celebrated children’s writer and illustrator; a great option for classroom discussion and a jumping-off point for further exploration of Russian history.–Rebecca Gueorguiev, New York Public Library

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The Best Man by Richard Peck | SLJ Review Fri, 22 Jul 2016 14:00:06 +0000 Peck, Richard. The Best Man. 240p. Dial. Sept. 2016. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780803738393. 

Gr 4-6 –The inimitable Peck frames his latest novel with weddings. Opening with a flashback to a hilariously disastrous wedding when Archer Magill was in first grade, the book closes with a significantly more staid one that occurs when he is in sixth grade. Most of the story, though, takes place between these two events, during Archer’s fifth grade year. A military-based student [...]]]> redstarPeck, Richard. The Best Man. 240p. Dial. Sept. 2016. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780803738393. MG-Peck-The Best Man

Gr 4-6 –The inimitable Peck frames his latest novel with weddings. Opening with a flashback to a hilariously disastrous wedding when Archer Magill was in first grade, the book closes with a significantly more staid one that occurs when he is in sixth grade. Most of the story, though, takes place between these two events, during Archer’s fifth grade year. A military-based student teacher both disrupts Archer’s class and enriches it, as does a new student who uses a wheelchair and comes from a British aristocratic background. High jinks abound, but so does serious content; in response to antigay bullying, Mr. McLeod gives the students a lecture in which he publicly outs himself, a particularly poignant moment. Outside school, Archer also shares daily adventures with his car-loving father, his grandfather (an elderly architect whose work is all over town), and his uncle Paul, whose romantic interest in Mr. McLeod might just well lead to another wedding. Here, the Newbery Award–winning author explores what it means to love and what it means to be a man. VERDICT A modern, funny, and realistic tale featuring strong, nuanced, and unforgettable characters. An essential addition for middle grade collections.–Jill Ratzan, Congregation Kol Emet, Yardley, PA

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

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The Uncorker of Ocean Bottles by Michelle Cuevas | SLJ Review Fri, 22 Jul 2016 13:30:24 +0000 Cuevas, Michelle. The Uncorker of Ocean Bottles. illus. by Erin E. Stead. 40p. Dial. Aug. 2016. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780803738683.  

K-Gr 2 –A man who lives at the seashore has a unique—but lonely—job. The Uncorker of Ocean Bottles spends his days watching the waves for a glint of glass and delivering messages near and far. His only companions are an orange tabby cat and a cow. Befitting the slightly melancholy tone, Cuevas’s text is appropriately [...]]]> redstarCuevas, Michelle. The Uncorker of Ocean Bottles. illus. by Erin E. Stead. 40p. Dial. Aug. 2016. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780803738683.  The Uncorker of Ocean Bottles

K-Gr 2 –A man who lives at the seashore has a unique—but lonely—job. The Uncorker of Ocean Bottles spends his days watching the waves for a glint of glass and delivering messages near and far. His only companions are an orange tabby cat and a cow. Befitting the slightly melancholy tone, Cuevas’s text is appropriately lyrical (“Sometimes the messages were very old, crunchy like leaves in the fall. Sometimes the messages were written by a quill dipped in sadness.”). When he discovers a bottle with an invitation to a party the next evening—with no recipient specified—the Uncorker is curious. After asking the maker of cakes, the candy shop owner, several townspeople, a seagull, and a one-man band if they recognize the handwriting (no one does, though they all profess a desire to attend such a party), the Uncorker decides to go to the event himself in hopes of returning the message to the original author. Lightly textured oil pastels in shades of warm tangerine and cool turquoise suggest a dreamy landscape of fog, waves, sand, and sun. But it’s Stead’s people and animals that tug the heartstrings. Like gentle zookeeper Amos McGee and the patient young explorer in If You Want To See a Whale, Stead’s characters exude an endearing vulnerability and quirky charm. Though the impromptu celebration on the seashore at sundown won’t necessarily come as a surprise, the message about connection and community is beautifully delivered. VERDICT A perfect pairing of text and art. Share this quiet story with your wishers and dreamers.–Kiera Parrott, School Library Journal

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

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Symptoms of Being Human by Jeff Garvin | SLJ Audio Review Fri, 22 Jul 2016 13:00:38 +0000 GARVIN, Jeff. Symptoms of Being Human. ­­7 CDs. 7:47 hrs. HarperAudio. Feb. 2016. $21.99. ISBN 9780062447258. digital download. 

