School Library Journal The world's largest reviewer of books, multimedia, and technology for children and teens Wed, 29 Jun 2016 21:53:38 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Chronicle Fall 2016 Preview Shows Off Unique Approaches for All Ages Wed, 29 Jun 2016 20:24:34 +0000 It’s fall! Well, at least in the world of Chronicle Books. The publisher recently shared the anticipation of their next season releases with a gaggle of giddy librarians and booksellers.

Picture Books

Publishing director Ginee Seo began by sharing an animated trailer for the upcoming picture book, They All Saw a Cat (Sept., 2016) by Brendan Wenzel, his debut as both author and illustrator. An unusual yet basic concept is at the heart of this book: how different animals see the same thing. The book illustrates the importance of perspective and how we all see things based on our imagination.

After prevailing in an eight-publisher auction, Seo says she was “thrilled to work on a book in which every word, down to each ‘and’ or ‘the’ is intentional and meaningful.” Because I’m always on the lookout for books reflecting the diversity of the human race, I will report that the people characters in the book are white.

Bunny Slope

My favorite book of the morning was Bunny Slopes by Claudia Rueda (Oct., 2016). It’s an interactive book in which readers help Bunny tackle the ski slope, from shaking the book to creating snow to tilting it so that Bunny can gain some traction to get down the hill. As the protagonist gets going a bit too fast, kids need to help by turning the book around.

Designer Amelia Mack reflected that “with so many interactive elements, creating the book often turned into a logic problem. For example, if the book is turned upside down to prevent Bunny from falling, how does Bunny move? Where does he land? Solving these problems often led to contemplating deeper questions, like how a book really works, or what guidance a reader needs in order to move forward.”

Planet Kindergarten: 100 Days in Orbit (Oct., 2016), by Sue Ganz-Schmitt is the sequel to 2014’s Planet Kindergarten. While the first book shared an individual journey about going to school for the first time, this book’s focus is on working as a team—learning to both lead and follow. Adult readers will enjoy Shane Prigmore’s illustrations, which give a nod to scenes of classic space movies. Once again, the main character is white, with at least one brown face amid the other colors, such as purple, pink and green.

I personally adored Florence Parry Heide’s classic The Shrinking of Treehorn. How to Be a Hero (Oct., 2016) is Heide’s last book (she passed away in 2011). Editor Melissa Manlove recalled, “Florence and I had a month together, sharing this manuscript back and forth, and we were just about done. Florence told her daughter, ‘I will go to bed tonight and think about heroes.’ And she never woke up. She was 92.” There are two brown faces in the crowd of white characters.

Because of an acorn

Because of an Acorn (Aug., 2016) by Lola M. Schaefer and Adam Schaefer was my next favorite book on the list, and is one of those picture books that would actually make a great gift for an adult.

Because of an acorn, a tree grows, a bird nests, a seed becomes a flower. In this way, the authors were able to convey in the simplest terms the way each plant or animal becomes the reason that another survives. Detailed back matter explains how and why foundation species, such as oak trees, really are the reason many other plants and animals around it survive.

when an elephant falls in love

Editor Naomi Kirsten and Italian author Davide Cali have been close collaborators since 2013, when they began working together on I Didn’t Do My Homework Because…. (The fourth volume in the series, The Truth About My Unbelievable Summer, comes out in July.) I always eagerly anticipate Kirsten’s hysterical stories about working to translate French and Italian sensibilities for Americans. To thank her for their collaboration, the author sent her the French edition of a book he had published as a gift. She fell in love with the story of a shy elephant seeking his soulmate—and wanted to publish it for Chronicle’s list. When an Elephant Falls in Love (Dec., 2016) by Cali is super cute and silly.


Middle School

The author of Cleared for Takeoff: The Ultimate Book of Flight (Oct., 2016), Rowland White, found his passion as a youngster when he did a school project about jets. He is the author of many books on the subject of flight, including Into the Black, the story of the first space shuttle.

Editor Kelli Chipponeri “was drawn to the vintage, retro look of the interiors. And as a former high school teacher, I’m excited about the book for reluctant readers, as it’s fully illustrated and packed with fascinating stories, sidebars, diagrams, pop culture references, and instructions for how to create paper airplanes and hovercrafts. It’s a wealth of information that is accessible for readers at all levels.”

Associate editor Taylor Norman introduced the novel Hundred Percent by Karen Romano Young by discussing the tropes of middle grade fiction. “So many of these novels have a very specific way of presenting school. It’s a heightened sense of reality, from the way people talk and relate to one another, to the moments that authors choose to focus on. The magic of Hundred Percent is that it is brilliantly real, structured around a sixth grade school year, from September to June. The story brings to light the nitty-gritty details of actually being 12 and trying to figure out who you are—all of those moments that feel so huge and important when you’re in them.” This work also features a white girl protagonist.


The most important book on the list is definitely Loving vs. Virginia (Feb., 2017) by Patricia Hruby Powell, author of the award winning Josephine.

In 1955, teens Richard and Mildred fell in love and were at the heart of a landmark Supreme Court case that legalized marriage between the races. In verse, Powell tells the story of the couple who faced discrimination, fought it, and won.

Editor Melissa Manlove said, “When Patricia sent me the first draft, I was surprised at how little outrage there was in the sections in Richard and Mildred’s voices. The stuff that makes my blood boil is all in the sidebars—the things going on in the world around them, the words of judges and politicians. I was thinking of asking her to change that. But then I realized that what that does is humanize Richard and Mildred in a way I hadn’t even thought to do, to cast their story as not about politics or even civil rights, but about the things that define our humanity—home, family, humility, love.”

Photos of the couple were not easy to find, which led Melissa and designer Jennifer Tolo Pierce to illustrator Shadra Strickland. She has a background in a style of illustrative reporting called visual journalism, which, coincidentally, developed in the 1950s.

One of the best parts of the Chronicle preview, besides the books and schmoozing with other librarians and booksellers, is learning the inside story and meeting authors and illustrators. It was a treat to meet debut illustrator Chris Turnham (The Wish Tree by Kyo Maclear; Oct., 2016). The Wish Tree began as a single holiday print Chris sent out to friends and family and is now a richly illustrated picture book.

As if all that wasn’t enough, on the way out, we ate bunny cupcakes and played with adoptable kittens.

Friendly felines, up for adoption from Saving Grace Rescue, court attendees.

Friendly felines, up for adoption from Saving Grace Rescue, court attendees.





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Greetings! and Farewell | Consider the Source Wed, 29 Jun 2016 19:57:54 +0000 School Library Journal's longtime columnist discusses his current and future projects as he bids farewell to our readers.]]>  

Marc 2Dear Readers, I wrote this column as I prepared to leave for the American Library Association Annual (ALA) conference in Orlando, FL. Along with Annette Goldsmith and Doris Gebel, I took part in an “Ethnic & Multicultural Information Exchange,” on the subject of “Using Global Literature in Translation To Reimagine Diversity in Libraries,” i.e., international books and translated books as a crucial—and neglected—form of diversity. Importantly, Rachel Hildebrandt was also on the panel. Rachel is a literary translator (her expertise is in German) who has spearheaded an effort to link translators and librarians and every type of library, from youth to academic. The event was an offshoot of the Global Literature in Libraries Initiative (GLLI). Annette and Doris also addressed the YALSA board about creating a track within the Michael L. Printz Award for translated books.

All of this feels like both a culmination and a wonderful next challenge to me. Back in the 1990s, I worked with Michael Cart to create the award that became the Printz, an award that explicitly states in its rules that translated books—and books by authors who are neither American nor U.S. residents are eligible. (This is in contrast to, say, the Newbery and Caldecott Awards.) We wanted to open the young adult prize to every kind of writing (nonfiction, poetry, anthologies, graphic novels) and all authors. A few Printz winners and honors have been written by authors from countries outside the United States, including Geraldine McCaughrean, David Almond, Melina Marchetta, and Aidan Chambers. But this is luck of the draw—what gets published each year, and what the committee happens to select. If the Printz featured translation as a subset award, it would systematically draw attention to the rich body of teen literature penned overseas.

Flying to ALA to articulate the value of international children’s and young adult books reminds me of traveling to other conferences and meetings to make the case for a YA award, to promote YA graphic novels, to advocate for nonfiction, to celebrate visiting teen reading groups, and to accept the first Robert F. Sibert Medal. Literature for young people keeps expanding and diversifying, and as it does, it challenges us to think in new ways and to understand, appreciate, and honor more varieties of books—and readers.

I love being on the edge of change, a scout for what is coming, and for a cause whose time has arrived, and I’ve tried to use this column as a form of translation. That is, as a historian, an author, and a professor, sharing the books, authors, experiences, and ideas that have excited me. Whether that was thinking about how to frame discussions of this year’s election cycle in library displays or passing along some of the enticing presentation tools I’ve learned about from my students.

Now, though, it is time to consider new ways to share. I’ve mentioned the excellent high school science teacher John Mead in this column. Together we are exploring the idea of developing podcasts to explain science breakthroughs and events as they unfold, so that educators, students, and parents can make sense of discoveries they are reading about. Marina Budhos and I are in the very last stages of our second book together, Eyes of the World: Robert Capa, Gerda Taro and the Invention of Photojournalism, which will be published by Henry Holt in 2017. (We are very excited about its beautiful design.)

At the same time, Marina and I have been digging through the many layers of art, letters, and books that my parents, artistic collaborators, left behind. If you are an archivist with an interest in 20th-century art (from Russian constructivism to the Bauhaus and Black Mountain College) and live in the New York area, let me know—we’re overwhelmed. And speaking of collaboration, Susan Campbell Bartoletti and I will be partnering to develop and edit a thematic nonfiction anthology. And then there’s a solo book I must finish on the history of New York City in four streets, a square, and a Golden Door. I’ll leave you to guess which streets and square.

Thank you, School Library Journal, for giving me this platform to share experiences and discoveries. Thank you, Daryl Grabarek, for being an attuned and insightful editor. Thank you, everyone, for your comments and feedback. I may come back here for some other more limited projects, but for now, greetings and farewell. I have greatly enjoyed your company.

To access Marc Aronson’s earlier columns for School Library Journal, visit Consider the Source under the SLJ Blogs & Opinion webpage.

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Take a Bite Out of Summer Reading with Shark Week–Themed Titles Wed, 29 Jun 2016 19:28:40 +0000 Sharks are a huge part of our summertime culture—synonymous with hamburgers, hot dogs, firecrackers, and all other things Americana. Why do children and adults love these creatures so often the source of nightmares?  What is our fascination with these prehistoric swimmers? And can we better protect and care for them? Every year the Discovery Channel embraces our passion for these magnificent sharp toothed beasts with a full week of nonstop shark action, information, and stories. Considering the dwindling global shark population, it is important that children learn to appreciate sharks—to look past all the scary parts—and understand how essential the animals are to their ecosystems and the ocean as a whole.

Here are a few titles sure to get just-out-of-school kids right back into the swing of reading and learning…about sharks, of course!

HARVEY, Derek. Super Shark Encyclopedia and Other Creatures of the Deep. 208p. charts. diags. glossary. index. photos. DK. Jun. 2015. Tr $24.99. ISBN 9781465435842.
Gr 3-8–This book presents a rare perspective into the creatures of the deep, with engaging images and clear facts. Sharks are the main focus, but there are captivating chapters devoted to many other creatures, including the giant clam, spiny devil fish, sea horse, Gentoo penguin, and sea otter, making this title ideal for research purposes and pleasure reading alike. The animals are divided into five sections: “Amazing Anatomy,” “Animal Athletes,” “Life Stories,” “Supernatural Senses,” and “Exploring the Deep.” Topics such as size, life span, and diet are featured for each entry, and often charts accompany the facts. Detailed diagrams and large, stunning, colorful photographs complement the captivating text. VERDICT Secure this work as an awe-inspiring resource on sharks and other wildlife of the deep for students and teachers.–Beth McGuire, Hempfield Area School District, Greensburg, PA

This review was published in the School Library Journal October 2015 issue.

NF-Montgomery-The Great White Shark ScientistMONTGOMERY, Sy. The Great White Shark Scientist. photos by Keith Ellenbogen. 80p. (Scientists in the Field Series). bibliog. index. websites. HMH. Jun. 2016. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9780544352988. POP
Gr 5-8–Prepare to be enveloped in saltwater air and dizzying blue water in this latest entry from veteran author Montgomery. A tense opening line delivered by 52-year-old great white shark biologist Greg Skomal is sure to hook readers: “It’s pretty treacherous right here.” But as they will soon discover, for Skomal and team, the even greater danger is not seeing a great white at all. Montgomery deftly balances information and intrigue without delving into the sensational; the emphasis is always on providing unique insight into the fieldwork of scientists and the absolute patience and perseverance it takes to locate, identify, gather, and analyze scientific data under challenging circumstances. Her travels with Skomal and her journey into a shark cage with biologist Erick Higuera are evidence of a genuine interest in understanding great whites and reversing negative attitudes about them. Readers will come to learn that the perceived danger surrounding sharks does not always match reality (the prime example offered being the astounding number of Americans injured by toilets in comparison to shark-related deaths in a year) and that these creatures are in desperate need of quality protection and conservation efforts. Ellenbogen’s crystal clear photographs range from intimate shots of crew members and aquatic life to large aerial overviews of the inlets and waters they are sailing on—students will be sure to stop and linger over these gorgeous images. VERDICT Exceptionally written and highly recommended for those looking to give a timely summer boost to STEM collections.–Della Farrell, School Library JournalThis review was published in the School Library Journal June 2016 issue.

BB2014-Neighborhood-SharksROY, Katherine. Neighborhood Sharks: Hunting with the Great Whites of California’s Farallon Islands. illus. by Katherine Roy. 48p. bibliog. further reading. maps. websites. Roaring Brook/David Macaulay Studio. Sept. 2014. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781596438743.
Gr 2-4–In preparation for this well-researched book on great white sharks, Roy joined scientists in the Farallon Islands to study the animals near San Francisco. Though shark lovers of all ages will enjoy poring over the intense, vivid images, there’s a lot of information that older students will particularly appreciate. Readers will learn about many aspects of great whites—their anatomy, how they hunt, and their place in the ecosystem, as well as how scientists study them. The action-packed illustrations, rendered in watercolor and pencil with some digital work, are both accurate and captivating. Pair this one with Gail Gibbons’s Sharks or Seymour Simon’s Incredible Sharks. Additional information in the form of films, books, and online resources are appended, including a link to a live webcam of the Farallon Islands. VERDICT An excellent introduction.–Martha Rico, El Paso ISD, TXThis article was published in School Library Journal‘s July 2014 issue.

WEISS, Matt. Please Be Nice to Sharks: Fascinating Facts About the Ocean’s Most Misunderstood Creatures. photos by Daniel Botelho. 32p. index. Sterling. Jun. 2016. Tr $12.95. ISBN 9781454917489.
Gr 3-5–Did you know that humans kill more than 100 million sharks each year, but only about five people are killed by sharks? This book maintains that by having an understanding of these magnificent creatures, we can better preserve them and our beloved oceans. Each page presents a different shark species, ranging from the familiar great white to the rocky-looking wobbegong shark. Each shark introduces itself with a friendly opener like “Ahoy, matey!” and goes on to give a bit about its identifying features, traits, and abilities (for instance, the blue shark says, “I’m pretty easy to recognize because I’ve got a big ol’ nose and nice blue skin.”). Every entry concludes with a plea to “be nice to sharks!” Educators could use this as a mentor text to model the technique of “voice” in creative writing, as each shark speaker tends to have its own personality. The large, crisp photos that accompany the text give readers a chance to look into the eyes of the shark: a useful way to invoke empathy. Of the 14 sharks featured, three take up an entire spread (the great white, Caribbean reef, and lemon shark) along with a sidebar listing average length, weight, diet, and other specific facts. Back matter includes a “How To Be Nice to Sharks” note warning readers to avoid shark fin soup and seafood caught by big fishing fleets. VERDICT A slight introduction to the concepts of animal and ecosystem conservation; young shark lovers will be sure to enjoy this work.–Maggie Chase, Boise State University, ID

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


Are your patrons looking for everything ocean and more? Check out these titles to bulk up shark themed displays.

Dembicki-WildOceanDEMBICKI, Matt, ed. Wild Ocean: Sharks, Whales, Rays and Other Endangered Sea Creatures. 156p. Fulcrum. May 2014. pap. $19.95. ISBN 9781938486388.
Gr 7 Up–A dozen veteran and first-time comic book writers and graphic novelists appear in this collaboration. Separate chapters introduce readers to wonders of the ocean under threat from overfishing, global warming, and other man-made dangers. From seahorses made into keychains to monk seals losing their birthing and pup-rearing grounds, kids encounter beautiful creatures that need humans to undo the damage they have caused to the environment. Each story opens with a textual explanation of the section’s topic. The graphic styles vary widely, with some, like the story of the manatee, looking like traditional Sunday comics, while others, like the description of the coral reefs of the Maldives, appearing much more realistic. Some of the entries include allusions to ocean-focused mythology, while others are practically wordless and let the illustrated panels speak for themselves. Back matter includes not always age-appropriate further reading, but also very informative websites for in-depth research. VERDICT Passionate students would enjoy this colorful, informative look into different aspects of sea life, and teachers could use the book to introduce marine biology or ecology units, making this a wise purchase for middle school libraries and beyond.–Sarah Knutson, American Canyon Middle School, CA

This review was published in the School Library Journal July 2014 issue.

