School Library Journal The world's largest reviewer of books, multimedia, and technology for children and teens Thu, 23 Mar 2017 19:58:40 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Grendel’s Guide to Love and War by A.E. Kaplan | SLJ Review Thu, 23 Mar 2017 13:00:54 +0000 KAPLAN, A.E. Grendel’s Guide to Love and War. 320p. ebook available. Knopf. Apr. 2017. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780399555541.

Gr 8 Up –When the Rothgars move in next door, high schooler Tom Grendel’s summer takes a turn into uncharted territory that proves often terrible, definitely weird, and occasionally wonderful beyond words. He has struggled with the death of his mother and his father’s post-traumatic stress disorder for years; the appearance of the Rothgars, anti–manic pixie dream girl Willow, and inveterate [...]]]> redstarKAPLAN, A.E. Grendel’s Guide to Love and War. 320p. ebook available. Knopf. Apr. 2017. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780399555541.

YA-Kaplan-GrendelsGuidetoLoveandWarGr 8 Up –When the Rothgars move in next door, high schooler Tom Grendel’s summer takes a turn into uncharted territory that proves often terrible, definitely weird, and occasionally wonderful beyond words. He has struggled with the death of his mother and his father’s post-traumatic stress disorder for years; the appearance of the Rothgars, anti–manic pixie dream girl Willow, and inveterate bullies Rex and Wolf in particular push him to more deeply confront love, loss, and what it means to claim one’s self. A well-crafted cast of characters and (mostly) winning humor help carry a narrative that never shies away from a nuanced portrayal of the pains and joys of adolescence and of the ability to find strength in embracing life’s absurdity. Kaplan cleverly sprinkles elements from the Anglo-Saxon epic poem Beowulf throughout, adding a layer that attentive readers might appreciate. The allusions never run too deep, however, and those unfamiliar with the classic work won’t miss much. VERDICT An outstanding YA novel balancing comedy with substantial themes of love, death, and healing.–Ted McCoy, Leeds Elementary and Ryan Road Elementary, MA

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

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25 Kid and YA Books That Lift Up Immigrant Voices Thu, 23 Mar 2017 13:00:10 +0000 170301-FO-ImmagrantStatusImmigration has been a focus in the news and public mind of late, with worldwide politicization around refugees on the move and thousands of unaccompanied Central American children entering the U.S. in search of safety. Reading stories written from the perspective of immigrant and refugee children can challenge privileged tendencies and attitudes that victimize or vilify the “other.” Simultaneously, such texts may present familiar narratives to immigrant youth, particularly titles that address more than just border crossings.

Thus, several of the recently published books here focus on controversial issues, such as violent historical and modern events that have forced people to leave everything behind, as well as the topics of documentation, deportation, family separation, and discrimination. These titles were primarily written and illustrated by #ownvoices authors, individuals of marginalized groups. Many present autobiographical or fictional stories based on childhood memories or draw upon their work with immigrant children. Countries of origin include: Afghanistan, Canada, Chile, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Iran, Jamaica, Korea, Laos, Mexico, the Philippines, Sudan, Syria, and Vietnam. Most of the titles depict journeys to the U.S., although one book is set in unknown countries reminiscent of Syrian experiences, and another depicts Mennonite migrant workers on a circuit between Mexico and Canada.

A wordless graphic novel, a detailed foldout codex, a few bilingual books, and an easy-to-read photo-illustrated informational text augment this selection of picture books, novels, and memoirs, loosely divided into grade level categories. The websites provided complement these books with information on immigrants and refugees in the U.S., and are useful for educators and older students alike.

170301-FO-ImmagrantStatus-CVsElementary Grades

BUITRAGO, Jairo. Two White Rabbits. tr. from Spanish by Elisa Amado. illus. by Rafael Yockteng. Groundwood. 2015. Tr $18.95. ISBN 9781554987412.
K-Gr 3–In this moving picture book, expressive illustrations present the different perspectives of a Central American or Mexican child and father immigrating north. Oblivious to safety concerns, the young girl innocently recounts their journey, while the visual narrative depicts the father’s protective care for his cherished child. An open-ended conclusion leaves a lingering impression, promoting critical discussions.

COY, John. Their Great Gift: Courage, Sacrifice, and Hope in a New Land. photos by Wing Young Huie. Carolrhoda. 2016. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781467780544.
K-Gr 4–Black-and-white photos, accented by a few color images, portray the diversity of 21st-century U.S. immigrants: ages, ethnicities/cultures, religions, and a range of occupations. The accompanying easy-to-read, informational text emphasizes their humanity, difficulties, labors, and successes, and asks readers: “What will we do with their great gift?”

DANTICAT, Edwidge. Mama’s Nightingale: A Story of Immigration and Separation. illus. by Leslie Staub. ebook available. Dial. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780525428091.
Gr 2-5–Vivid oil paintings depict Saya’s longing for her mother, who is being held in an immigration detention center. Although the mother’s recordings of Haitian folktales bring some respite, the girl’s misery cannot be soothed. While the father makes repeated attempts to reunite the family, ultimately it’s Saya’s letter to a newspaper that makes the difference. Audio version available from Recorded Books.

KIM, Patti. Here I Am. illus. by Sonia Sánchez. ebook available. Capstone. 2013. Tr $14.95. ISBN 9781623700362; pap. $7.95. ISBN 9781479519316.
K-Gr 3–After immigrating to the U.S., the young boy in this wordless text longs for his former home. With mounting frustration, he mopes indoors until his precious red seed, brought from his native country, falls out the window. Illustrations use flexible graphic novel panels, sometimes spilling onto strategic white space, and colors that aptly express the plot’s emotional trajectory.

LAÍNEZ, René Colato. From North to South/Del Norte al Sur. illus. by Joe Cepeda. Children’s Book Pr. 2010. pap. $9.95. ISBN 9780892393046.
Gr 1-3–Endpaper maps depicting San Diego, CA, and Tijuana, Mexico, situate readers with José, who desperately desires his mother, deported two weeks earlier. Colorful, tender illustrations depict joy during a visit to Centro Madre Assunta, a refuge for immigrant women and children, as well as frustration on the return trip without her.

LANDOWNE, Youme. Mali under the Night Sky: A Lao Story of Home. illus. by author. ebook available. Cinco Puntos. 2010. Tr 17.95. ISBN 9781933693682.
Gr 1-4–Based on the experiences of artist Malichansouk Kouanchao, this book chronicles Mali’s peaceful life in Laos before civil war forced her family to flee their beloved home. Laotian terms complement the English text, and watercolor-wash illustrations evoke a sense of the girl’s loss and the slow healing that brings hope from memories.

RUURS, Margriet. Stepping Stones: A Refugee Family’s Journey. tr. by Falah Raheem. illus. by Nizar Ali Badr. Orca. 2016. Tr $20. ISBN 9781459814905.
K-Gr 3–A bilingual English/Arabic text illustrated with Badr’s unique stone-and-pebble collages present the migration of young Rama and her family, forced to flee the violence of war and their idyllic Syrian village. Rama lovingly describes her home, the sadness at leaving, and the tiring, scary journey to Europe.

SANNA, Francesca. The Journey. illus. by author. Flying Eye. 2016. Tr $17.95. ISBN 9781909263994.
Gr 1-4–Narrated by an anonymous child, this title chronicles a family’s sudden migration following the father’s death during war. Worry, fear, sadness, and exhaustion accompany their arduous escape made possible by the mother’s strength and resolve. Stunning illustrations with a contrasting palette convey the family’s emotions in this unfinished, yet hopeful tale.

TONATIUH, Duncan. Pancho Rabbit and the Coyote: A Migrant’s Tale. illus. by author. ebook available. Abrams. 2013. Tr $17.95. ISBN 9781419705830.
K-Gr-2 –A drought causes Papa Rabbit to travel to El Norte for work, and his worried son Pancho follows, paying food for Señor Coyote’s guidance…until the supply runs out. Papa’s homecoming saves the day, resulting in celebrations despite the possibility of a return to El Norte. Pre-Columbian–inspired art with digital texture adds rich color to this allegory.

TROTTIER, Maxine. Migrant. illus. by Isabelle Arsenault. Groundwood. 2011. Tr $18.95. ISBN 9780888999757.
Gr 2-5–Anna is a member of a German-speaking Mennonite community originally from Canada but living in Mexico since the 1920s. Her family treks to Canada annually as migrant workers, and she longs to be a tree, rooted in one place. Tender, full-color mixed-media illustrations feature protagonists accented over pastel backdrops.

Middle Grades

AGOSIN, Marjorie. I Lived on Butterfly Hill. tr. from Spanish by E. M. O’Connor. illus. by Lee White. ebook available. S. & S./Atheneum. 2014. Tr 18.99. ISBN 9781416953449; pap. $8.99. ISBN 9781416994022.
Gr 5-8–A dictator’s rise to power results in many “disappearances” in sixth-grader Celeste’s beautiful Valparaíso, Chile. Her multigenerational, multiethnic family is affected as her parents go into hiding while Celeste is exiled to Maine, where she copes with the cold, loneliness, and a new language as she waits to return.

ALVAREZ, Julia. Return to Sender. ebook available. Yearling. 2010. pap. $6.99. ISBN 9780375851230.
Gr 4-7–Eleven-year-old Tyler and Mari alternate as narrators for this book, which humanizes immigrant child experiences. Mari is the daughter of a Mexican family hired to save Tyler’s Vermont family farm from closure. His worldview is challenged following an ICE raid as he learns that only Maria’s younger sisters have “papers.” Audio version available from Listening Library.

ARGUETA, Jorge. Somos Como las Nubes/We Are Like the Clouds. tr. by Elisa Amado. illus. by Alfonso Ruano. Groundwood. 2016. Tr $18.95. ISBN 9781554988495.
Gr 3-6–In this hauntingly illustrated collection of bilingual poems, Argueta shares the fears, dreams, and border-crossing stories of children from Central America and Mexico. Their small forms move across countries atop the “La Bestia” train and by foot through the desert—until Border Patrol agents round them up for processing and they wait, like the clouds.

DIAZ, Alexandra. The Only Road. ebook available. S. & S./Paula Wiseman Bks. 2016. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781481457507.
Gr 5-7–Jaime and cousin Ángela (ages 12 and 15) leave Guatemala to avoid joining, or being killed by, the drug-trafficking gang that murdered a close family member. Family sacrifices enable them to cross Mexico, the desert, the Río Grande, and the border wall to locate Jaime’s brother in New Mexico. Also available in Spanish: El Único Destino.

DUMAS, Firoozeh. It Ain’t So Awful, Falafel. ebook available. HMH. 2016. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780544612310.
Gr 4-7–When 11-year-old Iranian-born Zomorod (aka Cindy, “Like Cindy from The Brady Bunch”) moves—for the fourth time—for her father’s job, the 1979 American hostage crisis in Iran brings unanticipated challenges for the family, including possible unemployment and encounters with racism. Dumas infuses difficult family and school situations with humor and feeling. Audio version available from Brilliance.

LAI, Thanhha. Inside Out and Back Again. ebook available. HarperCollins. 2011. Tr 16.99. ISBN 9780061962783; pap. $7.99. ISBN 9780061962790.
Gr 4-6–In this free-verse novel based on the author’s childhood, 10-year-old Hà and her family escape Vietnam during the war. In anguish over their missing-in-action father, the girl and her older brothers endure the long crossing to Alabama with their mother, where Hà encounters dull food, a new language, and school bullies. The support of family and a neighbor moves Hà toward hope. Audio version available from Recorded Books.

