December Starred Reviews

Enjoy a chimp-filled romp through Gombe with Jane Goodall’s latest, check out Kevin Brooks’s Carnegie Award–winning The Bunker Diary, and follow four generations of blackberry fool with Emily Jenkins’s sumptuous picture book A Fine Dessert with the December stars, which offer the best of fiction, nonfiction, and multimedia.

Picture Books


Engle, Margarita. Orangutanka. illus. by Renée Kurilla. 40p. further reading. websites. Holt. Mar. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780805098396.

PreS-Gr 2–A sprightly introduction to orangutans through nimble wordplay and attractive book design. Kurilla’s pen-and-ink illustrations frame Engle’s tanka verses, which relate a simple story of an orangutan family in an animal sanctuary in Borneo. Massive papa, whose “great weight makes/low branches waltz slowly” and mama, baby, inquisitive big sister, and watchful grandma live an idyllic existence amid the tall trees. Child-friendly verse evokes the habitat and should have wide appeal: “Imagine/rain forest music—/insects/buzz, zoom, and hum/while green leaves swish.” Teachers will also appreciate the page of orangutan facts, where they can find print and online suggestions for further reading. Readers learn that the long-term outlook for this species of gentle primates is in doubt as deforestation threatens their rainforest habitats in Borneo and Sumatra. Engle also includes a note describing tanka poetry, an ancient Japanese format; the modern form is unrhymed and consists of five lines (short, long, short, long, long) of linked poems. She concludes by inviting children to write their own poems and dance like orangutans “with energetic arms and legs.” This well-crafted book, with its accomplished verses and smattering of facts, should earn a wide audience.–Marilyn Taniguchi, Beverly Hills Public Library, CA

Jenkins, Emily. A Fine Dessert: Four Centuries, Four Families, One Delicious Treat. illus. by Sophie Blackall. 40p. Random/Schwartz & Wade Bks. Jan. 2015. lib. ed. $20.99. ISBN 9780375968327; Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780375868320; ebk. $10.99. ISBN 9780375987717. LC 2011023589.

Gr 1-3–More than mere confection, A Fine Dessert is a rich and satisfying journey across four centuries, told through the eyes of four families. Beginning with a young girl and her mother picking wild blackberries in Lyme, England in 1710 and ending with a father and son in modern day San Diego, each story is explored through the lens of making Blackberry Fool, a treat consisting of berries, cream, and sugar. Jenkins keeps the text tightly focused on the task at hand: gathering the ingredients, mixing them, presenting the finished dessert, and enjoying the sweet rewards. Each story follows the same pattern, allowing children to observe similarities and differences in across time periods. Technological progress is highlighted in the evolution of the mixing process: from a bundle of clean, soft twigs in the 18th century to a metal whisk made by a blacksmith in the 19th century to a cast-iron rotary beater in the 20th century and finally to the nearly effortless electric mixer in the 21st century. Blackall’s ink and watercolor illustrations, accented with real blackberry juice, provide the details that both unify and differentiate the various historical periods. The story set on a Charleston plantation could have been uncomfortable in less capable hands. A spread shows a white family sitting down to supper as a slave family waits upon them. Jenkins and Blackall show rather than tell, allowing young readers to draw their own conclusions about the fact that the characters must hide in a closet to enjoy the dessert they’ve worked so hard to make. The final spread depicts a modern multigenerational, multicultural gathering. A recipe for Blackberry Fool is included. Simply delectable. –Kiera Parrott, School Library Journal

McNamara, Margaret. A Poem in Your Pocket. illus. by G. Brian Karas. 40p. ebook available. Random/Schwartz & Wade Bks. Jan. 2015. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780307979476; lib. ed. $19.99. ISBN 9780307979483. LC 2014005745.

