School Library Journal The world's largest reviewer of books, multimedia, and technology for children and teens Thu, 27 Apr 2017 04:01:00 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Technology to Aid the Struggling Reader Wed, 26 Apr 2017 21:22:01 +0000 Thursday, May 18, 2017, 3PM-4PM ET / 12PM-1PM PT
Join this free, resource-rich program for tips on how to leverage technology to help new and struggling readers. Learn about the best storytelling apps, digital sources of high-interest content for kids and teens, and more.
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Event Date & Time: Thursday, May 18th, 2017, 3:00 PM – 4:00 PM ET / 12:00 PM – 1:00 PM PT

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Our popular series returns with all-new presentations on technology in the education space, from helping struggling readers to sorting fact from fiction when it comes to digital information. Led by top practitioners in the field, these one-hour free programs will offer practical insight into these hot topics in tech, with implications for schools and libraries.

Session #3: Technology to Aid the Struggling Reader

Join this free, resource-rich program for tips on how to leverage technology to help new and struggling readers. Learn about the best storytelling apps, digital sources of high-interest content for kids and teens, and more.


  • Michele Haiken – English Teacher, Rye Middle School, Rye, NY; Adjunct Professor of Literacy, Manhattanville College, Purchase, NY
  • K.C. Boyd – Lead Librarian, East St.Louis (IL) School District
  • Cynthia Merrill – Literacy Consultant


  • Kathy Ishizuka – Executive Editor, School Library Journal

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Maker Spaces, STEM, Library Management | Professional Reading Wed, 26 Apr 2017 20:00:36 +0000 1704-PR-FarmerFarmer, Lesley S.J. Managing the Successful School Library: Strategic Planning and Reflective Practice. 264p. bibliog. index. ALA Editions. Dec. 2016. pap. $60. ISBN 9780838914946.

School librarians who are balancing the demands of curriculum and teaching, collection development, and technology may not see themselves as managers or leaders, but according to Farmer, they are. The author emphasizes how, beyond vision and mission statements, librarians need to take the time to analyze what it means to manage a successful school library in order to strengthen their programs. Delving into what an ideal school library program looks like and how the library should align with school goals, she challenges readers to examine their own schools and their cultures and to consider their personal management styles. Many helpful resources are included in each chapter, along with a list of references. “Managing Resources” offers some useful tools for maintaining print and electronic materials. In “Managing Funding,” the author refers readers to websites that provide fund-raising advice, but there is no listing for library grants. That omission notwithstanding, the content is valuable. Throughout, “Food for Thought” boxes raise questions for contemplation. Each chapter ends by encouraging users to apply the tenets of school librarianship to themselves. ­VERDICT Whether readers have just begun their careers or have years of experience, they will benefit from this thorough dissection of each aspect of managing a school library. An excellent addition.–Laura Fields Eason, Parker Bennett Curry Elementary School, Bowling Green, KY

1704-PR-Flores-MakingScienceFlores, Christa. Making Science: Reimagining STEM Education in Middle School and Beyond. 194p. bibliog. photos. Constructing Modern Knowledge. Nov. 2016. pap. $24.95. ISBN 9780997554304.

A fascinating look at the intersection of science and the maker movement. Flores focuses on constructionism, or the science of learning by doing. True constructionist education is achieved through problem-based science in the learning space. Aimed at teachers and librarians seeking evidence of the benefits of the maker movement in the classroom or library, this title serves as a sampling of successfully executed projects for a wide range of ages. Case studies in electronics, robotics, recycling, and more provide excellent examples of learning in action. Open-ended questions fuel the projects, and students are asked to produce evidence of learning not through tests but through journals, portfolios, and other self-driven projects. However, the book does have drawbacks. The activities described were completed in schools, where there is already structure in place for maker-based learning. Reading the descriptions of these amazing endeavors will be inspiring but also potentially frustrating for those just starting to plan a maker space, especially since the schools mentioned are almost ­exclusively private or charter. However, the stories included are worth reading. ­VERDICT Despite some flaws, this resource has a place in the professional collection of any school or library interested in the maker movement.–Deidre Winterhalter, Oak Park Public Library, IL

1704-PR-GravesGraves, Colleen & Aaron Graves. The Big Book of Makerspace Projects. 304p. illus. index. photos. McGraw-Hill. Oct. 2016. pap. $20. ISBN 9781259644252.

Equal parts guide and inspirational tome, this volume fills a gap in the existing maker literature as a one-stop source for easily achievable, clearly described classroom projects. The authors present 51 tried and tested activities with concise instructions and clear photos. Each entry contains insightful tips for classroom use to ensure that novice and expert maker librarians alike will be able to lead students with confidence. The book effectively incorporates both projects requiring pricey materials (Sphero robots, Makey Makey kits) and those necessitating supplies that many libraries will already have on hand (balloon hovercrafts, Popsicle stick kazoos). Libraries with an existing maker space and a budget to accrue additional materials will find the equipment-intensive projects far more achievable than will libraries with limited funds. Both authors teach in high school settings, but some projects are suitable for younger makers; middle and even upper elementary school students could certainly tackle some of the more difficult projects with a supportive teacher-librarian at the helm. The Graveses also include hashtags and their social media account information to encourage project sharing and maker community building. VERDICT Librarians clamoring for a maker guidebook will appreciate this much-needed resource full of projects for almost all levels.–Amy M. Laughlin, Ferguson Library, Stamford, CT

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Celebrating Dads with Poetry: Hope Anita Smith on “My Daddy Rules the World” Wed, 26 Apr 2017 19:00:51 +0000 My Daddy Rules the World, a joyful tribute to fatherhood.]]> 1704-UpClose-Smith_MyDaddyRulestheWorldSmith dedicates My Daddy Rules the World: Poems About Dads (Holt/Christy Ottaviano Bks, May 2017), her latest stellar collection of illustrated poetry, to “every man ‘fathering’ a child and to those who stand in the gap.” The poems are a testament to the myriad roles fathers play in the daily lives of children, whether they stay at home or serve abroad in the military, and Smith honors each depiction with warmth and respect. SLJ chatted with Smith about how the work came together.

Who knew fatherhood could be so joyful! Did you sense from the outset that the tone would be celebratory?
I did. There has always been a soft spot in my heart for the way fathers interact with their children. I also felt that dads don’t get their due. I remember making wonderful gifts for my mom and writing her poems for special occasions, while my dad got a wonky ashtray (he never smoked), a finger-painted muslin tie, or a pair of socks.

I wanted to pay homage to dads. Let them know that even though we don’t always show it, we see them and we applaud them.

The poems are directed at a much younger audience than some of your previous work. What inspired that decision?
It’s true; this collection is for a much younger audience. That idea was the brainchild of my editor, Christy Ottaviano. She has always had a very quiet way of stretching me in new directions.

There is so much movement in the collection: dancing, playing catch, learning guitar, wrestling, etc. How did you narrow down what types of scenes you wanted to include?
It was very difficult to decide. I had poems about camping out in the backyard, climbing dad like a mountain, pretending to drive the car—the list goes on and on. I chose scenes that resonated with me, based on what I saw in other families and what I wished for myself.

Photo by Everard Williams Jr.

Photo by Everard Williams Jr.

Your artwork here is, as always, gorgeous. How do you convey such tenderness and love with torn paper and without any facial expressions for clues?
Thank you for the compliment. I believe our expressions of love, joy, hurt, etc., are much more visible in our body language than in the looks on our faces. I didn’t come to the table knowing this. I learned it after I knew that I was going to illustrate this book. I had been led to believe that men are tough and don’t display their feelings. I worried that the art would be stiff and lack expression. But once I started making the images, I realized that not having facial features created a space for a mirror that allowed readers to see themselves in each piece.

Mentorship and the value of sharing knowledge are strong themes throughout. Do you hope readers will come away with a renewed appreciation of their dads?
I absolutely do hope that. I think I have shone a bright light on dads even in my first two books, The Way a Door Closes and Keeping the Night Watch. C.J.’s father (because my characters speak to me) made sure that I didn’t typify him in any way. He was a good dad. He [made] a misstep, and by returning to his family, he was a better dad. He showed us how it’s done.

There are wonderful men in the world giving love and support to children. I have been blessed to have a few men who have nurtured me. I hope this collection sings their praises.

There is also a bit of truly silly fun in poems such as “Haircut” and the call-and-response poem “Daddy!”—poems meant to be read aloud. Were you inspired by your experiences with in-school workshops?
Yes, I do a lot of storytelling, and I make it a point to get the kids involved. I’m telling the story, but I let them know I’m going to need their help. They take their role seriously. They’re alert and ready to jump in and be part of the tale. And there is so much love in laughter.

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YA: Mean Girls, “Mad Miss Mimic,” and Mars | May 2017 Xpress Reviews Wed, 26 Apr 2017 18:00:12 +0000 1704-Xpress-YA-CVs

Alsaid, Adi. North of Happy. 304p. Harlequin Teen. Apr. 2017. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9780373212286. POP

Gr 8 Up –Carlos, 18, lives a sheltered, affluent life in Mexico City. His future is all set out for him by his well-intentioned father. But when his older brother Felix comes for a visit, he encourages Carlos to follow his dream of cooking instead. Suddenly, Felix is tragically killed by a stray bullet, and Carlos begins to question everything in his life. But Felix hasn’t completely left him; his ghost keeps Carlos company, pushing him to follow his heart. Carlos buys a one-way plane ticket to the United States, to eat at a famed restaurant on a tiny island near Seattle, something the brothers had dreamed of doing. There Carlos meets Emma, the chef’s daughter, and they instantly connect. His time with Emma is a respite from his solitary pain. The protagonist is given a dishwasher job at the restaurant, and he begins to learn the ins and outs of the kitchen, eventually securing early morning cooking lessons with the chef. But there’s a catch—Carlos must end his relationship with Emma. As Carlos pursues his dreams, the visits from Felix become fewer and fewer. This is a story of how tragedy can make us question the things that matter most in life. Alsaid has created a quiet, introspective novel dealing with love, loss, and the spaces in-between. Readers will appreciate the peek at a small Washington island and a fine restaurant. This title will also appeal to budding chefs and fans of the popular culinary arts movement. VERDICT Recommended for all YA collections.–Emily Valente, Brooklyn Friends School

Chima, Cinda Williams. Shadowcaster. 560p. (Shattered Realms: Bk. 2). HarperCollins/HarperTeen. Apr. 2017. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9780062380975.

Gr 8 Up –This volume continues the vast and expansive story of the Seven Realms and again jumps forward in time to a land of young warrior orphans who have resumed the war of their dead parents. In this sequel to Flamecaster, Chima brilliantly brings to life Alyssa ana’Raisa, who is the teenage heir to the Gray Wolf Throne, and young Capt. Halston Matelon of King Gerard’s army. Their fates are unfairly tangled in the grudge match between King Gerard and the witch Queen of the Fells, and their connection blossoms from the deep understanding of fighting a war that no longer makes sense. Both characters have parents who are alive, setting them apart from most of the rest of the child warriors of the Seven Realms, and have been fighting a war for just about half their lives. Both lead armies, and both have the weight of their sides’ desire to win squarely on their young, increasingly unwilling shoulders. With betrayal, love, loss, and a spectacular twist, this well-crafted series installment can be read as a stand-alone, as it focuses on a new cast of young, well-developed characters, the next generation of the Seven Realms. Familiar characters make appearances, drawing the thread through the Realms without being heavy-handed. VERDICT A solid, engaging fantasy that will resonate with new readers of Chima’s work and fans of her previous titles.–Nicole Coover-Thompson, Maine West High School, Des Plaines, IL

Dalton, Ryan. The Black Tempest. 448p. (The Time Shift Trilogy: Bk. 2). Jolly Fish. Apr. 2017. pap. $14.99. ISBN 9781631631061.

Gr 7-10 –Twins Valentine and Malcolm Gilbert return in this follow-up to The Year of Lightning. Val, Mal, and their friends are enjoying a quieter end to their freshman year as things have (mostly) returned to normal after their narrow escape from time traveler Lucius Carmichael. The peace does not last long. While the group are paying tribute to a fallen friend, two young adults appear through a portal, and with them come a new host of troubles. Tyrathorn and Ashandara, warriors from a far-off kingdom named Everwatch, are trying to stop a man known as the Black Tempest. His power, and that of his second-in-command, the Frost Hammer, is unlike any that the twins have ever faced. They train with siblings Thorn and Asha to try to overcome this new threat to their town and, possibly, the world and time itself. The plot reveals a few surprises, all of which fit the story line well. Characterizations remain strong, and even the newest characters have distinct personalities. The scientific explanations of how the twins manipulate time are adequate, and more background is given about their powers, which helps readers understand just how extraordinary their abilities are. The last chapter is an excellent cliff-hanger that will leave teens wanting more. VERDICT A must-purchase for collections where science fiction is in demand.–Kelly Jo Lasher, Middle Township High School, Cape May Court House, NJ

Darrows, Eva. Dead Little Mean Girl. 256p. Harlequin Teen. Mar. 2017. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9780373212415.

Gr 6-10 –Emma is having the hardest year of her life. Her parents divorced, her mother just came out as lesbian (not a problem, just new), and her mom’s girlfriend has the worst daughter in the world. Plus, Emma has to deal with school and friends while dodging the ploys of her evil stepsister, Quinn Littleton, who seems to cause trouble wherever she goes. Quinn is always dressed in the finest clothes and is one of the most beautiful people in school. But it turns out that Quinn isn’t as bad as she seems, and maybe Emma isn’t that innocent herself. Too bad it takes the death of her mean girl stepsister to make Emma understand the hardships Quinn was experiencing. Though this is an accessible and easy read, it will leave readers with a lot to ponder. Darrows delves into the topic of bullying and goes further, asking the question, Why is the bullying going on in the first place? This YA novel will have teens thinking about how they can stop the cycle. VERDICT This nuanced portrayal of bullying and family drama would be a great choice for any antibullying campaign, especially in school or public libraries serving teens.–Rena Gibson, Ralph Ellison Library, Oklahoma City

de la Cruz, Melissa. Alex & Eliza: A Love Story. 368p. Putnam. Apr. 2017. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781524739621. POP

Gr 7 Up –With the popularity of the musical Hamilton still going strong, de la Cruz has struck while the iron is hot and shone a light on the extraordinary wife of Founding Father Alexander Hamilton, Eliza Schuyler. The writings about Eliza are sparse, but the author puts that limited knowledge to good use and imbues her fictional version with a strong-willed and charming personality that will instantly have readers cheering for her. Though the research involved here is evident, the historical accuracy still ends up being a bit shaky. By focusing only on the initial courtship between Eliza and Alexander, de la Cruz turns Hamilton into something of a dashing white knight but never acknowledges the interest that existed between him and Eliza’s sister Angelica—in fact, Angelica acts quite coldly toward him. This depiction is only enforced during an imagined arranged engagement between Eliza and another real-life figure named Henry Livingston that results in him drunkenly trying to take advantage of her the night before the wedding. This relationship never existed, and adding an attempted assault just so that Alexander can swoop in and save the day feels not only clichéd but irresponsible. The seeds of potential are peppered throughout the story, but they unfortunately become too overshadowed by unnecessary characterizations. VERDICT Fans of the musical will be excited to see this novel, even though it plays fast and loose with the facts. Purchase only where Hamilton frenzy is still strong.–Kate DiGirolomo, Library Journal

Deoul, Stefani. On a LARP. 164p. Bywater. Apr. 2017. pap. $11.95. ISBN 9781612940953.

Gr 7 Up –On a class trip to a police station, Sidonie Rubin offers key insight into a murder case when she notices the victim in a crime scene photo looks like she was participating in a live action role-playing game, or LARP. When Det. Emma Macdonald asks for assistance, Sid can’t resist and recruits her eclectic group of friends to help. While keeping up with school activities, the teens use their tech skills to search the victim’s computer. They work to figure out the LARP connection and come up with plans to infiltrate the next LARP to find the killer. Taking place in New York City, the novel kicks off with Sid seemingly plummeting to her death, but it takes the time to catch readers up on how she got to that point. While the protagonist questions the group’s involvement with the murder investigation, her faith in her own brilliance guarantees that she won’t stop solving mysteries and that more adventures are on the way. The book is full of tech and nerd talk, but Sid and friends translate for those in need of an explanation. Sprinkled throughout are also contemporary YA novel concerns, such as Sid’s crushes on various girls. Teens may be baffled by 1980s references in a work of modern-day realistic fiction, but these instances won’t distract them from the overall plot. Deoul has put together a fast-paced narrative that doesn’t slow down until the story wraps up and the opening scene is finally explained. VERDICT An exciting mystery adventure for reluctant readers and a great selection for teens who enjoy contemporary fiction.–Rebecca Greer, Hillsborough County Public Library Cooperative, FL

Destefano, Merrie. Lost Girls. 360p. Entangled Teen. Jan. 2017. pap. $9.99. ISBN 9781633756052.