Gr 9 Up –“The first thing you’re going to want to know about me is: Am I a boy, or am I a girl?” Keep wondering: Riley Cavanaugh isn’t answering. Riley is gender-fluid, information only Riley’s psychiatrist is privy to while Riley’s conservative congressman father and teacher mother remain clueless. Between medications and therapy, Riley is struggling to just live life. [...]]]> redstarGARVIN, Jeff. Symptoms of Being Human. ­­7 CDs. 7:47 hrs. HarperAudio. Feb. 2016. $21.99. ISBN 9780062447258. digital download. Symptoms of Being Human by Jeff Garvin

Gr 9 Up –“The first thing you’re going to want to know about me is: Am I a boy, or am I a girl?” Keep wondering: Riley Cavanaugh isn’t answering. Riley is gender-fluid, information only Riley’s psychiatrist is privy to while Riley’s conservative congressman father and teacher mother remain clueless. Between medications and therapy, Riley is struggling to just live life. When Doctor Ann suggests Riley might choose an activity “to stop thinking about you so much,” Riley reluctantly tries blogging—as Alix. A life-or-death incident involving a desperate teen takes the blog viral, drawing both support and attacks. Among the trolls is a possible schoolmate determined to viciously expose Riley. Debut author Garvin blends snark and poignancy, anguish and hope, deception and authenticity, in a timely narrative about contemporary teen life beyond binary norms. Casting a distinctly male voice, Tom Phelan, is not an obvious choice: Riley was designated female at birth and is not taking hormones and is therefore unlikely to sound like Phelan. How differently Riley presents on the silent page vs. audibly is intriguing to ponder. VERDICT A rule-breaking, gender-illuminating, pioneering audiobook every library should acquire. [“Recommended for any library that serves a teen population”: SLJ 12/15 review of the Balzer + Bray book.]–Terry Hong, Smithsonian BookDragon, Washington, DC

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

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Teens Review Twisty Plots and Summer Romances Fri, 22 Jul 2016 11:51:20 +0000 You've Got Mail, the latest books covered by the Kitsap YA group are titles perfect for reading by the poolside or on much-needed beach days.]]> From a murderous plot to a modern twist on You’ve Got Mail, the latest books covered by the Kitsap YA group are titles perfect for reading by the poolside or on much-needed beach days.

7 27 16 killer in meHARRISON, Margot. The Killer in Me. Disney. Jul. 2016. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781484727997
Gr 9 Up–
I liked the way that the cover looked and I think it adds suspense because you’re like ”why does she have a shovel? Did she kill someone?” It was very detailed and I enjoyed the characters and the character development. Some of the plot didn’t make sense and it felt like a few characters and scenes didn’t belong in the story.

If teens like psychopaths and mystery then this is for them. None of that sappy Twilight romance crap.—Trudy R., 16

HIRSCH, Jeff. Black River Falls. Clarion. Jul. 2016. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780544390997.               
Gr 7 Up–I liked how intriguing the cover is. The title makes me wonder if it means that Black River falls, as in, gets destroyed, or if it refers to a waterfall.

I like the plot, because it shows who people could have been under different circumstances. Like Greer used to be a bully, but then turns into a really kind counselor. Mr. Tommasulo used to be a kind-hearted crossing guard, but then turned into a mean guy who tried to trick people into thinking he was their husband.

7 27 16 black river fallsThe ending was confusing with how he goes to the scientist and gets tested and stuff, but then doesn’t give him the letter telling him how to change the virus. Once I understood the ending, though, I liked it.—Kaitlyn H., 13


Cardinal is trying to forget. He’s surrounded by people who don’t know who they are or where they came from. If given the opportunity, will he chose to forget?

The plot twist near the end of the book surprised me. I thoroughly enjoyed the book. There definitely needs to be a second book. I was disappointed that the book ended.—Alexandra M., 17

STAMPLER, Laura. Little Black Dresses, Little White Lies. Simon Pulse. Jul. 2016. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781481459891
Gr 7 Up–
Harper got her dream internship at Shift, one of the biggest teen magazines. But she didn’t get the position she asked for but instead became the dating blogger. Harper, unknown to her boss, has no dating experience whatsoever. The story she used to get the job was about her best friend’s hook up. Not that her bestie knows that either. In New York she is living the “fake it until you make it,” to heart. With the help of her best friend and a dog walker can she survive the big city?

