June 20, 2018

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SLJ’s Starred Reviews | March 2015

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SLJ1503--Stars-PicBkPicture Books

Argueta, Jorge. Salsa: Un Poema Para Cocinar/A Cooking Poem. tr. from Spanish by Elisa Amado. illus. by Duncan Tonatiuh. Bilingual ed. 32p. (Bilingual Cooking Poems). Groundwood. Mar. 2015. Tr $18.95. ISBN 9781554984428; ebk. $16.95. ISBN 9781554984435.
Gr 1-3 –A boy and his sister make the spicy sauce with the help of family members in the latest entry from Argueta’s “Bilingual Cooking Poems” (Groundwood). The characters make salsa while dancing to salsa—the pan–Latin American musical genre. This lyrical, bilingual text (from Spanish to English) features an easy-to-follow recipe. The extended poem celebrates cooking as a family and cultural event, hearkening back to the Nahua, Aztec, and Maya traditions of using a molcajete (small black bowl) to grind ingredients to make the tasty treat. A symbol denotes tasks that require adult supervision and help. A suggestion for composting leftover materials is tied to fostering a relationship with Mother Nature. Complementing the heartwarming text are Tonatiuh’s pre-Columbian, Mixtec-inspired illustrations. The earthy tones, onomatopoeic word art, and borders peppered with pertinent images, such as tomatoes; limes; and musical notes, work together to serve up a completely satisfying offering. VERDICT A delectable work of art perfect for food-themed, bilingual, and Día storytimes.–Shelley Diaz, School Library Journal

Barnett, Mac. The Skunk. illus. by Patrick McDonnell. 40p. Roaring Brook. Apr. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781596439665.
K-Gr 3 –A man is stalked by a silent skunk in this charmingly neurotic offering. Leaving his home one day, a bespectacled, tuxedo-clad gentleman discovers a small skunk sitting on his doorstep. As the man makes his way about town, the creature remains close on his heels (“…after a mile I realized I was being followed.”) He speeds up, he slows down, he takes many wild turns, but to no avail. Still the skunk remains. Barnett’s text is delivered in short, clipped sentences that convey the man’s annoyance and increasing paranoia. McDonnell’s distinctive pen-and-ink illustrations (the little skunk bears a striking resemblance to a couple of familiar mutts) harken back to classic comic strip humor, with expressive body language, dynamic action lines, and thoughtful compositions, creating tension and drama. The majority of the book uses a limited palette of black, peach, touches of red (notably for the skunk’s oversized nose and the man’s posh bow-tie), and smart use of white space. The man finally outruns his striped admirer, purchasing a new house in a different part of the city. He throws himself a fancy party with dancing and dessert. But he finds himself wondering about that skunk (“What was he doing? Was he looking for me?”) Roles reverse and the pursued becomes the pursuer, as the man now slinks around corners and behind trees, surreptitiously following the skunk—who, on the last page, looks anxiously over his shoulder at the man. Why did the skunk follow the man initially? Is this a tale of regret and missed opportunities, a lesson on the dangers of letting potential friends slip away? Of not knowing what you’ve got ‘til it’s gone? Barnett and McDonnell offer no explanations, but invite readers to ponder the possibilities. Here’s hoping this talented duo pair up for many more picture book collaborations. VERDICT Clever visual motifs, sly storytelling, and tight pacing make this a picture book that will be enjoyed by children and their grown-ups.–Kiera Parrott, School Library Journal

Gerstein, Mordicai. The Night World. illus. by Mordicai Gerstein. 40p. Little, Brown. Jun. 2015. Tr $18. ISBN 9780316188227. LC 2014006903.
PreS-Gr 2 –The shadows of a summer night sing the promise of morning to a boy and his cat as they venture out into the dark yard surrounding their house. In the introductory scene just before the title page, the redheaded boy, tucked in bed in his darkened room, addresses the black cat curled above him, gazing through the window at the dusky world. “Good-night, Sylvie.” Sylvie, it soon appears, is not ready for sleep and meows insistently until the two tiptoe through the sleeping house and out into the nighttime shadows. Gerstein’s roughly sketched scenes with well-chosen detail are done on gray art paper, a fine choice for these shadowy night views. The early indoor scenes are boxed against the outer page. Heading for the open door, Sylvie hints, “It’s coming…hurry.” The dark outside opens fully on a spread and is soft and comfortable with shadows everywhere. “Are those shadows roses? Are those lilies and sunflowers? Where are their colors?” Soon the shadows reveal a great variety of animals that begin to echo Sylvie’s hint. “It’s on its way…here it comes…It’s almost here.” Eventually a glow appears above the trees, the shadowy animals slip away, and the world gathers color, leading to a full burst of sun. Boy and cat rush into the house to announce the beautiful day. Gerstein adds a personal note about his early childhood discomfort with the outer night world and his lifelong love of sunrise. Children will surely respond to his simple scheme, beautifully crafted with spare text and with much to enjoy in the homely views of house and yard. VERDICT This is fun bedtime fare, but so much more—parents and teachers will find many possibilities for conversations about night and day.–Margaret Bush, Simmons College, Boston