Rizzo-OceanAnimalsRIZZO, Johnna. Ocean Animals: Who’s Who in the Deep Blue. 112p. glossary. index. photos. National Geographic. May 2016. pap. $12.99. ISBN 9781426325069.
Gr 3-6–Polar bears swimming underwater, colorful sea stars, luminescent fish, and bright coral reefs are just a few of the images sure to lure eager eyes. An introduction by Sylvia Earle, National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence, explains that in order to protect and preserve our oceans, we first must come to an understanding of marine life. Rizzo wonderfully covers how geographers divide “one world ocean” into four (possibly five) for ease of identification, along with a plethora of sea creatures’ behaviors and habitat, a brief explanation of tectonic plates and subaqueous geography, relevant statistics, and even comparisons between an octopus and squid. Recognizable animals such as sharks and dolphins as well as more obscure creatures including marine iguanas are featured, and there are explanations of how marine biologists and ecologists work and operate in this often challenging environment. The text is simple but provides enough information and fun facts that readers will walk away having learned something about their favorite aquatic animal—plus the larger trim size allows the images to shine. Spreads on ocean habitats, the Pristine Seas Project, and “20 Ways You Can Protect the Ocean” help to integrate ideas on conversation without being preachy or topical; the overall message is that humans will greatly benefit from the health of the oceans and their inhabitants. VERDICT A lively offering for inspiring seafarers, in the standard National Geographic format, best for classroom use.–Kathryn Diman, Bass Harbor Memorial Library, Bernard, ME

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

 See also: TPiB: It’s Shark Week! | Teen Librarian Toolbox by Karen Jensen




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Middle Grade Xpress Reviews | July 2016 Wed, 29 Jun 2016 18:05:49 +0000 1607-Xpress-MiddleGrade-CVsCain, Cate. The Moon Child. 432p. (Jade Boy: Bk. 2). ebook available. Bonnier Zaffre. May 2016. pap. $11.99. ISBN 9781783700585.

Gr 4-7 –This historical fantasy, full of dark magic, is the sequel to the British import The Jade Boy, featuring a trio of young teens who battle evil sorcerers using their wits and newfound magical abilities. The story picks up soon after the events in the previous volume. Enough backstory is provided that readers new to the series won’t be too confused. In Jade Boy, Jem, 13; apprentice shape-shifter Ann; Egyptian-born mind-reader Tolly; and Cleo, Tolly’s pet monkey, defeated evil sorcerer Count Cazalon in St. Paul’s catacombs during the 1666 Great Fire of London. Now it’s 1667, and their Twelfth Night celebration is interrupted by a misshapen creature trailing a knotted tail accompanied by dancers wearing stag masks. The creatures surround Ann and magically spirit her away. As Jem and Tolly set out to rescue her, the dead count’s staff warns them to “beware the shadow man who walks between worlds.” Their search leads them to stow away aboard a strange ship that sails on a witch wind bound for the new colonies. The ship’s owner is a one-eyed Frenchwoman with a clawed foot. She’s only one of many evil creatures and strange illusions they encounter during their eventful journey. One of the secondary characters, Mingan, seems to be Native American, though the author does not specify a tribe or region. Elements of Native American mythology, including aspects of witiko tales, are used, though specific tribes or stories are not identified in text or back matter. VERDICT Purchase where there are fans of the first installment.–Sharon Rawlins, New Jersey State Library, Trenton

Dando-Collins, Stephen. Caesar the War Dog: Operation Black Shark. 288p. (Caesar the War Dog: Bk. 5). Random. May 2016. pap. $11.99. ISBN 9780857988638.

Gr 4-6 –Sgt. Ben Fulton has taken his son, daughter, and mother on a Caribbean cruise. He is on leave because of an injury and hopes the rest and relaxation will bring him back up to speed. The first days of the cruise are filled with fun and sightseeing. The cruise takes a turn for the worst when the ship is hijacked. Ben may have been looking for rest, but he is now prepared to do everything he can to end this situation peacefully. Fortunately, help is coming his way, including Ben’s best “teammate,” the explosive-detection dog, Caesar. Despite the exciting premise, this novel drags from start to finish. The story is filled with military acronyms and terms that slow the pacing considerably. An appended list of definitions provides some help. The characters are unappealing, and Caesar makes rare appearances in the story. Adult characters propel the action and leave a hole in the story line for a child protagonist to emerge and capture the interest of the intended audience. Additionally, this Australian import uses words such as fossicked that may be unfamiliar to some U.S. readers. VERDICT Skip this book for Cynthia Kadohata’s Cracker!: The Best Dog in Vietnam or Kate Klimo’s Stubby.–Sarah Wethern, Douglas County Library, Alexandria, MN

Downey, Jen Swann. Sword in the Stacks. 400p. (The Ninja Librarians: Bk. 2). Sourcebooks/Jabberwocky. Jun. 2016. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781402287732.

Gr 4-6 –After being temporarily barred from Petrarch’s Library, Dorrie and her brother Marcus are thrilled to resume their training as apprentice lybrarians. As excited as they are to rejoin their friends, and to help writers under threat throughout the ages, danger is waiting. The evil Foundation threatens to reverse the Library’s successful missions, putting countless lives, and history, in jeopardy. A multitude of places, historical figures, and surprises are woven seamlessly, so that each part comes together in a satisfying, action-filled conclusion. Dorrie trusts her instincts and intellect, which get her into and out of trouble and make her a character worth rooting for. The incorporation of historical information feels organic to the narrative, so readers will absorb facts without being pulled out of the story. The dialogue, especially Marcus’s, is snappy, and the plot moves without pause, making this a fun, charming read. VERDICT Put this in the hands of adventure lovers who like a little substance with their time travel and swordplay.–Marian McLeod, Convent of the Sacred Heart, Greenwich, CT

Moss, Marissa. Mira’s Diary: California Dreaming. 190p. Creston. Apr. 2016. Tr $12.99. ISBN 9781939547224.

Gr 4-7 –After adventures in Rome, Paris, and London, Mira, her father, and brother are finally back home in San Francisco. The family thinks that Mira’s mother is somewhere back in time in San Francisco, attempting the forbidden—changing the past. Mira is desperate to stop her mother from interfering. She and her brother are sure that whatever happens, they’ll be able to handle it without their mother’s meddling. While looking for her, Mira meets Samuel Clemens and takes a job helping him report on plays. She learns about what it was like to be an immigrant in America in the late 19th and early 20th century and about censorship in America. The protagonist is shocked to discover the true identity of the watcher and of the mysterious boy whom she’s met in every time period throughout the previous novels. Fast-paced and full of details, the wrap-up of this series gives answers to all of the questions posed in earlier books. VERDICT A satisfying conclusion. Recommended to fans of the series and Moss’s other works.–Terry Ann Lawler, Burton Barr Library, Phoenix

redstarReeve, Philip. Railhead. 352p. ebook available. glossary. Capstone/Switch. Apr. 2016. Tr $16.95. ISBN 9781630790486.

Gr 5-8 –In this vividly realized interstellar adventure, Reeve grabs hold of readers’ imaginations early on and takes them on an exciting ride through time and space. The novel is set in a dystopian future in which the far reaches of the solar system have been mined and terraformed; artificial intelligence and vast connected internets called dataseas control most movement, research, and exploration; and power lies in the hands of a few corporate families. The main mode of transportation is a series of sentient trains capable of traveling thousands of light-years in a matter of seconds. Zen Starling is a human boy who is forced by dire circumstances into a life of pilfering bits and scraps from markets along the train lines in order to help support his mentally unstable mother and sister. A self-professed railhead, Zen often blasts through the K-gates to far distant stations to elude authorities and irate merchants. When he is approached by a mysterious man, known only as Raven, and asked to steal a small item from a train in exchange for a promise to help his family, he readily agrees and inadvertently sets a power struggle and possible coup into motion. His partner and best ally throughout the adventure is Nova, who is an android with human features and feelings. With adept and thoughtful hands, Reeve constructs a big, sprawling, and thrilling universe (a handy glossary is included to sort out all of the intricate networks and relationships), and one in which the trains run on time. VERDICT Sci-fi fans will delight in this lightning-paced and satisfying read.–Luann Toth, School Library Journal

Riordan, Rick. The Hidden Oracle. 384p. (Trials of Apollo: Bk. 1). ebook available. Disney-Hyperion. May 2016. Tr $19.99. ISBN 9781484732748.

Gr 5 Up –Riordan’s many fans will be thrilled with this return to the world of Percy Jackson and friends. Apollo has had his godly powers taken away by Zeus as a punishment for events in the previous series. Not only is Apollo now human but he’s also a 16-year-old boy with acne and flab. The first-person narration is full of comments about the indignity of his new appearance and limited abilities, which adds to the humor of his often dark adventures. The story opens as Apollo falls to Earth and lands in a dumpster where he is attacked by a pair of street toughs. He’s rescued by Meg McCaffrey, a new demigod who claims Apollo’s service in his quest to redeem himself. Apollo and Meg recruit Percy Jackson to help them travel to Camp Half-Blood, where Apollo hopes to find help, but when they reach the camp, they learn about new threats against all the demigods. The protagonist discovers that he must restore prophecy by finding the hidden Grove of Dodona, which is the first step in defeating the newly revealed evil masterminds who are trying to destroy him. Riordan’s characters continue to be an impressively diverse group, and he includes same-sex relationships between characters and has Apollo frankly discuss his bisexuality, which will be welcomed in libraries looking for books with positive portrayals of nonheteronormative relationships and families. VERDICT This latest has Riordan’s signature wry narration, nonstop action, and mythology brought to life. A must-buy for libraries serving tweens and teens.–Beth L. Meister, Milwaukee Jewish Day School, WI

Russell, Rachel Renée. The Misadventures of Max Crumbly: Locker Hero. illus. by Rachel Renée Russell. 320p. S. & S./Aladdin. Jun. 2016. Tr $13.99. ISBN 9781481460019.

Gr 4-6 –From the creator of the “Dork Diaries” comes a new series starring a lovable new hero. Max’s transition from homeschooling to public school is rocky, especially since he has asthma and an irritable bladder triggered by social anxiety. His plight deepens when a stereotypical bully, Thug, harasses Max and locks him in his locker—twice. The first time, Max is freed by his crush, Erin, and the two forge a connection. The second time, Max is stuck after school for hours. When he finally manages to escape, he discovers hidden sections of the ill-maintained school building. He also finds inept criminals stealing the school computers. With Erin’s help, he manages to save the day. The character development is light, and the style is conversational. Fans of Janet Tashjian’s My Life as a Book will be drawn to the journal-style format and crisp, manga-inspired line drawings. Those who enjoyed the melodramatic middle school mayhem in Chris Rylander’s The Fourth Stall or Varian Johnson’s The Great Greene Heist will appreciate Max’s chuckle-worthy adventures. VERDICT A solid purchase for middle school libraries where “The Dork Diaries” series is popular. Max’s goofy, embarrassing exploits will make this a popular and high-circulating item in most collections.–Karen Yingling, Blendon Middle School, Westerville, OH

Souder, Taryn. How To (Almost) Ruin Your Summer. 240p. Sourcebooks/Jabberwocky. Jun. 2016. pap. $7.99. ISBN 9781492637745.

Gr 4-6 –Souder’s third book brings fun and laughter to middle grade readers. In this adventure, Chloe is sent away to sleepover camp for two weeks while her parents are on a cruise. She dreads the idea of going to camp. Once there, Chloe gets into all kinds of high jinks. For example, on arrival, she is attacked by a goat named King Arthur, has a food fight with her arch nemesis Victoria, and attempts to put Director Mudwimple’s underwear up the flagpole. Each time Chloe is caught doing something mischievous, she gets a demerit. Worst of all, her school crush is at camp and she keeps embarrassing herself in front of him. Tweens will relate to Chloe’s angsty journal entries and her friendship with Pogo, and laugh at all the silly situations she finds herself in. A quick and easy summer read with likable characters. VERDICT An entertaining and lighthearted choice perfect for summer readers looking for breezy titles to take to the beach (or summer camp).–Megan McGinnis, Sachem Public Library, Holbrook, NY

Stevens, Robin. Poison Is Not Polite. 336p. (A Wells & Wong Mystery: Bk. 2). S. & S. Apr. 2016. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781481422154.

Gr 4-8 –Detectives Daisy Wells and Hazel Wong are back to solve another mystery, but this one hits a little closer to home for Daisy. While on school break, bossy Daisy and levelheaded Hazel are staying at Daisy’s family home, where her mother is throwing Daisy a children’s birthday tea party. Fourteen-year-old Daisy is appalled that she is having such a childish fete, especially since her mother has invited family, school friends, and her “gentleman friend” Mr. Curtis. The house is full of suspects when, during the party, Mr. Curtis is poisoned and later dies. Mr. Curtis is truly an unlikable individual, so the list of suspects is large, and most are people Daisy has known her whole life. Daisy and Hazel’s skills are tested as they narrow down the list of possible murderers. The countryside has flooded, and the arrival of the police is delayed by days. Daisy and Hazel’s unlikely friendship balances out the strengths and weaknesses of their personalities; Daisy is pushy and clever, while Hazel is cautious and practical. VERDICT An English import with a good mystery that will keep readers’ attention, this second volume of the trilogy is strong enough to be a standalone title.–Lisa Nabel, formerly at Dayton Metro Library, OH

Treacy, Ann. The Search for the Homestead. 176p. Univ. of Minnesota. May 2016. Tr $16.95. ISBN 9780816699568.

Gr 5-8 –In 1903, 14-year-old Martin Gunnarsson and his family relocate to Goodhue County, MN, where Martin’s father plans to reestablish a farm from the family’s past. Martin’s unhappy about the move, but when his father is injured in a logging accident, Martin’s attitude changes and he strives to turn the farm into a success. He takes on the responsibilities of preparing the land, planting seeds, and tending crops. Martin also discovers his deceased aunt’s diary, which suggests that a fortune in the form of his grandmother’s dowry might be hidden somewhere on the farm. If Martin can find the hidden fortune, it could save the family from defaulting on the mortgage and stop Mr. Meehan’s aggressive attempts to buy the property. Written in short chapters, the steady plot moves along with suspenseful episodes and events appropriate to the time period. Treacy offers readers a realistic look at the period’s farm, school, and family life. The text includes entries from 13-year-old Aunt Cora’s diary, which nicely link the family’s current situation with the past. Martin is the most well-developed character. He learns about differences in cultures and the meaning of friendship when he befriends Samson, a boy who helps with the farm chores. Martin’s Swedish family and Samson’s “Gypsy” family are cautious of interacting with each other until the Gunnarsson farm burns and Samson’s family comes to assist Martin’s family. VERDICT Small font size may unfortunately put off some readers, but librarians needing additional historical fiction should consider this believable novel as a worthy additional purchase.–Lynn Vanca, Freelance Librarian, Akron, OH

Van Steenwyk, Mark. A Wolf at the Gate. illus. by Joel Hedstrom. 80p. PM Pr. Jul. 2016. pap. $14.95. ISBN 9781629631455.

Gr 5-8 –A reimagining of the Saint Francis tale. With short chapters and a large typeface, this title has the appearance of a chapter book, though the themes and vocabulary are more advanced. A red wolf is born. As she grows, the wolf learns to share and not be greedy, to take only what is needed, and to understand that selfishness brings consequences. After becoming an adult and suffering the loss of her parents, the red wolf leads her pack wisely until humans begin to hunt and food becomes scarce. After hunger and loneliness drive her to steal from the humans in the village, a caring man referred to as the Beggar King (Saint Francis) teaches the red wolf to cooperate with the villagers. After some time, the wolf also helps a group of outlaws (who are really homeless people in need of food) and, with the help of the forest animals, teaches the outlaws to be self-sufficient and caring. Illustrations are realistic in a primitive style of mostly brown and red. There are several morals highlighted in this story: sharing, helping others to become independent, and not hurting others—all aspects of the parables of Saint Francis. A short afterword from the author indicates his inspiration and explains his idea to tell the story from the wolf’s point of view. The author also shares facts about Saint Francis and the wolf of Gubbio. This parable sheds a light on Saint Francis and does so without being heavy-handed. VERDICT This will be most useful in religious studies curricula.–Susan Lissim, Dwight School, New York City

Vrabel, Beth. Camp Dork. 240p. (Pack of Dorks: Bk. 2). Skyhorse. May 2016. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781634501811; pap. $7.99. ISBN 9781510701793.

Gr 3-7 –Lucy and her pack of friends are back. It’s the summer after fourth grade, and Sheldon convinces the whole group to attend two-week Camp Paleo, where they can dig fossils and live like cavemen. At the last minute, Lucy’s not-a-boyfriend Sam backs out for another opportunity, but Lucy, April, Amanda, and Sheldon still go. Lucy’s grandma also comes along as a cook for a neighboring camp. Camp Paleo is full of classic summer camp experiences: mosquito bites, snoring bunkmates, soggy mountain pies, and the opportunity for young people to experiment with who they are outside of the expectations of everyday friends and family. Lucy is uncomfortable seeing her reliable friends in a new way. This mounting awkwardness adds to her discomfort at the camp. A spark between the grouchy camp director and Lucy’s grandma gives Lucy the idea that she needs to pair everyone off to make them happy. Of course, none of her plans pan out and her meddling results in her becoming further alienated. To put everyone further on edge, a thief is stealing valuables from the campers and a secret blogger is posting an advice column and gossip about camp goings-on. This book wanders a bit more than its predecessor but shares its strengths. Vrabel has a rare talent for expressing the tenderness, frustration, awkwardness, confusion, and fun of growing up. VERDICT In Vrabel’s capable hands, the ups and downs of adolescence shine through with authenticity and humor.–Amelia Jenkins, Juneau Public Library, AK

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YA Xpress Reviews | July 2016 Wed, 29 Jun 2016 18:05:44 +0000 1607-Xpress-YA-CVs-reviseBarraclough, Lindsey. The Mark of Cain. 496p. ebook available. Candlewick. May 2016. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780763678647.

Gr 9 Up –Four years after the terrifying events of Long Lankin, Cora and Mimi inherit Guerdon Hall, returning to a scene of horror that is no less distressing after their father updates the property. What has been removed in the name of cleaning and remodeling is revealed to be just what has been protecting the family from the one who truly hates them, Aphra Rushes, a woman burned as a witch 400 years earlier. Aphra tells her painful tale of grief and obsession to readers as Cora’s experience unfolds, and the mists and whispers of Guerdon take on a whole new dimension as the dark, sad secrets of the past are brought to light. This ghost story has a traditional feel, with tight prose that pulls readers in quick and holds them close, drawing them into the creepiness of a haunted house that becomes a character in its own right. Aphra and Lankin (from the previous novel), outcast and obsessed, still bear enough humanity to create a conflict in teens’ minds as to the true extent of the evil in their tormented souls. VERDICT Stephen King and Neil Gaiman fans will be thrilled with this chilling tale, which is a companion to Long Lankin but can be read as a stand-alone.–Kerry Sutherland, Akron-Summit County Public Library, OH

Bisognin, Marzia. Dream House: A Novel by CutiePieMarzia. 224p. ebook available. Atria. Apr. 2016. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781501135262.