I think the cover is amazing. The notebook made it work for me. Without the notebook I feel like the cover wouldn’t explain the main character in the right way, a girl who isn’t super flirtatious. I love the fact that the skyline is also included.

I love how all of the characters interacted. There are a bunch of girls who don’t know each other and the only thing that really connects them all together is that they all have an internship at the company as journalists for different sections. At first, they don’t all get along and tight bonds grow between some girls but it doesn’t feel unnatural. Sometimes when authors write about a bunch of girls like this it seems like everyone is against one person and they all get along perfectly. In this book they show that not all of girls get along together perfectly and it isn’t completely all against one.

At the very end were everything goes wrong it can be hard to continue reading the book. At the end I had to take the book by each page because I was just cringing for the main character. I almost think that too many things went wrong. If one of the things that went wrong was just a little less important, it might have been easier to read.—Samantha A., 15

7 27 16 little black dressesANOTHER TAKE

I liked the cover. I think it fit the plot of the story and I think it was artsy chic to have it drawn rather than a photo like most YA books have.

I really loved the inside look at what goes on in a publishing office. That magazine publishers have to have all kinds of workers. Employees work online, in print, social media, and blogging. The storyline was very realistic in what it’s like to really become a different person in a different culture.

Getting to learn about a girls experience in the publishing world is really interesting. There are so many different areas to work in that world. The drama isn’t overly dramatic and it seems like it could really happen and I think a lot of people will be able to easily relate to the characters.—Jane E., 13

WEST, Kasie. P.S. I Like You. Scholastic/Point. Jul. 2016. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780545850971.
Gr 7 Up–I’m what you might call socially awkward. I get nervous when I talk to people and Cade Jennings, the school jerk, doesn’t help my problems. I haaaattttteeeee him, and vice versa. Brinnnnnngggg. That’s the bell, time for the most boring class ever, chemistry. But don’t worry, I have a secret. I’m secretly writing to an anonymous pen pal, but who is it?

I fell in love with this cover because it is so cute! I love how West pulled the name right out of a conversation the main characters were having, as well as the lines on the back.

The most compelling part of this book is the characters because I feel like Lily Abbot is really relatable. The only part that I was disappointed with was that the identity of the anonymous pen pal was pretty predictable but I loved everything else.—Madelyn H., 14

7 27 16 ps i like youANOTHER TAKE

I really liked the unique storyline that was different from other YA romance novels. The story began with notes being exchanged under the desk, and as the main character Lily tried to find a romance of her own, none of them worked out because she realized she was falling for the letter writer. The letter writer made things more complicated because it was a guy she knew and had a strong history with.

The cover was ok. It was a cute, eye catching cover and I liked that part, but I don’t think it really explained the book. I liked how they were covering themselves up with a different expression (a metaphor for hiding who they are), but since the whole story really revolved around a growing relationship based on letter exchange, I wish there would have been some sort of bigger connection to the letters with the cover.

The characters really come to life in this book, and you really see that everyone isn’t one-sided. Everyone has a history or past, and they play different roles sometimes depending on the situation.

Often you find that YA realistic fiction novels have a very generic storyline that you just see variations of in different books. This book is definitely unique. It shows how people hide behind masks, disguising who they really are, but when you anonymously begin to open yourself up to someone, then who find out who you really are, and who they are and your opinion of them might change.

I have read all of West’s books, and I have really enjoyed every single one of them. They all are so different and have unexpected plots that keep you interested and invested in the characters.—Jane E., 13

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Screen Gems: High-Quality Picture Ebooks and Apps for Tots Thu, 21 Jul 2016 21:30:04 +0000 1607Gems-APPs-TN In a time when babies and toddlers often lounge in strollers while glued to electronic devices, what’s a librarian to do? Proclaiming “No electronics in early learning land!” isn’t practical—or advisable. Better to purchase ebooks and iPads, and select age-appropriate, high-quality apps to share with tots.

Many of us in schools and public libraries do this already. But more of us could be engaging parents and caregivers in conversations about early learning and electronics. We should be teaching them, as the Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC) suggests in a white paper, how to be “media mentors” and educating them to make smart app and ebook choices for the under-five set.