Gr 1-3–Elinor is a perfectionist. She loves school and takes her assignments very seriously. For Poetry Month, Mr. Tiffin teaches his class about different kinds of poetry, similes, and metaphors. Anticipating an upcoming author visit by a real poet, students are asked to write a poem and put it in their pocket. Elinor plans to wear her jeans with many pockets so she can have one in every pocket, but her obsession with perfection impedes her creativity. On the day of the visit, the child has not created anything that she considers good enough to share. When the guest asks her to read her poem, Elinor reveals that she “has a poem in the pocket of her mind.” When she recites it, her words flow beautifully. This is a great book to share during National Poetry Month. Brief explanations are given for the more common poetry forms and the idea of a “Poem in Your Pocket Day” is inspiring. Pair this book with the works of Shel Silverstein, Paul B. Janeczko, Jack Prelutsky, Douglas Florian, or Robert Louis Stevenson, among others, to make a persuasive unit on the delights of the genre. Colorful illustrations of a busy classroom filled with enthusiastic students and a determined child keep the subject light and humorous. This title shines a light on a subject worthy of discussion.–Mary Hazelton, formerly at Warren & Waldoboro Elementary Schools, ME

Sarcone-Roach, Julia. The Bear Ate Your Sandwich. illus. by Julie Sarcone-Roach. 40p. Knopf. Jan. 2015. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780375858604; lib. ed. $19.99. ISBN 9780375958601; ebk. $10.99. ISBN 9780307982421.

PreS-Gr 2 –“It all started with the bear,” begins this story of what happened to a sandwich. Bear wakes up to the delectable aroma of freshly picked berries. He sniffs out a red truck, the back of which is filled with boxes of perfectly harvested berries. After having a berry party, Bear falls asleep. The truck drives him to a new forest—the city. When Bear begins to explore, he sees things in the city framed by his own experiences: a telephone pole becomes a tree, and bricks on the side of a building make great bark for scratching. In a park, he finds a lunchbox with a delicious sandwich, which he eats ravenously. When he climbs a tree, he can see his forest home in the distance and desperately wants to return. Somehow, he finds a boat, which carries him to the familiar sights and sounds of home. “So that’s what happened to [the] sandwich.” This is a fun story that children will enjoy, though they’ll need to suspend logic a bit. The illustrations in this book are terrific: color-drenched and bold slashes that cover the pages. The funny Bear is sympathetic and is only doing what bears do—eating and sleeping. And making us laugh. This book is a fine addition to any collection.–Mary Hazelton, formerly at Warren & Waldoboro Elementary Schools, ME


Middle Grade

Bar-el, Dan. Audrey (cow). illus. by Tatjana Mai-Wyss. 240p. ebook available. Tundra. 2014. Tr $19.99. ISBN 9781770496026. LC 2013953683.

Gr 3-5–A courageous cow poet, a canine companion, an eavesdropping horse, an intelligent pig, and many more amazing animals call Bittersweet Farm their home. After a mother Charolais cow is taken away to “Abbot’s War,” her calf, Audrey, begins to ask questions of her fellow animal pals. Eventually, she discovers that “Abbot’s War” is no cow paradise; it’s a slaughterhouse. The poetic cow quickly puts her energy into finding a way to avoid the same fate. She attempts, but fails, to starve herself, learns how to jump a fence, and more. Ultimately, she is able to use the help, knowledge, and experience of her farm friends to achieve her goal. This is no simple farm story; it is a powerful tale that takes a philosophical stance against today’s meat industry. Written in transcripts of interviews from the perspective of various animal and human characters, the book emphasizes the emotional reactions of those surrounding Audrey. These monologues give readers the opportunity to discern different perspectives about the same events. Readers must make conclusions and predictions about the events, weighing the relative reliability of the various narrators. A unique approach to a sensitive topic.–Mary-Brook J. Townsend, The McGillis School, Salt Lake City, UT

Kelly, Erin Entrada. Blackbird Fly. 304p. HarperCollins/Greenwillow. Mar. 2015. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780062238610.

Gr 5-8–Eighth grader Apple and her mother moved from the Philippines to Louisiana several years ago after the death of her father. All Apple has left of her dad is a Beatles cassette with his name written on it. At school, her two best friends are trying to become part of the in-group and have become very critical of her, especially after it’s discovered that she is on the unwritten Dog-Log and considered one of the ugliest girls in school. Apple is embarrassed by her mother, who doesn’t speak English well. The protagonist is desperate to get a guitar so she can learn to play the Beatles songs that her dad loved, but her mother is adamant that she not waste her time on music. Soon, Apple makes friends with a new boy, Evan, who’s not impressed with her former friends or their boyfriends. When the music teacher loans her a guitar, she discovers that she is something of a prodigy. The story will resonate with any student in middle school who has felt different and ostracized. The author has skillfully captured the various characters that populate Apple’s middle school. Only Apple’s mother remains two-dimensional until almost the end. The story is rather predictable until it ends with a twist. Apple mentions her favorite song “Blackbird” many times; readers unfamiliar with the song would benefit from listening to a recording or finding a YouTube clip.–Nancy P. Reeder, Heathwood Hall Episcopal School, Columbia, SC

Pyron, Bobbie. Lucky Strike. 272p. Scholastic/Arthur A. Levine. Feb. 2015. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780545592178; ebk. $16.99. ISBN 9780545592192.

