School Library Journal The world's largest reviewer of books, multimedia, and technology for children and teens Fri, 28 Oct 2016 13:00:59 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Chirri & Chirra by Kaya Doi | SLJ Review Fri, 28 Oct 2016 13:00:59 +0000 DOI, Kaya. Chirri & Chirra. tr. from Japanese by Yuki Kaneko. illus. by Kaya Doi. 40p. Enchanted Lion. Sept. 2016. Tr $15.95. ISBN 9781592701995.

PreS-Gr 1 –This Japanese import is the first in a series featuring two nearly identical rosy-cheeked girls. Dressed in black leggings and button-down cardigans, they spend a day cycling through the forest, straight black hair billowing behind them. The sound of the bicycles—“dring-dring, dring-dring!”—signals each leg of their journey. Every establishment they visit accommodates creatures [...]]]> redstarDOI, Kaya. Chirri & Chirra. tr. from Japanese by Yuki Kaneko. illus. by Kaya Doi. 40p. Enchanted Lion. Sept. 2016. Tr $15.95. ISBN 9781592701995.

chirri-and-chirraPreS-Gr 1 –This Japanese import is the first in a series featuring two nearly identical rosy-cheeked girls. Dressed in black leggings and button-down cardigans, they spend a day cycling through the forest, straight black hair billowing behind them. The sound of the bicycles—“dring-dring, dring-dring!”—signals each leg of their journey. Every establishment they visit accommodates creatures of varying sizes, so at the tidy woodland café, “they sit at a table that’s just right for them.” Children who love to imagine inhabiting a parallel animal realm will be enchanted by the mouthwatering concoctions and friendly interactions—drinking acorn coffee from the hollowed nut while conversing with the bee sipping violet tea, or later watching a rabbit select carrot buns with lemon jam at the roadside bakery. After an afternoon swim, the duo pedal to a cozy hotel where a deer welcomes them. The climax portrays a warmly lit view of clusters of animals on their individual balconies singing along with the orchestra in the courtyard below. Curving compositions and sweeping greenery rendered in colored pencil, combined with the white (negative) space swirling around each image on the page, recall the harmonious designs in Virginia Lee Burton’s The Little House. While there’s nary an adult in sight, this charming picture book is completely in touch with childhood desires and logic. VERDICT A sweet and safe selection to nourish children’s spirits and fuel fantasies, best shared one-on-one so they can pore over the artwork.–Wendy Lukehart, District of Columbia Public Library

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

]]> 0
Brown v. Board of Education: A Fight for Simple Justice by Susan Goldman Rubin | SLJ Review Thu, 27 Oct 2016 13:00:43 +0000 RUBIN, Susan Goldman. Brown v. Board of Education: A Fight for Simple Justice. 144p. bibliog. chron. index. notes. photos. Holiday House. Oct. 2016. Tr $18.95. ISBN 9780823436460; ebk. $18.95. ISBN 9780823437085.

Gr 6-8 –In a highly readable narrative, this title tells the story of the monumental 1954 Supreme Court decision that mandated desegregation in public schools in the United States. In short, comprehensible chapters, Rubin describes the development of five individual cases as they were strategically fought and often [...]]]> redstarRUBIN, Susan Goldman. Brown v. Board of Education: A Fight for Simple Justice. 144p. bibliog. chron. index. notes. photos. Holiday House. Oct. 2016. Tr $18.95. ISBN 9780823436460; ebk. $18.95. ISBN 9780823437085.

brown-v-boardGr 6-8 –In a highly readable narrative, this title tells the story of the monumental 1954 Supreme Court decision that mandated desegregation in public schools in the United States. In short, comprehensible chapters, Rubin describes the development of five individual cases as they were strategically fought and often lost at the district level. Eventually all five appealed together to the highest court of the nation. The book demystifies this legal journey and puts a face to it by profiling the young student plaintiffs, their brave and determined parents, and, in particular, Thurgood Marshall, the lead lawyer for the NAACP and the driving force behind the legal struggle for desegregation. These personal stories, as well as other interesting details and descriptions, make for an approachable and easily digestible account that succeeds in bringing history to life. The work ends with an epilogue looking at the impact of desegregation on today’s schools. This title is fastidiously well researched, and Rubin backs up her story with thorough summaries of each court case, the full text of the Fourteenth Amendment, and Chief Justice Earl Warren’s opinion on the decision. Relevant black-and-white photographs, many from the NAACP’s collections, are peppered throughout. VERDICT An engaging and thorough take on an important topic, this is a first purchase for middle school U.S. history collections.–Clara Hendricks, Cambridge Public Library, MA

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

]]> 0
Neil Gaiman’s How To Talk to Girls at Parties by Neil Gaiman | SLJ Review Thu, 27 Oct 2016 13:00:23 +0000 GAIMAN, Neil. Neil Gaiman’s How To Talk to Girls at Parties. illus. by Gabriel Bá & Fábio Moon. 64p. Dark Horse. Jul. 2016. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781616559557.

Gr 7 Up –Two young men named Vic and Enn walk down the street, trying to find their friend’s party, when they come across a house playing loud music that draws them in. Vic has always been popular, and he tries to give Enn advice on talking to pretty girls. Both start [...]]]> redstarGAIMAN, Neil. Neil Gaiman’s How To Talk to Girls at Parties. illus. by Gabriel Bá & Fábio Moon. 64p. Dark Horse. Jul. 2016. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781616559557.

how-to-talk-to-girl-at-partiesGr 7 Up –Two young men named Vic and Enn walk down the street, trying to find their friend’s party, when they come across a house playing loud music that draws them in. Vic has always been popular, and he tries to give Enn advice on talking to pretty girls. Both start talking to different young women, but they soon discover that the girls and the party are not what they appear to be. This graphic novel is based on Gaiman’s Locus Award–winning story, which was previously published in his Fragile Things and M Is For Magic anthologies. The graphic novel format works seamlessly with the narrative. The ink-and-watercolor artwork has a surreal, luminous quality that deftly captures glowing eyes, waves of music, lamp light, and the characters’ emotional turmoil. Teens cannot help but notice this title’s striking illustrations and think about which panels would look best framed on their walls. VERDICT For fans of surreal fantasy, inspired writing and artwork, and Gaiman.–Andrea Lipinski, New York Public Library

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

]]> 0
How Librarians Help Kids With ADHD Thrive Wed, 26 Oct 2016 21:17:14 +0000 adhd-libraryhelp


When it comes to integrating kids with special needs, classroom teachers have a full plate. Instructing this population, particularly students with attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), can be a challenge because the work takes place alongside regular lessons and activities during an already busy day.

Librarians, of course, can relate: many face similar issues, but often with less time allotted to accomplish their goals. Seeing kids just once or twice a week for a single period makes it hard to break through and engage their students with special needs.

Kate Powers, a librarian in her third year at James M. Quinn Elementary School in Dartmouth, MA, definitely feels the time crunch. “I find that it can be tough to give some of my kids the consistency they need,” she says. “I usually see them once a week for 30–40 minutes, and it’s hard to make solid connections.”

Children with ADHD often have trouble with restlessness, staying in their seats, and listening quietly, explains Dr. Andrew Adesman, chief of developmental/behavioral pediatrics at Northwell Health’s Steven and Alexandra Cohen Children’s Medical Center in Long Island, NY. “They may also have a shorter attention span for things that are not of interest to them and may not read quietly if they’re not engaged with the selected book,” he adds. Also, because approximately one third of kids with ADHD also have a learning disability, it means that some are below their grade level in reading ability.

Ashley Waring has a unique perspective on this group, as she has had personal and professional experience with ADHD. “Even though these kids struggle with impulsivity and transitions, I still want to make the library a place where kids with ADHD feel valued and appreciated for their ideas, energy, and curiosity,” says the children’s librarian at the Reading (MA) Public Library.

Both Powers and Waring have valuable information to share when it comes to teaching kids with ADHD in their libraries. Here’s what they’ve learned and how you can incorporate the same techniques.

Ease the transitions

Because library sessions are so short, it’s important to get kids settled quickly. “It helps a great deal when I warn my students with ADHD about upcoming shifts,” notes Waring. She’s also sure to make eye contact first. “This way, I can tell if the child is paying attention to what I’m saying before I even start to speak,” she says.

Break down tasks

Lots of kids need specific instruction when it comes to completing tasks in school, but those with ADHD may have additional trouble organizing their thoughts and actions. Issuing a vague statement about “cleaning up the LEGO bricks” can seem overwhelming and thus be ignored. Instead, give specific direction. “I like to point my students toward individual pieces and piles so they can focus and be successful,” reports Waring.

Seat with care

Sometimes it’s all about where a child is positioned. Adesman notes that it’s a good idea to move a student who has trouble paying attention to a spot that’s closer to the teacher. “This is a smart because it allows the librarian to gain the attention of the child before she gives instructions, and it may shift the kid away from others who could be distracting to him,” he explains.

Introduce fidgets

Fidgets, or toys that encourage kids to self-regulate by helping to focus their attention, are a must-have in the library, according to our sources. “Fidgets such as stress balls give kids with ADHD something to do with their busy hands while their brains and ears are focusing on what the teacher is saying,” points out Waring.

Use incentives

Little motivators can make a world of difference, says Powers. “For some reason, there are a couple of kids in my classes who just love the privilege of cleaning up the library, which includes using the big duster to buff shelves, wiping down the tables, and straightening the books,” she explains. These smalls jobs can help a child feel more involved—and they’re a big help to librarians.

Reward good behavior

“I’ve learned to praise good behavior, sometimes emphatically,” shares Powers. Her school uses Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports, which allows teachers to reward good behavior with a plastic coin. Students put this special disk into their class rocket and when the rocket is filled, the class can choose a reward, such as pajama day or a movie event. “I give out coins whenever I see students really trying to control their behavior,” adds Powers.

Ask for a hand

One boy Waring taught had trouble remembering to raise his hand when he wanted to speak. “I told him I understood how hard it was to do this, but I really wanted him to try,” she says. The next time the group met, Waring reminded him about her request, and she called on him every time he raised his hand. “I made a point to praise him and to tell his mom, and that social praise was enough to keep him focused on this particular behavior in our class.”

Speak with care

Words matter, especially to a kid with ADHD. “Do all you can to make sure the child you’re working with doesn’t feel ‘in trouble’ or ‘bad’ because of his behavior, even if it’s disruptive,” says Waring. Kids with ADHD are at greater risk for low self-esteem, social issues, and even substance abuse later on in life.

Allocate funds

Keeping space in the budget for specific materials that might be helpful to kids with ADHD, including ebooks and audiobooks, is highly recommended. “I used BookFlix from Scholastic, and it’s worth every penny,” notes Powers.

Be patient

Working with kids in general can occasionally fray the nerves of the most experienced educators, and the ADHD population is no different. “Exercise as much patience as you can, because some of these students are really struggling,” urges Powers. “Many times these kids are also reluctant readers, so I always try to have an array of books that will capture and hold their interest,” she says. Hitting upon the right topic (dinosaurs or volcanoes, say) can mean the difference between a child who drifts and one who’s engaged—and learning.

Jennifer Kelly Geddes is a Manhattan-based reporter who writes frequently for and Everyday Health.

]]> 0
Middle Grade Xpress Reviews | November 2016 Wed, 26 Oct 2016 20:25:58 +0000 Dreidels on the Brain, a changeling baby, light fantasy for humor lovers, and more.]]> 1611-xpress-middlegrade-cvs

For more of this month’s
Xpress Reviews:

Picture Books

Chapter Books


Graphic Novels


Bailey, Kristin. The Silver Gate. 320p. HarperCollins/Katherine Tegen Bks. Oct. 2016. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780062398574.

Gr 3-6 –Elric, though just a boy, is charged with a secret that could damage his entire family if the lord of the property discovers it—or rather, her. His father claims that Elric’s younger sister, Wynn, is a changeling, switched by fairies as a baby, which explains her speech impediment and physical difficulties. Hidden away, Wynn has grown up safe and happy until her mother dies and she is alone, unaware that her father feels as if he has no choice but to offer her as a servant to the castle. Elric knows that his innocent sister will end up abused in such a situation, so he spins a story to draw Wynn into a journey toward a safer village. Along the way, they argue as many siblings do, but ultimately learn that they must forgive and support each other to survive. Bailey deftly explores bullying and the definition of “normal.” VERDICT This polished, charming story is a perfect fit for fans of Shannon Hale and Jessica Day George’s fairy-tale retellings as well as an excellent choice for elementary school book discussion groups.–Kerry Sutherland, Akron-Summit County Public Library, OH

Cmapos, Llanos. The Treasure of Barracuda. tr. from Spanish by Lawrence Schimel. illus. by Júlia Sardà. 148p. Little Pickle. Oct. 2016. Tr $15.95. ISBN 9781939775146.

Gr 4-6 –A yarn about pirates and outlaws, adventures and danger, and a ship named the Southern Cross sailing in the South Seas. Eleven-year-old Sparks, a cabin boy, tells the story of Captain Barracuda, a group of old pirates, and their search for hidden treasure. Two Molars, Boasnovas, John the Whale, Erik the Belgian, One-Legged Jack, and the other pirates travel with Captain Barracuda in search of the treasures hidden by the infamous Phineas Krane. Eventually, they discover that the treasure is, disappointingly for the illiterate pirates, a book. Two Molars is the only one who knows how to read, so their future success depends on his ability to help teach them. Several of the characters, including a Chinese pirate, perpetuate unfortunate stereotypes via the text and the illustrations throughout. The journey is haphazard, with a focus on humorous interactions on board the ship. The theme of the power of literacy is a bit heavy-handed, though teachers are likely to appreciate it. VERDICT There are better middle grade tales that emphasize the importance of reading; an additional purchase only.–Valentine Muyumba, Indiana State University, Terra Haute

Eastburn, Mark. Earning My Spots. 288p. Sky Pony. Sept. 2016. Tr $15.99. ISBN 9781510707788.

