February 22, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

From Bengal to the Bayou | Fiction Grades 5-8

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February 2015 SLJ Stars.

redstarHarrold, A.F. The Imaginary. illus. by Emily Gravett. 240p. Bloomsbury. Mar. 2015. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780802738110.

Gr 4-7 –This inventive mix of humor and suspense starts with the amusing appearance of Amanda’s imaginary friend, Rudger. Their summer of make-believe adventures quickly darkens, though, when Mr. Bunting shows up. He’s a grown-up who can not only see “Imaginaries” like Rudger, but also eats them to prolong his own life. After a narrow escape from Bunting and his creepy sidekick, a girl who’s also an Imaginary, the narrative shifts from Amanda to Rudger. The boy discovers a secret library full of other imaginary people and creatures, then finds his way back to Amanda for a final confrontation with Bunting. The premise of the Imaginaries is unveiled nicely, with a plot that’s never predictable. The author is equally adept at depicting lighthearted characterizations and scenes that are truly scary. Gravett’s illustrations provide excellent support for the story, ranging from black-and-white spot art to full-page images, along with several full-color spreads. Some are fun, while others are chilling, such as the series of images that uses alternating all-black pages to lead into a harrowing portrait of the evil Imaginary girl, staring right at Amanda as she tries to hide. The eerie moments never overwhelm the larger story, though, and questions about the power and limits of imagination provide some food for thought amid the action. VERDICT A great choice for readers who like fantastic tales with a dose of true scariness.–Steven Engelfried, Wilsonville Public Library, OR

redstarJones, Kelly. Unusual Chickens for the Exceptional Poultry Farmer. illus. by Katie Kath. 224p. Knopf. May 2015. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780385755528; lib. ed. $19.99. ISBN 9780385755535; ebk. ISBN 9780385755542. LC 2013050736.

Gr 4-6 –Sophie Brown is new to farm life, new to being one of the only “brown people” in town (the others being her mother and Gregory, the mailman), and definitely new to caring for chickens—and these are some challenging chickens. To help herself adjust to life away from Los Angeles and her extended family, she writes letters to her great-uncle Jim and her beloved Abuelita, both recently deceased, and embarks on a correspondence course in poultry care with the mysterious Agnes of Redwood Farm Supply. Agnes’s poorly typed responses assure Sophie that the chickens that keep turning up on the farm (including Henrietta, a small white hen with a permanent unibrow of fury) belonged to her great-uncle, from whom Sophie’s father inherited the farm and who implores her to keep the chickens safe—and to be careful. But how will she protect chickens that are capable of levitating their own coop, becoming invisible, and turning enemies to stone? And why does the town’s resident chicken expert, Ms. Griegson, seem intent on stealing Sophie’s brood? Told in letters, quizzes, newspaper clippings, and delicious ink drawings reminiscent of Quentin Blake, this middle grade epistolary novel has a little magic and a lot of warm family humor. Jones delivers a dynamic Latina protagonist in Sophie, who describes her experiences in satisfying detail: the discomfort of facing microaggressions based on her heritage (such as when the town librarian assumes that she and her family are migrant workers); love and concern for her parents, both struggling to find and keep work; and willingness to learn and grow despite typical tween self-consciousness. VERDICT Readers will cheer for Sophie and clamor for more of those amazing chickens. Exceptional, indeed.–Amy Martin, Oakland Public Library, CA

redstarPerkins, Mitali. Tiger Boy. illus. by Jamie Hogan. 144p. ebook available. Charlesbridge. Apr. 2015. Tr $14.95. ISBN 9781580896603. LC 2013049028.

Gr 3-6 –Set in the lush Sundarbans natural region of Bengal, this quiet, gripping tale emphasizes the deep but often fragile connection that exists between humans and nature. Passing exams will earn young Neel a much-coveted scholarship for a private boarding school in Kolkata, and the boy’s family has their dreams pinned on him, feeling that a good education will ensure him a better quality of life. But Neel is too attached to the “golpata branches swaying in the monsoon rains…the evening smell of jasmine flowers…mingling with green chilies and fresh ilish fish simmering in mustard-seed oil” to ever consider leaving his home. He studies only halfheartedly for his tests, incurring the wrath of his serious headmaster. When a female tiger cub escapes from a neighboring animal reserve, Neel is determined to find her before she’s snagged by greedy poachers led by Mr. Gupta, a corrupt local businessman. Gupta employs several of the villagers, including Neel’s father, tempting them with additional income if they assist in the illegal effort. Informed by real-life situations in the region, Perkins avoids black-and-white characterizations and compassionately illustrates how dire circumstances affect a person’s choices. Young readers will revel in the vivid action and suspense surrounding Neel and his sister Rupa’s quest to locate the tiger cub. Adults will likely praise the novel’s simple and clear narrative, which belies its complexity around issues related to climate change, poor economic conditions, class structure, and gender discrimination. VERDICT Sure to encourage vital conversations among children, this is a fine addition to libraries and classrooms seeking to diversify collections.–Lalitha Nataraj, Escondido Public Library, CA

redstarRhodes, Jewell Parker. Bayou Magic. 256p. ebook available. Little, Brown. May 2015. Tr $17. ISBN 9780316224840.