Gr 4-6–Wherever Nate Harlow goes, bad luck seems to follow. He has never even won a coin toss, so it comes as no surprise to many residents of Paradise Beach that it is Nate who gets struck by lightning out of the literal blue on his 11th birthday while playing mini-golf with his friend Genesis Beam. What does come as a big surprise is that Nate’s luck seems to change drastically after the strike. All of a sudden, he is winning. Everything. Nate has to decide how he is going to handle this change—he is now surrounded by friends and opportunities whereas before it was only him and Genesis sticking together. Will she stay by Nate’s side while he finds his feet, and, more importantly, will he support her when she needs it most? This well-told story of growth, friendship, and small-town life hits all the right notes. The quirkiness of the characters and the town never goes too far, and there is an overall cozy feeling to the book. Genesis’s dad is the preacher at The Church of the One True Redeemer and Everlasting Light, but she is a scientist through and through, which adds complexity to the text, including musings on destiny, fate, probability, and weather. Fans of Susan Patron’s Higher Power of Lucky (S. & S., 2006), Sheila Turnage’s Three Times Lucky (Dial, 2012), and Ingrid Law’s Savvy (2008; both, Dial) will find something new for their to-read shelves.–Stacy Dillon, LREI, New York City

Ryan, Pam Muñoz. Echo. 592p. Scholastic. Mar. 2015. Tr $19.99. ISBN 9780439874021; ebk. $19.99. ISBN 9780545576505. Gr 5-8 –“Long before enchantment was eclipsed by doubt,” a young boy named Otto lost in the woods is rescued by three sisters imprisoned there by a witch’s curse. In return, he promises to help break the curse by carrying their spirits out of the forest in a mouth harp and passing the instrument along when the time is right. The narrative shifts to the 20th century, when the same mouth harp (aka harmonica) becomes the tangible thread that connects the stories of three children: Friedrich, a disfigured outcast; Mike, an impoverished orphan; and Ivy, an itinerant farmer’s child. Their personal struggles are set against some of the darkest eras in human history: Friedrich, the rise of Nazi Germany; Mike, the Great Depression; Ivy, World War II. The children are linked by musical talent and the hand of fate that brings Otto’s harmonica into their lives. Each recognizes something unusual about the instrument, not only its sound but its power to fill them with courage and hope. Friedrich, Mike, and Ivy are brought together by music and destiny in an emotionally triumphant conclusion at New York’s Carnegie Hall. Meticulous historical detail and masterful storytelling frame the larger history, while the story of Otto and the cursed sisters honor timeless and traditional folktales. Ryan has created three contemporary characters who, through faith and perseverance, write their own happy endings, inspiring readers to believe they can do the same.–Marybeth Kozikowski, Sachem Public Library, Holbrook, NY

Stanley, Diane. The Chosen Prince. 368p. ebook available. HarperCollins/Harper. Jan. 2015. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780062248978.

Gr 5-8 –Stanley’s newest fantasy, set in ancient Greece, is a bittersweet delight. Prince Alexos learns early that being the champion of a goddess does not make for an easy life. Alexos is destined to bring about reconciliation between battling gods, Athene and Zeus, if he can survive a childhood filled with near-impossible challenge and little joy, except for his love of running and his little brother Teo. However, by the age of 12, even these are lost to him. As he struggles to regain the use of his legs and recover from causing the death of his beloved brother, Alexos learns from a wise mentor, develops relationships with people from all levels of society, and becomes a force for good. At the same time, he is comforted by visions of his brother in the land of the dead, living an idyllic life with a new father and sister. However, the protagonist soon learns that all is not as it seems. Alexos is a strong character, capable of accepting and adapting to change, even as he struggles with heartbreak and almost insurmountable odds. Other characters—especially the court physician Suliman and Teo’s new sister Aria—are equally well done. The language is lyrical and accessible, and the end is satisfying in the extreme.–Mara Alpert, Los Angeles Public Library



Arnett, Mindee. Polaris. 432p. HarperCollins/Balzer & Bray. Jan. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780062235626; ebk. $9.99. ISBN 9780062235640.

