February 18, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

Nonfiction Xpress Reviews | April 2017

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1704-Xpress-NF-CoversredstarAtkins, Laura & Stan Yogi. Fred Korematsu Speaks Up. illus. by Yutaka Houlette. 112p. (Fighting for Justice). bibliog. chron. index. notes. photos. Heyday. Jan. 2017. Tr $18. ISBN 9781597143684.

Gr 4-8 –A compelling blend of free verse, expository text, and artwork illuminates the life and times of Japanese American activist Fred Korematsu. Growing up in Oakland, the child of Japanese immigrants, Korematsu was a typical American kid, joining the Boy Scouts and dancing to big band music. Following Pearl Harbor, he refused to enter the internment camps, instead pretending to be Spanish Hawaiian. His eventual discovery resulted in imprisonment; censure from his family and fellow internees, who feared his noncooperation would make life harder for everyone; and a partnership with an ACLU lawyer. In 1944 the U.S. Supreme Court decided against him, deeming internment justified on grounds of national security. Korematsu lived quietly until the early 1980s, when his case was reopened due to evidence of government misconduct. This time he prevailed, paving the way for the Civil Liberties Act of 1988. Korematsu dedicated the rest of his life to advocating for social justice. This inspirational work hooks readers through a variety of formats, including dramatic illustrations and direct questions (“Have you ever been an ally to someone who needed help?”). Primary source documents vividly bring the period to life, while time lines and descriptions of contemporary struggles for equality by Chinese, Mexican, and African Americans, among others, offer meaningful context. An endnote provides suggestions for young people who wish to take action against injustice as well as a poignant statement from Korematsu’s daughter. VERDICT An invaluable profile of a civil rights hero whose story deserves greater attention. Middle schoolers will take to the superb writing and original format.–Laura Simeon, Open Window School Library, Bellevue, WA

Cuyler, Margery. Purim Chicken. illus. by Puy Pinillos. 32p. Albert Whitman. Jan. 2017. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780807533819.

PreS-Gr 2 –Cluck the chicken wants to play Queen Esther in the barnyard Purim play, but the role goes to Quack the duck. On the day before Purim, Quack is kidnapped by Fox. Cluck is “brave like Queen Esther,” rescues Quack, and gets the starring role in the show after all. While this book, with its theme of a brave heroine, does loosely mirror the story of the Jewish holiday, Purim’s history and customs are not explained in the text and there is no author’s note, making this book most suitable for audiences already in the know. The naming scheme can be rather confusing; for instance, after Cluck and Quack return to the barnyard, “Quack quack, quack, quacked out the story of Cluck’s brave rescue.” There are quite a few groan-inducing puns: “ ‘How udderly terrible!’ mooed Moo.” The illustrations are candy-bright, cheerful, and quirky. VERDICT A light and fluffy Purim tale for readers already familiar with the basics of the holiday.–Heidi Rabinowitz, Congregation B’nai Israel, Boca Raton, FL

Jenner, Caryn. Amazing Women. 96p. glossary. index. photos. DK. Feb. 2017. Tr $14.99. ISBN 9781465458179; pap. $3.99. ISBN 9781465457684.

Gr 2-5 –A volume spotlighting groundbreaking female leaders, explorers, artists, scientists, and more. Opening with a powerful quote from Malala Yousafzai (“There’s a moment when you have to decide whether to be silent or stand up.”), the work profiles numerous women who have bravely and boldly fought to make a difference throughout history. Divided into seven chapters, the book examines environmentalist Wangari Maathai, politician Aung San Suu Kyi, and adventurer Malavath Poorna, who scaled Mount Everest when she was just 13 years old. The welcoming layout includes an abundance of color photographs and large, clear text. The book’s readability and format will make it a hit with browsers and students writing reports alike. VERDICT This smart chapter book collection of female innovators will be at home in most libraries serving children.–Helen Foster James, University of California at San Diego

Kuntz, Doug & Amy Shrodes. Lost and Found Cat: The True Story of Kunkush’s Incredible Journey. illus. by Sue Cornelison. 48p. maps. photos. Crown. Jan. 2017. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781524715472.

K-Gr 3 –An uplifting tale of love, compassion, and new beginnings. Written by two of the volunteers who reunited Kunkush the cat with his family, and with the full cooperation of the family, this account will pull at readers’ heartstrings. During a summer night in 2015, not long after the death of her husband, Sura arranged for herself, her five children, and one hidden treasure to be smuggled out of Mosul, Iraq. This treasure was their beloved cat Kunkush, and Sura knew that they couldn’t leave him behind—even if that meant keeping him hidden in a small carrier from three smugglers during car and bus rides and hours of hiking through mountains and forests. Unfortunately Kunkush’s carrier broke, and after landing in Greece he escaped, devastating the family. Although it took four months, volunteers, the Internet, and a journey spanning thousands of miles, Kunkush and his family were eventually reunited. Cornelison superbly heightens the emotional impact of the story: weathered faces aboard the rubber boat, a doe-eyed Kunkush fending for himself. An author’s note, a world map of Kunkush’s journey, and photographs of Kunkush being reunited with his family are included. However, oddly, the family’s last name is not mentioned, and the text is occasionally clunky. VERDICT A poignant title for large collections looking for refugee stories.–Joy Poynor, formerly at Rogers Public Library, AR

Laufer, Peter. See You Later, Amigo!: An American Border Tale. illus. by Susan L. Roth. 36p. glossary. Barranca. Dec. 2016. Tr $19.95. ISBN 9781939604101.

