March 18, 2018

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Becky Thatcher, Baseball, and All That Jazz | Multimedia Reviews, October 2014

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See our complete list of
October 2014 SLJ Stars.

redstarErnest & Celestine. 80 min. Dist. by Cinedigm. 2014. $34.95. UPC 025192222030.

K-Gr 4 –Ernest is a hungry bear who is working his way through winter hibernation, and Celestine is a young mouse who collects teeth for a dentist but who dreams of a more creative life. In their world, Ernest and Celestine have been taught that bears and mice never mix, since bears are big and bad and eat little mice, whereas mice are disgusting little thieves who infest a home. The two become unlikely friends through a series of misadventures in which they break down these stereotypes, beginning when Celestine shows Ernest where to find food in exchange for not being eaten by him. When the two are driven out of their respective communities for stealing food and teeth (in a macabre subplot), they begin a new life together, finding a friendship that they didn’t believe was possible. Their peace is broken when the mice capture Ernest and the bears take Celestine into custody. The film culminates in two simultaneous courtroom scenes, where both Celestine and Ernest defend their friendship while challenging the prejudice of the community. Only when the courtrooms catch fire and both Ernest and Celestine act as heroes do the members of the communities open their hearts and minds. This sweet story, with subtle but beautiful watercolor animation, will tug at heartstrings. The voice actors (including the late Lauren Bacall) bring verve to the characters. This is clearly an allegory about prejudice and racism, and even young viewers will understand that stereotypes are unfair and that it is better to be kind. With its heartwarming, relatable characters and important message about love, it is no wonder that this film was nominated earlier this year for an Academy Award for best animated feature.–Jenny Ventling, Greene County Public Library, OH

redstarThe Girls in the Band. 88 min and 57 min. Dist. by Kino Lorber Edu. 2013. $99. UPC 823857178124.

Gr 6 Up –What was conspicuous about women jazz musicians in the big band era was their near absence. Those lucky enough to be asked to sit in with a band were not accepted by male peers and had short tenures. How women broke into the world of jazz, as revealed in this exceptional documentary, is poignant and disturbing. The resulting all-women orchestras enjoyed fewer bookings and lower pay than their male counterparts. The film focuses on the early days when women’s orchestras, facing gender discrimination, were forced to wear ridiculous costumes, required to have long hair, and told to smile, as if their worth as musicians was secondary to their glamourous images. Personal interviews and historic film clips vividly reveal the struggles these women faced. Especially moving are the story of a young white woman, Rosalind Cron, who joined the predominantly African American International Sweethearts of Rhythm, and the perils of touring in the Jim Crow South. Also covered are the years during World War II, when work was easier to find, and the impact of the feminist movement of the 1970s. There is a wealth of extras, including extended interviews with these trailblazers and advice for women who aspire to work in the field. An accompanying teachers’ guide provides a rich resource of ideas for classroom extension, and a flash drive has online links to even more resources. This provocative and entertaining film will enlighten student viewers across many disciplines.–Constance Dickerson, Cleveland Heights-University Heights Public Library, OH

redstarHavana Curveball. 60 min. Dist. by PatchWorks Films. 2014. $89 (with PPR). $39.95 (no PPR). ISBN 3621179767.

Gr 5 Up –In this documentary, how can Cuba, baseball, a bar mitzvah, and a grandfather be connected into one fabulous story? For his upcoming bar mitzvah, Mica Schneider from California’s Bay Area decides to send baseball equipment to Cuba for his community service project. (He loves baseball.) His grandfather lived in the island nation as a child refugee from Nazi Germany, which led to the idea for this project. Due to political embargoes, Mica’s generous donations for Cuban children can’t be directly shipped. Determination propels his family on a road trip up to Canada, where the packages can be legally sent. Months go by with no word that the parcels have been delivered, and Mica teeters on defeat. Undaunted, he seeks out philanthropic agencies that provide aid to Cuba, and eventually he and his journalist father travel there. Grandfather declines the invitation to join them, another emotional setback for Mica, but father and son arrive in Cuba to distribute more sports equipment. There the teen meets enterprising Cuban boys who are also crazy for baseball. They play with masking-taped balls and cardboard mitts, so Mica’s new or used donations are met with extreme excitement, even greed. All the emotional “bases” are voiced by Mica in his sage, prescient narration. The beautiful interlacing of cultural traditions and baseball’s appeal make this an inspiring tale. Directed by Mica’s filmmaker parents, Marcia Jarmel and Ken Schneider, this film superbly demonstrates what one 13-year-old can do to overcome daunting obstacles and make the world a better place.–Robin Levin, U.S. Holocaust Museum

redstarMann, Jennifer K. Two Speckled Eggs. 1 CD. 15 min. Recorded Bks. 2014. $15.75. ISBN 9781490634258. digital download.