Gr 8 Up –Amethyst is inexplicably drawn to a strange yet beautiful house. The kind and elderly owners welcome her in, then vanish without a trace. Although her stay is meant to be temporary, Amethyst is unable to leave. She meets a few mysterious and supernatural characters who may hold the answers as to why Amethyst strongly believes she cannot leave without thanking the couple for their hospitality. This paranormal thriller by YouTube vlogger Bisognin requires a great deal of suspension of disbelief to arrive at the conclusion without already guessing the big reveal. Many readers will grow frustrated by the loopy plot that attempts to be scary and evasive, succeeding at neither. One-dimensional characters make it difficult to invest in the story or care much about the outcome. Teens will be frustrated by the protagonist’s inability to heed several ominous warnings. VERDICT A Sixth Sense read-alike for teens unfamiliar with the usual tropes of the horror genre. Suggest Cat Winters’s The Uninvited instead.–Tamela Chambers, Chicago Public Schools, IL

Hawke, Rosanne. Shahana: Through My Eyes. 216p. (Through My Eyes). ebook available. glossary. map. Allen & Unwin. May 2016. pap. $12.99. ISBN 9781743312469.

Gr 6-8 –In present-day Azad Kashmir, 14-year-old Shahana is trying to care for her nine-year-old brother Tanveer, earning money from her skillful embroidery after war and illness have claimed the rest of their family and destroyed their school. When the two find an unconscious boy near the Line of Control, they bring him home, nurse him back to health, and protect him from Pakistani soldiers and Kashmiri militants, including the benevolent Amaan, by claiming that Zahid is their older brother. Their tenuous situation is exploited by a ruthless merchant, Mr. Nadir, who threatens to report them to authorities unless Shahana consents to an arranged marriage to the highest bidder and to sending Tanveer to work in a rug factory. Hope glimmers with the reappearance of Shahana’s friend Ayesa, who has been in seclusion with her mother, a half-widow since the disappearance of her husband. Ayesha, who has a computer, shows Shahana a way to get her story out to the world, but when Tanveer disappears, Shahana becomes desperate to rescue him from what she believes is his captivity. Part of a series about children living in the world’s conflict zones, this volume is engrossing, and readers will empathize with the characters and their situations, even Amaan’s ambivalence over participating in jihad. The narrative is enhanced and made more accessible by means of a map, author’s note, and glossary. VERDICT A good choice for school and public libraries to support interest in, curriculum on, and discussion of international current events.–Marie Orlando, formerly at Suffolk Cooperative Library System, Bellport, NY

Howson, Imogen. Fire and Shadow. 240p. ebook available. Dragonwell. Apr. 2016. pap. $16.95. ISBN 9781940076249.

Gr 9 Up –In this collection of science fiction and fantasy short stories, Howson weaves some spellbinding tales that stretch from dystopian to the supernatural and even include a spin-off of Greek mythology. The characters in each story are well-developed and seamlessly inhabit each entry. “Fire and Shadow” is a terrifying tale about Fern, who discovers she is a firestarter. She must learn to control and use this gift to help those who cannot fend off the dreaded Shadows. “Frayed Tapestry” is an imaginative retelling of the abduction of Persephone. In the dystopian sci-fi story “Falling,” Linnet falls for a winged boy named Gecko. The world-building in this short work is very well done, and teens will be rooting for the two main characters. In “Scented Danger,” a futuristic retelling of “Little Red Riding Hood,” Elli lives in a world where pollution and trash have taken over. She is sent to her grandmother, who runs a brothel in the city, to ask for money so they can repair their water recycler. This one concludes neatly but might be more suited to older readers. Each of these stories is well written and engaging. VERDICT Purchase for larger collections or where anthologies are popular.–Nancy Jo Lambert, Reedy High School, Frisco, TX

Keplinger, Kody. Run. 304p. ebook available. Scholastic. Jun. 2016. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780545831130.

Gr 7 Up –Everyone in town knows who Bo is—one of those Dickinsons, nothing but trouble. Everyone in town knows who Agnes is—an innocent blind girl, obedient daughter, an angel from heaven. When they become friends, both teens prove everyone wrong. Told alternately from two different perspectives and points in the narrative, this realistic novel is a strong entry in the tradition of unlikely friendship books. Bo and Agnes have unearned reputations and expectations that stifle them in their small town and will resonate with readers with and without disabilities, from large communities and small. The portrayal of Agnes’s blindness is well crafted, less about what she can and can’t do and more about others’ expectations. The depiction of typical blindness, rather than the dramatic full-dark blindness that is more often presented in literature, is very welcome, as are Agnes’s mixed feelings about her accommodations and her parents’ advocacy. Bo’s experiences are somewhat more familiar to readers of YA literature but are well explored as well. Neither protagonist seems to be there to prop up the story of the other. Rather, both are fully realized characters on their own concurrent journeys. VERDICT A good unlikely friendship story with compelling characters and a nuanced portrait of disability and small-town life.–L. Lee Butler, Hart Middle School, Washington, DC

Khan, Minal. Silk Tether. 200p. ebook available. Skyhorse/Yucca. Feb. 2016. Tr $24.99. ISBN 9781631580703.

Gr 8 Up –A coming-of-age story set in Pakistan, this work begins with wealthy and naive Ayla’s last days of high school. Talented in science and the arts, she plans to attend an American university. The summer after graduation, she meets Shahaan, a thoughtful photographer who keeps pot in his car’s glove compartment, and Tanzeela, a recently married girl who seems to be hiding signs of abuse. Ayla’s oldest friend, Alia, has secrets, too. Ayla views Shahaan, Tanzeela, and Alia with interest and puzzlement, focusing very little on her own future, continuing to suppress a past trauma, and not telling her parents when she’s threatened sexually in her own home. The protagonist is passive, nearly failing to take action when she should. Khan writes for a Western audience, explaining terms like Shariah and biryani; unfortunately the tone of the narration skews too far toward the explanatory. An excess of metaphors, repetitive language, needless details, and slow pacing make for a difficult read; Ayla as a character may be relatable only to teens with similar life experiences or an extremely analytical perspective. VERDICT Despite exploring potentially interesting themes of class and patriarchal violence in Karachi, this will be a hard sell for most teens.–Miriam DesHarnais, Towson University, MD

Laster, Eric. Static. 336p. ebook available. Automatic. Apr. 2016. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780991272938.

Gr 10 Up –Curtis Brooks’s brother, Wilt, had only been dead for a week before he started calling. Curtis believes the calls are happening so that he can solve Wilt’s murder, but Wilt insists that he is just calling as part of his afterlife therapy. The cops agree with Curtis, however, when a strange device is found attached to the car Wilt was driving the night he crashed. The narrator goes on a search for the truth that will lead him into dangerous territory with a creepy billionaire, a crooked landlord, and even Wilt’s ex-girlfriend Suzy, who may be a suspect. Along with Curtis’s mother’s strange reaction to Wilt’s death, a hipster school counselor, and his own burgeoning feelings for Suzy, it’s no wonder that Curtis is on medication. This coming-of-age novel suffers from a lack of focus. The story works best when it sticks to one genre. The work is most interesting when Curtis is dealing with his family and personal issues, especially Wilt and Suzy. The murder mystery is fairly compelling as well. The plot goes off the rails when it features Wilt’s experiences in the Aftermart—the place people go when they die. That concept feels contrived, and the result is an enjoyable, if mixed, novel. VERDICT Despite its meandering and unfocused plot, this is a good, quirky read that will find an audience with many teens.–Erik Knapp, Davis Library, Plano, TX

Swank, Denise Grover. One Paris Summer. 352p. ebook available. Blink. Jun. 2016. pap. $12.99. ISBN 9780310755166.

Gr 8 Up –A summer in Paris should be a dream come true for talented pianist Sophie, but the circumstances of her sudden trip don’t leave her with much hope for a good time. Her father, who left the family behind for a great job opportunity, is getting remarried. Sophie planned to spend the summer practicing for an important audition—but her father doesn’t even have a piano. When she and her brother, Eric, arrive, they discover that they’ll be spending most of their time with their new stepsister Camille, who seems about as excited as they are about this development—in fact, she’s outright angry. The addition to the group of Dane, Eric’s friend from home, and Camille’s Parisian friends adds plenty of opportunities for drama and romance. They all have two months to get to know one another, and for a while it doesn’t seem as though it will ever happen. One of Camille’s friends offers Sophie real friendship and access to a piano, and things finally start to look up. But as romance starts to bloom, it becomes clear not everyone is being entirely truthful. Sophie could lose both a friend and her chance to practice for her auditions. This is a fun, light novel with relatable characters that will resonate with high school readers also struggling with romantic disappointment, difficult parents, and the stress of college exams and auditions. VERDICT A great summer read that will appeal to fans of Stephanie Perkins’s Anna and the French Kiss.–Sarah Jones, Clinton-Macomb Public Library, MI

Terzis, Kara. Frayed. 304p. ebook available. Sourcebooks. Jun. 2016. pap. $10.99. ISBN 9781492631736.

Gr 9 Up –Gripping, raw, and intriguing, this is a story about a girl who has suppressed her childhood memories so far back in the recesses of her mind that these experiences begin to take on a life of their own and eventually evoke bigger problems as a result. Ava Hale is writing a letter to her dead sister Kesley as part of her grief therapy. Ava feels broken after her sister’s murder, and she is determined to find the killer. Her life becomes consumed with tracking down the person responsible. The teen learns things about her sister, her mother, her friends, and herself, and everything begins to unravel. Told through the protagonist’s first-person narration and in letters to Kesley, this psychological thriller will keep readers engaged. This is a plot-driven, suspense-filled spine-tingling tale that ends with an unforeseen twist. It is a bit daunting to keep track of the vast cast of characters. Themes of mental illness, self-acceptance, and friendship are all explored. Although at times the plot feels rushed, this confusing sequence of events appropriately conveys the confusion that Ava is undergoing. VERDICT Give this book to students who enjoy a thought-provoking, mind-boggling mystery with twists at every turn.–Margie Longoria, Mission High School, TX

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Nonfiction Xpress Reviews | July 2016 Wed, 29 Jun 2016 17:43:32 +0000 1607-Xpress-Nonfic-CVsAnderson, Holly Lynn. The Presidential Election Process. ISBN 9781619000940.

Ziff, John. The Modern Democratic Party. ISBN 9781619000919.

ea vol: 64p. (American Politics Today). chart. chron. further reading. glossary. index. maps. photos. websites. Eldorado Ink. Mar. 2016. lib. ed. $33.95.

Gr 9 Up –These titles set out to demystify some of the complexities of contemporary U.S. politics. In Presidential Election Process, Anderson begins by describing how the election process has evolved from the 18th century until now—covering eligibility requirements, the functions of primaries and caucuses, fund-raising and attention-getting, the general election, and the inauguration. In Modern Democratic Party, Ziff discusses how the party has evolved over the years, and recounts events that spurred a trend of Democratic election losses in the 1970s and 1980s, the rise of the “New Democrats,” the setbacks and successes of the 1990s and 2000s, and  what the future of the party looks like. The text is dense with statistics, quotes, political terminology, and definitions, but all are presented in a straightforward manner. Occasional color photographs break up the dense text. Both titles contain little to no bias. Even Modern Democratic Party, which focuses on one party, has a clinical, detached approach that does not champion the party. The only wrinkle in an otherwise smooth presentation is the explanation of the electoral college in Presidential Election Process. Anderson explains correctly that the popular vote does not directly determine the winner; however, some aspects are confusing. She writes that in the 2000 election, Al Gore won the popular vote by more than half a million votes. She goes on to say that George W. Bush won the popular vote in 30 states and Gore won the popular vote in 20—making it seem like Bush won the popular vote as well. A works cited list is lacking. VERDICT These informative volumes are good for reports, especially with the upcoming election.–Jennifer Prince, Buncombe County Public Libraries, NC

Cherry, Georgia. City Atlas: Travel the World with 30 City Maps. illus. by Martin Haake. 64p. Wide Eyed Editions. May 2016. Tr $27.99. ISBN 9781847807014.

K-Gr 3 –This effort highlights 30 international cities. Each spread offers a sidebar listing the city name, population, language spoken, country, and country’s flag along with a short summary. Readers are greeted with a local salutation for each place: “Merhaba,” says a girl from Istanbul, while New Yorkers say, “Hi, there!” and Chicagoans say, “Hello.” These aren’t really maps per se—waterways are named, but streets are not; there is no scale; the divisions between city and country are not clear or often missing; and the coverage is spotty. For instance, the New York spread does not name Staten Island, Queens, or the Bronx (a sliver of Brooklyn is labeled). The distribution of the cities featured is largely uneven—most of the maps are European or North American, and there is only one map representing Africa. The appeal is in the folksy and colorful illustrations of each location’s top sites. In the Budapest spread, right next to a portrait of Stephen I on a horse is an ice-skating penguin (“Get your skates on at the city park ice rink”), along with the Hungarian Parliament Building, and much more. Lacking an index, this is suitable for browsing only. VERDICT Attractive but lacks real substance.–Anne Chapman Callaghan, Racine Public Library, WI

Crazy, Totally Awesome Facts. 224p. photos. little bee. Apr. 2016. Tr $14.99. ISBN 9781499802115.

Gr 3-6 –Did you know that the world’s largest burger weighs 134 pounds? Or that the Statue of Liberty is hit by around 600 bolts of lightning every year? These are just two of the 1,250 facts readers will discover in this volume covering everything from animals to outer space. There is also a chapter on crazy records, which is sure to please fans of the “Guinness World Records” series. While not all of the photographs are particularly eye-catching, the layout of each page is sure to attract reluctant readers with accessible sidebars in the form of notecards, spiral paper, and general circles. Pair this title with National Geographic Kids’s “5,000 Awesome Facts (About Everything!)” books to satisfy your most voracious fact finders. VERDICT A general purchase where fact books are in demand.–Joy Poynor, formerly at Rogers Public Library, AR

Healy, Nick & Kristen McCurry. Image & Imagination: Ideas and Inspiration for Teen Writers. 256p. photos. Capstone/Switch. Mar. 2016. pap. $16.95. ISBN 9781630790448.

Gr 8 Up –A wonderful tool to inspire even the most unambitious student writer. This self-proclaimed nonworkbook (“This isn’t a workbook…you don’t have to do what the prompts ask”) reads like a personal diary: a space for students to throw caution—and all writing rules—to the wind. One hundred and fifty writing and imagery prompts attempt to get those creative juices flowing with an emphasis on the basics: getting the words out, revising, and sharing with others (if desired). Each prompt is paired with an image. Some are directly related to each other (a photo of a wacky house has the prompt “Write a poem about the person who lives here”), while others are a bit more tenuous (“What’s your problem?” is paired with an image of a lion in a cage). Other exercises use quotes by famous authors to demonstrate or clarify the prompt (“Describe the feeling of impact” is accompanied by a related excerpt of Markus Zusak’s The Book Thief). Each page is more beautiful than the next. VERDICT Plenty of writing space is waiting to be filled with ideas, poems, and stories—inspired by this volume—from the mind of teens. Perhaps not a good choice for circulation. Still, use this in creative writing exercises or give the book to students and watch the magic happen.–Elizabeth Anne Ragain, Springfield Public Schools, MO

Hill, David. First to the Top: Sir Edmund Hillary’s Amazing Everest Adventure. illus. by Phoebe Morris. 32p. chron. Puffin. May 2016. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780143506874.

Gr 2-4 –This enjoyable picture book biography of famed mountaineer Sir Edmund Hillary crafts a vibrant picture of Hillary and offers just enough information for a biography report. While the primary focus is on the inaugural climb of Mount Everest, this New Zealander’s whole life is explored. The conversational style of the text in this import includes some vocabulary from New Zealand that may be unfamiliar to American children but whose meaning is easily gleaned from context. The font is effectively enlarged to emphasize the danger of scaling Everest. Morris’s evocative drawings ably convey the incredible effort it took to achieve the historic task. Subtle details will attract readers, such as when Hillary and Tenzing Norgay are walking in a garden but their shadows show them in their climbing gear. The whirl of the wind atop the mountain on a freezing night is dramatically rendered to enhance the description of solitude and peril of their undertaking. The book avoids the controversy over whether Hillary or Norgay was actually first atop Everest, instead making it a shared victory. The readable text and Morris’s expressive illustrations combine to create a winner. VERDICT Recommended for most biography collections.–B. Allison Gray, Goleta Public Library, CA

Jorgensen, Katrina. Ballpark Eats: Recipes Inspired by America’s Baseball Stadiums. 144p. (Sports Illustrated Kids). chart. glossary. index. maps. Capstone. Feb. 2016. pap. $15.95. ISBN 9781623706470.

Gr 4-8 –Chef Jorgensen features more than 70 ballpark style recipes from all 30 Major League ballparks. A brief introduction discusses the importance of this type of food. Organized into four-page sections about each Major League team, starting with the American League and moving into the National League, the book pairs recipes significant to the specific region with cool drinks, fun facts about baseball, and humorous food anecdotes. The cookbook provides accurate information and mouth-watering recipes; however, the recipes are too complex for children and there is no note advising adult supervision. Tasks like braiding dough, melting almond bark, and creating a pastry shell could prove quite difficult for children, especially without the assistance of a responsible adult. A glossary explains various tasks and measurements but could be easy to overlook. Page layouts are overwhelmed with a mix of recipes and facts. VERDICT This book is engaging, but children will need adult guidance.–Emily Bayci, Naperville Public Library, IL

Lacey, Saskia. How To Build a Motorcycle: A Racing Adventure of Mechanics, Teamwork, and Friendship. illus. by Martin Sodomka. 64p. (Technical Tales). diag. Quarto/Walter Foster Jr. Apr. 2016. Tr $14.95. ISBN 9781633220577.