MATEO, José Manuel. Migrant: The Journey of a Mexican Worker. illus. by Javier Martínez Pedro. Abrams. 2014. Tr $19.95. ISBN 9781419709579.
Gr 3-5–In this vertically unfolding codex, with a detailed visual narrative and simple, lyrical English text (verso) repeated in Spanish (recto), a Mexican boy recounts abrupt life changes when his mother must take her two children on the arduous journey to find work in the U.S. and to search for their father already there.

RESAU, Laura. Star in the Forest. ebook available. Yearling. 2012. pap. $6.99. ISBN 9780375854101.
Gr 3-6–Eleven-year-old Zitlally’s story begins just after her father is deported to Mexico when his illegal status is discovered during a routine traffic violation. Her family strains to cope economically and emotionally, a difficult task for a preteen whose heart rests between different countries, cultures, and languages (Nahuatl, Spanish, and English).

SENZAI, N. H . Shooting Kabul. ebook available. S. & S./Paula Wiseman Bks. 2009. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781442401945; pap. $7.99. ISBN 9781442401952.
Gr 5-8–Eleven-year-old Fadi is tasked with his sister’s care as the family escapes Afghanistan for San Francisco. However, Mariam is lost amid the chaos, and the family’s grief is palpable. Subsequent middle school adjustments are made difficult by 9/11, until Fadi’s participation in the school photography club results in a surprising conclusion.

Young Adult

DE LA CRUZ, Melissa. Something in Between. ebook available. Harlequin Teen. 2016. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9780373212385.
Gr 6-10–Successful high school senior Jasmine is the cheerleading captain, valedictorian, and winner of a prestigious scholarship. When her loving, hard-working Filipino parents reveal the family is undocumented, her college dreams shatter. This semiautobiographical novel presents the emotional trauma experienced by many U.S. immigrant students, while weaving in romance and teen drama. Audio version available from Blackstone Audio.

FARISH, Terry. The Good Braider. ebook available. Skyscape. 2012. pap. $9.99. ISBN 9781477816288.
Gr 9 Up–Viola, age 16, recounts her immigration journey in powerful free verse. Propelled by the Sudanese civil war and the horror of rape, she walks barefoot to Cairo, navigating land mines, hunger, and loss. The teen and her mother attain refugee status, escape to Maine, and navigate their identities with new freedoms.

GRANDE, Reyna. The Distance Between Us: Young Reader’s Edition. ebook available. S.& S./Aladdin. 2016. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781481463713.
Gr 6-9–In this memoir adapted for a younger audience, Grande recounts her childhood in Guerrero, Mexico, her immigration to the U.S., and her drive toward a successful academic career. The child’s voice expresses longing for parental love while also struggling with poverty, identity, health, and domestic violence. Deep sibling bonds and resilience propel her forward.

JIMÉNEZ, Francisco. Taking Hold: From Migrant Childhood to Columbia University. ebook available. HMH. 2015. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780547632308.
Gr 9 Up–This fourth title in Jiménez’s autobiographical series, all available in Spanish editions, chronicles his graduate studies at Columbia University in the late 1960s. Narrated in a sincere voice, he references life as an immigrant child of migrant workers while describing the disciplined tenacity that led to high academic and vocational goals.

NAZARIO, Sonia. Enrique’s Journey (The Young Adult Adaptation): The True Story of a Boy Determined to Reunite with His Mother. ebook available. Delacorte. 2013. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780385743273; pap. $9.99. ISBN 9780385743280.
Gr 7 Up–Seventeen-year-old Enrique leaves Honduras for the U.S. on a long and dangerous trek. Desperate for the mother who left years before, he endures violence, hunger, thirst, and deportations before reuniting with her. Their emotional scars and difficult lives promote readers’ consideration of the losses and injustices that many immigrants face.

YOON, Nicola. The Sun Is Also a Star. ebook available. Delacorte. 2016. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9780553496680.
Gr 8 Up–Chance brings Jamaican-born Natasha and Daniel, son of Korean immigrants, together for a day in New York City. She seeks legal assistance to avoid deportation, while he struggles with parental expectations at odds with his love for poetry. Despite personal and cultural differences, the teens develop a romantic relationship and share their stories in alternating chapters.

Quiroa-Ruth_ContribRuth E. Quiroa, Ph.D., is an associate professor of reading and language at National Louis University in Lisle, IL.

Digital picks

BRYCS: Bridging Refugee Youth & Children’s Services. United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. Washington, D.C.
A project of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops/Migration and Refugee Services, this site maintains the “nation’s largest digital resource collection” to support refugee and immigrant children and families. Topics include child welfare, family strengthening, youth development, and anti-trafficking.

Migration Policy Institute. Migration Policy Institute. Washington, D.C.
A nonpartisan and nonprofit think tank, MPI focuses on the analysis of the movement of people worldwide. The site offers links to reports, fact sheets, policy statements, books, and the institute’s online journal, Migration Information Source.

National Immigrant Justice Center: A Heartland Alliance Program. National Immigrant Justice Center. Chicago, IL.
The NIJC provides legal services and advocacy for low-income immigrants, refugees, and asylum seekers as well as information on detention, anti-human trafficking, LGBT rights, asylum, and unaccompanied children.


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Comfort Zone | An original comic by Gene Luen Yang Wed, 22 Mar 2017 21:36:37 +0000 Original Comic by Gene Luen Yang An early lesson in empathy inspired Gene Luen Yang. In an original comic for School Library Journal, the National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature depicts the inspiration for his Reading Without Walls program, which challenges readers to read beyond their comfort zone.


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Original Comic by Gene Luen Yang Original Comic by Gene Luen Yang Original Comic by Gene Luen Yang Original Comic by Gene Luen Yang

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Click here to view the pages of this web comic in a non-slideshow format.

EH160105_GeneYangGene Luen Yang is the author of American Born Chinese, the first graphic novel
to be nominated for a National Book Award and the first to win the Printz Award.
His 2013 two-volume graphic novel Boxers & Saints was nominated for a National Book Award.

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Librarians Providing Safe Havens as Deportation Fears Loom Wed, 22 Mar 2017 18:50:16 +0000 Schools are frequently called upon to be safe havens. Caring and determined faculty, staff, and administrators do everything in their power to keep students safe, happy, and healthy while they are in school, and to send them out into the world equipped to meet its many challenges. This is why the recent executive orders pertaining to immigration, and the subsequent expanding of deportation regulations, have hit school communities particularly hard. But the news has not just stirred up fear and worry, it has also spurred many schools and districts to take action. (Learn more about the executive orders from the Department of Homeland Security and its memos on deportation, explained here by NPR).

Annie McCullough, an elementary school librarian in San Marcos, CA, describes the feeling in her school as anxious and stressed. Discussion of how best to calm and address students who are worried about their families has consumed the two most recent staff meetings. Some students in McCullough’s building are reluctant to come to school, for fear that their parents will be taken away while they are gone.

A display Jennifer Colby put up in her school lobby to encourage acceptance

A display Jennifer Colby put up in her school lobby to encourage acceptance

Jennifer Colby, the librarian at Huron High School in Ann Arbor, MI, says her school community is “very concerned and aware about the safety and feeling of belonging” among their students who are immigrants, as well as their students of different nationalities. Huron High School has a large number of students whose parents have come from all over the world to teach and study at the University of Michigan. At Huron, they are not only concerned for students affected by deportation worries but also for all of their students who feel unwelcome and marginalized in the current political climate.

In order to address the worries and danger to students, these school communities are taking action at both the classroom and district level. At Huron High School, Colby posted a pledge of solidarity in the library that students and staff were encouraged to sign. The pledge was promoted by the organization People Against Xenophobia, founded by Huron alum and current University of Michigan student Hani Ehlor. Colby also created a library display of books and resources that celebrate the diversity of their school population, a step many of the other librarians in Ann Arbor have taken as well.

A later display made by Colby to promote social justice.

A later display made by Colby to promote social justice

Jessica Freeser, the English as a second language (ESL) coordinator for Indianapolis Public Schools (IPS), describes the feeling in her community as “anxious and uncertain.” Indianapolis has a growing international population large enough to warrant the creation of its Newcomer School, which opened this year and is dedicated to helping students and families who have just arrived in the United States to succeed and thrive. Freeser’s department has been working tirelessly to educate the ESL staff on the facts surrounding the executive orders in an effort to be the best resource possible for the families they work with. Freeser and her colleagues aim to equip their students and parents with the tools and information they need to advocate for themselves and be safe.

In San Marcos, where McCullough says “tears flow, anger comes to the surface, and hard questions are asked,” they are doing everything they can to keep the message positive and empowering. They aim to ease students’ anxieties by focusing on the good in the world. This has involved charity projects, seeking out role models who triumphed over adversity, and hanging inspirational quotes around campus that “lift spirits and encourage.”

Indianapolis Public Schools, Ann Arbor Public Schools (AAPS), and the San Marcos Unified School District (SMUSD) have all issued statements and resolutions of support and protection for their student populations, as have many others around the nation. The SMUSD resolution, “For the Advocacy and Protection of All Students,” declares not just to maintain policies that protect students but to work with local, state, and federal lawmakers to continue the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals act and to maintain schools as protected areas wherein students and families cannot be detained or deported.

The resolution from Indianapolis declares that “IPS will remain a safe and welcoming place for all students and families regardless of immigration status.” It goes on to confirm that IPS will continue policies already in place, including not requiring enrolling students to provide Social Security numbers and refraining from inquiring after student and parent immigration statuses. In Ann Arbor, superintendent of schools Jeanice Swift issued a district-wide statement of support for all AAPS students, in conjunction with a resolution from the school board. In her statement, she directs families to resources AAPS has gathered for refugee and immigrant families, and acknowledges that “each of our 17,448 students brings a unique and beautiful presence to our classrooms.”

These resolutions are more than words. They act as an invisible shield, protecting the teachers and administrators in those districts and allowing them to do what’s best for their students, with the assurance that their community stands behind them. McCullough sums up her appreciation, saying, “Because our district has stepped up and issued a statement, we all have a common goal and feel more unified and supported.”


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Beck by Mal Peet with Meg Rosoff | SLJ Review Wed, 22 Mar 2017 16:06:53 +0000 PEET, Mal with Meg Rosoff. Beck. 272p. Candlewick. Apr. 2017. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780763678425.

Gr 9 Up –This final novel from the deceased Peet, completed by Rosoff, is a not-quite-YA, not-quite-adult historical fiction story of hardship after hardship. Beck is a Liverpudlian orphan, the son of a white prostitute and an African sailor. Through no choice of his own, Beck is shipped off to Canada with several other orphans to work with the Catholic Brothers. After enduring physical and [...]]]> redstarPEET, Mal with Meg Rosoff. Beck. 272p. Candlewick. Apr. 2017. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780763678425.