Here are some questions you can ask yourself and discuss with parents: Is the app age appropriate? Is it intuitive for young learners? Is it free of gender or cultural bias? Are there multiple language options for dual-language families? Can the young user control the music or turn it off?

These queries can help you assess whether a picture ebook or app meets the high-quality mark for early learning. This summer, share one or two from this list with parents and caregivers, and start a media conversation.


Picture Ebooks to Share

Barton, Byron. Trucks (Oceanhouse. iOS, $1.99).

Children can explore Barton’s signature art, see trucks in action, learn related vocabulary, and personalize the story with their own narration.

Boynton, Sandra. Moo, Baa, La La La (Loud Crow, iOS, Android, $3.99).
There’s everything to love about the silly farm animals in this classic Boynton title. Tots can hear the story being read aloud while they tap or swipe each animal to generate a “moo,” “baa,” or “la la la” at the appropriate time.

Christelow, Eileen. Five Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed (Oceanhouse, iOS, Android, $2.99).
Youngsters can listen to this story or read it independently. They can also click on the pictures to listen and learn words.

Crews, Donald. Freight Train (HarperCollins, iOS, $.99).
This fully interactive app takes children on an exciting train trip that introduces them to colors, numbers, and words, while featuring the lively sights and sounds of the railroad.

SEUSs, Dr. Mr. Brown Can Moo, Can You? (Oceanhouse, iOS, Android, $3.99).
This was the first of Dr. Seuss’s titles to be appified. Young kids can tap, swipe, and narrate their own stories. They’ll learn new vocabulary by tapping pictures, following highlighted narration, and listening to the story as it is read aloud.

Sesame Street. The Monster at the End of This Book (Sesame Workshop, iOS, $4.99).
This classic gets a creative jolt with the addition of sound, interactivity, and literal bells and whistles. Children will laugh as Grover becomes increasingly desperate to prevent readers from reaching the end of the story.

LOGUE, Mary, and Pamela Zagarenski. Sleep Like a Tiger (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, iOS, $12.99).
The ebook version of 2013 Caldecott Honor title Sleep Like a Tiger has a gentle narration and all the wonder of Zagarenski’s mixed-media illustrations, offering a road map to slumber. Youngsters can pore over the details each time they read/listen to the ebook as a beautiful bedtime ritual.

RINKER, Sherri Duskey, and Tom Lichtenheld. Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site (Oceanhouse, iOS, $2.99).
Readers will enjoy the poetically simple text and interactive illustrations in this faithful rendition of the best-selling picture book. The option to record their own narration to the pictures builds creativity and vocabulary.

The Three Little Pigs (Nosy Crow, iOS, $4.99).
Narrated by children, this ebook has the perfect balance of pizzazz, entertainment, and educational value. The 3-D art makes the illustrations pop in differing perspectives. Look for the spider and bunny that appear on virtually every page as they follow the three pigs on their misadventures with a not-so-scary wolf. Blow in the microphone to try and blow down the pigs’ houses.

1607Gems_Presshere1607Gems_Pat-the-Bunny 1607Gems_How-Rocket-Learned-to-Read1607Gems_DontLet-the-PigeonRun1607Gems_MyVeryHungryCaterpillar

Picture Book Apps

TULLET, Hervé. Press Here (Chronicle Books, iOS, $1.99).
Living up to the creativity of the book, this open-ended app allows children multiple interactions, all unique and based in imaginative play. Users can follow and manipulate blue, yellow, and red dots as they shrink, change shape, disappear, and reappear. Different outcomes guarantee that this app will get repeat visits.

KUNHARDT, Dorothy. Pat the Bunny (Penguin Random, iOS, $3.99; Android, $2.99).
Tots can play hide-and-seek with the bunny, create music, pop bubbles, catch butterflies, and more in 14 interactive scenes based on this story, now 75 years young.

HILLS, Tad. How Rocket Learned to Read (Penguin Random, iOS, $4.99).
Featuring Tad Hill’s adorable artwork and original story, this app stars pup Rocket in a more interactive setting. The story can be listened to or read independently. Additional early literacy games are included.

