February 21, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

Rhymes That Rock | Nonfiction Preschool to Grade 4

Get the latest SLJ reviews every month, subscribe today and save up to 35%.


See our complete list of
February 2015 SLJ Stars.

redstarGrimm, The Brothers. Little Red Riding Hood. tr. from German by Anthea Bell. illus. by Sybille Schenker. 52p. Minedition. 2014. Tr $29.99. ISBN 9789888240791.

K-Gr 4–An eloquent narrative, stunning artwork, and exquisite bookmaking grace the Grimm Brothers’ classic tale. Set against bold-hued backdrops, Schenker’s characters are defined by thick black lines, color blocks, and elegant patterns. Throughout, intricate die-cut folios utilize finely wrought detail and color contrasts to enhance the images before and after the page is turned. For example, Little Red Cap’s first meeting with the wolf is presented on a burgundy backdrop, the characters viewed through—and softened by—the trunks of die-cut burgundy trees; the next spread employs the same die-cut page but shifts the color scheme to reveal a starker-seeming forest fashioned from white with black-ink touches and a much-more ominous tone. Other die-cuts evoke sunbeams dancing through daintily latticed leaves as the girl gathers flowers, the delicate lace of the curtains obscuring Grandmother’s bed (and the toothy imposter hidden within), and the ultimate “All the better to eat you with” moment (a large-size black silhouette of the wolf’s gaping jaws) is affecting but not overwhelming. VERDICT The clever way that visual effects are used and reused—shifting and redefining mood and meaning—provides an understated yet cinematic reading experience. A lovely addition to fairy and folktale collections.–Joy Fleishhacker, School Library Journal

redstarJaneczko, Paul B. The Death of the Hat: A Brief History of Poetry in 50 Objects. illus. by Chris Raschka. 80p. Candlewick. Mar. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780763669638. LC 2013957308.

Gr 3 Up–Poet and anthologist Janeczko has joined with illustrator Raschka to create their fourth anthology of poetry for young people. The 50 selections are arranged in nine sections, each representing a different time period, from the early Middle Ages to the present day. The common thread is objects. The title poem discusses the demise of hat wearing in our society, while others take on such varied objects as ships, shadows, candles, stars, trees, cats and even stamp albums and manhole covers. Included are familiar offerings (e.g., Emily Dickinson’s “The Railway Train,” Robert Louis Stevenson’s “My Shadow,” and Robert Burns’s “A Red, Red Rose”), as well some lesser known works. An in-depth introduction provides welcome context and explains how the examples were chosen from Janeczko’s personal collection of more than 1,500 books. Although the poems are mostly representative of Western literature, readers will find some examples of Eastern poetry. Women are also represented, such as Naomi Shihab Nye, Christina Rossetti, and Sylvia Plath. Raschka’s lively, vibrant watercolors frame the text, enhancing and imbuing the poems with life. VERDICT This award-winning pair have once again delivered a book to be celebrated. Though the subject matter makes this most appropriate for younger readers, this anthology may also find a home in middle and high school libraries and classrooms. An excellent addition to any collection.–Carole Phillips, Greenacres Elementary School, Scarsdale, NY

redstarLondon, Jonathan. Hippos Are Huge! illus. by Matthew Trueman. 32p. index. Candlewick. Mar. 2015. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780763665920. LC 2014944797.

PreS-Gr 2–With gorgeous mixed-media illustrations and accessible, engaging language, this picture book will spur interest in the world of hippos. Trueman’s vivid images take advantage of every inch of available space to convey the size of these creatures, and the “Isn’t this cool?” tone of London’s text keeps readers hooked. Two types of text appear on each page: larger print encompasses the main narrative full of fascinating facts (ideal for reading aloud), while smaller print presents drier statistics and additional facts of interest. With a focus on high-interest details—such as a spread featuring two bull hippos flinging dung at each other in warning—this title stands out. VERDICT A solid nonfiction read-aloud.–Kathleen Kelly MacMillan, Carroll County Public Library, MD

redstarPage, Robin. A Chicken Followed Me Home!: Questions and Answers About a Familiar Fowl! illus. by Robin Page. 40p. diag. ebook available. further reading. websites. S. & S./Beach Lane. May 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781481410281. LC 2013041955.

