School Library Journal The world's largest reviewer of books, multimedia, and technology for children and teens Mon, 02 May 2016 04:00:18 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Pat Mora on Día, the Arbuthnot Lecture, and Diverse Books: 20 Years and Counting Sat, 30 Apr 2016 15:56:56 +0000 Pat Mora was framed!

Pat Mora was framed!

Children who are members of the “Community of Readers” have access to “privilege, pleasure, and power,” says Pat Mora, award-winning author and longtime literacy advocate. For more than 20 years she has focused on expanding this community to ensure that literacy is accessible to all young people. Her April 15 Arbuthnot Lecture at the Santa Barbara City College’s Garvin Theatre, called “Bookjoy! ¡Alegría en los libros!”, coincided with the 20th anniversary of the celebration she founded, “El día de los niños/ El día de los libros” (Children’s Day/Book Day), commonly known as “Día.”

Mora was born in El Paso, TX, where she lived for more than 40 years, growing up in a bilingual home and community. Her mother valued the library and always made sure her children had books at home. In fact, she cannot remember a time in her life when she was not a reader, and fondly recalls one of her favorite childhood books being a Childcraft poetry volume. This love and delight in books influenced her years as a teacher, university administrator, museum director, consultant, and author. In fact, as an adult she was drawn to the lyrical nature of the many picture books she read to her own children, as these sparked ideas for future writing and publishing adventures.

Bookjoy and Día

In 1996, Mora first learned of the Mexican holiday, Day of the Child, and began pondering this and other annual celebrations, such as Mother’s Day, questioning the lack of an equivalent event for books and reading. This led to the creation of the compound word Bookjoy, which joins two otherwise separate concepts to represent the deep, transformational power and resulting pleasure in textual transactions, particularly within the context of a Community of Readers. Armed with Bookjoy, she began work on the family literacy initiative “Día,” partnering with REFORMA (the National Association To Promote Library and Information Services to Latinos and the Spanish-Speaking); ALSC (Association for Library Service to Children), an affiliate of ALA (American Library Association); and now First Book to bring her ideas to reality. Día’s goals are to:

  • Celebrate children and connect them to the world of learning through books, stories and libraries.
  • Recognize and respect culture, heritage, and language as powerful tools for strengthening families and communities.
  • Nurture cognitive and literacy development in ways that honor and embrace a child’s home language and culture.
  • Introduce families to community resources that provide opportunities for learning through multiple literacies.

Twenty years later, the children’s author enthusiastically shares that recent ALSC data for Día 2016 shows 38 states, including Alaska, have registered celebrations to occur in more than 25 languages, with more than 90,500 potential attendees. Although she is encouraged with these statistics, Mora continues to focus on the work that remains, a major point in her recent Arbuthnot Lecture.

Arbuthnot Lecture

Armed with a notebook to record thoughts and ideas, Mora immediately began work on the Arbuthnot Lecture paper presentation the day she received selection notification in 2015. This owing to the lasting, significant impact on the world of children’s literature it proffers, as well as the legacy it has honored since 1968—Mary Hill Arbuthnot’s strong advocacy for children’s literature. Her resulting paper emphasizes the privilege, pleasure, and power of being a reader and proposes that “if we want to expand our community of young readers, we need to enthusiastically collaborate with our fellow literacy advocates: librarians, teachers, professors, child care programs, families, literacy non-profits, as well as foundations, businesses, and publishers who can help fund and promote our important work.” She also notes that “the field has to recognize that our children need to be readers to develop their unique talents for the good of their families, communities,and our society—our future citizens.”

In order to achieve these tasks, as well as encourage biliteracy, Mora believes that parents, teachers, and librarians must remember to promote Bookjoy every day and find habitual ways to link children to books. These practices, together with a culminating, celebratory Día event, can serve as bridges among families, library staff teams, and feeder schools and districts with positive literacy/biliteracy outcomes. In fact, Dia celebrations can start in small ways, with simple readalouds of diverse texts among all children. She recommends that libraries develop a strong planning team so as to build the capacity for increasingly elaborate Día events that might provide multiple stations for making bookmarks, playing book games, watching puppets, writing stories, and more.

Pat Mora at the Arbuthnot Lecture, flanked by Julie Corsaro and Andrew Medlar

Pat Mora at the Arbuthnot Lecture, flanked by Julie Corsaro and Andrew Medlar.

We Need Diverse Books

Mora’s perspective around changes observed for diverse literature is pragmatic, based on data faithfully compiled by the Cooperative Children’s Book Center of the University of Wisconsin, Madison since the early 1980s. Annual publication rates for such books have simply not changed. Even more eye-opening is the lack of diversification during this time period within the publishing industry, library staff teams, and teaching force. Mora concludes that these factors result in a body of books for children that “do not yet show the diversity of our country.” At the same time, the literacy advocate believes that teachers and librarians can “make a classic,” as they hold the power to choose to feature high-quality books with diverse themes in programming and instruction—and more importantly, to attain a new mindset, one that celebrates diversity as the norm.

Looking Forward

For the next 20 years, Mora envisions continuing “the work,” as she calls her involvement with Día. She hopes to see publishers creatively promote its annual celebration and literacy strategies, as well as see an ongoing rise in the initiative’s growing list of educational and non-profit partners. She even muses that someday Día will become a national celebration to honor the year-long process of linking each child, title-by-title, to Bookjoy and the Community of Readers.

See Mora’s Arbuthnot Lecture below.

Ruth E. Quiroa is an associate professor at National Louis University, Lisle, IL and an SLJ reviewer.




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A Lineup of Presidential Proportions from Random’s Summer 2016 List| Preview Peek Fri, 29 Apr 2016 18:10:42 +0000 Hillary Clinton: The Life of a Leader by Shana Corey and Adam Gustavson. (An ode to Donald Trump was conspicuously absent.)]]> What with the presidential campaign beating itself into a froth over the next few months, Random House Children’s Books has made sure kids will have appropriate summer reading options. Young readers can get an overview of all the presidents with Ken Burns’s Grover Cleveland, Again! A Treasury of American Presidents (Knopf, July). The documentarian brings 43 presidents (count ‘em!) to life in 96 pages. In case you were wondering, the title refers to the fact that Grover Cleveland is the only president to serve two nonconsecutive terms.

Next, we moved on from documented history to a fantasy take on the power of the Oval Office. What if the country was faced with a robot uprising, but we were able to elect a super squad of presidents from history to lead the way? Daniel O’Brien and Winston Rowntree will make kids think about who they’d choose in Your Presidential Fantasy Dream Team (Crown, July).


But first, debuting in May, is the “Commander in Cheese” chapter book series. The first three volumes, in which Lindsey Leavitt and A.G. Ford introduce us to a family of mice who live in the White House, will all be released before the election. Fans of The Cat in the Hat may wish he was on the ballot this fall, but Random House has conveniently provided the next best thing: One Vote, Two Votes, I Vote, You Vote (August) by Bonnie Worth, Aristides Ruiz, and Joe Mathieu. Rounding out the patriotic pack was an easy-to-read biography, Hillary Clinton: The Life of a Leader (May) by Shana Corey and Adam Gustavson, as part of the “Step Into Reading” series. (An ode to Donald Trump was conspicuously absent.)

Dynamic duos dot this summer list, including BFFs, siblings, and lovey-dovey couples. Jeffrey Brown incorporates scientific and historical content in his new graphic novel series about two young cave kids, Lucy & Andy Neanderthal (Crown, August).  Each book in the series will focus on a science topic, such as climate change or the extinction of dinosaurs. Middle graders may enjoy reading Kathryn Siebel’s The Trouble with Twins (Knopf, August) about twins that have nothing in common. Nevertheless, the sisterly bond triumphs in this adventure comedy tale. Twins also star in Tom Avery’s Not As We Know It (Schwartz & Wade, August). With the 1980s as the backdrop, it tells the story of siblings who encounter a merman.

Places No On Knows (Delacorte, May) by Brenna Yovanoff is a YA story of magical realism. This fresh take on the old spin of opposites attract is told in alternating voices. In quite a different vein is Peter Brown Hoffmeister’s This Is the Part Where You Laugh (Knopf, May), in which Travis and his best friend, Creature, are spending a summer in a Eugene, Oregon trailer park. There, they deal with…well, what don’t they deal with? Try cancer, basketball, first love, addiction, gang violence, and a reptilian infestation, for starters.

IMG_1306Donna Gephart tackles the difficult topics of bipolar disorder and transgender identity in Lily and Dunkin (Delacorte, May). The story is told in a dual narrative. Several other titles on the new list also deal with similar themes.The theater nerd genre meets LGBTQ challenges in Look Both Ways (Delacorte, June) by Allison Cherry. The story is about a budding same sex romance between roommates during summer stock. Perhaps most powerful of all, Jazz Jennings tells her story as a transgender teen in Being Jazz (Crown, June).

IMG_1314Even the picture books for this season are filled with angst, albeit childhood. Cases in point: Wally Does Not Want a Haircut (Knopf, July) by Amanda Driscoll, Douglas, You Need Glasses! (Schwartz & Wade, May) by Ged Adamson, and 101 Reasons Why I’m Not Taking a Bath (July) by Stacy McAnulty and Joy Ang. Familiar names are also on this list. Caldecott medalist Emily Arnold McCully has Clara (Schwartz & Wade, June), a story based on an 18th-century rhino who toured Europe and created a sensation. Giselle Potter celebrates creativity and imagination with This Is My Dollhouse (Schwartz & Wade, May). At 87 years old and 25 years after Tar Beach, Faith Ringgold celebrates diversity by tracing the American experience with verse and folk art in We Came to America (Knopf, May).

The featured book of the preview was Three Magic Balloons (May) a story by actress Julianna Margulies, based upon a story her late father, Paul Margulies, told her and her two sisters. The essence of the tale is that kindness is the key to magic. It is the debut picture book for artist Grant Shaffer, who spoke at the preview.





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Wolf Hollow by Lauren Wolk | SLJ Review Fri, 29 Apr 2016 13:00:58 +0000 Wolk, Lauren. Wolf Hollow. 304p. Dutton. Apr. 2016. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781101994825. 

Gr 5-8 –Eleven-year-old Annabelle lives in a rural Pennsylvania community in 1943. The continued fighting of World War II haunts everyone, but life is mostly peaceful—until Betty Glengarry’s arrival. Betty is cruel and threatening and thrives on inflicting pain. At first, Annabelle is slightly comforted to know that Toby is watching out for her. Toby is a local vagabond, a World War I veteran [...]]]> redstarWolk, Lauren. Wolf Hollow. 304p. Dutton. Apr. 2016. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781101994825. Wolf Hollow by Lauren Wolk

Gr 5-8 –Eleven-year-old Annabelle lives in a rural Pennsylvania community in 1943. The continued fighting of World War II haunts everyone, but life is mostly peaceful—until Betty Glengarry’s arrival. Betty is cruel and threatening and thrives on inflicting pain. At first, Annabelle is slightly comforted to know that Toby is watching out for her. Toby is a local vagabond, a World War I veteran of few words who has become something like a friend of Annabelle’s family. Meanwhile, Betty’s violent malice only grows, until one day she goes missing. Toby immediately becomes the prime suspect in Betty’s disappearance. Annabelle is sure of Toby’s innocence and is determined to prove it. Readers are alerted from the outset that this is the story of how the narrator loses her childish naïveté in a life-altering way. The narrative is powerful, complex, and lifelike. There are pointlessly cruel people, courageously kind people, and those who simply pass the gossip. Despite the jaded feelings that come with witnessing unjust persecution, the heart of this story is ultimately one of hope and empathy. Thematically, this book raises some of the same issues as To Kill a Mockingbird, but with social status rather than racism as the basis for injustice. Vicious bullying is also a highly relevant topic, and this aspect is sure to spark important conversations. VERDICT Highly recommended for purchase; a truly moving debut.–Sara White, Seminole County Public Library, Casselberry, FL

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

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More Thrifty School Library Design Tips Thu, 28 Apr 2016 15:57:35 +0000

Also read:

Sprucing Up My School Library for

Under $600

Considering a library remodel? Check out these creative, low-cost ideas from fellow librarians, some shared on Jennifer LaGarde and Mark Samberg‘s  #macgyverlibrarianship Twitter initiative. Learn more about the MacGyver Librarian Movement —and get crafty! Share your ideas on Twitter and Instagram with the hashtag.

Dress up the desk


Photo courtesy of Heather Brown

Heather Brown, librarian at St. Joseph School Library in Herndon, VA, collaborated with the school art teacher for International Dot Day to create this beautiful circulation desk (above). Every kindergarten through eighth grade student cut and decorated a dot modeled after Wassily Kandinsky’s 1913 painting Squares with Concentric Circles. The squares were then laminated and used to cover the circulation desk.

At the Delft Technology University in the Netherlands, the school created this rainbow-hued desk (below) out of discarded library books that were being replaced after a school fire.


Photo by Ellen Forsyth

No extra space? Try this


If you’re revamping your library, it’s a great time to downsize your collection, get rid of outdated books, and create more space. Melissa Mannon at Goffstown (NH) High School Library completely rearranged her library to make the space more usable. She removed tall bookshelves and used the extra room to create a silent reading area (left). She culled the reference section and cut the long, waist-high shelves vertically to make smaller units.

Adding plywood and casters to the bottoms of shelves made them movable to create displays or to divide different sections of the library (below left). The remaining reference section shelves, which were already curved, were fashioned into a reference desk and storage for their graphic novels (below right).


Photos courtesy of Melissa Mannon

At my school, we removed our entire reference collection and aggressively weeded our nonfiction section. With the extra space, we pushed our shelves against the walls (where our reference section was previously located) and removed two additional rows of shelves to create a cozy reading area. Our circulation desk was moved from the middle of the library to near the main entrance. We didn’t need permission or money to make all of these changes—and it made a big difference.


Before (left) and after shots at the North Buncombe High School Library in Weaverville, NC.


Student-led designs

5Getting permission to change your library can be a hurdle. In many districts, libraries aren’t allowed to paint the walls or furniture. This can sometimes be solved by designating a project as “student led”: If an initiative is for a specific class or driven by students, you may have more freedom to paint, decorate, or renovate. Be sure to talk to your principal before starting, and ask your county’s high school programs for additional help. My library had help from our interior design, art, carpentry, and welding classes. Our welding class is building us extra slanted magazine shelves out of leftover metal shelves (right). Once completed, they’ll get a nice coat of bright spray paint.

Below: Jessica Gilcreast at the Bedford (NH) High School Library transformed her chairs with remnant fabric and a staple gun.


Photos courtesy of Jessica Gilcreast

Below: At Heath (OH) High School Library, Amy Gibson, with the help of some students, made a video production green screen simply by painting a library wall green. Researching the “perfect” color, she settled on Behr paint in the “Sparkling Apple” shade.