WILLEMS, Mo. Don’t Let the Pigeon Run This App (Disney, iOS, $5.99).
Hilarity ensues whenever Willems’s pigeon is around. With a high engagement factor and an even higher laugh factor, this app, voiced by Willems himself, will have preschoolers creating silly stories over and over.

CARLE, Eric. My Very Hungry Caterpillar (StoryToys, iOS, Android, $3.99).
The iconic story isn’t retold here; rather, children interact with the caterpillar in a digital, nature-filled playground with sound and music. The structure and pace is unhurried—perfect for slow exploration. After five days of play, the caterpillar builds a chrysalis and turns into a butterfly that joins the playground. Children can begin exploring again by tapping on a new caterpillar egg.

1607Gems_Metamorphabet 1607Gems_Mother-Goose-on-the-Loose 1607Gems_Axel-Schefflers-Flip-Flap 1607Gems_Zoo-Animals-Touch-Look-Listen

Early Learning Apps

Metamorphabet (Vectorpark; iOS, Android, $3.99).
The 26 letters of the alphabet morph into more than 90 words and objects in this interactive app. Users transform letters with a drag, a poke, a spin, or other movement. A clear voice pronounces each word after the letters become objects.

Mother Goose on the Loose Feltboard (Software Smoothie; iOS, free).
Youngsters can build nursery rhyme knowledge while singing their favorites verses and playing with characters on a felt board. Tots can even create their own narratives by combining characters from different rhymes.

Axel Scheffler’s Flip Flap Farm (Nosy Crow; iOS, $.99).
Create unique farm animals with the swipe of a tiny finger, and hear rhyming poems about them. With more than 100 possible combinations of flaps that contain verses, this app will get creative juices flowing.

Zoo Animals: Touch, Look, Listen (StoryToys, iOS, Android, $1.99). Introduce early learners to more than 60 animals from around the world. This app features crisp photographs, clear narration, and the option to label photos in English, Spanish, Chinese, French, or German.

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SLJ’s Starred Reviews | July 2016 Thu, 21 Jul 2016 16:46:50 +0000 The Female of the Species, there's something for every reader in July's list of starred titles.]]> 1607-StarCvs-1Picture Books

Becker, Aaron. Return. illus. by author. Candlewick. Aug. 2016. p. 51.

Empson, Jo. Little Home Bird. illus. by author. Child’s Play. Jul. 2016. p. 54.

Gandhi, Arun & Bethany Hegedus. Be the Change: A Grandfather Gandhi Story. illus. by Evan Turk. S. & S./Atheneum. Aug. 2016. p. 54.

Godwin, Laura. Owl Sees Owl. illus. by Rob Dunlavey. Random/Schwartz & Wade. Sept. 2016. p. 55.

Goldsaito, Katrina. The Sound of Silence. illus. by Julia Kuo. Little, Brown. Aug. 2016. p. 55.

Hutchins, Pat. Where, Oh Where, Is Rosie’s Chick? illus. by author. S. & S. Aug. 2016. p. 56.

Jeffers, Oliver & Sam Winston. A Child of Books. illus. by authors. Candlewick. Sept. 2016. p. 56.

John, Jory. Quit Calling Me a Monster! illus. by Bob Shea. Random. Aug. 2016. p. 57.

Stringer, Lauren. Yellow Time. illus. by author. S. & S./Beach Lane. Sept. 2016. p. 61.

Chapter Books

Medina, Juana. Juana and Lucas. illus. by author. Candlewick. Sept. 2016. p. 63.

1607-StarCvs-2Middle Grade

Barnhill, Kelly. The Girl Who Drank the Moon. Algonquin. Aug. 2016. p. 64.

Bruchac, Joseph. Talking Leaves. Dial. Aug. 2016. p. 65.

Creech, Sharon. Moo. HarperCollins. Aug. 2016. p. 65.

Grimes, Nikki. Garvey’s Choice. Boyds Mills/Wordsong. Oct. 2016. p. 66.

LaFleur, Suzanne. Beautiful Blue World. Random/Wendy Lamb Bks. Sept. 2016. p. 68.

Magoon, Kekla. Rebellion of Thieves. Bloomsbury. Oct. 2016. p. 70. POP

Peck, Richard. The Best Man. Dial. Sept. 2016. p. 71.