Gr 8 Up –Rachel fell asleep while listening to Taylor Swift’s latest album, and today she woke up in a narrow ditch at the side of a road. Shivering and half buried in a pile of wet leaves, Rachel has no recollection of what happened before she crawled out of the ditch, missing a full year of her life. To reconcile her past and present, Rachel finds the will to improve her condition. Her declarative memories are slowly coming back, and she is determined to solve the mystery of her past. Although Rachel is a fighter, it is unclear how she traces such a complicated journey almost on her own as a teenager with amnesia. As a whole, the book has a coherent structure, uncovering Rachel’s remembrances of her past. Much of the narrative features Rachel’s relationships with her friends, in particular her boyfriend Dylan. Also, her investigation takes her to an underground fight club where “the only rule is there are no rules.” Interspersed throughout her memories are brief reflections on Rachel’s relationship with her family, especially her father and her brother. Less notable is her mother, who is almost entirely absent through the whole story. This mystery represents less explored aspects of teenage life and includes many captivating scenes. VERDICT A good choice for suspenseful YA shelves.–Taraneh Matloob Haghanikar, University of Northern Iowa

Halahmy, Miriam. Behind Closed Doors. 208p. Holiday House. Apr. 2017. Tr $16.95. ISBN 9780823436415.

Gr 8 Up –This work explores the complicated relationships between two teen girls and their families. Fifteen-year-old Josie Tate struggles to juggle school, a job, and her mother’s growing hoarding tendencies. Josie uses the money from her job to pay for food and clothing because her mother’s illness has left her unemployed. Things seem to get better for Josie when she meets Jordan, an Olympic hopeful. However, Jordan’s rich family makes her even more aware of the strangeness of her living situation. By contrast, Tasha Brown is a teen whose popular facade hides her growing fear of her mother’s boyfriend. She avoids interactions with him by partying with her best friend, Dom, and managing several overnight stays with friends. The two protagonists are brought together unexpectedly when Josie’s mother is thrown into jail for tax evasion and Tasha runs out of places to stay. Josie realizes she will need help to figure out how to save her mother. Tasha has to decide if she will give her mother another chance. The young women must learn to work together to fix the problems the adults in their lives have created. Child abuse, social services, mental illness, and homelessness are thoroughly examined in the process. Josie and Tasha start out as frenemies and then become friends, and the roles they play shift over the course of the narrative, which helps with the pacing of the story. VERDICT A strong choice for realistic fiction shelves.–Desiree Thomas, Worthington Library, OH

Henstra, Sarah. Mad Miss Mimic. 272p. Penguin/Razorbill. Jan. 2017. pap. $9.99. ISBN 9780143192374.

Gr 9 Up –In 1872 England, beautiful and wealthy 17-year-old Leonora Somerville is dutifully seeking a suitable husband under her older sister’s critical eye. Leonora’s speech is flawed by a stutter and sudden, startling, fluent outbursts of another’s voice. Her peculiar disorder frightens others but intrigues handsome Francis Thornfax, the business partner of Leonora’s brother-in-law, Dr. Dewhurst. Despite Leonora’s attraction to Thornfax, she has questions about his secretive opium import business, the experimental “charity” treatments given to the poor by Dr. Dewhurst, and the fatal explosions in London credited to the pro-opium terrorist Black Glove. Gradually, Leonora learns the truth from enigmatic Tom Rampling, an apprentice to Dr. Dewhurst, who has feelings for her. Leonora’s often self-imposed silence makes her an astute observer and narrator. Her strange mimicry outbursts erupt when she is stressed and metaphorically can’t find her own voice. However, late in the narrative, her mimicry disorder vanishes with surprisingly little acknowledgement or resolution. Though the romantic elements are predictable, readers will appreciate the spunky heroine, the Dickensian cast of characters, the interesting historic references to 19th-century opium use, and the action-filled plot. VERDICT Romance fans will enjoy Leonora’s high-society lifestyle, her conflicted attraction to rich Thornfax and poor Tom, and her willingness to take risks to uncover the truth. A fine additional purchase for romantic historical fiction shelves in medium to large collections.–Gerry Larson, formerly at Durham School of the Arts, NC

Maberry, Jonathan. Mars One. 448p. S. & S. Apr. 2017. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781481461610. POP

Gr 8 Up –The year is 2026, and the world is preparing for its first manned mission to Mars. Forty individuals have been chosen to be the first Martians, and genius 16-year-old Tristan Hart is one of them, along with his brilliant parents, despite having to leave his high school sweetheart, Izzy, behind forever. Everyone’s eyes are upon Tristan and the others participating in Mars One, but there are those who don’t want them to go, including a radical religious terrorist group called the Neo-Luddites, who will attempt anything to sabotage the mission. On the flight to the Red Planet, the protagonist must deal with his feelings for Izzy, the weight of advancing humankind by becoming one of the first people to set foot on Mars, and the suspicion that someone on board is the enemy, trying to send them all to their death. Maberry’s latest takes a while to get going (the Mars One crews lift off halfway through the hefty volume), but once it does, it cranks through a series of misfortunes on board that dial up the tension. Tristan is a believable narrator, and readers feel his distress and excitement. A diverse group of characters add to the overall feeling of unity that shines through the story. VERDICT A popular choice for sci-fi shelves, this is a thrilling albeit slow-starting adventure that will satisfy teens—if they can get through the first half before they make it to space.–Tyler Hixson, School Library Journal

Pierce, Nicola. Kings of the Boyne: 1690; The Battle Draws Ever Closer. 336p. Dufour. Mar. 2017. pap. $13. ISBN 9781847176271.

Gr 10 Up –In 1690, the deposed James II gathered a Catholic army to battle for control of Ireland against the newly instated king of England, William of Orange, a Dutch Protestant. This fictionalized historical account of the Battle of the Boyne plays with perspective to give readers a more than complete understanding of the Jacobite and Williamite forces clashing in Ireland, where, propelled by religious fervor and the dream of a free Ireland, the Irish joined both sides of the war. Readers with knowledge of British and Irish history will immediately recognize a well-researched novel. The third-person narrator shifts focus primarily (although not exclusively) among Gerald O’Connor, a young Irish Catholic soldier fighting for James II; James himself; King William; and Daniel Sherrard, a young Irish Protestant soldier fighting in William’s forces. Owing to the many voices, it will become difficult for teens to feel emotionally attached to the characters, despite their careful development. This slowly plotted book dwells more on the attitudes, motivations, and aspirations of individuals rather than on the action of battle, which doesn’t begin until well over halfway through the work. Most likely only advanced readers and history buffs will be patient enough to make it to the gruesome scenes of war, where both muskets and scythes are employed. By the end, readers, like the characters, will realize with sadness that “war is stupid.” VERDICT Purchase for British and Irish history buffs only.–Mariah Manley, Salt Lake City Public Library

Skrutskie, Emily. The Edge of the Abyss. 296p. Flux. Apr. 2017. pap. $11.99. ISBN 9781635830002.

Gr 8 Up –Cassandra Leung has become an official member of Santa Selena’s crew. She abandoned her sea monster (a Reckoner), lost her family, and was deceived by Swift, the one person she trusted. Now she must find her place in this world of pirates. Cas learns that there are many Reckoners that were stolen and are now demolishing the ecosystem of the ocean, and all the pirates look to her for a solution. They must destroy the illegal Reckoners to save the sea. To do so, Cas must learn to rely on all those she has lost throughout this journey. She must accept that she will have to kill those she was raised to protect. And she must decide whose side she is on once and for all. Skrutskie’s sequel to The Abyss Surrounds Us is just as engaging as its predecessor. It introduces pirates as a group who work together to protect their life force, the ocean, after being turned away from society. Just like Cas, the audience will struggle as they wonder whom they should support. Readers will love this sci-fi adventure story. VERDICT Purchase where the first novel and sci-fi are popular.–Jessica Strefling, US Court of Appeals, Federal Circuit Library

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Middle Grade: An Immigrant’s Story, Lucha Libre, and More | May 2017 Xpress Reviews Wed, 26 Apr 2017 18:00:01 +0000 1704-Xpress-MG1-CVs

Carey, Elizabeth Doyle. The Test. 254p. (Junior Lifeguards: Bk. 1). Dunemere. Apr. 2017. pap. $8.99. ISBN 9780998499741.

Gr 5-7 –Jenna is getting tired of no longer being the best middle school swimmer on her Cape Cod team. Some newer girls have moved in and stolen her glory, so when she sees the fliers for the Junior Lifeguard program, she gets excited. Jenna manages to convince her friends to join her in the tryouts, and her coach agrees to let her take a break from the team for the summer in order to try out for the program and go through the training. Jenna and her friends have to conquer multiple tests, and their relationships become strained in the process. Secondary characters Piper, Selena, and Ziggy all come with their own family histories and backstories. Some of these are rather clunkily inserted, such as Ziggy’s parents’ opposition to capitalism. Still, this novel is brimming with wholesome tween drama and boy crushes. It brings to mind the cheery it-all-ends-well tone of books from another era, but it also perpetuates stereotypes of middle school girls being obsessed with the cute boys surrounding them. Some scenes attempt to add more emotional heft but fall flat in the face of overwhelming fluffiness. VERDICT An additional purchase for elementary and middle school libraries, a solid option for devoted tween swimmers, and a good choice for libraries in Cape Cod.–Kate Olson, Bangor School District, WI

Freeman, Ruth. One Good Thing About America. illus. by Katherine Honesta. 160p. glossary. websites. Holiday House. Mar. 2017. Tr $16.95. ISBN 9780823436958.

Gr 4-6 –Spanning a school year, this touching novel in epistolary format relates the triumphs and travails of a young Congolese refugee, Anaïs, and her family. Settled in Maine, the plucky nine-year-old diligently writes letters home to Oma (her grandmother), who has requested updates in English only. Hoping to help the child acclimate to life in a foreign country, Oma asks Anaïs to include in every missive at least “one good thing about America.” Realistically portraying the writing of an English language learner, the text is peppered with grammatical errors and misspellings. As the narrative progresses, readers see marked improvement in the tween’s writing. Anaïs’s voice feels true as she shares her experiences, which include befriending other immigrant children in her class, participating in traditional American activities such as trick-or-treating and Christmas decorating, and contending with a health emergency that tests her maturity and resolve. However, the letters often simplistically refer to political unrest—Anaïs’s older brother and father are hiding from the government as they try to make their way to a refugee camp in Kenya—and young readers may struggle to fully comprehend the gravity of the situation. Freeman’s characterization of African and Middle Eastern immigrants is well done, and she deftly dispels stereotypes about these cultures. When an American classmate asks Anaïs why she doesn’t wear a hijab like another Somali classmate, the protagonist responds, “Really?… You think Africa is one small place?” Helpful back matter includes links to informational websites, an author’s note, an ELL vocabulary list, and a French glossary. VERDICT Highly recommended for libraries seeking timely stories about the immigrant experience.–Lalitha Nataraj, Escondido Public Library, CA

Garza, Xavier. Maximilian and the Lucha Libre Club/Maximiliano y el club de lucha libre. illus. by Xavier Garza. 208p. (Max’s Lucha Libre Adventures: Bk. 3). Cinco Puntos. Nov. 2016. Tr $19.95. ISBN 9781941026403; pap. $12.95. ISBN 9781941026410. BL

Gr 3-7 –Maximilian is back in this third book in the series. Wrestling with keeping his lucha libre life and his feelings for Cecilia, the girl of his dreams, a secret, Max doesn’t think his life can get any more complicated. When Paloma, the only friend who knows that Max’s uncle is the great Guardian Angel—the greatest luchador of all time—moves away, Max doesn’t know whom he will be able to talk to about lucha libre. He receives a ticket and backstage passes to attend the Big Brawl in Los Angeles and travels with his uncles and Vampiro Velasquez. He is quickly inducted into the Lucha Libre Club—a group for kids who are related to luchadores—which Paloma is a part of. With the help of Vampiro Velasquez, who provides valuable life lessons as well as instruction on wrestling techniques, the protagonist discovers what makes the Guardian Angel more than just a man in a mask. Written in English and Spanish, this story is filled with excitement and addresses the problems and everyday worries of kids like Max. Illustrations accompany each chapter, and all readers, including reluctant ones, will find something to interest them; the addition of the female luchadoras and their young relatives is a nice touch. Readers of all ages will discover wisdom within the story, especially in the character of Vampiro Velasquez, who reminds us that time passes for everyone. VERDICT Highly recommended, particularly for bilingual collections and where the author’s books are popular.–Selenia Paz, Helen Hall Library, League City, TX

Khan, Joshua. Dream Magic. illus. by Ben Hibon. 352p. (Shadow Magic: Bk. 2). Disney-Hyperion. Apr. 2017. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781484737620.

Gr 4-7 –The kingdom of Gehenna is in an uproar, and the people are blaming their queen, 13-year-old Lilith Shadow. She used magic, which is forbidden to women and girls, and now the zombies are leaving their graves, a troll army is on the way, and citizens are disappearing from their houses. All the major players are present in this welcome return visit to Castle Gloom, especially Lily’s brave and resourceful friend Thorn. The two must find out the real reason for the chaos before it is too late. Unfortunately, one of their major allies, kingdom executioner (and Thorn’s mentor) Tybalt, is missing and presumed dead. Unsure whether an ancient curse or something even more sinister is at play, Thorn sets out to defend Lily and her kingdom on the back of his giant bat, Hades. Appearing as a ghost and in dreams to both Lily and Thorn, Lily’s father, Lord Shadow, provides critical guidance: “Imagination is the fuel of magic. Magic is an art like music or dancing. Sometimes the best way to learn is just by doing it.” The real villains are identified, and a battle of wits, will, and daring rescues ensues, with not only lives at stake but also the future of all the kingdoms. This book stands well on its own, but familiarity with the first installment, Shadow Magic, will enhance enjoyment. Although Thorn and Lily are young people enmeshed in a very adult struggle, their voices and emotions ring true and are age appropriate. Occasional black-and-white illustrations enhance the text. VERDICT With loads of adventure, an intriguing mystery, and socially relevant touch points, this third entry is likely to circulate well where there are fans of the previous two installments.–Sara-Jo Lupo Sites, George F. Johnson Memorial Library, Endicott, NY

Krawitz, Susan. Viva, Rose! 220p. Holiday House. Apr. 2017. Tr $16.95. ISBN 9780823437566.

Gr 4-6 –Rose and her family are Russian Jewish immigrants living in El Paso, TX, in the early 1900s. Rose discovers that one of her older brothers, Abraham, has lied to their parents concerning his whereabouts and has joined Pancho Villa’s army. While trying to have a letter delivered to Abe telling him to give up his outlaw ways and come home, Rose is kidnapped by some of Villa’s soldiers and taken to their camp. There she becomes the playmate/servant of a young and very spoiled girl named Dorotea. Rose finds her brother and tries to convince him to leave with her. The book is filled with danger and suspense. It also contains a lot of history about Pancho Villa and how he fought for the poor of Mexico. The characters of Rose and Dorotea are the most well developed; Rose is quite mature for a 13-year-old. Her first-person narrative is delivered in a straightforward voice with very little emotion, which often doesn’t do justice to the harrowing events in the story. VERDICT A fine supplementary purchase. Hand to fans of historical fiction.–Nancy P. Reeder, Heathwood Hall Episcopal School, Columbia, SC

O’Donnell, Liam. The Case of the Missing Mage. illus. by Mike Deas. 208p. (Tank & Fizz: Bk. 3). Orca. Apr. 2017. pap. $9.95. ISBN 9781459812581.