Miyares, Daniel. Float. illus. by Daniel Miyares. 40p. S. & S. Jun. 2015. ebk. $10.99. ISBN 9781481415255; Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781481415248. LC 2014016404.
PreS-Gr 3 –A boy clad in a bright yellow raincoat and hat graces the cover, recalling Ezra Jack Keats’s A Letter to Amy (Viking, 1968). This homage to Peter’s dance with an invitation has its own tale to tell, but those in the know will enjoy noticing the connections: the attire, fence, special effects with water, and paper journeys. Miyares’s wordless adventure, employing panels of varying sizes, opens with a father and son forming an origami boat from a newspaper. The setting is monochromatic except for the child’s clothing and significant spots of pink and blue on the newsprint. Soon after the child rushes outdoors for the launch, rain forces him to shield the boat inside his slicker. Long, gray digital strokes create an impressionistic shower around the blurry boy; clarity resumes as the storm recedes. The artist plays with aerial views and simultaneous succession, e.g., six sun-colored, puddle-jumping protagonists in one scene, until the current sweeps the boat through several pages to a sewer-fed stream. The soppy page is returned to Dad, who has hugs, cocoa, and a new idea for the next sheet of paper. This time when the door opens, sunshine floods the room and a plane is about to lift off. This warm family story models rainy-day fun and just the right amount of parental intervention. Endpapers provide directions for both forms of transportation. VERDICT The thoughtful use of color, perspective, and texture makes following this young “maker’s” projects a visual pleasure.–Wendy Lukehart, District of Columbia Public Library

Shannon, George. One Family. illus. by Blanca Gomez. 32p. Farrar/Frances Foster Bks. May 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780374300036.
PreS-Gr 2 –This deceptively simple concept book celebrates family and community, while also offering young readers a chance to practice counting. Each spread features an increasing number of people who form a family. From babies in buggies to white-haired elders holding hands, families stretch across generations and races. Young listeners will recognize familiar activities such as strolling through the zoo, doing laundry, or baking cookies. The brief text mentions objects to be counted, and children can practice again with a spread that features all the items from 1 to 10. A final view of the city streets brings together many of the people featured in earlier pages to celebrate “One is one and everyone./ One earth. One world./ One family.” Gomez’s rich colors and clean design make the book a good choice for small group sharing, but she also includes many details to be appreciated in solo rereadings. Even the fly leaves are carefully designed. In the front, individual portraits of people and animals gaze ahead as they hang on the wall. In the back, the characters lean from their frames to converse with one another, while some of the pets escape entirely. VERDICT Thoughtful text and great design make this counting book a top choice for most libraries.–Kathy Piehl, Minnesota State University Library, Mankato

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Middle Grade

SLJ1503--Stars-MiddleAvi. Catch You Later, Traitor. 304p. Algonquin. Mar. 2015. Tr $16.95. ISBN 9781616203597.
Gr 4-6 –Pete Collison’s dad is a commie sympathizer: that’s the accusation Pete’s teacher makes in front of his entire seventh grade class. It’s 1951 Brooklyn, during the height of the Red Scare, so Pete is instantly shunned at school, his best friend avoids him, and the only person who wants to talk to him is an FBI agent. Unsure of whom to trust, Pete decides to emulate his detective hero Sam Spade. He will investigate his father’s past—could his dad really be a communist?—and find out who reported his family to the FBI. Avi, a master of historical fiction, vividly recreates not only the neighborhoods and pop culture of period Brooklyn, but the runaway paranoia that dominated daily life in the early years of the Cold War. With each clue Pete uncovers, the tension picks up, engaging readers in solving the dual mystery of his father’s past and identifying his accuser whose name is kept a well-concealed surprise until the last moment. In clever digressions, detective Pete mentally rewrites mundane observations with hard-boiled hyperbole. He describes the sunlight in his bedroom: “It didn’t promise much and left early.” Strong supporting characters add subtle but important details about a period in American history that may not be fully studied in classrooms. Insightful readers will pick up on warnings about the abuse of government power. VERDICT As a mystery, historical fiction, and love letter to 1950s Brooklyn, this novel succeeds on every level.–Marybeth Kozikowski, Sachem Public Library, Holbrook, NY

Holt, Kimberly Willis. Dear Hank Williams. 224p. Holt/Christy Ottaviano Bks. May 2015. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780805080223.
Gr 4-7 –The year is 1948, and Tate P. Ellerbee is writing to her favorite singer, Hank Williams, as part of a pen pal assignment at school. Although her letter writing is one-sided, Tate continues to send Hank details of her life. She tells Hank about her actress mother and famous photographer father. Tate lives with her Aunt Patty Cake, who she describes as being like the sun because no matter what happens, she’s always there. Her Uncle Jolly is the comic relief, as he has one heartbreak after another in his pursuit of a wife. Holt skillfully uses foreshadowing and the element of surprise in a twist ending. Included are some glimpses into the anti- Japanese and anti-communist feelings after the war. The author also highlights the Louisiana Hayride and Grand Ole Opry shows broadcast on radios throughout the country during that time period. The strength of this novel lies in the insight Tate develops as she deals with tragedy and depends on the love of family. VERDICT Artfully told, this middle grade novel pleases on many levels.–D. Maria LaRocco, Cuyahoga Public Library, Strongsville, OH

KELLY, Jacqueline. The Curious World of Calpurnia Tate. 352p. Holt. Jul. 2015. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780805097443.

Gr 4-6 –Thirteen-year-old Callie Vee returns in this stand-alone sequel to the Newbery Honor–winningThe Evolution of Calpurnia Tate (Holt, 2009). Callie’s thirst for scientific discovery remains strong, as does her parents’ disregard for any plans for the future that don’t involve debutante balls and marrying a well-respected gentleman. In between recording questions and observations in her journal, Callie and brother Travis attempt to make pets of an armadillo, a blue jay, and a coyote mix, to mostly disastrous results. Humor and little heartbreaks abound as Callie learns animal care under the tutelage of Dr. Pritzker, the town’s veterinarian, but her accomplishments are ignored and even ridiculed in favor of Travis’s smaller contributions. The devastating 1900 Galveston hurricane drops 17-year-old cousin Aggie, traumatized by the storm, into their household. Relationships with secondary characters, such as the family’s cook, Viola, and Dr. Pritzker, are charming and well developed. Mother remains cold and lacking in fondness for Callie. A brief overview of Callie’s relationship with her grandfather and their scientific inquiries provide a basic background for readers unfamiliar with the story. Aggie is not a particularly sympathetic character, but her business and financial sense are great influences on Callie. Chapters are introduced by quotes from Charles Darwin’s The Voyage of the Beagle. Callie and Travis’s relationship is tender and believable yet still reflects the imbalance and unfairness of the gender divide. The conclusion leaves open the possibility for further adventures. VERDICT Recommended for fans of the original novel and strong readers who enjoy character-driven narratives.–Jennifer Schultz, Fauquier County Public Library, Warrenton, VA

Williams-Garcia, Rita. Gone Crazy in Alabama. 304p. HarperCollins/Amistad. Apr. 2015. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780062215871; lib. ed. $17.89. ISBN 9780062215888; ebk. $9.99. ISBN 9780062215901.