Gr 4-6 –With the same mix of plot and specific mechanical detail that went into building a car and an airplane in previous volumes of the series, the all-animal Scrap Pack reunites to construct a racing motorcycle from frame up. Head swollen by his role in previous projects, crew chief Eli annoys all but the worshipful young Fritz with exaggerated versions of his exploits, but mends fences with apologies after Fritz is seriously injured in a motorcycle accident. With another rider, the motorcycle goes on to win a race. In addition to scenes of the crew at work, illustrated diagrams of key motorcycle parts such as the suspension, engine, and clutch are featured throughout. A close-up of standard controls and a brief safety note may be helpful to prospective motorbike owners. VERDICT Though far from being a step-by-step manual for would-be young makers, this does impart a better sense of how (smaller) motorcycles work than standard-issue browsing items like Amicus’s Motorcycles from the “Motorsports” series.–John Peters, Children’s Literature Consultant, New York City

Lacey, Saskia. The Prehistoric Masters of Literature: Discover Literary History with a Prehistoric Twist! illus. by Sernur Isik. 40p. (Jurassic Classics). Quarto/Walter Foster Jr. Apr. 2016. Tr $14.95. ISBN 9781633220980.

Gr 3-6 –In this prehistoric introduction to classic literature, Lacey mixes fiction with fact as readers learn about six famous writers in the context of dinosaurs. Readers can expect excerpts from such famous works as Romeo and Juliet by Shakespeareasaurus, Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontesaurus, and more. Short and concise biographies of the real literary geniuses are intertwined with playful information about their dinosaur counterparts. Edgar Allan Terrordactyl “always found solace soaring about the treetops. The author delighted in swooping down on unsuspecting jungle creatures and dreamt up his scariest stories during long flights.” Lists of popular works are also included to encourage readers to seek other offerings by the masters. The illustrations by Isik are cartoonlike and add a feel of fun and adventure to a topic that can be dry. As enticing as dinosaurs are to youngsters, this book may be more engaging for upper–elementary students, who can learn about the classics, have fun with the mash-ups, and maybe even write their own. VERDICT Not a necessary purchase, but a fun introduction to classic literature in the vein of Seth Grahame-Smith’s Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.–Annette Herbert, F.E. Smith Elementary School, Cortland, NY

Laidlaw, Rob. Elephant Journey: The True Story of Three Zoo Elephants and Their Rescue from Captivity. illus. by Brian Deines. 40p. index. photos. Pajama Pr. Apr. 2016. Tr $19.95. ISBN 9781927485774.

Gr 2-4 –The story of three zoo elephants and their journey to a new home. Toka, Thika, and Iringa were not thriving in the barren, small, and often frozen enclosure at the Toronto Zoo. When the zoo decided to send the unhappy pachyderms to another location, animal advocates spoke up and convinced officials to send the elephants to Performing Animal Welfare Society (PAWS), a California animal sanctuary. Thus began their three-day trek across the continent. On a stormy October night in 2013, the caravan set off. Along the way, the animals encountered a number of difficulties but ultimately reached the safe haven that was their destination. Laidlaw chronicles the trip, combining key facts with absorbing storytelling. His forthright narrative is complemented by Deines’s luminous oil paintings, which expertly use color and light to track the emotional trajectory of the elephants from discomfort and misery to anxiety and fear and then, finally, to delight and contentment. The image of the newcomers being greeted by the waving trunks of the three elephants already residing at PAWS glows with golden light and reflects the joy of the occasion. A supplementary appendix includes background information and photographs of the actual trip. VERDICT A great addition for lessons on wildlife and the ethics of zoos. Pair with Sandra Markle’s The Great Monkey Rescue: Saving the Golden Lion Tamarins or Toni Buzzeo’s A Passion for Elephants: The Real Life Adventure of Field Scientist Cynthia Moss.–Linda L. Walkins, Saint Joseph Preparatory High School, Boston

Macnair, Patricia. Sensational Senses. illus. by Richard Watson. 14p. (Flip-Flap Journeys). Jelly Pie/Egmont UK. May 2016. Board $14.99. ISBN 9781405271639.

Gr 1-3 –Boasting more than 50 flaps, this effort to encourage readers to learn about the senses as they discover facts about the human body is an amusing experience. With spreads dedicated to sight, hearing, balance, smell and taste, and touch, this lift-the-flap book will have readers occupied for quite some time. Students are asked to uncover the hidden mysteries behind optical illusions, why amusement park rides can make us dizzy, how we taste things, and the role of pressure sensors in navigating our environment. The cartoon illustrations of families enjoying the sights and rides of the Sensational Theme Park are lively enough that kids can catch new things with additional reads. Occasional animal-related comparisons help broaden the appeal (in the spread on hearing, readers learn that “snakes don’t have external ears like we do, but sound waves can travel through their skull bones into hearing organs in their heads.”). The intended audience for this title is a bit unclear, as the advanced content and vocabulary, presented in a small font, does not fit well with the oversize board book format. The story is nonlinear—students can jump around and explore whatever piques their curiosity. VERDICT An entertaining ride through the human senses; consider for large STEM collections in need of fun materials.–Gwen Collier, Buffalo and Erie County Public Library, NY

Steinmetz, Katy. Awesome America: Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About the History, People, and Culture. 208p. (Time for Kids). chart. chron. further reading. glossary. index. maps. photos. websites. Time. May 2016. Tr $24.95. ISBN 9781618931498.

Gr 3-6 –This resource is bursting with color photographs and information. Divided into 14 chapters on topics such as U.S. government, immigration, civil rights, life in the United States, and more, this volume aims to not only provide historical information but also explore the impact the United States has had on the world. The concluding chapter is a time line of U.S. history from 1600 to 2008. This title presents a wide array of Americana, from major events to quirky bits such as common idioms (“When pigs fly”) to influential artists, athletes, and activists. The 2016 election, a future Supreme Court judge, and changes in currency will make the resource date quickly, but there’s a plethora of enjoyable and educational information here that will be read and revisited. VERDICT A serviceable browsing resource.–Helen Foster James, University of California at San Diego

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Chapter Books Xpress Reviews | July 2016 Wed, 29 Jun 2016 17:40:40 +0000 1607-Xpress-ChptBk-Eldrige-Wrestling1-2Eldridge, Jim. Big Rock and the Masked Avenger. Bk. 1. ISBN 9781471401930.

––––. Hunk and Thud. Bk. 2. ISBN 9781471402340.

ea vol: 192p. (Wrestling Trolls). Bonnier Zaffre. Apr. 2016. pap. $9.99.

Gr 1-3 –A new chapter book series that follows Jack, a 10-year-old who has just discovered that in times of great stress he transforms into Thud, the amazing wrestling troll. Jack has also recently accepted employment as a wrestling troll trainer. With his newfound band of comrades, Jack (or Thud, depending on the situation) travels the land, righting wrongs, saving princesses, and generally fixing every problem by wrestling. The series’ premise is disjointed; it feels as though topics were drawn at random and forced into each narrative. The plots are dull, and the writing is tedious; even action scenes struggle to engage readers. The characters are especially bland—a homogeneous cast with scant personality. Each book contains two separate stories with pages of activities in-between, making these less attractive selections for school and public libraries. VERDICT Utterly unremarkable. Pass on this series except where readers are desperate for stories involving wrestling.–Taylor Worley, Springfield Public Library, OR

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Picture Books Xpress Reviews | July 2016 Wed, 29 Jun 2016 15:00:05 +0000 1607-Xpress-PictureBk-CvsAlexander, Claire. The Best Part of Daddy’s Day. 32p. little bee. Apr. 2016. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781499801965.

PreS-Gr 1 –This appealing picture book parallels Bertie’s day at school with Daddy’s day at work. Their days overlap when Bertie’s dad, a construction worker, is in a crane and sees his son on the playground at school. When Bertie admits there were some “not-so-good” parts of his day, his dad reassures him that he also had some “not-so-good” parts and that being with Bertie is always the best part. Large, lovely watercolor illustrations beautifully complement the gentle tone of the story. All the characters are depicted as dogs, and the home, school, and work settings are painted in soft blues, greens, and yellows. The back cover illustration, which features a row of dogs in hard hats eating lunch on a steel beam, and paintings of Bertie with different “diggers” on the front and back cover pages show the thoughtful way the visuals support the text. Though family relationships are a common theme in picture books, the outstanding illustrations and focus on a father-and-son relationship make this selection stand out. The idea of a dad at work being able to keep an eye on his son is a comforting message for families who read this book together. VERDICT A great addition to any children’s library collection.–Celia Dillon, The Brearley School, New York

Anderson, Sara. Apples Are Red/La manzana es roja: Bilingual Board Book. 16p. ISBN 9781943459049.

––––. Colores/Colors: Bilingual Board Book. 16p. ISBN 9781943459063.

––––. Números/Numbers: Bilingual Board Book. 22p. ISBN 9781943459056.

ea vol: illus. by Sara Anderson. Sara Anderson Children’s Bks. Nov. 2015. Board. $10.95. BL

Toddler-PreS –A trio of bilingual concept board books introduce the youngest listeners to numbers, colors, and food in English and Spanish. All three books share a similar format of brightly colored cut-paper illustrations and pages in increasingly larger sizes. In the numbers book, the incremental increase in the page size helps to emphasize the growing numbers. The only word used is the Spanish números (numbers), then each spread has an image and its corresponding numeral, followed by an equal number of dots. As the numbers are not spelled out, it has to be assumed that adult readers will already be familiar with both languages. In the colors title, both languages accompany the illustrations on each spread (orange/anaranjado for pumpkin, yellow/amarillo for chicks, and so on). The last page, black/negro, is a rather vibrant page incorporating all of the objects from the previous pages in a night scene. Apples Are Red/La manzana es roja introduces food and colors. While the color for each food is written out in English on the corresponding page, the Spanish equivalent appears on the inside front cover and cleverly matches up as the graduated pages turn. Most of the color/food combinations are appropriate except for black. An English-speaking child might not have trouble making the leap from blackberry to the color black, but a Spanish-speaking child might not see how a fruit that is in fact dark purple is characterized as black. VERDICT Readers will find plenty of better English titles to choose from over these attractive but flawed offerings; unfortunately, Spanish alternatives will be harder to come by.–Lucia Acosta, Children’s Literature Specialist, NJ

Balet, Jan B. Amos and the Moon. illus. by Jan B. Balet. 24p. Ammo. Jan. 2016. Tr $17.95. ISBN 9781623260521.

PreS-Gr 1 –Originally released in 1948, this reissue retains Balet’s original illustrations and layout while using a more updated typeface. Predictably nostalgic in look and feel, the story of Amos searching for the moon is so well constructed that it reads like a more modern tale. Amos wakes one night to find the moon shining in his bedroom mirror and is determined to find it again the next day. He travels around his neighborhood from shopkeeper to shopkeeper, asking if they’ve seen his moon. The story takes place in an urban setting, with the proprietors representing a diverse group of immigrants, each of whom gives Amos something in lieu of the moon. Finally, his friend Joe Ming, the Chinese laundryman, gives him a cage and advises him to hang it in front of his mirror so he might catch the moon “maybe once or twice a month…and he will be with you for a little while.” Illustrated endpapers of a brick apartment house set the scene, and each shop provides plenty of visual delight. VERDICT By addressing the topic of impermanence in life, this book takes on a bit of gravitas, but it is the charming vintage art and relatable story that make it timeless. A quiet, thoughtful one-on-one read.–Teri Markson, Los Angeles Public Library

Bildner, Phil. Derek Jeter Presents Night at the Stadium. illus. by Tom Booth. 32p. (Jeter Publishing). S. & S./Aladdin. Apr. 2016. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781481426558.

PreS-Gr 2 –Attending a baseball game is a great way for families to spend time together, and in this work, a happy family (which just happens to have the exact composition of Derek Jeter’s own family) is ready to celebrate a Yankees win by collecting some autographs. Unfortunately, young Gideon quickly loses his family when he is jostled by the crowd as he attempts to find his autograph book. Before he knows it, Gideon has entered a special realm deep inside Yankee Stadium, where animated bats, balls, equipment, and stadium food stuffs bicker while trying to help Gideon find his family. Finally, the ghost of Babe Ruth in Monument Park guides Gideon to the most special surprise of the night—Derek Jeter himself! The Captain has found Gideon’s autograph book, but before he returns it, he adds his signature to the cover. The bright, stylized illustrations mark the picture book debut of illustrator Booth, and his most effective illustrations are those that show the stadium as twilight is falling and the family is enjoying the game. Jeter is realistically rendered and depicted as the model professional athlete—one who makes dreams come true by sharing his signature. VERDICT A charming story for young baseball fans, their parents, and those who feel the magic when they step inside a baseball stadium.–Sally James, South Hillsborough Elementary School, Hillsborough, CA

Bledsoe, Josh. Hammer and Nails. illus. by Jessica Warrick. 32p. Flashlight. Apr. 2016. Tr $17.95. ISBN 9781936261369.

PreS-Gr 2 –Celebrating the bond between an exuberant father and his young daughter, Bledsoe presents a warmhearted picture book about an unusual day the two spend together combining what both like best. When Darcy’s friend cancels their plans, her dad attempts to mend the situation by suggesting a “Darcy-Daddy Day.” First, coffee time for Daddy is suitably matched with chocolate milk time for Darcy, followed by a special dress-up that inspires Daddy to wear a frilly pink tutu. Another activity transforms the drudgery of straightforward grass-cutting into “Her Majesty’s Mowing Service,” resulting in Darcy’s name being cut in big block letters on the backyard lawn. This is later followed by hammering the fence (which Darcy gets the hang of after a few practice taps) and a manicure (Lumberjack Black for Dad). While the relationship between a father and daughter can be special, Bledsoe presents the atypical premise of what it means to compromise the radically different interests of both. Warrick’s expressive full-color illustrations perfectly express this theme in a comical way. Big Daddy, for instance, is represented as a brawny he-man and yet is willing to look silly in a tutu for his “princess.” Further, he forgoes the practical task of washing and folding laundry by playing a messy game of throw and catch the socks with his daughter. Darcy is also willing to help with the household chores given a little guidance. There are fewer stories about the father-daughter relationship than the mother-daughter one, making this book an especially unique find ideal for sharing. The concept of compromise is as worthwhile as the idea that “sometimes things you’ve never done end up being fun.” VERDICT A unique picture book that is best shared by a father and daughter and is well worth being read more than once.–Etta Anton, Yeshiva of Central Queens, NY

Bond, Michael. Paddington Sets Sail. illus. by R.W. Alley. 32p. (I Can Read 1). HarperCollins. May 2016. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780062430656.

PreS-Gr 1 –Paddington and the Brown family are going to the beach for the first time in this beginning reader. The tide is low, and Paddington is ready for anything…except the big wave that sweeps him out to sea in his pail. The Browns search the beach for Paddington and soon find him near the pier, where a crowd has lured him back to shore. Although there is not a lot of word repetition, the large type font and cheery full-bleed illustrations make this miniadventure accessible to kids who are getting a little more comfortable reading independently but may still need a little help. VERDICT A beloved bear and a seaside adventure make for an appealing addition to any large early reader collections.–Jessica Marie, Salem Public Library, OR

Bush, Laura & Jenna Bush Hager. Our Great Big Backyard. illus. by Jacqueline Rogers. 40p. HarperCollins. May 2016. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9780062468352.

Gr 1-3 –It would be a rare child who enjoys the thinly disguised lesson at the heart of this ostensible celebration of the National Park Service’s 100th anniversary. Jane and her friends are looking forward to spending their summer playing with their electronic devices. Predictably enough, when Jane’s parents tell her that she will instead be going on a family road trip to visit national parks, she pouts and spends the first part of the journey glued to various screens. A conveniently timed meteor shower prompts a rapid turnabout, and Jane learns to appreciate the great outdoors. Told in the first person, the narration is at times cringe-inducing—Jane’s friends are her “crew,” and their plans for the summer are “awesome!” and super-duper!”—and at other times simply unbelievable: “Then, bless my lucky stars, a meteor shower lit up the sky like fireworks—brighter than any screen I had ever seen.” The illustrations do little to save the day. Too often, the national parks that are purportedly this volume’s raison d’être simply don’t inspire: the Grand Canyon, which shares a spread with a desert scene, looks flat and small in its cramped quarters, while Old Faithful, inexplicably portrayed as a rocket from one of Jane’s video games, looks unimpressive behind a fence that doesn’t exist in actuality. The characters come across as two-dimensional, wearing remarkably similar facial expressions—mostly grins—from spread to spread. Particularly worrisome is the illustration of Jane and her brother admiring a pair of bear cubs at close range—extremely dangerous behavior. VERDICT Save your budget for one of the other titles about the national park system that are timed for the centennial.–Eileen Makoff, P.S. 90 Edna Cohen School, NY

Chan, Ruth. Where’s the Party? illus. by Ruth Chan. 40p. (Georgie and Friends: Bk. 1). Roaring Brook. Apr. 2016. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781626722699. POP

PreS-Gr 1 –Georgie is a gray tiger kitty who loves nothing better than throwing a party. So he makes a list, buys a cake, and invites his friends. Sadly, his friends all give reasons why they can’t come: Lester is changing his lightbulbs, Bunny’s ears are itchy, and Giraffe needs to fold his socks. His best friend Feta is busy making pickles. Disappointed, Georgie heads home. He arrives at his house to find “the most perfect party he’d ever seen.” Chan’s cartoonish ink and watercolor animals are candy-colored and appealing. Offbeat details, like Georgie’s to-do list, his friends’ excuses, and a dwindling cake, lend charm to the lighthearted story. The darkened pages when the dejected Georgie heads home make the predictable “SURPRISE” all the more delicious. VERDICT Chan’s first book is a fun and endearing offering for cake and pickle lovers everywhere and party-loving friends to share.–Rachel Anne Mencke, St. Matthew’s Parish School, Pacific Palisades, CA

Chicken Little. illus. by Nick East. ISBN 9781589254763; ISBN 9781680100181.