Gr 4-6 –The idea that shape-shifters live among us, in forms as varied as the regions of the world from which their ancestors hail, is the basis for this adventure tale filled with farts, fights, and chase scenes and featuring a young werehyena named Sam. Sam’s journey begins when his family members, who live a fairly isolated existence in the woodsy town of John’s Gore, VT, are abruptly abducted by harpies. With the help of a new friend, Manny, and Manny’s mom (both jaguar shape-shifters), Sam travels to New Orleans and eventually to the jungles of Brazil. Eastburn’s idea is novel, but the scope of Sam’s journey rushes the story and leaves the settings feeling rather flat. The characters aren’t fully developed—Sam meets many personalities, often with cool shape-shifting abilities, but readers rarely get to know much about them. Sam himself has a dry narrative voice and is sometimes humorously wild (the hyena side of him dictates some unflattering behavior in the airplane bathroom), but he seems oddly unshaken by his family’s sudden disappearance, not to mention the possibility that they’ve met an untimely end. With the tale’s entire impetus resting on Sam’s quest to find them, more time delving into his feelings would have been well spent. VERDICT A good premise that’s never fleshed out to its full potential. A secondary purchase except for the most avid adventure readers.–Abigail Garnett, Brooklyn Public Library

Izzy, Joel Ben. Dreidels on the Brain. 320p. Dial. Oct. 2016. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780803740976.

Gr 4-7 –The year is 1971. Joel is a dorky 12-year-old amateur magician from one of the few Jewish families in town. He’s dealing with his parents’ poverty, his dad’s crippling arthritis and temporary coma, and with being asked to teach his whole school about Hanukkah at the Winter Holiday Assembly. Joel’s talents as a jokester and his ever-ready magic tricks get him through his daily difficulties. Even the dreaded assembly is a success because of Joel’s storytelling chutzpah and his family’s willingness to embrace their own weirdness. The author is a professional storyteller who has based this book loosely on his own childhood. Young Joel’s first-person narration addresses the audience directly, self-consciously mocking and explaining Jewish customs and history. Joel often sounds like an adult looking back at 1971 rather than a child living it, especially when he is touched by the Holocaust memories of a stranger on a bus. His level of Yiddishkeit (“Man-O-Manischewitz!”) seems extreme for an assimilated child, giving the impression of a young Billy Crystal rather than a real kid. That said, he is a sympathetic character, and his jokes are (mostly) funny. While the plot meanders a bit, the ride is entertaining. The satisfying conclusion allows Joel to feel pride in his family, to triumph in front of his friends, and to get the (non-Jewish) girl. VERDICT An entertaining, slightly over-the-top slice of Jewish suburban life in the 1970s, with the bonus of magic tricks and jokes. Give to readers who like realistic, character-driven stories.–Heidi Rabinowitz, Congregation B’nai Israel, Boca Raton, FL

Reida, Sarah. Monsterville: A Lissa Black Production. 320p. ebook available. Sky Pony. Sept. 2016. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781510707337.

Gr 4-7 –Thirteen-year-old Lissa Black wants to make movies. She wants to win an Oscar for best picture. She wants to move back to New York, where her friends are putting on a school play that she wrote before her parents dragged her and her little sister, Haylie, to live in rural Freeburg, PA. Full of frustration, Lissa eventually makes friends with the neighbor boy, Adam, who makes it his mission to show Lissa that Freeburg is not as dull as she imagines. Events take a turn when Haylie goes missing, and Lissa sets out to rescue her sister from the land of monsters “Down Below.” This novel is not just a suspenseful monster story; it’s funny, too. Middle grade readers will appreciate that Lissa’s obstacles are not just of the creepy variety. She deals with annoying classmates, attempts to stay in touch with old friends, and finds ways to appreciate and accept change. The book ends with a nice setup for a sequel. VERDICT A solid addition for larger middle grade collections in need of humorous light fantasy.–Matthew Forster, Big Words, Clarkston, MI

]]> 0
Nonfiction Xpress Reviews | November 2016 Wed, 26 Oct 2016 20:22:46 +0000 1611-xpress-nonfiction-cvs

For more of this month’s
Xpress Reviews:

Picture Books

Chapter Books

Middle Grade


Graphic Novels

Andrus, Aubre. Five-Minute True Stories: Animal BFFs. 160p. photos. Scholastic. Jul. 2016. Tr $12.99. ISBN 9780545914192.

Gr 2-5 –Warm and fuzzy tales paired with equally squee-worthy photos provide a gentle read for animal lovers. The 12 vignettes describe unlikely friendships among animals, such as a lion, tiger, and bear raised together, or a dog and her “pet” guinea pigs. Each section introduces the creatures and discusses how they met, what they like to do together, and what their friendship can teach humans about our own relationships. The book itself is kid-friendly in design, with big type and brightly colored pages. The photographs are large, although some are a bit blurry. The conversational and enthusiastic tone makes it easy to follow each story. However, excessive exclamation points and the glossing over of heavier issues (e.g., animals in captivity, irresponsible owners) might distract discerning readers. The title guarantees that these are true accounts, but no sources are listed. VERDICT Purchase where lightweight short stories about cute animals are in high demand.–Elissa Cooper, Helen Plum Memorial Library, Lombard, IL

Angus, Laurie Ellen. Octopus Escapes Again! illus. by Laurie Ellen Angus. 32p. bibliog. websites. Dawn. Sept. 2016. Tr $16.95. ISBN 9781584695776.

PreS-Gr 3 –This introduction to octopuses begins with a simple but dramatic question: “Will she eat today? Or be eaten?” Readers follow along as an octopus encounters a variety of tasty treats but is thwarted by several sea animals that are higher up on the food chain. Asides in a smaller font often accompany the octopus’s narrow escapes, giving scientific explanations for her evasive actions. Budding marine biologists will enjoy the vivid, collage-style illustrations, while teachers and parents will be satisfied with the back matter, which includes additional info on octopuses and activity ideas. VERDICT While not for hard-hitting research, this selection is a fun introduction to octopuses. Recommended for school libraries in need of more cephalopod titles.–Brittany Drehobl, Eisenhower Public Library District, IL

Hoffman, Mary. The Great Big Body Book. illus. by Ros Asquith. 40p. (Great Big Book). glossary. Frances Lincoln/Janetta-Otter Barry Bks. Aug. 2016. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781847808721.

K-Gr 2 –From birth to death, the five senses to genetics, Hoffman and Asquith cover it all in this quirky offering. This volume takes a simple yet informative approach to explaining how human bodies develop and operate. Gender and gender identity are also tackled through the inclusion of transgender and nonbinary characters. Speech bubbles and captions provide many opportunities for jokes, facts, questions, and ideas to enhance the experience, whether the work is read independently or shared with an adult. This title would make a great occasion for family reading, as many passages naturally lead to further conversation. VERDICT Librarians would be glad to add this all-things-bodily book to their lower elementary collections.–Joy Poynor, formerly at Rogers Public Library, AR

Lawrence, Sandra. Trials and Trickery: All the Grim, Gruesome, and Gory Parts of History’s Dark Side. ISBN 9781499800814.

––––. Death and Destruction: All the Grim, Gruesome, and Gory Parts of History’s Dark Side. ISBN 9781499800821.

ea vol: 64p. (Hideous History). glossary. illus. index. little bee. Jul. 2016. Tr $11.99.

Gr 6-8 –A presentation on various macabre-themed episodes of history, from Julius Caesar’s assassination to 20th-century gangsters. Readers will learn of the terrible ways in which humans have tortured, killed, and maimed one another over the course of history. The text occasionally caricatures entire peoples (“With 300 years of pillage and plunder under their tooled leather belts, the Vikings still rank as some of the blood thirstiest bad guys in history.”). Bright red blood splotches appear on most pages. The cartoonish illustrations can be rather violent: severed heads and other wounds are portrayed. VERDICT A selection more at home with Alvin Schwartz’s Scary Stories To Tell in the Dark than with other history titles. Recommended for collections that serve horror fans or in need of Halloween-related materials.–Jeffrey Meyer, Mt. Pleasant Public Library, IA

Leibold, Jay. Neuron Galaxy: A Story from Morphonix About Your Brain. illus. by Max Weinberg & Christine Gralapp. 40p. Morphonix. Sept. 2016. pap. $9.99. ISBN 9780692747667.

Gr 2-5 –The illustrations within this title personify neurons as one-eyed cells with tentacles in search of “friends.” (“The baby neuron was lonely. It wanted to connect to neuron friends.”) The importance of learning is a running theme throughout this work. The text explains that neurons make connections in the brain as it develops (“their branches connect like shaking hands”), which is how humans are able to learn new things. The use of white lettering on a dark blue background gives the volume a spacelike appearance. However, the specificity of the topic makes this an unlikely draw for readers. VERDICT Purchase to supplement basic lessons on neurons. Otherwise, consider JoAnn Deak’s Your Fantastic Elastic Brain for a more kid-friendly choice covering brain functions.–Sandra Welzenbach, Villarreal Elementary School, San Antonio

Mack. All About Forests. tr. from Dutch. illus. by Mack. 80p. (Mack’s World of Wonder). photos. Clavis. Sept. 2016. Tr $19.95. ISBN 9781605373010.

K-Gr 3 –Short and simple passages, peppered with relevant vocabulary (e.g., deciduous, coniferous), introduce young students to all things forest related. The format is fairly standard; large photos and cartoon illustrations ease students into the topic, while reader-directed questions allow them to reflect on the content as they read. The book is fairly long (for this age group), but it is divided into several sections, so there are obvious stopping places if time or attention spans are limited. A few of the flora and fauna featured may be unfamiliar to U.S. readers (the book was originally published in Holland); however, the majority of the information is applicable to those in most parts of North America. VERDICT A solid selection for read-alouds or as a lap book for those interested in introducing forests to kindergartners.–Debbie Tanner, S D Spady Montessori Elementary, FL

Meltzer, Brad. Heroes for My Son. 128p. photos. HarperCollins. Oct. 2016. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780062439314.

Gr 5-7 –What makes a person a hero? Meltzer’s book offers 52 uplifting life stories as examples of everyday heroes. Featuring a host of famous and lesser-known people, each mini-biography explores the drive and inner motivation of these true role models. Tales of selfless acts and personal struggles are told in short snippets; each is accompanied by a picture and quote. A theme of resilience emerges when all of the accounts are read together. The book features figures such as Bella Abzug, a social equality activist and U.S. congresswoman; Officer Frank Shankwitz, cofounder of the Make-a-Wish Foundation; and Dan West, founder of Heifer International. The individuals who appear in these pages are remembered for the honorable acts they performed rather than the offices they held or the popularity they gained. Meltzer also includes stories about his mother and grandfather, both of whom had a profound impact on his life. Space is allotted for readers to chronicle their personal heroes. VERDICT A browsable addition to libraries with large budgets.–Jocelyn Charpentier, Acton-Boxborough Regional School District, MA

Prinja, Raman. Night Sky Watcher: Your Guide to the Stars and Planets. 120p. bibliog. glossary. illus. index. photos. QED. Jul. 2016. pap. $12.95. ISBN 9781609929541.

Gr 4-7 –Astronomer, professor, and author Prinja returns with a vibrant and comprehensive kid’s guide to amateur astronomy. Content on the night sky is divided into sections, with a chapter on the basics so that readers with even no prior knowledge of astronomy will be able to jump right in. The tone of the text is informative and succinct; it flows conversationally rather than like a textbook. Vocabulary words are defined contextually and in a glossary. Illustrations support the text and are captioned using a different font than that of the main text. However, this typeface is comprised of dashed lines, and while artistically representing stars or constellations, it can be difficult to read in comparison to the other fonts used. Housed in a plastic zippered case to potentially also hold a journal or a pencil, this guide is the perfect companion for stargazing. (The book can easily be removed from this protective case if desired.) VERDICT A well-researched, in-depth guide for novice astronomers. A recommended selection for school and public libraries, science educators, homeschoolers, and astro-enthusiasts.–Doneanne Soult, Westampton Middle School, NJ

Schaefer, Lola M. & Adam Schaefer. Because of an Acorn. illus. by Frann Preston-Gannon. 36p. glossary. Chronicle. Aug. 2016. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781452112428.

PreS-Gr 1 –This small book provides an elementary-level look at the way even an acorn plays an important role in the ecosystem. From the acorn comes a tree. The tree is a home to birds that scatter seeds. Seeds become flowers that bear appetizing fruit. The fruit attracts hungry chipmunks that entice hunter snakes. A watchful hawk, however, swoops down to catch its slithering prey. As the hawk stands guard in the oak tree, an acorn falls. And so another tree is born, and another, and soon there is a forest. Each page is laid out with only a few words or a single phrase. The pen-and-ink illustrations have an earth-tone palette and are enhanced digitally. The back matter consists of a glossary of important terms, such as ecosystem and saplings, and provides further information on how acorns nourish the forest animals. A few paragraphs explaining the importance of forests to the environment, specifically those in the Cumberland Plateau, is appended. VERDICT For the youngest readers and listeners, this is a simple but attractive introduction to nature’s life cycles.–Roxanne Burg, Orange County Public Library, CA

Snyder, Robert C. What Is a Veteran, Anyway? illus. by Ronald Himler. 32p. websites. Blue Marlin. Sept. 2016. Tr $17.95. ISBN 9780988529557.

Gr 3-5 –Snyder, an educator and a veteran of the Iraqi War, describes in general terms what life is like for a variety of veterans. The text and the soft illustrations, rendered in pencil and gouache, portray the jobs and living conditions of servicemen and servicewomen during their deployment. Food, types of shelter, exposure to the elements, time away from family, injury, and death are also mentioned. A list of all the wars in which the United States has been involved is included. The final page provides several suggestions for honoring veterans and active duty personnel. The endpapers are a collage of cropped portions of the main illustrations. VERDICT Consider this illustrated title on veterans for collections that serve military communities or are in need of an introduction.–Eldon Younce, Anthony Public Library, KS

Sundem, Garth. Real Kids, Real Stories, Real Character: Choices That Matter Around the World. 168p. index. maps. Free Spirit. Aug. 2016. pap. $9.99. ISBN 9781631980268.

Gr 5-8 –This brief, accessible book tells the true stories of 30 kids and teens who have demonstrated positive character in their lives, specifically courage, creativity, resilience, and responsibility. Some of the entries are truly inspiring; for instance, 10-year-old Arit from India challenged the caste system, and 13-year-old William in Malaki built wind-powered generators from junk. However, many of the accounts included come across as trite in comparison. The writing style is conversational and friendly but not particularly engaging. These are positive stories with a good message, but this volume is unlikely to fly off shelves. VERDICT Consider for collections in need of positive personal interest stories only.–Lisa Crandall, formerly at the Capital Area District Library, Holt, MI

Wooster, Patricia. So, You Want To Be a Leader?: An Awesome Guide to Becoming a Head Honcho. 192p. (Be What You Want). ebook available. further reading. glossary. illus. notes. websites. S. & S./Aladdin. Aug. 2016. Tr $19.99. ISBN 9781582705484; pap. $11.99. ISBN 9781582705477.