PreS-Gr 2–With a touch of humor, this well-designed title presents everything you always wanted to know about chickens—but didn’t know to ask. The book starts with an unnamed narrator who’s been followed home by a fowl, asking, “What do I do now?” After the hen eventually lays and hatches eggs and the chicks mature into adult hens, the child hopes that the creatures will “follow someone else home.” Along the way, readers are introduced to information on anatomy, care, and life cycle. A question begins each topic (“Will my chicken lay eggs?”) with keywords highlighted with larger, bolder type. Details are labeled or given small call-out illustrations. Digitally produced, the images are well integrated with the text and use highly textured shapes. Bright, solid color backgrounds alternate with white ones. Readers will find tons of fun and well-presented material; one page displays 260 eggs, the average number a hen lays in a year. A concluding spread of “More Chicken Questions” gives further detail and a list of more resources. VERDICT A charming addition to animal collections. Expect newly hatched domestic fowl enthusiasts to crow over this one.–Carol S. Surges, formerly at Longfellow Middle School, Wauwatosa, WI

redstarRosen, Michael J. The Maine Coon’s Haiku. illus. by Lee White. 56p. Candlewick. Mar. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780763664923. LC 2013957344.

Gr 1-5–The brevity and poignancy of the haiku format perfectly capture the feline essence in this book of verse. Each spread defines an individual breed, some familiar and others less so, with a deft haiku and an inviting illustration about a brief moment. “American Shorthair” (“outside the old store/more strays sun as the screen door/bangs—bangs shut, again”) depicts a slow, warm scene evoking senses of touch, sight, and sound, while “Turkish Angora” (“whooshing down the hall:/Angora, then her all-white/dust devil of hair”) creates the feeling of speed and energy, with an image of a blur of white cat leaving fur balls in her wake. With rich colors and detailed, scratchy lines, each illustration uses clever page layouts and line work to convey movement or stillness as the featured cats dictate. Broken into alternating sections of “Inside” and “Outside,” the book evokes the mood of the indecisive cat who always wants in—and, just as quickly—back out again. The volume concludes with back matter that provides a little more concrete information about each breed. Fans of the author’s other collections, The Cuckoo’s Haiku: And Other Birding Poems (2009) and The Hound Dog’s Haiku: And Other Poems for Dog Lovers (2011, both Candlewick), will lap this one right up. VERDICT This attractive, delightful volume will enchant cat lovers and is a great selection for those who want to inject some life into their poetry collections.–Julie Roach, Cambridge Public Library, MA

redstarRosenthal, Betsy R. An Ambush of Tigers: A Wild Gathering of Collective Nouns. illus. by Jago. 32p. glossary. illus. Millbrook. Apr. 2015. Tr $19.99. ISBN 9781467714648. LC 2014009383.

K-Gr 3–Collective noun books have been multiplying this past decade, and this compendium of poetry stands out for its artistry and creativity. Each collective noun couplet whimsically describes a group of animals: “Would a labor of moles/wear polka-dot ties/when it goes to work/for a business of flies?” The laugh-out-loud illustrations depict the events described, often serving as strong mnemonic devices: a “rumba of snakes” dances; a “bouquet of pheasants” sprout from a vase; the ambush of tigers creep across the grass, tails curled high in the air, sights set on the horizon; and a “bed of oysters” literally rest on a bed, snoozing away. The writing is pithy, with an iambic thrum that make memorization easy. VERDICT This crash course in juxtaposition and imagination should be celebrated with a peal of bells. An inspiring addition to any poetry collection.–Teresa Pfeifer, The Springfield Renaissance School, Springfield, MA

redstarTavares, Matt. Growing Up Pedro. illus. by Matt Tavares. 40p. bibliog. chart. illus. notes. Candlewick. Feb. 2015. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780763668242. LC 2014944675.