YA-Peet-BeckGr 9 Up –This final novel from the deceased Peet, completed by Rosoff, is a not-quite-YA, not-quite-adult historical fiction story of hardship after hardship. Beck is a Liverpudlian orphan, the son of a white prostitute and an African sailor. Through no choice of his own, Beck is shipped off to Canada with several other orphans to work with the Catholic Brothers. After enduring physical and sexual abuse, Beck is sent to work on a family farm, then begins bootlegging whiskey among Windsor, Ontario, and Detroit, and eventually ends up on the ranch of a half Blackfoot woman named Grace. There is also a blind old wise Blackfoot woman (Grandma of Grace), who might feel like a familiar trope to some. There is a clear attempt to provide historical info from the Blackfoot perspective, and the Blackfoot characters are well-rounded. Readers are slowly and steadily taken through this bleak but beautifully written tale about surviving and finally finding grace. The book itself is incredibly ambitious, as was Rosoff’s task of finishing it. Beck is a passive character in his own life, but in the moments when he pushes himself to take action, readers will finally get some satisfaction. A heartbreaking, painful work that gives hope to the restorative power of true human connection. VERDICT Purchase where adult titles circulate well and the authors are popular.–Emily Moore, Camden County Library System, NJ

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

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Heartless by Marissa Meyer | SLJ Audio Review Wed, 22 Mar 2017 16:02:26 +0000 MEYER , Marissa. Heartless . 12 CDs. 14:34 hrs. Macmillan Audio. Nov. 2016. $39.99. ISBN 9781427267948. digital download.

Gr 8 Up –In this dark imagining of the origin of the Queen of Hearts, Lady Catherine starts out with the dream of owning a bakery with her maid, Mary Ann. Cath’s baking skills land her the heart of the King of Hearts, but she is drawn to the mysterious court joker, Jest. As Cath begins to give her heart to [...]]]> redstarMEYER , Marissa. Heartless . 12 CDs. 14:34 hrs. Macmillan Audio. Nov. 2016. $39.99. ISBN 9781427267948. digital download.

AU-Meyer-HeartlessGr 8 Up –In this dark imagining of the origin of the Queen of Hearts, Lady Catherine starts out with the dream of owning a bakery with her maid, Mary Ann. Cath’s baking skills land her the heart of the King of Hearts, but she is drawn to the mysterious court joker, Jest. As Cath begins to give her heart to Jest and is courted by the King, the kingdom of Hearts is darkened by the appearance of the Jabberwocky. To stop this beast, Cath will have to make costly choices and in the process may lose her heart forever. Meyer has created a bittersweet twist on the tale of the Queen of Hearts, and the story is as enchanting as Lewis Carroll’s original. Through her narration, Rebecca Soler brings to life the quirky denizens of Hearts, including the evanescent Cheshire Cat, the giggling King, and the nervous White Rabbit, while also capturing Cath’s shift from hopeful baker to heartbroken and heartless queen. Soler’s voice has a storytelling quality that entrances listeners and perfectly matches Meyer’s vivid writing. VERDICT Give this to fans of Meyer’s “Lunar Chronicles,” lovers of Alex Flinn’s fairy-tale twists, and those who enjoy the classic Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. [“A must-have title”: SLJ 9/16 starred review of the Feiwel & Friends book.]–Sarah Flood, Breckinridge County Public Library, Hardinsburg, KY

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

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Speed of Life by Carol Weston | SLJ Review Wed, 22 Mar 2017 15:59:19 +0000 WESTON, Carol. Speed of Life. 352p. ­ebook available. Sourcebooks/Jabberwocky. Apr. 2017. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781492654490.

Gr 7-10 –It’s January, and eighth grader Sofia’s mother has now been dead for nine months. Disturbed that her dad has started dating so soon, Sofia, who is half Spanish, writes to Fifteen magazine’s “Dear Kate” for advice. Kate’s thoughtful response soon has Sofia writing back multiple times, asking many of the questions that a normal teen would ask her mom—if she still had [...]]]> redstarWESTON, Carol. Speed of Life. 352p. ­ebook available. Sourcebooks/Jabberwocky. Apr. 2017. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781492654490.

YA-Weston-SpeedofLifeGr 7-10 –It’s January, and eighth grader Sofia’s mother has now been dead for nine months. Disturbed that her dad has started dating so soon, Sofia, who is half Spanish, writes to Fifteen magazine’s “Dear Kate” for advice. Kate’s thoughtful response soon has Sofia writing back multiple times, asking many of the questions that a normal teen would ask her mom—if she still had one. Sofia is horrified to discover that the mystery woman her dad is dating is none other than Dear Kate herself! Does Sofia come clean or just disappear? This slice-of-life story echoes the author’s own experience as a teen magazine advice columnist and addresses all sorts of issues: death, grieving, moving, parental dating, parental sexuality, stepsibling conflict, self-esteem, relationships, and more. This refreshing work tackles a lot of themes, but eventually Sofia does get to a better place. The target audience is likely to become engaged despite the slow pace, because Weston isn’t afraid to tackle the squirm-inducing questions common to high school freshmen too embarrassed to seek sound information from reliable sources. VERDICT Purchase where sweet and charming character-driven fiction for tweens is in demand.–Elizabeth Friend, Wester Middle School, TX

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

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Samurai Rising: The Epic Life of Minamoto Yoshitsune by Pamela S. Turner | SLJ Audio Review Wed, 22 Mar 2017 15:57:06 +0000 TURNER, Pamela S. Samurai Rising: The Epic Life of Minamoto Yoshitsune. 4 CDs. 4:51 hrs. Recorded Books. Oct. 2016. $46.75. ISBN 9781501936265.

Gr 7 Up –Combining action, history, and excellent descriptions, this book shares the story of Yoshitsune, a most unlikely samurai. Spared after his father attacked a rival, Yoshitsune was raised by monks and later received instruction in the way of the samurai. Yoshitsune pledged his loyalty to his half brother Yoritomo and performed many heroic feats. Unfortunately, [...]]]> redstarTURNER, Pamela S. Samurai Rising: The Epic Life of Minamoto Yoshitsune. 4 CDs. 4:51 hrs. Recorded Books. Oct. 2016. $46.75. ISBN 9781501936265.

AU-Turner-SamuraiRisingGr 7 Up –Combining action, history, and excellent descriptions, this book shares the story of Yoshitsune, a most unlikely samurai. Spared after his father attacked a rival, Yoshitsune was raised by monks and later received instruction in the way of the samurai. Yoshitsune pledged his loyalty to his half brother Yoritomo and performed many heroic feats. Unfortunately, Yoritomo didn’t trust Yoshitsune and sent assassins to eliminate him. Turner does a masterly job of making this true adventure race along at breakneck speed, referencing modern high school cliques to describe the Japanese aristocracy vs. the samurai. Narrator Brian Nishii stuns with his smooth pronunciation of names of people and places, easily capturing Turner’s conversational phrasing and touches of sarcasm when the author remarks on the role of vanity during battle or the endless bloodletting among family members. VERDICT Fans of both fiction and nonfiction action tales will be thrilled by this engrossing true story. Sensitive readers beware: the war chronicle is full of beheadings and suicides. [“Skillful storytelling and meticulous research combine to create an epic sure to satisfy teen history buffs and thrill seekers alike”: SLJ 12/16 starred review of the Charlesbridge book.]–C.A. Fehmel, St. Louis County Library

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

]]> 0 Growing Pains | Adult Books 4 Teens Wed, 22 Mar 2017 13:00:40 +0000 Librarians and publishers like to use the phrase coming-of-age to describe books with protagonists growing into adults, but I don’t think it’s a strong enough phrase for what’s going on in my house right now. My daughter is almost finished with eighth grade, and, oh, the drama! As a librarian who thoroughly enjoys working with teens, I can’t help but find the humor in her “OMG” situations, while wondering what particular events are shaping her. Middle school years are significant, and teens and adults alike appreciate a young narrator (think—Hannah Tinti’s The Good Thief and Jonathan Safran Foer’s Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close). In this column, we’ll take a look at five more adult titles that feature young narrators—one Shakespeare retelling, two historical fiction novels, and two contemporary stories.

In Miranda and Caliban, Jacqueline Carey revisits Shakespeare’s The Tempest. Lyrically and expressively told, the fantasy is a coming-of-age tale of young Miranda and her only friend, both at war with magic-wielding Prospero. Familiarity with the original play isn’t necessary, but the starred review means that this book could easily be added to a school library’s collection of Shakespeare adaptations for use by AP English instructors.

Twelve-year-old Kiran arrives in rural New York from India in the 1980s in Rahul Mehta’s debut No Other World, and his maturation is a constant struggle to establish a sense of belonging. Like many immigrants, he straddles two cultures, but he also grapples with his sexuality. Kiran finally finds peace when he returns home and develops a close relationship with a hijra, someone who identifies as a third gender in India—neither male or female.

Our reviewer compares the next historical fiction novel with a work by Jean Shepherd, who wrote the classic holiday essay collection A Christmas Story. Alex George’s Setting Free the Kites lightly tackles friendship and summer jobs at a Maine amusement park. Robert and Nathan have been friends since they met in eighth grade in 1976, and their friendship supports them through punk music, the death of immediate family members, and first loves.

What animal lover wouldn’t pick up Annie Hartnett’s Rabbit Cake? The whimsical cover sets the tone, and the 12-year-old narrator of the contemporary debut novel is sweetly naive. Elvis is part of a quirky family in Freedom, AL—as evidenced by her first name. Her thorough awareness of her family’s grieving process after the death of her mother is poignant yet never cloying, and readers will appreciate seeing how her love of animals helps her cope with the loss.

From eccentric to dark—Susan Perabo’s The Fall of Lisa Bellow focuses on Meredith, a young seventh grader, who suffers from survivor’s guilt after witnessing a classmate’s kidnapping. Her coming-of-age is strongly influenced by an event that she couldn’t prevent or predict; readers will hope that Lisa is found and Meredith finds solace.


mirandaredstarCAREY, Jacqueline.Miranda and Caliban. 352p. Tor. Feb. 2017. Tr $25.99. ISBN 9780765395047.

The events of Shakespeare’s The Tempest serve as the climax to a coming-of-age story that imagines Miranda’s lonely life growing up on an island and the deep friendship between her and the wild child Caliban. Miranda’s father, Prospero, relies on magic to punish and bind, while the sprite Ariel uses cruel words. Miranda and Caliban find kindness in each other as they discover more about the world around them, but even they cannot thwart Prospero’s larger plans. In Carey’s hands, Shakespeare’s characters take on new dimensions and motivations, and his happy ending turns devastating. Very short chapters propel the story forward, and perspectives alternate between Miranda and Caliban, both of whom have unique voices that deepen as they age and begin to rebel. While teens will know more than the protagonists, they will empathize with their confusion and innocence and bristle when Ariel uses Miranda’s and Caliban’s lack of knowledge against them. Familiarity with the source material will foreshadow the conclusion, but even those who haven’t read The Tempest will feel the lingering pain of the characters long after putting down the book. VERDICT While it fully stands on its own, this beautiful and heartbreaking tale adds new depth and perspective to a timeless Shakespearean work—perfect for fans of the classics.–Jennifer Rothschild, Arlington Public Library, VA

settingredstarGEORGE, Alex. Setting Free the Kites. 336p. Putnam. Feb. 2017. Tr $27. ISBN 9780399162107.

It’s 1976, and on the first day of eighth grade, Hollis Calhoun is flushing Robert Carter’s head down the school’s toilet. Enter new boy Nathan Tilly, and the scene changes as a friendship forms. Robert and Nathan bring out the best in each other just long enough to cope with the deaths of Nathan’s father and Robert’s brother. Despite the tragedies, readers won’t feel weighed down. Like the kites Nathan sets free, the prose soars as the author tackles first loves, best friends, and clever acts of revenge. George employs a style similar to that of Jean Shepherd (author of A Christmas Story), conjuring up a run-down amusement park, a man with a toe for a thumb, a dead mongoose, a chain-smoking dragon, and more. Also included are an oddly placed World War II flashback story and an unnecessarily long epilogue, but neither will detract from readers’ enjoyment. The humor and poignancy of the boys’ parallel experiences will give teens something to consider and discuss. VERDICT A wonderful tale that’s full of boyhood charm and meaty enough to engage fans of literary historical fiction.–Pamela Schembri, Horace Greeley High School, Chappaqua, NY

RabbitcakeHARTNETT, Annie. Rabbit Cake. 344p. Tin House. Mar. 2017. Tr $15.95. ISBN 9781941040560.