PreS-Gr 2 –Ginger wants to have a birthday party, but her mother insists the guest list be all-inclusive, which means including weird Lyla Browning, who smells like old leaves. No party equals no presents, so Ginger relents. Not surprisingly, Lyla’s gift is odd—two small candy eggs in a homemade bird’s nest. Yet when Ginger’s friends decide to play party games by their own rules (peeking during blindman’s bluff, pinning the donkey’s tail on one another) followed by mocking the birthday cake’s unusual flavor—pineapple and coconut—Ginger begins to notice that Lyla really is different, in all the best ways. Solid narration is provided by Michele O. Medlin, who slides easily between snide comments from Ginger’s friends to the sweetness of the two girls discovering genuine friendship. A second track with page-turning signals is included, making this a nice complement to the hardcover edition. This is a wonderful story on kindness, friendship, and the “gift” of individuality. A top pick.–Cheryl ­Preisendorfer, Twinsburg City Schools, OH

redstarCLEMENTS, Andrew. The Map Trap. 2 CDs. 2:29 hrs. S. & S. Audio. 2014. $14.99. ISBN 9781442357013. digital download.

Gr 3-6 –Alton Ziegler is crazy about maps. He particularly loves the way they can visually display any manner of information in a variety of ways. Surreptitiously, he collects data and creats humorous maps detailing such trivia as the popularity of lunchroom tables (depicted as a topographical map of the cafeteria) or a weather map of a teacher’s clothes. Striped tie today? Look out—the probability of a pop quiz is high. He never meant for anyone to see his collection, but when it’s “mapnapped,” there’s no telling where the road might lead. Keith Nobbs is perfectly cast as the narrator. He creates a pensive Alton that fits the mood of the story. Clements’s (In Harm’s Way) use of subjective third-person narration is interesting in that the listener is privy to the inner concerns not only of Alton but of his teacher Miss Wheeling as well. Rarely is a teacher’s perspective presented with such honesty and clarity in a middle grade novel. Though Nobbs’s voice sometimes cracks when portraying female characters, his delivery, nonetheless, is still pleasing and believable. The Map Trap is a thoughtful, holistic look at the middle school environment that will have wide appeal.–Lisa ­Taylor, Ocean County Library, NJ

redstarColfer, Chris. A Grimm Warning. (The Land of Stories: Bk. 3). 9 CDs. 10:05 hrs. Hachette Audio. 2014. $25. ISBN 9781478955801. digital download.

Gr 4 Up –This delightful installment brings listeners back into Colfer’s (The Enchantress Returns) unique fairy tale realm with twins Conner and Alex Bailey. Alex has settled into her training as a fairy godmother, while Conner is forced to work his way through school trying to be “normal,” which is very difficult when you have fairy blood. When brand-new Brothers Grimm tales are discovered in Germany, Conner’s interest is piqued. It’s lucky that his class is heading there on a field trip, even luckier that his crush, Bree, is going as well. As the Grimms’ tales are read, Conner realizes these stories are warnings about events that’ll happen 200 years in the future—which is TODAY. Frantic, Conner must find a way back to the Land of Stories to warn his sister and grandmother of impending doom. Colfer narrates his tale with ease, creating the illusion of more than one voice. Familiarity with previous installments is not completely necessary to follow the story; however, listeners will most likely want to hear the first two and will definitely be clamoring for the fourth due to the epic cliff-hanger. A great choice for fantasy and fractured fairy tales enthusiasts.–Amanda Schiavulli, Finger Lakes Library System, NY

redstarGibson, Julia Mary. Copper Magic. 8 CDs. 9 hrs. Recorded Bks. 2014. $87.75. ISBN 9781490627557. Playaway, digital download.

Gr 5-9 –It’s 1906, and 12-year-old Violet Blake feels abandoned. Her half-Odawa mother and brother are away, and she fears they may never return. She goes to the place where her mother would pick herbs and unearths a magical copper hand. She wishes for a new dress. When her wish is granted, she wishes for the return of her family. Will the hand be able to bring her family back together? Narrator Sandy Rustin’s detailed voices and distinct intonations are engaging and complement the author’s unique writing style. Interwoven plotlines are brought together expertly with a spellbinding effect. The author’s treatment of minorities, particularly Native Americans, is handled with great care. Readers who enjoy magic, adventure, historical fiction, and Scott O’Dell’s books will be whisked into Violet’s world.–Jessica Moody, Olympus Jr. High, Holladay, UT

redstarLawson, Jessica. The Actual and Truthful Adventures of Becky Thatcher. 5 CDs. 5:59 hrs. Dreamscape Media. 2014. $39.99. ISBN 9781629239385. 1 MP3-CD.