Gr 9 Up–Picking up where Avalon (HarperCollins, 2014) left off, this novel has Jeth Seagrave, along with his newly discovered sister and his crew, the Malleus Shades—a bunch of teen outlaws working jobs for an intergalactic crime lord—on the run from the ITA, who are still holding his scientist mother captive. Long-thought dead, she had been imprisoned for years by the galactic organization because she and her unborn child were radically changed by their time in deep space, gaining the ability to manipulate time and space mentally. Jeth’s otherworldly sister Cora holds the key to restoring the failed Metadrives that hold the Confederation together. In order to reunite his family, and ensure their continued freedom, Jeth must rely on his crew and enter into an extremely dangerous partnership with the galaxy’s newest crime lord, as he takes the fight to the heart of the ITA itself. While Arnett’s previous volume in the series bore some similarity to Joss Whedon’s TV show, Firefly, her extremely exciting follow-up finds its own voice and spirit. With its high-octane plot, multidimensional characters, witty banter, and lots of heart, Polaris will appeal to fans of science fiction and action/adventure alike.–Ryan F. Paulsen, New Rochelle High School, NY

Brooks, Kevin. The Bunker Diary. 264p. ebook available. Carolrhoda Lab. Mar. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781467754200.

Gr 10 Up –Linus is a 16-year-old runaway living on the harsh English streets who wakes up one day in an unfamiliar underground bunker with no water or food while under constant surveillance by an unknown kidnapper. As each day passes, more people are kidnapped and are subjected to the same brutal conditions. When Linus and the rest try to escape and find out more about their situation and their kidnapper, they realize that, with their options dwindling, they may have to resort to the ultimate horror to survive. Brooks’s controversial Carnegie Medal-winner is truly a psychologically disturbing book that will leave readers with a deep sense of unease. Linus’s first-person narrative will make teens ask themselves what they would do in his situation. It’s not a title for everyone: some may be unsettled by the harsh realities the protagonist faces, while others will be fascinated by the simple complexity of Brooks’s prose and truly effective storytelling. A unique choice that will get teens talking.–Christopher Lassen, Brooklyn Public Library

Gardner, Scot. The Dead I Know. 208p. ebook available. Houghton Harcourt. Mar. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780544232747. LC 2013050162.

Gr 9 Up–Aaron has trouble connecting with people. He suffers from recurring nightmares—horrific memories of a dead woman—that have been locked away, and most nights he sleepwalks away from his home and into a caravan park where the majority of residents are drug addicts. When the teen gets a funeral director apprenticeship with Mr. Barton, it is not the dead bodies that make him nervous, but Mr. Barton’s family and the grieving mourners instead. As his dreams become more intense and his Mam’s undiagnosed dementia becomes increasingly dangerous, Aaron must learn how to rely on the living if he wants to save his grandmother and himself. First published in Australia, this is a dark, psychological coming-of-age drama with memorable characters and believable dialogue. Gardner continuously keeps readers emotionally invested in the protagonist. Despite the heavy topics explored in the novel, including Aaron’s realization that his recurring dreams are actually repressed memories of a horrible event, and Aaron being the sole caretaker of his sick grandmother, Gardner writes with sensitivity and in a way that is accessible to teens. With humorous interactions and their unwavering belief that Aaron is worthwhile, Mr. Barton and his daughter, Skye, help him appreciate life in the midst of death and tragedy. A darkly funny book with a male coming-of-age story similar in theme and tone toMy Life and Death (Peachtree, 2002) by Susan O’Keefe.–Marissa Lieberman, East Orange Public Library, NJ

Lake, Nick. There Will Be Lies. 400p. ebook available. Bloomsbury. Jan. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781619634404.