Photo courtesy of Amy Gibson

10At Northwoods Middle School Library in North Charleston, SC, librarian Christy James painted her walls, ceiling, and the top of the circulation desk (right). To update the marbleized countertops, they took tips from a HGTV website tutorial—and sanded, primed, painted, and sealed the countertops with multiple coats of paint. She created large orange READ signs (below) by painting Styrofoam letters and hanging them with Command brand strips.



Photos courtesy of Christy James

Fundraising strategies

When you don’t have extra money to remodel—or permission to paint or purchase items—sometimes you have to get even more creative. Try a Donors Choose project, which sends you educational items (not money) once the project has been funded. Many new projects qualify for a “price match,” where companies will match what you raise. A great time to try Donors Choose is around the holidays, when people are looking to make donations, or tax season, when larger companies are seeking tax breaks. Some school systems have guidelines about using Donors Choose—check out your county’s policy. Also consider a book fair: some schools don’t regulate how you spend proceeds, and they can go toward redecorating. Also consider contacting your local hardware store about donating leftover materials.

Jennifer LaGarde, #macgyverlibrarianship cofounder, created this fun book table (below) out of a cable spool, discarded books, glue, and black paint for New Hanover High School in Wilmington, NC.


Photos courtesy of Jennifer LaGarde

Below: Megan Gill and her students at Summersill Eagles Elementary School Library in Jacksonville, NC, used a sanded cable spool to create a gaming table/charging station. The local electric company donated the spool, which the student will paint with a color of their choice later this year.


Photo courtesy of Megan Gill


Photo courtesy of  Vanessa Calhoun

Vanessa Calhoun, librarian at Sandy Ridge Elementary School Library in Durham, NC created these book displays (right) out of painted wooden pallets and wire book stands. The hinges on the side allow them to be folded up and stored easily.


Below: The book review bin at Northwoods Middle School Library in North Charleston, SC, is made out of a white kitchen cabinet from Lowes. Librarian Christy James drilled a slot in the top and added handles, a lock, casters, and decals. James also created a book display (below right) by painting Ikea spice racks orange and mounting them to the walls.


Photos courtesy of Christy James

Below: At North Buncombe High School in Weaverville, NC, librarian Cindy Mackiernan and I used a projector to show actions words above the different areas of their library. Using a black sharpie, we traced the words and filled them in with dark blue paint.



Below: Librarian Kathryn Garrett from Isaac Litton Middle School Library in Nashville, TN created all these whimsical displays out of discarded books and magazines. A great idea for your library makerspace!


Photos courtesy of Kathryn Garrett



Katie Darty is a librarian at North Buncombe High School in Weaverville, NC. She transformed her library with the help of fellow librarian Cindy Mackiernan, assistant Tony Sykes, and interior design teacher Stephanie Griffin. She lives in Asheville, NC, with her husband, Josh, and their daughter, Charlie. Contact her at, or follow her library on Twitter.

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American Ace by Marilyn Nelson | SLJ Audio Review Thu, 28 Apr 2016 13:00:51 +0000 Nelson, Marilyn. American Ace. 2 CDs. 1:22 hrs. Listening Library. 2016. $20. ISBN 9780147525772. digital download.  

Gr 4-6 –When Connor’s grandmother dies, she leaves his father a ring, a pair of pilot’s wings, and a letter explaining that the man who raised Connor’s father was not his biological father. With his father paralyzed by depression, Connor takes the two mementoes and the few details available to him and traces his new lineage to the U.S. Air Force, [...]]]> redstarNelson, Marilyn. American Ace. 2 CDs. 1:22 hrs. Listening Library. 2016. $20. ISBN 9780147525772. digital download.  American Ace by Marilyn Nelson

Gr 4-6 –When Connor’s grandmother dies, she leaves his father a ring, a pair of pilot’s wings, and a letter explaining that the man who raised Connor’s father was not his biological father. With his father paralyzed by depression, Connor takes the two mementoes and the few details available to him and traces his new lineage to the U.S. Air Force, Wilberforce University, and an international DNA map that reveals European, African, and Jewish roots. Nelson narrates her own verses with graceful solemnity. Illuminating her rhythmic reading of Connor’s family’s story is an afterword, aptly titled “How This Book Came To Be, and Why an Older African American Woman Ended Up Writing as a Young White Man,” in which Nelson explores history—personal, national, worldwide—to affirm the surprising human interconnections in our very cells and souls. VERDICT Nelson’s latest deserves shelf space with other astounding verse novels, including Sharon Draper’s Stella by Starlight, Jacqueline Woodson’s Brown Girl Dreaming, and Thanhha Lai’s Inside Out & Back Again. [“Nelson packs a good deal into these verses, and though the subject matter is weighty, she leavens it with humor and deep family affection”: SLJ 12/15 review of the Dial book.]–Terry Hong, Smithsonian BookDragon, Washington, DC

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

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Dancing to the Toca Boca Beat | Touch and Go Thu, 28 Apr 2016 12:02:02 +0000 Toca Dance, hands the choreography and wardrobe selection over to children. ]]> Apps designed with kids in control as co-creators are becoming more and more popular. Toca Boca’s latest production, Toca Dance, hands the choreography and wardrobe selection over to children. Programming potential? It’s a thought.

The instructor warms up her students in Toca Dance (Toca Boca)

The instructor warms up students in Toca Dance (Toca Boca)


Toca Boca, well-known for its entertaining apps targeting young children, has broadened its audience base with Toca Dance (iOS $2.99; Free, lite version), a music and movement app for kids ages five to eight. Would-be choreographers can choose three cartoon dancers from a selection of eight to dress in a variety of colorful costumes. A tap to an arrow sends the dancers racing into the rehearsal space to select their music and meet the instructor. Dots surround the instructor’s arms, head, and torso, beckoning users to activate the figure’s limbs and body. No dots surround the legs; those movements are limited to scuttling left and right, crab-style.

While creating their dances, users encounter the one potentially confusing feature—the six colorful circles that appear above the dancers’ heads. With no specific directions for children, youngsters must  experiment to determine that the dots correspond to short steps that can be combined to create a dance sequence executed in the last portion of the app, the performance.

At the performance, users may control the dancers’ heights and the size of their heads, choose the music, add special effects, change the backdrop, throw items on stage (for good or bad); and control the audience’s reaction—while the dancers are showcasing their moves. Multiple users might hold a digital dance-off, or with the music is playing in the background, get up and join in on the fun. It’s definitely a beat kids will want to dance to.Cindy Wall, Southington Public Library, CT

 For additional app reviews, visit School Library Journal‘s dedicated app webpage.

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An (Independent) Bookstore for Kids Grows in Brooklyn Wed, 27 Apr 2016 20:24:48 +0000 MPMMStorefont

Maggie Pouncey and Matt Miller

This Saturday, April 30, 435 independent bookstores around the country will celebrate their place as community hubs on the second annual Independent Bookstore Day, an event that might make one forget how tough it has been to run a profitable “mom and pop” bookshop. The owners of a new children’s bookstore in Brooklyn are embracing the challenge—and throwing a party to introduce themselves to the neighborhood.

It doesn’t often happen that bibliophiles wake up one morning, decide to open a bookstore, and do so. But then most book lovers aren’t Matt Miller and Maggie Pouncey, college sweethearts from Massachusetts and Connecticut, who met at Columbia University (they’re now husband and wife and parents of two young boys). This duo is bucking the naysayers and betting that their soon-to-open business, Stories, a combination bookstore and storytelling lab, is just what their neighborhood needs.

Miller, 38, has a graduate degree in computer science and most recently worked at an educational tech company. The other half of this business team has writing in her blood. Pouncey, also 38, is the author of the novel Perfect Reader (Pantheon, 2010), holds an MFA in creative writing, and teaches the craft. It’s this literary background that helps to inform the new business plan—including the emphasis on honing kids’ writing skills.

We got the scoop from Pouncey herself on what little Brooklyn bookworms can look forward to when the reading and writing emporium at 458 Bergen Street in Park Slope opens. Here’s what we learned.

SLJ:  What’s on tap for the big opening?

M.P.:  We’re having some fun events at our Sneak Peek Party on April 30 in celebration of Independent Bookstore Day. Though we won’t yet have all our books or bookshelves or even resemble a bookshop on that date, there will be balloons, and cookies, and lemonade. The plan is to be truly open by mid-May.

What inspired you to open Stories?

We have so many inspirations, including the belief that the love of storytelling is one of the surest lifelong gifts you can give your children, and that in our digitally saturated age, stories are more important than ever. Bookshops are often my favorite places to be, and I’ve long had a bookshop fantasy. When Matt and I came up with the idea of combining one with a storytelling lab, it began to seem that maybe this could really be both a sustainable family business and a unique community center.

What do you plan to sell?

We’re aiming for a beautiful collection of children’s literature for ages zero through young adult with some rare, vintage, and out-of-print finds, too. We’ll also have storytelling supplies, such as pencils and notebooks.


The store is slated to open officially in mid-May.

Tell us about the kinds of programs you plan to offer.

We’ll host a weekly storytime with authors and illustrators who will read and share their work, as well as teach master classes. We’ll have genre-based writing workshops and drop-in sessions where kids can bring something they’re working on for feedback. We plan to offer bookmaking classes for younger children and will explore other forms of storytelling, too—from puppetry to mural painting. This summer will be a time of experimentation to see what the community likes best.

Why is focusing on writing important to you?

Reading and writing are inseparable—all the best writers I know are voracious readers, and I’ve yet to meet such a reader who didn’t love to turn a phrase. There is a lot of good enrichment programming for kids in Brooklyn but not that much around the written word. We love the idea of Stories being a place where authors and illustrators can meet their audiences in new ways.

Why is it vital for kids to learn to write well?

For so many kids, unlocking the world of the imagination can be a huge liberation. They grow up with a lot of rules, but wouldn’t it be great to be able to spend time in a place with none at all? My imagination is the place where I felt fully myself, and I think for introspective, watchful kids having a place to quietly strut their stuff can be pretty life changing.

Are independent bookstores still relevant?

Thankfully, independent bookstores are having a comeback. They are important because they become community centers where the recommendations feel personal. I think people really feel a sense of ownership for their local bookshop in a way you just can’t for a chain store.

Editor’s note: The American Booksellers Association (ABA) confirms this news. For the sixth year in a row, ABA bookstore membership has grown, with stores operating in more than 2,200 locations, says Dan Cullen, senior strategy officer.

Who are some of your personal favorite authors?

We just started reading John Bemelmans Marciano’s The Witches of Benevento (Viking, 2016) to my older son, and it’s great. We also went through a major Greek myths phase that started with D’Aulaires, and then we discovered the Gillian Cross retellings of The Iliad and The Odyssey (Candlewick, 2015 & 2012), which are wonderful. In picture books, I love all the ones by husband and wife team Philip and Erin Stead, Fraidyzoo (Abrams, 2013) by Thyra Heder, and Tough Guys Have Feelings Too (Flying Eye, 2015) by Keith Negley. And everything Mo Willems!

In terms of my own reading, like all of Brooklyn, it seems, I was swept up in Elena Ferrante fever and devoured her four Neapolitan novels. I’m following that up with a nonfiction phase, including Ta-Nehisi Coates’s brilliant Between the World and Me (Spiegel & Grau, 2015), Sally Mann’s beautiful memoir Hold Still, (Little, Brown, 2015), and I’m finally getting to Maggie Nelson’s The Argonauts (Graywolf, 2015).

Is there any way for out-of-towners to join in the fun?

Those who don’t live nearby can sign up at for the Perfect Stories Book Club and receive favorite picks each month.

Jennifer Kelly Geddes is a freelance writer specializing in children’s health and development and the former research editor at Parenting

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Young Adult Debut Authors Wed, 27 Apr 2016 15:24:53 +0000 Thursday, May 19th, 2016, 3:00 PM - 4:00 PM ET / 12:00 PM - 1:00 PM PT
Join Simon & Schuster and School Library Journal for a rich conversation with three debut young adult authors, Calla Devlin (Tell Me Something Real), Meg Leder (The Museum of Heartbreak), and Laurent Linn (Draw the Line).
Register Now!]]>

Presented by: Simon & Schuster and School Library Journal

Event Date & Time: Thursday, May 19th, 2016, 3:00 PM – 4:00 PM ET / 12:00 PM – 1:00 PM PT
Register NowThe excitement and heartache of first (and subsequent) loves, the strength and frailty of the ties that bind siblings, the courage to stand up yourself—and for what’s right.

Join Simon & Schuster and School Library Journal for a rich conversation with three debut young adult authors, Calla Devlin (Tell Me Something Real), Meg Leder (The Museum of Heartbreak), and Laurent Linn (Draw the Line).


Calla Devlin – Author, Tell Me Something Real

Meg Leder – Author, The Museum of Heartbreak

Laurent Linn – Author, Draw the Line


Faythe Arredondo – YA Librarian at Tulare County Library in Visalia, CA
Register NowCan’t make the date? No problem! Register now and you will get an email reminder from School Library Journal post-live event when the webcast is archived and available for on-demand viewing at your convenience!Follow us on Twitter! @SLJournal #SLJauthorsNeed help getting registered? Send us an email describing your problem.

By registering for this webcast, you are agreeing that School Library Journal may share your registration information with sponsors currently shown and future sponsors of this event. Click here to review the entire School Library Journal Privacy Policy.

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Courting Controversy? | Scales on Censorship Wed, 27 Apr 2016 13:44:28 +0000 Have you known of a teacher who taught a book for the purpose of getting it challenged?
I suspect it happens, but I’ve never had anyone write to me and tell me that they intentionally wanted to create a challenge. A retired high school English teacher recently told me that she chose to teach Working by Studs Terkel because it was being challenged in another high school in her district.

She added the book to her syllabus out of support for the teacher who was targeted in the other school. The challenge remained a hotly contested case in the first school, but no one made an attempt to challenge the teacher in the other school. A situation like this indicates that the parent may have had a problem with the teacher rather than the book. This sometimes happens. Protesting a book will almost always get the attention of school administrators, while complaints about an individual teacher may rest on deaf ears.

Working is currently taught in many high schools throughout the nation. It’s an excellent choice, but it should be taught for the right reasons. It is never a good idea for teachers to select a book simply because they want to create a problem.

Who decides which novels are taught in a classroom? Should parents be involved in the selection process?
Teachers should decide which novels they want to teach, but school districts also have curriculum policies outlined in the School Board Policy Manual that must be followed. Such policies aren’t usually definitive about what specific novels are taught, but instead address the broad scope of the curriculum. The policy should include a statement about controversial subject matter in novels. For example, a policy may state: “Some novels may contain ‘objectionable’ language, but teachers strive to help students understand that such language reflects the character in the novel and the world in which he lives.”

Parents should not influence book selection, but those who object to a novel may request an alternative novel for their child.

