April 20, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

From Woodpeckers to Whale Sharks | Nonfiction Preschool to Grade 4

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March 2015 SLJ Stars.

redstarBurleigh, Robert. Trapped!: A Whale’s Rescue. illus. by Wendell Minor. 32p. ebook available. further reading. websites. Charlesbridge. Apr. 2015. RTE $17.95. ISBN 9781580895583.

PreS-Gr 2 –In 2005, an adult female humpback whale became caught in nets left by crab fishermen. This beautiful picture book vividly describes how divers cut through the ropes that held her in place, saving her life. The prose is spare yet captivating, without a single wasted word (“The struggle begins. The web of ropes cuts into her skin. She flails, starts to sink, fights for air.”). The gouache illustrations are exceptional and expertly complement the text. The final spread is particularly glorious, depicting the whale splashing away, her tail gleaming under the light of a starry sky and a full moon. An appended section includes more details about the actual event that inspired the book, information about whale rescue in general, and facts about humpbacks. Educators will also appreciate a page of extensive resources. This is an enchanting portrayal that demonstrates the positive impact that humans can have upon the natural world, and few readers will come away unaffected. VERDICT The inviting language, gorgeous images, and uplifting tone make this an excellent addition to any collection.–Anne Chapman Callaghan, Racine Public Library, WI

redstarChristensen, Bonnie. Elvis: The Story of the Rock and Roll King. illus. by Bonnie Christensen. 32p. chron. notes. Holt/Christy Ottaviano Bks. Apr. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780805094473.

Gr 2-5 –The King may be gone, but this gorgeous picture book biography ensures that he won’t be forgotten. With this enchanting and intimate glimpse at a beloved icon, Christensen takes legendary singer Elvis Presley from a child growing up in Mississippi and Tennessee to a young man cutting his first record and taking his first steps into the limelight. The portrait of Presley that emerges will be new to most readers, adult or child. Far from the strutting, hip-swiveling crooner of the stage and big screen, Presley comes across as shy and earnest, a sweetly baby-faced youth. Christensen deftly conveys her subject’s vulnerability through softly rendered oil paintings. The inspired choice to use photocollage for the backgrounds imbues the singer’s hardscrabble early years with tenderness, suggesting the nostalgia-tinged look of a 1940s postcard. Written in verse, the text is stripped down; refreshingly free of artifice, it’s as soulful as one of the many songs the singer performed. The author touches briefly upon Presley’s role in introducing R&B music to white audiences, dropping hints about how music performed by blacks was often dismissed as “race music,” but educators may want to provide further context for young readers. Pair this outstanding title with G. Neri’s Hello, I’m Johnny Cash (Candlewick, 2014) for an up-close look at the childhoods of two founders of rock and roll. VERDICT An excellent addition to biography collections, and a superb way to introduce the history of rock to a new generation.–Mahnaz Dar, School Library Journal

redstarPaul, Miranda. Water Is Water: A Book About the Water Cycle. illus. by Jason Chin. 40p. further reading. glossary. illus. notes. websites. Roaring Brook/Neal Porter Bks. May 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781596439849.

PreS-Gr 2 –Paul’s poetic text highlights various forms water takes as it follows a brother and sister through the year. It includes autumn fog and rain, frozen ponds and falling snow, steam from cups of cocoa, and snowmelt turning dirt to mud. Chin once again demonstrates his mastery of nature illustration, infusing familiar outdoor scenes with simple kid-centric activities that will hold readers’ attention while they listen to the text. Although not as dramatic as George Ella Lyon’s All the Water in the World (S. & S., 2011), Paul’s introduction to the water cycle includes more information that will help extend learning. She provides examples of the water content of various living things and stresses Earth’s limited supply of fresh water. The author ties explanations of processes such as evaporation and condensation to pages of the text. VERDICT A first-rate introduction to the water cycle for young readers.–Kathy Piehl, Minnesota State University Library, Mankato

redstarSayre, April Pulley. Woodpecker Wham! illus. by Steve Jenkins. 40p. further reading. websites. Holt. May 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780805088427.

PreS-Gr 3 –A northern flicker, a yellow-bellied sapsucker, and other woodpeckers of the eastern deciduous forests “chip,” “chop,” and “wham” their way through the seasons through crisp verses and paper collages in this informational picture book. There are quiet moments as well: woodpeckers “pluck and feed” at the cherry tree while cherries dangle against an azure sky. Jenkins’s illustrations are top-notch, beautifully depicting the different subspecies of woodpeckers, such as the flicker’s subtle grays and golds, which contrast with its neck rings, and spotted chest. With metronomic precision, Sayre’s verses describe the woodpecker’s activity: “Hawk’s a-hunting./Stop. Drop. Hide./Quiet/on the other side,” and along with the illustrations, mostly spreads, make for engaging read-alouds. The end pages, supported by information from Cornell’s Laboratory of Ornithology and other biologists, offer more information that will be key for students engaged in Common Core activities, paired with small images, which name the featured woodpeckers. Readers learn how these birds forage, build shelter and nests, avoid predators, and instruct their young, among other topics. VERDICT Lovely and exciting, this title is a great hook for young researchers, as well as fledgling ornithologists.–Teresa Pfeifer, The Springfield Renaissance School, Springfield, MA

redstarShingu, Susumu. Wandering Whale Sharks. illus. by Susumu Shingu. tr. from Japanese by Ann B. Cary & Yasuko Shingu. 48p. Owlkids. Mar. 2015. Tr $18.95. ISBN 9781771471305. LC 2014947493.