Gr 4-8 –This book, the ninth in the series, comes close to packing more information than some might deem necessary into its pages. The content is organized well, and the author’s tone is conversational and readable—students can peruse the chapters at their convenience. After an introductory chapter that highlights what it means to be a leader and describes the skills one might need, the book is organized by the type of leadership readers might aspire to, from political to spiritual. Spotlights that describe past and present leaders, as well as “Like a Boss” and “VIP” profiles, which include interviews with prominent teens and adults, are littered throughout. Each chapter also features simple ways in which tweens or teens can start a project that makes sense given their age. There’s a lot of material crammed into a small space, but it works. VERDICT A worthwhile purchase for tween and teen self-help sections for the sheer amount of information contained and the inspiration it can provide.–Marie Drucker, Hewlett-Woodmere Public Library, NY

]]> 0
Picture Books Xpress Reviews | November 2016 Wed, 26 Oct 2016 20:19:36 +0000 Me First, a Sukkot celebration, an illustrated meditation on beauty, and more.]]> 1611-xpress-picturebks-cvs

For more of this month’s
Xpress Reviews:

Chapter Books

Middle Grade


Graphic Novels


Alemagna, Beatrice. What Is a Child? tr. from Italian by Anna Bennett. illus. by Beatrice Alemagna. 36p. Tate. Sept. 2016. Tr $19.95. ISBN 9781849764124.

K-Gr 3 –There’s a kind of conspiratorial tone to this wink-wink paean to children and childhood. Whether this Italian import is actually meant to be savored or completely understood by child audiences is another matter. While many young readers/listeners may comprehend and appreciate the thoughtful musings and references herein, the philosophical commentaries seem more nostalgic for adults than a story to capture young children’s interest for long, despite the truthfulness of the comments. For example, “Children are like sponges. They soak everything in: bad moods, bad ideas, and other people’s fears. They seem to forget, but then everything comes out again in the school bag, or under the covers, or in front of a book.” Moreover, language purists may object to the occasional use of the singular “a child” in conjunction with the plural pronoun “they.” In addition, the stylized illustrations, while colorful and childlike and depicting an assortment of diverse, multicultural tykes, won’t be everyone’s cup of tea: some will strike viewers as whimsical or comical, while others will seem rather bizarre. VERDICT Worthwhile trying it with young audiences to stimulate conversations between adults and youngsters, but more likely to be enjoyed by their elders. An additional read-aloud for large public collections.–Carol Goldman, Queens Library, NY

Andersen, Hans Christian. The Tinderbox. illus. by Vladyslav Yerko. 24p. A-Ba-Ba Haus. May 2016. Tr $17.95. ISBN 9780996560641.

Gr 3 Up –One of Andersen’s earliest fairy tales, “The Tinderbox” is considered a classic of the genre. But unlike in his other tales, this hero is self-absorbed and greedy. First published in 1835, the story begins with a soldier returning home from war, his knapsack on his back and a sword at his side. As he walks, he meets an ugly old witch. She asks him to climb into a hollow tree to retrieve a magic tinderbox and gives the soldier permission to take anything he finds inside the tree, but he must return the tinderbox. In the tree, he comes across three chambers filled with copper, silver, and gold coins guarded by three monstrous dogs. He fills his pockets and knapsack and returns to the witch. When she demands the tinderbox, the soldier draws his sword, “and that [is] the end of the witch.” The soldier becomes rich and extravagant. He learns the secret of the tinderbox. When he strikes the flint, the three monstrous dogs appear, ready to grant him any wish. In true fairy-tale style, he also goes on to discover a princess in a locked tower and has one of the dogs kidnap her. He falls in love with her, but her royal parents have him arrested, put in prison, and sentenced to death. On the day of execution, the soldier sends a boy for his tinderbox, and, at the scaffold, asks to have a last smoke. When he strikes the match, the dogs appear, fall on the judges and council members, and “toss…them high into the air, so high that they [break] into pieces.” The soldier and the princess are united, and the dogs join the wedding feast. Yerko’s pencil and watercolor artwork is expressive and intricate. The book’s oversize format gives readers the opportunity to enjoy his exquisite detail. Inset illustrations and incidental art as well as full-page pictures are interspersed throughout to create a clever design that perfectly complements this somewhat mysterious and curious folktale. VERDICT Perhaps not a first choice when sharing Andersen’s work, especially with the younger crowd, but this book would be a beautiful addition to any comprehensive fairy-tale collection.–Carole Phillips, Greenacres Elementary School, Scarsdale, NY

Barash, Chris. Is It Sukkot Yet? illus. by Alessandra Psacharopulo. 32p. ebook available. Albert Whitman. Aug. 2016. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780807533888.

PreS-K –“When leaves are all turning/bright orange and red/And it’s time for the rakes to/come out of our shed…/Sukkot is on its way.” Charming, warm illustrations depict a contemporary, rosy-cheeked family, along with their friends and neighbors (and their adorable furry and feathered friends), in an idyllic rural setting, getting ready for the Jewish harvest holiday. The refrain, “Sukkot is on its way” is repeated as everybody pitches in to build and decorate the sukkah, the temporary hut that Jewish families erect for the weeklong holiday. But when the sukkah is complete, the refrain changes: “When the sunlight’s grown dim as it quickly turns night/And we’re snug in our sukkah/with moonbeams for light…/Sukkot is here!” The final spread portrays two children sleeping peacefully outside in the sukkah while the grown-ups watch from the house. The lulav and etrog, important symbols of the holiday, make an appearance, but a festive holiday meal, prayers, and other traditional customs are absent. VERDICT Without any background information, this title is clearly intended for those who celebrate Sukkot, and they will certainly welcome this lovely, poetic addition that’s perfect for sharing aloud.–Rachel Kamin, North Suburban Synagogue Beth El, Highland Park, IL

Bradshaw, Lauren. Henry’s Bright Idea. illus. by Wednesday Kirwan. 32p. Cameron Kids. Sept. 2016. Tr $17.95. ISBN 9781937359942.

PreS-Gr 2 –A group of elegant, nattily dressed animals reside in a tall tree house and call themselves the Walnut Animal Society. Their mission “is to create and always remain curious.” The friends include Magnolia the Bunny, who makes maps of all the different places she’s discovered. Chester the Raccoon adventurously collects ropes and fishing poles, and Eleanor the Bear likes to collect flowers and brew tea for her friends. The main character, Henry the Fox, is well-known for his distinctive ingenuity. One day, he proclaims that he has lost an idea and has no clue where to find it. With the help of Eleanor the Bear, the two venture out for a walk in the walnut grove. Readers can grasp the importance of clearing one’s mind with relaxation activities, such as taking a walk and talking with a friend. Exploring an array of nature’s objects, Henry concludes that he still hasn’t found what he was looking for. As the sun begins to set, tiny adorable lightning bugs encircle Henry—helping him discover his “bright” idea. Although the story ends rather abruptly (the final page shows Henry back in his room, where “he [gets] right to work”) without a look into Henry’s idea. Children in a classroom or storytime can take turns coming up with their own theories about Henry’s idea. Kids who like to play with Calico Critters might enjoy the warm, furry animals that Kirwan has drawn. VERDICT A great precursor story to read to children before engaging in a project or for elementary school library literature collections on maker spaces.–Krista Welz, North Bergen High School, NJ

Brooks, Erik. Later, Gator! illus. by Erik Brooks. 40p. Sterling. Jul. 2016. Tr $14.95. ISBN 9781454918165.

PreS-Gr 2 –Brooks describes the experience of Gator, who must say good-bye to his old friends when he moves to a new neighborhood. Gator misses his friends, but when they write him letters that make him smile, he is encouraged to introduce himself to the new neighbors he sees playing outside. The familiar plot is sure to provide comfort to any kid going through a similar situation. Many of the lines in the book are plays on the phrase, “See you later, alligator; in a while, crocodile.” Young readers will find humor in the rhymes that Gator makes up for each of his animal friends. The watercolor illustrations are delicate and detailed and add to the sweet, gentle tone of the book. One especially endearing set of illustrations shows Gator in the snow wearing earmuffs and a scarf as he introduces himself to new friends. The front inside cover features repeating illustrations of Gator playing with his old friends, while the back inside cover shows repeating illustrations of Gator playing with his new friends. VERDICT Though the plot is a common one in children’s books, Brooks’s endearing characters and illustrations make this book stand out. A fun read-aloud and storytime selection for most children’s collections, especially those with a transient patron base.–Celia Dillon, The Brearley School, New York

Chabbert, Ingrid. The Day I Became a Bird. illus. by Guridi. 40p. Kids Can. Sept. 2016. Tr $16.95. ISBN 9781771386210.

PreS-Gr 2 –This strange and wonderful picture book tells the story of a boy who transforms himself to catch the eye of the one he loves. On the day he first starts school, a young boy falls in love with the girl who sits right in front of him, but Sylvia is an avian lover and has eyes only for birds. Suddenly, the things the boy used to enjoy just don’t seem important anymore. Desperate to attract her attention, he constructs a bird costume. In it, he feels handsome and warm, though it does make it hard to climb trees, and he smells like wet dog when it rains. His classmates giggle and stare, but then one day Sylvia sees him and it’s worth it all. Delicate and slightly surreal pencil drawings follow the young protagonist through this sweet tale with cinematic precision. The poetic text has a dreamy cadence as it flows through the pages. The young narrator’s affection for Sylvia is innocent and endearing, and readers will join him in rejoicing when she finally sees him. VERDICT A beautiful and touching story that captures the exhilaration of first love, recommended for fans of Oliver Jeffers and Jon Klassen.–Laken Hottle, Providence Community Library

Coh, Smiljana. The Seven Princesses. illus. by Smiljana Coh. 40p. ebook available. Running Pr. May 2016. Tr $16.95. ISBN 9780762455874.

PreS-Gr 2 –Not your traditional royal tale. This story is about seven princesses, each of whom has a special passion or talent, such as math, engineering, or athletics. Each one is cleverly named for a color, and the visuals hint at this color relationship. For example, the fifth princess is named Azzurra, and her illustrations are highlighted with blue tones, including her clothing. Azzurra loves animals. The story, after the introduction of the princesses, begins to focus on the good and bad aspects of sibling relationships. Just like real siblings, the princesses fight, and each sister decides that she’d rather be an only child or have different sisters. As time passes, they are reminded of the good times they shared, and make peace. The illustrations enhance the tale, allowing readers to keep track of the siblings by using the color-coding. As the sisters start to fight and separate from one another, the images turn dull gray and brown tones but return to the vivid colors as the sisters realize they need one another. VERDICT A great nontraditional princess tale and teachable sibling story, sure to be checked out in any children’s collection.–Erin Olsen, The Brearley School, NY

Gianferrari, Maria. Officer Katz and Houndini: A Tale of Two Tails. illus. by Danny Chatzikonstantinou. 32p. S. & S./Aladdin. Oct. 2016. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781481422659.

K-Gr 2 –Puns pepper the page as feline Officer Katz gets ready for retirement, but not before a final attempt to capture the canine escape artist, the Great Houndini. Every year, Houndini defaces the mayor’s portrait, but Officer Katz challenges him to try to escape from his amazing contraptions. If Officer Katz can keep him locked up, then Houndini promises to leave the city and never return. Even an old dog can learn new tricks, and Houndini is no exception. The cast of characters are illustrated in lively action scenes with minimal setting. A fluffy narrative filled with high jinks will delight. In the end, the foes stop fighting like cats and dogs and join forces to take their show on the road. VERDICT Adventures abound in this pun-filled read-aloud that’s sure to appeal to cat and dog lovers alike.–Karen Ginman, BookOps: The New York Public Library and Brooklyn Public Library

Gomi, Taro. Over the Ocean. tr. from Japanese. illus. by Taro Gomi. 36p. Chronicle. May 2016. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781452145150.

PreS-Gr 1 –A dark-haired child in red overalls clasps hands behind his or her back while gazing at vistas of the ocean and wondering what might be beyond it. Each page turn leads readers to the child’s imaginative speculation about farms, cities, bullies, amusement parks, exotic animals, and even a beach where another child mirrors the narrator’s actions. A constant on the horizon is a steamer progressing along the page from right to left. Spare text and vibrant color are typical of Gomi’s mood pieces. VERDICT The book’s elegant simplicity lends itself not only to pointing out visual details but also to encouraging a listening child’s own speculations. Perfect for one-on-one and small group sharing.–Gay Lynn Van Vleck, Henrico County Library, Glen Allen, VA

Harris, Amber. Bingo Did It! illus. by Ard Hoyt. 32p. Redleaf Lane. Sept. 2016. Tr $16.95. ISBN 9781605544915.

PreS-Gr 2 –Wisteria Jane loves to play and dress up with her dog Bingo. The dog knocks teacups over after Wisteria invites him to a tea party. Wisteria also digs up her mother’s flower bed while continuing a hole that the dog started to dig. She blames the dog for the trouble she gets into after she is questioned by her mother about both events. After each incident, she boldly exclaims, “Bingo did it!” Wisteria’s mother teaches her about what it means to take responsibility for one’s actions. Wisteria realizes that her mother and father have both taken responsibility for events that did not go as intended as opposed to blaming others for the mishaps. She chooses to adopt a new outlook. The illustrations in this book are done with curved lines, giving them a textured look and depth. Pastel colors imbue the drawings with a warm and inviting feel. The narrative moves with a pleasing, rhythmic pace. The relationship among mother, daughter, and pet are both believable and adorable. This book encourages children to take ownership of what they do and to choose actions that communicate respect toward their peers. VERDICT Young readers will fall in love with the mischievous Wisteria Jane and her curious playmate.–Deanna Smith, Mamaroneck Public Library, NY

Hassett, Ann. Goodnight Bob. illus. by John Hassett. 32p. Albert Whitman. Sept. 2016. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780807530030.