Gr 3-6 –Maddy lives with her family in New Orleans. At almost 10, she is the youngest of five girls, and this summer it will be her turn to stay with her grandmother in the bayou. Apprehensive about the visit—her sisters say Grandmère is a witch, whose house has no electricity or indoor plumbing—Maddy is also excited to discover Bon Temps. Soon, Grandmère teaches Maddy about healing herbs and their family history. When Maddy finds that she can call fireflies and see mermaids, Grandmère tells her the story of Mami Wata, the water spirit who accompanied their slave ancestors from Africa. Maddy soon comes to love the wetlands and the residents of Bon Temps, human and otherwise. So when the Gulf oil spill threatens the town, it is Maddy who must use her magic to save her new home. Some sensitive subject matter may be disturbing to younger readers—Maddy’s friend has an alcoholic father who inadvertently hurts him and then later dies in the explosion. Maddy is a brave and hopeful heroine, and the descriptions of the bayou are almost as magical as her legacy. VERDICT Hand this to middle grade readers who enjoy family stories, history, and a dose of fanciful magic.–Laurie Slagenwhite Walters, Brighton District Library, Brighton, MI

redstarScanlon, Liz Garton. The Great Good Summer. 224p. S. & S./Beach Lane. May 2015. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781481411479. LC 2014014988.

Gr 3-6 –Ivy and Paul are both having a crummy summer in Loomer, TX. Ivy’s mama hasn’t been herself since the spring, when wildfires destroyed everything, including the church where Mama’s daddy was the preacher. Now, Mama’s gone off with Hallelujah Dave to the Great Good Bible Church of Panhandle Florida to “get some of the sadness out of her system” and left Ivy and her father to fend for themselves. Meanwhile, Paul is sad because NASA’s space shuttle program is being shut down and now he will never be able to become an astronaut. Paul makes Ivy nervous and she never quite knows what to say to him. The two become an unlikely pair when they hatch a plan to find Mama and say goodbye to the space shuttle. So many things go wrong along the way, but these middle schoolers keep the faith, even when their plan begins to unravel. This engaging debut novel hooks readers from beginning to end. VERDICT This tender and funny story of a strong-willed young girl is reminiscent of Rita Williams-Garcia’s One Crazy Summer (HarperCollins, 2010) and Kate DiCamillo’s Because of Winn-Dixie (Candlewick, 2000).–Annette Herbert, F. E. Smith Elementary School, Cortland, NY

redstarStarmer, Aaron. The Whisper. 368p. (The Riverman Trilogy: Bk. 2). Farrar. Mar. 2015. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780374363116; ebk. $9.99. ISBN 9780374363123.

Gr 6-9 –In this second part of the trilogy, Aquavania, a complex web of worlds, is beset by destruction. The Riverman, also known as the Whisper, is destroying worlds by sucking the souls of their creators when they ask for “an end to it all,” tired of their own creations and unable to readapt to the real world. When their souls are captured by the Whisper, the kids go missing in the real, or “solid,” world. Readers of the first book will enjoy the layers of history of Aquavania, revealed through creation stories that are interspersed between Alistair’s quest to find Fiona and battle the Whisper. Meanwhile, newcomers to the series won’t be too far behind (there’s plenty of exposition woven skillfully through the first few chapters). Readers will savor the (at times) gruesome encounters with monsters, and the unraveling mystery of who Alistair and Fiona really are. The trilogy explores the dark nature of lies—written, told, and enacted—and the surprising pain of truth. Jealousy, revenge, opportunism, and their consequences, also loom large in the lives of characters, be they swimmers (those able to enter and exit portals into different worlds), daydreamers (those who create the worlds), figments (those beings created by the daydreamers), or ciphers (terrifying creatures molded by the Whisper to destroy). Penning something of a cautionary tale, Starmer has constructed a multitude of worlds here, all tied to power of creation, and the boredom that ultimate power ultimately bestows. VERDICT Ending with a staggering twist, readers adept at navigating this atemporal telling will clamor to get their hands on book three.–Sara Lissa Paulson, The American Sign Language and English Lower School, New York City


redstarStevenson, Noelle & Grace Ellis. Lumberjanes Vol. 1: Beware the Kitten Holy. illus. by Brooke Allen & Shannon Watters. 128p. Boom! Studios. Apr. 2015. pap. $14.99. ISBN 9781608866878.