Gr 3-7 –It’s 1860, and 11-year-old Becky Thatcher has just moved to St. Petersburg, Missouri. She’s looking for big-time adventure in this small town, and once she meets Sid Sawyer, it doesn’t take her long to find it. Pretty soon, she’s sneaking out after dark, stealing graveyard dirt at midnight, and keeping an eye out for dead cats to help her win a bet. The only obstacle standing between her and even more excitement is goody-goody tattletale Tom Sawyer. This fast-paced tale is the perfect introduction to Mark Twain’s classic characters, but readers who are already familiar with Tom, Sid, Becky, and the Widow Douglas will also appreciate this imaginative, pitch-perfect spin on their classic adventures. Narrator Tavia Gilbert does a phenomenal job. She portrays each character with a different voice, giving the impression that the novel is read by an entire cast of narrators instead of just one person. This fast-paced story is perfect for historical fiction and adventure fans.–Anne Bozievich, Friendship Elementary School, Glen Rock, PA

redstarGansworth, Eric. If I Ever Get Out of Here. 9 CDs. 10:20 hrs. Listening Library. 2014. $55. ISBN 9780553395464. digital download.

Gr 9 Up –The year is 1975. Lewis Blake, a slightly built teen from the Tuscarora Indian Reservation, is enrolled in advanced classes at high school. Lewis suffers racist stereotyping and bullying from students and some teachers. When he meets George Haddonfield, the boys find common interests in music, especially the Beatles, but Lewis is wary of befriending someone off the rez. George, likewise, is reticent because, as a military “brat,” he moves frequently from base to base. Reservation life is depicted as having close family ties and social customs inaccessible to outsiders. George wants to break through, but Lewis’s shame blockades their attempts at true friendship. Meanwhile, Evan Reininger, a notorious bully, pursues Lewis relentlessly, managing to evade authorities at every instance. The plot crescendos during a massive blizzard, when characters must face their ineluctable realities. Teen popularity and academics serve as a backdrop to the conflicts in this tale of barriers, identities, and trust. The author’s narration is authentic, with Paul McCartney and Beatles song titles providing clever chapter headings. Gansworth manages an artful weave of social complexities representing reservation and “white” cultures with subtle humor to ease the tension. A full discography is provided for music fans. A worthy addition to fiction collections.–Robin Levin, Ft. Washakie School/Community Library, WY
The following titles are reviewed in this month's print issue:


preschool to grade 4

Arthur Goes Back to School. 56 min. Dist. by PBS. $9.99. ISBN 97816088830909.

Babar and the Adventures of Badou: Gone Wild. 88 min. Dist. by Entertainment One. 2014. $12.98. ISBN 1417243201.

Deltora Quest. 19:25 hrs. Dist by Cinedigm. 2014. $79.95. UPC 025192234583.

Dinosaur Train: Adventure Camp. 50 min. Dist. by PBS. 2014. $7.99. ISBN 9781608830619.

Mount Rainier & Mount St. Helens. (Discoveries…America National Parks). 53 min. Dist. by Bennett-Watt Entertainment. 2014. $24.95. ISBN 9781604901733.

Peppa Pig: The Balloon Ride. 60 min. Dist. by Entertainment One. 2014. $14.98. ISBN 1417242973.

The Visual Dictionary of Ballet for Children. 155 minutes. Dist. by Kultur. $19.99. ISBN 9780769749099.

Grades 5 Up

Bee People. 102 min. Dist. by TDC Entertainment. $19.98. ISBN 9781939517272.

Bringing It Home. 52 min. Dist. by Bullfrog Films. 2014. $250. ISBN 1941545017.

Cesar’s Last Fast. 54 min. and 93 min. English and Spanish with English subtitles. Dist. by Good Docs. 2014. DVD $179. Digital streaming license $559. ISBN unavailable.

Drying for Freedom. 53 min. Distributed by the Video Project. 2014. $79. ISBN unavail.

Egyptian Pyramids. (Time Scanners.) 53 min. Dist. by PBS. 2014. $24.99. ISBN 9781627890526.

The Great Vacation Squeeze. 27 min. Dist. by Bullfrog Films. 2014. $195. ISBN 1941545009.

Grinding Your Own Oil Paint. 48 min. Dist. by OnAir Video. 2014. $16.95. UPC 88130300368.