PreS –A simple, quiet story about a boy named Bob at bedtime. After he says good night to the moon and gets ready to go to sleep, Bob notices a set of eyes in the dark. Using his flashlight, he discovers that the eyes belong to his pet fish, who is wishing him good night. Bob continues to notice eyes that belong to different animals, ranging from a mouse to Bigfoot, who say their good nights, until Bob sees “lots of eyes,” which are actually stars. The story concludes as the boy closes his eyes and the stars wish him a final good night. Ann Hassett’s text is soothing and succinct, making it appropriate for young readers and for read-alouds. For tykes wary of the dark, this book eases children’s fears without ever being didactic; Bob calmly shines a light on the animals he notices in the dark, and the animals, in turn, are shown to be harmless as they all warmly wish him good night. John Hassett’s illustrations feature deep shades of blue to reflect the darkness of night, which blends with the yellow of Bob’s flashlight, creating a green glow that illuminates the pages whenever Bob spies a new pair of eyes. The animals are drawn as cuddly and friendly, even Bigfoot, adding to the story’s charm. VERDICT This gentle book is a peaceful bedtime selection and a suitable read-aloud in a bedtime-themed storytime.–Laura J. Giunta, Garden City Public Library, NY

Hopgood, Sally. See You Later, Alligator. illus. by Emma Levey. 32p. Sky Pony. Sept. 2016. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781510704848.

PreS-Gr 2 –Tortoise is ready to go on an adventure, and courtesy of an illustrated map before the title page, readers understand that this story likely takes place in a zoo or animal sanctuary of some kind. He bids his friends farewell, beginning with, “See you later, Alligator. I’ll be a while, Crocodile.” He continues with, “Toodle-oo, Kangaroo. I’ll call you soon, Mr. Raccoon.” And many more. In fact, Tortoise spends so long saying good-bye that he never makes it on his adventure. While the concept is cute and the end joke is spot-on, this book suffers from a dissatisfying rhyme scheme that is trying too hard. By the fifth good-bye, the rhymes seem completely forced, and nicknames begin to take precedence over the actual species names. In the end, Levey’s illustrations are the real highlight. Children will likely stick through the story and enjoy pointing out various elements (like how the Rhinoceros is called a Unicorn), but it’s not worth the read-aloud struggle. VERDICT The delightful illustrations are not enough to make this a must-purchase.–Shana Morales, Windsor Public Library, CT

Knapman, Timothy. Good Night Tiger. illus. by Laura Hughes. 32p. Tiger Tales. Sept. 2016. pap. $16.99. ISBN 9781680100303.

PreS-Gr 1 –When Emma keeps hearing growls, stomps, and trumpets in the middle of the night, she’s convinced that the animals from the local zoo must have escaped. But no! It’s the animals on her wallpaper, and they just can’t get to sleep. She climbs into her wallpaper in hopes of settling down the animals with baths, lullabies, even hot chocolate, but nothing works until she pulls out a bedtime story. This supremely adorable bedtime tale fits perfectly into an already well-stocked genre. Hughes’s illustrations are child-friendly and appear to be created with marker, colored pencil, crayon, and perhaps even some watercolor. They come across as polished where they need to but are imperfect enough that children could be inspired to make their own. This title is perfect for one-on-one snuggling or pajama storytime programs. VERDICT A delightful purchase for bedtime story collections.–Shana Morales, Windsor Public Library, CT

Lester, Helen. Yo primero. illus. by Lynn Munsinger. 40p. ebook available. Obelisco. Aug. 2016. Tr $13.95. ISBN 9788416648047. BL

K-Gr 3 –Lester’s 1992 classic is now bilingual. “Pink, plump, and pushy” Pinkerton the pig is still full of himself. He butts and cuts his way to the front of any line. From hogging the first seat on the bus to jumping snout-first into a picnic basket, Pinkerton is willing to do anything do in order to be FIRST. That is, until he hears a beguiling call in the wind: “Who would care for a sandwich?” Pinkerton loses no time tearing across the sandy hills, squealing, “Me first! Me first!” until he lands at the feet of a Sandwitch. She grabs him by the sleeve and hauls him off to her castle. After hours of caring for the Sandwitch—combing her hairy toes, feeding her with a shovel, powdering her nose—Pinkerton finally realizes that “FIRST [is] not always BEST.” The story retains its delightful whimsy in Spanish, and a footnote explains the play on words (“sandwich/Sandwitch”). Pinkerton’s playfully pernicious pigginess is perfectly portrayed by Munsinger’s humorously detailed illustrations. VERDICT The art and text blend flawlessly in this gently moralistic tale. Purchase for Spanish-language and bilingual storytimes and collections.–Mary Margaret Mercado, Pima County Public Library, Tucson, AZ

Lowery, David & Toby Halbrooks. Pete’s Dragon: Elliot Gets Lost. illus. by Benjamin Lowery. 48p. Disney Pr. Jun. 2016. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781484750292.

PreS-Gr 2 –A beautiful book that’s not a tie-in to the movie Pete’s Dragon but an original story and an element within the movie itself. Elliot is a small puppy going on a car trip and camping adventure with his family of Little Boy, Mom, and Dad. But when he gets overexcited and knocks over the tent, he runs into the woods in shame and quickly gets lost. Several forest animals come to Elliot’s aid but reiterate, “You need to find your family.” Indeed, Elliot misses his family, who are waiting somewhere outside the woods. As dusk falls, he howls at the North Star in despair. The forest animals join together to help Elliot get back to his Little Boy and the campsite that night, the place that is “right where he belongs.” This tale is unique for its prominent placement in the movie as Pete’s only treasured reminder of his parents and his past. The movie’s plot is also suggestively mirrored by the book’s story, with dialogue and illustrations directly referencing scenes from the movie. Yet this title can still be enjoyed on its own merit. VERDICT The story is well written in spare text perfect for reading aloud, with charming, folk art–inspired illustrations. Guaranteed to be a great bedtime selection with broad appeal both on its own and in conjunction with the movie.–Jessica Bushore, Xenia, OH

McAnulty, Stacy. Beautiful. illus. by Joanne Lew-Vriethoff. 32p. Running Pr. Sept. 2016. Tr $16.95. ISBN 9780762457816.

PreS-Gr 1 –This picture book is filled with wit and musings on what it means for a young girl to be beautiful. The illustrations evoke a feeling of uniqueness, independence, and strength, defining beauty through diversity, talents, and passions. Girls are playing football, eating messy oranges, digging in the mud, laughing at themselves, and flying like birds on swings. Drawings, vignettes, and square panels provide balance to the text. Simple sentences and phrases stir the imagination. Bold line drawings and rich colors bring a sense of wonder and personality to each girl. The wordplay is clever: “Beautiful girls know all about makeup,” as the girls dress up as pirates with fake beards and mustaches. Each wears a pirate hat, carries a sword, and navigates her own boat on the high seas. “Beautiful girls…have a smart style” refers not to fashion sense but to a sense of discovery and exploration, as each page shows a young woman investigating bugs and plants and other girls building a robotic car or creating a science experiment. VERDICT This simple yet empowering story, best suited for one-on-one and small group sharing, is infused with examples of how beauty is defined in many ways.–Melissa Smith, Royal Oak Public Library, MI

My Best Pop-Up Construction Site Book. 18p. illus. photos. DK. Sept. 2016. Board $14.99. ISBN 9781465453914.

PreS-Gr 1 –Excavators, cement trucks, and forklifts are among the large, digitally imposed vehicles that pop up throughout this oversize book. Each spread focuses on a different construction stage of an apartment building and includes text that describes what each heavy machine can accomplish (“Cranes are strong machines that move heavy objects, such as window frames.”). Small workers are featured in each spread and provide additional commentary in the form of speech bubbles (“I’m the site foreman. I make sure the workers are safe.”). Toddlers will delight as they press the button attached to each page and hear the sounds of busy construction vehicles. VERDICT Colorful, with the perfect amount of realistic images embedded into the fictional construction site. There are few other titles on this topic that offer young children both sound and pop-ups. Recommended for general purchase.–Kristen Todd-Wurm, Middle Country Public Library, NY

Robberecht, Thierry. The Wolf and His Shadow. tr. from Dutch. illus. by Stéphanie Frippiat. 32p. Clavis. Sept. 2016. Tr $16.95. ISBN 9781605373027.

PreS-Gr 2 –Wolf is always frightened. He is even scared of his own shadow because of its exaggerated teeth and giant form. He is teased by his peers because he is so fearful. He does not fit in and is often lonely. One day, though, he becomes the hero of the pack and learns to love himself. This is a story that echoes the classic Aesop’s fable, with a valuable lesson for readers to take away. Parents and educators alike can use this offering to discuss themes and moods such as loneliness, fear, bullying, forgiveness, friendship, and, most important, acceptance of oneself and others. With vibrant cartoon illustrations and a colorful cast of characters, this book is one that should be in every primary classroom and library. The paragraphs are short and concise. The pace is perfect for this age and grade level. The plot is engaging and fun. Certain sight words are printed in bold type and are repeated throughout and can also be used to spark discussion. VERDICT A valuable read-aloud about accepting oneself and one’s peers.–Margie Longoria, Mission High School, TX

Rouss, Sylvia. Holiday for Ari Ant. illus. by Katherine Janus Kahn. 24p. Apple & Honey. Apr. 2016. pap. $9.95. ISBN 9781681155074.

PreS-Gr 1 –Rouss’s popular “Sammy Spider” series has now been joined by Ari Ant, another friendly insect who takes an interest in Jewish holidays. This first entry in the series is about the somewhat obscure holiday Lag B’Omer. As the back matter explains, the origins of the holiday are unclear. This vagueness is reflected in the story line, which gives some very cursory history and tenuous explanations for the Lag B’Omer practices of picnicking and storytelling. However, the target audience of preschoolers will be satisfied and will enjoy Ari’s mild adventures as he tags along with the human children. The depiction of children learning through play is realistic. The bright and busy artwork appropriately reflect the cheerful holiday customs. VERDICT Books about Lag B’Omer are rare, and Jewish early childhood educators will be pleased to have this title available to fill that gap.–Heidi Rabinowitz, Congregation B’nai Israel, Boca Raton, FL

Sharpe, Jemima. Mr. Moon Wakes Up. illus. by Jemima Sharpe.32p. Child’s Play. Aug. 2016. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781846436949.

PreS-Gr 2 –Mr. Moon seems to be a big, lazy white cat who dozes away most of the day. But at night, when his young owner follows him through the house, his magical qualities are revealed. The feline can climb into fantastical worlds through the wallpaper. Instead of sleeping, the pair play outdoor games like lawn chess and tag. They play badminton with fountain mermaids and centaurs, go boating, and gaze at the stars. The green, white, and red illustrations are subdued and dreamlike in color, seemingly bathed in moonlight. After their adventures under the stars (which are shaped like animal constellations), they both fall asleep. VERDICT This story lends itself to many interpretations, especially if read before bedtime. Sure to inspire sweet dreams.–Tanya Boudreau, Cold Lake Public Library, Alta.

Smith, Alex T. Little Red and the Very Hungry Lion. illus. by Alex T. Smith. 32p. Scholastic. Jul. 2016. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780545914383.

K-Gr 2 –This retelling of “Little Red Riding Hood” set in Africa recasts the wolf as a lion. Little Red’s Auntie has broken out in “spots” and asks Little Red to bring her medication. This necessitates a long journey through the jungle. Lion stalks Little Red and develops a plan to eat her and Auntie. Little Red is too smart for Lion and distracts him with delays like grooming his mane into braids. When Lion’s ruse is spoiled, Little Red tells him that if he was hungry, “all you had to do was ask for some food.” Auntie’s spots are healed, Lion’s behavior is changed by Little Red’s generosity, and all is well. Smith’s adaptation is sadly uneven. Average writing accompanies above-average illustrations in a riotously colorful cartoon style. However, the page layout renders the story very choppy, making it ill-suited for reading aloud. Additionally, the cultural representation is half-hearted and awkward. The illustrations depict a wide variety of African animals, but other than Little Red and her family being black, nothing about the story line is particularly “African” other than the lion. Auntie’s “spots” and her need for “spot cream” are also nonspecific, and Little Red improbably brings her a snack of doughnuts. VERDICT Niki Daly’s Pretty Salma more successfully gives a classic tale an African spin, rendering this one a strictly additional purchase with limited appeal.–Jessica Bushore, Xenia, OH

Smith, Crystal. I Am Hapa! photos by Michael Satoshi Garcia. 24p. East West Discovery. Aug. 2016. Tr $16.95. ISBN 9780997394702.

PreS-K –A celebration of all those who identify as Hapa! The simple, repeated phrase, “I am Hapa and I…” (“am unique,” “speak two languages,” “love to share”) is highlighted in red text against a crisp white background and photos of happy children. The inside front cover is a checkerboard of the same children who appear on the pages, and the inside back cover showcases a variety of Hapa families. The back cover defines the word Hapa as “a term used to describe a person of partial Asian or Pacific Islander descent” and states that the “multiracial population in the United States is growing faster than at any other time in history…. It is important to expose our children to an accurate representation of our nation’s diversity.” To that end, the title is also available in bilingual editions (English/Spanish, English/Chinese, English/Arabic, and English/Nepali). Readers can take part in this joyful Hapa celebration. VERDICT For those looking to make their collections more diverse and introduce the term Hapa to their patrons, this option fits the bill.–Ramarie Beaver, Plano Public Library System, TX

Teckentrup, Britta. Don’t Wake Up the Tiger. illus. by Britta Teckentrup. 30p. Nosy Crow. Aug. 2016. Tr $15.99. ISBN 9780763689964.

PreS-Gr 1 –This title by Teckentrup is interactive in the style of Christie Matheson’s Tap the Magic Tree and Hervé Tullet’s Mix It Up. By following directions in the short and simple text, children help animals in the story avoid stirring the tiger from her slumber. Tiger is waking? Don’t worry. Rub her nose and she’ll drift off again. In the end, readers find out that the preparations the animals have been making are for the tiger’s surprise birthday party. The illustrations are bright and bold, set against a white background, and consistent with the fun, simple style of the text. VERDICT Children will enjoy reading and playing along with this tale. Sure to be a storytime favorite.–Paige Mellinger, Gwinnett County Public Library, Lawrenceville, GA

van Genechten, Guido. Tito the Magician. tr. from Dutch. illus. by Guido van Genechten. 32p. Clavis. Aug. 2016. Tr $16.95. ISBN 9781605372563.