PreS-Gr 1 –Instead of glistening rows of terrible teeth, frothy waves, and the gruesome Jaws-inspired action scenes readers have come to expect from shark books, here Shingu offers children a mellow meditation set in the deep blue depths—wholly appropriate for a profile of this gentle giant. Employing spare text infused with rich vocabulary and poetic imagery, Shingu introduces readers to the largest living fish on Earth, the majestic whale shark. Swimming only 2.5 miles per hour and feeding on plankton and shellfish, the whale shark provides safety and shelter for many smaller fish. Using shades of aquamarine, cerulean, and black, Shingu varies perspective, showing the creature from underneath (“His abdomen is like a white balloon.”), from the vantage point of his wide back (“like a mountain range”), and rising toward the surface to swallow enormous gulps of water in his “extraordinarily huge mouth.” Never scary, the dark palette and contemplative prose at once evoke both a sense of coziness (the animal is “a comfortable home for suckerfish”) and reflect the expansiveness of the deep ocean. For librarians looking to introduce informational picture books in storytime, the brevity and strong artwork make this title ideal. Early elementary students working on ocean units may also find this useful as an inspirational jumping-off point for further research. VERDICT A poetic and visually stunning introduction to one of the ocean’s largest and gentlest creatures.–Kiera Parrott, School Library Journal

redstarThompson, Laurie Ann. Emmanuel’s Dream: The True Story of Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah. illus. by Sean Qualls. 40p. ebook available. Random/Schwartz & Wade Bks. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780449817445. LC 2014005767.

K-Gr 2 –This powerful and winning picture book tells the story of a young man overcoming the odds. Born in Ghana with a deformed left leg, Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah experienced stigma as a result of his disability: his father abandoned the family, and many assumed that the boy would be little more than a burden. However, with the encouragement of his mother, Yeboah refused to give up, hopping to school (instead of walking) and even learning to play soccer and cycle, despite receiving no extra help or accommodations. Thompson’s lucidly written text explains how Yeboah cycled 400 miles in 2001 to raise awareness, forever changing how Ghanaians perceived those with disabilities. The narrative is simply and clearly written, and the illustrations are skillfully rendered in charmingly emotive ink and watercolor collages. A brief author’s note explains how Yeboah inspired legislation upholding equal rights for the disabled and how he continues to make strides, working with organizations that provide wheelchairs to those who need them and setting up a scholarship fund for children with disabilities. VERDICT This uplifting account will resonate with readers and supplement global and cultural studies. A triumph.–Kathryn Diman, Bass Harbor Memorial Library, Bernard, ME

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

Adler, David A. Prices! Prices! Prices!: Why They Go Up and Down. illus. by Edward Miller. 32p. glossary. Holiday House. 2015. RTE $17.99. ISBN 9780823432936. LC 2014017265.

Adler, David A. Simple Machines: Wheels, Levers, and Pulleys. illus. by Anna Raff. 32p. ebook available. Holiday House. 2015. RTE $17.95. ISBN 9780823433094. LC 2014026802.

Bond, Rebecca. Out of the Woods: A True Story of an Unforgettable Event. illus. by Rebecca Bond. 40p. Farrar. Jul. 2015. RTE $17.99. ISBN 9780374380779.

Bulion, Leslie. Random Body Parts: Gross Anatomy Riddles in Verse. illus. by Mike Lowery. 48p. further reading. glossary. photos. reprods. websites. Peachtree. Mar. 2015. RTE $14.95. ISBN 9781561457373.

Chrustowski, Rick. Bee Dance. illus. by Rick Chrustowski. 32p. Holt. Jun. 2015. RTE $17.99. ISBN 9780805099195.

Coleman, Wim & Pat Perrin. Runaway Train: Saved by Belle of the Mines & Mountains. illus. by Joanne Renaud. ISBN 9781939656711; ISBN 9781939656728. LC 2014944177.

––––. Steam!: Taming the River Monster. illus. by Sue Todd. ISBN 9781939656742; ISBN 9781939656759. LC 2014944178.