Gr 5 Up –The first four issues of this female-created and female-starring comic, set at summer camp with creepy happenings, are collected here in this kick-butt volume. The graphic novel begins mid-adventure as five campers are out after hours investigating a strange event that they all witnessed: a woman turning into a giant bear. This is just the first of many odd occurrences that Jo, April, Molly, Mal, and Ripley encounter at the summer camp for “Hardcore Lady Types.” The Lumberjanes, as the scouts are called, band together to solve puzzles, defeat three-eyed creatures, and escape the ire of their watchful counselor Jen. Each protagonist has a skill that helps the group conquer each obstacle. Spunky, lovable characters sparkle with exuberant personality and challenge gender stereotypes. Small details make these episodes stand out—the hipster Yetis guarding a mysterious lighthouse, Molly and Mal’s tender glances at each other, and Ripley’s penchant for animals and all things cute. At the opening of each chapter, an excerpt from the Lumberjanes field guide is included and a gallery of cover images append the book. References to female heroines (invocations of Bessie Coleman and Joan Jett as well as Rosie the camp director’s striking resemblance to Rosie the Riveter) and phrases such as “Friends to the Max!” and “What the junk!” add to the charm of this feel-good title that celebrates female empowerment. The vibrant art exudes humor and reinforces themes of teamwork and friendship. VERDICT A must-have graphic novel for those who have graduated from Raina Telgemeier’s works.–Shelley Diaz, School Library Journal

The following titles are reviewed in this month's print issue:

Anderson, John David. The Dungeoneers. 448p. HarperCollins/Walden Pond. Jun. 2015. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780062338143.

Angleberger, Tom. The Rat with the Human Face. 160p. (The Qwikpick Papers). Abrams/Amulet. Apr. 2015. Tr $12.95. ISBN 9781419714894.

Axelrod, Amy & David Axelrod. The Bullet Catch: Murder by Misadventure. 288p. Holiday House. May 2015. Tr $17.95. ISBN 9780823428588; ebk. $17.95. ISBN 9780823433780.

Britt, Paige. The Lost Track of Time. illus. by Lee White. 320p. Scholastic. Mar. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780545538121; ebk. $17.99. ISBN 9780545538145.

Burack, Emilie Christie. The Runaway’s Gold. 272p. Abrams/Amulet. May 2015. Tr $16.95. ISBN 9781419713699.

Donnelly, Jennifer. Rogue Wave. 320p. (Waterfire Saga: Bk. 2). ebook available. glossary. Disney-Hyperion. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781423182009. LC 2014008868.

Durham, Paul. The Luck Uglies: Fork-Tongue Charmers. illus. by Petur Antonsson. 416p. (The Luck Uglies Trilogy: Bk. 2). Harper Collins. Mar. 2015. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780062271532.

Else, Barbara. The Volume of Possible Endings. illus. by Sam Broad. 336p. (Tales of Fontania: Bk. 3). Gecko Pr. Feb. 2015. Tr $17.95. ISBN 9781927271612.

Funaro, Gregory. Alistair Grim’s Odditorium. 432p. ebook available. Disney-Hyperion. 2015. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781484700068.

Goldblatt, Mark. Finding the Worm. 352p. Random. Feb. 2015. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780385391085; lib. ed. $19.99. ISBN 9780385391092; ebk. $10.99. ISBN 9780385391108. LC 2014004052.

Hannigan, Kate. The Detective’s Assistant. 368p. ebook available. Little, Brown. Apr. 2015. Tr $17. ISBN 9780316403511; ebk. $9.99. ISBN 9780316403504. LC 2014015131.

Harper, Charise Mericle. Super Sasquatch Showdown. illus. by Charise Mericle Harper. 240p. (Sasquatch and Aliens). Holt. Feb. 2015. Tr $13.99. ISBN 9780805096224. LC 2014029988.

Hugo, Victor. Les Misérables. retold by Marcia Williams. illus. by Marcia Williams. 64p. Candlewick. Feb. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780763674762. LC 2014944688.

Jones, Rob Lloyd. Wild Boy and the Black Terror. 336p. Candlewick. May 2015. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780763662530. LC 2014945722.

Kirby, Matthew J. The Arctic Code. 336p. (The Dark Gravity Sequence: Bk. 1). HarperCollins/Balzer & Bray. Apr. 2015. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780062224873; ebk. ISBN 9780062224897.