Gr 3-6 –An action-packed detective story set in a land of monsters and magic. Tank and Fizz, monster detectives, are called upon to help their friend Aleetha, a wizard in training, discover the reason for the disappearance of mages from various disciplines. The villains make use of a cloaking spell, so the sleuths are the only two who can actually witness the kidnappings. Combining magic and technology, the trio sneak into the Shadow Tower to get to the bottom of the mystery. Two-tone illustrated panels interspersed between chapters add extra detail to what is already an action-oriented tale. While a quick pace moves the narrative along, characters are a bit flat and world-building is nonexistent. The plot is interesting but ultimately not compelling. Reluctant readers may be drawn to the illustrations as well as to the antics of the heroes, but those looking for richer detail will be unsatisfied. Give to fans of Ursula Vernon’s “Dragonbreath” series or Jennifer Holm’s “Squish” series. VERDICT Recommended for libraries where the other books in this series are popular; an additional purchase elsewhere.–Jenni Frencham, Columbus Public Library, WI

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A Huge Milestone for “The Outsiders” | Pictures of the Week Wed, 26 Apr 2017 17:54:03 +0000 Excited guests gathered at the Good Story in the Arlo Hotel in New York City on April 25 to celebrate S.E. Hinton and the 50th anniversary of the publication of her novel The Outsiders. The landmark young adult novel, which Hinton penned while still a high school student, introduced Ponyboy Curtis and other beloved characters to the world in 1967. The book’s popularity among teens has never flagged.


First edition cover of The Outsiders, circa 1967.

First edition cover of The Outsiders, circa 1967.


S. E. Hinton, author of The Outsiders

S. E. Hinton, author of The Outsiders, addresses the crowd



Rocco Staino and S.E. Hinton celebrating the 50th anniversary of the publication of S.E. Hinton's The Outsiders

SLJ Contributor Rocco Staino and Hinton celebrate the 50th anniversary of the publication of The Outsiders



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New Kid-Lit Landmarks To Be Named During Children’s Book Week Wed, 26 Apr 2017 17:06:26 +0000 United for Libraries (a division of the American Library Association), Centers for the Book, and a library in maple sugar country are celebrating Children’s Book Week (May 1–7, 2017) with dedications of three Literary Landmarks that recognize a variety of beloved children’s literature.

virginia sorensenMiracles_on_Maple_Hill_1956_cover

On Monday, May 1 in Pennsylvania, the Edinboro Branch of the Erie Public Library will recognize the author Virginia Sorensen. The plaque will be a tribute to the sugar houses of rural northwest Pennsylvania, which were the inspiration for Sorensen’s 1956 Miracles on Maple Hill (Harcourt, 1956). That title, the story of a family who move to maple sugar country to help the father, a POW, overcome the trauma of war, was awarded the 1957 Newbery Medal.

In addition, the event will also recognize the library’s bookmobile on which Sorensen drew inspiration for her novel Curious Missie (Harcourt, 1953).

mark twain

330px-Mark_Twain,_Brady-Handy_photo_portrait,_Feb_7,_1871,_croppedThe site where Mark Twain created the iconic characters in his idylls of the Mississippi River will be recognized on Wednesday, May 3. Quarry Farm in Elmira, NY, now part of Elmira College, was the home of Twain’s sister-in-law, Susan Crane. It still retains the octagonal study where Twain wrote, located about 100 yards from the main house. The characters Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn were more than personifications of American childhood. They “demonstrated that being young was not the same as being immature,” said Dr. Joseph Lemak, director of the Center for Mark Twain Studies. “Seeing an unjust world through a child’s eyes might inspire us to make it better.” The landmark is sponsored by the Empire State Center for the Book, and it’s the 22nd landmark for the state of New York.

Barbara Park

Barbara ParkThe Arizona Center for the Book will be dedicating the first literary landmark for Arizona on Friday, May 5 at the Cherokee Elementary School in Paradise Valley. The landmark will recognize author and famed resident of Paradise Valley Barbara Park, who died in 2013. The author of the popular “Junie B. Jones” series was inspired to write Junie B. Jones and the Stupid Smelly Bus when she noticed a young Cherokee student walking home after he missed the school bus.

The Literary Landmark program is administered by United for Libraries. The Literary Landmarks for Children’s Book Week was spearheaded by the American Library Association/Children’s Book Council joint committee. “The ALA/CBC committee jointly works on many projects to highlight children’s books. Dedicating Literary Landmarks during Children’s Book Week is an excellent example of this partnership,” says Susan Polos, cochair of the committee. “Perhaps in 2018 we can have seven dedications, one for each day of Children’s Book Week.”

Children’s Book Week events expanded in 2017, which is its 98th year. The new additions include reformatted book awards and original materials, including artwork.

RELATED: SLJ‘s Fuse #8 Production blogger, Betsy Bird, rounded up a collection of public children’s literature statues around the country.


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Picture Books: Fatherhood, Fears, and More | May 2017 Xpress Reviews Wed, 26 Apr 2017 17:00:14 +0000 1704-Xpress-PB-CVs

Agaoglu, Basak. The Almost Impossible Thing. illus. by Basak Agaoglu. 32p. Philomel. Apr. 2017. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780399548277.

PreS-Gr 2 –This title is about a completely impossible creature: a rabbit with exceptionally long ears who takes flight after a series of failed attempts. He’s finally launched, propelled by his ears and the help of 21 other rabbits, all engaged in an uncomfortable-looking exercise of ear twirling. A case could be made that stranger things have happened in children’s books. Horton did hatch an egg, after all, and Charlotte spun lifesaving phrases into her web. However, those stories have settings, but this one does not. Agaoglu’s loose, fluid lines are not without charm, but they are largely lacking context. At times, viewers explore a landscape of mountains or float on an inner tube; at others, they are indoors with a chalkboard or in a ball pit. Cast adrift in a vague landscape populated by animals as varied as a zebra, fox, polar bear, and turtle, readers are left unmoored. VERDICT The lessons of persistence and cooperation are all very well, but many other stories have tackled them more successfully. For a look at cooperation, try classic folktales such as “The Turnip” or “Why the Sky Is Far Away”; for texts that tackle determination, use Crockett Johnson’s The Carrot Seed instead.–Miriam Lang Budin, Chappaqua Library, NY

Bachelet, Gilles. Mrs. White Rabbit. illus. by Gilles Bachelet. 32p. Eerdmans. Feb. 2017. Tr $17. ISBN 9780802854834.

Gr 1-4 –It seems wholly appropriate that a picture book based on a character from the odd world of Lewis Carroll’s Alice would be mighty curious itself. Written in the form of a diary by the wife of the White Rabbit, who is always late—as it turns out, for some pretty sordid reasons—the story relays the trials and tribulations of Mrs. Rabbit’s days. In very adult and sophisticated language, she tells of her utter unhappiness with her life in a household that includes a teenage daughter who appears to border on anorexic in her efforts to become a bunny model, twin boys who play marbles with their own scat, and a young lad who is precociously interested in girls. The jokes are largely adult: for example, the White Rabbit is a drunkard who needs to be fetched from the palace in a wheelbarrow. The illustrations are fantastic, with incredible detail, but much of the humor will be appreciated only by those who know the Alice stories. Readers who haven’t been previously exposed to the tales will likely be confused and put off by the dolorous tone of the text. VERDICT Bachelet is undoubtedly an incredibly talented and funny illustrator, but the palpable anger of Mrs. White Rabbit and the many specific references to Alice’s world may bewilder young readers. Older readers familiar with Wonderland will likely find the book most amusing and enjoy the intricate, colorful illustrations.–B. Allison Gray, Goleta Public Library, CA

Bright, Paul. The Hole Story. illus. by Bruce Ingman. 32p. Andersen. Apr. 2017. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781512439502.

K-Gr 2 –In this original British tale, Hamish and Hermione are two holes who leave their abode in a wedge of Swiss cheese and seek a new home “where holes can be useful” and bring joy. After attempting to take up residence in the king’s sock and the queen’s knickers, the holes create decided unhappiness and chaos in the royal palace. As Hamish and Hermione move into new homes, their colors change to suit each situation, encouraging readers to spot their hiding places and figure out the inevitable impact they will have on the secondary characters. The warmly hued illustrations contain subtle details, such as the dish running away with the spoon in the opening pages, reinforcing motifs and inviting discussion. Appropriately, the holes’ adventures are conveyed through a series of circular vignettes, underscoring the idea that all things have a purpose in life. It is with relief that Hamish and Hermione, through the efforts of the royal carpenter, find a home in freshly carved flutes for the prince and princess. However, the king and queen are not too thrilled at hearing their children practice until the wee hours of the morning, so the holes are still somewhat of a nuisance. VERDICT While lengthier than the average picture book, this quirky read-aloud asks questions about what it is that makes one special, and the clever solution is delivered in a humorous and delightful way.–Rachel Zuffa, Racine Public Library, WI

Crossley, Kimball. When I Am with Dad. illus. by Katie Gamb. 32p. Two Little Birds. Aug. 2016. Tr $17.95. ISBN 9780991293575.

PreS-Gr 2 –Elizabeth likes everything neat, tidy, and organized, but things with her dad aren’t always so well planned. In spare words and revealing acrylic illustrations, this slender picture book examines realistic issues facing many children while emphasizing the importance of loving the whole person, regardless of differences. Two young girls spend the day with their dad, and because Crossley doesn’t reveal their background, the book will be applicable to children in single-family or two-home situations. Problems arise, however, such as when the girls’ dad doesn’t know how to do their hair or has to take them into the “wrong bathroom.” A heartfelt illustration shows Elizabeth’s consternation at not going into the clearly labeled women’s restroom, for she is old enough to recognize this distinction. But she is still young enough that her dad needs to protect her and her sister, as shown by her kid sister scrambling up the grocery store’s shelves in the background while her dad’s back is turned. With a subdued palette and expressive lines, Gamb’s art is the perfect accompaniment to Crossley’s words. VERDICT This is a welcome addition to picture book collections about families and fathers, especially because there are too few titles of quality about realistic issues.–Rachel Zuffa, Racine Public Library, WI

Enova, Dušan. Eco, el hada de la naturaleza. illus. by Maja Lubi. 32p. Picarona. Nov. 2016. Tr $17.95. ISBN 9788416648689.

K-Gr 3 –Translated into Spanish from Slovenian, this allegorical tale follows the crusade of Eco the water/nature fairy, Daimoon the dragon, and a human boy named Bell as they join forces to battle the evil lake creature, Wardoo. When Wardoo falls in love with Eco, he strives to be worthy of her—until he notices that Bell has monopolized her attention. In a jealous rage, he undermines the dikes protecting Bell’s village. Daimoon flies to the rescue and buries Wardoo forever under a landslide of boulders. Enova’s needlessly ponderous and overly ambitious fairy tale introduces a hodgepodge of narrative threads that have nothing to do with the story’s principal message: to love and protect nature and all its gifts. The assertion that people must be taught to respect their environment comes across as ineffectual and redundant because Bell and his people were already living in harmony prior to Eco’s extraterrestrial appearance. The concept that hate and jealousy destroy from within and without is connected only loosely to the message of environmental responsibility. The murky resolution is made tolerable by Lubi’s pastel illustrations, which complement Enova’s simplistic tale. The wide-eyed, cherubic characters are evocative of Precious Moments figurines. VERDICT Although convoluted and didactic, this effort could be used as a springboard to teach young readers respect for the environment. An additional purchase.–Mary Margaret Mercado, Pima County Public Library, Tucson, AZ

Fuller, T. Nat. A Good Day for a Hat. illus. by Rob Hodgson. 32p. Abrams Appleseed. Mar. 2017. Tr $15.95. ISBN 9781419723001.

PreS-K –Mr. Brown knows that today is a good day for a hat. And he would know, because he has one for every occasion—a wide-brimmed hat for rain, a cozy earflap hat for snow, even a chef’s hat for the big Bear County Cook-off! But today, a mischievous rabbit is creating chaos with its magic wand. Each time Mr. Brown opens his front door, something has changed, causing the bear to go back inside to change his hat. Finally, Mr. Brown must leave his house or be late to meet mousy Miss Plum. So he stacks several hats on his head and arrives at Miss Plum’s just in time for a surprise birthday party for him! Luckily, his friend has just the right hat for that! This bright and cheerful hat-filled book (don’t miss the whimsical endpapers) is similar in tone and structure to Brian Won’s Hooray for Hat! and Jory John’s Goodnight, Already! The illustrations, created digitally with pencil, crayon, and ink, use a presentational perspective; kids will feel as though they are looking at a theater pantomime through a proscenium. Flat, geometric shapes create backgrounds, and loose-limbed characters stare directly at viewers. VERDICT Although the book fails to pull readers in emotionally and there’s no explanation for the pesky rabbit, the repetitive structure, plot-driven narrative, and large, easy-to-read font make this a fun storytime title for toddlers or preschoolers.–Amy Seto Forrester, Denver Public Library

Gravett, Emily. ¡El lobo no nos morderá! illus. by Emily Gravett. 32p. Picarona. Feb. 2017. Tr $12.95. ISBN 9788416648245.

PreS-K –In this Spanish-language translation of Gravett’s Wolf Won’t Bite, three confident circus pigs capture a wolf in the wild using a large net and invite all to come to the show. They make the wolf stand on a stool, wear a gigantic bow, jump through hoops, and much more, all while promising that the wolf won’t bite! The wolf’s confused expressions will keep young readers fairly certain that the pigs are right—he will not bite—but after shooting the wolf from a cannon and sawing him in half, the pigs make the mistake of placing their heads in the wolf’s mouth. Suddenly the wolf is no longer confused, and young readers will quickly notice the smile forming on his face. The fun illustrations on white backgrounds and the large text wonderfully portray the circus atmosphere, and the ending will leave children wanting to read the story again. VERDICT Recommended for all Spanish picture book collections.–Selenia Paz, Helen Hall Library, League City, TX

Hula, Saskia. Gilbert y sus horripilantes criaturas. illus. by Eva Muszynski. 32p. Picarona. Nov. 2016. Tr $17.95. ISBN 9788416648726.

K-Gr 2 –This catalogue of creepy creatures centers on Gilbert and his insensitive mother. All of these beasties are hidden in every nook and cranny of his formidable home. Deciding that Gilbert is old enough to be left alone, his mother callously departs for the pharmacy. Before he can protest, the door slams shut. Gilbert can practically hear the distant gnashing of teeth. What’s worse, he has to go to the bathroom. How is he to safely navigate through the perilous corridors? He must make allies. The rhinoceros is the perfect choice, but where is he? Down the list Gilbert goes, but none of the animals can be found. At last, he makes it to the bathroom, bare-bottomed and directly under a wild, dangling poisonous spider! After a hair-raising moment, Gilbert realizes that he has finally found an ally—at least until Mom gets home. Hula’s spot-on tale about overcoming fears—real or imaginary—and forging ahead to personal triumph is smartly accompanied by Muszynski’s predominantly dusky purple watercolors. The ominous shadows teem with skulking terrors, and Gilbert’s expressive eyebrows convey his every emotion. However, the small font size makes it difficult to enjoy this otherwise excellent story. VERDICT A smart, humorous, and gently encouraging tale for timid souls everywhere.–Mary Margaret Mercado, Pima County Public Library, Tucson, AZ

Jacobs, Kim, retel. Princess Sophie and the Six Swans: A Tale from the Brothers Grimm. illus. by Kim Jacobs. 40p. Wisdom Tales. Apr. 2017. Tr $16.95. ISBN 9781937786670.

Gr 1-3 –The story of the six brothers transformed into swans by a jealous and wicked stepmother is one of the best loved Grimm tales, although, as the author says in her note, it was around long before the Grimms included it in their collection. The feisty and determined sister, now named Sophie, is a fully fleshed-out character whose commitment to saving her brothers, even at great pain and eventually danger to her own life, will inspire admiration. The painterly illustrations are lovely and capture a real sense of “once upon a time, long ago and far away.” The colors are soft and have an ethereal quality. VERDICT A solid addition to most folklore collections. Suitable as a read-aloud or for independent reading across elementary levels.–Grace Oliff, Ann Blanche Smith School, Hillsdale, NJ

Kelly, John. Can I Join Your Club? illus. by Steph Laberis. 32p. Kane Miller. Jan. 2017. Tr $12.99. ISBN 9781610675932.

K-Gr 2 –Hoping to make some new friends, Duck eagerly visits Lion, Snake, and Elephant, inquiring about joining each animal’s club. Despite his best efforts—including donning accessories to look more like each animal and making enthusiastic attempts to replicate their special sounds—Duck is simply unable to make the cut. He cannot roar like Lion, hiss like Snake, or trumpet like Elephant. Time and again, poor Duck’s applications are “DENIED,” and he is told that he’s just not what the club is looking for. Rather than admit defeat, plucky Duck decides to start his own club in which everyone is welcome. Soon the all-inclusive group is the most popular, and everyone learns that “you can never have too many friends.” Dynamic illustrations add humor to the story, and the animals’ exaggerated movements and expressions are sure to elicit giggles. VERDICT The onomatopoeia included in the animal sounds also makes this an entertaining choice for reading aloud. With a lighthearted but important message of tolerance and friendship, this is a solid addition to any library. Join the club!–Whitney LeBlanc, KIPP New Orleans Schools, LA

KipLing, Rudyard. The Jungle Book: Mowgli’s Adventures. retold by Joe Rhatigan & Charles Nurnberg. illus. by Debra Bandelin & Bob Dacey. 28p. Quarto/MoonDance. Dec. 2016. Tr $17.95. ISBN 9781633221130.