Gr 4-6 –In this final volume in the trilogy that began with the acclaimed One Crazy Summer (2010), and continued with P.S. Be Eleven (2013, both HarperCollins), sisters Delphine, Vonetta, and Fern Gaither have been sent for the summer from Brooklyn to rural Alabama to reunite with their grandmother, Big Ma; their great-grandmother, Ma Charles; and their Uncle Darnell, a Vietnam vet recovering from drug addiction. Caught in the middle of a family feud between Ma Charles and her half-sister, Miss Trotter, the girls grapple with mixed feelings and new revelations about their family and its history. Narrator Delphine, 12, is charged with keeping her sisters in line and keeping the peace amidst their constant bickering, as well as readjusting to Big Ma’s discipline. When Vonetta disappears during a tornado, Delphine must confront her guilt and resentment as well as face her mother, Cecile, who has traveled from California in concern for her missing daughter. Much of the narrative includes backstory from the previous titles, which is important for context, though new readers will want to read the previous books to fully appreciate this novel. This final installment is rich in atmosphere and clearly conveys the sisters’ distinct personalities, their loyalty to one another, and their special place in their complex family. An author’s note elucidates the connection between Native and African Americans, and a family tree details the Gaither girls’ roots. VERDICT A must-have conclusion to this beloved middle grade series.–Marie Orlando, formerly at Suffolk Cooperative Library System, Bellport, NY

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SLJ1503--Stars-YABenwell, Sarah. The Last Leaves Falling. 368p. ebook available. S. & S. May 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781481430654. LC 2014022950.
Gr 8 Up –Abe Sora loves baseball, wants to be a professor, spends much of his time reading history and literature—and is dying of ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease, or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis). No longer able to attend school, as he is now wheelchair bound—and the school is not equipped to handle his physical needs—Abe spends his days either alone or with his mother and doctors. He joins a chatroom anonymously, never telling anyone of his illness. When his mother, worried about her son’s isolation, insists that he invite his two online friends over for dinner, he agrees but does not inform them his health situation. Despite the initial shock, the three become good friends, giving Abe a chance to have normal teen experiences. As his condition grows worse, he thinks more and more about death. His counselor gives him a book on samurai death poetry, which helps him realize that he wants to die with dignity. Written by a British author and set in Japan, this unique title deals not just with the days leading up to death but with facing it on one’s own terms. This is more a tale of friendship than of romance and one of living life to the fullest for as long as possible. Abe is a strong, introspective teen who reads, thinks deeply, and wants more out of life than pity. VERDICT Not just another “dying teen novel,” this thought-provoking read offers teens a different perspective on living and loving life.–Janet Hilbun, University of North Texas

Frank, E.R. Dime. 336p. S. & S./Atheneum. May 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781481431606; ebk. $10.99. ISBN 9781481431620.
Gr 9 Up –Thirteen-year-old Dime is a product of the foster system. She finds an escape in the books she reads, but she struggles academically because she is called on to help out with the younger foster children at home. One day she meets a girl who takes her in. Dime finds acceptance here, but is slowly groomed into becoming a prostitute. The book takes the form of a note that Dime is trying to write, whose purpose is unclear until the last chapters. The multiple nested flashbacks and the attempts to have other concepts contribute to the note (such as Money or Truth) much as Death narrated Marcus Zusak’s The Book Thief (Knopf, 2006) (Dime herself credits Zusak for this idea) would have failed at the hands of a lesser writer, but they are effective here. The simple, one-line note that the protagonist ultimately writes is heartbreaking. The conditions in which Dime and the other trafficked girls live are horrendous and difficult to read about; however, this novel serves to illustrate that small acts of kindness can make a difference. This title will appeal to fans of grittier problem novels, like those written by Ellen Hopkins, and will provoke discussion. In spite of the gritty content, there is good reason to make this title accessible to middle schoolers as well. There is a helpful resource list in the back matter, including information for victims and survivors of trafficking. VERDICT An important work that should be an essential part of library collections.–Kristin Anderson, Columbus Metropolitan Library System, OH

Fuller, Claire. Our Endless Numbered Days. 388p. Tin House. Mar. 2015. pap. $15.95. ISBN 9781941040010.
Gr 9 Up –In 1970s London, eight-year-old Peggy Hillcoat lives somewhat contentedly with her survivalist father and her concert pianist mother. When her mother goes on tour, her father abruptly kidnaps Peggy, taking her to a German forest. He claims that the world has ended and that her mother, along with every other human on Earth, has died. She resigns herself to a life in the cold, remote woods with her mentally unstable father, little food, and no medical care, not resurfacing until 1985. This is a dark but poignant coming-of-age story reminiscent of Geraldine McCaughrean’s The White Darkness (HarperCollins, 2007). Told from the perspective of now 17-year-old Peggy, the narrative is lyrical and, aside from a slow start, well paced. British author Fuller’s debut novel is solid and sets her firmly among her young adult author peers. VERDICT This gripping tale will be well received by fans of survivalist fiction and psychological thrillers.–Pilar Okeson, Allen-Stevenson School Library, New York City