PreS-Gr 1 –With his large clown nose, clown makeup, oversize shoes, suspenders, baggy pants, and big smile, Tito clearly loves the circus. He is particularly drawn to the incredible performance by Manu the magician. Alone in his room, Tito tries to re-create Manu’s magic but fails. When he finally gathers the courage to ask for instructions, Manu is gracious with his time, but, more important, he gives Tito the special secret to success: “You have to believe that you can do it.” When Tito later successfully pulls a mouse from Manu’s hat in front of an audience, he experiences the joy that comes from succeeding after taking a risk. The bright, simple illustrations pair nicely with the tale, perfectly capturing Tito’s youth, changing emotions, and sense of wonder. VERDICT A sweet selection that will remind children to have faith in their own abilities. Perfect for a magic-themed storytime.–Sally James, South Hillsborough Elementary School, Hillsborough, CA

Van Slyke, Rebecca. Where Do Pants Go? illus. by Chris Robertson. 40p. Sterling. Sept. 2016. Tr $9.95. ISBN 9781454915928.

Toddler-PreS –In this cumulative tale, a variety of toddlers get dressed unassisted by first putting an article of clothing on an incorrect body part (socks go on your ears? “No, no, NO!”), then putting it on correctly. Preschoolers will be tickled as they follow the bold cartoon illustrations of kids putting on everything from their underwear to their jackets and then finally meeting outside to play. While this title won’t knock their socks off, very young children will enjoy the silliness. VERDICT A good storytime selection because of the clear, humorous illustrations and repetitive text.–Melisa Bailey, Harford County Library System, MD

Williamson, Jo. Messy Molly. illus. by Jo Williamson. 32p. little bee. Jun. 2016. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781499802665.

PreS-Gr 2 –Molly is a little girl who has trouble staying clean. Despite her best efforts, she falls in mud puddles, gets water inside her rain boots, and makes a mess eating spaghetti. Her faithful canine companion, Pip, also leads her on some grass-stained runs through the park. Molly’s goal is to keep her new dress spotless for her school play. On the way to the performance, she successfully dodges some of the dirty disasters that plagued her during the week. Up on stage, Molly shines in her white frock, which looks pristine—at least from the front. The brief text sets up the humorous events, and Williamson’s whimsical ink illustrations deliver the punch lines. VERDICT Pair this with Rita Meade’s Edward Gets Messy for a squeaky clean storytime.–Linda Ludke, London Public Library, Ont.

WIllis, Jeanne. Lucinda Belinda Melinda McCool. illus. by Tony Ross. 32p. Andersen. Jun. 2016. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781783442027.

K-Gr 2 –Once again, the creative minds of Willis and Ross have delivered a finely tuned, amusing story with an important message for kids. Lucinda Belinda Melinda McCool is one of those girls who knows she is perfectly primped and believes that everyone else will benefit from her wisdom. So she files nails, tapes back ears, and, in general, gives her advice. Only, as the pictures reveal, it is unwanted, and after a while, people start to avoid her. Still, she plows on, determined “to make the whole world a more beautiful place.” Even when she meets a big, blue, hairy, scary monster—is she deterred? No. She gives it a makeover, believing that this will transform it both inside and out. It is at this point that the bubbly tone pays off. Readers won’t see this darkly humorous ending coming, and because of this, its message is driven home. Appearance isn’t everything, and you certainly shouldn’t judge someone’s character on looks alone. Willis and Ross are at the top of their game; the pace is easygoing, the use of space fits the story, appropriate words are emphasized with a different font, the rhyme is excellent, and Ross’s style is snazzy. Every element coalesces into a strong whole, great for both larger group settings and more intimate ones. VERDICT An appealing read-aloud for grade school children, with a delicious message about the inner vs. outer self.–Rachel Forbes, formerly at Oakville Public Library, Ont., Canada

]]> 0
YA Xpress Reviews | November 2016 Wed, 26 Oct 2016 20:17:05 +0000 Serpentine with the deeply satisfying Sacrifice, Jo Knowles delivers a "realistic and sensitive depiction of a family in crisis," and Edward Stanton explores Polynesian history.]]> 1611-xpress-ya-cvs

For more of this month’s
Xpress Reviews:

Picture Books

Chapter Books

Middle Grade

Graphic Novels


Cameron, Erica. Assassins: Discord. 360p. ebook available. Riptide. Sept. 2016. pap. $19.99. ISBN 9781626494220.

Gr 9 Up –Kindra has never had a normal life. Instead of revolving around school and friends, her life consists of training and targets—the tools of her family’s trade. With her parents, who have always been more like commanders than mom and dad, and her younger sister, Sera, Kindra carries out professional kills. But when her father misses a sniper shot for the first time in her life, everything starts to unravel, and the teen has to decide if she can trust anyone, even her own family. Cameron begins this action series with a story populated by powerful women and featuring a diversity of sexuality (Kindra is comfortably bisexual, and the supporting cast includes gay and asexual characters). Despite the interesting cast, the book doesn’t find its footing until halfway through. The plot suffers from overly complicated espionage that loads readers with nonessential background information. These dull passages seem especially weak in comparison to the novel’s exciting and well-crafted action scenes. It also requires an extra suspension of disbelief to imagine that any assassins, married or not, would involve children in their delicate and dangerous operations. Readers who can look past these faults long enough to reach the second act will enjoy the appearance of the potential love interest (also a girl) as well as some delightful plot twists. VERDICT An uneven but promising start to a series that provides a female-led alternative to popular titles like Robert Muchamore’s “CHERUB” books.–Amy Diegelman, Vineyard Haven Public Library, MA

Fardin, Shalta Dicaire & Sarah Sahagian. Good Girls. 200p. ebook available. Inanna. Sept. 2016. pap. $19.95. ISBN 9781771333450.

Gr 8 Up –Octavia Irving starts at Anne Bradstreet College at the beginning of her sophomore year of high school after getting into trouble when a party goes wrong. With the encouragement of her guidance counselor, Octavia joins the ABC debate team and is partnered with overachieving Allie Denning. Allie, a self-proclaimed “good girl” who never breaks the rules, is less than excited about this new arrangement. As they prepare for their first debate competition, free-spirited Octavia must adjust to the structure and demands of her new environment, while Allie learns that life exists outside academia. This is a strong inaugural volume in a coming-of-age series. With a steady pace, it creates an arching plot while only scratching the surface of the characters’ rounded personalities, giving ample opportunity for more exploration in upcoming entries. It would be an ideal novel for reluctant readers who can’t process lengthy stories. While Octavia and Allie are the focus, the supporting characters are developed, with interesting subplots. Romance is written into the story lines, but the main themes of this contemporary novel center on friendship, family conflict, and self-discovery. VERDICT An excellent addition for realistic fiction collections in any school or public library.–Melissa Poole, Clemson University Library, Anderson, SC

Ford, Michael Thomas. Lily. illus. by Staven Andersen. 262p. ebook available. Lethe. Oct. 2016. pap. $15. ISBN 9781590212684.

Gr 10 Up –Thirteen-year-old Lily is an unlikely pawn in this story that is part morality play and part fairy tale. When Lily has a vision of her father’s death and later learns that his death has in fact come true, she feels a power inside. Lily and her mother leave their village for a large city where Lily is taken in by her worldly surroundings: the hustle and bustle of the streets, the raucous crowds, and garish lights. Swept up by the excitement in the air and pushed along by the maelstrom of people around her, the teen goes to see a traveling preacher. People in the streets say that Reverend Everyman is a healer, a prophet, a man of God. The reverend’s traveling circus is more carnival than prayer meeting. Clowns with prison records and sketchy pasts enforce Everyman’s will, and a tattooed girl is displayed in a cage and said to be possessed. Lily becomes part of the traveling show and naively believes the preacher will fix her curse, but he has his own insidious ideas. A classic struggle of good vs. evil pits witch Baba Yaga against the evil evangelist Everyman. A muddled, esoteric plot makes this a read for a narrow audience. The illustrations by Andersen, while provocative and artistic, are disturbing and otherworldly. VERDICT Large high school collections with generous budgets may choose to purchase. This novel is a better fit for a public library collection for mature teens.–Pamela Thompson, Col. John O. Ensor Middle School, El Paso, TX

Knowles, Jo. Still a Work in Progress. 320p. Candlewick. Aug. 2016. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780763672171.

Gr 6-9 –Noah, an average, unassuming middle schooler, is the kid his parents “don’t have to worry about,” as opposed to his older sister, Emma. At home, the family tiptoes around her eating disorder while going along with any and every food-related dictate Emma makes, in the hopes of avoiding a relapse. Noah navigates life with friends and classmates at his small school, but the “Thing They Don’t Talk About” hangs over his head, particularly as he starts to suspect it might be happening again. When Emma does relapse, Noah attempts to go through the motions at home and at school, and he turns to his art as an emotional outlet for the pain and uncertainty in his life. Told from Noah’s point of view, with fully developed main and supporting characters, the story believably and poignantly shows the effects of an eating disorder on those around the afflicted person. Noah’s worry, anger, and guilt are palpable, and his desperation to understand why his sister struggles is often heartbreaking, as is his frustration with the way life goes on around him and his family. The interests of his friends and classmates begin to seem trivial, and readers will find his reactions honest and moving. VERDICT A realistic and sensitive depiction of a family in crisis and a young teen’s emotional journey through it.–Amanda Raklovits, Champaign Public Library, IL

Pon, Cindy. Sacrifice. 300p. (Serpentine: Bk. 2). ebook available. Month9Books. Sept. 2016. Tr $23.99. ISBN 9781944816520; pap. $15. ISBN 9781944816926.

Gr 9 Up –This sequel to Serpentine begins nine days after the first volume’s conclusion. Skybright is forced to give up her life and follow Stone in order to save those she loves, and has no time to adjust. She is taken into the Underworld, where demons roam; thrown into portals to other realms; and summoned to the land of the gods. She goes through all of this only to learn that Stone has been stripped of most of his powers, the gateway to hell still needs to be closed, and if they fail, Stone will die. Skybright’s friends are not faring much better. Zhen Ni is made to marry the richest man of the land and quickly becomes concerned that he is not what he seems. Kai Sen is learning magic so that he may save Skybright from Stone. To survive, these characters from very different walks of life will need to learn to work together as a team. Pon excels at describing each scene so vividly that readers can truly picture the protagonist’s surroundings. A story of friendship, love, and duty that fantasy readers will relate to and enjoy. VERDICT Fans will love this sequel just as much as (or even more than) the first. Purchase where the first installment and rich fantasy are popular.–Jessica Strefling, US Court of Appeals, Federal Circuit Library

Soler, Laia. Nosotros después de las doce. 320p. ebook available. Puck. May 2016. pap. $15.95. ISBN 9788496886575.

Gr 10 Up –Aurora lives in Valira, a town—legend tells—that was founded by a fairy queen who fell in love with a human man. Aurora’s grandfather, the person she is closest to, is her companion, her friend, and the one person in her family who has always understood her. His belief in the magic of the town, and in the magic of his beloved carousel—whose horses are said to be able to help their riders with their hopes and dreams—has been passed on to her. The protagonist’s friend Erin returns to the town after being gone for two years. The family is back in Valira only for the summer, but Erin’s brother, Teo, is much changed. He has feelings for Aurora that she begins to return. When the teen realizes that her grandfather doesn’t approve of their relationship, she finds that she must walk on her own this time. As the summer draws to a close, Aurora finally realizes what she wants in life and for her future. The characters—from Aurora to her family to her friends—are each unique and add humor and wisdom to the text. Written elegantly, this memorable Spanish-language novel is perfect for young adults who like a bit of fantasy with their romance, and it shows readers that it is important to look forward to what will happen after the fairy tale ends. VERDICT Purchase especially where Spanish-language YA with a magical realism twist is popular.–Selenia Paz, Helen Hall Library, League City, TX

Stanton, Edward. Wide as the Wind. 220p. ebook available. Open Books. Oct. 2016. Tr $16.95. ISBN 9781941799383.

Gr 7 Up –This historical novel centers on a little-known chapter of Polynesian history—no island is specified, but the narrative conjures up Easter Island and others. Many of these islands were impoverished because of deforestation, so their best and brightest were sent on ocean voyages to obtain seed stock for trees in distant places. (In 1947, Norwegian Thor Heyerdahl tried to replicate such a journey with modern boat-building technologies and found building the boat difficult. The voyage itself was harrowing.) Protagonist Miru is a valiant hero, sailing into the sunset and bringing back trees and plants that are essential to the viability of his close-knit community. Miru is well-developed, and he’s featured in an engaging subplot of a chaste romance, sustained even through a long separation during his seafaring years. Miru’s extended family is large, and many additional interactions between him and members of the community showcase his coming-of-age. For readers who appreciate intricately detailed storytelling, the payoff is a strong sense of Polynesian culture in a novel whose style is reminiscent of James Michener’s. Stanton spent many years as an English literature professor, and his craftsmanship reflects this background. VERDICT Recommended for ambitious middle and high school readers who appreciate a depiction of a little-discussed but significant historical period and culture; for large historical fiction collections.–Amy Thurow, New Glarus School District, WI

]]> 0
Graphic Novels Xpress Reviews | November 2016 Wed, 26 Oct 2016 20:11:33 +0000
For more of this month’s
Xpress Reviews:

Picture Books

Chapter Books

Middle Grade


Graphic Novels


1611-xpress-gn-fujimaki_kurokosbasketballFujimaki, Tadatoshi. Kuroko’s Basketball (2-in-1 Edition). 384p. Viz Media. Aug. 2016. pap. $16.99. ISBN 9781421587714.

Gr 5 Up –Fujimaki’s debut graphic novel takes its place at the sports manga table as the start of a promising new series that will hook readers and leave them wanting more. Kuroko always seems to go unnoticed, so when the basketball club receives his application, they aren’t sure what to do with him. Curious about this mysterious guy, they soon discover that he used to play on an elite team. However, when Kuroko is put on the court, it’s soon revealed that he’s mediocre at best—or is he? Kuroko has the ability to slip by, stealing the ball before other players even notice. The team members realize that they have the potential to go far, and Kuroko eventually learns that playing to win isn’t everything. Readers will be drawn into the hilarious friendship between Kuroko and fellow player Taiga Kagami. The art gracefully pulls readers into the narrative, providing a sense of the main character’s ability and deftly portraying tense moments. VERDICT This delightful manga series starter is an attention grabber. Even those who aren’t fans of basketball will be absorbed by this tale. Hand it to those who enjoy Haruichi Furudate’s “Haikyu!!” or Kazune Kawahara’s “My Love Story!!”–Chantalle Uzan, New York Public Library

1611-xpress-gn-kusanagi-yonaofthedawnKusanagi, Mizuho. Yona of the Dawn: Vol. 1. illus. by Mizuho Kusanagi. 200p. Viz Media. Aug. 2016. pap. $9.99. ISBN 9781421587813.