Gr 1-4 –When classic books are abridged and truncated (in this case called “a modern retelling”), the question always arises as to whether the heart of the story remains intact or whether it has been lost in oversimplification. Will the abridgement whet children’s appetites so that they will approach the original version when older, or will they possibly believe they’ve already read it and pass it by? Rhatigan and Nurnberg have managed to make the story accessible to younger readers while preserving the main plot and characters. The narrative moves along quickly and maintains the drama of the original tale of little Mowgli, who is adopted by a wolf pack, befriended by Baloo and Bagheera, and threatened by Shere Khan, the vicious tiger. The illustrations are bright and flow across the spreads. An alert child may spot characters from other Kipling tales. VERDICT Buy where there is interest in other Kipling classics and their movie versions.–Grace Oliff, Ann Blanche Smith School, Hillsdale, NJ

Laguarda, Elena, María Fernanda Laguarda, & Regina Novelo Quintana. Ati y su caja de besos. illus. by Alejandra Kurtycz. 56p. (Ati: Bk. 2). Uranito. Sept. 2016. Tr $7.95. ISBN 9786079344993.

PreS-Gr 2 –Ati is a little dragon who shares an important message with children and caregivers alike in this Spanish-language picture book. Ati attends his grandmother’s birthday party, where he encounters his aunts, whose affectionate greetings make him feel uncomfortable. After Ati asks his grandmother for help coping with the situation, he finds a creative, healthy, and safe way to interact with these family members. Instead of allowing his aunts to smother him with hugs and kisses, Ati creates a caja de besos, or a box of kisses, to simply give to his aunts when they greet him. Children and the adults in their lives will learn that healthy boundaries and self-care are important to staying safe and that they should always tell a trusted adult when they feel uncomfortable. The back of the book includes templates for readers to create their own box of kisses and provides readers with tools and reminders for identifying situations of potential risk. This book offers concrete direction for self-care and is accessible enough for the very young. Bright, simple watercolor illustrations enhance the text. VERDICT Equal parts creative and practical, this follow-up to Ati el dragon de las estrellas will be appreciated by children and caregivers because of its discussion of a noteworthy topic. Educators would also benefit from this critical addition to their Spanish collections.–Natalie Braham, Denver Public Library

Loth, Sebastian. Josefina. illus. by Sebastian Loth. 96p. Uranito. Jan. 2017. Tr $8.95. ISBN 9788416773039.

K-Gr 2 –In this Spanish-language picture book, Josefina is a chicken who lives a very happy life; she spends her days searching for worms, soaking up the sun, and taking baths—until one day, when she notices that the other chickens have eggs and she does not. She tries and tries to lay an egg—she does yoga, reads books on the subject, and more, but nothing works. Josefina becomes sad, and to top it off, it rains for three whole days. But as the sun comes out, she decides that enough is enough and does something she has always wanted to do—she buys herself some skates. As Josefina enjoys herself, something unexpected happens. Young readers will love this fun and hopeful chicken and be inspired by her unwillingness to let anything keep her down. The humorous illustrations combine with the short and clear text to paint a lovely picture of Josefina. VERDICT Young readers will find a beautiful lesson in this story; recommended for all Spanish children’s collections.–Selenia Paz, Helen Hall Library, League City, TX

Nencini, Patrizia. ¡Brum, brum, brum! illus. by Vinicio Salvini. ISBN 9788416648412.

––––. ¡Naricitas y narizotas! illus. by Annalisa Sanmartino & Giulia Torelli. ISBN 9788416648405.

ea vol: 7p. Picarona. Feb. 2017. Board $11.95.

PreS-K –These titles present delightful rhymes that feature engaging vocabulary. Both board books are fun to read aloud and may be adapted to common song tunes for a richer early literacy engagement. ¡Naricitas y narizotas! features an interesting range of animals who revel in taking in the aromas of their favorite foods. For example, Hippopotamus takes a whiff of just-baked cake, and Panda enjoys smelling his feast of green bamboo stalks. The illustrations are in bold colors and are rendered in harmonizing hued palettes. They use accessible geometric shapes, including circles, rectangles, curves, and ovals, along with circle-shaped cutouts, to form each animal’s nostrils. As readers turn the page, the cutouts form the shape of the next featured food item. These cutouts complement the thick board book pages, making this title even more accessible to tiny hands and readers. ¡Brum, brum, brum! also uses this cutout motif to good effect. “Brum brum” is a common onomatopoeia used in Spanish to represent the sound of vehicles. Trucks, tractors, school buses, and motorbikes all make appearances. Nencini’s delightful rhymes offer fun alliterations for readers to share aloud with little ones. She assigns each of her animal characters—from bears to kangaroos to badgers—charming names, including Amadeo, Valentín, Romeo, and Jacinto. Seeing unique Spanish-language names in books for children is a definite plus. VERDICT Welcome additions to any children’s literature collection that seeks to be responsive to the rich language assets and early literacy needs of Spanish-speaking caretakers and children.–Lettycia Terrones, Los Angeles Public Library

Paglia, Isabella. ¿Mamá, sólo hay una? ISBN 9788416648832.

––––. ¡Qué grande eres, Papá! ISBN 9788416648818.

ea vol: illus. by Francesca Cavallaro. 48p. Picarona. Jan. 2017. Tr $17.95.

K-Gr 2 –These vibrant Spanish-language picture books celebrate adoption and blended families. In ¿Mamá, sólo hay una? two girls take turns praising their mothers until one says that she has two mothers—her birth mother and her adoptive mother. The other girl accuses her of lying. The adopted girl, with the help of some friends, explains that yes, it is possible for her to have two mothers. Ultimately, she says, what matters isn’t how children end up with their mothers but that their mothers love them. ¡Qué grande eres, Papá! follows a similar story line, with a boy and a brother and sister celebrating their fathers. Another child mentions that his birth father left before he was born, so his stepfather is raising him with his mother. The same lesson is imparted, this time with the help of a friend who has a single dad. Both of these books are serviceable introductions to adoption and blended families and boast colorful, attractive illustrations. There is no mention of families with parents of the same gender. There’s also a reinforcement of traditional gender roles—the two mothers in Mamá are praised as beautiful, nice, and smart and work as an office administrator and a teacher, while the first two fathers mentioned in Papá are smart, strong, and brave and work as a mechanic and a veterinarian. It is refreshing to see that the third father takes care of the housework, but even that gets put into a gendered context when it is said that he does it just as well as mom. VERDICT Consider as a first purchase where Spanish-language titles about families and adoption are needed. An additional purchase elsewhere.–Molly Hone, Pequannock Township Public Library, NJ

Rodari, Gianni. Una escuela tan grande como el mundo. illus. by Allegra Agliardi. 40p. Picarona. Feb. 2017. Tr $18.95. ISBN 9788416648863.

PreS-Gr 3 –Translated from Italian to Spanish, this sparsely worded guide is directed at readers of all ages. Rodari’s posthumously published reaffirmation of his personal philosophy is a gentle reminder that all experiences—good or bad, exciting or boring—contribute to the person we ultimately become. The book follows the exploits of a spunky redhead in a hot-air balloon designed to resemble Earth, and invites readers to view the entire world as a school and each life path as a lesson. Every person, encounter, or interaction teaches the protagonist to keep venturing into the world. The message is similar to that of Dr. Seuss’s Oh, the Places You’ll Go: learning is an ongoing process that gives life meaning, making the unknown more important than the known. Agliardi’s brightly detailed, childlike illustrations nicely complement the message of internal and external exploration as a means of personal growth. VERDICT For anyone starting school, a new job, or any other grand adventure. A strong Spanish-language choice for picture book collections.–Mary Margaret Mercado, Pima County Public Library, Tucson, AZ

Roth, Carol. Hold Your Temper, Tiger! illus. by Rashin. 32p. NorthSouth. Mar. 2017. Tr $17.95. ISBN 9780735842748.

PreS-K –Little Tiger has a temper that flares up when he does not get his way, which is often. When Mama Tiger tells him to wash his tail at bath time, he yells, cries, and stomps his feet, and his tantrums get even worse when he’s denied more cookies. One day, when Little Tiger refuses to clean up his toys, Mama gives him an ultimatum. “Don’t make me ask you again,” she says. “I’M NOT DOING IT!” he bellows. She warns him to “hold” his temper “or else,” which frightens Little Tiger enough to make some effort to control his volatile emotions to avoid the risk of losing playtime, books, or even his coveted dessert. The crucial question is where to hold his temper: In his pocket? In his hand? In his underwear? Finally, Little Tiger discovers that the perfect place to keep his anger in check is in a baseball cap. Reminiscent in many ways of the protagonist of Molly Bang’s When Sophie Gets Angry—Really, Really Angry, Little Tiger does not run off to a quieter place to cool down but releases his temper only to capture it again. It may seem odd that a hat is able to store emotions, but Roth uses the cap to suggest that it’s OK for Little Tiger to express himself privately without completely losing his temper. Rashin’s bold red background conveys the overall mood of the story, and the quirky pictures of Little Tiger exhaling blue, green, and red flames (some with ghoulish expressions) add a comical element to a tale about the frustrating difficulties of handling emotions. VERDICT A picture book that will find an audience among preschoolers who are learning to deal with anger issues.–Etta Anton, Yeshiva of Central Queens, NY

Rouss, Sylvia A. Sammy Spider’s First Bar Mitzvah. illus. by Katherine Janus Kahn. 32p. Kar-Ben. Sept. 2016. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781467789318; pap. $7.99. ISBN 9781467794121.

K-Gr 3 –Sammy, the cute, curious spider in this long-running series, has celebrated all of the Jewish holidays, gone to school with Josh Shapiro, learned about Jewish values, and traveled to Israel. In this installment, he sneaks into Mr. Shapiro’s tallit bag (the small, zippered velvet bag he uses to carry his prayer shawl and kippah to synagogue) to attend Josh’s cousin Ben’s bar mitzvah. When the Shapiros arrive at the synagogue, Sammy crawls out of the bag and into a large bowl of candy just as Mr. Shapiro grabs a handful. Sammy clings to a piece of candy in Mr. Shapiro’s pocket and watches the bar mitzvah boy receive his own prayer shawl, open the ark, and chant from the Torah. At the conclusion of the service, everyone throws the candy at Ben so that he will have “a sweet life filled with Torah and good deeds.” Sammy flies through the air with the candy and luckily is picked up by Josh and safely (and miraculously!) returned home to Mrs. Spider. The bright cut-paper illustrations, typical of the series, help to depict a contemporary Jewish synagogue during this important life cycle event. A brief paragraph with additional information is appended. VERDICT Schools and libraries where the Sammy Spider books are popular will welcome this latest addition, which could also be helpful in preparing a young child who is attending a bar or bat mitzvah ceremony for the first time.–Rachel Kamin, North Suburban Synagogue Beth El, Highland Park, IL

Wang, Andrea. The Nian Monster. illus. by Alina Chau. 32p. Albert Whitman. Dec. 2016. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780807556429.

PreS-Gr 2 –While decorating for Chinese New Year, Po Po tells Xingling about the Nian Monster, who used to eat entire villages. The New Year traditions involving loud sounds, fire, and the color red successfully scared him off. Unfortunately, that was thousands of years ago, and he’s not afraid anymore! The Nian Monster returns and threatens to eat Shanghai. Using other New Year traditions of long life noodles, sticky rice cakes, and fireworks, Xingling successfully saves her city. Chau’s watercolor illustrations are filled with warm colors and humor. In one spread, a crowd of people in Yu Garden flee the Nian Monster—except for one person, who would rather take a selfie with the mythical beast. The monster, who looks more adorable than menacing, spreads chaos at other Shanghai landmarks, such as People’s Square and Oriental Pearl Tower, but the quick-thinking Xingling is never afraid as she enacts her plans. An author’s note discusses language and some New Year’s traditions seen in the story. VERDICT This tale of New Year’s high jinks has enough information to be enjoyed by those who have never encountered the holiday, and the focus on Xingling’s wits and the monster’s antics will be a draw for those who have celebrated it their entire lives. A fun read-aloud that’s sure to induce giggles.–Jennifer Rothschild, Arlington County Public Libraries, VA

Wang, Zaozao. An’s Seed. tr. from Chinese by Helen Wang. illus. by Li Huang. 40p. Candied Plums. Dec. 2016. Tr $15.99. ISBN 9781945295133.

K-Gr 4 –A philosophical tale about how doing things at the appropriate time will lead to effective results. A master monk gives each student—Ben, Jing, and An—a thousand-year-old lotus seed and tells them to grow it. The students have their own ideas and put them into action. Ben wants his seed to grow fast. He waits and waits, but the buried seed never sprouts, and he is so angry that he gives up. Jing chooses the best flower pot and uses the best fertilizer, and his seed starts to sprout. He then covers it with a golden lid. Unfortunately, the seedling withers and shortly dies. When spring finally comes, An plants his seed in the corner next to the pond. The seed sprouts, and one summer morning, the lotus flower blooms. Simple text and appealing pictures illustrate the story of the three young monks’ activities simultaneously to provide interesting pictures of their different personalities. However, a couple of pages with text set on darker colored illustrations are a bit challenging to read. The last three illustrations, which feature a green tone, are very appealing. The simplified Chinese characters with transliterated romanization can be used for learning or teaching Chinese for correct pronunciation. “Words and expressions” of Chinese script and the Pinyin pronunciation with the English equivalent provide one-on-one meanings between Chinese and English words. VERDICT This book is useful for teachers, parents, or librarians with Chinese skills to teach students who are interested in learning Chinese. Best shared one-on-one.–Ching-Yen Donahue, BookOps, New York

Xiao, Mao. CeeCee. tr. from Chinese by Helen Wang. illus. by Chunmiao Li & Yanhong Zhang. 40p. Candied Plums. Dec. 2016. Tr $15.99. ISBN 9781945295140.

K-Gr 2 –This title keeps readers wondering why a girl is not engaging with the other children in their activities. The others play shuttlecock, hopscotch, and beanbag tag. They swing on swings, spin flying saucer discs, float in bumper boats, sing in the choir, have a picnic, and crowd around while CeeCee sits alone. Everyone is wondering, is she sick? Is she in a bad mood? Why doesn’t she join in the fun? Finally, the answer comes when the girl is thanked for being the most wonderful model for a portrait an artist is painting. This book has simple text and colorful illustrations, which emphasize the contrast between the child’s stillness and the noise around her. Overall, the artwork details are too small and too crowded, with many people and activities around the girl that make her hard to find. The simplified Chinese characters, with Roman transliteration directly above the Chinese scripts, provide guidance on Chinese pronunciation. The Pinyin pronunciation directs the proper Mandarin tones. VERDICT This is an interesting tale recommended for teachers, parents, and librarians with Chinese skills to read to children. A very sweet story with a surprising ending.–Ching-Yen Donahue, BookOps, New York

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Thriving During Leadership Change | Take the Lead Wed, 26 Apr 2017 16:37:52 +0000 Changes in leadership are inevitable in today’s educational climate. Principals relocate and move up the career ladder with dizzying speed. District leaders switch school systems every few years. As soon as you educate your administrators on your school library program’s value, new ones come in, and you’re back at square one. You’ll find that turnover can derail your program—but only if you let it.

One of the biggest challenges facing our profession is that school leaders don’t always understand the value that school library programs bring to our schools. Administration classes don’t include instruction on the library’s pivotal role. Accordingly, they can view the position as adjunct. This can lead to turning their librarians into fundraising coordinators, interventionists, social committee chairs—all jobs that take away from the crucial work of collaborating with teachers to provide in-depth student instruction. Educating new leaders on the essentials of our thriving library programs is exhausting but necessary work.

What are the new head’s priorities? Luckily, as a librarian, you know how to research! Learn about the background of your new administrator. If they are from a different district, network with a librarian there. Did they support a materials budget? A flexible schedule? Clerical staff? Perhaps the prior district did not have librarians. If you uncover information that causes concern, take comfort in the possibility that your new leader hasn’t seen an exemplary model of a dynamic library program.