Hodge, Rosamund. Crimson Bound. 448p. ebook available. HarperCollins/Katherine Tegen Bks. May 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780062224767.
Gr 8 Up –With this romantic mash-up of classic fairy tales that touch on elements from the familiar “Little Red Riding Hood” and the lesser-known “Girl with No Hands,” Hodge has created a chilled cocktail of creep and gore shaken, stirred lightly, and poured over villains who fall in love and heroines who commit murder. Featured in this delicate and skillfully written romantic horror is Rachelle Brinon, who has been trained by her aunt to serve as a woodwife. It’s her responsibility to protect the village from the dark magic of the forest. While venturing into the forest, Rachelle is eventually tricked by a humanlike wolf creature, to whom she becomes bound to it by a thin crimson thread that only she can see. The connection is filled with passion and also gives her superhuman skills with the possibility of immortality. Now one of the king’s assassins, Rachelle has many responsibilities and soon realizes that there are just as many dangers and threats within the kingdom as they are without. Loyalties are stretched when she’s assigned the job of protecting Prince Armand, and a romantic triangle develops among Rachelle, the prince, and the captain of the bloodbounds. Teens will gladly join this quest to find out if there’s a happy ever after in this intricate web of friendship, fear, loyalty, love, and hate. VERDICT With a thoroughly developed setting and so many shadowed nods to the Brothers Grimm, this novel will captivate readers. Outstanding.–Sabrina Carnesi, Crittenden Middle School, Newport News, VA

Kephart, Beth. One Thing Stolen. 280p. ebook available. Chronicle. Apr. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781452128313.
Gr 9 Up–This is an intense and ultimately hopeful look at a debilitating mental disorder and a family in crisis. The setting is Florence, where the Caras, Americans from Philadelphia are residing while the professor researches the 1966 flood that nearly destroyed the storied city. His precocious children should be thriving there, especially his daughter and biggest fan, but 17-year-old Nadia is in deep trouble. She has been isolating herself, slipping out on her own, and stealing random items that she compulsively weaves into elaborate nests. She cannot explain her behavior and seems to be losing her ability to speak altogether. Kephart deftly switches between the girl’s past and familiar life at home and the scary, precarious existence she is experiencing in Italy. The real-time narrative consists of short staccato sentences, sensory descriptions, and snippets of actual or imagined visions (a boy, a Vespa, and a fluorescent pink duffle). Nadia’s psychic pain and confusion are palpable. Once she hits bottom, her loving, but distracted family members rally round and mobilize to get her the professional help she needs. That her father just happens to know a famous, retired neurologist who can devote herself to Nadia’s care is almost too good to be true. She is also able to find just the right doctor to immediately identify Nadia’s rare disorder. But this novel is about much more than medicine. Nadia’s parents arrange for her best friend from home to join them aboard, and she picks up the narrative at the two two-thirds mark and searches for the elusive boy with whom Nadia is obsessed. The boy, Benedetto, narrates the last section, which leaves readers with a measure of hope for the future. VERDICT Kephart’s artful novel attests to the power of love and beauty to thrive even in the most devastating of circumstances.–Luann Toth, School Library Journal

Konigsberg, Bill. The Porcupine of Truth. 336p. Scholastic/Arthur A. Levine Bks. May 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780545648936; ebk. ISBN 9780545648943.
Gr 9 Up –Carson’s mother thwarts his summer plans when she drags him from New York City to Montana. He wasn’t especially looking forward to working at a frozen yogurt shop, but it couldn’t be worse than staying with his ailing (and alcoholic) father, a man he hasn’t seen in 14 years. Aisha Stinson has been sleeping at the Billings Zoo since coming out to her ultra-conservative father. After a chance meeting, Carson and Aisha recognize each other as kindred spirits. Aisha comes to stay with Carson’s family, and the pair soon unearth family secrets in the basement. They set off on a roadtrip to uncover the root cause of three generations of estrangement. As they pursue a reconciliation with Carson’s missing grandfather, both teens wrestle with their own strained family relationships. Konigsberg perfectly depicts the turbulent intensity of a new friendship. Carson is an intensely likable, hilarious, and flawed narrator. There are no true villains in the well-developed cast of characters, just people trying to do their best and frequently failing. VERDICT Konigsberg weaves together a masterful tale of uncovering the past, finding wisdom, and accepting others as well as oneself.–Tony Hirt, Hennepin County Library, MN

Levithan, David. Hold Me Closer: The Tiny Cooper Story. 208p. ebook available. Dutton. Mar. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780525428848.
Gr 10 Up –Written as a two-act musical complete with stage directions and 25 provocatively titled songs, such as “The Ballad of the Lesbian Babysitter” and “Summer of Gay,” this companion to John Green and Levithan’s award-winning Will Grayson, Will Grayson (Dutton, 2010) shines a spotlight on the larger-than-life Tiny Cooper, who was born “big-boned and happily gay.” Accepted by his supportive parents, Tiny suffers no angst over his sexual orientation, despite having to contend with schoolmate bullies and a homophobic coach. Phil, his straight BFF, offers advice through Tiny’s unsuccessful relationships with 18 different boyfriends, helping him eventually to realize that love is painful but worth it. Replete with laugh-out-loud one-liners (“sort of like a gay dance club has opened on Sesame Street”), in-your-face language (faggot and the invented term dickstracting), and showcasing Will and Tiny’s “onstage” kiss, this edgy, au courant novel tackles a potentially difficult subject head-on, while giving sound, if liberal, counsel on sexual issues for gays and straights alike. Its solid story line and realistic, “colorful” dialogue will appeal to high school readers. VERDICT A welcome addition to progressive library collections, this unapologetic gem will encourage teens’ discussion of a sensitive topic and potentially broaden their understanding of the meaning of “tolerance.”–Nancy Menaldi-Scanlan, formerly at LaSalle Academy, Providence, RI