Gr 2-4–Tavares is no stranger to the baseball picture book biography genre. He has several examples under his belt: There Goes Ted Williams: The Greatest Hitter Who Ever Lived (2012) and Becoming Babe Ruth (2013, both Candlewick). With his latest, Tavares looks to a more recent time and player, Cy Young Award winner and World Series champion Pedro Martinez. Tavares begins in the Dominican Republic in 1981, where Martinez witnessed his older brother Ramon’s rise to stardom. Tavares masterfully depicts, with quick verse and beautiful illustrations, the world in which the two siblings came of age. Though he was considered too small to make it as a pitcher in the major leagues, his persistence eventually paid off and he was drafted by the Los Angeles Dodgers and moved to the United States. Martinez journeyed to America, facing challenges as he adapted to a new language and culture. After describing of the athlete’s major league triumphs with several teams, Tavares leads readers back to the mango groves of the Dominican Republic, where Martinez developed into one of the best pitchers in baseball history. It is somewhat vexing that there is no mention of how in 2004, with Martinez, the Boston Red Sox won their first World Series in 86 years; however, this is a strong overview of a remarkable athlete. Martinez’s unbelievable statistics are included at the end of the book. VERDICT A wonderful introduction to a truly special player.–Keith Klang, Port Washington Public Library, NY

redstarWeatherford, Carole Boston. Gordon Parks: How the Photographer Captured Black and White America. illus. by Jamey Christoph. 32p. photos. Albert Whitman. Feb. 2015. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780807530177.

Gr 1-3–This picture book biography of Gordon Parks highlights the growth of his career as a photographer. Despite receiving little encouragement at school, Parks not only excelled at photography but also wrote novels, penned poetry, and composed music. The rich, varied text (“Boiling mad, Parks vows to lay bare racism with his lens.”) is complemented by the illustrations, which sharply contrast Parks’s life—mostly shown in full color—with sketches of his photographs—in black-and-white or sepia tones. Parks’s career, which began with fashion shots and portraits, took off when he landed a job working for the Farm Security Administration in Washington, DC. There, he became keenly aware of the inequalities between blacks and whites and began to document these differences. When his boss directed him to talk to Ella Watson, a cleaning lady in the building, he photographed her at home with her family and produced his most famous photograph: American Gothic. An author’s note provides additional information and includes reproductions of four of Parks’s photographs. While the book gets off to a choppy start, moving very rapidly over the photographer’s early life, it provides a much-needed portrait of a talented individual and views of his work. VERDICT This effective overview is a solid addition for those looking to beef up their biography collections. Fans of Weatherford’s Leontyne Price: Voice of a Century (Knopf, 2014), Becoming Billie Holiday (Wordsong, 2009), and I, Matthew Henson: Polar Explorer (Walker, 2007) will appreciate this attractive offering.–Myra Zarnowski, City University of New York

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

Blevins, Wiley. Rice and Beans. ISBN 9781939656001; ISBN 9781939656636.

Cerato, Mattia . Mom’s New Friend. ISBN 9781936163960; ISBN 9781939656612.

ea vol: illus. by Mattia Cerato. 32p. (Family Snaps). Red Chair. 2014. Tr. $16.95. ebk. $6.95.

Branscombe, Allison. All About China: Stories, Songs, Crafts and More for Kids. illus. by Lin Wang. 64p. chron. diag. further reading. glossary. index. maps. photos. score. websites. Tuttle. 2014. Tr $16.95. ISBN 9780804841214.

Cleary, Brian P. Something Sure Smells Around Here: Limericks. illus. by Andy Rowland. 32p. (Poetry Adventures). ebook available. further reading. websites. Millbrook. Apr. 2015. RTE $26.60. ISBN 9781467720441; pap. $6.95. ISBN 9781467760355. LC 2014009380.

Cook, Deanna F. Cooking Class: 57 Fun Recipes Kids Will Love to Make (and Eat!). photos by Julie Bidwell. 144p. Storey. Feb. 2015. spiral $18.95. ISBN 9781612124001.

CRist, James J. The Survival Guide for Making and Being Friends. 128p. Free Spirit. 2014. Tr $13.99. ISBN 9781575424729. LC 2014020503.

Danneberg, Julie. John Muir Wrestles a Waterfall. illus. by Jamie Hogan. 32p. ebook available. further reading. notes. websites. Charlesbridge. Mar. 2015. RTE $16.95. ISBN 9781580895866. LC 2013049026.

Gibson, Karen Bush. Texas History For Kids: Lone Star Lives and Legends, with 21 Activities. 144p. (For Kids). chart. chron. further reading. illus. index. photos. websites. Chicago Review. Feb. 2015. pap. $16.95. ISBN 9781613749890.