Rabbit cake, made with a special aluminum mold, was for special occasions in the Babbitt family. Looking back, Elvis thinks that the first sign of danger was when her mother burned the ears of the rabbit cake meant to celebrate Elvis’s 10th birthday. Six months later, Elvis’s mother drowns, ostensibly by sleepwalking into the river. The scientifically minded protagonist investigates her mother’s death, making sense of the taxonomy of death and grief with curiosity and wry humor. Her guileless observations are often hilarious: hints of her mother’s promiscuity emerge, pieced together from a memory of her mother “pretending to milk” a man and the mystery of a parrot that perfectly imitates her mother’s voice. Meanwhile, Elvis’s father begins wearing his dead wife’s makeup, and Elvis’s 16-year-old sister Lizzie’s sleepwalking grows ever more dangerous. When a sleeping Lizzie is discovered climbing into a hot oven, their desperate father sends her to a mental institution. Elvis’s salvation comes through volunteer work at a local animal sanctuary. While she is an accurate, observant narrator, with an abundance of knowledge about the natural world, she has little success in understanding people, puzzling over psychology texts and consulting a telephone psychic. Hartnett adeptly conveys a full picture of this family’s emotional turmoil, tinged with the sincere hope of a child and the rising anxiety of an adolescent. VERDICT Teens who enjoyed the engaging voice of 11-year-old Flavia in Alan Bradley’s The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie will love Elvis Babbitt.–Diane Colson, City College, Gainesville, FL

No other worldMEHTA, Rahul. No Other World. 304p. HarperCollins/Harper. Feb. 2017. Tr $25.99. ISBN 9780062020468.

Having moved halfway across the world, the Shahs contend with life in western New York in the 1980s and 1990s. A father, mother, brother, and sister all grapple with secrets and desires that draw them toward their American neighbors while their Indian culture and the family they left behind maintain a hold on them. At the center of the family is Kiran, a young boy coming to terms with his sexuality. Told in third person, this is an intimate meditation on the occurrences that shape us as people and the immigrant experience in the United States. Tiny details—the print on a bedspread, the tassel on a pristine loafer—fully immerse readers in the Shahs’ world. Mehta deftly draws each perspective, carefully laying bare the distance between the characters’ desires and their actions. While this novel focuses on Kiran’s growth, it also illuminates the points of view of his family members, ultimately providing a more complete picture of the protagonist’s childhood, adolescence, and adulthood. Though there is some explicit content, it is never prurient, and mature teenage readers will see it as simply a piece of the puzzle that is Kiran. VERDICT The meticulously detailed tale of one Indian family, this is at once a character study and a universal immigrant story. Add to literary, multicultural, and LGBTQ collections.–Erinn Black Salge, Morristown-Beard School, Morristown, NJ

fal ofPERABO, Susan. The Fall of Lisa Bellow. 352p. S. & S. Mar. 2017. Tr $25.99. ISBN 9781476761466.

Meredith is a typical seventh grader teetering between the innocence of childhood and the worldliness of adolescence. Her adored older brother Evan sustained an injury months earlier, ending his college scholarship hopes and blinding him in one eye. Meredith, as the second child, is unsure of her role in the family. At school she is also in between: not in the popular group (though she obsesses over the girls who do rule the middle school halls) but not a total loser, either. Mean-spirited and sharp-tongued Lisa Bellow is the undisputed queen of the junior high elite, and Meredith and Lisa have little in common. Then Meredith stops into a deli after school for a soda and sees Lisa there getting a sandwich. A masked man enters, looking for money, and abducts Lisa. The popular kids, Lisa’s young single mother, and others in town join the search for the missing girl. At this point, Perabo introduces her strongest conceit: artfully cutting between scenes in which Meredith has been left behind and those in which Meredith was kidnapped along with Lisa. The true nature of these seemingly contradictory sections is left intentionally vague and should keep readers intrigued. Readers will empathize with Meredith, while older teens will also be drawn to Meredith’s mother, Claire. The pairing of typical family life with the ripped-from-the-headlines drama results in a thoughtful, unforgettable story. VERDICT A hypnotically suspenseful novel dissecting the effects of a young girl’s trauma. Purchase where trendy psychological thrillers are popular.–Tara Kehoe, formerly at the New Jersey State Library Talking Book and Braille Center, Trenton

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How To Start a Baking Club at the Library Tue, 21 Mar 2017 16:05:16 +0000 Members of the La Vista (NE) Public Library A.J., Raoul, and Audi line up to try homemade chili mac.

A.J., Raoul, and Audi are ready to try freshly made chili mac at the La Vista (NE) Public Library. Photos by Lindsey Tomsu


My personal philosophy when working with teens is that no idea is too big or too crazy. If I want to make the library a place that they can call their own, then I want to provide them with programs that meet their creative needs and interests. In other words, they give me the ideas, and I see if I can make them a reality. This is how, in 2011, the members of my Teen Advisory Board at the La Vista Public Library ended up creating the Bacon Club—eating bacon, comparing brands, comparing cooking methods, making bacon crafts, trying bacon-flavored things, and so on. With a fully functional kitchen in our library’s meeting room, I was able to make this program a reality that ran successfully for about five years.

When we were planning for the 2015–2016 school year, my teens expressed interest in morphing the Bacon Club into an actual Baking Club. As expert bacon chefs, they now wanted to branch out and try cooking real meals. We decided to spend leftover summer funds on the necessities we needed for the new club. During the school year we meet once a month, except for March and December when, during Spring Break and the holiday break, we have an all-day (11 a.m. to 8 p.m.) meeting. During the monthly meetings, the teens get about two hours to experiment with various recipes, but during the all-day meetings they get to really go Top Chef and try more complex recipes that might require a longer amount of time to make. For example, during a regular monthly meeting we baked a cake, but during our all-day holiday meeting in December, we made nearly 10 recipes, everything from ramen pizza to chili to our own flavored crackers.

Getting started

Eric checks on the status of the teens' taco-flavored Goldfish crackers.

Eric checks on the status of the teens’ taco-flavored Goldfish crackers.

There are a few ingredients needed to start a Baking Club. The great thing about such supplies is that most are reusable after the initial investment. When we purchased the following supplies, it only cost around $30. Remember, you can all of this cheap at your local dollar store or in Wal-Mart (one does not need to buy fancy teaspoons—88 cent ones are fine!). These are the must-have basics:

  • 3 mixing bowls of different sizes
  • 1 set of measuring cups
  • 1 set of measuring spoons (teaspoons and tablespoons)
  • 1 set of spatulas
  • 1 set of knives
  • 1 pair of oven mitts
  • 1 package each of baking essentials—flour, sugar, salt, pepper, baking powder, baking soda

If you are lucky enough to have access to a kitchen in your library or your city’s community center where you could take the program as outreach, we also recommend the following supplies:

  • 1 medium pan with lid
  • 1 set of cookie sheets
  • 1 cupcake tin
  • 1 pizza pan

It is also helpful to have paper plates, silverware, and napkins so the teens can divvy up their baked goods and enjoy them!

What if you don’t have a kitchen?

There are a number of great recipes out there that teens can try making with a microwave or with small appliances that can be borrowed from fellow staff members or the teens’ families, such as Crock-Pots, waffle irons, mini hot plates, electric kettles (to boil water), and so on. The one rule I enforce is that if the cookery does not belong to us, we return it cleaner than we received it. Parents are also often willing to supply a small amount of an ingredient that we only need a little bit of (one teaspoon of honey, for instance).

What should the teens cook?

The club's first-ever attempt at something more Top Chef worthy—some focaccia (it took us all forever to figure out how to pronounce it!)

The club’s first-ever attempt at something Top Chef–worthy—focaccia (it took us all forever to figure out how to pronounce it!).

Well, you happen to be in a library full of cookbooks that teens can peruse to see what kinds of recipes they would be interested in trying out. My library has a lot of children’s and teen cookbooks we used for inspiration. Once we had a pile of potential recipes, we looked at them more in depth to see what supplies would be needed, what we would have to buy, how much it would cost, how long it would take to make, etc.

One of their favorite recipes that requires an oven is making their own flavored crackers. There are a number of recipes out there to consult, but they all use the same basic ingredients. Get some cheddar Goldfish and mix in seasonings of their choice, add some vegetable oil, spread out on a cookie sheet and cook at 350 degrees for about 10 minutes. Our favorite was our own taco-flavored Goldfish!

A great, non-oven recipe is for pizza waffles. All you need is a waffle iron, frozen pizza dough, and pizza toppings. Roll out the dough, cut into waffle squares, place one piece of dough as the bottom, insert your favorite toppings (pepperoni, cheese, etc.), place a top piece of dough, and then cook until golden brown. Dip into some marinara sauce—pizza waffle! These are fun to make and really delicious. My teens also enjoyed making their own guacamole and salsa in Crock-Pots for a Super Bowl party.

The benefits of A baking club

Such a program is both educational and fun. The teens have fun making things they can eat while, at the same time, learning about cooking. I teach them kitchen safety at the beginning (and many will refrain from a task if they do not think they can handle it, such as cutting or reaching into the oven). They also learn about reading recipes, converting measurements— and succeed in making something out of nothing. Plus, staff members benefit too, as they get to taste test all the leftovers. The teens are just thrilled to have “outsiders” try their food and comment.


Lindsey Tomsu is a 2013 Library Journal Mover & Shaker who just became a teen/YA librarian at Algonquin Area (IL) Public Library District after eight years at La Vista (NE) Public Library.




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Teens Review Survival YA, Margaret Stohl’s Latest, and More Tue, 21 Mar 2017 15:33:51 +0000 From a compelling tale set during Hurricane Katrina to contemporary novels about overcoming grief and reality TV, these new works inspire high praise from the Kitsap teen reviewers.

Biren_Last ThingBIREN, Sara. The Last Thing You Said. Abrams/Amulet. Apr. 2017. Tr $17.95. ISBN 9781419723049.

Gr 8 Up—Lucy’s best friend Trixie died over the summer when her heart stopped working while she was swimming. Trixie happened to also be Lucy’s boyfriend’s little sister. The two of them blame the death on themselves and are swallowed with grief. Lucy longs for Ben, but there is always an awkwardness between them. It only gets worse when painters move in next to Lucy, and Lucy falls in love with their son, Simon. Lucy tries to find who she cares about more, Ben or Simon.

I like the color and font of the cover, the image reflects on the plot of the book really well.

I liked how the chapters alternate character’s perspectives. I felt like I really got to know the characters. The book was very exciting and left me wanting more.—Emily H., 12

Keyser_Pointe, ClawKEYSER, Amber. Pointe, Claw. Carolrhoda. Apr. 2017. Tr $18.99. ISBN9781467775915.       

Gr 9 Up—I refuse to recommend the casual observance of my soul, however, please do not pass this by. It might just change your life.

To have your soul written is an uncanny feeling, but I recommend it to any and everyone who has the opportunity.

I can’t choose the best part of this book. This was the best book I have ever read. Truly. It felt like Keyser just reached in and wrote my soul. She grabbed my heart and forced it into the pages, still beating, hot and heavy, burning any misconception to the ground. The words are written in my own lifeblood. The characters have run away with my heart, stamped on it, forgotten it, and broken it into pieces. Each one of them has touched me, and I will never forget it. The clarity, grace, and elegance of this story make it the truth. The alpha and omega of my soul. A part of me. My mind.