Suma, Nova Ren. The Walls Around Us. 336p. ebook available. Algonquin. Mar. 2015. Tr $17.95. ISBN 9781616203726.
Gr 9 Up –This haunting and evocative tale of magical realism immerses readers in two settings that seem worlds apart. The book is told in alternating first-person voices from the perspective of two teenagers: lonely Amber, who at age 13 was convicted of murdering her abusive stepfather and sent to Aurora Hills, a juvenile detention facility, and Vee, an insecure yet ruthlessly ambitious Julliard-bound ballerina. Through Vee’s and Amber’s recollections, readers learn about talented, kind-hearted Ori, Vee’s former best friend and a dancer herself, who after being convicted of a heinous crime is sent to Aurora Hills, where she becomes Amber’s roommate—and where soon after a strange tragedy occurs. Though the plotting of this taut, gripping suspense leans heavily on ghosts and murder and will easily attract teens, this is no mere thriller. The prose is mesmerizing, laced with visceral, gorgeous figurative language, and draws subtle parallels between the disciplined, constricting world of ballet and the literal prison in which Amber and Ori find themselves. Believable and well developed, Vee and Amber have strong, unforgettable voices that ring true. Suma’s unflinchingly honest depiction of the potentially destructive force of female friendship and skillful blending of gritty realism with supernatural elements is reminiscent of Laurie Halse Anderson’s Wintergirls (Viking, 2009), and the eerie mood she evokes is unnervingly potent. VERDICT A powerful story that will linger with readers.–Mahnaz Dar, School Library Journal

Wein, Elizabeth. Black Dove, White Raven. 368p. Disney-Hyperion. Mar. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781423183105; ebk. ISBN 9781484707807.
Gr 8 Up –In her latest World War II–era novel, Wein returns to themes of aviation and the enduring bonds of platonic love and friendship. Best friends Rhoda, a white Quaker, and African American Delia were “barnstorming” pilots, a team who performed in air shows across the United States as White Raven and Black Dove, their children, Emilia and Teo, in tow. When Delia is killed in a plane crash, Rhoda commits to fulfilling Delia’s dream for Teo—to live in a land where he wouldn’t be judged by the color of his skin—and moves them all to Ethiopia, where Teo’s father was born. Life on the coffee farm at Tazma Meda is wonderful, especially since Rhoda is teaching the children to fly, but rumors of invasion by Italy become reality, and bureaucratic snafus mean that the family can’t leave the country. Then the war becomes even more personal when all young men of Ethiopian heritage are conscripted. Wein continues to present multidimensional characters within her effortless prose. VERDICT Highly recommended for all libraries, especially where her previous titles have flown off the shelves.–Stephanie Klose, School Library Journal

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SLJ1503--Stars-NonficBurleigh, 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

Christensen, 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

Frydenborg, Kay. Chocolate: Sweet Science & Dark Secrets of the World’s Most Favorite Treat. 256p. bibliog. chron. further reading. photos. reprods. websites. Houghton Harcourt. Apr. 2015. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9780544175662.
Gr 6-8 –This fascinating book presents a deep, multifaceted glimpse at a delectable dessert: chocolate. Engaging—even witty in places—and enlightening, it gives a history of the sweet treat, speculating about its little-known origins 1,500 years ago in the Upper Amazon Basin of South America, exploring its role in the European conquest of Central and South America, and discussing the dark side of chocolate: the use of slave labor to grow and harvest it. Frydenborg examines the development of chocolate as an industry in Europe and America in the 18th and 19th centuries. The book also goes into the science of the confection, such as why it’s considered so tasty and its potential health benefits. Along the way, Frydenborg seamlessly weaves in information about relevant historical figures, including confectioner Milton S. Hershey; Russian scientist Nikolai Vavilov, who traced the origins of the cacao tree; and explorers such as Hernán Cortés and Francisco Pizzaro. Photographs enhance readers’ understanding, though the recipes and sidebars are occasionally distracting. Robert Burleigh’s celebrated Chocolate: Riches from the Rainforest (Abrams, 2002), aimed at elementary school students, is better designed, but those looking for a more detailed history for an older audience would do well to consult Frydenborg’s work. VERDICT An excellent and highly original addition to history collections.–Shauntee Burns-Simpson, New York Public Library, Staten Island

Grant, John. Debunk It!: How to Stay Sane in a World of Misinformation. 288p. bibliog. index. Zest. 2015. pap. $12.99. ISBN 9781936976683.
Gr 9 Up –This enlightening new title not only successfully debunks myths and commonly held beliefs—it’s an essential primer for encouraging critical thinking skills. Grant explains that individuals are constantly under siege from misinformation spread by bloggers, politicians, talking heads, pundits, and those who believe the lies and repeat them without questioning. He describes some of the dangers of disseminating misinformation; defines logical fallacies, such as ad hominem or straw man attacks; and gives a basic explanation of the scientific method. Once teens are armed with a healthy sense of skepticism, Grant moves on to tear apart some of what he considers to be the worst examples of misinformation: creationism, alternative medicine, the claim that vaccines lead to autism, and climate change denial, among others. Teen readers will appreciate Grant’s brutal honesty and snarky tone, as well as his liberal use of the term bullshit (to describe distorted or fabricated info). However, he never stoops to merely mocking those he believes to be spreading erroneous information, instead using logic and evidence to dismantle poor arguments piece by piece. Grant’s enthusiasm for his subject is infectious, and students and educators alike will appreciate both his style and substance. Pair this one with Paul Fleischman’s Eyes Wide Open: Going Behind the Environmental Headlines (Candlewick, 2014) for a lesson on questioning authority, recognizing bias, and vetting sources. VERDICT This can’t-miss title is great recreational reading for budding skeptics as well as an outstanding addition to units on science, current events, or debate. A must-have.–Mahnaz Dar, School Library Journal