Gr 9 Up–“I have no words to describe how I am feeling—it’s like grief, maybe, but grief for myself. I was living my life, and then something came along and killed me, erased me.” Seventeen-year-old Shelby Jane Cooper’s world begins to come apart after she is hit by a car in Scottsdale, AZ. Her overprotective mother takes them on the run, and a coyote (who used to be a boy) begins to bring her into the Dreaming, a magical place where Shelby is no longer deaf and the animal inhabitants believe she can save them from an evil witch. What’s real, this world or the Dreaming? What are the “two lies” that Coyote warns Shelby about? What is the one truth? Lake’s new novel is perplexing and disorienting, full of the rich language and heady epiphanies readers have come to expect from the Printz-award winning author of In Darkness (Bloomsbury, 2012). The plot draws on Native American mythology and the haunting vastness of the Southwest landscape. The battles between elks and wolves, narrow escapes from authorities, and the looming mystery (Who is Shelby?) will make teens want to tear through the pages. Encourage them to temper this impulse lest they miss a single one of Shelby’s heartrending revelations that happen on her journey to save the Dreaming and herself.–Chelsey Philpot, Boston University

Larbalestier, Justine. Razorhurst. 280p. Soho Teen. Mar. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781616955441; ebk. $17.99. ISBN 9781616955458.

Gr 9 Up–Larbalestier’s latest features gritty historical fiction with a paranormal twist. The grim tale takes place in 1932 in a fictionalized version of Surry Hills neighborhood of Sydney, Australia. The neighborhood is dominated by two rival gangs, but because guns are illegal, violence is done using razor blades and gruesome scars are a common sight. The novel takes place over the course of one day and tells the story of two very different young women: Kelpie, a feral child raised by ghosts, and Dympha, a prostitute with a violent past who seems older than her years. Razorhurst introduces a historical period with which many North American readers may not be familiar. Though some of the events and character backstories border on improbable, the short chapters and multiple viewpoints keep things interesting. The ghosts are mostly peripheral to the story, though their presence emphasizes the bloody nature of the time period and provides occasional humor.–Eliza Langhans, Hatfield Public Library, MA

Lord, Emery. The Start of Me and You. 336p. ebook available. Bloomsbury. Mar. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781619633599. LC 2014014376.

Gr 7 Up–Aspiring screenwriter Paige Hancock is determined to redefine herself one year after her boyfriend, Aaron, drowned. Paige creates a checklist of tasks that she intends to accomplish during her junior year to finally shake off the label of “the girl whose boyfriend drowned” in small-town Oakhurst, Indiana. With the support of a solid core of best friends, Paige succeeds in her “plan to become normal again.” The crew also helps her recover from the devastating loss of her beloved and supportive grandmother and to cope with her divorced parents dating each other. She also finds a budding romance in an unexpected place—with Max Watson, nerdy cousin of heartthrob Ryan Chase. The positive and healthy relationships in the novel—between Paige and her friends, Paige and her parents, and Paige and Max—provide subtle modeling for young adults, while still remaining believable and not coming off as preachy. In sharp contrast to darker, more issue-driven YA books, this title keeps truer to the problems that most teens face. The protagonist’s upbeat attitude will inspire readers to persevere even during the low points in life.–Nicole Knott, Watertown High School, CT

Niven, Jennifer. All The Bright Places. 400p. Knopf. Jan. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780385755887; lib. ed. $20.99. ISBN 9780385755894; ebk. ISBN 9780385755900. LC 2014002238.

Gr 10 Up–Violet Markey is on the ledge of her school’s bell tower, six stories up, and frozen in terror. Theodore Finch, the Freak, stands on the ledge nearby. Before she can panic, he calms her down and gets her back on solid ground. He even lets everyone think she’s the one who talked him out of jumping. Violet, until recently, was a popular cheerleader and Finch has a well-earned reputation for being manic, violent, and unpredictable. But Finch won’t let their encounter rest. He’s suddenly everywhere Violet goes and even signs her up as his partner on a “Wander the State” school project. As the two drive around Indiana, Violet begins to see the lame tourist attractions through Finch’s eyes, and each spot becomes something unique and special. He pushes and challenges the protagonist, and seems to understand the effect her sister’s death made on her. But though Violet begins to recover from the devastating grief that has cocooned her for almost a year, Finch’s demons refuse to let go. The writing in this heartrending novel is fluid, despite the difficult topics, as Niven relays the complex thought processes of the two teens. Finch and Violet, with their emotional turmoil and insecurities, will ring true to teens. Finch in particular will linger in readers’ minds long after the last page is turned. Give this to fans of Rainbow Rowell’s Eleanor & Park (St. Martin’s Pr., 2013), John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars (Dutton, 2012), or Jennifer Hubbard’s The Secret Year (Viking, 2010).–Heather Miller Cover, Homewood Public Library, AL

Sedgwick, Marcus. The Ghosts of Heaven. 256p. Roaring Brook. Jan. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781626721258; ebk. $9.99. ISBN 9781626721265.