Gr 8 Up –In the very first image of Princess Yona, a beautiful illustration depicting her cloaked and standing powerfully against a dawn-lit sky, readers immediately get a sense of who she is. This is a confident, courageous, and capable young woman with the weight of the world on her shoulders. But she wasn’t always like this. She used to be carefree, a princess of a peaceful kingdom, doted on by her family. But a betrayal and a coup force Yona to flee, along with her childhood friend, the brash yet kind General Hak. This first volume spends its time well, establishing the characters through differing perspectives, interactions, and flashbacks, as well as the overall feel of the series. In particular, moments of remembered sweetness and even levity temper the tragic tone. The art is strong, with Kusanagi tweaking the shoujo style as needed and delivering on the emotional notes. To help readers equate the setting with the place of inspiration—ancient Korea—she puts a fair amount of care into the period details of buildings and clothing. VERDICT This title shows great promise as an emotional coming-of-age story, perfect for lovers of fantasy and historical romance. Especially recommended for fans of Yuu Watase’s “Fushigi Yugi” or Sorata Akizuki’s “Snow White with the Red Hair.”–Rachel Forbes, formerly at Oakville Public Library, Ont.

]]> 0
Sixth Annual Follett Challenge Launches Wed, 26 Oct 2016 18:33:37 +0000 If you have a cool, unique educational program going on at your school, Follett wants to hear about it. The company is giving away prizes consisting of products and services in their latest competition.

See the complete press release below.

Follett Urges Schools to Share Their Stories of Unique Learning for 6th Annual Follett Challenge $200,000 Contest to Recognize Leading Examples
of K-12 Programs Teaching 21st-Century Skills to Students

MCHENRY, Ill., Oct. 25, 2016 – Does your school have a cool, unique program it would like share with the world? If so, the $200,000 Follett Challenge – an advocacy program that rewards groundbreaking educational programs – launched its sixth annual contest this week.

All K-12 schools/districts, public and private, in the U.S. and Canada are eligible to apply. Submissions are open to all K-12 educators and Parent Teacher Organizations. Entrants must complete an online
application and upload a three- to five-minute video describing their program that teaches 21st century skills to students. Judges are looking for applications best illustrating critical thinking, communication, creativity and collaboration between students and among teachers and other members of the school staff.

In the 2015-16 contest, a school located on the Eielson Air Force Base in the very far north city of Fairbanks, Alaska, was confident it had a unique program to share. Educators there, however, worried they might not be able to compete with some of the bigger, more technologically advanced schools in larger cities. The Follett Challenge judges thought otherwise after the school entered its innovative STEM and CTE program for students in grades 7-12.

“Sometimes it seems like little schools in Alaska don’t stand a chance,” said Mariko Kinikin, Digital Learning Coach at Ben Eielson Junior/Senior High School Library, part of the Fairbanks North Star Borough School District. “Being named as a Follett Challenge semifinalist, and finally the grand prize winner, was a huge validation of the good work we are doing here in Interior Alaska.”

“Few events have rallied the school and community as completely as the process of assembling, completing – and winning! – the Follett Challenge,” Kinikin continued. “As budgets become more streamlined, and access to timely quality materials rises in importance, the Follett Challenge couldn’t have come at a better time. We thank them for allowing us to share our story.”

With $200,000 available in products and services from Follett, this year’s three semifinalists each will earn a $30,000 prize. The grand-prize winner, to be selected from the three semifinalists, will earn an additional $30,000, for a total of $60,000, plus a celebration at their school. Ten $8,000 prizes will be awarded to “People’s Choice” winners – those schools that receive the highest number of online votes from the public for their submitted videos.

Eighty percent of each entrant’s score will be based on the judges’ evaluation of the entry, with the remaining 20 percent based on the number of votes generated for the school’s/district’s video.

In past years, the Follett Challenge has seen winning programs from varying school sizes in reading, math, service learning, project-based learning, and more.

“The Follett Challenge advocates for and promotes innovative educators who are looking beyond traditional means of teaching and learning,” said Nader Qaimari, President, Follett School Solutions. “As our past winners have discovered, it is well worth the time and effort to enter. Year after year, we see how diverse winning programs can be, and school size doesn’t matter. We’ve had rural, small schools, larger schools, as well as public and private schools. Each year is a pleasant surprise, and it is exciting to see the innovation at work in schools everywhere.”

Qaimari added there are vast resources on the Follett Challenge website to help entrants get started when they’re ready to move forward with their submission. Moreover, he said Follett has scheduled an event for 7 p.m. CDT on Tuesday, Nov. 15 on the Follett Challenge Facebook page that will provide tips on what the judges are seeking and how to make one’s entry shine.

Other key 2016-17 contest dates are:

  • 24, 2016: Contest formally launches on website, and entries open
  • 23, 2016: Entries close
  • 23, 2017: Voting begins
  • 27, 2017: Voting closes
  • 28, 2017: Semifinalists and 10 video winners announced
  • April 28, 2017: Grand-prize winner announced

For more information about the Follett Challenge, visit; for more on Follett, visit

About Follett’s PreK-12 Business|
Follett is the largest provider of educational materials and technology solutions to PreK-12 libraries, classrooms, learning centers and school districts in the United States, and a major supplier to educational institutions worldwide. Follett distributes books, reference materials, digital resources, eBooks and audiovisual materials, as well as pre-owned textbooks. Follett also is one of the leading providers of integrated educational technology for the management of physical and digital assets, the tracking, storing and analyzing of academic data, and digital learning environment tools for the classroom focusing on student achievement.

About Follett Corporation

For more than 140 years, Follett has been a trusted partner to preK-12 schools, colleges and campus bookstores, taking care of the critical details that make it easier for schools to run, teachers to teach, students to learn and fans to celebrate. A leading provider of education technology, services and physical and digital content, Follett currently works with 70,000 schools and operates more than 1,250 local campus stores and 1,600 virtual stores. With the 2016 acquisition of Baker & Taylor, LLC, Follett’s reach also extends into the public library and global retail markets. Today Follett Corporation is the world’s largest single source of books, entertainment products, digital content and multi-media for libraries, schools and retailers. Follett is a $3.6 billion privately held company headquartered in Westchester, Illinois.

]]> 1
Banning the Ban On LGBTQ Filters in Libraries Wed, 26 Oct 2016 17:40:14 +0000 ban-lgbtq-libcompfilterCongressman Mike Honda (D-CA) is fed up with Internet filters in school and public libraries, specifically when it comes to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) materials. The congressman wants to ensure LGBTQ web resources are not blocked—and he’s written a bill, called the “Don’t Block LGBTQ Act,” to make that happen.

“As a former teacher and principal, I know how important public school libraries are to all students,” said Honda, by email. “The Internet is a powerful resource, and the LGBTQ community disproportionately relies on it. This is commonsense legislation that would ensure students have access to basic resources, for decisions such as coming out to their family and friends, finding health clinics or anti-bullying resources, or learning about the steps to transition.”

Internet filters are a common tool. Some parents use them with their children at home. Schools and libraries often apply them to web searches, particularly to prevent students from stumbling onto sites containing inappropriate material.

Yet some note that Internet filters may actually go against the very promise of what librarians are meant to do—to protect access to information.

“I can understand why this is a controversial issue because the foundational belief and value systems of some patrons are being censored if LGBTQ materials are banned or filtered from results,” noted Allison Mackley, the Derry Township School District library department chair for Hershey High School in PA. “As a librarian, I support the ALA Code of Ethics, which not only includes upholding ‘the principles of intellectual freedom and resist[ing] all efforts to censor library resources’ but also asks librarians to refrain from allowing their ‘personal beliefs to interfere with…access to their [library] information resources.'”

Filters can be crude, filtering pornography in one case, but information about breast cancer in another. Online communities designed for LGBTQ teens as well as other legitimate resources—can also be, and have been, blocked as well. That’s a problem, particularly for LGBT youth who are five times more likely to conduct web searches for information on sexuality or sexual attraction as non-LGBT youth, and nearly twice as likely to go online for information on health and medical concerns, according to a 2013 report, “Out Online,” from GLSEN, an organization that works to support gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and queer students.

“Generally, it’s not uncommon for schools to have Internet Service Providers (ISPs) put certain blocks and limitations on certain web sites,” says Kari Hudnell, senior manager of media relations with GLSEN.  “Often the goal is for students not to get to inappropriate content. Unfortunately what often happens is legitimate sites that students need to know about get blocked. Our web site can be blocked at times.”

Honda’s focus, then, is to make sure LGBTQ sites aren’t blocked at public schools and libraries—locations students use to research and source information not just for classwork, but for themselves. Currently, though, any public school or library that is subsidized for their Internet connection through the E-Rate program must have online filters in place to block material that is deemed dangerous to students, such as pornography. Honda’s bill, though, amends that requirement, forbidding LGBTQ sites from being blocked.

Many educators welcome a change to filtering, believing that they don’t work—or work too broadly. Children are also known to find ways to access blocked sites when they want to, says Sara Sayigh, the librarian at DuSable High School Campus in Chicago, IL.

“Sometimes sites are blocked that students might need for research,” she said by email. “Certain words trigger the filters. For example, curse words that students hear in the hallway every day are blocked. I think over the years it’s gotten a little better and we can now search breast cancer, for example. Another ‘goal’ of the filters is to block social media; however, teenagers always find ways around this.”

Honda introduced the bill earlier this year, but Congress is now in recess—and not due back until the middle of November. Although there is much support from groups across the country from the GSA Network of California to the Milwaukee LGBT Community Center, bipartisan support in Congress is reportedly not there.

For students who want to research LGBTQ information and resources online, that means hoping their school or library either doesn’t have filters—or have amended filters to widen access. Yet that won’t be the case at every school and library, with the result being that some students won’t have access to the information they need.

“Ideally sex and health education classes would talk about sexual orientation and would talk about LGBTQ students, but unfortunately they don’t,” says GLSEN’s Hudnell. “Going on to the Internet is often the only access the students have.”

]]> 0
Picture This: How Pictures Work by Molly Bang | SLJ Review Wed, 26 Oct 2016 13:00:55 +0000 BANG, Molly. Picture This: How Pictures Work. rev. ed. illus. by Molly Bang. 134p. Chronicle. Aug. 2016. Tr $28.99. ISBN 978145213515; pap. $22.99. ISBN 9781452151991.

Bang published the first version of her groundbreaking exploration into the psychology and physiology of viewer response in 1991 (Bullfinch Pr.). Having confronted her own compositional challenges, the author/illustrator wanted to share her newfound understanding regarding the language of images. Using construction paper shapes as stand-ins for narrative elements in “Little Red Riding Hood,” [...]]]> redstarBANG, Molly. Picture This: How Pictures Work. rev. ed. illus. by Molly Bang. 134p. Chronicle. Aug. 2016. Tr $28.99. ISBN 978145213515; pap. $22.99. ISBN 9781452151991.

picture-thisBang published the first version of her groundbreaking exploration into the psychology and physiology of viewer response in 1991 (Bullfinch Pr.). Having confronted her own compositional challenges, the author/illustrator wanted to share her newfound understanding regarding the language of images. Using construction paper shapes as stand-ins for narrative elements in “Little Red Riding Hood,” she explains how changes in size, color, and placement affect observers’ emotions. In his foreword, visual thinking and psychology scholar Rudolf Arnheim called this primer on picture structure a “grammar for the eyes.” Textual edits and graphic enhancements were provided in a 2001 revision (SeaStar). Chronicle’s 25th anniversary edition features a handsome new design and additional content. Uncoated gray pages unify and offer rest from the dynamic red, black, white, and purple scenes. With text on one side of the gutter and images on the other, each element now has more room. Fonts are sized, colored, and organized for maximum clarity and flow. The first section is now titled “Building the Emotional Content of Pictures,” with subtle changes underscoring intent. Bang’s ongoing questions allow readers to compare layouts and develop their own ideas before considering hers. Her voice is noticeably more confident in the chapter on structural principles, as if time and experience have bolstered her beliefs. Most exciting is the new chapter deconstructing four full-color compositions from her Caldecott Honor title, When Sophie Gets Angry—Really, Really Angry… (Scholastic); she discusses the portrayal of feelings ranging from fury to contentment. The final section contains experiments for inspired readers. VERDICT Many art books draw attention to formal elements; no others manage to elucidate the how and why of perception for nearly all ages with such depth and ingenuity. A must-have for picture book aficionados. [Ed. note: See Up Close interview with Molly Bang, p. 18.]–Wendy Lukehart, District of Columbia Public Library

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

]]> 0
Merrow by Ananda Braxton-Smith | SLJ Review Wed, 26 Oct 2016 13:00:02 +0000 BRAXTON-SMITH, Ananda. Merrow. 240p. ebook available. Candlewick. Nov. 2016. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780763679248.

Gr 8 Up –Twelve-year-old Neen has heard the stories the people of Carrick tell: “Her Pa was a drinker who’d killed Mam by mistake.” “Pa married a merrow—a mermaid—and Mam went after him and drowned.” “Mam lost her mind after Pa died and walked the island until she was nothing but a skeleton.” But Neen believes none of these. The only tales she’ll listen to are [...]]]> redstarBRAXTON-SMITH, Ananda. Merrow. 240p. ebook available. Candlewick. Nov. 2016. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780763679248.

ya-hs-braxtonsmith-merrowGr 8 Up –Twelve-year-old Neen has heard the stories the people of Carrick tell: “Her Pa was a drinker who’d killed Mam by mistake.” “Pa married a merrow—a mermaid—and Mam went after him and drowned.” “Mam lost her mind after Pa died and walked the island until she was nothing but a skeleton.” But Neen believes none of these. The only tales she’ll listen to are those of Skully Slevin, the island’s blind fiddler, and his ma. Skully tells Neen that she has merrow blood running through her veins—the proof is in the itchy red scales that appear on her each year. The only one who doesn’t tell stories is bitter Auntie Ushag—she’s more concerned with day-to-day tasks that need to be done, and all she’ll say is that Neen’s mam left because of a broken heart. But as the girl stands on the border between childhood and womanhood, she is restless and desperate for answers, and her search for them will take her to unexpected places. The author has done detailed research on the customs and language of Carrick, and this novel perfectly captures the harshness and beauty of that culture. This exquisitely told work examines the power of stories and how a well-told tale can transcend truth and history. VERDICT Readers will want to curl up at the feet of this narrator and listen to her spellbinding account. Recommended for all YA collections.–Heather M. Campbell, formerly at Philip S. Miller Library, Castle Rock, CO

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

]]> 0
New U.S. Department of Education Guidance on ESSA and Early Learning Tue, 25 Oct 2016 20:50:31 +0000 tnThe U.S. Department of Education released non-regulatory guidance as its first comprehensive look at how the nation’s new education law, the bipartisan Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), supports the youngest learners. President Obama signed ESSA into law in December 2015.