Adapt and communicate

Find out the new person’s educational focus. Is it instructional technology? Advocacy of literacy? Is the vision for the school a STEM or arts focus? A great thing about school library programs is that we can adapt them to meet specific building and district needs while still holding true to our mission. We’re flexible. Everything we do can be tied back to a strategic goal. If your administrator is interested in STEM, focus your communication on how you provide your students with hands-on opportunities through your library maker space program. If they are into literacy, highlight your diverse, well-rounded collection and provision of a schoolwide reading promotion program that offers students choice in their reading. Find a way to highlight how the library can help the administrator move the program in the direction of his or her passion.

Once you know your leader’s priorities, make a communications plan to grab attention and educate. Tailor your message to their passions and strategic needs. Your administrator will be pressed for time, so present your story succinctly with visuals: infographics, captioned photos, and videos. Anchor these accomplishments with research results from state library studies, grounding your assertions and showing that it’s not just you saying that your program is essential—it’s a national expectation that is solidly research-based. You are the expert on library programs. Lead with confidence.

Find opportunity

Your leadership will change. Prepare now by documenting the awesome things you do in your library. Produce video testimonials of teachers discussing how your collaboration led to increased student learning. Show students engaged in inquiry, reading, and making. Beef up your website, highlighting the learning in your library. Invite district administrators and parents to see your lessons. You’ll create advocates who will be ready to proclaim the library gospel when new leadership arrives.

Change is hard on staffs and on new administrators. They hear a lot of negative noise and have to tackle resistance. Be a shining light of positivity. Cheerlead your new head’s agenda as you enhance your program. It’s a win-win. Get involved in district or building committees that your leader champions. Show your instructional leadership outside the library. It will give you credibility and the opportunity to develop your library program in fresh ways.

Panter-Suzanne-Contrib_webSuzanna L. Panter is the innovator facilitator for school libraries in Tacoma (WA) Public Schools.

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Six YA Titles That Epitomize #OwnVoices Wed, 26 Apr 2017 15:40:14 +0000 Childrens-Books-Infographic-2017The hashtag #diverselit is so 2015. The hot Twitter hashtag now is #OwnVoices, which indicates that a book was written by a member of a marginalized community that it depicts. In 2017, when still only 28 percent of children’s/YA books published each year represent people of color, and when fewer still portray marginalized experiences (such as disability, sexual orientation, or religion), it is important to note the ties and tensions between diverse representation and diverse creators. Black, Native, or Latinx authors wrote only six percent of all children’s (that included YA) literature published in 2016, according to the latest data from the Cooperative Children’s Book Center.

Fiction is for everyone, of course, but nobody knows a community better than someone who is a part of it. The reason we call for diverse books is so that all kids can develop empathy and understanding of others—and also so that the most marginalized and at-risk kids can see themselves reflected in a positive light. While publishers have begun to respond to the calls for diverse books, the majority of those being released are coming from white authors—not the marginalized groups who are struggling so much to be heard.

So enter #OwnVoices, which responds to this wide gap between diverse books written by outsiders and diverse books written by diverse creators. The hashtag was started by YA author Corinne Duyvis, and it encompasses all forms of diversity, including disability, sexual orientation, and religion. #OwnVoices is an adjective that describes a book, not a person. By definition, writing about a person who shares your identity makes your story #OwnVoices, and the point of the hashtag is to identify characters who are marginalized. To that end, it is inappropriate and imprecise to use the hashtag to describe a person. “#OwnVoices writers” is a nonsensical term because it can describe anybody writing about their personal experience. The hashtag calls attention to stories written by and about the same marginalized group as the author.

While being of a particular identity does not make you speak for the experiences of everyone who shares that identity, it is certainly a credential unlike any other. One need only to look over the past two years to find numerous egregious and offensive missteps and insensitive books written by people who aren’t in the same group as their protagonists (to start, simply check Twitter or your favorite YA book blog for takes on When We Was Fierce, The Continent, or Carve the Mark.) Diversity matters, but authenticity and accuracy matter even more. It is vitally important that publishers make acquiring #OwnVoices books a priority, and it is just as essential that librarians strive not just to purchase diversely, but to purchase books by marginalized authors and illustrators, who often face adversity and institutional bias during the publishing process.

While the numbers are low, that doesn’t mean there aren’t some #OwnVoices titles out there to celebrate. Here are some recent and upcoming releases of note, coupled with a suggestion for readalikes.

YA-SP-AbdelFattah-TheLinesWeCrossThe Lines We Cross by Randa Abdel-Fattah. Scholastic. 2017. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781338118667.

A timely dual-perspective novel about a refugee girl from Afghanistan who wins a scholarship to a prestigious school and her male classmate, whose father advocates for Australia to close its borders to refugees.

Major themes: New kid at school, standing up to your parents, racism and prejudice, microaggressions

Readalike: Meant To Be by Lauren Morrill. Delacorte. 2014. pap. $9.99. ISBN 9780385741781.

north of happyNorth of Happy by Adi Alsaid. Harlequin Teen. 2017. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780373212286.

Carlos graduates from a fancy high school in Mexico City and, on a recommendation that his late brother made, flies to Washington State to avoid the internship his father arranged for him. He ends up in a high-end restaurant, falling in love, and cooking staff meals in an attempt to get the chef to notice him.

Major themes: Grief, class, forbidden love, finding your passion

Readalike: Dr. Bird’s Advice for Sad Poets by Evan Roskos. HMH. 2013. pap. $8.99. ISBN 9780544439535.

we-are-okWe Are Okay by Nina LaCour. Dutton. 2017. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780525425892.

Taking place over the first few days of winter break, this quiet book deals with the aftermath of two losses—the grandfather who raised Marin and the best friend who may have been something more, had Marin not run off. Two friends try to reconcile, and consider their sexuality.

Major themes: grief, questioning of sexuality

Readalike: Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz. S. & S. 2012. pap. $12.99. ISBN 9781442408937.

when dimpleWhen Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon. Simon Pulse. 2017. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781481478687.

Dimple goes to a tech camp to get a break from her parents’ talk of an arranged marriage. There, she meets Rishi—who happens to be the future husband her parents selected. They have to find a way to work together, when liking Rishi means that Dimple will be going along with her parents wishes, something that she’s not completely happy about.

Major themes: computer programming, arranged marriages, romance, camp

Readalike: Nothing But the Truth (and a few white lies) by Justina Chen. Little, Brown. 2006. pap. $9.99. ISBN 9780316011310.

gem & dixieGem & Dixie by Sara Zarr. HarperCollins. 2017. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780062434593.

A what-if that readers have probably dreamed of—finding a bag of money—comes true for two sisters living in poverty, with an addict mother and a mostly absent father. They take a few days to consider their options, reconnect, and treat themselves the way their parents never have.

Major themes: family, abandonment, food insecurity, poverty

Readalike: If I Ever Get Out of Here by Eric Gansworth. Scholastic/Arthur A. Levine Bks. 2013. pap. $9.99. ISBN 9780545417310.

YA-SP-Zoboi-AmericanStreetAmerican Street by Ibi Zoboi. HarperCollins. 2017. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780062473042.

A different kind of immigrant tale, this one has a touch of magic. It tells the story of Fabiola, a teen girl whose mother is detained as they emigrate from Haiti. She winds up in Detroit with her aunt and cousins, who have assimilated into the African American culture, while Fabiola desperately misses Haitian culture.

Major themes: drugs, gangs, immigration, magic realism

Readalike: The Secret Side of Empty by Maria E. Andreu. Running Pr. 2014. pap. $10.95. ISBN 9780762459162.

Sarah Hannah Gómez is a former school librarian. She now works as a freelance writer and editor and fitness instructor. She is a doctoral student in the Language, Reading and Culture program at the University of Arizona. Find her on Twitter @shgmclicious or at








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YALSA’s Teens’ Top Ten; L.A. Times Book Awards Announced Wed, 26 Apr 2017 14:16:31 +0000 YALSA Teen Top Ten2017 Teens’ Top Ten Nominees Revealed
The nominees for YALSA’s Teens’ Top Ten were announced on April 13, during National Library Week, by the stars of Everything, Everything, the film adaptation of Nicola Yoon’s debut YA novel. The Teens’ Top Ten is a “teen choice” list, where young adults nominate and choose their favorite books of the previous year. Nominators are members of teen book groups in 15 school and public libraries around the country. Readers ages 12–18 will vote online between August 15 and the close of Teen Read Week™ (October 8–14) on the Teens’ Top Ten site. The winners will be announced the week after Teen Read Week. View an annotated list of the nominees here (pdf).

The Lie Tree US VersionThe L.A. Times Book Award for Young Adult Fiction goes to the much recognized The Lie Tree by Frances Hardinge (Abrams). The SLJ Best Book has already been awarded the Costa Book Award for children’s book, Costa Book of the Year, and Boston Globe–Horn Book Award for Fiction. It has also been nominated for several others, such as the Andre Norton Award.

Best Buy Community Grants Program
The Best Buy Community Grants Program provides support to community-based organizations that are located within 25 miles of a Best Buy facility. Eligible programs must create hands-on learning opportunities for underserved teens to learn about, experiment with, and interact with the latest technologies to build 21st-century skills. Eligible programs must deliver community-based youth programs for teens ages 13–18 that occur outside of normal school hours, and serve a diverse population. Examples of program activities include computer programming, digital imaging, music production, robotics, and gaming and mobile app development. The average grant amount is $5,000; grants will not exceed $10,000. Public and nonprofit community-based organizations (e.g., community centers, schools, and libraries) are eligible to apply. Online proposals may be submitted May 1–19, 2017. Visit the Best Buy website to review the full program guidelines.

andre norton2016 Andre Norton Award Jury Recommended Reading List

As part of the SFWA Nebula Awards process this year, the Andre Norton Award Jury went to work reading eligible young adult and middle grade fiction. Starting early in 2016, six volunteers had the difficult task of narrowing down a lot of fiction. Through all that reading, they’ve come up with a recommended reading list in addition to the finalists that have already been announced.

Lee & Low BooksLee & Low Books recently announced the results of its fourth annual New Visions Award for new authors of color. This year, in partnership with First Book and the NEA Foundation, the award expanded to two winning manuscripts: Operation Yellowbird, by coauthors Ming and Wah Chen, who are identical twin sisters with a shared love of Chinese history and adventure stories, and The Wind Called My Name, by Mary Louise Sanchez. Born and raised in Wyoming, Sanchez received the 2012 Emerging Voices Award from the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators.

Winning authors receive a cash prize of $1,000 and a standard publication contract with Tu Books, the middle grade and young adult imprint of Lee & Low Books. Three New Visions Award finalists were also announced: Searching for Superman by Jasmine Wade, Angel Dressed in Black by Robin Farmer, and Sun-Kadelic: An Afro-Futuristic, Historical Fiction by Jiton Davidson.

Update: YALSA’s Quick Picks and Amazing Audiobooks @ The Hub
The team of “The Hub” bloggers for the Quick Picks for Reluctant Readers and Amazing Audiobooks lists have been selected. They will soon start posting on the member blog to highlight nominated titles. Read more here.

If you have a field suggestion for a title that the blogging groups should consider, nominate using the Amazing Audiobooks form or the Quick Picks form. The full details on eligibility and criteria can be found on the Amazing Audiobooks Blogging Group Function Statement and Quick Picks Blogging Group Function Statement.



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Goldfish Ghost by Lemony Snicket | SLJ Review Wed, 26 Apr 2017 13:00:44 +0000 SNICKET, Lemony. Goldfish Ghost. illus. by Lisa Brown. 40p. Roaring Brook/Neal Porter Bks. May 2017. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781626725072.

K-Gr 3 –In a droll twist on the typical “beloved dead pet” story, this one opens with a death—reimagined as an otherworldly birth—of a boy’s pet goldfish. Born upside down and floating on top of his fishbowl, Goldfish Ghost, who remains in that position throughout, slowly drifts out of the boy’s bedroom and along the idyllic seascapes of Cape Cod [...]]]> redstarSNICKET, Lemony. Goldfish Ghost. illus. by Lisa Brown. 40p. Roaring Brook/Neal Porter Bks. May 2017. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781626725072.

STAR-PB-Snicket-GoldfishGhostK-Gr 3 –In a droll twist on the typical “beloved dead pet” story, this one opens with a death—reimagined as an otherworldly birth—of a boy’s pet goldfish. Born upside down and floating on top of his fishbowl, Goldfish Ghost, who remains in that position throughout, slowly drifts out of the boy’s bedroom and along the idyllic seascapes of Cape Cod in search of companionship. The many shrieking seagulls pay him no heed, the busy vacationers already have friends and family, and the mass of deceased sea creatures floating above the ocean aren’t quite Goldfish Ghost’s scene. Eventually, the melancholic little specter finds a forever home in a lighthouse with the former lighthouse keeper, a grandmotherly presence who places him gently in the warm light that “once shone for sailors at sea.” Unlike most picture books about death, this take is wholly unconcerned with the emotional repercussions felt by the pet’s owner, and instead focuses squarely, and with deadpan charm, on answering one of life’s most baffling and enduring questions: What happens when we die? And his answer is, perhaps surprisingly for the author of the delightfully dark “A Series of Unfortunate Events,” rather comforting. Brown’s signature India ink and watercolor illustrations add to the subtle tongue-in-cheek humor, depicting the titular former pet in stark black-and-white (with a single flat and staring eye) against the colorful blues, greens, and coral shades of the vacation town. As in her previous works (The Airport Book; Mummy Cat), relatable details and visual Easter eggs add depth and dimension to the setting and supporting cast of characters. VERDICT Can a book about death and the afterlife be refreshing and funny? In the hands of Snicket and Brown, indeed it can. This oddball offering should find a welcome home in any picture book collection.–Kiera Parrott, School Library Journal

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

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My Daddy Rules the World: Poems About Dads by Hope Anita Smith | SLJ Review Wed, 26 Apr 2017 13:00:20 +0000 SMITH, Hope Anita. My Daddy Rules the World: Poems About Dads. illus. by Hope Anita Smith. 32p. Holt/Christy Ottaviano Bks. May 2017. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780805091892.

PreS-Gr 3 –Dedicated to “every man ‘fathering’ a child,” this volume spotlights the bond between dads and their kids. Written in a child’s voice, the poems depict dads snoring, making breakfast, giving a haircut or guitar lesson, wrestling, playing catch, teaching a child to ride a bike, and reading. “Love Letter” is about [...]]]> redstarSMITH, Hope Anita. My Daddy Rules the World: Poems About Dads. illus. by Hope Anita Smith. 32p. Holt/Christy Ottaviano Bks. May 2017. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780805091892.

STAR-NF-Smith-MyDaddyRulestheWorldPreS-Gr 3 –Dedicated to “every man ‘fathering’ a child,” this volume spotlights the bond between dads and their kids. Written in a child’s voice, the poems depict dads snoring, making breakfast, giving a haircut or guitar lesson, wrestling, playing catch, teaching a child to ride a bike, and reading. “Love Letter” is about writing to a military dad abroad: “My daddy—/he is far away./I wish him home/most every day.” The one exception to the child-narrated voice is the call-and-response poem “Daddy!,” which prompts listeners with questions: “Who do you like? Who do you love?/Daddy!/Who do you wrestle? Who do you shove?/ Daddy!…. Who shows you the world from the top of his head?/Daddy!/Who tells you a story and puts you to bed?/Daddy!” The final selection, also the title poem, describes a near-perfect dad: “He helps me with my homework/and always gets it right./He teaches me ‘most of the time,/it’s better not to fight.’/…. Whenever I have a problem,/he knows just what to do:/‘In order to solve anything,/be honest, kind, and true.’ ” The torn-paper collage illustrations depict faceless children and their dads sharing special moments together. The youngsters are boys and girls with a variety of skin and hair colors, thus representing every child—if only every child could have a father as loving and attentive as the ones portrayed in this book. The poems are accessible and a true celebration of fatherhood. Pair with Javaka Steptoe’s award-winning In Daddy’s Arms I Am Tall, another work of poetry and collage on the same subject. VERDICT A lovely addition to poetry collections that may just inspire kids to write verse of their own.–Barbara Auerbach, New York City Public Schools

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

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Assorted Spring Loves | Adult Books 4 Teens Wed, 26 Apr 2017 12:30:57 +0000 With spring formals and prom season upon us, the titles in today’s column focus, to varying degrees, on love. From more typical romance to science fiction, the novels here offer plenty of genre diversity to satisfy teens.