Mead, Maggie. Exploring the West: Tales of Courage on the Lewis and Clark Expedition. illus. by Laura Jacobsen. ISBN 9781939656650; ISBN 9781939656667. LC 2014944175.

ea vol: 40p. (Setting the Stage). ebook available. further reading. glossary. websites. Red Chair. Apr. 2015. lib. ed. $20.95. pap. $8.95.

Gibbons, Gail. The Fruits We Eat. illus. by Gail Gibbons. 32p. diag. ebook available. websites. Holiday House. 2015. RTE $17.95. ISBN 9780823432042; ebk. $17.95. ISBN 9780823433483. LC 2014007379.

Houran, Lori Haskins. How to Spy on a Shark. illus. by Francisca Marquez. 24p. Albert Whitman. Mar. 2015. Tr $15.99. ISBN 9780807534021. LC 2014023611.

Isabella, Jude. The Red Bicycle: The Extraordinary Story of One Ordinary Bicycle. illus. by Simone Shin. 32p. (CitizenKid). Kids Can. Mar. 2015. Tr $18.95. ISBN 9781771380232.

Jennings, Ken. The Human Body. illus. by Mike Lowery. 160p. (Ken Jennings’ Junior Genius Guides). S. & S./Little Simon. 2015. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781481401746; ebk. $7.99. ISBN 9781481401753. LC 2014005180.

Kelley, True. Where Is Mount Rushmore? illus. by John Hinderliter. 112p. (Where Is?). bibliog. chron. maps. Grosset & Dunlap. 2015. pap. $5.99. ISBN 9780448483566.

Krull, Kathleen. Dolley Madison. illus. by Steve Johnson & Lou Fancher. ISBN 9780802737939; ISBN 9780802737946.

––––. Judy Blume. illus. by David Leonard. ISBN 9780802737953; ISBN 9780802737960.

––––. Sacajawea. illus. by Matt Collins. ISBN 9780802737991; ISBN 9780802738004.

––––. Sonya Sotomayor. illus. by Angela Dominguez. ISBN 9780802737977; ISBN 9780802737984.

ea vol: 48p. (Women Who Broke the Rules). further reading. index. websites. Bloomsbury. Jun. 2015. Tr. $16.99. pap. $6.99.

Leedy, Loreen & Andrew Schuerger. Amazing Plant Powers: How Plants Fly, Fight, Hide, Hunt, and Change the World. illus. by Loreen Leedy. photos by Andrew Schuerger. 32p. ebook available. glossary. Holiday House. 2015. RTE $17.95. ISBN 9780823422562. LC 2014028430.

Martineau, Susan. Slimy Science and Awesome Experiments. illus. by Martin Ursell. 48p. (Gruesome). B Small Publishing. 2014. pap. $8.99. ISBN 9781908164629.

Mead, Maggie. Suffrage Sisters: The Fight for Liberty. illus. by Siri Weber Feeney. 40p. ebook available. further reading. glossary. websites. Red Chair. 2015. lib. ed. $20.95. ISBN 9781939656681; pap. $8.95. ISBN 9781939656698. LC 2014944176.

Messner, Kate. Up in the Garden and Down in the Dirt. illus. by Christopher Silas Neal. 56p. further reading. Chronicle. Mar. 2015. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781452119366. LC 2014001786.

Moberg, Julia. Historical Animals: The Dogs, Cats, Horses, Snakes, Goats, Rats, Dragons, Bears, Elephants, Rabbits, and Other Creatures That Changed the World. illus. by Jeff Albrecht Studios. 92p. ebook available. index. Charlesbridge/Imagine! 2015. Tr $15.95. ISBN 9781623540487. LC 2014018171.

Pelletier, Mia. A Children’s Guide to Arctic Birds. illus. by Danny Christopher. 32p. further reading. Inhabit Media. Apr. 2015. Tr $16.95. ISBN 9781927095676.

Raczka, Bob. Presidential Misadventures: Poems That Poke Fun at the Man in Charge. illus. by Dan E. Burr. 48p. appendix. further reading. websites. Roaring Brook. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781596439801.

Rockwell, Lizzy. A Bird Is a Bird. illus. by Lizzy Rockwell. 32p. ebook available. Holiday House. May 2015. RTE $16.95. ISBN 9780823430420; ebk. $16.95. ISBN 9780823433322. LC 2013018289.

Rotner, Shelley & Sheila M. Kelly. Families. photos by Shelley Rotner. 32p. Holiday House. May 2015. RTE $17.95. ISBN 9780823430536; ebk. $17.95. ISBN 9780823433308. LC 2013032957.

Winter, Jonah. How Jelly Roll Morton Invented Jazz. illus. by Keith Mallett. 32p. discog. further reading. Roaring Brook/Neal Porter Bks. Jun. 2015. RTE $17.99. ISBN 9781596439634.

Young, Cybèle. The Queen’s Shadow: A Story About How Animals See. illus. by Cybèle Young. 40p. glossary. Kids Can. Mar. 2015. Tr $16.95. ISBN 9781894786607.

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