‌●s Lost for Life. Dist. by SnagFilms. Available on iTunes. 2013. HD $7.99. SD $5.99. ISBN unavail.

Money Smart: Making Cents of Your Finances. 25 min. Dist. by Learning ZoneXpress. 2014. $79.95. UPC 846742004810.

My Wild Affair. 240 min. Dist. by PBS. $29.99. ISBN 9781608830664.

Stop Traffick: Human Trafficking in America. 35 min. Dist by Learning ZoneXpress. 2014. $49.95. UPC 846742005213.


early elementary

BARDHAN-QUALLEN, Sudipta. Tyrannosaurus Wrecks! 1 CD. 15 min. Recorded Bks. 2014. $15.75. ISBN 9781490630571. digital download.

Dean, James. Pete the Cat’s Super Cool Reading Collection. digital download. 18 min. Harper Audio. 2014. $8.99. ISBN 9780062365897.

Greene, Stephanie. Princess Posey and the New First Grader. (Princess Posey: Bk. 6). 1 CD. 15 min. Recorded Bks. 2014. $15.75. ISBN 9781490627328. digital download.

GUTMAN, Dan. Mr. Macky Is Wacky. (My Weird School: Bk. 15). 1 CD. 45 min. Recorded Bks. 2014. $15.75. ISBN 9781470341565. digital download.

WARNER, Sally. EllRay Jakes Walks the Plank! (EllRay Jakes: Bk. 3). 2 CDs. 2 hrs. Recorded Bks. 2014. $25.75. ISBN 9781470380450. digital download.

middle grade

Alexander, Kwame. The Crossover. 2 CDs. 2:15 hrs. Recorded Bks. 2014. $25.75. ISBN 9781490627571. Playaway, digital download.

Andersen, Hans Christian. The Snow Queen. 2 CDs. 1:30 hrs. Blackstone Audio. 2014. $19.95. ISBN 9781483040042. Playaway, 1 MP3-CD.

Bausum, Ann. Stubby the War Dog: The True Story of World War I’s Bravest Dog. 2 CDs. 2 hrs. Recorded Bks. 2014. $27.75. ISBN 9781470397890. Playaway, digital download.

CARNEY, Elizabeth. Dog Finds Lost Dolphins! And More True Stories of Amazing Animal Heroes. 1 CD. 1 hr. Recorded Bks. 2014. $15.75. ISBN 9781490634197. digital download.

Erskine, Kathryn. Seeing Red. 8 CDs. 10 hrs. Recorded Bks. 2014. ISBN 9781490612812. Playaway, digital download.

GEORGE, Jessica Day. Wednesdays in the Tower. (Castle Glower: Bk. 2). 5 CDs. 6 hrs. Recorded Bks. 2014. $51.75. ISBN 9781490603987. Playaway, digital download.

Levy, Dana Alison. The Misadventures of the Family Fletcher. 5 CDs. 5:40 hrs. Listening Library. 2014. $35. ISBN 9780804168663. digital download.

young adult

ALSAID, Adi. Let’s Get Lost. 7 CDs. 8:30 hrs. Recorded Bks. 2014. $77.75. ISBN 9781490635262. Playaway, digital download.

ANDERSON, Jodi Lynn. The Vanishing Season. digital download. 6:30 hrs. Harper Audio. 2014. $18.99. ISBN 9780062348326.

Brian, Kate. Endless. (Shadowlands Trilogy: Bk. 3). 6 CDs. 7 hrs. Brilliance Audio. 2014. $69.97. ISBN 9781469291857.

Kenneally, Miranda. Breathe, Annie, Breathe. 7 CDs. 8 hrs. Brilliance Audio. 2014. $54.97. ISBN 9781491526378.

Patterson, James & Lisa Papademetriou. Homeroom Diaries. 4 CDs. 4 hrs. Hachette Audio. $20. ISBN 9781478953661. digital download.

Payne, Jesse. Change Your Brain, Change Your Life (Before 25). 5 CDs. 6:08 hrs. Brilliance Audio. 2014. $59.97. ISBN 9781480542648.

Roth, Veronica. Four: A Divergent Story Collection. 6 CDs. 6:33 hrs. Harper Audio. 2014. $25.99. ISBN 9780062346766. digital download.

Sales, Leila. This Song Will Save Your Life. 7 CDs. 8:15 hrs. Listening Library. 2014. $45. ISBN 9780553396461. digital download.

WEITZ, Chris. The Young World. 8 CDs. 8:15 hrs. Hachette Audio. 2014. $30. ISBN 9781478900801. digital download.

This article was published in School Library Journal's October 2014 issue. Subscribe today and save up to 35% off the regular subscription rate.