K-Gr 4 –María de la Luz is a schoolgirl who lives in Calexico, CA, a border city in between the United States and Mexico. In Calexico, she moves with ease, saluting Tío Ricardo and her school friends using Spanglish. The only trouble is that not all the kids at school understand this hybrid language, including Miguel, the new student from Guatemala, who speaks only Spanish. Even María’s grandmother scolds her for not using proper language. Laufer’s narrative is humorous, and the tone is reflected in the collage art. Readers may enjoy María’s antics but might encounter skeptical reactions when sharing with caregivers or educators, who themselves are likely advocating for proper English or Spanish. Furthermore, the book’s substantial use of Spanglish might compromise reading comprehension in a school or library storytime setting. VERDICT Unlikely to do well in libraries.–Kathia Ibacache, Simi Valley Public Library, CA

Niptanatiak, Allen. Muskox. illus. by Kagan McLeod. 24p. (Animals Illustrated). Inhabit Media. Dec. 2016. Tr $15.95. ISBN 9781772271225.

K-Gr 2 –The musk ox is a large, hairy arctic animal with massive, curvy horns. This majestic creature lives in herds, and though it can walk for miles in search of food, it never leaves the Arctic. Hunter and trapper Niptanatiak offers primary grade students an informative but accessible look at these shaggy beasts. Children will discover that musk oxen are herbivores and can bear only one baby a year—very rarely two. Readers will also learn that the animals use clever guarding techniques to shield their vulnerable young from predators such as grizzly bears and wolves. With muted colors and expressive illustrations that convey the clear narrative, the book will nicely complement school units on arctic animals and will be a satisfying resource for those completing homework assignments. VERDICT A fine addition to animal collections in school and public libraries, especially where the series is popular.–Kathia Ibacache, Simi Valley Public Library, CA

Rose, Eleanor. The Amazing Book of Disney Princess. 48p. illus. DK. Feb. 2017. Tr $14.99. ISBN 9781465458667.

K-Gr 2 –An introduction to the Disney Princesses. A spread is dedicated to each figure, with a snippet about her story (including the corresponding villain and hero). “Evil Enemies,” “Best Friends,” and “Perfect Princes” all have their own pages. Transformations, such as Cinderella’s dress and pumpkin turning into, respectively, a ball gown and a carriage, and Ariel’s mermaid tail becoming a pair of legs, are covered. The princesses’ family members are featured on a page that also includes information on where the princesses lived and their special skills (e.g., Merida’s archery and Mulan’s swordsmanship). Appended is a 20-question quiz with answers. The artwork is bright and in the Disney style. Unfortunately the book includes a foldout and a giant poster of Belle in an envelope at the front of the book. These elements make the title less suitable for library use, though the pages are of sturdy card stock and it is overall well constructed. VERDICT For collections that serve Disney-crazy kids or librarians in need of a gift.–Cynde Suite, Bartow County Library System, Adairsville, GA

Tharani, Nishant. When Trees Walked/Miti ilipokuwa yatembea. tr. from Swahili by Demere Kitunga. illus. by Nadir Tharani. 36p. Barranca. Oct. 2016. Tr $19.95. ISBN 9781939604125. BL

K-Gr 3 –Tharani’s impressionistic illustrations, heavy on brushstrokes and silhouettes, are the star of this environment-themed legend set in Tanzania. According to legend, before the reign of man, trees freely roamed and enjoyed the earth. The trees had a peaceful relationship with animals, providing them with shade and fruit. This delicate balance was forever altered with the arrival of humans. Thus the story takes a turn: trees are chopped and sliced by ax-wielding humans; farms and houses are built upon tree territory. An agreement is inevitably reached: trees will stop roaming and stay in one place, offering the same benefits to animals and humans, if people will stop attacking the trees. An ominous ending warns readers that “if people, however, continue to cut [trees] down, perhaps they will begin to roam the earth again”—a conclusion sure to inspire discussion and speculation among students. A Swahili translation of the story appears alongside the English text. VERDICT A gentle introduction to conservation issues for fans of mythic storytelling. Consider for large collections or those in need of a bilingual Swahili/English tale.–Erin Olsen, The Brearley School, NY

This article was published in School Library Journal's April 2017 issue. Subscribe today and save up to 35% off the regular subscription rate.

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