I have read this book more times than I can count and I’m in Pre-Calc. I didn’t sleep for two days when I got it because I couldn’t stop reading it. I almost refused to let my friend borrow it. This book consumed and destroyed me. This book was both the light and darkness of a truth so overpowering that it got me in its clutches and will never let go. I have drowned in the wave of clarity, opened my eyes to the confusion, have peered into the depths of the deep and the vault of the sky inside my own mind and I O Sullivan_Between Two Skiescan tell you, you do not find the truth easily, but when you do, it never leaves you. I am murdered, reanimated, made anew. I am the story. Pointe, Claw, and all.—Olivia V., 13      

O’SULLIVAN, Joanne. Between Two Skies. Candlewick. Apr. 2017. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780763690342.

Gr 7 Up— Evangeline Riley is one of many Evangeline’s in her family, as the name has been passed down to span a rich history of generations. However, that history and its location in Bayou Perdu, New Orleans is at risk of being washed away when Hurricane Katrina is predicted to strike.

I wasn’t a huge fan of the cover; I didn’t find it very visually appealing.

The most compelling aspect of the book was the setting. It was well described and really helped me get into the story.—Isabel T., 15

Stohl_RoyceSTOHL, Margaret. Royce Rolls. Freeform. Apr. 2017. Tr 18.99. ISBN 9781484732335.

Gr 8 Up—Bentley Royce shares a reality show with her family, and they struggle to find a way to continue their show with the prospect that season six might be canceled.

The cover featured the main character and that was about it. It didn’t really reflect the contents and it wasn’t the best cover.

Many parts of the book were confusing and the plot sometimes felt chunky.

The plot was full of surprises. This story definitely hooks readers, and the ending will leave you shocked.—Veronica C., 13

Thebo_Dreaming the BearTHEBO, Mimi. Dreaming the Bear. Random. Apr. 2017. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780399557507.     

Gr 7 Up— Making the transition from urban England to the rugged Yellowstone National Park is about as easy as it sounds. Meaning not very. Especially, if like our main character Darcy, illness, loneliness, and a total lack of Wi-Fi are involved. That is, until she finds an injured mother bear who lost her cubs to poachers. Darcy can’t help but care for the bear; she makes Darcy feel truly alive.

I really liked the cover. It was artistic and visually interesting, as opposed to clean-cut and boring. I thought the silhouette of the main character inside of the bear was creative. It definitely reflects the contents.

My favorite part of this book was its brevity. Don’t get me wrong, I love long novels, but sometimes you’re just looking for something to whip through on a weekend afternoon. Especially if you’re bogged down with work.

The story was truly compelling, well-composed and -written. It was, to quote the author, “spare, yet poetic.” I wish there were more books like this out there. I loved it!—Isabel T., 15


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Check Out 8 New Graphic Novels for Teens Tue, 21 Mar 2017 14:00:47 +0000 KindredGraphicCoverThe latest crop of graphic novels includes an adaptation of Octavia Butler’s classic time-travel novel Kindred, a witty reboot of The Flintstones, and two superhero stories, one that takes itself seriously and one that doesn’t. A couple of action and suspense stories and a comic-book Philosophy 101 course round out this season’s offerings, with plenty to read for every taste.

BUTLER, Octavia. Kindred. adapt. by Damian Duffy. illus. by John Jennings. Abrams. Jan. 2017. ISBN 9781419709470

Gr 7 Up—Jennings and Duffy bring a new immediacy to Butler’s classic time-travel novel. Dana, a black woman, and her husband Kevin, who is white, live in the 1970s, but suddenly Dana is yanked back to 19th-century Maryland, a time and place where, as a black woman, she has no agency at all. In order to survive, she must quickly learn to adapt to this strange world, including living as a HGIRL-TPB-FC-FNL-600x900slave. The violence is wrenching at times, but never over the top; what’s more disturbing, ultimately, is seeing this story through the eyes of someone who has been rendered powerless by the society around her.

GUDSNUK, Kristen. Henchgirl. Dark Horse. Mar. 2017. ISBN 9781506701448

Gr 9 Up—Mary Posa is a member of a butterfly-themed criminal gang, but she’s too soft to be a real baddie—until her boss injects her with a special serum to make her extra evil. Henchgirl is a lighthearted send-up of superhero comics, featuring a group of 20-somethings, some of whom have superpowers (one grows carrots out of her arm) and others who don’t. This 320-page graphic novel collects the first 11 issues of the comic, which was originally published by Scout Comics.

snow bline-31MASTERS, Ollie. Snow Blind. illus. by Tyler Jenkins. BOOM! Studios. Jan. 2017. ISBN 9781608869251

Gr 9 Up—After he posts a goofy photo of his father on the Internet, a teenager learns that his family is in the witness protection program—and a figure from the past shows up to settle an old score. Violent but not gory, Snow Blind is a suspense tale that at its heart is really about identity and family. Set in Alaska, this graphic novel has a strong sense of atmosphere, heightened by Jenkins’s beautiful—and surprisingly colorful—watercolor art.

hereticsNADLER, Steven. Heretics! illus. by Ben Nadler. Princeton University Pr. Jun. 2017. ISBN 9780691168692

Gr 9 Up—Nadler, a professor of philosophy at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, provides a quick introduction to the basic figures and concepts of modern philosophy as it was developed in the 17th century. René Descartes, Francis Bacon, Baruch Spinoza, and other philosophers pop up to discuss, and sometimes argue, about the nature of matter, the existence of God, mind-body dualism, the structure of society, and even the existence of knowledge itself. The authors use quotes from the philosophers themselves and quickly place them in historical context, and the lively illustrations keep the narrative from flintstones_getting bogged down.

RUSSELL, Mark. The Flintstones, Vol. 1. illus. by Steve Pugh. DC. Mar 2017. ISBN 9781401268374

Gr 7 Up—Last year, DC started making comics based on old Hanna-Barbera cartoons, but in darker, more mature versions. The rebooted Flintstones is a sharp, funny political satire that refers back to the old cartoons while sending up politics, religion, and culture in a very modern way. The animals still serve as household appliances, but now they have feelings and emotions; Fred and Barney still work at the quarry, but Mr. Slate is trying to exploit the Neanderthals (who are exasperated at constantly being referred to as Cro-Magnons); and down at the Science Cave, a prehistoric Carl Sagan is predicting the end of the world. Russell gave us Prez last year, and he is clearly on his game with this comic as well. This volume compiles six issues of the monthly comic.

shattered warriorSHINN, Sharon. Shattered Warrior. illus. by Molly Ostertag. First Second. May 2017. ISBN 9781626720893

Gr 6 Up—Aliens called Derichets have taken over the earth and treat humans as second class citizens. Colleen, a young woman from a wealthy family, lives alone in her decaying mansion; most of her family was killed in the war, and she works in a factory for companionship and money. Things start to get better when she becomes friends with Jann, a member of a violent group of outlaws, and she takes in her orphaned niece. The stakes get higher for everyone when she joins a guerilla group bent on overthrowing the Derichets. There’s a familiar feel to this tale of revolution against an oppressive society, but it’s well done despite some implausible turns.

spill zone_WESTERFELD, Scott. Spill Zone, Vol 1. illus. by Alex Puvilland. First Second. May 2017. ISBN 9781596439368

Gr 10 Up—Addison lives on the outskirts of a truly weird contaminated zone: Strangely deformed animals wander the multicolored landscape, bowling pins float in a figure eight, and zombie-like humans hang suspended in space, their eyes blank, occasionally moaning something that’s almost like words. Addison’s parents, doctors at the local hospital, disappeared on the night of the catastrophe that caused all this, and her sister Lexa was left unable to talk. Addison photographs the spill zone and sells her photos to a wealthy collector, but when the North Koreans get involved, things start getting even weirder. And then there’s Lexa’s doll, which seems to have a mind of its own. This story is creepy, suspenseful, and visually arresting, but be warned that this is just the first volume, so there’s no resolution yet.

super-man_YANG, Gene Luen. New Super-Man, Vol. 1: Made in China. illus. by Victor Bogdanovic. DC. June 2017. ISBN 978-1401270933

Gr 7 Up—After his attack on a supervillain goes viral, Chinese teenager Kong Kenan is recruited by a shadowy group who are planning to start their own superhero team, the Justice League of China. But Kong’s heroic actions weren’t quite what they seemed, and neither is anything else. New Super-Man has the elements of a traditional superhero comic, complete with villain-punching and snarky dialogue of the originals, but with a new setting and a few unexpected twists. This volume collects the first six issues.





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Music Education, via an LP Appreciation Society Mon, 20 Mar 2017 19:41:26 +0000 An LP Appreciation Society sampling (top); student connoisseurs (center); spinning a classic.

An LP Appreciation Society sampling (top);
student connoisseurs (center); spinning a classic.

It’s 3:30 p.m. at my high school library, and freshman Amanda walks in with a Beatles LP, eager to get to the turntable first. She lowers the needle on her chosen track and starts shimmying to “The Magical Mystery Tour.” So begins a typical meeting of our LP Appreciation Society, meeting every other Tuesday.

Our Society is for people with a passion for music. In a time when everything is fast and furious, showing students how to slow down and discover music is a privilege. The group has become popular. The students know I’m a hopeless music nerd. I bought my first record when I was 10—and never stopped searching through dusty bins for LP gems, spending more money than I should on music. As a school librarian, my passion has shifted from avid collector to purveyor and sojourner.

We have strict rules. First: No phones during Society time. I want us to engage, for an hour, in a totally analog, distraction-free environment. Second: No interrupting—unless it’s about the music.

I try to convey the thrill of discovery. In the ‘80s, I had long conversations with record-store clerks and pored through fanzines, and Spin, Creem, and Rolling Stone. That was my (pre-Internet) research. Imagine that!

We dig into the liner notes and discuss. Who is in the band? So you like the way this record sounds? Who is the producer or engineer? They might have worked with other bands you would also like. What about the recording studio? Through this process of talking, reading, and listening, we are researching, inquiring, and developing tastes and opinions.

The mornings after our sessions, I compile meeting liner notes with track listings and discussion recaps. I note what we discussed, listened to, and concluded. I include clips of the songs from YouTube and information about the artists, usually gathered from Wikipedia or

Want to start an LP Appreciation Society at your school? Here’s how.

• Speak to administrators and get approval.

• Promote. A colleague helped me make eye-popping posters, which we hung all over the school. Announcements promoted the club throughout the week before our first meeting.

• Make general rules—and make sure students agree to them.

• Have good equipment. I started with a portable record player, which sounded terrible. I upgraded to a Technics turntable, a Pioneer receiver, and pair of Infinity speakers. Students get why this listening experience is superior to using MP3s or earbuds.

• Get the word out to staff and faculty. You might be surprised who shows up to your meeting!

• Have a theme for every session. For example, in February, we focused on soul music in honor of Black History Month.

Geoffrey Greenberg is a librarian at Maine West High School in Des Plaines, IL.

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“Rock Star” Librarians Article Hits Sour Note | Opinion Mon, 20 Mar 2017 16:59:44 +0000 RockStar_LibrarianAn article entitled “The ‘Rock Star’ Librarians Who Choose What Your Kids Read,” published in the Wall Street Journal on March 5, 2017, caused some school librarians to question how the general public perceives our profession. The article highlighted the work of four individuals and their influence in marketing books to children. The voices featured in the article included John Schumacher (Scholastic’s Ambassador for School Libraries); Colby Sharp, co-founder of the “Nerdy Book Club” and co-host of “The Yarn”  blog and podcasts, hosted by School Library Journal; Travis Jonker, SLJ‘s “100 Scope Notes” blogger and “The Yarn” co-host; and Matthew Winner, a co-founder of “All The Wonders,”  host of the All The Wonders podcast, and co-author of this article.