––––. The Three Little Pigs. illus. by Ag Jatkowska. ISBN 9781589254794; ISBN 9781680100211.

ea vol: adapt. by Mara Alperin. 32p. (My First Fairy Tales). Tiger Tales. Mar. 2016. pap. $7.99. lib. ed. $23.99.

PreS-Gr 1 –Alperin presents two stories in her fairy-tale series that every preschooler should remember. Each book is told in a straightforward and standard manner, using the familiar plot and the common refrains “Little pig, little pig, let me in!…Not by the hairs on my chinny-chin-chin!” and “The sky is falling!” Even the musical rhyming names Ducky Lucky, Henny Penny, and Turkey Lurkey are ready to be repeated again and again. In addition, the author provides plenty of sound effects for reading aloud (“tip-tip-tap,” “heave-heave-ho”). A delicious assortment of vocabulary-stretching words describe the action in the plot as well (“plodded on,” “scurried”). Each cartoon illustration shines (for instance, Jatkowska’s blustery scene of the wolf blowing down the house of sticks, or East’s dark spread of Foxy Loxy lighting a candle and stating, “It’s almost time for dinner.”). Many pages employ a variety of perspectives, creatively showing the plot action for young attention spans. The font size is large enough for prereaders to follow along. VERDICT These editions are serviceable for preschool collections yet will probably be supplemental to the many other excellent hardcover versions already on library shelves.–Blair Christolon, Prince William Public Library System, Manassas, VA

Dean, James. Pete the Cat: Scuba-Cat. illus. by James Dean. 32p. (My First I Can Read). HarperCollins. Jan. 2016. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780062303899.

PreS-Gr 1 –Pete the Cat ventures into the ocean in search of an elusive sea horse in this easy reader. Pete describes each new creature he encounters as a contrast to the one he seeks. The bright pink sea horse is featured on each page for readers to spot, letting them in on the secret long before Pete finally catches a glimpse of his companion. With repetition of both the short sentences and new vocabulary that is introduced, Pete’s scuba diving tale is consistent in quality with his other easy reader titles. While they do lack the rhyme and rhythm of Pete’s picture book hits, fans learning to read independently will enjoy seeing their favorite cat in a new environment through Dean’s distinctive cartoon paintings. VERDICT Purchase where Pete’s other beginning readers are successful.–Amanda Foulk, Sacramento Public Library

Deuchars, Marion. Bob the Artist. illus. by Marion Deuchars. 32p. Laurence King. Apr. 2016. Tr $15.95. ISBN 9781780677675.

K-Gr 2 –Bob the bird is often optimistic, but when the other animals and birds start making fun of him for his very skinny legs, he feels very sad. He then tries to change his appearance through a variety of means, first by exercising, then by eating to bulk up, and finally by trying to hide his legs under clothing. None of these approaches seem to work, so he starts painting his beak in various artistic styles, which wins the approval of the other animals. In the end, Bob likes his legs, while the other animals no longer notice their size. Deuchars’s illustrations are simple yet expressive; her minimal use of colors makes her protagonist stand out against the usual white backdrop and uncluttered color scheme. VERDICT A humorous and appealing look at difference and acceptance, with an artistic bent and an empowering message about standing out in a crowd.–Peter Blenski, Greenfield Public Library, WI

Flannery, John. Beard Boy. illus. by Steven Weinberg. 32p. Putnam. May 2016. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780399173363.

PreS-Gr 1 –In this comical homage to facial hair, Flannery uses alliterative and playfully sophisticated language to show a young boy’s fascination with faces, particularly bearded ones. The “bewhiskered” baker, barbers, and butcher and other bearded people Ben encounters along the streets in his urban neighborhood are stopped and questioned: “Is it itchy?” “Does food get stuck in it?” Although just a boy, Ben desperately wants a beard because his dad has one. In this funny tale that ends with beard shopping in Ben’s friend Bobby’s two dads’ costume shop, the bond between father and son is shown to be spirited and loving. Weinberg’s lively and amusing cartoon-style watercolor and pencil illustrations enhance the good-humored feel of this title. VERDICT A befitting tale for Father’s Day and a welcome addition to any collection needing amusing and engaging stories about father-child relationships. Ideal for storytime or for one-on-one sharing.–Brianne Colombo, Pequannock Township Public Library, NJ

Fletcher, Alison. Lucy and Lila. illus. by Christopher Lyles. 32p. little bee. Mar. 2016. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781499801569.

PreS-Gr 2 –Lila, a giant pink elephant, is the perfect friend for Lucy. She pushes the child on the swing with her trunk and boosts her up high to pick apples. Lila slurps tea from a tiny cup and is a great Frisbee partner. Lucy is happy with her new friend, but her classmates doubt that she has such a unique companion. When the art teacher passes out crayons and colored pencils and tells the class to draw what they did over the weekend, Lucy has a hard time selling the tale of her colorful activities to the rest of the group. Surely Lucy is making up her giant pink playmate. The snickers and laughs continue, but Lucy and readers share a satisfying conclusion when a pink trunk is spotted picking up Lucy from the bus stop. Colorful illustrations complement the sweet text and the fact that they’re seemingly done in the crayons and colored pencils the students use seamlessly connects them to the narrative. VERDICT This imaginative tale will work well as a read-aloud, and the basic vocabulary should not intimidate emergent readers. The story also offers an easy springboard to a craft or art endeavor. A satisfying addition that should find an audience in most libraries.–Lindsay Jensen, Nashville Public Library

Florian, Douglas. Leap, Frog, Leap! ISBN 9781499801422.

––––. Once I Was a Pollywog. ISBN 9781499801415.

ea vol: illus. by Barbara Bakos. 18p. (Animals Play). little bee. May 2016. Board. $6.99.

Toddler-PreS –Florian’s newest board books offer cheery introductions to the natural world for preschoolers and toddlers. Leap, Frog, Leap! combines action verbs with animals, with phrases such as “Race, rabbit, race!” and “Spin, spider, spin!” Once I Was a Pollywog focuses on the names of baby animals and what they grow up to be (“Once I was a cub…but now I am a bear.”). Each book concludes with a human character—Leap, Frog, Leap! with a child sleeping and Pollywog with a baby who grows up into a boy. Both titles use rhymes and succinct text to help create a bouncy, simple rhythm for young readers to enjoy. Bakos’s illustrations are bright and colorful, especially on the glossy board book pages, matching Florian’s sprightly narrative. Even more dangerous animals, like a cheetah and an alligator, are drawn as warm, jovial, friendly characters rather than as scary or menacing, making the illustrations further suitable for preschoolers. In Pollywog, Florian offers some different creatures and terms with which children may not be as familiar, such as a leveret, which becomes a hare, and a gosling, which becomes a goose, providing more potential learning opportunities for young readers. VERDICT With vivid, lively illustrations; simple, direct writing; and plenty of adorable animals, this pair of titles will be strong choices for any board book collection.–Laura J. Giunta, Garden City Public Library, NY

Grosche, Erwin. Jonah and the Whale. tr. from German. illus. by Karsten Teich. 28p. Sparkhouse Family. Apr. 2016. Tr $12.99. ISBN 9781506408828.

PreS-Gr 2 –Originally published in German, this English-language edition of the well-known tale has all of the traditional elements of Jonah’s story. The language is awkward in places, showing its translated roots. Jonah’s refrain of “just what I needed” is sometimes sincere and other times sarcastic, and children may have a hard time determining which is which. The brightly opaque, cartoony illustrations are dynamic with varied viewpoints and expressive faces, but the oddly elongated characters are somewhat off-putting. The book’s final illustration seems at odds with the happy ending, in which Jonah realizes God’s love, as it shows Jonah sweating in the hot sun and looking unhappy. VERDICT There are many other picture book retellings of Jonah’s story available; skip this one.–Heidi Rabinowitz, Congregation B’nai Israel, Boca Raton, FL

Hanson, Thor. Bartholomew Quill: A Crow’s Quest To Know Who’s Who. illus. by Dana Arnim. 32p. Little Bigfoot. Apr. 2016. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781632170460.

K-Gr 2 –Bartholomew Quill is a crow on a mission to find out who he is. His story begins “long ago” with Bartholomew, a young crow, all alone in a nest. The entire tale is told through rhyming text, following Bartholomew as he meets and observes various animals, asking “Am I one of you?” Young readers will enjoy the crow’s-eye view tour through nature with Bartholomew encountering a puffin, an eagle, herons, sparrows, and his close relative the raven, along with wolves, moose, beetles, and slugs. Readers even learn some facts about a few of the birds, such as what they hunt and their identifying features. In the end Bartholomew finds his “people” and learns that he is a crow, something readers knew all along. The book has a universal message about finding out who you are and where you belong. Arnim’s illustrations are charming, with many close-up spreads, making it great for group read-alouds. On the last spread, Bartholomew is flying with his murder and looking directly at readers for the first time as if to thank them for helping him find his way. The rhymes are clever, and a love and appreciation for nature and the animal kingdom are evident in the text and illustrations. The pace and rhythm are spot-on, flowing nicely from page turn to page turn. VERDICT A gorgeously illustrated, poetic romp through nature that will inspire young readers to be better wildlife observers. Perfect for one-on-one and small group sharing.–Megan Kilgallen, Packer Collegiate Institute, Brooklyn, NY

Hauff, Wilhelm. Dwarf Nose. illus. by Lisbeth Zwerger. 54p. Minedition. Apr. 2016. Tr $19.99. ISBN 9789888341139.

Gr 3 Up –Hauff’s long-ago, lengthy tale of enchantment is the story of a bewitched boy and a gluttonous duke. Jacob, a poor cobbler’s “fine handsome son, well built and quite tall for his age, which was 12 years,” becomes an ugly dwarf with a squat body and a very long nose after an unfortunate encounter with the wicked witch Herbwise. Forced to carry a bag of cabbages to the strange old woman’s house, Jacob is presented with a bowl of delicious soup and clouds of incense, sending him into seven years of sleep in which he assumes the body of a squirrel. Dressed in human clothes and working among a crowd of similarly clad guinea pigs and squirrels, he works his way up through a series of menial tasks to become kitchen help and finally a very skilled cook. Eventually, Jacob awakens in his dwarf form, escapes the old woman’s strange household, tries unsuccessfully to reunite with his still grieving parents, and makes his way into the kitchen of the greedy, temperamental duke. The longest stretch of the story features Jacob’s—he’s now called Dwarf Nose—years at work in the duke’s kitchen. An encounter with an enchanted goose who is knowledgeable about rare herbs and the duke’s gastronomical competition with a visiting prince eventually lead to Jacob’s freedom from the curse. This original tale, told in many long pages of text and illustrated sparingly with Zwerger’s deft watercolors—several full-page scenes and occasional small bits—are rich in detail, but the story’s unfolding will seem wordy and slow to contemporary fairy-tale fans. Jacob, now a handsome grown man after his 10 or so years of enchantment, is generously rewarded upon returning the goose Mimi to her enchanter father, who breaks her spell. But there is no happily-ever-after ending. VERDICT This tale is rather convoluted, but there are bits of humor and odd detail to amuse very patient readers. The enchantment scheme and the many references to herbs offer interesting possibilities for pairing this with other titles for booktalking or discussion.–Margaret Bush, Simmons College, Boston

Henderson, Kathy. Babies Don’t Walk, They Ride! illus. by Lauren Tobia. 24p. Candlewick/Templar. Mar. 2016. Tr $15.99. ISBN 9780763681821.

Toddler-PreS –Who needs to walk when grown-ups and big brothers and sisters exist? A slew of babies from a wide variety of ethnicities are represented in this charming text that sings the praises of the stroller, the baby wrap, the shopping cart, and the bicycle carrier—the list is long and varied. “Babies don’t walk, they ride!” is the refrain of the story, and it is a gleeful one at that. Tobia’s happy mixed-media artwork beautifully showcases the many vehicles that transport babies all around town, whether the infants are joining their caregivers on crowded train cars, bustling and bumping, or “charging along like charioteers” through the park with big brother pushing a stroller. The illustrations capture the frenetic energy that often accompanies families with babies on the move, and Henderson’s gentle text is quiet yet descriptive next to the artwork. VERDICT Babies and their grown-ups will highly enjoy rereadings of this ride.–Lisa Kropp, Lindenhurst Memorial Library, NY

Jules, Jacqueline. Feathers for Peacock. illus. by Helen Cann. 28p. Wisdom Tales. Apr. 2016. Tr $16.95. ISBN 9781937786533.

PreS-Gr 2 –This lavishly illustrated work tells how all the birds helped Peacock get his beautiful tail. Under a snowy landscape naked birds huddle in burrows, trying to keep warm without feathers. They decide to ask the wise full moon what they should do in the spring, when they can venture back outside. The creamy moon is shocked at the sight of the naked birds under the midnight blue night sky and advises them to rub against the flowers first thing the next morning. Delighting in the riot of springtime colors, all the birds, except the still-sleeping peacock, pick up the colors of the cherry blossoms, tulips, and green grass. The early birds get the colors but agree to share their new feathers when the still-naked peacock stumbles into their celebration. That night the moon sees Peacock’s hodgepodge of borrowed feathers and surrounds him in moonbeams to create a fantastic tail. VERDICT This delightful pourquoi tale will be a great addition to storytimes, and the detailed illustrations invite individual lingering and repeat visits.–Frances E. Millhouser, formerly at Fairfax County Public Library, VA

Kelly, Deborah. Dinosaur Disco. illus. by Daron Parton. 32p. Random. Apr. 2016. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780857981363.

PreS-Gr 1 –Even dinosaurs like to let their horns down and have fun. In this book, several different types of dinosaurs are ready to head to the disco for a night of dancing. As the book states, some fidget on two feet and some on four, but a good time is the intent. The herbivores are ready to salsa and moonwalk the night away. That is, until the supreme carnivore Tyrannosaurus rex shows up. Is the party over? And will the herbivores be eaten? Fortunately, this ending is a delightful one. The watercolor illustrations are simple yet convey the fun message of prey and predator putting differences aside to get their groove on. T. rex and triceratops are included as characters, but so are other, perhaps unfamiliar, dinos like Maiasaura and Corythosaurus. Two pages of “Dino Facts” are appended. VERDICT An appealing selection that introduces dinosaurs in a fun way with accurate and teachable vocabulary. Sure to rock any storytime.–Shannan Hicks, J.S. Clark Elementary School, LA

Lloyd-Jones, Sally. Skip to the Loo, My Darling!: A Potty Book. illus. by Anita Jeram. 32p. Candlewick. Mar. 2016. Tr $11.99. ISBN 9780763672348.

Toddler-PreS –With a play on the English term loo (or toilet), this title introduces a cast of animals—both real and fantastical—and their potties to young readers. But wait! Someone is missing! Who can it be? A rhyming text that is never too cloying keeps the action moving along as Bunny needs to go to the potty, thereby starting a menagerie parade through the fields and woods to the training potties. The rhyme starts to veer into “what else?” territory after introducing a big fat monster, a dinosaur, and “spooky wooky ghosties” that look like they wandered in from a Halloween title. Young children, however, will most likely giggle and relate to the general silliness that ensues. Jeram brings her soft ink and watercolor illustrations to life here. Bunny is awash in softly hued grays and pinks, while a charming elephant in a tutu and ballet toe shoes delicately parades through toward the final pages of a multitude of animals perching on their potties in the outdoors. And the surprise guest missing from the giant potty party at the end? A turn of the page reveals a spread with a smiling Bunny on the left and a sturdy mirror on the right to include young readers in the fun. VERDICT While this will be useful in collections where the clamor is always for “more potty training books,” the specific story line means limited use otherwise.–Lisa Kropp, Lindenhurst Memorial Library, NY

Milhander, Laura Aron. Not for All the Hamantaschen in Town. illus. by Inna Chernyak. 32p. glossary. Kar-Ben. Jan. 2016. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781467759281; pap. $7.99. ISBN 9781467759304.

PreS-Gr 1 –The three little pigs prepare for the Jewish holiday of Purim by making crowns to wear to the carnival. Rishon (meaning first in Hebrew) quickly creates a paper crown and then spends the rest of the day playing in the mud. Sheni, the second little pig, takes a little more time using poster board, foil, and glue. Shlishi, the third, spends all day constructing his elaborate papier-mâché crown and doesn’t have time to play in the mud with his friends. The next day, the pigs attend the Purim carnival and encounter the big, bad wolf, who is desperate for a hamantaschen, the traditional three-cornered cookies made especially for the holiday. Afraid that no one will sell him one, he decides to steal a costume to disguise himself. “Little pig, little pig, give me your crown!” he growls at Rishon. “Not for all the hamantaschen in town!” is the pig’s response. “Then I’ll huff and I’ll puff, and I’ll blow your crown off!” The paper crown blows off the little pig’s head but the wind blows it away before the wolf can grab it. An identical exchange occurs between the wolf and Sheni. Of course, when he tries his strategy on Shlishi, the sturdy crown doesn’t budge. But Shlishi reasons with the wolf: “You may be big…but you don’t have to be bad. Here—I’ll lend you my crown.” The wolf apologizes, the pigs forgive him, and everyone goes home happy. The cheery, textured digital illustrations depict an adorable cast of animal characters. Oddly, only the pigs, wolf, and lamb are named—the rest of the animals are referred to as children in the text. A recipe for hamantaschen is appended along with a simple explanation of Purim and a glossary of holiday terms. There is also an unfortunate error in the text: “Just then, a child dressed as Mordecai stepped forward…. He offered the wolf a black, three-cornered Haman hat.” Mordecai, one of the heroes of the Purim story, does not wear the three-cornered hat characteristic of Haman, the villain. VERDICT Picture books about Purim aren’t as prevalent as books for Hanukkah and Passover, so educators and libraries serving large Jewish populations may welcome this addition; however, it is likely an optional purchase for most.–Rachel Kamin, North Suburban Synagogue Beth El, Highland Park, IL

Oliver, Carmen. Bears Make the Best Reading Buddies. illus. by Jean Claude. 32p. Capstone. Mar. 2016. Tr $14.95. ISBN 9781623706548.