No love story is complete without a soundtrack, and J.P. Monninger’s The Map That Leads to You will have readers humming the Maroon 5 chart topper “Maps”: “So I’m following the map that leads to you/The map that leads to you.” Instead of taking a gap year before college, the protagonist spends a summer in Europe after college, before the reality of adulting sets in, and she meets her soul mate. They travel to not-so-typical European destinations, and their witty repartee would feel at home in a John Green novel. Our reviewer compares Monninger’s title to the work of Nicholas Sparks, who plugged the book as “romantic and unforgettable.”

Romance isn’t the main focus of Heather Graham and Jon Land’s The Rising: the two high school senior protagonists are too busy running around like the main characters of the television show 24. With this fast-moving sci-fi thriller that’s threaded with romantic suspense, the best-selling authors have produced a winning title that’s hopefully the first volume of a series. I’m not sure why the book wasn’t published as YA, because it’s a natural fit for reluctant teen readers.

Colleen Oakley’s Close Enough To Touch is ideal for a read-alike display for Nicola Yoon’s Everything, Everything, which comes to theaters May 19. Even those with extreme allergies can fall in love, and Jubilee meets her match in the library. Readers who enjoy a good Lurlene McDaniel–ish romance will adore this one.

There’s something here for historical fiction fans, too; they’ll gravitate to Teresa Messineo’s The Fire by Night, which follows two best friends as they graduate from nursing school and become World War II battlefield nurses. Both young women face devastating tribulations in their deployments to France and the Pacific, but their strong bond and hope of reuniting with their loved ones keep them resilient.

Young adults know that not all love stories have happy endings, and last year I dedicated an entire column to “The Perils of Love.” Tasha Kavanagh’s twisted debut, Things We Have in Common, absolutely blew my mind. Obsession is never pretty, and Yasmin’s crush on Alice turns ugly. Originally published in Great Britain, Kavanagh’s book was on the short list for the Costa Award for first novel. Readers won’t forget Yasmin’s unique voice, even if they might find it hard to identify with her.

Finally, Laleh Khadivi’s A Good Country focuses on religious radicalism. Young Rez, an American born to Iranian parents, leaves home with his girlfriend to join ISIS in Syria. Khadivi, winner of a Pushcart Prize, was born in Iran and grew up in California, and she’s created a heartbreaking coming-of-age tale. The conclusion to a trilogy, this novel stands alone, but readers can check out the previous installments to learn more about Rez’s parents.

Romance, science fiction, historical fiction, coming-of-age, contemporary fiction, and mystery—this column has something for everyone; after all, quality books need a little love in them. Benjamin Alire Sáenz said it best in Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe: “I bet you could sometimes find all the mysteries of the universe in someone’s hand.”


RisingGRAHAM, Heather & Jon Land. The Rising. 400p. Tor. Jan. 2017. Tr $25.99. ISBN 9780765337917.

Alex Chin, the star quarterback, and his science-loving tutor, Samantha Dixon, are thrust together in a 24-hour science fiction adventure. Family members die, government officials lie, and the two teenagers discover that Alex’s adoption was the beginning of a global crisis. Sam, who’s interning at NASA, has connections, while quick-thinking Alex possesses sharp reflexes, and the two must collaborate to escape from the government special ops team and superhumans trying to capture or kill them. With adolescent main characters and nonstop action, this sci-fi page-turner could have easily been published as YA and will have plenty of teen crossover appeal. California’s Alcatraz and San Francisco provide the perfect setting for this roller-coaster of a novel. The budding romance between Alex and Sam barely has time to bloom among the cloak-and-dagger activities, but hopefully a sequel will continue the relationship and offer a resolution to Alex’s problems. VERDICT Buy where fast-paced action thrillers and science fiction such as Rick Yancey’s The 5th Wave are popular.–Sarah Hill, Lake Land College, Mattoon IL

ThingsweKAVANAGH, Tasha. Things We Have in Common. 304p. Harlequin/Mira. Jan. 2017. Tr $26.99. ISBN 9780778326854.

Published in Great Britain in 2015, this suspense novel will surprise readers. Yasmin, a depressed 15-year-old, is still recovering from her father’s death years ago while obsessing over Alice, her school’s “it” girl. Yasmin is bullied by classmates and teachers, but her mom and stepfather are more concerned with getting her to lose weight than with her mental health. When Yasmin notices a man who “only [has] eyes for Alice,” she, too, becomes determined to stalk Alice in order to protect her and be seen as a hero. Yasmin is an unreliable first-person narrator who lives in a fantasy world; periodically, she addresses the stalker through second-person narration. Readers will find themselves thoroughly confused and questioning what’s actually happening until they reach the last sentence. The anticipation and tension that mount as Alice disappears are exhausting—who kidnapped Alice? Is Yasmin involved, or is she a victim? VERDICT Like E. Lockhart’s We Were Liars, this title will have its champions, but whether teens love it or hate it, it will nevertheless spark discussion and elicit strong feelings. Purchase where twisted reads are popular.–Sarah Hill, Lake Land College, Mattoon, IL

goodcoutnryredstarKHADIVI, Laleh. A Good Country. 256p. Bloomsbury. May 2017. Tr $27. ISBN 9781632865847.

Rez Courdee, 14, is an excellent student who lives in Laguna Beach, CA, with his quiet, unreligious, but traditional Iranian parents. He breaks away from his image as an academic overachiever, trying pot and hooking up with an attractive girl. Surfer friends introduce Rez to the quest for the best waves, so he joins them for a trip to Mexico, which goes terribly wrong. The boys make it home, but they blame Rez for the trouble they get into. Lonely after his friends drop him, Rez is drawn to Fatima, who takes him to her mosque, and after a terrorist attack, he connects with others at school who, like him, have been scapegoated because of their religious background. He looks online for information about Islam, the religion of his ancestors, and is seduced by speeches calling for a new life in the new caliphate. A friend who has already left for Syria convinces Rez and Fatima to join him. Instead of taking the train to college, he and Fatima fool their families and fly to Syria, where they plan to marry. The story unfolds deftly, beautifully capturing the psychology of an American teen who goes down the path of radicalization; readers will understand what would motivate a sheltered, shortsighted young person to run away to join Syrian extremists. VERDICT Give this expertly written and stirring exploration of a timely subject to readers who enjoy novels that tackle global contemporary issues, such as Karan Mahajan’s The Association of Small Bombs or Rabee Jaber’s Confessions.–Karlan Sick, formerly at the New York Public Library

fireMESSINEO, Teresa. The Fire by Night. 320p. HarperCollins. Jan. 2017. Tr $26.99. ISBN 9780062459107.

Winston Churchill is often quoted as saying: “If you’re going through hell, keep going.” Jo, an army nurse for the Allied forces in World War II France, finds herself in hell: she is watching over a group of injured soldiers while surrounded by the enemy. Jo’s friend Kay is in the Philippines, barely surviving as a prisoner of the Japanese while nursing wounded soldiers. Jo and Kay watch their patients die, while waiting for help and facing starvation, disease, and the constant fear of instant—or not so instant—death. Descriptions of the hardships of the women’s current lives are interspersed with flashbacks to their time as eager young student nurses, ready to take on the world. The horrific reality of their work within the confines of a war that brings death, destruction, starvation, and terror is surpassed only by their determination to endure. This is grim reading, but teens will learn about women’s vital contributions to the war effort and the many roles they played. VERDICT This untold story of the women of the Army Nursing Corps, who did everything in their power to keep soldiers alive while maintaining their own sanity and health, will inspire readers of dramatic historical novels to celebrate the resiliency of humanity through hope, grit, and first loves.–Connie Williams, Petaluma High School, CA

mapMONNINGER, J.P. The Map That Leads to You. 400p. St. Martin’s. Jun. 2017. Tr $25.99. ISBN 9781250060761.

Heather realizes it’s a cliché: graduate from college, head to Europe with friends, and meet a cute guy. But when she gazes into Jack’s eyes, she just can’t look away. Dubious about the idea of love at first sight, Heather tries fending him off with barbed insults and flat-out rudeness. But she likes him too much. Heather and Jack have their first kiss on the train platform in Amsterdam. In Berlin they make love. In Switzerland they find the exact spot where Jack’s grandfather stood in 1946. After Paris, the plan was to fly back to the States together. But things go wrong. Romance fans could hardly hope for a more luxurious love story. Heather and Jack share plenty of sensuous moments, and their banter is smart and funny. Even skeptical Heather has to admit that the universe seems to be bending around them, creating a romance that seems too wonderful to be true. Readers will be as stunned as Heather when Jack doesn’t show up for the flight home. On the plane ride back, Heather finds Jack’s grandfather’s journal in her bag. Is the relationship between her and Jack really over? Debut author Monninger expertly captures Heather’s emotional devastation; readers who love romance novels with a bittersweet twist will cling to every word. VERDICT Recommended for fans of Kristin Hannah and Nicholas Sparks.–Diane Colson, formerly at City College, Gainesville, FL

closeenoughOAKLEY, Colleen. Close Enough To Touch. 336p. Gallery. Mar. 2017. Tr $24.99. ISBN 9781501139260.

Jubilee is deathly allergic to other people, a detail Oakley skillfully reveals through the inclusion of fictional New York Times articles reporting on the protagonist’s health issues. For Jubilee, skin-to-skin contact with anyone else could lead to horrific reactions, even death (the proteins in her skin trigger an extreme intruder alert in her immune system). Unfailing vigilance, ever-present gloves, and self-imposed isolation help Jubilee survive her allergy and school until just before high school graduation. One kiss with a popular guy puts her into anaphylactic shock and results in nine years of seclusion after her mother marries a rich man and moves away. But when Jubilee’s mom dies, the checks she’s been sending stop, and a life of books and delivery is over. Self-help for agoraphobia and an old bike bring the protagonist into the orbit of Madison, a high school classmate, and then lead to a job as a library assistant. Taking baby steps out of her head and into the real world, Jubilee comes into contact with Eric, a recently divorced man who has moved with his traumatized and introverted adopted son to Jubilee’s New Jersey community. Chapters narrated from Eric’s first-person point of view are interspersed with those from Jubilee’s perspective, personalizing all the quirks and hurdles of this most impossible, charming romance. VERDICT For YA readers who can’t get enough of John Green or Nicola Yoon, suggest this quirky “new adult” love story with relatable, well-rendered characters.–Suzanne Gordon, Lanier High School, Gwinnett County, GA

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Melanie Fishbane On “Maud,” A YA Novel About L.M. Montgomery’s Teen Years Wed, 26 Apr 2017 12:00:13 +0000 Maud author Melanie Fishbane about her process of researching the famous author, the new Netflix Anne adaptation, and fandom.]]> Photo by Ayelet Tsabari

Photo by Ayelet Tsabari

L.M. Montgomery’s books continue to fascinate readers all over the globe, as evidenced by the multiple adaptations of her famous “Anne of Green Gables” series. For the first time ever, the author’s teen years have inspired a young adult novel by Montgomery scholar Melanie Fishbane. SLJ chats with her about her research process, the new Netflix Anne adaptation, and fandom.

What inspired you to write Maud?

I’ve been reading and studying the life and work of L.M. Montgomery most of my life and had done an M.A. in history focusing specifically on historical biographies for children and teens (in that case, it was books on Joan of Arc), so when I was approached with the idea of writing a young adult novel based on Montgomery’s teen years, it was the perfect [synergy] of everything I loved. This was also a story that had never been told, and it felt important to show a side of Montgomery that many people hadn’t seen and bring her writing and work to a new generation.

Can you tell us a little bit about your research process?

I read practically everything I could on Montgomery and her times, including her journals and autobiography, The Alpine Path. A book that was particularly helpful was Francis Bolger’s The Years Before Anne.

And then I played in the various archives, traveling to the places Montgomery had lived, specifically all over Prince Edward Island, Prince Albert, and Saskatchewan, as well as Leaskdale and Norval, Ontario. On the Island, I visited the homestead where she lived with her grandparents, and interviewed Montgomery’s family, who were gracious with their stories, and I toured Park Corner (where her Campbell cousins lived) and Ingleside (her grandfather’s home).

I also spent time in the archives. The L.M. Montgomery Institute has the original letters Montgomery had written to her best friend growing up, Pensie MacNeill. In Prince Albert, I spoke with the archivists at the Prince Albert Historical Society, who allowed me to look through everything they had. A colleague also helped me by tracking down, through some old homestead records at the University Archives Special Collection, University of Saskatchewan, where Montgomery’s friends, Laura and Will, lived. Then we drove around with a local historian who pointed out the old parts of the town, such as where the high school once stood, and visited the cemetery where Montgomery’s father and stepfather and a few of her friends are buried. I also dove into the L.M. Montgomery Collection Archives and Special Collection at the University of Guelph, where I read Montgomery’s journal and perused her photographs and personal library.

There must have been so many things that you had to leave out because of the wealth of information. How did you choose what to include and what to cut?

That was probably one of the most challenging parts of writing this book, because there was so much, and with Montgomery, there’s always more to discover. When I first started writing, I realized that I had to stick to the writings about this period of her life; that helped a little bit and kept the research focused. I also tried to figure out the family tree to determine who might become a more pivotal character during this time in her life, and inevitably, because it is so large, many didn’t make it into the book. In the end, it became about what was best for the story I was telling, and that meant that certain things that I would have liked to include didn’t stay or never made it in.

maud book coverMany of the themes that ran through L.M. Montgomery’s books—passion for writing, women’s place in the world, wanting to belong—are evident in your novel based on her life. Why do you think these themes are relevant to today’s teens?

This is so relevant because young women are getting confusing messages about what is expected of them and what would be practical vs. going after a creative passion, like writing. The sad thing is that women are still fighting for their place in the world. In the West there is some improvements, women have more choice than before, but many women with families are expected to juggle career and motherhood. In January, I attended the Woman’s March in Toronto, and it was incredible to be part of a peaceful protest demonstrating how much we need to be taken seriously. Montgomery’s books show the intricate network of women and community, how women had to function in a system that didn’t value them. To those young women who demonstrated, and those who feel that they aren’t being heard, these themes would certainly resonate today.

And teens also need to feel like they belong somewhere. The reason I like writing for this age group is because I remember how unsure I was about everything, how I questioned and never quite felt like I fit in my community, high school, anywhere. I don’t think it has changed that much.

Are you excited for the upcoming Netflix adaptation of Anne?

Well, I have actually seen most of the new series on CBC in Canada (last episode airs next week—cannot wait! But then I’ll be sad it’s over). I got to attend the world premiere at TIFF; it was very exciting. Maybe because I’ve written Maud, I find myself much more sympathetic to adaptations—although I’ve always been fascinated by why someone might choose to make certain decisions, take characters in a certain direction.

Like many “Anne” fans, I grew up with the Kevin Sullivan version, but that was 30 years ago, and it is time for Montgomery’s works to get some attention and maybe a reinvention. (I would love to see her other books get made into movies.) The writers of the Anne series have done their homework (there are times where I’m sure certain elements have been inspired by Montgomery’s journals). They explore the subtext of many of Montgomery’s novels, providing a lot of room for character growth and discussion. And it has been a long time since I’ve watched something about Anne Shirley and wondered what was going to happen next! There’s something simply delightful in this.

What’s also amazing is that audiences can choose what adaptation they might like. Since 1919 there have been adaptations of the novel. Now we have two because there was the movie that aired on PBS during Thanksgiving, Lucy Maud Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables, which gives another interpretation of the text, perhaps a more kid/family friendly direction.

What do you think L.M. Montgomery would have thought about her current fandom?

I’m always weary of putting thoughts into Montgomery’s head, because we can never truly know. But if I look at how much she loved the latest technology, how she was an avid photographer, and how she kept a journal with explicit instructions to be published after her death, perhaps she would be delighted that her books had lived on, that Anne of Green Gables has never been out of print, and that there are conferences where people talk about her. She would have loved the vintage quotes online (maybe put one in her scrapbook as a memento) and, I suspect, the Pinterest homages to her world—she would make some of these herself. She might also have enjoyed talking with her fans on Twitter, as she always enjoyed writing to them. I think she would be slightly perplexed by YouTube videos of Megan Follows (as Anne) and Jonathan Crombie’s (as Gilbert Blythe) love story because that was always secondary to what she was writing about, and amused by the fan fiction because it was reminiscent to how she would interact with the books she loved. But, as I said, we can never truly know.

What advice would you give other aspiring authors?