Each took to social media to publicly express their disappointment in response to what they considered to be a misrepresentation of school librarians and the lack of diversity among the voices featured in the article. The article missed an opportunity to tell the story of a dedicated and diverse group of professionals who work tirelessly to inspire children to be readers.

The WSJ piece struck a chord with many, largely because the subjects of the article are all white men in their mid-30’s, which is a misrepresentation of the profession. The reporter interviewed other educators as well, but their comments did not make it into the piece. Nerdy Book Club co-founder Donalyn Miller, Blogging Through The Fourth Dimension’s Pernille Ripp, and Newbery Award-winning author Katherine Applegate all shared their frustration via Twitter and Facebook at being interviewed and then left out. The presence of women in school libraries and children’s literature was conspicuously absent. While we felt as hurt, angry, and frustrated as others, we have also begun to face the uncomfortable fact that we are part of the problem.

The fact that diverse voices weren’t heard, valued, or represented in the WSJ article made us look more closely at the people we look to as leaders, the authors and role models we invite to our schools, the books we choose to read, review, and purchase. We need to do more, and we need to be better. If we want our students to see themselves on our bookshelves and in our programming, we need to actively work toward that goal. How can we expect the world (or the Wall Street Journal) to see school libraries as places where diversity is honored and celebrated if we are not working to make them that way?

We reached out to a few individuals we look to as leaders on the topic of diversity in libraries and literature, and asked them: What can I do next week, next month, and next year to cultivate diversity in my collection and program?

Kathy Burnette, middle school librarian and author of “The Brain Lair” blog, has this practical advice:

Next week: It’s still Women’s History Month. Find a hidden figure to discuss next week with your students. Post pictures, biographies, show a video, just bring this phenomenal woman to life for your students.

Next month: Find out where you stand on the Cultural Proficiency Continuum. Try to do some activities that will help you move towards proficiency.

Next year: Make a plan to implement Teaching Tolerance’s Perspectives for a Diverse America curriculum. If that seems overwhelming, pick a single grade to focus on, buy the books needed for that grade, and start your journey with those students. Each year, as those students move up, add the next range.

Ellen Oh, author and We Need Diverse Books cofounder, offers this:

Challenge your thinking.

What do I mean by that? Well, I am always struck by how all of us can get trapped into black-and-white ways of thinking that we only become aware of when it is challenged. We don’t know what we don’t know. It takes another perspective to even open our eyes and then our automatic reaction tends to be denial, rejection. As if this new perspective is saying we are wrong or bad or some other negative instead of thinking, hey, I’m learning something new that I didn’t know before. I think the problem with the lack of diversity is the number of people who still haven’t changed their old ways of thinking. Who haven’t recognized that racism and sexism and bigotry are a systemic problem. Instead of taking these challenges personally, we must apply them to the bigger societal issue. Instead of immediately being defensive, we must challenge our ways of thinking. Only then can true dialogue happen, and diversity will not just be a discussion piece but a true way of life.

Donalyn Miller’s advice is brief and powerful:

Seek out diverse titles that do not show diversity as an issue or problem in the story.  So many titles portray what makes the child diverse as an issue or source of conflict in the book, such as civil rights marches and slavery. While these stories should be told and read, children need positive, affirming portrayals that do not reinforce marginalization or “white man rescue” narratives.

Award lists (such as the Coretta Scott King, Pura Belpre, Schneider Family, and Stonewall awards) are also a good place to start, but they are not enough. It’s also not enough simply to seek out titles with characters who are people of color, differently abled, or LGBTQ. We must find authors and illustrators who can represent those diverse perspectives as well. We need to make representation and diversity a priority when deciding which authors, illustrators, and role models we invite into our schools, lift up in our teaching, or include in our book lists. We need to show our students that heroes and leaders come in many forms.

When planning your next author visit, ask yourself, “Does this person represent an experience or perspective that is different from the voices our students are used to hearing every day?”

When creating a book list for parents, your school, or in consideration for a book award, ask yourself, “Does my list represent not only a diversity of culture and experience within the characters, but also within the authors and illustrators who created the books?”

When purchasing books for your classroom or school library, ask yourself, “Will the stories and lives depicted in these books expand the understandings of the readers accessing them, foster their tolerance for one another’s differences, and inspire them to ask questions and seek out new knowledge?”

This takes time and effort, and we are going to make mistakes. The worst thing we can do is let this conversation fade away, as it has already begun to do in our social media feeds. Remember what this feels like, so we can take the necessary and difficult steps to change the story.

Where can you find ongoing conversations about diversity and representation throughout children’s literature? Start here!

Addie Matteson is a middle school librarian at the Westminster Schools in Atlanta, GA. Matthew Winner is an elementary library media specialist in Elkridge, MD and a co-founder of “All the Wonders.”


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The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee | SLJ Review Mon, 20 Mar 2017 13:00:44 +0000 LEE, Mackenzi. The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue. 528p. ebook available. HarperCollins/Katherine Tegen Bks. Jun. 2017. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9780062382801. POP

Gr 9 Up –A trio of high-born, determined, and wildly charismatic teenagers get more than they bargained for in this rollicking 18th-century Grand Tour of the Continent gone awry. Endearing rake Lord Henry Montague (or Monty) and his biracial best friend (and unrequited love), the infinitely patient Percy, leave England to drop Monty’s fiercely intelligent sister Felicity [...]]]> redstarLEE, Mackenzi. The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue. 528p. ebook available. HarperCollins/Katherine Tegen Bks. Jun. 2017. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9780062382801. POP

YA-Lee-TheGentlemansGuidetoViceandVirtueGr 9 Up –A trio of high-born, determined, and wildly charismatic teenagers get more than they bargained for in this rollicking 18th-century Grand Tour of the Continent gone awry. Endearing rake Lord Henry Montague (or Monty) and his biracial best friend (and unrequited love), the infinitely patient Percy, leave England to drop Monty’s fiercely intelligent sister Felicity off at finishing school. The friends then spend a year traveling. After the Grand Tour, Monty will return home to help his demanding father run their estate and Percy will go to Holland to law school. If Monty’s dad catches wind of him still “mucking around with boys,” Monty will be cut off from the family. The trip is intended to be a cultural experience. However, no one could have predicted that one seemingly petty theft would set off an adventure involving highwaymen, stowaways, pirates, a sinking island, an alchemical heart, tomb-raiding, and a secret illness. From the start, readers will be drawn in by Monty’s charm, and Felicity and Percy come alive as the narrative unfolds. The fast-paced plot is complicated, but Lee’s masterly writing makes it all seem effortless. The journey forces Monty and friends to confront issues of racism, gender expectations, sexuality, disability, family, and independence, with Monty in particular learning to examine his many privileges. Their exploits bring to light the secret doubts, pains, and ambitions all three are hiding. This is a witty, romantic, and exceedingly smart look at discovering one’s place in the world. VERDICT A stunning powerhouse of a story for every collection.–Amanda MacGregor, formerly at Great River Regional Library, Saint Cloud, MN

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

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New Reference Works on Economics, Dogs, Vietnam, & More Mon, 20 Mar 2017 13:00:26 +0000 1703-ReferRev-CvsGagne, Tammy. The Dog Encyclopedia for Kids. 224p. glossary. index. photos. Capstone. Feb. 2017. pap. $14.95. ISBN 9781623706944.

Gr 4-8 –Concise single profiles of more than 150 dog breeds make this an appealing resource for pet shelves. Breeds are divided into seven groups, such as toys and hounds, with a short overview of each, including coverage of appearance, personality, and training and care notes. The information is not extensive but provides enough to provide readers with a good sense of the breed’s key individual qualities. Other data includes country of origin and date of the breed’s official recognition by the American Kennel Club, plus historical background for some but not all. Layouts work well; every information bite is set off by white space and a bold, colorful heading. For each breed, there is a full-body photograph and a “fun fact” inset, accompanied by a smaller photo. The short tips about care and training make this title useful for prospective dog owners as well as kids who just want to browse. However, the content in this single volume is virtually identical to a concurrent series publication: the set “Dog Encyclopedias” consists of seven separate books, one for each group, and uses the same words, pictures, and layouts. While some libraries may decide that having the same content in one book and in several series books might be valuable, selectors should be aware of the duplication. VERDICT An appealing and accessible introduction to the subject and recommended for those seeking additional materials on canines.–Steven Engelfried, Wilsonville Public Library, OR

redstarLind, Nancy S., Erik T. Rankin, & Gardenia Harris. Today’s Economic Issues: Democrats and Republicans. 387p. (Across the Aisle). bibliog. ebook available. index. glossary. websites. ABC-CLIO. Aug. 2016. Tr $97. ISBN 9781440839368.

Gr 9 Up –The second installment in a series that aims to help readers get a better sense of the political parties, this title focuses on economic issues. In a democracy, each party advocates for what it believes is best for the country and the people. However, the parties differ on the priorities and methods. The text broadly defines economic issues to include the traditional (taxes, social security) as well as areas that impact the economy but are not typically regarded as “economic” per se (such as research and green initiatives). Thirty-eight essays explore how Democrats and Republicans view the various economic topics. Each introduces the subject in a couple of paragraphs under “At a Glance,” followed by a bulleted list of where most Democrats and Republicans stand. The more in-depth “Overview” frames the issue within the current context and provides some relevant historical background. The book considers the stances of contemporary Democrats and Republicans, differences between the two, and fault lines within both parties. The volume is accessible, and readers will be able to quickly navigate to their area of interest, while the nonpartisan essays provide a fair and complete assessment of each issue discussed. VERDICT Highly recommended as a reference for high school government courses.–Muhammed Hassanali, Shaker Heights, OH

Milam, Ron, ed. The Vietnam War in Popular Culture: The Influence of America’s Most Controversial War on Everyday Life. 2 vols. 772p. bibliog. ebook available. index. further reading. ABC-CLIO/Praeger. Nov. 2016. Tr $164. ISBN 9781440840463.

Gr 9 Up –Combat veteran and professor Milam (Not A Gentleman’s War: An Inside View of Junior Officers in the Vietnam War) has compiled 37 essays on what George Herring calls in the foreword “the war that never seemed to go away.” In “Missing Home,” Milam points out that popular culture can fill a gap for soldiers far from home and living under the stress of war. In addition, the war influenced American culture throughout active fighting and long after. Each chapter contains between three and five essays that range in length between 15 and 25 pages, and most contributors are connected with universities. The pieces explore movies and television extensively, as well as books, music, magazines (“The Cult of Playboy”), and miscellaneous topics. Some individual articles have a narrow focus (Werner Herzog movies; All in the Family), but taken as a whole, the two volumes (During the War; After the War) are diverse, tackling, for instance, segregation, race and gender, and Chicano pop culture. Topic coverage ranges from a fairly scientific examination of the chemical elements of Agent Orange to a look at comic book heroes Iron Man and Super Green Beret. Individual entries include notes and, in some cases, a bibliography and/or further reading. The volumes are indexed separately and contain no photos or illustrations. VERDICT A possible option for pop culture studies; less valuable for history-oriented classes. Most high school use will likely be related to class assignments. Consider for large collections.–Maggie Knapp, Trinity Valley School, Fort Worth, TX

Science Encyclopedia: Atom Smashing, Food Chemistry, Animals, Space, and More! 304p. filmog. further reading. glossary. illus. index. photos. websites. National Geographic. Oct. 2016. Tr $24.99. ISBN 9781426325427.