PreS-Gr 1 –Mrs. Fitz-Pea (who wears blue cat’s-eye glasses) needs to be convinced that bears make suitable reading buddies. Her student Adelaide convinces her that Bear is safe to have in the classroom by showing her how he makes reading fun (with cozy reading forts and loud roars of encouragement for pronouncing a hard word) and instructive (telling her to look at the pictures for clues and holding the book so they both can see it). “And if you get frustrated, they wrap you up in warm bear hugs.” The pattern-filled illustrations show the two buddies getting lost in their stories and demonstrates how they search for their next good read. They add a great deal to the book’s appeal. VERDICT Full of useful yet subtle hints about how to make reading fun for both young and older reading buddies, this book will find a ready audience at storytime and is also wonderful for one-on-one sharing.–Tanya Boudreau, Cold Lake Public Library, AB, Canada

Peppa Pig and the Camping Trip. 32p. Candlewick Entertainment. Apr. 2016. Tr $12.99. ISBN 9780763687410.

Toddler-PreS –This picture book covers the familiar territory of the adventures of Peppa Pig, her brother George, Daddy Pig, and Mummy Pig. The family goes on a trip in their camper van, which has several interesting capabilities, including the ability to drive through water, transform beds for Peppa and George, and pop up the camper’s roof to make space for the family. The camper is too simplistic a plot device, though, and problems are solved so quickly and easily that there’s no room for suspense or excitement, which makes the story feel thin. Daddy Pig is shown performing the traditionally male roles of driving the camper and building the fire, while Mummy Pig packs the picnic lunch. The book’s audience may be toddlers and preschoolers, but children can appreciate a more nuanced story. The length of the book may also make it hard to hold the attention of young listeners if read aloud. The concept of a family spending time together is a great one, but plenty of picture books highlight those relationships more successfully. Despite this, the book is sure to have its fans among those who love the animated program. Additionally, the illustrations are rendered digitally and do retain the sweetness and charm of the show. VERDICT For ardent Peppa Pig fans only.–Celia Dillon, The Brearley School, New York

Ruben, Kelly Easton. A Place for Elijah. illus. by Joanne Friar. 32p. Kar-Ben. Jan. 2016. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781467778411; pap. $7.99. ISBN 9781467778466.

Gr 1-3 –Sarah sets an extra place at the Passover table for Elijah; according to legend, this prophet invisibly visits every seder. When the power goes out across the street, neighbors start arriving and Sarah keeps adding chairs to the table, always making sure there is an empty seat for Elijah. Finally, the last chair in the house is pressed into service for “the boy who sells magazines and chews bubble gum,” who turns out to be named Elijah. While the concept of the story is entertaining, there are a number of anomalies in the way the family observes the holiday. “Every year at Passover, Sarah sets a place and leaves the door ajar so Elijah the Prophet can come in and visit the seder.” The normal practice is to open the door briefly near the end of the seder, not to leave the door open the entire time. In describing the afikomen, the text says, “The youngest child will find the hidden piece of matzah and get a prize.” This is not a job for the youngest alone—all children present may seek the afikomen. The youngest child’s special honor is to recite the four questions. Another oddity is that the order of events has been disrupted: the meal is begun (with soup and gefilte fish) before the recitation of the 10 plagues, half a dozen steps early according to the Haggadah, the book that guides the actions of the seder. This strangeness extends to the illustrations as well. A broader issue is that there is very little explanation of the significance of Elijah’s presence at the seder. The endnote says, “According to legend, Elijah arrives on the first night of Passover to announce the coming of the Messiah,” but the story itself never makes that clear. VERDICT With so many incorrect details in its portrayal of Passover traditions and rituals, this is not recommended.–Heidi Rabinowitz, Congregation B’nai Israel, Boca Raton, FL

Scott, Lucy. Busy Busy. illus. by Lucy Scott. 32p. Creston. May 2016. Tr $15.99. ISBN 9781939547255.

Toddler-PreS –A sleepy girl tells readers about her busy, busy day. Each page shows the behavior of free play, the unobstructed view of imagination, discovery, and fun. The adventure begins with breakfast as she eats at the zoo, builds a city out of LEGO blocks, and paints all the things she knows: “I drew Mommy. Then I painted Daddy, then Rosie the Pussycat….and a horse (which was tricky).” At lunch she plays with her kitchen set as she cooks for all of her 10 stuffed animals, realizing “I barely had time to eat my own lunch!“ With the help of her stuffed animals and cats (sometimes unwilling companions), she learns about how socks work, putting them on her cat’s tail and even trying on her daddy’s sock, which “made a nice hat but it was a bit smelly.” After a long day, and a clean bath, she falls asleep and we visit her dreams with tropical fish and a fun submarine adventure. The endpapers are cleverly covered with scribbles of a toddler, reminding us of the boundless, vivid world of a young child’s day. The digitally created illustrations bring the child’s imagination to life. VERDICT A sweet story to share one-on-one with a special, busy child. Recommended for most public library collections.–Melissa Smith, Royal Oak Public Library, MI

Young, Judy. Digger and Daisy Plant a Garden. illus. by Dana Sullivan. 32p. (I Am a Reader!). ebook available. Sleeping Bear. Mar. 2016. Tr $9.99. ISBN 9781585369317; pap. $4.99. ISBN 9781585369324.

PreS-Gr 1 –It is spring, so Digger the dog and his big sister Daisy decide to plant a garden. Daisy plants lots of different seeds that will be good to eat, but Digger plants a surprise. Daisy’s seeds begin to sprout, but nothing appears to be growing in Digger’s spot. When the garden is ready with lots of vegetables to eat, Digger tells Daisy to dig up his surprise, a bone, which, of course, for dogs, will also be good to eat. This early reader features a large font size, controlled vocabulary with lots of word repetition, and friendly cartoon illustrations that enhance the story, making this a fun choice for newly independent readers. VERDICT A solid addition where other Digger and Daisy titles are popular.–Jessica Marie, Salem Public Library, OR

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Graphic Novels Xpress Reviews | July 2016 Wed, 29 Jun 2016 14:10:28 +0000 1607-Xpress-GN-CVs1Cazenove, Christophe. Just Like Family. illus. by William Maury. 64p. (The Sisters: Bk. 1). Papercutz. Jun. 2016. Tr $12.99. ISBN 9781629914701; pap. $7.99. ISBN 9781629914930. POP

Gr 4-6 –Sisters Maureen and Wendy are intelligent, passionate, headstrong, and volatile. This book is based on the wildly successful series originally published in France, and the sisters have lost none of their exuberant charm in this translation. Sure to be popular with readers hungry for female protagonists, this installment features short, episodic story lines that should appeal to reluctant readers. The girls get into all sorts of sisterly troubles while learning lessons of patience and love. Younger sister Maureen just wants to hang out with Wendy, whom she idolizes. Wendy, meanwhile, craves independence—a familiar conflict that will resonate with many readers. VERDICT A popular addition to any school or public library graphic novel collection.–John Trischitti, Midland County Public Libraries, TX

Doyle, Ming & James Tynion. Going Down Vol. 1. illus. by Riley Rossmo. 144p. (John Constantine, Hellblazer). DC Comics. Feb. 2016. pap. $14.99. ISBN 9781401259723.

Gr 10 Up –Ghosts are dying—that isn’t normal, even in the world of hellblazer John Constantine, who banishes demons from the human plane. When his best ghostly mates are torn into pieces by an angry and vengeful demon, Constantine musters his pride and ventures into an undesirable place—his past. While exploring his roots and tracing them to when things went wrong in his personal relationships, he demands assistance from old colleagues and demonic spirits. Constantine discovers that the ghost killer is an infernal creature fueled by the soul of his ex-girlfriend. Doyle, Tynion, and Rossmo reintroduce this character, emphasizing his conflicting motives. The writing captures the snarky and standoffish persona of this well-known exorcist, who has relationships with both men and women. However, the narrative contains British slang and may be hard to understand for some readers, who may have to revisit a panel or two to catch the gist of the conversation. The design is a little disruptive (there are moments when dialogue doesn’t follow the standardleft-to-right format, for instance, and the author and illustrators sometimes disregard the gutter). The artists use warm colors and dark shadows, along with gestural line work, to create movement and chaos and convey the evil essence that looms over Constantine’s environment. Symbols indicate strong language, and overall, the content is best suited for a mature audience. VERDICT Suggested for those looking to diversify their graphic novel collections.–Briana Moore, School Library Journal

Hikami, Keiichi. Flash Hunter Vol. 1. illus. by Shin Yamamoto. 224p. (Monster Hunter). Viz Media. Apr. 2016. pap. $10.99. ISBN 9781421584256.

Gr 7 Up –This book, part of a series based on a best-selling role-playing video game, initially feels like a sequel because it has a “story thus far” page, but it is, in fact, an origin story. The manga takes readers back to a time when the main characters were not the skilled and seasoned monster hunters that they are in the video games. Raiga is a novice hunter who needs to find companions. He travels to a virtually unknown land and pairs with two other misfits: the arrogant, serious Keres and the bumbling, book-smart Torche. They get off to a rocky start but by working together manage to form a team. This is a good example of a “monster of the week” type of manga: this first volume introduces no fewer than four different monsters, all wonderfully different from one another. The art is a mixed bag, though. The monsters and armor are easily recognizable, and all of the characters are distinct enough that they can be easily told apart, but the fight scenes are extremely crowded and can be hard to follow. VERDICT Those not familiar with the franchise may find this title confusing, but those already invested in the game or novels will enjoy seeing the characters in a new light. Purchase for collections with a large video game fanbase.–Kelley Gile, Cheshire Public Library, CT

Hino, Matsuri. Shuriken and Pleats Vol. 1. illus. by Matsuri Hino. 192p. Viz Media. Mar. 2016. pap. $9.99. ISBN 9781421585253.

Gr 7 Up –In the first installment of this beautifully illustrated manga series, readers meet Mikage Kirio, a seemingly ordinary teenage girl who is a ruthless ninja assassin. Her name means “beautiful shadow,” and she has never known life outside of the Shadow Village Company, a private ninja training academy and service for hire. Mikage has been chosen as a personal bodyguard by Mr. Rod, an international humanitarian businessman intent on ending world hunger. Taught from a young age that ninjas should be “shadows” who never show emotion, she struggles to maintain this mandated stoicism when she forms an emotional bond with Mr. Rod. Her infatuation soon begins to interfere with her effectiveness as a bodyguard and results in Mr. Rod being killed during an attack by enemy ninjas. Despondent, Mikage is able to find hope when her boss at the Shadow Village Company tells her that Mr. Rod has left her a lifetime’s worth of wages so that she can leave the ninja lifestyle. This first installment foreshadows the challenges that Mikage will face for the rest of the series as she tries to live her life as a typical teenager while resisting her roots. This is a quirky tale that juxtaposes adolescent teenage emotions with harrowing crusades. The cunning and powerful heroine is a refreshing departure from the typically male-dominated narratives of the ninja world. VERDICT Fans of the author’s “Vampire Knight series will quickly be gearing up for this adventure.–Marian Mays, Washington Talking Book & Braille Library

1607-Xpress-GN-CVs2Ozaki, Kaori. The Gods Lie. illus. by Kaori Ozaki. 216p. Vertical. Apr. 2016. pap. $12.95. ISBN 9781942993360.

Gr 4-7 –Natsuru is an 11-year-old boy who gradually becomes friends with a shy girl in his class, Rio Suzumura, when she agrees to take care of a stray cat he’s rescued. Previously, Natsuru’s life was filled with going to school, playing soccer, hanging out with other boys, and coming home to his mother. But once she entrusts Rio with Tofu the cat, his life and his priorities start to change. He begins spending more time with Rio and her little brother and less time with his mother and friends. He calls out sick from soccer camp and spends several days living at Rio’s house instead. Much of this story is sweet and uplifting, as Natsuru and Rio form a new kind of family unit and they grow to love and trust each other. But there is also an undercurrent of sadness because Natsuru’s father is dead, Rio’s father is gone, and Rio is holding a secret that can break her world apart. This is a delicate, sweet, and poignant story that will make readers think about what they would do if they were faced with the same challenges as these characters. Ozaki’s artwork further enriches the story, sometimes ethereal and sometimes realistic, but always skillfully done. VERDICT For readers who will appreciate a beautiful and memorable stand-alone story about secrets and friendship.–Andrea Lipinski, New York Public Library

Stevenson, Noelle. Runaways Vol. 1. illus. by Sanford Greene. 120p. (Secret Wars: Battleworld). ebook available. Marvel. Dec. 2015. pap. $15.99. ISBN 9780785198826.

Gr 8 Up –Part of Marvel’s “Secret Wars” story line and set in Battleworld, a planet that’s compiled of various Marvel universes ruled over by Victor von Doom, this volume collects the four issues of this miniseries. Following a group of freshmen who are all attending the Victor von Doom Institute for Gifted Youths in Doomstadt and prepping for the final exam, this title details the adventures of the ragtag bunch of misfits, led by Jubilee. The teens discover that their final exam is actually fatal, and in order to advance every school year, the “passing” students must kill their fellow classmates. Using their smarts, special abilities, and friendships, the young people rebel against the Headmaster (Victor von Doom’s daughter, who is only a child) and her group of robots led by senior Bucky. The book references the earlier iteration of the series originally created by Brian K. Vaughan and Adrian Alphona in 2003, but the only returning character is Molly Hayes, a rambunctious child with super strength. The team members also eschew the usual superhero costumes and experience their own bouts of teenage woes while trying to save their school. This selection showcases complex relationships that can be found in any YA novel: Jubilee and Sanna (Ice Girl) turn from frenemies to maybe something more, mixed-race siblings Tandy and Tyrone (Cloak and Dagger) stay loyal to each other and their friends, and even villain Valeria Doom struggles to defy her father’s wishes when her friend Bucky Barnes’s life is at stake. The pace and sarcastic quips are fast and furious, and the issues’ artwork reflects that same vivacious flair. Stevenson’s fans won’t be disappointed. VERDICT Purchase for comic collections in need of fresh, diverse, teen girl–powered superhero adventures with lots of heart.–Shelley Diaz, School Library Journal

Stewart, Cameron & Brenden Fletcher. Batgirl Vol. illus. by Babs Tarr. 176p. (Batgirl). DC Comics. Feb. 2016. pap. $16.99. ISBN 9781401259662.

Gr 9 Up –Barbara Gordon (aka Batgirl) is still busy protecting Gotham, but now she has to be even more careful: her father is filling Batman’s shoes. That is the least of Batgirl’s issues, however. Villains have been escaping Stryker’s and causing more problems; there is an amateur superhero getting in her way; and rogue killer tigers are on the loose. Even her regular life as Barbara Gordon is complicated; her best friends are getting married, and Barbara is having a hard time being fully present—Gotham always needs her attention. It doesn’t help that once she gets closer to romantic interest Luke Fox, she realizes that she hasn’t come to terms with the death of her former flame Dick Grayson. This new installment achieves a great balance of action and real-life drama. A well-rounded character, Barbara is fiercely loyal to her friends but also knows how to kick villain butt. The difference in illustration style throughout isn’t jarring; rather, it adds further to the appeal. VERDICT Batgirl is a mature character, and the volume reflects that sensibility; give it to older YA readers looking for a new superhero to follow. Reading the first volume is recommended, but not necessary.–Morgan Brickey, Arlington Public Library, TX

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All We Have Left by Wendy Mills | SLJ Review Wed, 29 Jun 2016 13:30:03 +0000 Mills, Wendy. All We Have Left. 368p. ebook available. Bloomsbury. Aug. 2016. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781619633438. 

Gr 7 Up –This beautifully written coming-of-age story traces the lives of two girls whose worlds intersect on September 11, 2001. Chapters alternate between the present-day story of Jesse, whose brother died on that fateful day, and an emotional account of Muslim teen Alia’s experience inside one of the beleaguered Twin Towers. The wounds are so deep that Jesse’s family [...]]]> redstarMills, Wendy. All We Have Left. 368p. ebook available. Bloomsbury. Aug. 2016. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781619633438. All We Have Left

Gr 7 Up –This beautifully written coming-of-age story traces the lives of two girls whose worlds intersect on September 11, 2001. Chapters alternate between the present-day story of Jesse, whose brother died on that fateful day, and an emotional account of Muslim teen Alia’s experience inside one of the beleaguered Twin Towers. The wounds are so deep that Jesse’s family doesn’t talk about her brother Travis. Her parents are on the brink of a divorce, and she has feelings for a bad boy who leads her astray. After her arrest for hate speech tagging, she is sentenced to community service at the Islam Peace Center. Alia is a teenage girl and aspiring comic book writer/illustrator. An incident at school causes her parents to withdraw permission for Alia to attend a program for talented high school artists. On September 11, she heads to her father’s office at the World Trade Center to plead with him to change his mind. Jesse’s journey to discover why Travis was at the Twin Towers and what happened to him before he died eventually leads her to a search for Alia, the girl Travis was with when the planes hit. Her work at the Islam Peace Center and the friends she makes there instill in Jesse a new understanding of Muslims and the Islamic faith. VERDICT This outstanding, touching look at a national tragedy promotes healing and understanding and belongs in every library.–Cindy Wall, Southington Library & Museum, CT

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

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Graphic Biographies for Older YA Readers Tue, 28 Jun 2016 17:36:11 +0000 Prose biographies tend to be factual and chronological, but graphic biographies often have a different take. They tend to take a cinematic approach to their subjects. Some show only a part of the person’s life, while others tell the story from beginning to end in a series of dramatic sequences. Because they can easily depict people and surroundings without the need for lengthy descriptive passages, these graphic biographies make for compelling reading.

What makes these titles suitable for older teens is the level of the language, the complexity of the story, and the amount of knowledge required to understand it. Most would be of interest to high school juniors and seniors studying physics or computers, reading Thoreau’s Walden, or getting interested in politics.