Write every day. Be kind to yourself. Be patient with yourself and the process. If it is something you truly want to do, then read a lot and stay true to your story. Also, find other writers who like to write the same things you do so you can talk about what you’re writing about and share stories. But the main thing is to write.

What are you working on next?

I’m currently working on a couple of projects: two essays (one on Montgomery and one on Almanzo Wilder) and a YA novel about a young woman who reluctantly is forced into the political spotlight.





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Nonfiction: Yoga, Space, Sharks, and More | May 2017 Xpress Reviews Tue, 25 Apr 2017 20:32:08 +0000 Apollo 13, and more.]]> 1704-Xpress-NF-CVs

The Art of Memory/El arte de recordar. 26p. glossary. illus. Lectura. Oct. 2016. pap. $8.95. ISBN 9781604480405. BL

Gr 3-5 –Ten artists share childhood memories and lovely artwork in this treasure of a collection. A young girl receives a playhouse from her beloved grandfather, a child arrives in New York City as an immigrant and immediately wants to return home to Puerto Rico, and a young boy imagines that the train next to his house is actually made up of elephants. Each recollection is one that left a lasting impression on the artist, and most of them are events that children will easily relate to. The illustrations reflect the unique styles of the featured artists and greatly enhance the stories. The book is bilingual, and a subtly dotted line distinguishes the English from the Spanish text. Not to be missed are the opening letter from the publisher and the list of Spanish/English vocabulary at the end. Fans of Carmen Lomas Garza will appreciate this powerful example of memoir. This title would serve well as a writing mentor text and launching point for children to tell their own personal stories. VERDICT An excellent choice for bilingual and Spanish-language collections.–Katie Darrin, Boulder Valley School District, Boulder, CO

Carter, Andy. Margarito’s Forest/El bosque de Don Margarito. illus. by Allison Havens. 36p. Hard Ball. Oct. 2016. pap. $12.50. ISBN 9780997979701. BL

Gr 3 Up –A reverence for natural ecological cycles, ancestral heritage, and the importance of environmental preservation are the focus of this bilingual biography of Don Margarito Esteban Álvarez Velázquez, or Margarito. Told from the perspective of his daughter, Doña María Guadalupe, the story is set in Saq Ja’, Guatemala, and is, in part, a retelling of the Mayan cosmovision of paying tribute to one’s ancestral past by loving the earth. Margarito, who devoted his life to planting trees as a way to honor his family and to bestow a gift upon future generations, steadfastly plants more trees instead of giving in to pressure to use the land to grow crops. But when Guatemala is torn apart by genocide and widespread deforestation beginning in 1954, Margarito’s forest is destroyed. Worse, Mayan villagers are killed or displaced, including Margarito himself, who dies during the unrest. But his daughter is able to return to the village to restore the forest herself and resettle the surviving indigenous villagers. She continues to plant trees to this day and aids in the education of a new generation of villagers there. Mixed-media illustrations capture the story’s cultural essence and are a combination of original drawings, paintings, photography, traditional Guatemalan textiles, and artwork made by children at the Saq Ja’ Elementary School. Readers and educators will benefit from thoughtful discussion questions and a study guide. VERDICT A timely addition to any children’s collection, this colorful bilingual biography is as poignant as it is relevant, and will serve as a critical conversation starter for young, eco-conscious minds.–Natalie Braham, Denver Public Library

Crownover, Rebecca. Texas Farm Girl: Aquaculture Farming. illus. by Brian Daigle. 38p. photos. Mascot. Mar. 2017. Tr $14.95. ISBN 9781631779602.

PreS-Gr 2 –Crownover fictionalizes her journey from Sunray, TX, to the Gulf city of Taft (complete with a cartoon version of herself), in order to learn about aquaculture farming. She visited Global Blue Technologies (GBT), an indoor shrimp hatchery that offers an alternative way to harvest shellfish. The story line is straightforward, and new words are highlighted and defined on each page, although the text is cramped and may present a challenge for newly independent readers. Also, the text color occasionally blends in with the brightly colored digital illustrations, making it hard to distinguish words from pictures. The book often reads like an advertisement for GBT rather than an overview of the field of aquaculture, as the subtitle suggests, and it lacks proper source material to back up facts that appear throughout (e.g., “The ocean is 90% overfished and that means that many types of aquatic life were in danger because of it.”). VERDICT While libraries may be seeking aquaculture literature for this age group, this title does an inadequate job of covering the subject and does not provide substantiated information in an unbiased way.–Lindsay Jensen, Nashville Public Library

Highway, Tomson. The Incredible Adventures of Mary Jane Mosquito. illus. by Sue Todd. 72p. Fifth House. Mar. 2017. Tr $24.95. ISBN 9781927083383.

Gr 3-5 –Sporting stubs instead of wings, Canadian-born Mary Jane Mosquito is constantly belittled by her nasty teacher and cruel mosquito classmates. Moving to Winnipeg to live with her aunt, she attends a diverse school open to insects of all types. However, when they, too, reject her, she takes out her frustrations by threatening the housefly Minnie Matouche with a can of Raid. When Aunt Flo finally explains that one acquires friends only through kindness and love and by sharing one’s gift, Mary Jane decides to go on tour and share her talent for song with others, who become her friends. In an oversize format filled with intensely colored block prints, this print version of a one-act, one-woman musical commissioned by Stratford Summer Music (a multiweek festival in Canada) features stylized figures in both full- and half-page illustrations. Dedicated to disabled children, the story uses audience participation as Mary Jane sings in English, French, and her native “mosquito language,” but without an accompanying CD, elementary readers will have to invent the music. Despite the appealing premise, the plot is too obvious, and the idea that audience members whom the protagonist meets only briefly could be considered “friends” is a little forced. A couple of Canadian references are not explained and will likely be incomprehensible to American listeners. VERDICT The book has an interesting look, but it promises more than it delivers. Consider only where plays and musicals are popular.–Nancy Menaldi-Scanlan, formerly at LaSalle Academy, Providence

Jordan, Laurie. Yawning Yoga. illus. by Diana Mayo. 32p. glossary. Little Pickle. Feb. 2017. Tr $18.95. ISBN 9781939775108.

PreS-Gr 2 –Jordan walks children through 11 different yoga poses meant specifically to help them unwind and settle down before bedtime. The first page offers tips to readers, including holding each pose for three to five breaths and going through them at a comfortable pace. Each section describes a child-friendly position, including “dog-tired down dog,” “seashell,” and “jelly belly,” along with its name in Sanskrit. A rhyme describing each pose is also featured (“when muscles feel all tense and tight, I do this stretch each and every night”). The more complicated poses are accompanied by small instructional images. Mayo’s lush, colorful illustrations are striking and lend a dreamlike quality to the work. With the recent push toward mindfulness in schools, this is a helpful tool to extend those soothing practices at home. VERDICT Ideal for pre-nap or pre-bedtime relaxation. Consider for use in preschools or at home.–Kathryn Justus, Renbrook School, West Hartford, CT

Olson, Tod. Lost in Outer Space: The Incredible Journey of Apollo 13. 176p. bibliog. glossary. Scholastic. Jan. 2017. Tr $12.99. ISBN 9780545928151.

Gr 3-7 –“Houston, we have a problem” is an iconic movie line to most people, and a variation on that very sentence was uttered during the actual Apollo 13 mission. The drama, instigated by a defective thermostat that caused an explosion and oxygen leak, was mirrored back on Earth. Barbara Lovell, the daughter of astronaut Jim Lovell (the mission commander), was aware that her father’s job was dangerous; however, during the Apollo 13 mission, she realized something particularly terrible was happening. Mission control in Houston immediately knew the situation was serious and scrambled to help Apollo 13. The safe return of all on board is no secret, but the full story of their trip and how those in space and on land became heroes is a thrilling one, full of heroism and suspense. The author’s recounting of the mission is detailed and gives equal coverage to the astronauts, the NASA engineers, and the families. The use of teen Barbara Lovell as a character for readers to identify with is effective and makes the story relatable. Technical language is not absent, but space concepts and tools are explained thoroughly in a manner that even reluctant readers will find accessible. VERDICT Fans of action-packed true survival stories will take to this real-life space episode—an easy pick for upper elementary schoolers.–Morgan Brickey, Arlington Public Library, TX

Sharks and Other Sea Creatures. 32p. index. photos. DK. Mar. 2017. Tr $8.99. ISBN 9781465456588.

PreS-Gr 2 –Featuring full-color photos layered atop cheerful design elements, this book alternates between factual spreads and craft projects throughout. Directions are consistently laid out in four steps, each with an accompanying photo. The index permits efficient searching for popular sea favorites, such as the regal blue tang. The title’s emphasis on sharks is a bit deceptive, as only one informational feature and one activity focus on those particular animals. The editors successfully and concisely represent four categories of ocean wildlife (mammals, reptiles, fish, and invertebrates) with easy-to-understand definitions and fascinating, little-known facts. The need for adult support is acknowledged on the colophon page, and instructions suggest that adults should help cut things out. Though the shapes are simple enough, preschool children may actually require the most assistance with the drawing aspect, as no stencils or templates are provided. Adults will be pleased that supplies, such as ribbons, cardstock, googly eyes, and paint, are inexpensively procured or perhaps already on hand. Only the “egg carton ocean” necessitates a recyclable item. Four of the five projects require drying time between steps. VERDICT A strong combination of nonfiction information and crafts. Recommended for a lively collaboration between young ocean enthusiasts and educators or parents.–Maria O’Toole, Carroll Manor Elementary School, Adamstown, MD

Strauss, Gwen. The Hiding Game. illus. by Herb Leonhard. 40p. further reading. photos. websites. Pelican. Feb. 2017. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781455622658.

Gr 2-4 –This nonfiction picture book sheds light on Varian Fry, an American journalist who, with the Emergency Rescue Committee, helped Europeans escape Nazi rule. Fry and his assistant, Danny Bénédite (the author’s great-uncle), facilitated the escape of thousands of refugees, including famous artists and writers such as Hannah Arendt, Marc Chagall, and Marcel Duchamp. This tale follows young Aube and her family as they flee the German army in France and find refuge in the Villa Air-Bel with Fry. Aube and her family are present during a raid on the villa, and they endure a long, cold winter before they escape via ship to South America. Aube is an ideal narrator, giving the events a childlike innocence that softens the harsh realities of refugee life, and Leonhard’s illustrations are equally soft and gentle. The subject matter is likely to be unfamiliar to most readers, and the book might be used as a companion text in discussing the current refugee crisis. However, the narrative lacks a consistent thread, so it reads more as a collection of facts than a cohesive story, making it less relatable to its intended audience. The title ends abruptly with the attempted murder of the author’s great-uncle by the Nazis, which could be confusing to young listeners and potentially upsetting because of the accompanying illustration. VERDICT A compelling subject gets short shrift in picture book form and struggles to find its focus. Consider for large history collections.–Casey O’Leary, Mooresville Public Library, IN

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Chapter Books: Mysteries, Friendship, and Invisible Cats | May 2017 Xpress Reviews Tue, 25 Apr 2017 20:30:10 +0000 The Year of the Book with a stellar prequel; meet Squishy McFluff, an invisible cat; and solve mysteries with King and Kayla.]]> 1704-Xpress-CB-Butler-King-KaylaButler, Dori Hillestad. King & Kayla and the Case of the Missing Dog Treats. ISBN 9781561458776.

––––. King & Kayla and the Case of the Secret Code. ISBN 9781561458783.

ea vol: illus. by Nancy Meyers. 48p. (King & Kayla). Peachtree. Mar. 2017. Tr $14.95.

Gr 1-2 –King and Kayla are solving mysteries for a younger generation in this prequel to Butler’s “The Buddy Files” series. The stories are told from the perspective of King, a golden retriever with a nose for solving mysteries. In the Case of the Missing Dog Treats, three treats go missing and Kayla suspects King. Innocent King knows that an intruder has snuck in and must be found out. Is the real culprit Thor, Jillian’s new puppy? Or is it Adam, Jillian’s brother? Or someone else altogether? In the Case of the Secret Code, Kayla receives a strange letter on her doorstep that she cannot read. King smells oatmeal on the letter and knows only of one person who smells like oatmeal. Kayla and her friend Mason work to decipher the secret code, while King keeps trying, unsuccessfully, to tell them he knows who sent the letter. This new series features colorful illustrations and accessible tales told in short, simple sentences. It’s a perfect option for newly independent readers ready to start transitioning from easy readers to beginning chapter books. VERDICT Transitional readers are always in demand, and this series is a worthy contribution to any collection serving brand-new readers.–Lisa Nabel, Tacoma Public Library, WA

1704-Xpress-CB-Cheng-TheYearoftheGardenredstarCheng, Andrea. The Year of the Garden. illus. by Patrice Barton. 128p. HMH. Apr. 2017. Tr $15.99. ISBN 9780544664449.

Gr 2-5 –In this satisfying prequel to The Year of the Book, Anna and her family have moved from an apartment to a house, meaning she will begin third grade at a new school. Before long, she meets Laura, also new to the neighborhood and eager to make new friends. The seeds of their tumultuous friendship are sown as they work together on a vegetable garden in Anna’s backyard, inspired by Frances Hodgson Burnett’s The Secret Garden. Readers will greatly enjoy seeing familiar characters appear in this book. Anna’s mother is still working to improve her English, and family friend Mrs. Shepherd (deceased at the beginning of The Year of the Book) gives Anna seeds, tools, and advice for working in the garden. From a class lesson on recycling to the rescue of an orphaned rabbit, themes of renewal and “the circle of life” are woven throughout. Barton’s wispy illustrations, as always, echo Anna’s sensitive nature and understanding of the world around her. VERDICT Appealing both to transitional and fluent readers, this thoughtful prequel offers further insights into Anna’s world for those returning to it, while creating a compelling story for those just discovering it.–Katherine Barr, Cameron Village Regional Library, Raleigh, NC

1704-Xpress-CB-Jones-SquishyMcFluffJones, Pip. The Invisible Cat! Bk. 1. ISBN 9780571302505.

––––. Supermarket Sweep! Bk. 2. ISBN 9780571302529.

ea vol: illus. by Ella Okstad. 80p. (Squishy McFluff). Faber & Faber. Apr. 2017. pap. $8.95.

K-Gr 2 –These charming British imports introduce children to Ava and her invisible cat, the adorable Squishy McFluff. The first book tells the story of Ava playing outside and “finding” the cat in the vegetable garden. The two play happily together, and Ava brings Squishy home and introduces him to her mother. Mummy plays along at first, pretending to see the cat, until Squishy’s antics get out of control. Mummy tries to get rid of Squishy but to no avail. Eventually, Ava assures her mother that Squishy will learn to behave, and Mummy agrees to let him stay. In the second book, Squishy’s exploits continue, this time at the grocery story—to Mummy’s great consternation. Children will giggle at Squishy’s misadventures and want to read more. VERDICT Rhyming text and simple, three-color illustrations make this a thumbs-up choice for early chapter readers.–Kathy Kirchoefer, Henderson County Public Library, NC

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Graphic Novels: The Latest from Matt Kindt, Margaret Atwood, and More | May 2017 Xpress Reviews Tue, 25 Apr 2017 20:25:30 +0000 1704-Xpress-GN-CVs

Hansen, Justin LaRocca. In the Trenches. illus. by Justin LaRocca Hansen. 160p. (Secondhand Heroes: Bk. 2). Dial. Feb. 2017. pap. $10.99. ISBN 9780803740952.

Gr 4-7 –Brothers Tuck and Hudson each have a magical weapon: a scarf that can stretch to impossible lengths and an umbrella that allows the user to fly. With the help of their talking squirrel friend Steen, Tuck and Hudson become the superheroes Stretch and Brella, protecting their neighborhood against the forces of evil. As this volume opens, the heroes return from a quick trip to the future. That time line is a disaster: without Stretch and Brella around, the world has fallen under the rule of a menacing man named Trench, who wields multiple magical items in this alternate reality. Tuck and Hudson return to the present knowing they have to track the items down, fast. The brothers find a new ally in Elvira, a girl who wears magical boots, and while they race against the clock, Hudson becomes involved in his first romance. The book hits the ground running, and while newcomers may not be lost, they will have to quickly acclimate to Tuck and Hudson’s world. The artwork is magnificently detailed, right down to subtle facial cues. This is a wordy graphic novel, with the longer conversations oozing with characterization. Younger readers looking for a whimsical book will be immediately thrown. Despite the childlike presentation, the actual writing is more in line with a serious DC title, making this suitable for more sophisticated middle graders. VERDICT A recommended purchase for libraries with Stretch and Brella’s debut adventure. Hand it to those ready for some serious storytelling.–Matisse Mozer, Los Angeles Public Library

redstarKindt, Matt. Dept. H: Vol. 1: Pressure. illus. by Matt Kindt & Sharlene Kindt. 168p. Dark Horse. Jan. 2017. Tr $19.99. ISBN 9781616559892.