Gr 5-8 –Large trim size and solid heft notwithstanding, this single-volume science encyclopedia is less an authoritative survey than a quick and indifferently organized scan of its topic. The plethora of single-topic spreads are summarily slotted into either “Physical Science” (with the overambitious boast that here “you will discover everything you need to know about the physical sciences”) or “Life Science.” Introductions to organic chemistry, bioelectricity (“Frankenstein Science”), and vision are arbitrarily placed in the former section; chapters on “The Universe” and “Planet Earth” are shoehorned into the latter. As in most National Geographic productions, the photography and digital art are sharp and lavish in quantity, and images are chosen as much for their drama or visual impact as for their informational content. But as for the content, many sentences (for instance, “The Italian cathedral still has that lamp inside, and today it is named for Galileo”) show a need for more careful copyediting. Broken up into short blocks, the text also contains occasional cheesy jokes and simple science experiments of dubious value, which come off as labored and an unnecessary changes of pace. VERDICT There is not much to distinguish this offering from similar flashy compendia of science facts like National Geographic Science of Everything or The Science Book: Everything You Need To Know About the World and How It Works. But its minor updates make it worth considering as an additional purchase for middle school browsers.–John Peters, Children’s Literature Consultant, New York

Wilsdon, Christina. Ultimate Oceanpedia. 272p. filmog. glossary. index. maps. photos. websites. National Geographic. Nov. 2016. Tr $24.99. ISBN 9781426325502.

Gr 4-7 –With more than 350 vibrant photographs, this is a visually enticing look at the undersea world. Engaging “Bet You Didn’t Know” fact boxes enhance each of the seven chapters. Chapter one provides size overview and maps of the locations while also highlighting the species unique to each of the four oceans. Also detailed are the properties of oceans, with a spread for the various layers, from sunlit to abyss. Focusing on aquatic life, the second chapter includes a concise food web. Students will learn relevant information about sharks, mollusks, clams, coral, and more (common and scientific name, size, diet, habitat, and range). Other sections examine waves, currents, and tides; weather phenomena such as El Niño and monsoons; the seafloor; and human influence (fishing, the importance of protecting the sea). Firsthand accounts from experts (e.g., marine ecologists and oceanographers) enliven the work. The book concludes with a three-page glossary with more than 100 terms. VERDICT The crisp images will lure in browsers, and the user-friendly layout will hold the interest of those seeking report fodder.–Beth McGuire, Hempfield Area School District, Greensburg, PA

Interested in reviewing for School Library Journal? We are looking for reviewers willing to handle reference materials such as almanacs, encyclopedias, atlases, and more.
Click here for more information.

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Spill Zone by Scott Westerfeld | SLJ Review Mon, 20 Mar 2017 13:00:17 +0000 WESTERFELD, Scott. Spill Zone. illus. by Alex Puvilland. 224p. First Second. May 2017. Tr $22.99. ISBN 9781596439368.

Gr 10 Up –It’s a mystery why three years ago Poughkeepsie suddenly broke the boundaries of reality, giving life to demonic wolves and sentient twisters, or why its human inhabitants now hang suspended in the air like puppets. It wasn’t aliens, it wasn’t a nuclear attack, and the military isn’t talking. That isn’t Addison’s mystery to solve; all she has to do [...]]]> redstarWESTERFELD, Scott. Spill Zone. illus. by Alex Puvilland. 224p. First Second. May 2017. Tr $22.99. ISBN 9781596439368.

GN-Westerfeld-SpillZoneGr 10 Up –It’s a mystery why three years ago Poughkeepsie suddenly broke the boundaries of reality, giving life to demonic wolves and sentient twisters, or why its human inhabitants now hang suspended in the air like puppets. It wasn’t aliens, it wasn’t a nuclear attack, and the military isn’t talking. That isn’t Addison’s mystery to solve; all she has to do is go into this quarantined area—the Spill Zone—and photograph the bizarre happenings. She sells the images to support herself and her sister, Lexa. But soon the woman buying the bulk of the photographs presents Addison with the opportunity to embark on a deadly mission inside the Spill Zone, with the reward of a cool million dollars should she succeed. Meanwhile, the North Korean government, which had its own Spill incident, wants to meet with Addison for their own ominous purposes. Then there’s Lexa’s rag doll, Vespertine, who whispers devious thoughts in Lexa’s mind. Westerfeld and Puvilland have created an imaginative, nightmarish powerhouse, with hectic line work and loud, vivid colors. This first of a duology wisely moves at a slow pace, rather than immediately revealing the plot and backstory of this warped world. Ultimately, the characters are the most compelling part of the book. Addison is particularly complex: though she is sympathetic, her decisions are intentionally presented as morally questionable. Harsh profanity and violence make this a more appropriate choice for mature readers. This unnerving, gripping title—Westerfeld’s first original graphic novel—is bound to entice older comics fans, especially those interested in darker sci-fi and nuanced characterization. VERDICT A must-have for teen and graphic novel collections.–Matisse Mozer, Los Angeles Public Library

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

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Toy “Sleepovers” Boost Kids’ Reading Skills, Says New Study Fri, 17 Mar 2017 17:56:17 +0000 Nothing beats a stuffed animal clutched in little arms for the cute factor. But these cuddly critters are more than just cherished companions—they’re also a tool to boost reading skills in kids, according to a new study published in the online journal Heliyon.

Photo: Okayama University

Photo: Okayama University

In recent years, libraries in the U.S. and around the world have been hosting stuffed-animal sleepovers for their youngest patrons. Kids come to the library with their plushy toys in tow, and after a read-aloud, say goodbye to their pals. That’s when librarians and their helpers get to work, snapping photos of the stuffed animals “roaming” the stacks, “reading” books, “making” crafts, and otherwise having fun before they tuck in for the night. The next day, the kids come back to collect their companions and photos of their adventures. Some programs even have the stuffed animal “pick” a book for its owner.

Japanese researchers were curious to see if these programs had any lasting effects on kids. After organizing a book-night party for 42 preschoolers, researchers were surprised to see that the children not only gravitated more often to the picture books in their preschool classroom but read more often to their plush playthings in the days after the sleepover. When researchers came back a month later to remind children of the event by showing them the photographs again, the kids showed a renewed interest in reading aloud to their stuffies.

All 35 stuffies were found hiding in the library storage room!

All 35 stuffies were found hiding in the library storage room!

While Kris Lill, the children’s librarian at the Georgetown branch of the Allen County Public Library, in Fort Wayne, IN, says its difficult to know for sure what effect the library’s annual sleepovers have had kids’ reading interests, she has been struck by the overwhelmingly positive feedback by families. Since 2008, pre- and elementary-school patrons have been bringing their stuffed animals for bedtime stories, followed by a shared storytime where the kids read a board book to their beloved toys. After lullabies and goodbyes, the librarians take photos of the plushies in the stacks, listening to a story, or playing with the library’s toys. Lill and her helpers turn the photos into a memory book for each patron, presenting it and a craft made by their toy when the kids come back the following day.

“The next day, many of the kids walk around the library and eagerly try to find all the places their animals had been. They’re very interested in their animals’ experiences, and often will say things like ‘I didn’t know she liked to play with the barn! That’s my favorite thing to do, too!’  or  ‘Elephant and Piggie!  I know that book!’” she says.

24985969793_8e0415cf6c_mLill said that she and her staff were surprised by the amount of work that was involved during the first sleepover, but strongly urges other libraries considering one of these programs to just go ahead and do it. Her suggestions include:

  • The more planning you can do ahead of time, the better.
  • Have a helper (or two)!
  • Don’t underestimate the amount of time it takes to move the animals around, set them up, and photograph them.
  • Count animals every time you move them.
  • Get ready for many hugs!

“I firmly believe that positive experiences with books help develop a love of reading, but this event seems to capture something special,” says Lill.  “Maybe it’s the relationship between the kids and the animals or some kind of empathy the kids’ feel for their animals’ experience. But whatever it is, we get so many smiles and words of thanks from the kids and grownups.” She also gets requests to offer the program again, and often—something she’s seriously considering.

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9 Refugee Stories for Kids and Teens Fri, 17 Mar 2017 13:00:47 +0000 Crossing borders and leaving family, home, and everything else behind is a reality for many children and teens. The following titles—from picture books to YA—explore the many dangers, factors, and effects that refugees and immigrants face every day.

Abdel-Fattah, Randa. The Lines We Cross. 400p. ebook available. Scholastic. May 2017. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781338118667.

YA-SP-AbdelFattah-TheLinesWeCrossGr 9 Up –Mina, her mother, and her stepfather, Afghani refugees in Sydney, Australia, are moving out of multicultural Auburn into a more homogenous, wealthy neighborhood to open a halal restaurant. Michael is the obedient son of the founder of Aussie Values, an anti-immigration group. The two teens meet at Mina’s new school, where she is on scholarship. Michael is immediately smitten with witty, self-possessed, intelligent Mina. He falls hard and has to figure out what he believes, because if he is anti-immigration, he is anti-Mina. Mina struggles with trusting Michael, whose family is clearly no ally to hers and whose best friend is a complete jerk. Told from the protagonists’ alternating perspectives, this work presents a multifaceted look at a Muslim teen. Mina and Michael’s relationship is threatened by direct attacks perpetrated by Aussie Values on Mina’s family’s restaurant. Their love develops amid (mostly) well-meaning but flawed family and friends. Abdel-Fattah explores teen nerdiness, sexuality, cruelty, compassion, family pressure, neglect, and loyalty. She is a master at conveying themes of tolerance, working in humor, and weaving multiple emotionally complex points of view. VERDICT A timely and compassionate portrait of the devastating losses of refugees, political conflicts within a family and a nation, and the astounding capacity of young people to identify hate and yet act with empathy and love. A must-purchase for all collections.–Sara Lissa Paulson, City-As-School High School, New York City

Del Rizzo, Suzanne. My Beautiful Birds. illus. by Suzanne Del Rizzo. 32p. Pajama. Mar. 2017. Tr $17.95. ISBN 9781772780109.

YA-SP-DelRizzo-MyBeautifulBirdsGr 1-3 –Sami is a Syrian boy whose family are forced to leave all they hold dear as they flee their home for the safety of a refugee camp. While “days blur together in a gritty haze” at the camp and uncertainty about their future looms, Sami worries about the fate of the pet pigeons he left behind. These concerns overshadow anything good to come from the camp, from the garden his father grows to the flat bread his mother cooks to the painting Sami makes at the new camp school. While walking one day, Sami realizes that the sky he sees from camp is the same sky as in Syria and that if his pigeons were strong enough to fly, they might be strong enough to survive. Will this insight allow Sami to open up and accept the new friends that might come his way? Or will the refugee camp be nothing more than a segue between two pieces of his life? Exquisite dimensional illustrations using Plasticine, polymer clay, and other media bring a unique, lifelike quality to the page, enriching Sami’s story to its fullest potential when paired with the often lyrical prose. VERDICT A stunning offering for libraries wishing to add to their collection of hopeful yet realistic refugee tales.–Brittany Drehobl, Eisenhower Public Library District, IL

redstarDiaz, Alexandra. The Only Road. 320p. ebook available. S. & S./Paula Wiseman Bks. Oct. 2016. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781481457507.