Lewin, Ted & Betsy Lewin. How to Babysit a Leopard: And Other True Stories from Our Travels Across Six Continents. illus. by Betsy Lewin and Ted Lewin. photos by Betsy Lewin and Ted Lewin. 144p. index. Roaring Brook/Neal Porter Bks. Jun. 2015. Tr $22.99. ISBN 9781596436169.
Gr 6 Up –This thrilling collection of travel adventures from this celebrated husband-and-wife, author-illustrator team will appeal to a variety of readers, from aspiring biologists and globe-trotters to those who prefer traipsing the face of the planet from a comfortable chair. Featuring short, conversational pieces, and spectacular photos and vibrant artwork laid out like a journal, this enticing title describes the duo’s experiences all over the world. This is a deceptively slim volume, brimming with details of fascinating creatures, locales, and people. The narrative is quite gripping in places, such as in a scene depicting the authors’ attempt to outrun a charging lion that was chasing their truck. The book also paints quietly compelling portraits of individuals, such as an old leper woman in Botswana, squatting in the corner of a roofless home of twisted sticks. There is humor, too: in one chapter, an Irish farmer watches the Lewins struggle to pull a wagon out of mud, a task that would have been more easily performed by a horse. The couple’s joie de vivre is infectious, and the intimate, familiar tone running through this work underscores the idea that while this planet hosts an incredible variety of humans, animals, and destinations, it’s a small world after all. VERDICT A captivating tribute to this glorious orb we call home.–Alyson Low, Fayetteville Public Library, AR

Paul, 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

Sayre, 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

Shingu, 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

Thompson, 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

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Graphic Novels

SLJ1503--GN-LuckeLucke, Deb. The Lunch Witch. illus. by Deb Lucke. 180p. (The Lunch Witch: Bk. 1). Papercutz. Mar. 2015. pap. $14.99. ISBN 9781629911625.
Gr 3-7 –Bad business has left the witch Grunhilda with no choice; she must find a new job. Her limited skill set leaves her with few options, though, for “nobody really believes in magic anymore.” On her first day as lunch lady for the local elementary school, her secret is discovered by an underachieving little girl who decides to blackmail her. Nonetheless, Grunhilda chooses to help, but her good intentions lead to trouble. Funny thing is, turning into a toad is the exact lesson Madison needs. Muted colours, irregular human designs, and brown, food-stained paper give the impression that something is a little bit off…just like a cafeteria lunch. This is quite a fitting look for a witch now serving her potions to school children. At first glance, this uncommon yet internally consistent style may deter children accustomed to the usual fare. However, given the chance, the misadventures of this witch will have no problem pulling readers in. VERDICT A quirky, sometimes murky, but always silly graphic novel tale.–Rachel Forbes, Oakville Public Library, Ontario, Canada

SLJ1503--GN-OConnorO’Connor, George. Ares: Bringer of War. illus. by George O’Connor. 80p. (Olympians: Bk. 7). bibliog. chart. notes. Roaring Brook/Neal Porter Bks. 2015. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781626720138; pap. $9.99. ISBN 9781626720145.
Gr 4-8 –In this nuanced, multilayered view of the usually vilified bringer of war, O’Connor continues his exceptional graphic novel series about the Greek gods. Less a biographical take on the subject and more of a character study, this entry is seen through the lens of the events that take place in Homer’s iconic battle-driven epic poem The Iliad. Just like the original source material, the complex relationships among the deities and the tension and drama that arise when the glory and fate of their own demigod sons are at stake, take center stage. Ares is presented in many ways as his father’s son, as evidenced by his affair with Aphrodite, but he also tries to rebel against Zeus’s practice of using humans for sport. O’Connor highlights that of all the gods, Ares is the only one who grieves the death of his mortal son, shedding light on his own strained relationship with his father. Humor and zingers combine with the author’s adept handling of Greek mythology, history, and popular culture. The variety of panels lends a dynamic feel to the battle scenes and confrontations between the dueling sides. The mostly scarlet-tinged color scheme is in perfect tune with the raging, bloodthirsty god of war’s modus operandi. The author’s extensive notes amusingly explain connections to The Odyssey, The Aeneid, and the series’ previous works. VERDICT This expertly executed graphic novel will have fans anxiously awaiting even more adventures of mythological proportions.–Shelley Diaz, School Library Journal

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From the Adult Books 4 Teens blog

BROWN, Pierce. Golden Son. 464p. (The Red Rising Trilogy: Bk. 2). Del Rey. 2015. Tr $25. ISBN 9780345539816. LC 2014031015.
Darrow is back. Having risen from the deadly mines of Mars and won the lethal competition to become a select warrior among the Golds, he is able to infiltrate the inner sanctum of the most politically powerful Gold family. From there he can achieve his destiny—to topple the rule of the Golds and liberate the lesser castes from exploitation. But now that his mortal enemies from Red Rising (Del Rey, 2014) are allies, friends, and even lovers, can anyone be trusted? Can Darrow trust himself as he is further seduced by the indulgences of life as a Gold? Deceits and betrayals abound when The Sons of Ares, the group that recruited Darrow and transformed him into a Gold, terrorize the society and threaten the revolution Darrow feels is his alone to lead. The plot twists and turns as mayhem reigns, civil war is fomented, and internecine feuds become murderous conflict. But whenever Darrow begins to succeed, disaster ensues as others more purposeful and ruthless than him wreak havoc on his plans. It is Brown’s genius that he is able to blend hi-tech science fiction (“carvers” creating super humans out of flesh and bone) with primitive magic (scorpions that detect liars and punish them with a deadly sting) into a believable world. That he wraps it in a page-turner in which action often leaves readers breathless will make it irresistible to teens. The only caveat is that reading the previous volume is a prerequisite to understanding the multitude of characters and motivations in this entry.—John Sexton, Greenburgh Public Library, NY