GN-Bio-YA-Brown-n-Easton-AndreGiantBROWN, Box. André the Giant: Life and Legend (First Second, 2014).
EASTON, Brandon. Andre the Giant: Closer to Heaven.
Illus. by Denis Medri. December 2015. IDW Publishing.
Gr. 9 Up—Read together, these two biographies of the iconic wrestler, born André René Roussimoff, who was over seven feet tall, are an interesting study in different approaches to the same basic set of facts. Easton and Medri have Andre tell his story in the first person, which allows André to explain his feelings and makes him a more sympathetic character. Panels with narration alternate with panels of dialogue in word balloons, and the muted palette changes with the different eras of André’s life. Brown’s book is told from an outsider’s perspective—it begins with an interview with Hulk Hogan, one of André’s best known opponents—and goes into more detail about the complicated acting that goes on in the wrestling ring. Brown’s version is more “adult,” with strong language and sexual situations, but both books deal frankly with André’s drinking problem and the adverse health consequences of his immense size.

GN-Bio-YA-Woody-guthrie-dust-bowl-balladsHAYES, Nick. Woody Guthrie and the Dust Bowl Ballads. (Abrams, 2016).
Gr. 9 Up—Some readers may get impatient with Hayes’s rambling style, which reads like poetry at times, but taken as a whole, this is an immersive account of the hardships of life in the Dust Bowl and on the road during the Depression. In the middle of it all is Woody Guthrie, scrawny and curly-haired, trying to make sense of this world and ultimately drawing from his past as well as the present to create a new sort of folk music. The sepia-toned art is gorgeous, evoking woodcuts, folk art, and the decorative styles of the 1930s. The story unfolds in a leisurely way, with occasional flashbacks, and it all ties together beautifully in the end, as Guthrie makes his way east to New York and turns his experiences, and a bitter parody of “God Bless America,” into the elegiac “This Land Is Your Land.”

GN-Bio-YA-Kleist-Story of Samia Ysuf OmarKLEIST, Reinhold. An Olympic Dream: The Story of Samia Ysuf Omar. (SelfMadeHero, 2016).
Gr. 8 Up—This is a heartbreaking story, because we know from the beginning that the heroine will fail in her quest. Nonetheless, it is a fascinating real-life refugee tale. Samia Yusuf Omar represented Somalia in the 2008 Beijing Olympics, and the story starts with her coming in last in the event—but finishing the race anyway, cheered by the crowd for her determination. After the Olympics, she returns to the war-ravaged city of Mogadishu, where she must contend with family obligations, discrimination, and even threats in an area ruled by religious police. Determined to pursue a career as an athlete, she leaves Somalia and travels to Ethiopia and then, as a refugee transported by traffickers, to Sudan and Libya. After two years of hardships, many of them documented in Facebook posts and texts to her family, Omar died at sea at the age of 21, on the crossing to Italy.

GN-Bio-YA-LE ROY-Thoreau-A Sublime LifeLE ROY, Maximilien. Thoreau: A Sublime Life. Illus. by A. Dan. (NBM, 2016).
Gr. 9 Up—This slim, large-format book takes small slices of the life of Henry David Thoreau, starting with his sojourn in the woods near Walden Pond in 1845 and continuing to his death from tuberculosis in 1862. In between we see him go to jail for refusing to pay his taxes, study nature in the woods, and discuss abolitionism with John Brown. Each episode is short, and there are many wordless sequences; much of the text is direct quotations from Thoreau’s works. The art is beautifully done in a clear-lined style with a bright but limited palette of browns, blues, and greens.

GN-Bio-YA-MAIER-EinsteinMAIER, Corinne. Einstein: An Illustrated Biography. Illus. by Anne Simon. (Nobrow, 2016).
Gr. 9 up—”To punish me for my contempt for authority, fate made me an authority myself,” Albert Einstein says toward the end of this whimsically illustrated biography. In the first half of the book, he comes across as a bit of a self-absorbed jerk, uninterested in the people around him (he basically abandoned his first child) and constantly disappearing into his own thoughts. Maier and Simon use full-page cartoons to provide simplified explanations of his theories, although this book does not go very deeply into Einstein’s physics. It’s more a story of the man himself, going from daydreamer to celebrity and ultimately an advocate for peace—after learning, to his horror, that his theory provided the scientific underpinning for the atomic bomb.

GN-Bio-YA-OTTAVIANI-The Imitation GameOTTAVIANI, Jim. The Imitation Game: Alan Turing Decoded. Illus. by Leland Purvis. (Abrams ComicArts, 2016)
Gr. 9 Up—Alan Turing is a fascinating figure: He was responsible for much of the thinking behind modern-day computers, he played a key role in decoding German communications during World War II, and he was prosecuted after the war for being a homosexual. Ottaviani sets up his story like a documentary, with different people in Turing’s life narrating the action. This is effective, although at times it’s a little hard to know who is doing the talking. Turing’s explanations of his theories may be hard for some readers to follow, but he comes across as a real person, with passions and feelings, rather than an icon of computer history. Much is left unspoken, but one powerful visual is the effect of the hormones Turing was forced to take, which caused the once lean cyclist to gain weight. The book ends on an ambiguous note, suggesting but not depicting that Turing committed suicide by eating a cyanide-infused apple.

GN-Bio-YA-RALL-Bernie-SnowdenRALL, Ted. Bernie. (Seven Stories, 2016)
RALL, Ted. Snowden. (Seven Stories, 2015)
Gr. 8 Up—Ted Rall is a political cartoonist, and he makes no attempt to hide his point of view in these biographies of presidential candidate Bernie Sanders and National Security Agency (NSA) whistle-blower Edward Snowden. He also adds a lot of context, focusing more on the issues each individual raises than the details of their life stories (although there is some of that). Bernie begins with a depiction of the Democratic party’s rightward shift starting in 1968‚ while Snowden opens with a discussion of George Orwell’s 1984 and ends with the debate over whether Snowden was right to reveal the extent of the NSA’s surveillance activities. Rall has a rough style, and his characters don’t look much like their real-life counterparts, but he makes good use of simple page layouts to illustrate and explain complicated issues.

GN-Bio-YA-SHIELDS-Susanna MoodieSHIELDS, Carol, and Patrick Crowe. Susanna Moodie: Roughing It in the Bush. Illus. by Selena Goulding and Willow Dawson. (Second Story, October 2016)

Gr. 8 Up—Susanna Moodie grew up in an upper-class family of smart, literary women with more talent than money, which didn’t leave her a lot of choices in early 19th-century London. A published author and anti-slavery activist, she married a retired army officer and emigrated to Canada in 1832. Living in a cabin in the woods, Moodie had to contend with not only a rougher lifestyle than she was accustomed to, but persistent financial problems, her husband’s long absences, and awkward relations with her neighbors. The class structure of her native England was replaced by a different set of prejudices, and Moodie often pushed against them. Eventually she returned to writing and produced a number of popular novels based on her experiences; this story ends on an ironic note, with prosperous Canadians criticizing her books for their negative portrayals of early Canadian life.


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When a Volunteer Oversteps | Scales on Censorship Tue, 28 Jun 2016 14:56:15 +0000 1606-Censorship-Chain-books-tnA parent volunteer in my high school library saw a sign in a local used bookstore that said, “Warning to parents about all Ellen Hopkins’s books.” Hopkins is one of the students’ favorite writers, and this parent wants me to remove these books from the library. I even caught her telling a student that she shouldn’t be reading Hopkins’s books. What should I do?
This is a multilayered question. First, it’s too bad that the bookstore owners use such “warning” signs. I suspect that a customer complained, and they don’t want to lose business. I would be curious to know whether the books are in the YA or children’s section of the store. But this type of signage is exactly the problem with labeling. The parent probably doesn’t know the books, but someone has called her attention to “troublesome content” and she wants to censor.

Second, tell the parent that Hopkins deals with tough subjects—and teens read her books because they identify with her characters, or they need to understand a world that is completely different from their own. Suggest that she read one of the books, and then engage her in a conversation about it. My bet is that she will realize what a great communicator Hopkins is—and may grow to understand why teens are drawn to her.

Third, remember that parent volunteers need training. They should never judge what students are reading. Caution them that students should expect complete privacy about their reading choices. If volunteers find that they cannot honor these guidelines, then the library isn’t the best fit for them.

Finally, do not remove the Hopkins titles. Share the school’s materials selection policy with the parent, and let her know that she can file a formal challenge if she likes. But the challenge shouldn’t be based on a bookstore’s “warning” sign.

I’m on a committee to select the novels that fifth grade teachers will use during the next school year. A first-year teacher really wants to use Lois Lowry’s A Summer To Die, about a girl who loses her sister to leukemia, because she remembers how much she loved the book when she was a student. I can’t seem to convince her that the novel is better for middle school readers.
Ask the teacher how old she was when she read the book. I suspect she was in seventh or eighth grade. Did she borrow the book from the library, or was it a novel studied as a class? Remind her that fifth graders are 10 years old, and she may be expecting them to respond to a novel she read as an adolescent. Some 10-year-olds are emotionally equipped to handle the novel and may read it on their own. Most, however, need to grow up a little. While A Summer To Die is too good to miss, students who are forced to read it too soon will miss the important elements of the novel.

A physical education teacher asked me to develop a bibliography of titles that deal with overweight adolescents. I made suggestions and indicated which titles were in the middle school library. A parent brought the list to me and said that she didn’t want her child to be singled out and labeled “overweight.”

This isn’t a library issue. You provided a service to a teacher who asked for guidance. The parent should go to the teacher if she is unhappy with the way her child has been treated.

A student in another high school in my town took his life in the winter, and my principal wants me to remove any title that deals with suicide. He worries about copycat actions.

That student didn’t take his life because he read a book about suicide. You should tell your principal that most young adult novels that deal with suicide focus on those who have been left behind. Such novels create empathy and sympathy.

EH160114_PatScalesPat Scales is the former chair of ALA’s Intellectual Freedom Committee and recipient of the 2016 ALSC Distinguished Service Award. You can send your questions or comments on censorship to her at

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Scenes From the 2016 ALA Conference in Orlando Tue, 28 Jun 2016 14:10:25 +0000 Take a peek at industry glitterati, enthusiastic librarians, snazzy shoes, and more of the fun had at the 2016 American Library Association Annual Conference in Orlando, FL.

ALA_2016_Pam Munoz Ryan

Newbery honoree Pam Muñoz Ryan, author of Echo, stuns in her banquet finery.

ALA_2016_Quarto drives

Publisher Quarto drove the excitement of its new offerings home, so to speak.

ALA_2016_Bryan Collier illustrator Abrams

Bryan Collier, illustrator of Trombone Shorty, drew a crowd at the Abrams booth.

ALA_2016_Christian Robinson Sophie Blackall

Illustrators Christian Robinson (Last Stop on Market Street) and Sophie Blackall (Finding Winnie) take a break.

ALA_2016_Cynthia Alaniz (TX), Becky Calzada (TX) and Alyson Beecher (CA) school librarians goodies

A trio of librarians showing off choice goodies collected while perusing the booths. From left: Cynthia Alaniz (TX), Becky Calzada (TX), and Alyson Beecher (CA).

ALA_2016_Laura Ruby, Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich, Sona Charaipotra and Alex Finn

From left: Authors Laura Ruby (Bone Gap), Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich (Eighth Grade Super Zero), Sona Charaipotra (Tiny Pretty Things), and Alex Flinn (the upcoming Beheld) share a laugh.

ALA_2016_President of ALSC andrew medlar_v2

Medlar. Andrew Medlar. The ALSC president was Newbery-Caldecott-Wilder Banquet master of ceremonies.

ALA_2016_Printz committee bone gap tatoos

The 2016 Printz committee members rock their Bone Gap tattoos.


Who’s that good-looking guy? John Schumacher, better known as Mr. Schu, and ambassador for school libraries at Scholastic Book Fairs, meets his match at the Scholastic booth.

ALA_2016_at Simon & Schuster booth

Laurie Halse Anderson, author of Ashes, was proud to be at the Simon & Schuster booth.

ALA_2016_Sherri Duskey Rinker and Angela DiTerluzzi had the same shoes at Newbery

Great minds strut alike. Sherri Duskey Rinker and Angelia DiTerlizzi showed up in the same shoes. What are the odds?

ALA_2016_Sherri Duskey Rinker, Molly Idle, Angela, Tony DiTerlizzi

From left: Sherri Duskey Rinker, author of Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site;  Molly Idle, 2014 Caldecott honoree for Flora and the Flamingo; and writer and illustrator duo Angela and Tony DiTerlizzi are dressed to impress at the Newbery-Caldecott-Wilder banquet.

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Compass South by Hope Larson | SLJ Review Tue, 28 Jun 2016 13:30:26 +0000 Larson, Hope. Compass South. illus. by Rebecca Mock. 224p. (Four Points: Bk. 1). Farrar. Jun. 2016. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780374300432. POP 

Gr 4-8 –In this fast-paced, high-energy tale, 12-year-old twins Alex and Cleo Dodge find adventure—and trouble—as they search for their father and, at times, each other. The siblings join the Black Hook Gang, but Alex is soon arrested for stealing. The twins leave town, yet there’s still more excitement to come. Has the key to [...]]]> redstarLarson, Hope. Compass South. illus. by Rebecca Mock. 224p. (Four Points: Bk. 1). Farrar. Jun. 2016. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780374300432. POP MG-GN-Larson-Compass South

Gr 4-8 –In this fast-paced, high-energy tale, 12-year-old twins Alex and Cleo Dodge find adventure—and trouble—as they search for their father and, at times, each other. The siblings join the Black Hook Gang, but Alex is soon arrested for stealing. The twins leave town, yet there’s still more excitement to come. Has the key to finding a lost pirate treasure been in their possession all along? Set in 1860, the story includes stops in Manhattan, New Orleans, and even a pirate ship on the high seas. Larson, best known for her graphic novel adaptation of A Wrinkle in Time, weaves a wonderful, vivid story, assisted beautifully by Mock’s illustrations, which take the twins from murky back alleys to bright and vibrant ocean scenes. VERDICT A charming choice for elementary and middle school library graphic novel collections.–John Trischitti, Midland County Public Libraries, TX

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

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Embalming Is an Act of Love: Preserving the Dead with Tamara Bower | Up Close Mon, 27 Jun 2016 18:57:50 +0000 The Mummy Makers of Egypt.]]> 1606-UpClose-Bower-MummyMakersofEgyptBower, an archeological illustrator, beautifully details the sacred and complex process of embalming in her latest picture book, The Mummy Makers of Egypt (Triangle Square, Mar. 2016). Readers follow the mummification process of real-life mummy Yuya, through the eyes of a young boy, Ipy, son of the royal embalmer.

What inspired you to tell this tale from the perspective of the embalmers?

The embalmers themselves never wrote down their secret methods. We know about mummification from accounts by later Greek visitors—Herodotus and Diodorus—and from examining the mummies themselves. I also wanted to include the perspective of a child [Ipy] learning his family’s trade.

Early on in the book, you detail the journey that a deceased person’s soul was believed to take. I was struck by the line “I have not caused anyone to weep.” I find that tenderness is something that is not often highlighted in works on ancient peoples. With your work, do you set out to deepen our understanding of the ancient Egyptians?

I make a book that I myself would love to have. I see the paintings in my mind; I think of the stories and ideas that I would want to know more about.

Ancient Egyptians had a moral sense and believed that life after death was dependent upon moral actions during life. They believed that after death, the soul would be judged by a tribunal of gods, by having his or her heart weighed against the feather of truth. The deceased also had to recite a long list of the crimes they did not commit (a much longer list than I included in my book). Having passed this test, [the deceased were welcomed by] Osiris into the afterlife. The idea of the deceased being judged for his or her moral behavior, and rewarded or punished, is shared by many religions.

Photo by Robert Herman

Photo by Robert Herman

You are credited with reviving the 19th-century practice of creating watercolor facsimile copies of ancient wall paintings and painted relief sculptures. Can you expand on your process?

The watercolor facsimiles I make are for archaeological excavations as part of their documentation. Pencil drawings are used in the field and, later, made into an inked version—though the pencil drawing is kept as part of the excavation records.

How can students develop their own illustrations?

Watercolor is a difficult medium that takes a lot of skill and patience. Students should learn to draw before approaching watercolor. I suggest they go to museums and make pencil sketches. They will learn a great deal by looking carefully and striving to make an accurate copy. You notice things about an object when you are drawing it that you would not notice just glancing at it. Colored pencils can be also added.

How has technology impacted the way you work in the field? Is there any advancement you find particularly useful?

When I first started, we all worked by hand, using technical pens such as Rotring Rapidograph. I later had to retrain to use computer graphics programs like Adobe Illustrator. Using these programs, I can make duplicates, change the size, and make corrections much more easily.

I do love to work by hand, though. I am able to do this in my children’s books. The illustrations are all hand-painted in gouache and watercolor.

You have been an archaeological illustrator for 24 years. Are there ways we can better encourage young inspiring archaeologists or artists?

I myself did not get a degree in Egyptology. For me, it was a matter of luck, hard work, and determination. However, I would recommend that young people who want to become archaeological illustrators get a degree in archaeology or Egyptology (that would make it a little bit easier). It can be a difficult field to find work in; it is definitely for those who have a strong passion.

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Montana School Librarians Fight to Keep Database Subscription Mon, 27 Jun 2016 18:24:52 +0000 EH160628_EBSCO_MontanaMontana is pulling the plug on EBSCO database subscriptions that have been used statewide by libraries and maintained by the Montana State Library for more than 20 years. But a cadre of school librarians aren’t digesting this news quietly. Instead, eight of them in Billings, MT, have pushed back, asking state librarian Jennie Stapp to rethink the move.

“We implore you to consider the wide‐sweeping, negative impact this decision might have on our state’s libraries,” the librarians wrote in a letter to the Montana State Library Commission and the state librarian in May. “We hope you will choose to invest in our students’ future, for they are also the future of Montana.”