A parent in my school asked me to recommend a website that labels content in books. She thinks that her son isn’t as mature as other fourth graders and she wants to check every book he reads. She uses Common Sense Media for movie reviews.
Let her know that labeling content is a slippery slope. Does she really want a website to parent her son? I understand that parents want guidance, but she should be encouraged to read along with her son if she is so concerned about what he is reading. Tell her that you don’t recommend websites that label, but many public libraries subscribe to a number of tools that she may find helpful. Show her how to log onto her public library website for help. You could also point out a resource such as NoveList. This site can give her access to reviews that may help her in guiding the child. In the meantime, lead her son to books in the same manner that you use to assist all students. You may also suggest that the mother encourage him to return a book he doesn’t like.

A social studies teacher in my high school was recently reprimanded because he spent the weekend distributing materials for a particular political candidate. Doesn’t a teacher have a First Amendment right to express his own views?
Yes, as long as those views are expressed outside of school. Those who are working for government agencies may not openly express their political views in the workplace, because it could be viewed as creating a hostile environment. In this situation, the teacher shouldn’t have been reprimanded.

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Amazon FreeTime Unlimited Adds Content for Tweens Wed, 27 Apr 2016 13:23:26 +0000 Star Trek

Amazon FreeTime Unlimited—the all-you-can-eat subscription service geared to children and families—has expanded its offerings for kids ages 9–12.

FreeTime Unlimited previously offered titles for ages 3–8. The thousands of additional videos, educational apps, games, and books for the 9–12 set  include a selection featuring Sonic the Hedgehog, Monument Valley, iCarly, and Star Trek, according to an April 26 release.

The service has also introduced FreeTime Smart Filters, a feature that recommends “age appropriate” content, from videos and books to learning apps and games, and enables parental control in managing FreeTime content.

The FreeTime Unlimited service is available exclusively on Fire tablets, including Fire Kids Edition, as well as on Kindle ereaders.

Subscriptions start at $2.99 per month for Prime members and $4.99 per month for customers who are not yet Prime members, according to Amazon.

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Last of the Giants: The Rise and Fall of Earth’s Most Dominant Species by Jeff Campbell | SLJ Review Wed, 27 Apr 2016 13:00:17 +0000 Campbell, Jeff. Last of the Giants: The Rise and Fall of Earth’s Most Dominant Species. 288p. bibliog. websites. Zest. 2016. pap. $13.99. ISBN 9781942186045. 

Gr 9 Up –The extinctions of giant (both in size and number) species at the mercy of nature and humanity turn out to be a fascinating and jarring lesson for our present. Chronicling the fates of aurochs, moa, passenger pigeons, and sea cows, alongside the unresolved destinies of today’s lions and tigers, [...]]]> redstarCampbell, Jeff. Last of the Giants: The Rise and Fall of Earth’s Most Dominant Species. 288p. bibliog. websites. Zest. 2016. pap. $13.99. ISBN 9781942186045. Last of the Giants by Jeff Campbell

Gr 9 Up –The extinctions of giant (both in size and number) species at the mercy of nature and humanity turn out to be a fascinating and jarring lesson for our present. Chronicling the fates of aurochs, moa, passenger pigeons, and sea cows, alongside the unresolved destinies of today’s lions and tigers, this work gazes back at evolutionary history through a retrospect that, with the aid of Campbell’s humorous and scientific tone, is truly 20/20. Thankfully, the text’s explorations of these annihilated species are complex and perceptive and go beyond the usual worn conclusion of human-wrought woe. Mixing geology, ethnography, history, zoology, biology, industry, and sociology, Campbell demonstrates how interconnected Earth’s species and societies—human and nonhuman—are. By examining the complex web of evolution through the misfortunes of these lost species, the author drives home that our present is not a final, linear result of history but rather an ever-evolving system that needs care and attention. To that end, a “Call to Action” section laden with resources for the aspiring activist appears at the end; though there is no index, an extensive list of works cited illuminates a path for those who wish to read further. VERDICT Required reading for the budding naturalist and a good pairing for a STEM or history curriculum, too.–Chelsea Woods, New Brunswick Free Public Library, NJ

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

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Teens Review Meredith Russo’s “If I Was Your Girl” and More Wed, 27 Apr 2016 12:38:25 +0000 If I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo, SLJ’s resident teen reviewers tackle teen angst, first love, and gender issues in their latest reviews.]]> From the latest summer romances to the much-anticipated If I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo, SLJ’s resident teen reviewers tackle teen angst, first love, and gender issues in their latest reviews.

suffer loveBLAKE, Ashley Herring. Suffer Love. HMH. May 2016. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780544596320
Gr 8 Up–The romance of Hadley and Sam is beautifully. However, Suffer Love isn’t just a romance novel (no matter how wonderful the romance is); it has more substance to it and is mostly an emotional yet stunning story of betrayal and how you move on from it. Suffer Love is an amazing and enlightening tale of young love that anyone will stay up all night to finish (like I did) and not be the least bit disappointed. Even through the ups and downs, in the end Suffer Love is a heartwarming book.

The cover was okay, but it was also kind-of that classic, cheesy-romantic-novel type of cover which is not very appealing to me.

The most compelling aspect of the book was the character of Hadley. Hadley is smart, funny, and interesting to read about, but the reason that I would say she’s one of the strongest parts of the book is that she is very real. Hadley is a character that is portrayed as very raw and emotional which is nice to see when written about well (as it is here) and when the author can really let that be a big part of the book in an enlightening way. Hadley is dealing with a lot of problems in her life, and you just can really understand what she’s going through even if that is unfamiliar to you. Blake is a genius as she tells the story of Hadley’s recovery with herself and her family.

After reading Suffer Love, everyone will be singing praises for the author’s masterful hand with words. Throughout the whole book, everything is in exactly the right places to make you laugh, smile, and even cry.—Charlotte L., 14

holding smokeCOSIMANO, Elle. Holding Smoke. Disney-Hyperion. May 2016. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781484725979
Gr 7 Up–Smoke isn’t like the other felons at the Y, a dangerous correctional facility in Colorado. He has been wrongly accused of killing two people: one of them he didn’t, and one of them he didn’t do on purpose. But this isn’t the only reason he is different: a near-death experience leaves him with the ability to leave his physical body behind and travel beyond the prison walls. He thinks the prison is the only home he deserves, until he meets Pink, a girl who sees him and wants to clean his slate. With thrills, danger, and an overhanging mystery that keeps your wheels turning, you won’t want to put it down. You will constantly ask the same question: Who did it?

I think the cover did reflect the contents because of the smoke making the letters disappear, just like how Smoke’s hope is disappearing. I did like the cover because it is mysterious and makes you want to know what it was about.

I loved the suspense and danger. When he was pulled back into his body right when something bad is happening, it kept me going because I had to know what had happened to the person. It was also a great mystery that had a very unexpected twist at the end. This book was great and I couldn’t stop reading it!—Eleanor C., 14

inquisitionMATHARU, Taran. The Inquisition. Feiwel & Friends. May 2016. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781250076311
Gr 7 Up—The book starts out with Fletcher on trial and he is about to be convicted of two things. Then BAM we find out that he is a nodal and the king judges him indecent. When he gets out of the pelt he meets up with his old friends and they go on a mission into the orc’s jungle to destroy the goblin eggs. On the way they find another salamander and the coordinates to the orc’s part of the either. They get trapped in a pyramid and are forced to go into the either to save their lives.

I liked the cover. It explained a lot about what was going to happen in the book. The jungle showed where a lot of the book was going to take place.

I think the most compelling aspect of the book was that it really opened up the view into the lives of the orcs because up until now we did not know much about them. I was surprised when the orcs had stronger demons that we were led to believe. This is just a prediction, but I think Igneous is just a baby and has a lot more to grow. The only disappointment was that the book was not longer.—Sam C., 15

RUSSO, Meredith. If I Was Your Girl. Flatiron. May 2016. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781250078407.
Gr 8 Up–If you are confident with who you are, you can put up with people’s ridicule. If you are not, you slip farther and farther away into self-doubt. This book is about a young boy named Andy becoming the person he knew he was all along, but mostly it is about a girl named Amanda, living a life she knows is right for her. The most compelling thing about this book is the topic it covers. Being transgender is not understood by everyone. This book gives readers insight into what it means to be transgender. I was not disappointed in this book at all.—Grace D., 13

if i was your girlANOTHER TAKE

Amanda Hardy is moving to a new school, and all she wants is to fit in and make friends. However, Amanda is keeping a secret—at her old school, her name was Andrew, and her life was absolutely miserable. But then she meets kind, goofy Grady, and she wants to tell him everything. However, as their romance blossoms, being true to herself and keeping life the way she wants it to be might become harder than Amanda ever thought.

I wasn’t hugely fond of the cover for If I Was Your Girl. It’s kind of bland—just the usual portrait cover for a YA novel. However, I do like the way that the title text was arranged and the lighting on the image is also very nice. The font used for the title and author’s name is also appealing and readable. While as a whole the cover is nothing particularly special, the individual elements are all very nice. In all, the cover is pleasing to look at and not mind-bendingly awful, the way those of some other YA contemporary novels are.

The most compelling aspect of the novel is definitely the main character and her voice. Amanda is wonderfully portrayed and her voice is clear and distinct. Additionally, If I Was Your Girl manages to be an issues book that doesn’t read as a thinly-veiled lesson as so many do. Yes, Amanda is a transgirl and this is the entire point of the book, but it’s also a very sweet love story and a story about friendship and familial love. I adored this about the book, because it’s hard to find a book about anything that’s vaguely ‘issues-ish’ without it reading something like a print version of the Lifetime movies we have to watch in ninth grade health class. Props to the author for writing a book about an important topic without making it overly didactic or preachy, but allowing it to stand alone as a love story and a story about family and finding your place in the world.

I was incredibly disappointed with this novel for several reasons. The first was that few characters besides Amanda got much, if any, development. While I am aware that the story revolves around Amanda and her struggles, it would have been nice to see the supporting characters get fleshed out as more than “the nice guy,” “the supportive and unconditionally loving parent,” “the parent who’s learning to be supportive”, “the jock who’s secretly a lesbian,” “the jealous quirky artist,” “the nasty homophobic guy,” “the fashionista,” etc. My other, larger complaint about the novel was the treatment of the supporting character Bee. [SPOILER] To spoil the climax of the novel, Bee, Amanda’s first friend at her new school, develops a crush on her and outs Amanda in front of the entire school at Homecoming when Amanda rejects her advances. This is not the only thing Bee does, but I’m going to be quite vague so as to not spoil things. This would be less of an issue for me plot-wise if Bee’s treatment by the author didn’t swing so close to the Psycho Lesbian trope. Bee outs Amanda because she’s been rejected by the other girl, and considering some of her other actions, she pretty much perfectly fits this trope. The only thing that keeps her from fitting is that the narrative states that Bee is pansexual. However, she’s only ever shown in-story to be attracted to girls, so it still sits uncomfortably close to this trope. For a novel about acceptance, belonging, and LGBTQA+ issues, use of this trope, however unintentional it may have been, really rubs me the wrong way.

While I was not hugely fond of this book, there were parts I really loved, and it is a good read until the climax of the story. For similar books, I point people in the direction of Wandering Son, a manga which follows two trans kids from the end of elementary school to the beginning of high school. Fans of that series would probably also enjoy If I Was Your Girl. –Ella W.,16


Amanda is the new girl in town, and boys seem to be all over her as soon as she walks into the hallways of her new high school. But Amanda has a secret, a secret that might just keep her from starting a relationship with the boy she likes. Because only two years earlier, Amanda had been an Andrew, and had looked not a bit like how she looked now.

I liked the cover. It kinda gave me a sense of mystery, and I wanted to know more about what was inside.

The plot was awesome. I loved the story, and I liked how it informed kids of the topic of being transgender. I thought the characters were pretty well-rounded, although I wish they had all been a little more unique and different from each other. I also liked the writing style, but at some points throughout the book, things were a little confusing, but they were shortly cleared up further into reading, which was nice. I also liked how Russo switched from the present to the past, adding new pieces of the story to complete a full picture of Amanda’s life before she came to her new home.

I was only confused with how Amanda’s father knew where Grant lived, because I don’t recall Amanda ever telling him where Grant’s home was, and I’m pretty sure Grant said Amanda was the only one who had ever seen his house. So that was just a little unclear, I might have missed something earlier on, though. –Zoe D., 13

SCHNEIDER, Erin. Summer of Sloane. Disney-Hyperion. May 2016. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781484725252.
Gr 8 Up–If you are looking for a fun and flirty yet compelling story, Summer of Sloane is just what you should read. Sloane’s story is something that brings readers in, and as they get further and further into it, they won’t want to put it down.

I thought it was a good all-around book. I loved the dynamic between the characters. I thought the development of Sloane was awesome and very realistic.

I think the cover of the book is fun, and flirty… like the book. But I think the book has more depth than you would originally think by looking at the cover. I think it needs to be said that this is more than a fun book, it also has depth! –Mackenzie C., 16       

summer of sloaneANOTHER TAKE

This book really told the story of the healing process that had to take place with the main character, Sloane, when her world is shattered. It just shows how your life can take a real turn and the people that you thought you knew can really hurt you and leave a big scar. Healing doesn’t just happen in a matter of moment or days, rather months being away to think it all the way through. This book does a really good job of showing the healing Sloane had to work through in her summer away from home.

The cover definitely was not right for this book. It wasn’t very eye-catching, and while it somewhat had to do with the story with the broken wrist, surfing wasn’t a major part of the book. This story is about heartbreak and healing, and I don’t feel that the cover reflected the solemnity of the book. I would have preferred a girl looking out at the sunset without seeing her face.

I liked how the story line was unpredictable. The way it ended really surprised me, and I really enjoyed seeing the healing process the main character had to go through. The pain and the heartbreak were definitely expressed in this story, and it made it really easy for me to connect with, and empathize with the main characters. It taught me the importance of not jumping to conclusions, and being responsible for your actions and the repercussions they could lead to. This story was inspiring about how you have to heal yourself, and how healing takes time—it doesn’t just happen overnight.

There were times where it felt a little over dramatic, and I thought we could have gotten to know a little bit more of Mick and Tyler’s side to the story.

The ending was really good, I just wished the author would have given a little epilogue of how Mick turned out, and Penn, and Sloane.—Jane E., 13          


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Jon Agee and Mara Rockcliff Win Prestigious Bank Street Awards Tue, 26 Apr 2016 21:18:07 +0000 It's Only Stanley was given the 2016 Irma Black Award, and Mara Rockliff’s Mesmerized: How Ben Franklin Solved a Mystery That Baffled All of France received the 2016 Cook Prize.]]> IrmaBlackSeal_2015 copyThe winners are in: the Center for Children’s Literature (CCL) at Bank Street College of Education has selected It’s Only Stanley, written and illustrated by Jon Agee, for the 2016 Irma Simonton Black Award and Mara Rockliff’s Mesmerized: How Ben Franklin Solved a Mystery That Baffled All of France, illustrated by Iacopo Bruno, for the 2016 Cook Prize.