JOHNSTON, Tim. Descent. 384p. Algonquin. 2015. Tr $25.95. ISBN 9781616203047. LC 2014024023.
This intense, literary thriller begins with a typical American family summer vacation in the Colorado Rockies. Caitlin, 18, is headed to college on a track scholarship, and is excited to practice running at a high altitude. The first morning, Caitlin sets off up a mountain road with her younger brother Sean riding his bike alongside her. Hours later, the local sheriff arrives at the motel to take their parents, Grant and Angela, to the hospital where Sean is in surgery after being run down by a vehicle. Caitlin is nowhere to be found, as if she disappeared into thin air. After weeks of searching, Angela returns home to Wisconsin. But Grant can’t leave. He sets up house on the property of the sheriff’s father’s ranch, helping elderly Emmet with daily chores. After his leg heals, Sean takes Grant’s truck and drives away, finding work as he needs it, coming of age as a drifter pretending to be 18. What became of Caitlin? Chapters in her voice lend the novel a nearly unbearable suspense. The horror of the situation and the power of the writing come together to create something wholly unique, with echoes of Alice Sebold’s The Lovely Bones (Little Brown, 2002), the beautiful prose of Ron Rash, and the Western setting of Kent Meyers’s Work of Wolves (Houghton Mifflin, 2004). This is family drama, psychological suspense, survival, and coming of age all set in an awesome, vast wilderness where anything can happen. A frightening but also life-affirming read thanks to the love, hope, and determination of these wounded, imperfect characters.—Angela Carstensen, Convent of the Sacred Heart, New York City

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SLJ1503-DVD-Invasion-of-the-Killer-WhalesInvasion of the Killer Whales. (Nature). 53 min. Dist. by PBS. 2014. $24.99. ISBN 9781627892049.
Gr 5 Up –The rapid melting of the Arctic polar ice is resulting in unusual ecological changes in that remote area. The Arctic is experiencing the most rapid warming of any region in the world. The depletion of ice leads to the loss of hunting grounds for the largest of Arctic predators, the polar bear. But this change is also allowing the most successful of marine predators, the orca, also known as the killer whale, to make inroads into areas previously unsuitable for them. This magnificently filmed and highly relevant documentary reveals the consequent changes in wildlife populations of the Arctic as the killer whale becomes the top hunter in areas previously dominated by polar bears and the bears’ numbers are significantly decreasing as their food sources are diminished. In startling footage, starving polar bears attempt to climb cliffs to hunt birds, wade in water to try to catch salmon, and even resort to eating seaweed. In contrast, the killer whales have developed strategies to feed on the once populous narwhal and even the much larger bowhead whales of the region. Research scientists and film crews document the long and purposeful journeys of the killer whales to their new hunting grounds. Interviews with involved scientists and some Inuit of the area provide first-hand information on the environmental effects of global warming on the region. The attempts by the polar bears to change their hunting habits in order to survive offer a rare look at the possible evolution of a species. VERDICT Highly valuable for students studying climate change, environment or the Arctic region.–Eva Elisabeth VonAncken, formerly with Trinity-Pawling School, Pawling, NY

SLJ1503-DVD-MentorHSMentor. DVD and online streaming. 75 min. Dist. by Garden Thieves Pictures. 2014. $24.95. ISBN unavail.
Gr 8 Up –From the outside, the small town of Mentor, OH, seems idyllic and all-American. However, five local students have committed suicide due to bullying in recent years, and this powerful documentary focuses on two of the victims and their families. Through on-camera interviews with two sets of grieving parents, viewers learn that the victims, Eric and Sladjana, suffered constant bullying, threats, and harassment, in person and online. In Sladjana’s case, the cruelty did not stop even in death, with bullies showing up to mock her as she lay in the casket and later continuing their vicious campaign online. According to the film, the Mentor school district did not take action, and after Sladjana’s suicide, a school counselor admitted to shredding notes that documented the many occasions when the student begged for help. No one from the school district agreed to appear on camera. (Though their grief is palpable and heartbreaking, there is a slight over-reliance on interviews with the parents, while comments from attorneys and an anti-bullying expert are cut somewhat short.) VERDICT Librarians everywhere should make this film available to their students and even more importantly, to their administrators.–Bernie Morrissey, The Harker School, San Jose, CA

SLJ1503-DVD-SlothVelcroA Sloth Named Velcro. (Nature). 53 min. Dist. by PBS. 2014. $24.99. ISBN 9781627892032.
Gr 5 Up –Spanish journalist Ana Salceda takes viewers to Panama, Costa Rica, and Colombia to learn about the plight of the world’s sloths. Salceda learned much about the mammals when she ended up rescuing an orphaned baby sloth, which she named Velcro. The home movies and photos of her with Velcro, as well as the story of its eventual release back into the wild, are quite touching. Salceda’s experience with Velcro compelled her to learn about saving these animals. The excellent quality video, coupled with informative narration, provides viewers with a glimpse into a world that is enlightening, inspiring, and at times quite moving. Myths about these fascinating creatures are dispelled (they sleep far less than previously thought). Efforts by various people to save them from being hit by cars are depicted, and the perils that sloths face from habitat loss and the illegal wildlife trade are discussed. Facilities and individuals involved in rescue efforts are shown along with the services they provide. VERDICT Useful for biology, environmental science, and social studies classes, this program has cross-curricular appeal and supports the common core standards. The animals are endearing and will no doubt move viewers to learn more about them.–Cynthia Ortiz, Hackensack High School, NJ