This guidance is intended to remind state and local decision-makers about the opportunities available under the new law to strengthen early education, and to provide examples of how states and local communities can support young children’s success in school. This document highlights how those decision makers can expand access to high-quality early learning, encourage alignment and collaboration of early learning programs from birth through third grade, and support early learning educators.

Toddler Reading at the Library“Expanding High-quality early learning opportunities helps close achievement gaps because it gives all children—no matter their zip code—a strong start,” said U.S. Secretary of Education John B. King Jr. in a statement. Strong early learning programs help to narrow achievement gaps between children from low-income families and their more affluent peers, which are detectable as early as nine months of age.

Early learning is woven throughout ESSA, as a means of addressing educational equity, supporting students’ school success, and bringing greater alignment along the entire education continuum. It also authorizes Preschool Development Grants to ensure more students across the country have access to high-quality preschool.

In 2013, President Obama put forth his Preschool for All proposal to establish a federal-state partnership that would provide high-quality preschool for all four-year-olds from low- and moderate-income families. Today 46 states and the District of Columbia invest in preschool programs.


]]> 0
The Superhero Librarian Within | Take the Lead Tue, 25 Oct 2016 18:49:04 +0000 dedra_headshotThe day you became a school librarian, the universe put a spectacular opportunity into your hands, giving you the power to affect what people believe about libraries and librarians. If you think that makes you sound a bit like a superhero, you’re right. You possess unique knowledge and skills—no one else in the school does exactly what you do.

The five roles of a school librarian, according to the American Association of School Librarians, include leader, instructional partner, information specialist, teacher, and program administrator. While it seems easy on the surface to embrace some of these, many struggle with that “leader” one. Perhaps you feel unworthy or unready.  But you can do it. You must: people are counting on you.

It starts with looking inward. Stop focusing on what you can’t do, and concentrate on what you can. My Lilead experience introduced me to the concept of strengths-based leadership. When you work from your strengths, you unapologetically give the world your best. Being aware of your strengths and identifying how they can be used to move school and district priorities forward helps ensure you’re an essential part of your school’s instructional leadership team.

Take time to talk…and listen. Have conversations. Good leaders exchange ideas with the people they follow and hope to lead. Honest dialog builds connections. As a supervisor, I try to communicate with my librarians as much as possible. Yes, I use email and social media—but I also make a point to get out and visit schools. I pick up the phone and talk to my librarians when they need support, clarification, or just a reminder about why they rock. I model what I want them to do in their own buildings. Instead of feeling like the sad kid who didn’t get a party invitation, ask to attend team/department meetings. Instead of waiting for teachers to collaborate, pick up the phone or walk down the hall to their classrooms. Schedule a meeting with your principal to discuss your goals for the year, even if it is just for 15 minutes. Your voice will make a difference.

Make your leadership visible…to yourself. Leaders come in different varieties. People who lead quietly and behind the scenes are just as important as those who are loud and proud. Document your efforts—the failed attempts and the successes. Take time to reflect and reassess. Not only will your leadership log make a great artifact for your portfolio come evaluation time, but on those days when you feel like you are falling short, it can be a visual reminder of the work you are doing. There’s nothing wrong with starting small. Every blooming flower started out as a tiny seed!

Embrace the power of positive peer pressure. Everyone needs support and encouragement. Whether it’s meeting up with a few folks for coffee or creating a closed Facebook group, the important thing is to have people you can reach out to and to whom you are accountable. Bounce around ideas, share frustrations and celebrations, and push one another to stay the course. I send out a monthly newsletter to my librarians. But the work is not all on me. I encourage them to send items—reflections from conferences, photos of their libraries in action, articles about new things they’re trying. The benefits for librarians are twofold. First, celebrating and sharing the work you do makes you feel proud. Second, when you read about the fantastic things going on in another library, you might just have a moment: “Hey… I could do that. Why haven’t I tried?” Leaders need to be inspired in order to be inspirational.

Your students and colleagues deserve the benefit of you giving them your best. Just like any other superhero, you have strengths and special skills. So find the librarian leader within. People are counting on you.

Dedra Van Gelder is the instructional specialist for library media at Charles County (MD) Public Schools.

]]> 6
Therapy by the Book Tue, 25 Oct 2016 16:10:26 +0000 slj1610-therapybythebk-opener

“It’s strange the way death connects people,” says Kennedy, a character in Jacqueline Woodson’s novel Behind You (Putnam, 2004), about collective grief after a 15-year-old boy is killed by police. Kennedy realizes that he, along with “Ellie and Miah’s moms and pops and everybody who’d ever lost somebody…we’re all a part of the same something.”

Kennedy’s words remind readers that sorrow does more than make us sad: it links us together. When Mary Ann Cappiello, “The Classroom Bookshelf” blogger and a coauthor of this article, read aloud Behind You to her eighth grade students in New Hampshire, she did so to model brilliant language and multiple perspectives. But something more powerful happened. Her students hadn’t experienced the racial and ethnic diversity of New York City, but they knew pain. Many lived in poverty and had lost family members to incarceration, addiction, and violence. As each chapter ended, the class sat quietly until someone would say, “One more.”

Although we might not all recognize it as “bibliotherapy,” those who love books are familiar with the feeling these students experienced of finding solace, understanding, insight, inspiration, or simply, delicious escape in the pages of a book. Most of us can point to books that helped us through hard times, renewed our hope, made us feel understood and less alone, or gave us a valuable new perspective or information on events in our lives.

Stories and storytelling are ancient and powerful tools for making meaning of our lives, processing deep emotion, and reminding us of our shared humanity. In our current climate of mass violence, police brutality, political upheaval, and dehumanizing rhetoric, the need for these stories could not be more urgent.

Our technologically connected world has many advantages, and it provides access to an endless stream of articles, opinions, sound bytes, and videos of events that are frequently distressing or downright traumatic. They can be stressful for the most well-adjusted adults, to say nothing of our students. Bibliotherapy invites us to use books as a tool for making sense of the world around us.

Why bibliotherapy now?

In the United States, more than 34 million children have experienced traumatic events, and almost half of the students in our classrooms are living in adverse circumstances, according to a 2011–12 survey from the National Center for Health Statistics. The categories measured include neglect, abuse, abandonment, and loss. That means that four students in a typical size classroom have experienced more than one of the categories, resulting in a negative impact on learning, behavior, and relationships. The numbers are much higher when we factor in fear as a way of life that can be associated with living in poverty or living with racism.

In an ideal world, every student would receive high-quality mental healthcare to help them cope with tragedy. But in reality, issues of access, funding, and fear of stigma can prevent them from getting support. According to the 2016 access to care data from the State of Mental Health in America report from the organization Mental Health America, six out of 10 “at risk” students do not have access to mental health treatment. Teachers and librarians are often in a unique position within the community to develop long-term, supportive relationships with students and to create spaces in which they might find support, understanding, healing, and growth.

Now, more than ever, we should be using all the tools at our disposal to help our students, and ourselves, figure out how to live in a challenging world. Educators know that many of our students are hurting, and books can be good medicine.

One benefit of using bibliotherapy to work with traumatized students is that it provides a valuable layer of distance. While some students might not feel comfortable disclosing deeply personal or disturbing details of a trauma while at school, they may be more at home talking about how a character in a book might have felt, or writing a reflection on ways a character showed strength and tenacity in the face of hardship. Or, a student might simply feel privately comforted by reading a book about a character who goes through an experience similar to their own.

Bibliotherapy can also build empathy in students who have not yet experienced personal trauma. A 2013 study by psychologists David Comer Kidd and Emanuele Castano suggested a correlation between reading literary fiction and developing empathy. School librarian Maeve Visser Knoth, from the Phillips Brook School in Menlo Park, CA, coined the term “advance bibliotherapy” as a way ‘“to prepare children for emotional experiences before they occur” in a May/June 2006 Horn slj1610-therapybythebk-pqBook article.

Nevertheless, some educators may feel hesitant to broach topics that could be deeply painful, uncomfortable, or fraught. Given the pressures and demands on educators, setting aside time and energy for these difficult but valuable conversations can be challenging, even for the most experienced. With that in mind, here are some suggestions for using bibliotherapy to help students cope with trauma that will, we hope, make these efforts feel manageable.

Safe storytime

Students of all ages look forward to being read to. A daily diet of listening to carefully selected texts read aloud can create an environment in which students can let down their defenses and recharge. In general, structure, routine, predictability, and clear expectations can also contribute to a sense of safety and order in a student’s life. Sometimes we end a chapter and let the impact sink in with silence. Other times, the students are eager to discuss.

For group discussions related to a traumatic event, make sure you have developed—and consistently enforce—norms about how the group will communicate and treat each other during these conversations. If it’s appropriate to your setting, you might adopt a “what happens here, stays here” agreement for the discussion to promote a sense of privacy and confidentiality—but make sure the group understands that you can’t control whether other students adhere to it.

Whether talking about students’ individual traumas or discussing characters in books, it can be helpful to frame the conversation around ways that people survive, overcome, and adapt to hardships and challenges. What helps people bounce back after difficulties? What characteristics or resources do they have? Where in the story is there hope? Discussing resilience doesn’t have to be limited to conversations about traumatic events, however. It can be a rich theme to explore throughout the school year—every book involves some type of conflict or challenge that a character must overcome.

Sometimes, no matter how carefully we listen or how conscientious we are about enforcing safety, some students aren’t ready or able to talk, and that’s OK. We show we care, but we don’t force it. We leave the door open, and the books out. We plant seeds that could grow when conditions are right.

Book choices

Another way to help a student feel a sense of control is by asking permission to discuss the topic. For example, you might say, “I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the gun violence in the news and wondering about how it has affected you. I found a book with a character whose family member gets shot. Would it be OK if I shared it with you?”

For small groups or classes, you might ask the students which books they want to read, or distribute an interest survey. For educators with the flexibility to do so, organizing an after-school book club or lunch bunch would allow interested students to self-select into the group. As you offer book suggestions, make sure to provide students with a balance of topics, characters, and experiences so that they see their lives reflected in the literature. Be mindful that diverse characters are presented authentically and that no one type of person is consistently shown as a victim.

Mix up your choices of books to share. Remember that laughter is great medicine. Choose titles that allow for all kinds of emotional responses. Let your read-aloud time be an opportunity for students to find solace, joy, and predictability.

Allow students to re-read the same book as many times as they like. Not only does this build fluency, it also lets them work through fear or cognitive dissonance related to difficult experiences.

Rewrite the story

There is a close connection between trauma recovery and storytelling. Consider the hero’s journey: a hero must leave what is familiar and undergo an ordeal in order to return to her world with a changed perspective. What can you do to help students see themselves as heroes of their own story? What will help them begin to take ownership of the story? How are they different as a result of the trauma? Could any of those differences be positive—such as the realization of how strong they truly are? Sometimes, the very act of telling the story is a way of taking back power over it. Other times, choosing not to tell it serves the same purpose.

Students can choose to reframe the story of the trauma. Perhaps the event is not the tragic ending, but the turning point. You can talk with students about “post-traumatic growth”—the ability people have not just to survive a trauma, but to find a way to grow from it or make something worthwhile out of it. Literature—and life—are full of examples of people using pain and loss as a call to action, a path to insight or empathy, or a reason to help others.

Books to build community

The experience of reading a book can take us out of ourselves, connect us with others, remind us of the universality of human suffering and hope, and offer us wisdom about how to go on living. Some books remind us of the beauty and joy there is in the world, despite everything.

We all need a sense of connection and belonging, and this is especially true for students who feel isolated, alone, or afraid as the result of a trauma. This becomes particularly urgent as students move toward adolescence and start to rely even more heavily on relationships with friends and peers. As we share stories, we see each other’s humanity. A compassionate community can be developed as classes laugh and cry together, sharing stories and developing common language.

Reading a book with others creates a collective experience, a communal reference point. Hearing others talk openly about how a shooting or an act of terror has affected them can build unity, empathy, and cohesion. Encouraging students to identify with one another, find common ground, respect each other’s differences, and build friendships is all part of strengthening the support networks that enable them to be resilient.

There are no magic words. But books give language to talk about difficult issues and complex emotions. Characters reflect resilience. A group book discussion can also reveal how different experiences and beliefs can lead people to a variety of interpretations and conclusions about the same thing. This is a great segue into conversations about human difference, conflict, and multiple perspectives.

Happily ever after?

Artfully incorporating books into trauma recovery can lend balance and perspective. Getting caught up in fear and grief can create tunnel vision that leads us to overgeneralize and think catastrophically. It’s important to acknowledge that teachers and librarians have feelings of their own. Educators need our own “safe spaces” to reflect, process our feelings, and heal from traumas. We need community that fosters our abilities to respond from places of compassion as well as to stand up for justice.

Recovery from trauma is not a one-off event, and developing resilience is a process. A brain that has been altered with chronic, traumatic stress has the capacity for neuroregeneration, as psychiatrist Norman Doidge writes in The Brain That Changes Itself (Viking, 2007). We don’t need to have all the answers or be trauma experts to listen and meet students where they are. Being compassionate witnesses can be enough.

We also don’t have to wait for a tragedy in order to build resilience. In fact, it’s probably best to create the safety net before it’s needed, in the same way that we don’t wait for a child to get sick before we encourage them to wash their hands, eat healthy foods, or exercise.

At the end of Woodson’s Behind You, each of the characters has learned to live with their grief, and begins to find joy in the everyday. Teachers and librarians can use books like this to connect with students, give a sense of safety, share complex emotions, and emphasize hope. As the mother who lost her son to a shooting in Behind You says, “…each day there is at least one perfect moment….I turn away from my window, make my way upstairs to my study. When I turn my lamp on, so much beautiful light fills the room.”