Determined by children from the United States, Europe, Asia, and the Caribbean, the Irma Black Award distinguishes the best read-aloud picture book for first and second grade, while the Cook Prize goes to the best picture book that illuminates science, technology, engineering, and math principles for third and fourth graders.

cookprize_banner copyBank Street Science Teacher, Morika Tsujimura, who was involved in choosing the initial contenders for the Cook Prize, called Mesmerized “a multilayered book where the steps of the scientific method are incorporated into a re-telling of historical events.”

The finalists for the Irma Black Award were Ragweed’s Farm Dog Handbook, written and illustrated by Anne Vittur Kennedy, You Can Do It, Bert!, written and illustrated by Ole Konnecke, and Red: A Crayon’s Story, written and illustrated by Michael Hall. Finalists for the Cook Prize included Ada Byron Lovelace and the Thinking Machine, written by Laurie Wallmark and illustrated by April Chu, and High Tide for Horseshoe Crabs, written by Lisa Kahn Schnell and illustrated by Alan Marks.

Children's librarian Allie Bruce reads Cook Prize contenders to Bank Street School students.

Children’s librarian Allie Bruce reads Cook prize contenders to Bank Street School students.

The winners and finalists will be honored at a ceremony held in Tabas Auditorium at the Bank Street College of Education in New York City at 9:30 a.m. ET, May 19th. Illustrator Scott Magoon, who shared the 2013 Irma Black Prize with author Michelle Knudsen for Big Mean Mike, will be keynote speaker.

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Diverse Debuts | Adult Books 4 Teens Tue, 26 Apr 2016 17:07:33 +0000 13 Ways of Looking at a Fat girl, a novel comprised of short stories that take on fat-shaming, to Kaitlyn Greenidge's We Love You, Charlie Freeman a rich and complex work about an African American family teaching a chimpanzee sign-language.]]> Last year, we looked at two different classes of debut novelists—those who had experience in other areas of writing and those publishing their first major works of any kind. Today, we turn our attention to another batch of “pure” debuts (or, to paraphrase Casino Royale’s Vesper Lynd, there are debuts and debuts). But far more interesting than their role as debut authors (and heartening, given that many of them come from the often predominantly white world of university-trained writers) is their fearless examination of different cultures and, especially, the intersection between conflicting cultures, represented by this cross-section of debuts.

Ann Y.K. Choi, for instance, is an MFA student from the University of Toronto and National University in San Diego, while Lynne Kutsukake is a longtime librarian also at the University of Toronto. Both mine their cultural heritages to great effect in their debuts. Choi’s boldly written coming-of-age novel, Kay’s Lucky Coin Variety, explores the intersection between Korean and Canadian culture, which Choi has had to balance in her own life. Meanwhile Kutsukake’s The Translation of Love takes place in post–World War II Japan, focusing on the interaction between the American occupiers and the Japanese residents trying to pick up the pieces of their lives. One particularly potent character is 13-year-old Aya, a young Canadian girl who has been “repatriated” to Japan despite having never lived there.

Two more MFAs, Mona Awad and Amy Parker, take slightly different approaches to the theme of diversity. Awad’s 13 Ways of Looking at a Fat Girl addresses one of the newest hot-button issues of cultural sensitivity in America, fat-shaming. The novel is structured as 13 short stories, which collectively tell the coming-of-age story of Lizzie, an overweight teen who struggles with her self-esteem, relationships, and identity in (as our reviewer says) “shockingly accurate” prose. Parker, who was born on a military base in Okinawa, Japan, would probably have a fascinating take on Kutsukake’s novel. Her own short story collection, Beasts and Children, takes readers from America to Thailand and in between in a series of dark, interconnected stories about broken family relationships and the replacement relationships forged between the “children” and the “beasts” of the titles.

Our last two novels bring us back home to America’s two most enduring cultural issues: race and class. Kaitlyn Greenidge’s We Love You, Charlie Freeman tells the story of an African American family brought to a research institute in the Berkshires, ostensibly to try to teach sign language to chimpanzees (specifically the title chimp, Charlie Freeman). The institute, though, has a dark history of racial experimentation, and the family, particularly teenage daughter Charlotte, becomes increasingly affected by the racial politics of the institute itself as well as the surrounding town. The careful details—the last name “Freeman,” for example—make Greenidge’s points abundantly clear. Finally, Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney’s The Nest looks at America’s darkest secret: class. The novel is centered on four siblings waiting for their inheritance, only to be brutally awakened to reality when the promised inheritance never comes. Following these four privileged, selfish adults as they enter a new adolescence—coming of age all over again—proves to be a surprisingly moving journey and may show teen readers how money shapes so much about the cultural issues that permeate the other novels reviewed here.

awadAWAD, Mona. 13 Ways of Looking at a Fat Girl. 224p. Penguin. Feb. 2016. pap. $16. ISBN 9780143128489.

A shockingly accurate portrayal of fat culture and female body-shaming, this brief novel comprised of 13 short stories is like a grittier Bridget Jones’s Diary mashed up with Andrew Smith’s Grasshopper Jungle. Lizzie obsesses over her weight. She believes that her thighs are too big and that no one could love her, and so she willingly allows her friends and boyfriends to control her. Lizzie is into online dating until the older man she meets wants a full-body shot, and she always takes what she can get when it comes to romance. When she finds a good man, she loses weight to keep him (even though he doesn’t care about her appearance) and changes her name, but her self-esteem doesn’t improve. The truths revealed in this work make it a difficult read, but most teens will identify with Lizzie in at least one of these tales. Some were previously published, but Awad has arranged them artfully to create a thought-provoking account of a young woman growing awkwardly into adulthood. VERDICT A brash, realistic, and much needed look at body culture and self-esteem. Pair this with Isabel Quintero’s Gabi, a Girl in Pieces.–Sarah Hill, Lake Land College, Mattoon, IL

KaysCHOI, Ann. Kay’s Lucky Coin Variety. 288p. Touchstone. May. 2016. Tr $24.95. ISBN 9781476748054.

In this book set in 1980s Toronto, Mary’s family’s life revolves around their small convenience store. In her final year of high school, Mary tracks the comings and goings of the prostitutes on the corner who buy cigarettes and condoms, harbors a crush on her English teacher, and spends time with her friends. When university starts, Mary juggles extra part-time work with her studies and relationships. But when she tries to juggle romantic relationships with her former English teacher and a nice Korean boy her family adores, things spiral out of control and turn violent. Mary tries to balance her Korean and Canadian cultures. Her parents have high expectations, but they are not nearly as strict and demanding as those often depicted in narratives about bicultural families. Mary’s descriptions of her life tend toward the matter-of-fact, downplaying some of the novel’s darker elements. Her family’s resilience keeps the story ultimately hopeful despite several tragic elements. The pace and plotting pick up in the second half as Mary enters university and starts striking out on her own and making mistakes. The drama of her two relationships is particularly gripping as it grows creepier. VERDICT A strong balance of character and plot make this a compelling addition for coming-of-age collections.–Jennifer Rothschild, Arlington Public Library, VA

weloveyouredstarGREENIDGE, Kaitlyn. We Love You, Charlie Freeman. 336p. Algonquin. Mar. 2016. Tr $25.95. ISBN 9781616204679.

Teenager Charlotte Freeman isn’t thrilled when her mother uproots the family to the Toneybee Institute. All of the members of the family know how to speak in sign language and were hired to live at the Institute and teach Charlie, a chimpanzee, how to communicate. Every moment is filmed, and Charlotte is confronted with racism everywhere— the town is geographically divided by race. She soon discovers the wrongness of it all—an African American family raising an ape as one of their own. Back in the 1920s, the Toneybee Institute conducted racist, Tuskegee-like experiments, which readers learn about from the point of view of a black woman and from the perspective of the institute’s rich white founder. Charlotte’s coming-of-age story will ring true with teens, who will cringe at the blatant and subtle racism she encounters. Her sexual identity as a lesbian is never the center of the story, and neither are the apes. This is a literary yet easily approachable novel about race, family, and relationships, making Greenidge an author to watch. While the similarities to Kenneth Oppel’s Half-Brother and Sara Gruen’s Ape House are obvious, this volume would also pair well with Haroer Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird. VERDICT This strong debut novel is perfect for book clubs and will initiate discussion about race, stereotypes, and microaggressions.–Sarah Hill, Lake Land College, Mattoon, IL

translKUTSUKAKE, Lynne. The Translation of Love. 336p. Doubleday. Apr. 2016. Tr $25.95. ISBN 9780385540674.

Beautifully written, this novel examines the complexities of post–World War II Japan for the Japanese and the Americans living there as part of the occupation. The citizens face shortages of food and medical supplies. Discrimination and mistrust are everywhere—especially toward Japanese Americans who have been forced to repatriate, the women who became romantically involved with American soldiers, and the biracial children who resulted from those liaisons. Despite difficulties, the characters find the inner strength and resilience  they need to survive. Teens will relate to the complex friendship that develops between 13-year-old Aya, who was born in Canada yet was sent “back” to Japan, and her tenacious classmate Fumi, who enlists Aya to write a letter in English to General MacArthur asking for help in finding her missing older sister. Other translators in the novel include the girls’ teacher, Sensei Kondo, who supplements his income translating letters, and Corp. Matt Matsumoto, who finds himself haunted by Fumi’s letter. Both men appreciate the hope behind each missive and believe their role is to give a voice to those who have none. Readers seeking more in-depth details about this dark period will want to read Charlotte Taylor’s The Internment of Japanese Americans and Yoshiko Uchida’s Picture Bride. VERDICT An engaging piece of historical fiction highly recommended for leisure reading and to support the history curriculum.–Sherry J. Mills, Hazelwood East HS, St. Louis

9780544370135_hresPARKER, Amy. Beasts and Children. 320p.  HMH/Mariner. Feb. 2016. pap. $15.95. ISBN 9780544370135.

In America, a lonely immigrant mother drives her car into a river, drowning herself and her two children. In Thailand, a teenage girl convinces her younger sister to cruise and drink with grown men. A father forces his son to kill a kitten, desiring only that the boy “be smarter than me.” Gruesome? Perhaps. Indelible? Definitely. Readers may not immediately experience a taste for the darkness of some of the family relationships, but after a few stories, they will bite down hard. Parker writes too well to be forgotten and displays a talent for unearthing aches readers have attempted to bury. After Jill, the neglected daughter of a diplomat, finds herself in the apartment of an opiate addict, her remorse is so stark that many teenagers will strongly identify (“She understands this about herself—that her shame will endanger her again and again.”). The pieces share characters and are connected. It’s comforting to meet the characters again, but there’s also the pain of realizing how badly their lives turned out. How do young people recover from the traumas of childhood? Why do some adults carry their pain so deeply? There are no comfortable answers, and this is not a collection for those who cry easily. VERDICT A collection for teens who love to look at the darker side of life. It will have a special lure for ex-pats and will command a strong audience in international schools.–Pamela Schembri, Horace Greeley High School, Chappaqua, NY

SweeneyNestSWEENEY, Cynthia D’Aprix. The Nest. 368p.  HarperCollins/Ecco. Mar. 2016. Tr $26.99. ISBN 9780062414212; ebk. ISBN 9780062414236.

The four Plumb siblings are waiting for their inheritance (affectionately called the nest) to be dispersed once the youngest sister turns 40. The nest has been growing exponentially since their father’s untimely death when they were all adolescents, and each one of the Plumbs has been making poor financial decisions in the hopes out of being bailed out by the nest. Instead, the oldest brother is allowed to withdraw the majority of the money early to be used as a payoff for an unfortunate accident he causes. The story develops as the remaining siblings begin to navigate life and the consequences of their decisions without a safety net, but the plot is much more complex than a look at four dysfunctional and often selfish siblings. Teens will initially be pulled into the story by the shocking events in the prologue, but they will connect with the siblings as they recognize aspects of themselves in each of them. The epilogue goes beyond a typical happy ending, illustrating how the siblings have changed and learned more about themselves. YA readers will enjoy immersing themselves in the trendy side of life in New York, as well as coming to understand how adult life may not be all it seems on a well-crafted surface. VERDICT A strong choice for demonstrating how adulthood is as much of a discovering process as adolescence. Purchase where coming-of-age tales are needed.–April Sanders, Spring Hill College, Mobile, AL

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Diversity, BookTubers, and YA Lit Frenzy at the North Texas Teen Book Festival Tue, 26 Apr 2016 14:07:13 +0000 As young adult literature has increased in popularity, logo_nttbf_final_v2criticism of the category has also increased through thinkpieces and op-eds espousing the same rhetoric. “YA isn’t complicated.” “Those who do read YA aren’t sophisticated or thoughtful.” “Teens don’t read.” Apparently no one told Texas any of this, because on Saturday, April 23, readers flocked to the city of Irving by the thousands to attend the North Texas Teen Book Festival (NTTBF). Now in its second year, NTTBF boasted a lineup of 75 authors—including Sarah Dessen, Victoria Aveyard, Marie Lu, and James Dashner—featured on 63 different panels. Additionally, NTTBF staff, recognizing the tech savvy of YA readers, created a small panel track featuring prominent BookTubers, podcasters, bloggers, and freelance writers.

The festival also expanded its programs to Friday with a luncheon panel featuring Ruta Sepetys, E. Lockhart, and Dessen, followed by professional development sessions for teachers and librarians. Sepetys, addressing criticism of teens, stated, “I think young readers are deep readers and deep thinkers.” During the educator sessions, which were sponsored by the Educational Service Centers of Regions 10 and 11 and Sam Houston State University’s Library Science Department, authors such as Julie Murphy, Cindy Pon, Holly Black, and Varian Johnson discussed hot topics including genre-fying and labeling collections, censorship, and diversity.

Teens chatting with Ya authors. Photos by SoonJoon Koo.

Teens chatting with YA authors. Photos by SoonJoon Koo.

Diversity remained a constant theme throughout the festival, which is no surprise considering the current conversation dominating the YA community. It was an appropriate topic given a 2012 study that ranked Irving’s 75038 zip code the most diverse in the country, with nearly equal populations of Asian, African American, Latino, and white residents. Pon, discussing her need to write fantasy novels featuring Asian protagonists, talked about never seeing herself in novels until she was an adult. Alex London, author of Proxy and The Wild Ones, declared, “What’s not safe is not having diversity in your collection.” Landry Park author Bethany Hagen, who doubles as a librarian when not writing, advised teen writers to “tell the stories [they] want to tell despite what the market tells [them].” She added, to delighted applause from the audience, “If you write marginalized voices, we need your voice.”

Sharing stories was highly encouraged by the festival, whose tagline is “Endless Stories.” At photo booths on the first and third floors of the convention center, staff provided paper and pencils for attendees to share their stories, whether real or fictional. “I enjoyed meeting the author that inspired me to write, be strong, and be adventurous,” one statement said. Another declared, “Books are the magic that keeps me alive,” and a third shared, “I read mountains of books…and now people have been concerned. They say I have a problem. Too many books are stuffed in my closet.” Several nonreaders submitted refreshingly honest stories about not enjoying reading. “But I bet you after this convention, I will start to like books.”