Gourley, Robbin. Talkin’ Guitar: A Story of Young Doc Watson. illus. by Robbin Gourley. 40p. further reading. websites. Clarion. Mar. 2015. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780544129887. LC 2013034503.

Hammill, Elizabeth . Over the Hills and Far Away: A Treasury of Nursery Rhymes. 160p. illus. notes. Candlewick. Mar. 2015. Tr $21.99. ISBN 9780763677299. LC 2014934992.

Held, George. The Water Critters. illus. by Joung Un Kim. 32p. (Neighbors). Filsinger & Company. 2015. Tr $25. ISBN 9780916754310. LC 2013946798.

Hsyu, J.C. The Dinner That Cooked Itself. illus. by Kenard Pak. 32p. Flying Eye Books. 2014. Tr $17.95. ISBN 9781909263413.

Kootstra, Kara. The Boy in Number Four. illus. by Regan Thomson. 32p. Dial. 2014. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780803741676; ebk. $10.99. ISBN 9780698191143. LC 2013049843.

Krensky, Stephen. The Sweet Story of Hot Chocolate! illus. by Rob McClurkan. Level Three ed. 48p. (Ready-to-Read: History of Fun Stuff). ebook available. S. & S./Simon Spotlight. 2014. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781481420532; pap. $3.99. ISBN 9781481420525. LC 2014009883.

Lang, Heather. The Original Cowgirl: The Wild Adventures of Lucille Mulhall. illus. by Suzanne Beaky. 32p. Albert Whitman. Mar. 2015. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780807529317.

Meister, Cari. Do You Really Want to Meet a Crocodile? ISBN 9781607534570. LC 2013036947.

––––. Do You Really Want to Meet a Platypus? ISBN 9781607534600. LC 2013034704.

––––. Do You Really Want to Meet a Swan? ISBN 9781607534587. LC 2013034704.

ea vol: illus. by Danielle Fabbri. 24p. (Do You Really Want to Meet…?). ebook available. further reading. glossary. maps. websites. Amicus/Amicus Illustrated. 2014. lib. ed. $18.95.

Rodriguez, Guadalupe. Handmade Crafts: by Children for Children. illus. by Manuela Montero. 48p. illus. notes. photos. B Small Publishing. 2014. Tr $12.99. ISBN 9781908164971.

Ruddell, Deborah. The Popcorn Astronauts: And Other Biteable Rhymes. illus. by Joan Rankin. 40p. S. & S./Margaret K. McElderry Bks. Mar. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781442465558; ebk. $10.99. ISBN 9781442465565. LC 2013037332.

Sanchez, Anita. Leaflets Three, Let It Be!: The Story of Poison Ivy. illus. by Robin Brickman. 32p. Boyds Mills. Apr. 2015. RTE $16.95. ISBN 9781620914458. LC 2014943962.

Schroeder, Alan. Abe Lincoln: His Wit and Wisdom from A-Z. illus. by John O’Brien. 32p. notes. Holiday House. Feb. 2015. Tr $17.95. ISBN 9780823424207; ebk. $17.95. ISBN 9780823433704. LC 2013038989.

Simon, Seymour. Frogs: All About Their Life Cycle, Five Senses, Habitat, and More! 40p. glossary. index. photos. HarperCollins/Harper. Apr. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780062289124; pap. $6.99. ISBN 9780062289117.

Stewart, Whitney. Meditation Is an Open Sky: Mindfullness for Kids. illus. by Sally Rippin. 32p. Albert Whitman. Mar. 2015. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780807549087.

Williams, Bonnie. The Scoop on Ice Cream. illus. by Scott Burroughs. 48p. (Ready-to-Read: History of Fun Stuff). ebook available. S. & S./Simon Spotlight. 2014. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781481409827; pap. $3.99. ISBN 9781481409810. LC 2013044729.

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

Diversity and Cultural Competency Training: Collections & RA

Do you want to ensure that your library’s collections are diverse, equitable, inclusive, and well-read?

Do you want to become a more culturally literate librarian and a more effective advocate for your community?

We've developed a foundational online course—with live sessions on February 28 & March 14—that will explore key concepts essential to cultivating and promoting inclusive and equitable collections.