Trauma in Schools

Chronic stress or responses to trauma manifest in a variety of ways in schools. Some kids show distress through aggressive behaviors, power struggles, or testing limits. Others withdraw from learning and relationships. It may take a long time to earn their trust, and they might push away adults who are trying to help. They might have a stronger reaction to provocations than others; be restless, fidgety, anxious, hypervigilant, or have trouble concentrating. If a trauma interferes with their sleep, they may be sleepy or irritable at school.

Many schools and districts are becoming more trauma sensitive and creating environments that support resilience. Working with these students requires patience, consistency, and compassion. When students operate from the “fight, flight, or freeze” panic instinct, their higher-order thinking shuts down. Since many are more sensitive to perceived threats, this reflex triggers more readily.

In addition, students living with chronic stress are often mislabeled as learning disabled or having behavioral issues. To unlock their abilities to solve problems, reflect, and think deeply, it’s imperative that they feel safe. But if kids feel like their life is chaos, this can be a tall order.

Administrators understand the need to prepare staff members to work effectively with students and families who have been traumatized. Whether or not your school or organization has begun to implement trauma-informed practices, consider independently seeking out PD, continuing education, conferences, or other training related to psychological trauma. For those looking for a basic introduction, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website provides an overview. The Massachusetts Advocates for Children Trauma and Learning Policy Initiative also has resources for developing trauma-sensitive schools. Other resources include Helping Traumatized Children Learn and the National Child Traumatic Stress Network, which offers a free PDF manual on psychological first aid to help people after disasters and emergencies. The Lesley University Institute for Trauma Sensitivity website provides a free online survey tool to assess your school community’s ability to foster resilience.

Recommended Reading

slj1610-therapybythebk-sb-stripThe U.N. Declaration on the Rights of the Child

Every Human Has Rights, National Geographic, 2009, Gr 5 Up

We Are All Born Free: The Universal Declaration of Rights in Pictures, illus. by John Burlingham, Frances Lincoln, 2011, Gr 2–5


All the World, by Elizabeth Gordon Scanlon, illus. by Marla Frazee, Beach Lane, 2009, K–3

Can We Help? Kids Volunteering to Help Their Communities by George Ancona, Candlewick, 2015, K–6

Four Feet, Two Sandals by Karen Lynn Williams and Khadra Mohammed, illus. by Doug Chayka, Eerdman’s, 2007, Gr 2–5

Green City: How One City Survived a Tornado and Rebuilt for a Sustainable Future, by Allan Drummond, FSG, 2016, Gr 2–8

Hands Around the Library: Protecting Egypt’s Treasured Books by Susan L. Roth and Karen Leggett Abouraya, illus, by Susan L. Roth, Dial, 2012, Gr 2–8

I’m New Here by Anne Sibley O’Brien, Charlesbridge, 2015, Gr K–3

Last Stop on Market Street by Matt de la Peña, illus. by Christian Robinson, Penguin, 2015, Gr K–6

Mirror by Jeannie Baker, illus. by author, Candlewick, 2010, Gr K–12

One Plastic Bag: Isatou Ceesay and the Recycling Women of Gambia by Miranda Paul, illus. by Elizabeth Zunon, Millbrook, 2015, Gr 2–8

One Today: The Inaugural Poem for President Barack Obama by David Blanco, illus. by Dav Pilkey, Little, Brown, 2015, Gr K–8

Sitti’s Secrets by Naomi Shihab Nye, illus. by Nancy Carpenter, Four Winds Press, 1994, Gr 2–5

Smoky Night by Eve Bunting, illus. by David Diaz, Harcourt, 1994, Gr K–5

Terrorism and War

14 Cows for America by Carmen Agra Deedy in collaboration with Wilson Kimeli Naiyomah, illus. by Thomas Gonzalez, Peachtree, 2009, Gr 2–8

Children Growing Up with War by Jenny Matthews, Candlewick, 2014, Gr 5–9

Fireboat: The Heroic Adventures of the John J. Harvey by Maira Kalman, Putnam, 2002, Gr 3–8

Habibi by Naomi Shihab Nye, S. & S., 1997, Gr 6–10

Making It Home: Real-Life Stories of Children Forced to Flee, by the International Rescue Committee, Puffin, 2004, Gr 4–8

Police Shootings

All American Boys by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely, Atheneum, 2015, Gr 9 Up

Behind You by Jacqueline Woodson, Putnam, 2004, Gr 8 Up

If You Come Softly by Jacqueline Woodson, Putnam, 1998, Gr 8 Up

School Shootings

Give a Boy a Gun by Todd Strasser, S. & S., 2000, Gr 9 Up

Hate List by Jennifer Brown, Little, Brown, 2009, Gr 9 Up

This Is Where It Ends by Marieke Nijkamp, Sourcebooks, 2016, Gr 9–12

Violent Ends: A Novel in Seventeen Points of View, Shaun David Hutchinson. ed., S. & S., 2015, Gr 9–12


Erika Dajevskis (pictured) is a school counselor in Philadelphia Public Schools. Mary Ann Cappiello is an associate professor at Lesley University, where Patricia Crain de Galarce is associate dean of the Graduate School of Education.

]]> 1
Steve Jenkins on Popular Pick “Animals by the Numbers” Tue, 25 Oct 2016 15:00:52 +0000 Photo courtesy of HMH

Photo courtesy of HMH
See SLJ‘s review of Animals by Numbers

Steven Jenkins’s Animals by the Numbers: A Book of Animal Infographics (HMH, Nov. 1, 2016), an October Popular Pick, is a perfect marriage of astounding animal facts and skillful use of infographics. SLJ spoke with Jenkins to discuss what inspired him to tackle this project.

Writing and illustrating an entire book dedicated to infographics must have been quite a challenge. What inspired you to take on such a task?
I’d become interested in infographics for children while watching my own kids and their friends play complex computer games with multiple levels of graphic information—maps, 3-D diagrams showing threats and other players, bar graphs indicating time or energy levels, and so on. It occurred to me that children are way ahead of what we nonfiction authors are giving them in terms of how much visual information they can process. I also realized that the ability to read and understand the language of information graphics is an increasingly important component of literacy.

So I decided to make a book that was entirely composed of infographics, incorporating as many different ways of expressing quantitative information graphically as I could. Animals seemed like the obvious topic.

animals-by-the-numbersWhat’s really amazing about this work is just how long readers can sit with each spread. When you laid out the text and images, was there anything you were particularly set on achieving?
I looked at a lot of information graphics while researching the book. I found that in many cases the data—the point of the graphic—was difficult (in some cases impossible) to ferret out. It was as if the designers had become seduced by the cool way a tangle of lines or overlapping shapes looked, and had forgotten that their primary responsibility to readers was to make the information interesting and accessible. Given the age of my audience, I felt like my most important task was to make the graphics clear and readable. That often meant that I had to limit the number of things I could include in one infographic, and think about how the design could facilitate that accessibility.

What is the most fascinating thing you learned from your research?
To me, the fact that the world’s insects probably outweigh the world’s humans by a factor of 300 to one is the single most startling piece of information in the book.

]]> 0
Digital Badging and Microcredit | Tech Tidbits Tue, 25 Oct 2016 15:00:36 +0000 blogimage7june2This week, I was helping a teacher with our learning management system, Schoology. She had just designed a quiz but could not make it public for her kids. I am by no means an expert, so I enlisted the help of one of our guru teachers. Within minutes (seconds, actually), this whiz-bang teacher had not only corrected the issue but had also pointed out two or three other possible uses for the specific tool we were looking at. She deserves a medal! Or perhaps a badge!

It is true that not one of us knows everything, but many of us have special talents that, when shared, can enhance the learning of others. I’ve been looking for a way to honor folks’ knowledge or work in specific areas, and badges or microcredentialing seems to be it.

Badges aren’t really that new. Similar to a scouting badge, digital badges can be symbols to show achievement or status in specific areas. For educators, it can mean the verification of knowledge or skills mastered in a wide variety of useful domains.

Imagine this: your teachers have a school-wide goal to incorporate technology into their lessons.  As they gain mastery of specific tools, they are awarded badges, which they post in their rooms. Teachers who are proficient in Google Docs, Schoology, or Edmodo, for example, would display their badges so that students and other teachers know whom to go to for help. The value of the badge lies in the skills, competencies, and mastery it represents.

My maker space students earn badges as they become competent with various tools or products. We started by calling these Box Projects. For the 3-D printer for example, we ask the kids, “If you were to create a box on the 3-D printer, what would you need to know?” Of course, they need to know a series of steps and safety precautions before they can print their first project. They don’t have to know everything, just enough to be successful and move on to something more complex. For each project they complete, they win a badge, and we put their pictures on the wall of fame for each tool or project, allowing other students to know who the knowledgeable ones are for each skill.

mircrocreditWe have been looking to expand the badges for all our students and staff as avenues of learning. As I researched badges and microcredit for both my students and faculty, I quickly realized that there is quite a movement. One out of every five institutions of higher education is issuing digital badges, according to a recent survey by the University Professional Continuing Education Association (UPCEA) and Pearson.

In fact, in my home state of Colorado, the Colorado Community College system has a badging system recognized by industry and manufacturing sectors, because they realize it represents skills and/or expertise in potential employees.

Many institutions are offering badges or microcredentials for everything from shortened versions of college courses to skills gained through extracurricular activities. This would be perfect in my school’s leadership program, in which students develop skills that are not reflected in a traditional high school transcript. Badges could showcase skills and accomplishments such as volunteer work, service learning travel, event planning, public speaking, or fund-raising expertise.

In the library world, I’m working with students on their Research and Citation badges. This way, whether students are in social studies, English, or science, when they write a paper, their teachers will know that they have proficiencies and should be able to complete the task.

logo_badgr%201There are several online sources to create and store badges, including CREDLY, Badgr, and Open Badges from Mozilla. Some offer the option of uploading artifacts after they have been evaluated by instructors. Credly also provides users with the opportunity to share this with mentors or future employers if desired.

My teachers are also eager to earn their own badges or microcredit. Some are using BloomBoard, which has tons of programs, from strengthening your wait time skills to increasing your math expertise. PD Learning Network is a new, fee-based site where teachers can learn skills through microcoursework and even get recertification credit for their work through a partnership with the University of the Pacific. In our district, we are also looking into tying several badges together in a body of work for professional development credits.

Teachers are always looking for new ways to incentivize and motivate students to expand their learning.  Badges and microcredentials are a way to track students’ and teachers’ skill development while recognizing learners’ work. This strategy documents learning and encourages sharing of knowledge in a unique and fun way. Learners can use this proof of their skills for both educational and professional advancement. So take a page out of the Boy Scout Handbook and encourage the learners in your world to earn a few badges!

Additional Badging Sources:

Sites for Sharing Badges:

]]> 0
Little Penguins by Cynthia Rylant | SLJ Review Tue, 25 Oct 2016 13:00:51 +0000 RYLANT, Cynthia. Little Penguins. illus. by Christian Robinson. 40p. Random/Schwartz & Wade. Oct. 2016. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780553507706.

PreS –The first snowfall of the season is greeted with excitement by five playful penguins. After rooting through the clothes cupboard for coordinating ensembles (“Socks? One for each foot! What about boots? Red ones”), the siblings head outside. The spare, minimal text asks, “So, how’s the snow?” As one penguin sinks down to his tummy, the succinct answer is “Very deep.” [...]]]> redstarRYLANT, Cynthia. Little Penguins. illus. by Christian Robinson. 40p. Random/Schwartz & Wade. Oct. 2016. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780553507706.

rylant-littlepenguinsPreS –The first snowfall of the season is greeted with excitement by five playful penguins. After rooting through the clothes cupboard for coordinating ensembles (“Socks? One for each foot! What about boots? Red ones”), the siblings head outside. The spare, minimal text asks, “So, how’s the snow?” As one penguin sinks down to his tummy, the succinct answer is “Very deep.” After frolicking for awhile, they shiver: “Brrr. Let’s go home.” Outerwear is doffed, jammies are donned, and following a snack of warm cookies and “sippies,” Mama tucks the quintet into bed. Cut-paper snowflakes float down in Robinson’s fetching acrylic and collage illustrations. The charming penguins have teeny triangular feet, big round noggins, and rectangular bodies. Personalities shine through with the quizzical tilt of a head or an impetuous nosedive into a snowbank. Individuality is also expressed by each bird’s penchant for apparel color. Whimsical details like fish-patterned curtains, a fish weather vane, and a mailbox at the tip of the iceberg add to the clever fun. VERDICT A splendid, wintry delight for little ones everywhere.–Linda Ludke, London Public Library, Ont., Canada

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

]]> 1
Uprooted: The Japanese American Experience During World War II by Albert Marrin | SLJ Review Tue, 25 Oct 2016 13:00:48 +0000 MARRIN, Albert. Uprooted: The Japanese American Experience During World War II. 256p. ebook available. further reading. index. notes. photos. websites. Knopf. Oct. 2016. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780553509366; lib. ed. $20.99. ISBN 9780553509373.

Gr 7 Up –The Japanese American internment during World War II is the subject of National Book Award finalist Marrin’s latest historical nonfiction for adolescents. He ties together chronological events with thematic elements (how racism operated during World War II) to tell the story of this dark [...]]]> redstarMARRIN, Albert. Uprooted: The Japanese American Experience During World War II. 256p. ebook available. further reading. index. notes. photos. websites. Knopf. Oct. 2016. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780553509366; lib. ed. $20.99. ISBN 9780553509373.

nf-mshs-marrin-uprootedGr 7 Up –The Japanese American internment during World War II is the subject of National Book Award finalist Marrin’s latest historical nonfiction for adolescents. He ties together chronological events with thematic elements (how racism operated during World War II) to tell the story of this dark time in U.S. history: “Our government failed in its duty to protect the rights of everyone living in the United States.” Marrin demonstrates great attention to detail in conveying the experiences of Japanese Americans who were removed from their homes and forced to live in “relocation” centers, relying on interviews, speeches, newspaper articles, and official and personal correspondence from the time period. Of particular interest is the chapter on the Yankee Samurai, Japanese American war heroes who fought bravely for the United States while their families were denied freedom at home. Back matter includes an extensive list of suggested further reading. VERDICT Packed with details yet well organized and carefully annotated, this excellent treatment of a shameful episode in U.S. history is highly recommended for library collections serving teens.–Kelly Kingrey-Edwards, Blinn Junior College, Brenham, TX

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

]]> 0