YA author panel

YA author panel

Attendees were also quick to share their stories in person, like the students and librarians from Green Forest High School in Arkansas, who raised money for two years and drove over 12 hours round trip to attend the festival. While waiting for the afternoon signing, one young girl exclaimed, “This is the best feeling I’ve ever had!” After thinking for a moment, she amended, “Well, I have a dog so I guess this is the second best.” Her friend shook her head and declared, “No, this is totally the best!” The festival, which partners with Forever YA, encourages readers of all ages to attend, and one of the most touching moments came in the early morning quiet, before doors even opened. An officer with the Irving Police Department was speaking with a volunteer librarian in the speed dating area. “Gordon Korman will really be here today?” he asked, looking at stacks of books waiting for readers to adopt them. “I read Gordon’s books when I was in fifth grade!”

The speed date with a book program was one of the festival’s most unique offerings. Local teachers and librarians volunteered to pitch festival titles to teen readers between fifth and 12th grade. After hearing a few pitches, teens were able to select a copy to take home. Teens could be seen throughout the day devouring their new books, hoping to have them read before the signing.

A massive YA author signing. About 8,000 people attended the event.

A massive YA author signing. About 8,000 people attended the event.

Indeed, much of NTTBF’s success can be attributed to the steering committee’s dedicated partnerships with area schools and libraries. Two information sessions held months in advance were attended by hundreds of local educators, who returned to their schools and proceeded to spread the word of the festival, its authors, and their books to their students. NTTBF provided promotional materials that book clubs and student groups used to create elaborate festival displays. Some schools held festival-themed scavenger hunts and created group T-shirts. Other school groups helped count down the last few weeks until the festival via social media. The end result was a staggering 8,000 in attendance, mostly teens, and a line of buses that stretched past what the eye could see, a view author Lance Rubin described as “both joyful and terrifying,” a thought echoed by other presenters.

Do book events like the NTTBF make a difference? On Sunday, two girls stopped in the Irving Public Library South Branch, where I was poring over tweets and notes from the day before, attempting to write this article but also still trying to recuperate. They stepped up and whisper-shouted, “You were at the festival yesterday!” I thanked them for attending and asked what they enjoyed. “Definitely Sarah Rees Brennan! She’s so funny!” one exclaimed. She was still holding her copy of Rubin’s Denton Little’s Deathdate, which she’d picked up during speed dating. Her friend told me about picking up Brodi Ashton’s Everneath, which Ashton had signed. They then playfully fought over the one copy of Chandler Baker’s Alive that was checked in—I had to make sure to place another on hold!—and swooned over If I Stay. Another teen, Alexandrea, tweeted to NTTBF, “Thank you so much for that wonderful experience! It honestly had a huge impact on my life!” Her teacher Heather Clark replied that she “can’t wait to say [she] knew her when…as her first novel is published.” Supposedly teens don’t read anymore, but here in Irving, TX, we’d like to respectfully disagree.

To learn more about the NTTBF, visit their site at Be sure to pencil NTTBF 2017 on your calendar, which is tentatively scheduled for March 3–4.

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Summer Days and Summer Nights: Twelve Love Stories edited by Stephanie Perkins | SLJ Review Tue, 26 Apr 2016 13:00:44 +0000 Perkins, Stephanie, ed. Summer Days and Summer Nights: Twelve Love Stories. 400p. ebook available. St. Martin’s/Griffin. May 2016. Tr $19.99. ISBN 9781250079121. 

Gr 10 Up –In this latest anthology and follow-up to 2014’s My True Love Gave to Me, Perkins returns with an enthralling collection of steamy summer love stories penned by an all-star cast, which includes Lev Grossman, Veronica Roth, and Libba Bray. The stories are by turns bittersweet, unexpected, and unapologetically hopeful, and themes [...]]]> redstarPerkins, Stephanie, ed. Summer Days and Summer Nights: Twelve Love Stories. 400p. ebook available. St. Martin’s/Griffin. May 2016. Tr $19.99. ISBN 9781250079121. YA-HS-SL-Perkins-Summer Days and Summer Nights

Gr 10 Up –In this latest anthology and follow-up to 2014’s My True Love Gave to Me, Perkins returns with an enthralling collection of steamy summer love stories penned by an all-star cast, which includes Lev Grossman, Veronica Roth, and Libba Bray. The stories are by turns bittersweet, unexpected, and unapologetically hopeful, and themes of endurance, bravery, and determination emerge as the teens navigate issues such as broken families, ending relationships, life after high school, and identity. Standouts include Brandy Colbert’s “Good Luck and Farewell,” a realistic look at two Chicago teens who have lost family members, one to South Side violence, the other to depression, and Grossman’s “The Map of Tiny Perfect Things,” the story of two teens who live the same day repeatedly, which enables them to create the titular item. Francesca Lia Block offers up a gloomy look at love lost, but the vast majority of the selections end on a hopeful, if not an altogether happy, note. Fantasy, soft horror, science fiction, and paranormal all take their place beside the prevalent realistic pieces, and it seems that the authors took the call for diversity to heart, providing not only racial but sexual and developmental diversity as well. There is a fair amount of cursing and sexually charged language, Block’s story presents a matter-of-fact sexual encounter, and not all tales will appeal to all readers, but there is something for everyone here. VERDICT This title is a sizzling must-have that will be too hot to keep on the shelves.–Alea Perez, Westmont Public Library, IL

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

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Middle Grade Xpress Reviews | May 2016 Tue, 26 Apr 2016 12:00:51 +0000 1605-EXP-MiddleGrade-CVs

More of May 2016
Xpress Reviews

Picture Books

Chapter Books



Graphic Novels

Cheverton, Mark. Invasión del mundo principal: Una aventura Minecraft. tr. from English by Elia Maqueda. 200p. (Gameknight999: Bk. 1). Rocaeditorial. Aug. 2015. pap. $14.95. ISBN 9788416306077.

Gr 3-6 –Young Minecraft enthusiasts will rejoice, as there is a new way for fans to appreciate their favorite game. This Spanish-language title chronicles Gameknight999’s adventure through the land of Minecraft. Gameknight999 likes the game but most of all enjoys tricking his fellow players. However, one day he mistakenly triggers his dad’s invention, el digitalizador (the digitizer), and blacks out. When Gameknight999 comes to, he’s able to understand pigs, cows, and chickens. He has been transported into the world of Minecraft. Now he has to struggle to survive as he encounters zombies and creepers. The writing is adequate, accessible, and interesting, though readers be warned, the first four chapters, which take place before Gameknight999 becomes a character in the game, go slowly. This is a book that is sure to pique the interest of reluctant readers, gamers, and fans of Minecraft. VERDICT This title should be available in all juvenile fiction collections serving Spanish-language readers.–Maricela Leon-Barrera, San Francisco Public Library

Durham, Paul. Rise of the Ragged Clover. illus. by Petur Antonsson. 304p. (The Luck Uglies Trilogy: Bk. 3). HarperCollins. Mar. 2016. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780062271563.

Gr 5-7 –Village Drowning is suffering, and no word has come from it as Rye (Riley) O’Chanter, her little sister, and her mother hide out in Beyond the Shale, waiting and looking for Rye’s father. Harmless is more than Rye’s father; he is the chieftain of the Luck Uglies, the town’s protectors, who are threatened by the ambitious, evil Slinister. As Rye and her friends in Drowning reunite and work to save their village and families, she discovers that things are not always clear-cut and that people—including parents—can be good and bad. Fast-paced and tense, with likable characters, this is a worthy addition to the series. VERDICT Though this third installment works as a stand-alone, it’s best appreciated by readers of the previous books.–Maria B. Salvadore, formerly at District of Columbia Public Library

Gemmell, N.J. The Kensington Reptilarium. 304p. Random. Apr. 2016. pap. $12.99. ISBN 9780857980502.

Gr 4-7 –Siblings Kick, Scruff, Bert, and Pin Caddy live on their own in the Australian outback with their beloved dingo, Bucket, as they wait for their father to return from his top secret World War II mission. Having scared off their guardian, the children are growing more and more feral, and their food stores are running low. Months after the end of the war, with still no sign of their father, a visitor arrives with the devastating news that their father is missing in action and they will have to go to London to live with their mysterious Uncle Basti. Reeling from the news and the jarring change of place, the ragtag siblings are left on the doorstep of their uncle’s crumbling home in war-ravaged London. What follows is a completely unexpected and wholly delightful adventure as the kids navigate the mercurial personality of their shell-shocked shut-in uncle and his Reptilarium full of mysterious hidden passages, themed rooms, and all manner of dangerous reptiles. Readers will enjoy the twisting plot and the thrilling discovery of the various nooks and crannies in the Reptilarium. Oldest sibling Kick’s breathless and exciting narration conveys trepidation, vulnerability, and a fierce love for her younger siblings. Although the ending wraps up a bit too neatly, it feels balanced by the palpable anxiety of the rest of the story. VERDICT An unpredictable but ultimately uplifting tale that will appeal to fans of adventure stories such as Trenton Lee Stewart’s The Mysterious Benedict Society and Lemony Snicket’s “A Series of Unfortunate Events.”–Kristy Pasquariello, Wellesley Free Library, MA

Holt, K.A. Red Moon Rising. 336p. ebook available. S. & S./Margaret K. McElderry. Feb. 2016. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781481436267.

Gr 4-6 –As a young colonist on a nameless moon, Rae has been taught to fear and despise the Kihuut natives, who are called Cheese due to mishandling of their original name. Although efforts between her father and A’alanatka, a leader in the Kihuut community, have been ongoing, Rae and her sister are captured during an attack. Despite the trauma of being kidnapped, Rae and Temple adapt quickly to Kihuut culture and appreciate the greater freedom enjoyed by Kihuut women, although Rae often thinks of her family left behind. During her captivity, Rae learns that she was taught an incorrect version of an infamous massacre that took place between the Kihuut and the human colonists, including that the Kihuut inflicted germ warfare on the community. When the humans invade the Kihuut in revenge for the kidnappings, many Kihuut are killed or sentenced to hanging. Rae must decide whether to join her aunt as a physician’s apprentice and endure the patriarchy of her settlement, or return to the Kihuuts. The action begins immediately and remains fast-paced, at the expense of character development. Rae is an appealing and spirited protagonist who clearly struggles with her dilemma. While the theme of forced colonialism provides opportunity for discussion and is obviously based on the tragic history of white homesteaders and Native Americans, some readers may look askance at the mimicry of Native American names and mythology. VERDICT A strictly additional purchase if demand for dystopian novels is insatiable.–Jennifer Schultz, Fauquier County Public Library, Warrenton, VA

redstarJohnson, Jaleigh. The Secrets of Solace. 288p. (World of Solace: Bk. 2). ebook available. Delacorte. Mar. 2016. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780385376488.

Gr 4-8 –Archivist apprentice Lina lives in the future world of Solace, learning to analyze the curious treasures that fall from the sky in the scrap towns on the borders. Under the absentminded guidance of Councilwoman Zara, the lonely orphaned Lina has become isolated from her fellow apprentices, spending her time eavesdropping on secret conversations and exploring forbidden tunnels. With the discovery of a hidden sentient airship named Merlin, and the assistance of Ozben (a prince who is hiding from vicious assassins), the intrepid Lina sets out to fly Ozben to alert his combatant sister to a treasonous plot to escalate the Iron War, rescuing its desperate refugees on the way. In the midst of a fierce storm, Lina pilots Merlin safely to the rescue, only to face the Solace archivists threatening to seize and imprison the living airship for research on her return. Johnson has achieved another winner in this second book in the series. Lina is a tough cookie who doesn’t give up easily, and her dangerous humanitarian mission brings her respect and friendship from unlikely places—and the delicate beginnings of romance, too. Johnson has a sure touch in writing for this age group. Lina’s terrible loneliness at the beginning of the story, her forlorn attempts to emotionally engage her disinterested caregiver, and her endearing clumsiness will strike a chord with every (misunderstood) tweenage reader. Johnson’s imaginative future world is so cleverly realized and appealing—with the soul of the airship visualized as a tiny flame, chameleons morphing between human and dragonlike form, the memory jar with its “thin pink mist” containing crucial memories unique to the person holding it, the insect lumatites gathering on Lina’s glove to light her tunnel explorations—that it almost feels as if readers are already in the movie that this series will hopefully spawn. VERDICT Highly recommended for those who have finished with Harry and are too young for Katniss.–Jane Barrer, United Nations International School, New York City

Laird, Elizabeth. The Fastest Boy in the World. 176p. Pan Macmillan. Apr. 2016. pap. $11.99. ISBN 9781447267171.

Gr 3-6 –Eleven-year-old Solomon loves to run; he always has. He fantasizes about becoming an Olympic runner and carrying the green, gold, and red flag of his beloved Ethiopia to glory. But his dreams will never come to pass, as he knows his simple life in a round hut in the tiny town of Kidame can never lead to Olympic glory. One day, Grandfather asks Solomon to accompany him on a trip to Addis Ababa, the capital city. Solomon is so excited to go, but it is a day’s walk, and he worries about Grandfather being able to make the journey. Along the 23-mile trip, Grandfather falters more than once, but they are able to make it to the big, exciting city. When Grandfather takes Solomon to meet the son of one of his most cherished friends, Solomon discovers a family secret that changes his attitude about his grandfather and his life forever. On this same day, when his grandfather falls very ill, the boy also learns a profound lesson about true friendship and the enduring love of family. Laird writes with an obvious admiration of this often unfavorably depicted country and the proud history of its people. Peppered in the narrative of Solomon is a background story, rich with the history of Ethiopia’s struggle for independence from Italy, its rule by Emperor Haile Selassie, and a true respect for the people who fought for its freedoms. VERDICT An excellent introduction to Ethiopian culture as well as a wonderfully written exploration of a boy’s love of country and sport.–Carol Connor, Cincinnati Public Schools, OH

Rasine, Birgitte. The Jaguar and the Cacao Tree. 330p. (Max and the Code of Harvests: Bk. 1). Lucitá. Mar. 2016. pap. $9.99. ISBN 9781938284922; ebk. $9.99. ISBN 9781938284984.

Gr 5-8 –Not only is the rain forest in Guatemala full of exotic plants, animals, and insects, it has an old, mysterious magic. That magic seats itself inside an ancient cacao tree, where the stories of the past are held within the cacao pods. Up until recently, only the Mayan elders knew of the secret magic. All of that changes when a young boy named Max travels to Guatemala with his family to study the stingless bees of the Maya. The magic of the rain forest immediately casts a spell on Max. A young Mayan girl, Itzel, notices the magic surrounding Max and befriends him by sharing her customs and the history of the cacao trees. Itzel slowly begins to reveal the secrets of the rain forest, until one night the two wander deep into the forest and release a magical force. This is a unique middle grade novel that expertly blends magic, science, culture, and ecological awareness. While the writing is rich and detailed, it may go over less experienced younger readers’ heads. Max fluctuates between having authentic, typical 11-year-old boy reactions and experiencing thoughts and feelings like those of a much older person. The extensive vocabulary used makes this book an excellent resource for readers looking for a challenge. VERDICT An original concept helps propel this story forward, creating a magical world that entertains and educates.–Annalise Ammer, Henrietta Public Library, NY

Sazaklis, John. The Dangers of Dog Walking. ISBN 9781496525871; ISBN 9781496526847.