Reeve, Philip. Railhead. Capstone/Switch. Apr. 2016. XPRESS

Stewart, Trenton Lee. The Secret Keepers. illus. by Diana Sudyka. Little, Brown. Sept. 2016. p. 72.


CÓrdova, Zoraida. Labyrinth Lost. Sourcebooks/Fire. Sept. 2016. p. 81. POP

Garner, Paula. Phantom Limbs. Candlewick. Sept. 2016. p. 81.

Girard, M-E. Girl Mans Up. HarperCollins/ HarperTeen. Sept. 2016. p. 82.

McGinnis, Mindy. The Female of the Species. HarperCollins/Katherine Tegen Bks. Sept. 2016. p. 83.

1607-StarCvs-3Graphic Novels

Pilkey, Dav. Dog Man. illus. by author. Scholastic/Graphix. Sept. 2016. p. 63. POP


Eamer, Claire. Inside Your Insides: A Guide to the Microbes That Call You Home. illus. by Marie-Ève Tremblay. Kids Can. Sept. 2016. p. 92.

Gianferrari, Maria. Coyote Moon. illus. by Bagram Ibatoulline. Roaring Brook. Jul. 2016. p. 92.

Levy, Debbie. I Dissent: Ruth Bader Ginsburg Makes Her Mark. illus. by Elizabeth Baddeley. S. & S. Sept. 2016. p. 94.

Rockliff, Mara. Around America To Win the Vote: Two Suffragists, a Kitten, and 10,000 Miles. illus. by Hadley Hooper. Candlewick. Aug. 2016. p. 95. POP

Slade, Suzanne. The Music in George’s Head: George Gershwin Creates Rhapsody in Blue. illus. by Stacy Innerst. Calkins Creek. Sept. 2016. p. 96.

Adult Books 4 Teens

Rivera, Gabby. Juliet Takes a Breath. Riverdale Avenue. Jan. 2016. p. 90.


Marthers, Janet & Paul Marthers. Follow Your Interests To Find the Right College. Wheatmark. Dec. 2015. p. 47.

Super Bug Encyclopedia. DK. Apr. 2016. p. 48.


Last Stop on Market Street. Dist. by Dreamscape. 2016. p. 38. POP

Big Voice. Dist. by the Video Project. 2015. p. 40.

Oyler. 56 min. Dist. by the Video Project. 2015. p. 41.


Andrews, Jesse. The Haters. Listening Library. Apr. 2016. p. 44.

Berry, Julie. The Passion of Dolssa. Listening Library. Apr. 2016. p. 44.

GARVIN, Jeff. Symptoms of Being Human. ­­HarperAudio. Feb. 2016. p. 45.

PENNYPACKER, Sara. Pax. HarperAudio. Feb. 2016. p. 43.

Pérez, Ashley Hope. Out of Darkness. Listening Library. Apr. 2016. p. 46.

Smith, Charles R., Jr. 28 Days: Moments in Black History That Changed the World. Live Oak. Jan. 2016. p. 42.

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Where, Oh Where, Is Rosie’s Chick? by Pat Hutchins | SLJ Review Thu, 21 Jul 2016 14:00:39 +0000 Hutchins, Pat. Where, Oh Where, Is Rosie’s Chick? illus. by Pat Hutchins. 32p. S. & S. Aug. 2016. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781481460712. 

PreS-Gr 1 –When Rosie the hen finally hatches an egg, she cannot find her baby chick. She looks everywhere, and all the while, her chick is looking for her—sort of. Baby chick is still wearing half of his shell over his head and walking around blindly. Rosie does not even recognize him, but an [...]]]> redstarHutchins, Pat. Where, Oh Where, Is Rosie’s Chick? illus. by Pat Hutchins. 32p. S. & S. Aug. 2016. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781481460712. Where, Oh Where, Is Rosie’s Chick by Pat Hutchins

PreS-Gr 1 –When Rosie the hen finally hatches an egg, she cannot find her baby chick. She looks everywhere, and all the while, her chick is looking for her—sort of. Baby chick is still wearing half of his shell over his head and walking around blindly. Rosie does not even recognize him, but an unfriendly fox does and begins following close behind. The captivating illustrations are like a bright quilt of colors and patterns, with humor tucked in for observant readers. The text alone is not sufficient to tell this easy story. Readers will see the dangers and want to warn the chick and try to convince Rosie to turn around to find her baby. But all ends well. This would be a great choice for sharing during the changing seasons. VERDICT A charming sequel to the classic Rosie’s Walk and an appealing read-aloud for all collections.–Mary Hazelton, formerly at Warren & Waldoboro Elementary Schools, ME

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

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Garvey’s Choice by Nikki Grimes | SLJ Review Thu, 21 Jul 2016 13:00:31 +0000 Grimes, Nikki. Garvey’s Choice. 120p. Boyds Mills/Wordsong. Oct. 2016. Tr $16.95. ISBN 9781629797403. 