YA-SP-Diaz-TheOnlyRoadGr 5-8 –After the murder of their cousin/brother Miguel, Jaime and Ángela (ages 12 and 15) are given the “option” to join the powerful gang controlling their Guatemalan village. A refusal means certain death, so their families make the difficult decision to send the pair north, secretly gathering resources, paying smugglers, and identifying safe houses—all the while aware that their children might not survive the journey. The cousins depart hidden in the bed of a truck with small bags of food and cash concealed in their waistbands. After crossing the Mexican border, they take a bus further north, barely escaping border guards, and briefly stay at a safe church from which they are transported in a locked, airless freight train car. Throughout, the young people experience mercy and loss and observe violence and its results as they walk or ride atop a train, finally reaching a border town. After working to acquire additional cash necessary for a reputable coyote, they cross the Río Bravo and border wall and finally arrive at another refuge center. There are references to violence and sexual abuse, but these are handled in an age-appropriate manner while also reflecting the experiences of many immigrants. Jaime’s first person perspective enables readers to begin to comprehend the realities of undocumented youth immigration, its underlying causes, and the sacrifices and hardships made to reach safety in the United States. VERDICT An important, must-have addition to the growing body of literature with immigrant themes.–Ruth Quiroa, National Louis University, Lisle, IL

McCarney, Rosemary. Where Will I Live? photos by Rosemary McCarney. 24p. Second Story. Apr. 2017. Tr $19.95. ISBN 9781772600285.

YA-SP-McCarney-WhereWillILiveGr 1-4 –A poignant photojournalistic look at the issues confronting refugee children and their families from the author of Every Day Is Malala Day. Photo spreads explore the challenges people, especially children, face when “scary things happen to good people.” The text emphasizes universal fears that are magnified by conflict: Where will I live? Will I make friends? Will I be safe? Many of these refugees will make long and uncertain journeys in search of that sought-after new home, but the work ends on a positive note: “I hope someone smiles and says ‘Welcome home.’ I hope that someone is you.” Photos are helpfully labeled by location. Although the images depict distressing situations, none are so explicit as to overly upset the audience. The true power of the book lies in its ability to spark classroom conversations, highlighting the need for cultural awareness and compassion. VERDICT Consider to prompt elementary school discussions on empathy for refugees.–Jessica Bushore, Xenia, OH

Mihulka, Krystyna with Krystyna Poray Goddu. Krysia: A Polish Girl’s Stolen Childhood During World War II. 192p. ebook available. maps. photos. Chicago Review. Jan. 2017. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781613734414.

YA-SP-Mihulka-KrysiaGr 4-7 –In 1940, nine-year-old Mihulka and her mother and younger brother were forced from their home in Poland and taken to a Soviet-run labor camp in Kazakhstan. Through Mihulka’s mother’s resourcefulness and the children’s resilience, they survived the harsh conditions and were able to reconnect with family members before traveling to a refugee camp in Iran in 1942. Writing in a simple, direct style, Mihulka shares her experiences, fears, and reactions in a clear yet age-appropriate way. A guide to selected Polish words, along with their pronunciations, is placed at the beginning of this volume, giving tweens a chance to glance through it before diving into the narrative. Black-and-white photographs are scattered throughout, and a helpful map of the family’s journey is also included. An afterword and epilogue give insight into the fates of many Polish people during World War II, as well as additional information about Mihulka and her family. VERDICT Painting a vivid picture of a child’s experience as a civilian caught among warring powers, Mihulka’s story offers many opportunities for discussion, especially given the current refugee crisis.–Sarah Reid, Four County Library System, NY

Milway, Katie Smith. The Banana-Leaf Ball: How Play Can Change the World. illus. by Shane W. Evans. 32p. (CitizenKid). websites. Kids Can. Apr. 2017. Tr $18.95. ISBN 9781771383318.

YA-SP-Milway-TheBananaLeafBallGr 1-4 –This title follows Deo Rukundo and his family as they flee their home in Burundi. Separated from his family, Deo travels alone until he makes his way to Lukole, a refugee camp in Tanzania. Supplies are scarce, and many children Deo’s age join gangs to bully others and steal what they want and need. One of these bullies, Remy, becomes an opponent not only in Deo’s daily life but also on their pickup soccer team. Deo’s favorite toy from home, a soccer ball made from banana leaves, comes in handy in both practicing soccer and in forging relationships with other boys in the camp and driving home the lesson that they’re all ultimately on the same team. Award-worthy mixed-media illustrations breathe life into the perhaps overlong story. With a simplistic plot that holds few stakes, the narrative does more to inform at a base level than to pique interest in the refugee crisis. Back matter with information about the real Lukole refugee camp and those who might live there, Internet resources, and suggestions of what can be done to aid those in crisis might be useful for those doing school projects or children genuinely interested in helping others. VERDICT This title will fill the gaps of any collection looking for more materials on the refugee crisis, and Burundi refugees in particular, and how the power of organized play can positively impact a dark time in any community.–Brittany Drehobl, Eisenhower Public Library District, IL

redstarSedgwick, Marcus. Saint Death. 240p. ebook available. Roaring Brook. Apr. 2017. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781626725492.

YA-SP-Sedgwick-SaintDeathGr 9 Up –Arturo is scraping by, living in Anapra, on the outskirts of Juarez, Mexico. He can see El Norte from his small shack, but America feels distant compared with his reality spent hauling things at the auto shop and trying to avoid the notice of gang members and the cartel, who have carved up Juarez into their own sections of territory. Arturo’s childhood friend Faustino reenters his life, preparing to use stolen money to send his girlfriend Eva and their son illegally across the border. With his gang boss on the verge of discovering the theft, Faustino is desperate for help to replace the $1,000 he has taken. Arturo reluctantly agrees to try to win the money playing Calavera. Looming over his story, and Juarez itself, is Santa Muerte—Saint Death. The folk saint watches impassively as people in the border town struggle in the face of a vicious drug trade, dangerous trafficking, corruption, and income inequality. It’s possible that Santa Muerte might help Arturo if he prays hard enough and proves himself. But it’s also possible she’ll watch as Arturo heads toward his tragic ending. Arturo’s narrative alternates with commentary from nameless third parties on conditions affecting Mexico, and Juarez specifically, including the North American Free Trade Agreement, climate change, the city’s founding, and even the worship of Saint Death herself. The formatting and language underscore that this is a book about Mexican characters who live their lives in Spanish—non-English words are not italicized, and dialogue is formatted according to Spanish-language conventions. This well-researched novel is an absorbing, heart-rending read and a scathing indictment of the conditions that have allowed the drug trade and human trafficking to flourish in Mexico. VERDICT Eerily timely and prescient, this ambitious story is a necessary purchase for all collections.–Emma Carbone, Brooklyn Public Library

Watts, Irene N. Seeking Refuge. illus. by Kathryn E. Shoemaker. 128p. Tradewind. Mar. 2017. pap. $15.95. ISBN 9781926890029.

YA-SP-Watts-SeekingRefugeGr 5-8 –This follow-up to Watts’s Good-bye Marianne is a fictionalized account inspired by the author’s real-life experience with the Kindertransport, a heroic rescue operation that brought Jewish children to Great Britain prior to World War II. Eleven-year-old Marianne flees Austria, arriving in London in December 1938. Though she trusts her family’s decision to send her away to safety, it doesn’t make the process any less painful as she struggles to adjust to a new country and sponsors who never seem pleased with her. Cold Aunt Vera treats Marianne more like hired help than a guest, while Auntie Vi is overprotective and views her as a replacement for the daughter she recently lost. Her days pass in confusion, hurt, and sadness. Black-and-white pencil sketches reflect a mood of loneliness and the bleakness of the time period. With about six panels per page, it can be difficult to discern the action, given that the sketches are shadowy and individual features are very small and similar. The glossary, which defines terms associated with the Nazi Party and Welsh phrases that appear in text when Marianne must flee London late in the book, does a great job of explaining terms at an age-appropriate level without shying away from harsh truths. Though the conclusion may feel abrupt, middle grade readers will appreciate the happy ending. VERDICT A first purchase for collections that own Good-Bye Marianne and for libraries looking to expand their offerings on the experiences of refugees.–Samantha Lumetta, Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County, OH

Wild, Margaret. The Treasure Box. illus. by Freya Blackwood. 40p. Candlewick. Apr. 2017. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780763690847.

YA-SP-Wild-TheTreasureBoxGr 2-4 –“When the enemy bombed the library, everything burned.” This is how Wild begins her rather dark tale of salvaging one important thing when everything else is broken or destroyed. A young boy’s father had borrowed a book from that soon-to-be-burned library, and when the “enemy” (never identified or hinted at) forces the people to leave their homes, the father chooses to take the book, sequestering it in an iron box. He tells the boy that the book is “about our people, about us. It is rarer than rubies, more splendid than silver, greater than gold.” The father does not survive the arduous journey, and the boy buries the box with the book at the foot of a linden tree. Years later, he returns and retrieves the book and brings it back to the new library so that others can enjoy the “treasure” his father tried so hard to save. The concept of what constitutes treasure is explored (“no rubies, no silver, no gold”); instead, it is that most marvelous of things—a book. The pencil, ink, and collage illustrations are masterly. As the pages from the burned books flutter in the wind, “people caught the words and cupped them in their hands.” The scraps of paper are carefully selected, in many different languages, and most evocative—“of hope,” “never forget,” “sang,” “great empty.” VERDICT This beautifully written and illustrated picture book is an excellent read-aloud and discussion starter for elementary school classes talking about war and the resilience of displaced peoples.–Grace Oliff, Ann Blanche Smith School, Hillsdale, NJ

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The Best Bear in All the World by Paul Bright, Brian Sibley, Jeanne Willis & Kate Saunders | SLJ Audio Review Fri, 17 Mar 2017 13:00:39 +0000 BRIGHT, Paul, Brian Sibley, Jeanne Willis, & Kate Saunders. The Best Bear in All the World. 2 CDs. 1:37 hrs. Listening Library. Oct. 2016. $22. ISBN 9780735287655. digital download

Gr 2-5 – Four seasons bring new adventures and curiosities to Winnie-the-Pooh, Christopher Robin, and friends. From Eeyore seeing another donkey to Piglet and Pooh meeting a dragon, the tales will delight, inspire, and encourage imagination. Narrator Martin Jarvis’s voice is ideal for bringing to life each of the Hundred [...]]]> redstarBRIGHT, Paul, Brian Sibley, Jeanne Willis, & Kate Saunders. The Best Bear in All the World. 2 CDs. 1:37 hrs. Listening Library. Oct. 2016. $22. ISBN 9780735287655. digital download

AU-Milne-TheBestBearinAlltheWorldGr 2-5 Four seasons bring new adventures and curiosities to Winnie-the-Pooh, Christopher Robin, and friends. From Eeyore seeing another donkey to Piglet and Pooh meeting a dragon, the tales will delight, inspire, and encourage imagination. Narrator Martin Jarvis’s voice is ideal for bringing to life each of the Hundred Acre Wood residents. His warm and enchanting narration imbues every beloved friend with depth and character. Although this title is slightly different from the plot format of A.A. Milne’s novels, the authors have created a unique, well-developed plot that is reminiscent of the original books. Their love for the Hundred Acre Wood and its inhabitants is apparent and endearing. VERDICT Listeners will be captivated from beginning to end by these Winnie-the-Pooh tribute stories. A must-have for any audiobook collection. [“This collection will delight a new generation of readers”: SLJ 2/16 starred review of the Dutton book.]–Jessica Moody, Olympus Jr. High, Holladay, UT

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

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