––––. Recess Is Ruined. ISBN 9781496525888; ISBN 9781496526854.

ea vol: illus. by Lee Robinson. 96p. (Billy Burger, Model Citizen). glossary. Capstone. Jan. 2016. lib. ed. $21.99. pap. $5.95.

Gr 3-5 –Trouble seems to find Billy Burger, a boy with an active imagination, a love of food, and a fondness for the phrase Say what? In Recess Is Ruined, rain prevents Billy and his friends from going outside, so they play in the empty library. Their antics cause havoc, and Billy looks like the main culprit. Billy has to be a model citizen just like his grandfather to make up for the mess he’s in. He comes up with the idea of a book drive, which ends up being so successful that his teacher announces a Billy Burger Book Drive Week. In The Dangers of Dog Walking, Billy retaliates when the school bully ruins the boys’ science project, and he gets suspended from school for fighting. When Billy is reminded of his grandfather’s work on behalf of the community, he decides to be a model citizen, too, by volunteering at the animal shelter. In both of the short, episodic chapter books, which have a heavy emphasis on correct behavior and the importance of being an upstanding citizen, Billy is redeemed and all is well. Each book includes questions at the end, along with a glossary and brief biography of a real-life model citizen. The stories have stilted dialogue and static plots. Stick with “EllRay Jakes” titles instead. VERDICT Didactic and formulaic, these chapter books are not recommended.–Ramarie Beaver, Plano Public Library System, TX

Turnbull, Samantha. Bella’s Backyard Bullies. ISBN 9781743319857.

––––. Emily’s Tiara Trouble. ISBN 9781743319840.

ea vol: illus. by Sarah Davis. 144p. (The Anti-Princess Club). Allen & Unwin. Apr. 2016. pap. $7.99.

Gr 3-5 –An Australian import from a debut author about four 10-year-old best friends. A diverse group of girls (Emily the mathematician, Bella the architect, Grace the jock, and Chloe the scientist) are determined to turn the princess stereotype on its head. In Emily’s Tiara Trouble, the girls form the Anti-Princess Club, whose motto is “We Don’t Need Rescuing,” and begin to develop missions that support their goals. These missions are established with each girl in mind and completed within each book of the series. In Bella’s Backyard Bullies, the Anti-Princess Club develops a huge Internet following and becomes the target of bullies. While the girls go after the bullies who destroy their clubhouse, they display bullying tendencies as they do so, which confuses the message for young readers. Australian slang and spellings make this series difficult to read at times but not prohibitively so. Though there is a need for powerful female characters, this series doesn’t quite hit the mark, highlighting power through righteousness rather than unity. VERDICT A little more balance is necessary to make this a successful series. Look elsewhere.–Lisa Nabel, Dayton Metro Library, OH

Wilson, N.D. Outlaws of Time: The Legend of Sam Miracle. illus. by Forrest Dickison. 336p. ebook available. HarperCollins/Katherine Tegen Bks. Apr. 2016. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780062327260.

Gr 5-8 –Sam Miracle has always been different. An orphan who lives in a group home, he often blanks out and finds himself in vivid dreams that seem almost real. Sam is also disabled; his arms were shattered in an accident he cannot remember, and though they are healed, they are immobile and painful at times. He soon discovers he is part of a small group of people who can walk through time and that he has lived the same life over and over—dashing around time trying to live long enough to stop an evil outlaw who wants to end the world. Now the time of the final conflict approaches, and with the help of another foster kid, a girl named Glory, and his companion through time, Father Tiempo, Sam sets out to meet his destiny. There’s tons of action and adventure in this book, most of which is set in the old West, but though Wilson tries, he does not successfully manage all the time threads. Younger readers will most likely be confused by the constant, intricate time line shifting as well as the small details of Sam’s past adventures, which are revealed too slowly. Other major hindrances are the problematic elements of stereotypical wise Native American elders and Sam’s disabled arms being cured through magic. VERDICT Though some action scenes are satisfying, overall this time-twisting tale takes too long to sort itself out. Recommended only in libraries where the author’s previous works are very popular.–Angie Manfredi, Los Alamos County Library System, NM

Yee, Lisa. Wonder Woman at Super Hero High. 240p. (DC Super Hero Girls). Random. Mar. 2016. Tr $13.99. ISBN 9781101940594; ebk. $9.99. ISBN 9781101940617.

Gr 4-6 –Following in the footsteps of “Monster High” and “Ever After High,” this first installment in the series is paired with TV specials, online content, and merchandise, including action figures. Teenage Wonder Woman leaves Paradise Island to attend Super Hero High, one of the top schools for budding young superheroes, in Metropolis. She makes new friends, including Bumblebee and Hawkgirl; develops her first crush; and works toward excellence in classes such as Weaponomics and Flyers’ Ed. But not everything is smooth going at Super Hero High. Wonder Woman’s most embarrassing moments are being shared with the world through videos captured by her roommate, Harley Quinn. Even worse, someone is leaving mean notes for Wonder Woman to get her to leave school. While this story is filled with superheroes, it will appeal more to fans of lighthearted school drama stories than those looking for action. The humor sometimes falls flat, and savvy readers will uncover the mystery bully long before the reveal, but with its fast pace, chapters that end on cliff-hangers, and high-interest characters, this is a good choice for reluctant readers or those looking for a fun, quick read. Readers familiar with superhero characters will enjoy seeing some recognizable names, but the story remains accessible for those new to DC’s superhero universe. VERDICT Sure to have wide appeal, this book is a solid option to balance collections saturated with male superheroes.–Jenna Friebel, Deerfield Public Library, IL

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Nonfiction Xpress Reviews | May 2016 Tue, 26 Apr 2016 12:00:44 +0000 1605-EXP-Nonfiction-CVs

More of May 2016
Xpress Reviews

Picture Books

Chapter Books

Middle Grade


Graphic Novels

Baines, Becky. Dolphins. ISBN 9781426323188.
––––. Planets. ISBN 9781426323225.
ea vol: 32p. (Explore My World). photos. National Geographic. Mar. 2016. pap. $4.99.

K-Gr 2 –These newest additions to the series provide readers with bite-size facts sure to intrigue budding scientists. The illustrations are infused with colorful, action-packed photographs, captions, large text, and bright backgrounds. Bold borders draw readers to snippets of additional images that complement the text. Although there is no glossary, index, or table of contents, each book contains additional resources and activities in the back matter. Dolphins examines habitat, life cycle, diet, playtime, and sleep. The final pages illustrate examples of different types of dolphins, ranging from the orca to the bottlenose dolphin. In Planets, readers explore the solar system, planets, climate, and space travel. End pages engage readers in an alien activity to encourage future astronomers to wonder what life on another planet might look like. VERDICT Quality information for younger readers; purchase for collections needing beginning research and browsing material.–Melissa Smith, Royal Oak Public Library, MI

Brown, Jordan D. Science Stunts: Fun Feats of Physics. illus. by Anthony Owsley. 80p. glossary. index. photos. Charlesbridge/Imagine! Jan. 2016. Tr $16.95. ISBN 9781623540647.

Gr 3-7 –Educational consultant Brown’s collection of hands-on science books continues with these 25 experiments on gravity, motion, temperature, magnets, sound, light, and electricity. The book is narrated by Dr. Dazz, a cartoon physicist and magician. He is accompanied by three cartoon sidekicks (Galileo Galilei, Sir Isaac Newton, and Albert Einstein), who explain how each of the experiments works. Each activity includes a description, a list of required props, and a numbered list of instructions and ends with an explanation of the history and science behind the stunt. The activities range from a tea bag rocket to a straw oboe. Cartoon drawings of a diverse cast of children demonstrating the experiments liven the text and clearly illustrate concepts and instructions. Readers are presented with safety rules and tips in the introduction and reminded of them of them throughout the book. In addition, experiments requiring adult assistance are noted. VERDICT Brown’s humorous and upbeat presentation will appeal to readers and would be a worthwhile resource for classrooms and public libraries.–Maren Ostergard, King County Library System, Issaquah, WA

Brown, Tricia. Bobbie the Wonder Dog: A True Story. illus. by Cary Porter. 32p. photos. Westwinds. Apr. 2016. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781943328369.

Gr 1-3 –During a family trip to Indiana in August 1923, Bobbie, the Brazier family’s beloved pet dog, went missing. After an exhaustive search, his heartbroken family returned to Oregon without Bobbie, never imagining seeing him again. However, exactly six months later, Bobbie was spotted back in his hometown by one of his family members—skinny, dirty, and exhausted but elated to be reunited. Incredibly, Bobbie had trekked the nearly 3,000 miles back home to his family. Readers follow Bobbie’s story from the time he was a puppy, learning about his disappearance at the age of two and his extraordinary six-month journey back home to his family. The large, colorful illustrations enrich the text, with the characters dressed in 1920s style. Back matter includes more details of Bobbie’s short life and the events upon his return, as well as a photograph of the real Bobbie with his owner. VERDICT A heartwarming tale that will appeal to dog lovers and those who love true stories. It would make for a fine read-aloud and good independent reading.–Megan Kilgallen, Packer Collegiate Institute, Brooklyn, NY

Gifford, Clive. The Ultimate Animal Criminals. illus. by Sarah Horne. 48p. further reading. glossary. index. photos. websites. Egmont UK/Red Shed. Apr. 2016. Tr $14.99. ISBN 9781405273817.

Gr 3-5 –The information presented in this book is great for upper-elementary students interested in bloodthirsty, real-life critters who bully, steal, kill, cheat, and commit other “crimes” to survive. Each spread is filled with funny cartoon creatures dressed as ne’er-do-wells, and sometimes there is an accompanying photograph to illustrate the concept or “crime” that is in the text. For instance, readers learn about chinstrap penguins, which steal from one another’s nests, or “bandits” like the coatimundi (coati), which ambush their prey. Because this title was originally published in the UK, occasional Briticisms—quantities are given in “centimetres” or other metric measurements, and there are humorous asides, such as “the cheek!” and “dab hands”—could be confusing. Animal books are always popular, and this one is certainly chock-full of facts, including tidbits about famous “criminals” from around the world—Egyptian cobra snake Mia evaded capture from zookeepers at the Bronx Zoo for six days! VERDICT While this isn’t a must-have, it will circulate among wildlife-loving crowds.–Heather Massa, East Rockaway Public Library, NY

GooSsens, Jesse. Cola Fountains and Spattering Paint Bombs. illus. by Linde Faas. 104p. Lemniscaat. Apr. 2016. Tr $19.95. ISBN 9781935954521.

Gr 4-7 –Putting Mentos in soda, soaking an egg in vinegar, and exploding a watermelon with rubber bands are the kind of activities science afternoons are made of. Each of these 47 experiments is given a spread detailing supplies needed, directions, and explanations of the science at work. Warning symbols indicate explosions, messiness, and safety tips, as well as whether the project requires the use of fire. Unlike most science experiment books, which give numbered steps and set amounts, this title presents the “What To Do” sections in prose with approximate measurements. While this may prove to be frustrating for parents or children familiar with step-by-step instructions, it does allow for trial and error for those patient enough. Done in the style of Quentin Blake, Faas’s illustrations add joyous beauty, but not information, to each activity. VERDICT Nothing new here, but this might be a starting point for hands-on activities ideas; purchase for STEM collections or programming.–Jennifer Wolf, Beaverton City Library, OR

Sneideman, Joshua & Erin Twamley. Renewable Energy: Discover the Fuel of the Future. illus. by Heather Jane Brinesh. 128p. chron. diag. glossary. index. websites. Nomad. Apr. 2016. Tr $22.95. ISBN 9781619303560; pap. $17.95. ISBN 9781619303607.

Gr 4-6 –Owing to an overreliance on fossil fuels, the need for renewable energy has become urgent. Examining the benefits and trade-offs of solar, wind, hydro, geothermal, wave, and biofuel energy, this work offers information and hands-on projects. A “PS” icon (primary source) is used to indicate online resources that may be accessed through a QR code. Although these electronic materials may be helpful for additional information, they are useful only for students with smartphones or tablets. A few activity ideas to help readers further understand the concepts end each section. Some of the experiments require materials that are not easily obtainable, such as beeswax candles or heat-proof glass beakers, and the instructions are often not clear enough for younger students. With adult supervision and input, some of the activities could be appropriate for science fair or classroom projects. The illustrations, done in primary colors, help to visualize the concepts presented. VERDICT A useful addition for larger collections with students studying renewable energy sources.–Eva Elisabeth VonAncken, formerly at Trinity-Pawling School, Pawling, NY

Stein, Joshua David. Can I Eat That? illus. by Julia Rothman. 40p. Phaidon. Mar. 2016. Tr $16.95. ISBN 9780714871400.

K-Gr 2 –A colorful look at different types of foods, presented with humor and a light-hearted touch. Stein playfully asks, “What about ‘a potato…a tomato…[or] a tornado?’ You can’t eat a tornado, but you can eat tonnato sauce from Italy, tournedos from France, or tostadas from Mexico.” The text is simple but lively, often making use of puns. Rothman’s illustrations, created in ink and gouache, solidify this title as an excellent offering for a nonfiction storytime. The text, illustration, and design all interact—an illustration of a round piece of food on a green background is accompanied by text that asks if it could be a faraway donut or a close-up Cheerio. The whimsical and incongruous concepts presented in the text will keep the little ones giggling. VERDICT An enjoyable addition suitable for discussions on food or for some added fun at storytime.–Roxanne Burg, Orange County Public Library, CA

Straus, Susan Farber. Somebody Cares: A Guide for Kids Who Have Experienced Neglect. illus. by Claire Keay. 32p. Magination. Mar. 2016. Tr $14.95. ISBN 9781433821097; pap. $9.95. ISBN 9781433821103.

Gr 1-4 –Soft colors and a gentle tone accompany this title meant for children who have experienced neglect. Written in the first person, the text explores what that situation might have been like (physically and emotionally) and what working with a social worker means. The narrative begins with a confident child who is beginning to have doubts about his ability to take care of himself (“There were times I felt good about being me…. But that’s not how I felt all the time. Lots of times I needed help and there was no help.”). Each spread is broken into several panels that follow a diverse group of children as they try to cope with neglectful home environments. Regardless of what the neglect is (lack of food, extended periods alone, parental substance abuse or fighting) each example is shown as a recurring incident that has a very saddening and traumatic effect on the child (“I thought this was the way it would be forever.”). Hope arrives in the form of a social worker. Next, the child, caregiver, and social worker all work together to solve the issue of neglect. A “Safety Plan” and a “Feel-Good Plan” are introduced as a way for kids to maintain a sense of independence while undergoing potentially stressful changes—seeing a social worker, visiting a psychologist, or moving into a new home. VERDICT A therapeutic tool for school counselors, therapists, and social workers. An additional purchase for libraries.–Karen Ginman, BookOps: The New York Public Library and Brooklyn Public Library

Swanson, Jennifer. Everything Robotics. ISBN 9781426323317.

