April 23, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

A Lineup of Presidential Proportions from Random’s Summer 2016 List| Preview Peek

What with the presidential campaign beating itself into a froth over the next few months, Random House Children’s Books has made sure kids will have appropriate summer reading options. Young readers can get an overview of all the presidents with Ken Burns’s Grover Cleveland, Again! A Treasury of American Presidents (Knopf, July). The documentarian brings 43 presidents (count ‘em!) to life in 96 pages. In case you were wondering, the title refers to the fact that Grover Cleveland is the only president to serve two nonconsecutive terms.

Next, we moved on from documented history to a fantasy take on the power of the Oval Office. What if the country was faced with a robot uprising, but we were able to elect a super squad of presidents from history to lead the way? Daniel O’Brien and Winston Rowntree will make kids think about who they’d choose in Your Presidential Fantasy Dream Team (Crown, July).


But first, debuting in May, is the “Commander in Cheese” chapter book series. The first three volumes, in which Lindsey Leavitt and A.G. Ford introduce us to a family of mice who live in the White House, will all be released before the election. Fans of The Cat in the Hat may wish he was on the ballot this fall, but Random House has conveniently provided the next best thing: One Vote, Two Votes, I Vote, You Vote (August) by Bonnie Worth, Aristides Ruiz, and Joe Mathieu. Rounding out the patriotic pack was an easy-to-read biography, Hillary Clinton: The Life of a Leader (May) by Shana Corey and Adam Gustavson, as part of the “Step Into Reading” series. (An ode to Donald Trump was conspicuously absent.)

Dynamic duos dot this summer list, including BFFs, siblings, and lovey-dovey couples. Jeffrey Brown incorporates scientific and historical content in his new graphic novel series about two young cave kids, Lucy & Andy Neanderthal (Crown, August).  Each book in the series will focus on a science topic, such as climate change or the extinction of dinosaurs. Middle graders may enjoy reading Kathryn Siebel’s The Trouble with Twins (Knopf, August) about twins that have nothing in common. Nevertheless, the sisterly bond triumphs in this adventure comedy tale. Twins also star in Tom Avery’s Not As We Know It (Schwartz & Wade, August). With the 1980s as the backdrop, it tells the story of siblings who encounter a merman.

Places No On Knows (Delacorte, May) by Brenna Yovanoff is a YA story of magical realism. This fresh take on the old spin of opposites attract is told in alternating voices. In quite a different vein is Peter Brown Hoffmeister’s This Is the Part Where You Laugh (Knopf, May), in which Travis and his best friend, Creature, are spending a summer in a Eugene, Oregon trailer park. There, they deal with…well, what don’t they deal with? Try cancer, basketball, first love, addiction, gang violence, and a reptilian infestation, for starters.

IMG_1306Donna Gephart tackles the difficult topics of bipolar disorder and transgender identity in Lily and Dunkin (Delacorte, May). The story is told in a dual narrative. Several other titles on the new list also deal with similar themes.The theater nerd genre meets LGBTQ challenges in Look Both Ways (Delacorte, June) by Allison Cherry. The story is about a budding same sex romance between roommates during summer stock. Perhaps most powerful of all, Jazz Jennings tells her story as a transgender teen in Being Jazz (Crown, June).

IMG_1314Even the picture books for this season are filled with angst, albeit childhood. Cases in point: Wally Does Not Want a Haircut (Knopf, July) by Amanda Driscoll, Douglas, You Need Glasses! (Schwartz & Wade, May) by Ged Adamson, and 101 Reasons Why I’m Not Taking a Bath (July) by Stacy McAnulty and Joy Ang. Familiar names are also on this list. Caldecott medalist Emily Arnold McCully has Clara (Schwartz & Wade, June), a story based on an 18th-century rhino who toured Europe and created a sensation. Giselle Potter celebrates creativity and imagination with This Is My Dollhouse (Schwartz & Wade, May). At 87 years old and 25 years after Tar Beach, Faith Ringgold celebrates diversity by tracing the American experience with verse and folk art in We Came to America (Knopf, May).

The featured book of the preview was Three Magic Balloons (May) a story by actress Julianna Margulies, based upon a story her late father, Paul Margulies, told her and her two sisters. The essence of the tale is that kindness is the key to magic. It is the debut picture book for artist Grant Shaffer, who spoke at the preview.





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Rocco Staino About Rocco Staino

Rocco Staino @RoccoA is the retired director of the Keefe Library of the North Salem School District in New York. He is now a contributing editor for School Library Journal and also writes for the Huffington Post.