Gr 7 Up –Matt Kindt delivers another amazing graphic novel with an imaginative premise. This is a highly unusual locked-room mystery, centering on an unexplained death that occurred in an undersea research station. Mia is sent down to the station to find out exactly what happened to her father. She doesn’t know if his death was accidental or intentional or whether it was part of a larger plan. What she does know is that several people she once trusted, including her brother and a former friend, are among the suspects. The book jumps between the present and the past as Mia’s memories keep pushing to the surface, making connections between then and now. This is a gripping murder mystery, made even more fascinating by the conflicting emotions that rage inside Mia as she tries to uncover the truth. Soon it becomes clear that her own safety is at risk, whether she is inside the station or out in the deepest part of the ocean, surrounded by sea creatures. The Kindts’ illustrations are murky and rough, capturing the dreamlike quality of the undersea world and drawing readers further into this surreal story. VERDICT An enthralling mystery in a unique setting that will leave graphic novel fans clamoring for the next volume in the series.–Andrea Lipinski, New York Public Library

Montclare, Brandon & Amy Reeder. Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur: Vol. 1: BFF. illus. by Natacha Bustos. Jul. 2016. ISBN 9781302900052.

––––. Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur: Vol. 2: Cosmic Cooties. illus. by Natacha Bustos & Marco Failla. Jan. 2017. ISBN 9781302902087.

ea vol: 136p. (Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur). Marvel. pap. $17.99.

Gr 3-8 –A fun, all-ages comic series with an unlikely heroine and her larger-than-life sidekick. Luna Lafayette is an eight-year-old supergenius who is frustrated with the adults in her life, her dull and unchallenging school and classmates, and by the knowledge that she carries the “inhuman” gene, which will cause a mutation if she becomes exposed to the alien-origin Terrigen Cloud. In BFF (which collects issues one through six), she and Devil Dinosaur haphazardly team up to fight Neanderthals after the T. rex and the prehistoric men are teleported to the present day. In Cosmic Cooties (which collects issues seven through 12), Luna discovers that the Terrigen Cloud gave her the ability to switch bodies with Devil Dinosaur, a power that proves extremely problematic to her science project with a new boy at school and her archnemesis, Kid Kree. The prickly African American fourth grader makes for a unique and inspiring STEM-focused superheroine, and kids will cheer for and laugh at her partnership with the loving but disaster-prone Devil Dinosaur. The action-packed scenes, cameos by the Hulk and Ms. Marvel, and hilarious dialogue make up for the wooden adult characters and uneven pacing of the first few issues. The colorful, slick, and expressive art will have young readers flipping through the pages quickly. VERDICT A wonderful start to a much-needed, well-done, inclusive comic series that deserves a place in all libraries.–Shelley M. Diaz, School Library Journal

Rodriguez, Jason, ed. Colonial Comics: Vol. II: New England, 1750–1775. 216p. bibliog. illus. Fulcrum. Jan. 2017. pap. $29.95. ISBN 9781682750025.

Gr 5 Up –Whereas the first volume of Colonial Comics focused on the years 1620–1750, this installment tackles a better-known time period in American history. However, Rodriguez has chosen to examine lesser-known people and events or lesser-known aspects of famous people and events. They also refreshingly highlight stories that focus on the minority and female experience within the New England colonies. Each piece is prefaced by an editorial introduction to the topic. The stories range from five to 13 pages in length and are all by different authors and artists. This leads, as is often inevitable in anthologies, to an uneven quality among the tales. Fortunately, the editorial introductions and spotlights keep the narrative cohesive. Many of the entries would do well to be fleshed out more, and in some narratives, the personages aren’t introduced well enough for the action to be clear. However, these instances are minor aberrations and do not detract from the overall book. The graphic novel format will entice reluctant readers who might not otherwise gravitate toward nonfiction, while the short story format will appeal to educators who want to emphasize a particular event or person in a classroom setting while whetting their students’ appetites for more. The editorial introductions explain that the stories make use of racial terms that may be jarring to modern readers but are historically accurate. A section on slavery depicts some (appropriately portrayed) nudity. While this title could stand alone, it would be best paired with the first volume, Colonial Comics: New England, 1620–1750. VERDICT This quality work of nonfiction is a strong option for those studying American history.–Elizabeth Nicolai, Anchorage Public Library, AK

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Teens Review “Rebel of the Sands” Sequel and More Tue, 25 Apr 2017 20:10:01 +0000 In this last column by the Kitsap YA Group, the teens review the follow-up to Alwyn Hamilton’s fantasy adventure, a hard-hitting contemporary debut, and more.

YA-SP-ZennDiagramBRANT, Wendy. Zenn Diagram. Kids Can Pr. Apr. 2017. Tr $17.95. ISBN 9781771387927.

Gr 7 Up— One touch tells you the depths of a person’s soul. One touch and you know them completely. One touch overwhelms you, until you meet Him.

I love the cover, the math equations immediately draw me (I’m a total math freak), while maintaining a kind of symmetry and depth. It’s like they’re saying “there’s more than you can see, figure it out” over and over. The fact that the “Zenn” diagram is in a heart shape at first totally drove me nuts, “perfect circle” that I am, but eventually just felt so TRUE with the story that I think [the publisher] couldn’t have picked a better cover. The [tag line] “What if one touch could tell you everything?” really drew me. As I said before, I’m a math freak, and also very, VERY intuitive. This book felt like it was my personal book since that very second I read that hook. I somehow knew this book was right for me.

I think the most compelling aspect of the book was the characters. They were extremely well rounded and well described, and the visions added a very interesting aspect to Eva’s (the narrator’s) knowledge and perception towards other characters. I found it very cool to read about Eva participating in many of the same rather atypical behaviors I do often, for very different reasons. For example: not touching people because she gets visions, not touching people because I am very physically sensitive.

By the end of the book I really felt like I knew the characters and could have told you what they would do and think in a given situation. We were already friends, even though they don’t exist.

Also, the math. What more can I say? I love math. There was math in this book. Perfect, right? I was only disappointed in this book for one reason: They had sex. Honestly! I like a good love story, but I don’t really want to read about people having sex. I think the story would have been just as beautiful, enticing, and ethereally real if they had just had a really hot make-out. Or took shirts off, or whatever. It’s really hard to find a love story these days that doesn’t have sex in it, and I would have been even happier (if that is possible) with this book if it was sex-free.

But, that is the only thing I don’t like. All in all a WONDERFUL book. Everyone should read it. It’s amazing.—Olivia V., 13

YA-SP-Cestari-TheBestKindofMagicCESTARI, Crystal. The Best Kind of Magic. Disney-Hyperion. May 2017. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781484752722.

Gr 7 Up— Amber Sand is a matchmaker in a family full of witches. She spends her days envisioning others’ true loves, wondering if she will ever fall in love herself. When a popular boy from school asks for her help in solving a mystery, she becomes love-struck, but is torn because she knows she is not his match.

I liked the cover, it wasn’t my favorite, but it was fun and pretty.

I loved the plot; it had the perfect balance of multiple things going on at once and it never really got boring. I also loved the characters, they had the perfect personalities that went with the plot and were built up perfectly.

I also really liked the writing style; it really gave life to the book and it felt like someone was actually telling you the story, or you were part of it, other than just monotone. The writing style made the book even more fun to read.

Some scenes in the book weren’t my favorite in the way that they were put together, but I think that, overall, the book was great and there were no really disappointing parts. It wasn’t my favorite book though.—Veronica C., 13

hamilton_traitorHAMILTON, Alwyn. Traitor to the Throne. Viking. Mar. 2017. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9780451477859.         

Gr 8 Up—Traitor to the Throne is an amazing sequel to Rebel of the Sands. They are both fast-paced novels with wild characters trying to make their world a better place.

I liked how colorful the cover is. It really caught my attention. I immediately see some themes in the book, with the contrast of the wet stones and ocean to the desert palace.

I really liked the plot and the characters. Each character is distinctly different, and the fact that some have some distinct mark, like bright eyes or wild colorful hair, makes it even cooler. Also, the plot never tired, there were always twists or something happening.

Maybe describe the setting a little more, there are a lot of different places in the story that I think learning a little more about them could help.—Kaitlyn H.,14

Walton_Words on Bathroom WallsWALTON, Julia. Words on Bathroom Walls. Random. July 2017.Tr 17.99. ISBN 9780399550881.

Gr 10 Up— Adam is a teenage boy who goes through life seeing things that aren’t there, and when a miracle drug tries to help him live a normal life, he is not too excited. But when he meets Maya, he realizes that maybe it is important to get rid of what is not really there. This is a beautiful story of how to truly understand what it means for something to only be inside your head.

I thought the cover was a bit too scattered, but I liked the idea of it. I kind of got a headache looking at it and it brought back memories of gas station bathrooms *shiver*. I think it reflected the idea of the title, but I did not really understand the reasoning behind it. I mean, so many other things were going on besides the “JESUS LOVES YOU” or “don’t be a homo,” in the bathroom.

I loved having real characters that are not so John Green–fantasy-like, but are more real-life people. I loved Adam and Maya’s relationship and how they were so close but also breakable. I also loved the plot, and the hallucinations were an interesting aspect. The writing style was beautiful, and I think I cried about seven times in the six hours I spent glued to the pages. I love this book. I would go as far as to say it’s my favorite. I don’t like a lot of books, but this one said so much to me without the whole constant-deep-emotions-corniness thing. It was a truly beautiful story. I loved it more than anything I’ve ever read.


The Kitsap (WA) Regional Library YA Book Group teen reviewers are part of YALSA’s Teens’ Top Ten program. The participants select the books that go on to be nominated for YALSA’s Teens’ Top Ten—a “teen choice” list.


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Jenny Han and Jennifer E. Smith On Contemporary YA, Writing, and Winning the Lotto Tue, 25 Apr 2017 16:00:31 +0000 Windfall. The two contemporary YA authors and friends discuss their writing process, the state of YA romance, and what they would do if they won the lottery.]]> Photo by Adam Krause

Photo by Adam Krause

Jenny Han, author of the “To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before” series, which concludes with Always and Forever, Lara Jean (S. & S.; May 2), chats with Jennifer E. Smith about Windfall (Random; May 2). The two contemporary YA authors and friends discuss their writing process, the state of YA romance, and what they would do if they won the lottery.

Jenny Han: Jen, the first time I ever heard about you, I was at my old editor’s office at Simon & Schuster, and she was showing me the cover of your first book, The Comeback Season, because she was so excited about it. And even though you and I both lived in New York, we wouldn’t actually meet in real life for years. So fast-forward to now, 10 years and eight books later, and you’re one of my closest friends. So how does that feel?!

Jennifer E. Smith: To be one of your closest friends? Obviously, it feels like winning the lottery! But seriously, I have such a distinct memory of her telling me about your first book, too. She was so excited about it—it’s hard to believe that was 10 years ago. It seems like it just happened and then a million years ago all at once. I’ll never forget when I got a call that Simon & Schuster wanted to acquire The Comeback Season—for all of the crazy and incredible things that have happened since, I don’t think anything can prepare you for the moment when you realize you’re going to be a real author. It’s what I’ve wanted for as long as I can remember, and I just felt so, so lucky…and I still do.

And now I can’t believe Windfall is my eighth book. How does it feel to look back on your career over the last decade or so from where you are now?

JH: It feels so long ago, and the industry has changed so much. YA used to be teeny tiny—the shelf space at the store was really small; there weren’t as many authors or books. Now it’s huge with so many festivals and conferences and all these different ways to meet your fans. With my first book, social media was not a thing, and now it is, which comes with its own rewards and challenges. But the thing that I feel happiest about is how many amazing people I’ve met through publishing. My writer friends are so instrumental to my process now. We go on retreats together, brainstorm ideas, read pages for one another—like you and I did for these projects.

always-and-forever-lara-jean-9781481430487_hrJS: It’s just such a lucky thing that so many of my favorite authors and also happen to be some of my favorite people. Writing can be a very solitary job, so when you’re friends with other authors, it’s like having colleagues. I don’t know what I would do without that support system of being able to compare notes and ask for advice and vent, and process and just sort of help each other out. It’s been so important for me.

You told me that you were thinking of doing a third book, and I was so excited that it was hard to keep it a secret. But how does it feel for you to be coming to the end of a journey like this? Especially when you didn’t necessarily plan it this way from the start.

JH: It feels really lovely. I think because there was only supposed to be two books, so when I was finishing P.S. I Still Love You, there was a bit of sadness then. But now I think of it like we already had the meal and this book is the dessert that I just had to order. Just one more taste and then on to the next thing. It doesn’t even really feel like goodbye because the characters always sort of live on in my head, independently of me.

I wouldn’t say that Windfall is a departure from the other books, because it’s still very much a Jennifer E. Smith kind of book—realistic and hopeful and warm. But it’s also got a few heavier themes and feels a little bit different. It even looks different. Did it feel different writing it?

Jennifer Smith-7473-select-final.flatJS: Yeah, it really did. It was more of a challenge in some ways, because the story is a bit bigger in scope and explores some deeper themes than some of my previous books. But I really loved working on it; I’m so excited about this moment. I’ve been wanting to write about someone winning the lottery for a long time, just because I’m kind of obsessed with these moments in time that act as hinges, where there’s a really clear split between a before and an after. And that’s just such a perfect example, winning the lottery—your whole life shifts. Which, for me, is always the most interesting place to start a story, at that moment of intense change. So I loved writing this one, and I’m really, really proud of the book. The new cover design was just kind of the cherry on top. I really love it, and I’m excited for it to be out in the world soon.

JH: And you did a lot of research on lotteries?

JS: I did. When you’re writing about a young lottery winner, you have to ask: What happened to other people who have won? What is it like to win immense amounts of money at a young age? In a way, it makes you not want to win the lottery. It can be a bit grim, especially for young people. Their money often ends up disappearing in various ways. This book is a more hopeful version of that story, but I also wanted to be realistic about how much it can throw a wrench in your life.

Shelley Diaz: What would each of you do if you won the lottery?

JS: We’ve talked about this a lot, Jenny. I remember I was hanging out with you the day of that billion dollar Powerball drawing, so we had a long lottery talk.

Final cover.inddJH: I’m the kind of person who always thinks I’m going to win no matter what, so I have very specific plans. I’d get a beach house and a bigger New York apartment. I’d give some to my family, to Alzheimer’s research, and I’d start a production company and make the kind of movies I want to see—romantic comedies starring people of color, directed by women.

JS: As I’ve been talking about this book more and more, I’ve realized this is something everyone has thought of at some time or other—and it cracks me up how specific people are. I’ve talked to people who say, “I would give one eighth to this and one quarter to that.” I haven’t really mapped it out. I would travel a lot. I’d also want to buy a little cottage in Scotland, which Jenny told me was not practical. But I want to do it anyway. There’s another big theme in the book about charity and volunteering, which often goes hand in hand with the lottery. And I think, especially now, people have a responsibility to help others. So it would be a real privilege to have the means to make more of a difference.

SD: Can either of you share anything about what you’re working on next, or is that top secret?

JS: I’m working on something right now that I’m really excited about, but it’s still in the beginning stages, so it’s a little bit early to share. But it explores some of the themes that I’m always interested in—timing, chance, and serendipity.

JH: As for me, I’m working on something I’ve been working on for quite a while. I was working on this before I wrote Always and Forever, Lara Jean, and then I put it aside. There are a few projects that I’m juggling. I really only just finished Always and Forever, Lara Jean a few months ago, so it’s been a really short gestational period between revising and planning for the release in May. I really haven’t even looked at any other projects yet.

SD: With Sarah Dessen winning the Margaret A. Edwards Award this year and Nicola Yoon’s book getting so much acclaim, do you think that contemporary YA romance is finally getting its due?

JH: There have been peaks and valleys, but I honestly never really notice them while they’re happening. It always feels in style because there have always been readers who want to read these books.

JS: I think this is a subject that’s perennially interesting. But most YA books that are categorized as romance are about a lot more than that, too. Jenny and I would probably categorize what we write as realistic fiction more than YA romance because they’re also about family and friendship and big issues. And those are the kinds of stories that are always going to be important.





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