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SLJ1503--Stars-AUBlack, Holly. The Darkest Part of the Forest. 8 CDs. 8:30 hrs. Hachette Audio. 2015. $25. ISBN 9781478955894. digital download.
Gr 8 Up –A small town, sibling pairs, a beautiful horned boy who has been entombed in a clear casket for as long as anyone in the town can remember, and a dark forest inhabited by Fae folk of all shapes, sizes, and temperments—these are just a few of the elements Black blends together to create this riveting and engrossing story that pits four teens against an evil ruler. Hazel made a bargain at age 11 with one of the Fae, trading seven years of her life so her brother Ben could perfect his musical skills at a school in Philadelphia, but things went terribly wrong, and now she feels completely alone, and Ben no longer plays. When the horned boy is freed and tells Hazel and Ben why he was entombed, they must risk more than they ever imagined to help him. Narrator Lauren Fortgang is perfect for this book. VERDICT This terrific fantasy is highly recommended for teens who like magical creatures, a bit of mystery, unusual romances, and plenty of action.–John R. Clark, Hartland Public Library, ME

MCGHEE, Alison. Making a Friend. 1 CD. 5 min. Dreamscape Media. 2014. $14.99. ISBN 9781633794955.
K-Gr 3 –Snow is wonderful, creating a snowman is better, and making a snowman friend is the best. But what happens when the weather warms and spring returns? What happens to our snowfriend? Where does he go—could it be into the falling water or rain on the ocean or frost on the window? Narrated by Susie Berneis, this lyrical gem evokes the rhythmic turning of the seasons. Accompanied by piano music and the sounds of spring, this poetic story about a friendship between boy and snowman is a metaphor for loss. The refrain, “What you love will always be with you” weaves itself throughout the tale and captures the beauty within nature. Berneis’s gentle voice, which adds texture and dimension, will captivate young listeners. VERDICT This exceptional story is well suited for both schools and public libraries.–Jennifer Mann, Ann Arbor, MI

Myers, Christopher. H.O.R.S.E.: A Game of Basketball and Imagination. 1 CD w tr book. 11 min. Live Oak Media. 2014. $31.95. ISBN 9781430117469.
Gr 1-5 –Basketball and imagination soar in a game of one-upmanship; H.O.R.S.E., or Ghost, as it is also known, is described as “an anything-you-can-do-I-can-do-better contest.” Myers and narrator Dion Graham team up to read this original, funny, and entertaining book. Their playful banter incorporates drama and humor as they try to best each other by describing one amazing, outrageous basketball feat after another. Listeners will be thoroughly engaged and waiting intently for the next crazy shot. Sound effects include a basketball swooshing into a net and a jet passing overhead. The game of H.O.R.S.E. is further explained at the end of the book as Myers shares his childhood memories of playing the game with his friends and families. He stresses the reliance on verbal skills, imagination, and the equal playing field nature of the game in which no one has any particular advantage over anyone else. VERDICT This outstanding selection will appeal to basketball fans, boys, girls, parents, and teachers.–Mary Oluonye, Shaker Heights Public Library, OH

WOODSON, Jacqueline. This Is the Rope: A Story from the Great Migration. 1 CD. 7 min. Weston Woods. 2014. $12.95. ISBN 9780545790512.
Gr K-2 –Something as simple as a discarded rope has tied a family story together through several generations. In the middle of the 20th century, an African American family moves from South Carolina to Brooklyn, NY, making the great migration north as many other families bravely did at the time. This tale follows a family through several generations, always coming back to the rope and its impact on the family as it’s used to jump rope and tie suitcases to their car for the drive north. Channie Waites narrates with soothing and rhythmic tones. The story ends on a heartwarming, positive note with a family reunion which lends itself to further classroom discussion about the importance of family. VERDICT Woodson’s story of family is a wonderful addition to any collection and will prove helpful for discussing civil rights with students.–Jessica ­Gilcreast, Bedford High School, NH

Kinney, Jeff. The Long Haul. (Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Bk. 9). 2 CDs. 1:45 hrs. Recorded Bks. 2014. $25.75. ISBN 9781490635255. Playaway, digital download.
Gr 5-8 –When Greg’s mom, who’s obsessed with family time, insists on a road trip, things are bound to get interesting. With a pacifier-stealing pig, hungry seagulls, a broken-down car, and the Heffleys’ luck, this family vacation turns into a disaster that ends with a day at a water park. As a result, they’re stranded without any money, a long way from home. Will the Heffley family make it home? Narrator Ramon de Ocampo animates Kinney’s book. His intonations easily bring the author’s unique, realistic characters to life. His fast-paced, entertaining narrative style is ideal for Greg’s story and will have the whole family laughing out loud. Don’t miss this selection. VERDICT Great for reluctant readers, this latest “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” audiobook is a must-have for every library collection.–Jessica Moody, Olympus Jr. High, Holladay, UT

Martin, Ann M. Rain Reign. 4 CDs. 4 hrs. Brilliance Audio. 2014. $54.97. ISBN 9781491530504.
Gr 4-6 –Because she has Asperger’s syndrome, Rose Howard is obsessed with homonyms, rules, and order. She has a hard time containing her emotions and a teacher’s aid must sit with her during class. Dealing with her condition is difficult for Rose’s father, who is raising her alone, but thanks to her dog, Rain, a caring uncle, and a new friend, Rose may just find the strength to be her very best self. Laura Hamilton takes on the challenging role of Rose without missing a beat. She puts just the right pauses in her speech as she struggles to make herself understood and takes on a slightly robotic tone each time Rose comes across a homonym and must carefully repeat each of the words. Her matter-of-fact yet youthful tone is perfect, and her use of pitch emphasizes each time Rose becomes upset or frustrated. Hamilton also is able to expertly use a lower range for Rose’s emotionally distant father and her uncle. VERDICT This is an ideal family listen about the power of family and the bond between a girl and her dog.–Shari Fesko, Southfield Public Library, MI

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