Loftin, Nikki. Wish Girl. 256p. Penguin/ Razorbill. Feb. 2015. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781595146861; ebk. $10.99. ISBN 9781101612972.

McIntosh, Fiona. The Whisperer. 400p. Knopf. Apr. 2015. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780553498271; lib. ed. $19.99. ISBN 9780553498332; ebk. ISBN 9780553498349. LC 2014003767.

McLachlan, Jenny. Flirty Dancing. 1982p. (The Ladybirds: Bk. 1). ebook available. Feiwel & Friends. Apr. 2015. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781250061485.

Meyer, Carolyn. Diary of a Waitress. 348p. Calkins Creek. Apr. 2015. Tr $17.95. ISBN 9781620916520. LC 2014948477.

Myklusch, Matt. The Lost Prince. 400p. (Seaborne, Bk. 1.) Egmont USA. May 2015. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781606845257; ebk. $16.99. ISBN 9781606845264.

Nall, Gail. Breaking the Ice. 320p. S. & S./Aladdin. Mar. 2015. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781481419116; ebk. ISBN 9781481419130.

Nielsen, Susin. We Are All Made of Molecules. 256p. Random/Wendy Lamb Bks. May 2015. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780553496864; lib. ed. $19.99. ISBN 9780553496871; ebk. $10.99. ISBN 9780553496888. LC 2014017652.

Oakes, Cary Putman. Dinosaur Boy. 224p. (Dinosaur Boy: Bk. 1). ebook available. Sourcebooks Jabberwocky. Feb. 2015. Tr $12.99. ISBN 9781492605379.

Odyssey, Shawn Thomas. The Magician’s Dream: An Oona Crate Mystery. 320p. Egmont USA. Jun. 2015. Tr $15.99. ISBN 9781606845110; ebk. $15.99. ISBN 9781606845127.

Peterfreund, Diana. Omega City. 336p. HarperCollins/Balzer & Bray. Apr. 2015. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780062310859.

Platt, Randall. Incommunicado. 336p. Sky Pony. 2014. Tr $14.95. ISBN 9781629146461.

Pratchett, Terry. Dragons at Crumbling Castle: And Other Tales. illus. by Mark Beech. 352p. Clarion. Feb. 2015. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780544466593.

Quinn, Spencer. Woof: A Bowser and Birdie Novel. 304p. Scholastic. May 2015. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780545643313; ebk. $16.99. ISBN 9780545643337. LC 2014031181.

Rose, Caroline Starr. Blue Birds. 400p. Putnam. Mar. 2015. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780399168109; ebk. $10.99. ISBN 9780698173514.

Rosen, Lev. Woundabout. illus. by Ellis Rosen. 288p. ebook available. illus. Little, Brown. Jun. 2015. Tr $17.00. ISBN 9780316370783.

Rue, Nancy. You Can’t Sit with Us. 224p. (Mean Girl Makeover: Bk. 2). Thomas Nelson. 2014. pap. $9.99. ISBN 9781400323715.

Summy, Barrie. The Disappearance of Emily H. 272p. Delacorte. Mar. 2015. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780385739436; lib. ed. $19.99. ISBN 9780385907903; ebk. ISBN 9780375897566.

Sutherland, Suzanne. Something Wiki. 160p. ebook available. Dundurn. 2015. Tr $12.99. ISBN 9781459728219; ebk. $8.99. ISBN 9781459728233.

Vaught, Susan. Footer Davis Probably Is Crazy. 240p. ebook available. S. & S./Paula Wiseman Bks. Mar. 2015. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781481422765. LC 2014009437.

Wallace, Brandon. Wilder Boys. 240p. S. & S./Aladdin. May 2015. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781481432641.

Watson, Tom. Stick Dog Dreams of Ice Cream. 224p. HarperCollins. May 2015. Tr $12.99. ISBN 9780062278074.

Wexler, Django. The Mad Apprentice. 336p. (Forbidden Library: Bk. 2) Penguin/Kathy Dawson Bks. Apr. 2015. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780803739765.

White, J.A. The Thickety: The Whispering Trees. illus. by Andrea Offerman. 528p. HarperCollins/Katherine Tegen Bks. Mar. 2015. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780062257291.

Graphic Novels

Fuji, Hideaki. New Dawn Raisers. illus. by Hideaki Fuji. 1. ISBN 9781421576954.

––––. Artemis Begins. illus. by Hideaki Fujii. 2. ISBN 9781421576961.

ea vol: 192p. (Little Battlers eXperience). VIZ Media/Perfect Square. 2014. pap. $9.99.

This article was published in School Library Journal's February 2015 issue. Subscribe today and save up to 35% off the regular subscription rate.

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