Zweig, Eric. Everything Sports. ISBN 9781426323331.

ea vol: 64p. (National Geographic Kids). further reading. glossary. illus. index. photos. websites. National Geographic. Mar. 2016. pap. $12.99.

Gr 4-6 –These titles are designed for casual browsers and more serious readers alike. The four chapters, introduction, and afterword offer a planned route through these ambitious overviews, while the mini-bites of information keep them friendly. Chapter 3 in Robotics, “Robo-Helpers,” shows real-world robots in homes, in factories, underwater, and in outer space. A “Robotic Comparisons” spread of robot and human features ends the chapter. Chapter 2 in Sports, “Dribble, Drive, Hustle,” introduces four popular sports—basketball, baseball, hockey, and football—and closes with a photo gallery of less mainstream sports. Each volume features insights from a professional in an “Explorer’s Corner”—Sports offers the expertise of sports reporter Shalise Manza Young and Robotics provides knowledge from National Geographic Explorer Shah Selbe. These colorful selections are crammed with quality photos, including the dynamic full-spread images on chapter-title and closing pages. An “Interactive Glossary” in each book adds a bit of fun to learning vocabulary words with a quick related multiple-choice question after each definition. VERDICT These resources present accessible fun; both will find eager audiences.–Carol S. Surges, formerly at Longfellow Middle School, Wauwatosa, WI

Tekiela, Stan. Critter Litter: See What Critters Leave Behind! photos by Stan Tekiela. 26p. Adventure Pub. Mar. 2016. Tr $12.95. ISBN 9781591935902.

PreS-Gr 2 –Eww is right! This lift-the-flap book presents a glimpse into the digestive systems of 13 North American mammals. Each animal is given its own spread featuring a brief introduction about where to find it and how to distinguish it from other creatures (tracks, physical characteristics). On each spread, the text is accompanied by captioned photographs, simple shadow illustrations of footprints, and, under the flap, a small photo of the animal’s excrement. The use of color photographs to show real droppings sets Tekiela’s work apart from other poop books, as most rely solely on illustrations of the waste matter. A simple layout with short sentences and descriptive wording makes this book easy to read aloud and to share with a group or one-on-one. VERDICT A great resource for budding ecologists or any young reader going through the feces phase.–Jennifer Wolf, Beaverton City Library, OR

Weber, Jen Funk. Been There Done That: Reading Animal Signs. illus. by Andrea Gabriel. 32p. Arbordale. Feb. 2016. Tr $17.95. ISBN 9781628557275; pap. $9.95. ISBN 9781628557343; ebk. $6.95. ISBN 9781628557480.

K-Gr 2 –Cole is disappointed that he has not seen any wild creatures while visiting his friend Helena, but she shows him that although the animals may not be visible, traces of wildlife can be found all around them. While there is little actual story line (the location of the forest and the reason why Cole is going home tomorrow are not revealed), the reprise “Something had been there. Something had done that” appears with each example, giving the story a running thread and demonstrating that just because one hasn’t spotted the animal, that doesn’t mean it is not nearby. For instance, bark stripped from trees is evidence that snowshoe hares have made their mark and large ovals of matted grass mark the place where a moose has napped. Bright illustrations of the children’s hike accompany the text and offer readers an idea of what the tracks look like. This book would work best in conjunction with examples of local wildlife and animal signs. Back matter includes additional facts, games, and animal statistics. VERDICT This nonfiction picture book would supplement elementary nature and animal lessons well.–Lindsay Jensen, Nashville Public Library

Yanish, Brian. ScrapKins: Junk Re-Thunk. illus. by Brian Yanish. 80p. photos. Holt. Mar. 2016. pap. $12.99. ISBN 9781627791335.

Gr 3-5 –This title is an open invitation to visit Scrap City, where multieyed monsters like Itcher and Stacker mingle with other personified characters created by author Yanish. As these unusual tutors (possible cousins of Jim Henson’s Muppets) lead the way through piles of recyclable refuse materials, readers will be inspired to make useful items, such as a cereal box mailer and other fanciful toys and contraptions. Each of the 24 projects presented emphasizes fun. Underlying lessons relating to science, art, language, and history will spur the imagination and inspire kids to produce their own treasures. Word puzzles, mazes, and comics are interspersed in each of the five sections, which include a featured creature, illustrated “You Will Need” lists, step-by-step project instructions, and related activities: games, puzzles, and art. Kids will appreciate Swooper—a female hippolike creature with pink wings who is “part tech-geek, part scientific inventor” and a prominent citizen of Scrap City. VERDICT A great STEAM-focused craft book for at-home rainy day fun.–Kathryn Diman, Bass Harbor Memorial Library, Bernard, ME

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Graphic Novels Xpress Reviews | May 2016 Tue, 26 Apr 2016 12:00:44 +0000 1605-EXP-GraphicNovels-CVs

More of May 2016
Xpress Reviews

Picture Books

Chapter Books

Middle Grade



Doerrfeld, Cori. Believe Your Eyes. illus. by Cori Doerrfeld & Tyler Page. 48p. (CiCi: A Fairy’s Tale: Bk. 1). ebook available. Graphic Universe. Apr. 2016. lib. ed. $26.95. ISBN 9781467761529; pap. $7.99. ISBN 9781467795715.

Gr 3-5 –Ten-year-old Cici has been through a lot. Her parents announce that they are getting divorced, she feels pressured by her friend to grow up, and she suddenly realizes she has magical powers. And now Cici has only one day to decide whether to keep her newfound powers or discard them. The story moves exceptionally fast, rapidly switching between scenes, which makes it difficult for readers to connect with the characters or learn about their motivations. Refreshingly, Cici’s problems don’t magically go away by the end, and while she loses some friends, she winds up with stronger ties to her family. The illustrations are colorful and wonderfully explore the magical world. VERDICT A decent graphic novel addition.–Peter Blenski, Greenfield Public Library, WI

Flores, Madeleine with Trillian Gunn. Help Us! Great Warrior. illus. by Madeleine Flores. 160p. Boom! Studios. Mar. 2016. pap. $19.99. ISBN 9781608868025.

Gr 5-8 –When the Demons from Demonside, led by the fearsome Demon King, start pouring through a newly opened dimensional portal, only one warrior is brave, strong, and powerful enough to stop them: Great Warrior! Unfortunately, she already has plans for the day. Can Great Warrior be persuaded by her friends to act in time? And will Great Warrior even have friends when everyone finds out the terrible secret she’s been hiding? Thankfully, those in need can always count on Great Warrior, especially if there are snacks involved. Flores and Gunn bring this small but powerful hero to life in this work that’s based on the popular webcomic. The art is clean and colorful and ideal for the tone, which is similar to the TV show Adventure Time but a bit more accessible. The book also carries the same message about friendship and self-esteem. VERDICT This worthy addition will appeal to middle school readers looking for high-energy excitement, interesting characters, and a cool female protagonist.–Erik Knapp, Davis Library, Plano, TX

Furman, Simon. Dragons: Riders of Berk Collection Volume 2: The Enemies Within. illus. by Jack Lawrence & Iwan Nazif. 112p. Titan. Apr. 2016. pap. $12.99. ISBN 9781785851766.

Gr 3 Up –Based on the film How To Tame Your Dragon, this entertaining collection contains three stories from the third and fourth “Riders of Berk” graphic novel digests. In “Ice,” teen Vikings go on a hunt when Astrid’s dragon, Stormfly, turns up missing. They end up traveling the icy Northland seas and invading an enemy camp. In “Litter Sitter,” Snotlout is on monstrous nightmare litter duty. He is soon chasing baby dragons that are eating everything in sight. The last tale, “The Stowaway, finds an unexpected new arrival to the Dragon Academy. His name is Hroar and appears to be brave, bold, and popular with everyone except Hiccup, who suspects that Hroar is not what he seems. The artwork comes alive on each page. Readers are continuously reminded that the cold land of Berk offers warmth and a place to expect the unexpected. Glossy, action-packed pages with various perspectives keep readers wanting more. VERDICT Highly recommended for fans of the franchise and of graphic novel adventures.–Lisa Gieskes, Richland County Public Library, Columbia, SC

HoopmaNn, Kathy. Blue Bottle Mystery: An Asperger Adventure. adapted by Mike Medaglia. illus. by Rachael Smith. 64p. Jessica Kingsley. Nov. 2015. Tr $18.95. ISBN 9781853029783.

Gr 4-7 –In this full-color graphic novel adaptation of Hoopmann’s book of the same name, Ben—an adolescent boy with Asperger’s syndrome—and his best friend Andy uncover a mysterious, possibly magical, blue bottle buried at school. Their lives take surprising turns as the wishes they make begin to come true. Divided into 12 chapters plus an epilogue, the narrative combines white dialogue bubbles and yellow blocks of texts for interior monologue, which convey Ben’s narration and self-talk. The artist expertly arranges the panels and offers a wide color palette to express Ben’s emotional struggles as he tries to navigate a world that has difficulty understanding him. VERDICT This graphic retelling, more successful in its execution than the original, is a valuable purchase with wide appeal for school and public libraries who want to diversify their graphic novel collections with a fun-filled fantastical story about friendship, family, and understanding.–Renee Grassi, Glen Ellyn Public Library, IL

Kanata, Konami. FukuFuku: Kitten Tales. illus. by Konami Kanata. 1. 160p. (Chi’s Sweet Home). Vertical. Feb. 2016. pap. $10.95. ISBN 9781942993438.

Gr 3 Up –Hilarity ensues when an affectionate cat owner and her adorable cat reminisce about the feline’s kitten days. Readers will be thoroughly charmed by watching FukuFuku’s antics, told through a variety of sketches. The owner, a sweet woman, just wants to befriend her kitten. FukuFuku, on the other hand, is initially terrified by her owner’s attention. She slowly relaxes, flourishing in her new environment while discovering how wonderful it is to have an owner, especially when it is time for belly rubs. Readers will be delighted by this new series. Fans of the author’s Chi’s Sweet Home will appreciate the warm, sweet tone. The cute black-and-white illustrations are the focal point of each page. Konami draws exquisite, detailed expressions on both kitten and human. The spare sentences will engage struggling readers, while helping develop abstract thinking and story sequencing. VERDICT Readers and pet owners will find this slice-of-life novel endearing. Offer this one to fans of Ashley Spires’s Binky the Space Cat, Nick Bruel’s “Bad Kitty” books, Patrick Jennings’s Hissy Fitz, and Kiyohiko Azuma Yostuba&!–Jessica Bratt, Grand Rapids Public Library, Grand Rapids, MI

Maihack, Mike. Secret of the Time Tablets. illus. by Mike Maihack. 185p. (Cleopatra in Space: Bk. 3). Scholastic/Graphix. Apr. 2016. Tr $22.99. ISBN 9780545838689; pap. $12.99. ISBN 9780545838672.

Gr 4-7 –Dreaming of her childhood friend Gozi, in which he appears as a hostile Egyptian god, Cleo is rudely awakened to face a dire situation. Octavian and an entire fleet of Xerx warriors surround the spaceship. Managing to escape, Cleo then devises tricky entry into the barbarous city of Hykosis, where she and Akila meet up with Antony, the sword thief. Forced to rely on one another, they warily join forces to find the time tablets Cleo needs. The tension among the three is readily apparent, although there are humorous and heartwarming moments, too. As with the two previous titles, the images, verbal sound effects, and enterprising plot create a rewarding comic narrative that weaves together the past and the future. Fans of Star Wars and Egyptian mythology will particularly enjoy this intriguing tale. VERDICT An exciting, humorous, and satisfying conclusion to Cleo’s fate. Purchase where previous volumes are popular.–Gaye Hinchliff, King County Library System, WA

redstarNorth, Ryan. The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl Vol. 2: Squirrel You Know It’s True. illus. by Erica Henderson. 120p. (The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl). Marvel. Dec. 2015. pap. $14.99. ISBN 9780785197034.

Gr 6 Up –In this latest adventure, college student Doreen Green, aka Squirrel Girl, saves a group of hostages, including her cat-loving roommate, Nancy, from robot dinosaurs. She encourages a mutated hippo with a fiery temper to become a demolition worker instead of robbing banks, and she teams up with Chipmunk Hunk, Koi Boi, Loki (who, at the request of Nancy, transforms himself into “Cat Thor” from her Thor fan fiction), and the new and previous Thors in order to defeat Ratatoskr, the Norse God of Squirrels, whose influence makes heroes and ordinary citizens alike turn on one another. Squirrel Girl’s incredible strength, intellect, and genuine interest in making friends make her an unbeatable heroine and a relatable role model. While there are appearances by current Marvel superheroes, prior knowledge of the larger Marvel Universe is not necessary to understand the story. As in the previous volume, each chapter begins with a Twitter conversation among the characters and ends with fan letters answered by the creators. VERDICT A delightful option for those who loved the first installment and for all graphic novel aficionados.–Marissa Lieberman, East Orange Public Library, NJ

Petrucha, Stefan. Harvey Beaks: Inside Joke. illus. by Andreas Schuster. 56p. Papercutz. Mar. 2016. pap. $7.99. ISBN 9781629914312.

Gr 3-5 –This humorous collection of five adventures features characters and plots from the hit Nickelodeon TV series of the same name. Each episode averages about 10 pages in length and aptly matches the pacing of the TV show. Multiple adventures lead Harvey and his friends to interact with monsters or supernatural beings, and friendship is always the end result. Misunderstandings fuel the humor, and several episodes play up Harvey’s gross misreading of a situation, much to readers’ delight. The artwork is vibrant and cartoony and will appeal to viewers of the show and those who are just looking for a good laugh. VERDICT A funny new series that’s sure to please.–Samantha Lumetta, Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County, OH

Simpson, Dana. Unicorn vs. Goblins. illus. by Dana Simpson. 176p. (Phoebe and Her Unicorn: Bk. 3). ebook available. Andrews McMeel. Feb. 2016. pap. $9.99. ISBN 9781449476281.