Gr 4-8 –Grimes’s latest is a sensitively written middle grade novel in verse that takes its syllable count from Japanese tanka. Garvey is an overweight boy who is teased at school and whose father constantly prods him to be more like his athletic older sister, Angie. But Garvey has a best friend (Joe), an open heart (which leads him to a new friend, [...]]]> redstarGrimes, Nikki. Garvey’s Choice. 120p. Boyds Mills/Wordsong. Oct. 2016. Tr $16.95. ISBN 9781629797403. Garvey's Choice by Nikki Grimes

Gr 4-8 –Grimes’s latest is a sensitively written middle grade novel in verse that takes its syllable count from Japanese tanka. Garvey is an overweight boy who is teased at school and whose father constantly prods him to be more like his athletic older sister, Angie. But Garvey has a best friend (Joe), an open heart (which leads him to a new friend, Manny), and, as readers learn midway through the book, a talent for singing, which lands him a coveted solo in the school’s chorus concert. Through that talent, Garvey finds a way to connect with his father and combat his bullies’ rude remarks with a newfound strength of purpose. Those who thought Planet Middle School’s Joylin was a remarkably lifelike portrait of an angsty yet kind adolescent will fall hard for Garvey, a tender, sincere boy who dislikes athletics. Grimes writes about adolescent friendships in a way that feels deeply human. VERDICT A short, sweet, satisfying novel in verse that educators and readers alike will love.–Abigail Garnett, Brooklyn Public Library

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

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Out of Darkness by Ashley Hope Pérez | SLJ Audio Review Wed, 20 Jul 2016 13:00:13 +0000 Pérez, Ashley Hope. Out of Darkness. 10 CDs. 12:32 hrs. Listening Library. Apr. 2016. $65. ISBN 9780735289475. digital download. 

Gr 9 Up –The 1937 school explosion in New London, TX, remains the deadliest school disaster in U.S. history. With that real-life tragedy as a starting point, Pérez adds greater volatility with race, class, and family dysfunction, by introducing a love story between two teens from different worlds in a tiny community where nothing remains hidden for long. Mexican [...]]]> redstarPérez, Ashley Hope. Out of Darkness. 10 CDs. 12:32 hrs. Listening Library. Apr. 2016. $65. ISBN 9780735289475. digital download. YA_Perez_outofdarkness

Gr 9 Up –The 1937 school explosion in New London, TX, remains the deadliest school disaster in U.S. history. With that real-life tragedy as a starting point, Pérez adds greater volatility with race, class, and family dysfunction, by introducing a love story between two teens from different worlds in a tiny community where nothing remains hidden for long. Mexican American Naomi, 15, arrives from San Antonio with her younger twin half-siblings to live with the twins’ white father, a born-again Christian too fond of the bottle. She’s ostracized at her segregated school, even as boys objectify her and girls punish her for her outstanding beauty. The twins are first to make friends with Wash, an African American high school senior whose easy, caring manner Naomi can’t ignore. As love grows, danger draws closer, with the most immediate threats at home. Narrator Benita Robledo moves effortlessly between rigid control and panicked acceleration, imbuing the multiple viewpoints with authenticity and empathy. Lincoln Hoppe’s near-growling interruptions as “The Gang,” a collective representation of racist classmates, remain menacingly foreboding throughout. ­VERDICT Pérez’s latest, recipient of a 2016 Printz Honor, is wide-eyed testimony to the undeniable best and unrelenting worst of humanity; turning away (or turning off) is never an option. [“Set against the backdrop of an actual historical event, Pérez’s young adult novel gives voice to many long-omitted facets of U.S. history”: SLJ 6/15 starred review of the Carolrhoda Lab book.]–Terry Hong, Smithsonian BookDragon, Washington, DC

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

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