But a reversal in funding is “unlikely,” says Stapp, as the money for the databases is primarily gone.

“There won’t be any additional funding this biennium,” she says. “There could be an appropriation of funding from the Montana State Legislature to libraries, which could be left to the discretion of the Montana State Library Commission.” But Stapp adds that assigning those funds to database subscriptions is not high on the state library’s priority list.

The cuts stem from a decrease in Montana’s Coal Severance Tax which is collected from coal mining revenue in the state. These numbers have fluctuated wildly in recent years, notes Stapp. The Montana State Library received $630,000 from the tax in fiscal year 2011—but that has dropped to $269,000 for Fiscal Year 2017, she says.

A task force launched an eight-month study for the Montana State Library to look at what they should prioritize—and recommendations included cutting the databases based on its use and their price. “The task force told us we were not getting a good return on investment,” says Stapp.

Databases subscriptions, which will end August 31, aren’t the only thing on the chopping block that affect library services. Other cuts include a decrease in professional development, some of the funding for the Montana State Library’s Lifelong Learning programming, which includes early literacy workshops, as well as reductions in the budget for the Montana Memory Project, a collection of digital resources on the state’s history.

Stapp says although comments around ending database funding have been “mixed,” she’s heard from librarians who believe the decision to cancel them is the right one.

“Some school librarians have told me this is such a relief,” says Stapp. “That they had pushed databases for years, and no one used them.”

But part of the Common Core Learning Standards state that K–12 students understand more complex material as they complete their education. Digital databases have played a role helping educators find a wide variety of sources to support this requirement. Further, the school librarians in Billings say that the EBSCO databases are the most used at their schools.

“Specifically, the Academic Search Elite portal is most used,” says Brittany Alberson, one of two full-time school librarians at Billings West High School, by email. “In our opinion, this is because the database is the most comprehensive starting point for research. Additionally, because we are preparing our students to be lifelong library users, we as librarians have been very keen to teach our students how to effectively use the EBSCO databases, knowing that, because of the state funding of these databases, they were the most widespread throughout all types of libraries in our state.”

Alberson was one of the eight school librarians who sent the letter in May, requesting funding be returned to the databases. But she and the others, also note that databases are still available at many district high schools from LexisNexis, CQ Research, and JSTOR at Billings West High School, Skyview High School, and Senior High School, with a few additional databases scattered among the three schools as well. The schools fund these on their own.

However, the databases slated to be cut “are the most useful at this point because of their comprehensiveness and usability,” says Alberson. “Our students are familiar with them. The eleventh and twelfth graders are reliant upon them already.”

While Stapp hopes that some additional financial resources could arrive, these would go first to restore professional development and the Montana Memory Project—not the databases. Instead, the Montana State Library, with the help of suggestions from librarians, wants to curate a selection of free, online resource pages that could be pushed out to libraries.

“We’re hoping to put together a hackathon this summer where we would bring librarians together to identify really authoritative resources that all libraries could make use of,” says Stapp. “But we haven’t done any mapping yet of what that would look like.”


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Duck on a Tractor by David Shannon | SLJ Review Mon, 27 Jun 2016 13:30:17 +0000 Shannon, David. Duck on a Tractor. illus. by David Shannon. 40p. Scholastic/Blue Sky. Sept. 2016. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780545619417. 

PreS-Gr 2 –A daring duck gets the wild idea to ride an unattended bike down on the farm in Shannon’s Duck on a Bike. At the very end of that now classic storytime title, the mischievous drake spies a tractor, thereby setting the stage for this delightful follow-up. Duck decides to drive the massive red vehicle into [...]]]> redstarShannon, David. Duck on a Tractor. illus. by David Shannon. 40p. Scholastic/Blue Sky. Sept. 2016. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780545619417. Duck on a Tractor by David Shannon

PreS-Gr 2 –A daring duck gets the wild idea to ride an unattended bike down on the farm in Shannon’s Duck on a Bike. At the very end of that now classic storytime title, the mischievous drake spies a tractor, thereby setting the stage for this delightful follow-up. Duck decides to drive the massive red vehicle into town, with his fellow barnyard pals piled comically on top. As they roll down the main road and past the local diner, the townsfolk exclaim in wonder, disbelief, and concern. Following the pattern of the first book, each character says one thing but thinks something else (“Deputy Bob blabbered, ‘If that don’t beat all!’ But what he thought was, ‘How am I gonna explain this to the sheriff?’ ”). Careful observers may notice some striking similarities between the human residents and the farm animals. The folksy dialogue and repetition make this ideal for reading aloud. It’s Shannon’s painterly and exuberant artwork, however, that steals the show. Characters’ exaggerated facial expressions and body language will keep kids giggling, while dynamic compositions and changing points of view add to the pitch-perfect comedic timing. VERDICT An energetic, laugh-out-loud tale that’s a worthy companion to Duck’s first big adventure.–Kiera Parrott, School Library Journal

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

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Trend Alert: More School Libraries Staying Open all Summer Fri, 24 Jun 2016 17:45:39 +0000 Traditionally, the end of the school year is a frenzy of closing up shop—turning in projects, figuring final grades, and gathering library materials to be inventoried and locked away until fall.

But a growing number of school districts are experimenting with the opposite: keeping school libraries open and available all summer, and even giving books away. Funding, staffing, and operation vary from district to district, as School Library Journal reported in May, but these fledgling programs share a universal goal: to keep kids reading all year long.

Increasing Access in North Carolina

The Summer Reading program in New Hanover (NC) County just kicked off with reading celebrations at each of the 11 school libraries that will host summer programs. Instead of a reminder about items to return, students at all 38 district schools received an invitation to check out books for the summer, with no overdue fines.


summer library kickoff PVES

Students in New Hanover County, NC kick off summer with a reading celebration. Photo courtesy of New Hanover County Schools.

District leaders, concerned about the “summer slide” in reading skills, have prioritized the US Department of Education’s recommendation to keep students reading when school is not in session. The idea of summer media centers originated at a library conference last year, and school leaders were able to secure enough funding to keep four sites open as an experiment. This year’s expansion builds on what they learned, and leaders hope the program will continue to grow. Jennifer LaGarde, lead school library media coordinator, explains, “We really want to keep resources available to our students who don’t have access. We have a strong relationship with the public library, but many students don’t have transportation. Our program complements what is happening at the public library.” The 11 school sites are in residential neighborhoods so that students can walk to programs.

The sites will be open on a staggered schedule, with specialized programs at each location. Students can attend any programs they find interesting, and there’s something for everyone, from traditional storytimes and career/college readiness days to robotics and coding. The sites are staffed by certified school librarians, with support from the Department of Digital Teaching and Learning as well as a technology assistant. LaGarde emphasizes, “We really want this program to be sustainable without grants. This is part of how our district invests in the literacy needs of our students. We want to ensure that this is a meaningful, robust program for kids. That requires trained people to select appropriate materials, develop, and lead programs. It’s much more than just opening the doors.”

New Hanover County educators will be carefully gathering data this year to inform next year’s planning. They will record attendance, promotional efforts, circulation, and measure participating students’ performance on fall assessment tests compared with peers. Last year’s trends suggest that kids who participate in summer reading have an easier transition back to school in the fall, and leaders hope that efforts like this will help the summer slide slip away.

Building on Success in Florida

Keeping school-based literacy programs running throughout the summer isn’t new to the schools of Palm Beach County, Florida. For the past six years, a grant from the Pew Foundation has funded book distribution programs at nearly two dozen schools. Additionally, the district has always had generous library media specialists who have volunteered to open their libraries for limited hours while the district’s 187 schools host camp or summer school programs.

But this summer, library hours won’t rely on grants or volunteers. Leaders have selected 15 schools with very low performance on reading achievement scores, and will open media centers in those locations with regular hours as a pilot program. The district has hired media specialists and teachers to deliver library services and programs weekly at each site. The programs are timed to accommodate participation from students enrolled in other campus programs, and entirely funded by the district.


The assortment of media center summer programming in Palm Beach County. Photo courtesy of School District of Palm Beach County.

At each location, the full library collection is available, and interactive activities are offered from maker space and technology programs to book clubs. They’ll be carefully tracking circulation and attendance numbers, and plan to build on success as the district strategically expands the program each year. So far, the biggest challenge has been getting the word out. As Hollyanne Ruffner, library media services specialist for the district, explains, “This is a program that needs marketing, as opposed to a class during the school year, when attendance is a given. Two of our locations leverage social media very well, and those have had the best launch. We have to build awareness that these programs are here.” To that end, the district manages a website designed to excite students about reading in any form, including use of the district’s ebook subscriptions, or through games and challenges that can be enhanced using resources available at school libraries.

So far, the program is a hit with parents and students. One school circulated 355 items in the first five-hour day. “My girls love the summer library program and look forward to each session,” exudes a parent of two middle school students who are keeping those books they get open all summer—just like the libraries.




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Helping Girls Thrive in STEM Fields and Working “Storytime Magic” | Professional Reading Fri, 24 Jun 2016 16:59:13 +0000 SLJ1606-ProfessionalLemov, Doug, Erica Woolway, & Colleen Driggs. Reading Reconsidered: A Practical Guide to Rigorous Literacy Instruction. 456p. ebook available. glossary. index. websites. Jossey-Bass. Mar. 2016. pap. $32.95. ISBN 9781119104247.

Lemov, Woolway, and Driggs believe that reading instruction needs a serious makeover. They argue that current literacy instruction delegates too much choice to students amid “benignly appealing youth fiction written after 1980” while nonfiction and older fiction texts (the stuff of college) are a mere afterthought. The authors call on educators to focus on “the core of the core”: harder texts, close reading, more nonfiction, and frequent writing in response to reading as the main approach to ameliorate declining SAT scores. Part 1 details this instructional core, while part 2 gets into the nitty-gritty of teaching strategies: vocabulary instruction, approaches to “independent” reading, text annotation, and more. Each chapter is broken into discrete modules for study and implementation, accompanied by a collection of videos from the classrooms of UnCommon School teachers. The authors clearly demonstrate a respect for teachers and students. With many references to E.D. Hirsch, readers may be concerned that a revival of the traditional canon is on the horizon. However, the authors advocate for an “internal canon” selected purposefully by teachers. While many of the strategies are supported by relevant research in the field, there is scant reference made to research on the importance of student choice in reading. VERDICT Though the context for change might be debatable, many of the instructional strategies may offer ideas for teaching.–Ernie Cox, Prairie Creek Intermediate School, Cedar Rapids, IA

MacMillan, Kathy & Christine Kirker. More Storytime Magic. illus. by Melanie Fitz. 200p. further reading. illus. index. ALA Editions. Dec. 2015. pap. $52. ISBN 9780838913680.

Another excellent resource from this author pair, this title presents songs, stories, and activities arranged by themes, such as fairy tales, animals, friends, and food. The stories and songs include originals and adaptations alike, and many of the tunes are sung to well-known traditional songs. Each chapter features patterns for making flannel board figures or craft patterns, and worksheets that may be easily found online. Many of the activities are depicted in American Sign Language. Each chapter concludes with a list of recommended titles, which are also referenced in an excellent general index and in a resource appendix. For those who wish to specify the elements of Common Core State Standards (CCSS) demonstrated in storytime, the coding found with each activity is helpful. The key to the coded symbols is referenced in an index. Another helpful appendix lists the CCSS for kindergarten. The lists of strategies for engaging children, including those with disabilities, will be especially useful to first-time storytellers. VERDICT With fun activities and timely information on the CCSS, this is an ideal choice for administrators, librarians, and parents eager to promote current literacy standards.–Jackie Gropman, formerly at Chantilly Regional Library, VA

Mosatche, Harriet S., Elizabeth Lawner, & Susan Matloff-Nieves. Breaking Through!: Helping Girls Succeed in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math. 296p. bibliog. Prufrock. Feb. 2016. pap. $16.95. ISBN 9781618215215.

While the knowledge that women are underrepresented in STEM careers is not earth-shattering, the research rounded up in this book might shock readers not already familiar with the depth of the gender gap. Delving into past and current research about girls and STEM, the authors break down societal stereotypes about innate vs. learned abilities and the lack of female interest in STEM activities, demonstrating how girls can be pushed away from typically male-heavy fields. Additional research about role models and mentoring programs elucidates ways in which adults can effectively support young women interested in these pursuits. Advocacy advice provides parents and caring adults with various methods for guiding girls toward STEM and creating receptive environments so that they aren’t shunned, overlooked, or ignored by peers or adults. Perhaps the most valuable aspect of this title is the quick-start guide for incorporating STEM into everyday life. The suggested activities and recommended discussions of scientific method and creative problem-solving appropriately coach adults to feel comfortable talking with and advising girls to become involved in STEM paths for many years to come. Parents, educators, and librarians will all find ideas to implement in this thorough resource. VERDICT A recommended purchase for most parenting, professional reading, or reference collections.–Abby Bussen, Muskego Public Library, WI

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New Kid Blues | SLJ Spotlight Fri, 24 Jun 2016 15:31:07 +0000 Moving to a new town or school is a common, and difficult, life experience for many kids. That first day in a strange classroom, learning how to make friends, and the sheer terror of figuring out who you’ll sit with in the lunchroom can all be anxiety-inducing prospects. Several new titles feature characters who experience—and overcome—the new kid blues.

Plourde, Lynn. Maxi’s Secret: (Or What You Can Learn from a Dog). 272p. Penguin/Nancy Paulsen Bks. Aug. 2016. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780399545672. MG-SP-Plourde-Maxi's Secret

Gr 4-6 –Extra short fifth grader Timminy doesn’t beat around the bush when he notifies readers upfront that the canine heroine of the story will meet a similar fate as beloved dogs like Old Yeller and Sounder. Maxi, a Great Pyrenees puppy, is the bribe Timminy’s parents dangled when they moved the family from Portland, ME, to middle of nowhere, Skenago. Timminy is terrified of starting middle school, fearing he will be the target of bullies, and having his dad as the vice principal surely can’t help matters any. Timminy’s fears are validated, as he soon faces relentless bullying and is frequently trapped in the lockers. He looks forward each day to returning home to Maxi, who the family soon discovers is deaf. Timminy’s neighbor, fellow middle schooler Abby, is blind, and the two quickly form a friendship. Timminy is amazed that Abby doesn’t let her blindness slow her down, and he eventually develops a shift in his own thinking about his shortcomings. Each chapter ends with one of Maxi’s “secrets,” such as “A new friend is like a present—you’re not sure what’s inside, but you can’t wait to find out.” The secrets are little gems, providing food for thought. Timminy’s ability to make fun of himself backfires when he and Abby have a misunderstanding, which leads to a falling-out. When Abby gets lost in the woods during a horrible snowstorm, it’s up to the small boy and his dog to find her. The characters are fully developed, and the delicate subjects of bullying and disabilities are dealt with deftly and with humor. The story would make a great read-aloud, as Plourde has created humorous and believable characters that readers will be cheering for. Knowing Maxi’s fate from the outset makes for a heartbreaking, yet satisfying, ending. VERDICT A novel that will have wide appeal to dog lovers and those looking for a feel-good tale of overcoming adversity.–Michele Shaw, Quail Run Elementary School, San Ramon, CA

Sheinmel, Courtney. Chloe on the Bright Side. 224p. (The Kindness Club). Bloomsbury. Nov. 2016. Tr $15.99. ISBN 9781681190914.MG-SP-Sheinmel-Chloe on the Bright Side

Gr 3-6 –Sheinmel (Stella Batts) introduces a new series for middle grade readers with a warm and charming first installment. Fifth grader Chloe Silver is probably the most caring person you’ll ever meet, but even Chloe finds it difficult to be kind sometimes. Chloe’s parents have recently divorced, forcing Chloe away from her best friend and into a new school. Chloe’s new circumstances have her torn between two groups of friends—“The It Girls” with sassy Monroe and “The Kindness Club” with her science partners Lucy and Theo—as well as between her two very different families. While this is ultimately a book about altruism and understanding, Sheinmel deftly recalls the difficult days of fifth grade. Chloe has many tough decisions to make and has to live with the positive and negative consequences. The dialogue is candied but avoids becoming altogether cloying. The characters are well-developed and relatable. The true strength of the tale is in Sheinmel’s presentation of tween politics and Chloe’s inner struggles. Readers will be rewarded with a satisfying read and, hopefully, a little inspiration to be considerate in their own lives. A publisher’s note reveals the new series was inspired by various kindness and antibullying projects across the United States. Libraries will benefit from having this title in their arsenal against cliques and bullies. VERDICT Ideal for elementary and middle school shelves, this is a light and easy read for tweens. Recommended as a general purchase.–Taylor Worley, Springfield Public Library, OR

Vickers, Elaine. Like Magic. illus. by Sara Not. 272p. HarperCollins. Oct. 2016. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780062414311.MG-SP-Vickers-Like Magic

Gr 4-6 –A treasure box—and a dash of whimsy—unite three 10-year-old girls, each struggling to cope with changes in her family life. Homeschooled Malia frets over the impending birth of her first sibling. Shy Grace is anxious about speaking, especially since her best friend moved away. Jada longs for her mother, who abandoned the family to pursue an acting career. Without ever meeting one another, the girls develop a rapport by taking turns borrowing an ornate box from the public library, removing a personal “treasure” left by the previous user, and adding a new memento. Keeping the box circulating among the trio is an intuitive, possibly enchanted, elderly librarian who understands that what the girls need most is friendship. Debut novelist Vickers has created three appealing, diverse characters with distinct talents and voices; librarian Hazel is an affectionate spin on fairy-tale crones. The point of view changes with each chapter, providing insights into the girls’ private aspirations and relationships with family members. Readers will be engaged by the near misses in which Malia, Grace, and Jada encounter one another but hesitate to introduce themselves, leading to an emotionally satisfying first meeting at the novel’s climax. VERDICT Just right for sensitive tweens, this is a sweet story of friendship and learning to cope with common fears and life changes.–Marybeth Kozikowski, Sachem Public Library, Holbrook, NY

These reviews were published in School Library Journal’s June 2016 issue.

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