Gr 3-6 –Phoebe and her beautiful unicorn friend, Marigold Heavenly Nostrils, have all summer to go to camp and solve mysteries together. Music camp is full of new friends—a funky yet friendly clarinet player for Phoebe, and the lake monster for Marigold. Of course, there are updates from Phoebe’s frenemy, Dakota, whose hair Marigold magically cursed. Summer must come to an end, and Phoebe and Marigold attend school. Marigold, in an effort to help Phoebe become popular (or at least avoid anonymity) turns off her Shield of Boringness so all Phoebe’s classmates can see her unicorn best friend. Finally, Phoebe and Marigold must save Dakota from the goblins, who have taken her hostage. The adventures of Phoebe and Marigold are just as amusing and eclectic as they sound. The pace is quick, almost to the point of being frenzied and unfocused. However, it fits the characters, who are engaging enough to make up for any flaws. The illustrations are quirky, and Simpson expertly places the characters in a real world setting. VERDICT Middle grade readers will find Phoebe and Marigold to be an exciting duo and will probably want a pet unicorn of their own. Purchase where this series is popular.–Morgan Brickey, Arlington Public Library, TX

redstarWhitley, Jeremy. Princeless: Save Yourself! Deluxe Edition. illus. by M. Goodwin. 168p. (Princeless: Bk. 1). Action Lab. Feb. 2016. Tr $24.99. ISBN 9781632291202.

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

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Picture Books Xpress Reviews | May 2016 Tue, 26 Apr 2016 12:00:28 +0000 1605-EXP-PictureBooks

More of May 2016
Xpress Reviews

Chapter Books

Middle Grade



Graphic Novels

Cousins, Lucy. Maisy Goes to London. illus. by Lucy Cousins. 32p. (My Friend Maisy). Candlewick. Mar. 2016. Tr $15.99. ISBN 9780763683993.

PreS –Another well-done entry in an already popular series. Maisy the mouse travels to and throughout London and shows readers about all of the sights one would hope to see. The accurate illustrations are bold and easy for a child to relate to. The text includes many important vocabulary words and would serve as a great starting point for a conversation about traveling. This book is a terrific centerpiece for a lesson in geography, continents, famous places, or great cities. Cousins captures the spirit and energy of exploring a city and makes it palatable for even a very young child. VERDICT This is a fun and rewarding title and is perfect for introducing geography or preparation for travel.–Shannan Hicks, J.S. Clark Elementary School, LA

Denos, Julia. Swatch: The Girl Who Loved Color. illus. by Julia Denos. 40p. HarperCollins/Balzer + Bray. Mar. 2016. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780062366382.

PreS-Gr 2 –In this beautifully illustrated picture book, children are introduced to the idea that wild things should be wild. Readers follow the title character, Swatch, as she catches and tames hues. With surrealist imagery and swirling colors, the artwork draws readers in. The message underlying the stunning images asks kids to consider how we should treat wild things. While the text is at times moralizing, the balance of the overall work is excellent. The pace at which the story unfolds is quick enough to keep children’s attention while slow enough to beg the pondering of the work’s larger themes. The high-quality value and gradation of the color pull children into Swatch’s world. While the text at times seems to jump across the page, it generally adds to the tone. This is also a wonderful choice for vocabulary building. The composition and flow allow the pictures to shine, while gently pushing readers forward. VERDICT The gorgeous illustrations are enough to recommend this title, but the sweet message makes it a must-read; a great read-aloud.–Lauren Lancaster, Crafton Public Library, Pittsburgh

Hinrichs, Alexandra S.D. Thérèse Makes a Tapestry. illus. by Renée Graef. 40p. Getty. Mar. 2016. Tr $19.95. ISBN 9781606064733.

Gr 3-6 –Inspired by a tapestry on display at the J. Paul Getty Museum, this fictional tale of a family who work and live at the historic Gobelins Manufactory transports readers to 17th-century Paris. A third-person narrator reveals how a young girl creates a small tapestry for her father, a court painter for Louis XIV. Mother and daughter wind yarn onto spools for brother Mathieu to skillfully weave while father and brother Henri paint the scenes that inspire these beautiful tapestries, which are destined for palace walls. Though girls traditionally did not weave, Thérèse is so touched by a small painting of the palace in winter that her father gives her that she is moved to create a tapestry of it to surprise him. When King Louis pays a visit, he notices her small but carefully crafted piece and wants it for himself. Quick-thinking Henri saves the day, leaving all happy and satisfied. A loving family and determined young protagonist make this lengthy, somewhat special picture book more accessible. Endpapers feature a map of the Manufactory, which includes a weaving workshop, a painting studio, and more. Rich, detailed illustrations help readers understand the tools, materials, and process of creating a tapestry as well as how people dressed and lived during this period. VERDICT Recommended for museum libraries and larger collections where there is a demand for art history books.–Barbara Auerbach, New York City Public Schools

Hudson, Katy. Too Many Carrots. illus. by Katy Hudson. 32p. Capstone. Feb. 2016. Tr $14.95. ISBN 9781623706388.

PreS-Gr 1 –Carrot-obsessed Rabbit enjoys collecting his favorite vegetable to the point that his den is so crowded with carrots that there isn’t enough room for him. Rabbit sets out to solve his problem. Tortoise offers to share his shell with Rabbit. Rabbit (along with a dozen obligatory carrots) squirms into Tortoise’s shell, and Tortoise’s shell cracks. Now Tortoise and Rabbit both need a place to sleep, so they ask Bird. After three bodies and a load of carrots are stashed into Bird’s nest, the branch breaks. The three homeless friends move in with Squirrel. After Rabbit fills Squirrel’s tree with carrots, there is no room for the four of them. So the story goes until Rabbit feels so bad that he has made so many of his forest friends homeless that he invites everyone back to his den to stay and share his delicious cache of carrots. Hudson’s watercolor and ink illustrations are sprinkled with fun details, like house signs. The critters’ faces are as expressive as they are cute, adding feeling to the dialogue-heavy storytelling. Children will empathize with Rabbit’s need to collect and keep his favorite things near him at all times. They may even think a bit about sharing, the ultimate message of the book. VERDICT This entertaining addition is suitable for sharing one-on-one or in a group.–Mindy Hiatt, Salt Lake County Library Services, UT

Jullien, Jean. This Is Not a Book. illus. by Jean Jullien. 32p. Phaidon. Mar. 2016. Board $9.95. ISBN 9780714871127.

PreS-Gr 1 –With the turn of a page, or a change in orientation, the object in one’s hands (absolutely not a book) morphs into the open mouth of a monster, a piano with sheet music, a tennis court, a laptop computer, the inside of a fridge, and a pair of clapping hands. Colorful illustrations create a Dada-esque board book that is a wordless assemblage of images. Included here are a butterfly, a toolbox, a tent, and a stage, as well as an open-the-flap section depicting the interior of a house; there’s even one picture that may make older children giggle when they realize it is probably a bare bottom. VERDICT A clever wordless board book that is perfect for dialogic reading and a tool for fostering visual literacy.–Paige Garrison, Augusta Richmond County Library System, GA

Levey, Emma. Hattie Peck. illus. by Emma Levey. 32p. ebook available. Sky Pony. Mar. 2016. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781634501705.

PreS-Gr 2 –Hattie Peck is a hen who thinks and dreams about eggs—lots of eggs, big and small. Hattie laid an egg of her own only once, and it never hatched, so she now begins a journey to rescue abandoned eggs and hatch every one of them. For days and weeks she searches, across the ocean, through villages and great cities, over mountains, and through caves, fire, wind, rain, and snow, so that each lonely egg may be brought home and hatched. Hattie, with her distinctively painted teal feathers, rides the frothing arc of a wave, rolls eggs down a tiled roof as though playing a delicate game of Plinko, and glides across an endless cityscape in a parachute harness as she doggedly moves a tower of precious eggs homeward in a series of painted vignettes highlighting the enormity of her struggles. Hattie is, at last, a mom. The spread of the hen coop and more than 40 of Hattie’s “chicks” sporting hand-knitted outerwear is marked by changes in font and a comic sense of the absurd. VERDICT A sweet tribute to a mother’s love, this book is a recommended general purchase for readers in all libraries.–Mary Elam, Learning Media Services, Plano ISD, TX

McAllister, Angela. Big Yang and Little Yin. illus. by Eleanor Taylor. 32p. Hutton Grove. Jan. 2016. lib. ed. $19.99. ISBN 9781910925072; pap. $7.99. ISBN 9781910925065; ebk. $30.65. ISBN 9781910925089.

PreS-Gr 1 –Two pandas are exploring the forest with their red wagon when Big Yang gets stuck in a tree trunk. It’s up to Little Yin to save the day. Once separated, both pandas are sad and feel less than brave. McAllister includes the pandas’ inner dialogue to show that sometimes even the bigger and bolder of two friends needs reassurance when something goes wrong. When Little Yin is backtracking through the forest for help, she finds a way to rescue her friend by using the resources already around her. The lovely, soft watercolors capture the action yet keep the forest from seeming too frightening for young listeners. VERDICT This empowering story allows readers to see that anyone is capable of heroism, no matter their size. A solid addition for most collections.–Tanya Boudreau, Cold Lake Public Library, AB, Canada

McCartney, Tania. Smile/Cry: A Beginner’s Book of Feelings. illus. by Jess Racklyeft. 32p. Exisle/EK. Mar. 2016. Tr $16.95. ISBN 9781921966989.

PreS-K –Children are encouraged to examine feelings in this two-in-one picture book that can be read from the front, then flipped over and read from the back. Both stories feature three animal friends—a cat, a pig, and a rabbit—as they encounter various situations that make them happy or sad. Smile, the front side, depicts different types of cheery expressions, ranging from “a Hug a Cuddly Monkey smile” to “a Laugh Till You Cry smile.” On the flip side, different cries include “a Balloon Pop cry” and “an Ice-Cream Plopping Down cry.” Each selection ends with the same two-page centerfold of the three friends embracing in a circle with the conclusion “Or maybe, just maybe, it’s…a wrapped in a cuddle smile/cry.” These dual narratives offer a playful way for children to explore emotions. McCartney’s gentle, rhythmic text is suited to reading aloud to larger groups or for quiet, one-on-one sharing. Racklyeft’s soft, cuddly illustrations are well matched to the text. Included also are an “Oh My, This is Lovely cry,” when the three friends see a beautiful rainbow, and a nervous “What to Do Now? smile,” given when a vase is accidentally broken, lending a more nuanced, thoughtful perspective on how people express emotions. VERDICT An understated, adept introduction to feelings for young children.–Laura J. Giunta, Garden City Public Library, NY

Na, Il Sung. The Opposite Zoo. illus. by Il Sung Na. 24p. ebook available. Knopf. Mar. 2016. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780553511277; lib. ed. $19.99. ISBN 9780553511284; ebk. $10.99. ISBN 9780553511291.

PreS-Gr 1 –When the Opposite Zoo closes for the night, a monkey escapes its enclosure to wander around and visit other animals, returning to its cage at sunrise before the zookeeper discovers its absence. To showcase the concept of opposites, each spread features two animals that contrast in some way, each labeled with a descriptive word—a tall giraffe and a short pig, a soft tiger and a prickly hedgehog, a slow sloth and a fast cheetah. Though the animals are not named, they are easily recognizable. Young readers will enjoy spotting the sneaky monkey on every page and following its nocturnal adventure, as well as seeing all of the zoo denizens on the last spread. VERDICT Na’s winsome illustrations make this title a delightful take on animal opposites and a great addition to most collections.–Yelena Alekseyeva-Popova, formerly at Chappaqua Library, NY

Sommerset, Mark. Baa Baa Smart Sheep. illus. by Rowan Sommerset. 32p. Candlewick. Feb. 2016. Tr $14. ISBN 9780763680664.

PreS-Gr 2 –In this somewhat dark tale, a bored sheep convinces an unsuspecting and gullible turkey to try smarty tablets. Baa Baa Sheep repeatedly states that the smarty tablets (pellets of poop) are free today for turkeys. Turkey is excited by this prospect and is tricked into tasting them, even though they don’t look or smell appetizing. Turkey eats the smarty tablets, only to realize they were in fact poop. The illustrations are simple and cartoonlike, with soft and muted neutrals. The spare text consists of word bubbles, and although they correspond with the overall theme of the story, readers may find them distracting, as they are spaced too closely together. The narrative is comical, but the humor is at the expense of duping the other character. VERDICT Perhaps useful as a cautionary tale (it comes with a “Warning! Contains Mischief” label) to spark discussions about making foolish choices, but otherwise an additional purchase for most libraries.–Megan McGinnis, Sachem Public Library, Holbrook, NY

Stevenson, Robert Louis. My Shadow. illus. by Sara Sanchez. 32p. Sky Pony. Mar. 2016. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781634501781.

K-Gr 2 –Stevenson’s classic verse is brought to life when a blond, round-faced boy with squiggly red spirals on his cheeks cheerfully extols the virtues of his shadow. Sanchez focuses on the active parts of the poem, first with the opening pages of the boy and his shadow in various poses (easy for young storytime participants to emulate), then with scenes catching the boy in mid-motion: through a door with one foot past the entryway, jumping into bed, ascending steps, etc. Action words are also cleverly bolded, as when the letters of the word taller are underlined by the spread of a shadow over a green field as the boy “shoots up taller like a bouncy rubber ball.” The soft palette of the illustrations allows the 19th-century poetic language to carry over naturally and without anachronisms. VERDICT This accessible and appealing take on a childhood favorite should be appreciated by a broad audience in schools and public libraries.–Joanna K. Fabicon, Los Angeles Public Library

Trice, Linda. Kenya’s Art. illus. by Hazel Mitchell. 32p. Charlesbridge. Jan. 2016. Tr $16.95. ISBN 9781570918483.

Gr 1-3 –Kenya’s class has been given an assignment to complete over the spring vacation. The children need to write a report about what they did over the break. Everyone seems to have done something fun or special while on vacation, except Kenya. She hasn’t taught a puppy a new trick, learned to play an instrument, or even gone to soccer camp. Kenya feels like she won’t have anything interesting to write about. Her father suggests that they go to the museum and learn something new. At the museum, Kenya learns about recycling and reusing items. When she sees an interesting display made out of old plastic bottles and colorful streamers, Kenya becomes inspired to create her own “thingamabob.” This also motivates her family to form their own works of art with old objects from around the house. When Kenya returns to school, not only is she excited to share her information but she is also eager to teach everyone how to make their own thingamabobs. The colorful cartoon illustrations are a combination of digitally overpainted watercolor and graphite. The text and art are earnest and purposeful about recycling, reusing, and making art. VERDICT An additional title for Earth Day and environmental units.–Barbara Spiri, Southborough Library, MA

Wilbur, Helen L. B Is for Beacon. illus. by Renée Graef. 32p. Sleeping Bear. Feb. 2016. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781585369164.

Gr 2-4 –In this alphabet book, in which X marks the spot, each letter is represented by a poem that is paired with a few paragraphs of facts. Some letters stretch to make lighthouses a part of their domain (F is for Festivals, N is for November), but there is at least one illustration of a lighthouse on each spread. A lot of facts can be gleaned from this informational picture book. The poetry flows nicely, for the most part. Illustrations are finely executed and tend toward the dark. VERDICT An additional purchase, especially appropriate for audiences living in the vicinity of the Great Lakes, as well as lighthouse devotees.–Anne Chapman Callaghan, Racine Public Library, WI

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