Gr 7 Up–Like his Printz Award-winning Midwinterblood (Roaring Brook, 2013), the prolific Sedgwick’s latest work consists of individual tales spanning centuries of time connected only by a single thread—in this case a shape; the spiral. From a mark scribbled in the dust by a girl of prehistoric times to the strands of the rope used to hang a medieval girl accused of witchcraft; from a poet plagued by madness who finds the spiral with its never-ending pattern horrifying to the one person left awake to watch over a ship full of sleepers in a state of suspended animation as they spiral through the universe looking for a new earth, each story carries a message of loss and discovery. Tying all four stories together is this one mysterious symbol, which can be found throughout nature in the shells of snails, the patterns of birds in flight, the seeds in a sunflower, and the strands of the double helix of DNA and comes to signify in these tales, a dance of death (and life). At once prosaic and wondrously metaphysical, Sedgwick’s novel will draw teens in and invite them to share in the awe-inspiring (and sometimes terrifying) order and mystery that surround us all.–Jane Henriksen Baird, Anchorage Public Library, AK

SHABAZZ, Ilyasah with Kekla Magoon. X: A Novel. Candlewick. Jan. 2015. p. 144.

HWagner, Laura Rose. Hold Tight, Don’t Let Go. 272p. Abrams/Amulet. Jan. 2015. Tr $17.95. ISBN 9781419712043.

Gr 9 Up –When a natural disaster strikes, what happens after the telethons, after the donations, and after the media attention has disappeared? This powerful debut novel follows Magdalie in the two years following the 2010 earthquake in Haiti as she grieves for her manman, adapts to life in the tent camps, and tries to find a place and a community that feels like home. Magdalie seeks to live a normal life in an impermanent society where “my memories are out to get me.” People she loves appear and disappear, her home is made of plywood and plastic tarps, she ducks for cover at the slightest sound, and she has no hope of returning to school. She faces the tenuous circumstances with her beloved cousin Nadine, but then must brave them alone after Nadine is granted a U.S. visa. Wagner creates a portrait of post-earthquake Haiti that is a study of contrasts—hopeful and bleak, warm and lonely. Magdalie searches for connections and solutions, but is also afraid of loving anybody when they might disappear at any moment. There have been literary works that highlight the devastation of the earthquake, but Hold Tight Don’t Let Go is unique in that it highlights the two years after—what international aid really looks like, how temporary situations become permanent, and the how profound losses affect those who are left. Wagner also effectively highlights the nuances of urban poverty and rural poverty. The book ends with a sweet, optimistic epilogue that provides happy endings, but detracts from the power of the novel. Wagner provides a helpful glossary and brief history of Haiti. A worthy companion to author Nick Lake’s In Darkness (Bloomsbury, 2012).–Susannah Goldstein, Convent of the Sacred Heart, New York City

Graphic Novels

Jamieson, Victoria. Roller Girl. illus. by Victoria Jamieson. 240p. Dial. Mar. 2015. pap. $12.99. ISBN 9780803740167; ebk. $9.99. ISBN 9780698190610.

Gr 4-8 –Twelve-year-old Astrid realizes that her interests are distinctly different from those of her best friend. Mesmerized while viewing a roller derby, she dreams of becoming a “Roller Girl” but discovers that the sport is considerably more daunting than she imagined and is not without physical, social, and emotional pain. Nevertheless, Astrid is determined to succeed. While this graphic novel provides interesting information about the sport, at its heart it is a story of friendship, exploring the tensions which test the girls’ relationship as they move from childhood to adolescence. Astrid learns to be honest with herself, her mother, and her friends through a series of stressful events. The graphic novelist employs several excellent visual devices: angles to denote action and effective placement and space within panels. Jamieson’s clever use of imagery is noteworthy. For example, desert and prehistoric depictions are used to suggest exaggerated perceptions of elapsed time. Her clothes shopping “hell” sequence is spot-on. Panels with stick figures are employed for comments, notes, and explanations. A prologue effectively frames the story and the realistic style with full-color art is reminiscent of the work of Raina Telgemeier. While at times some panels are a bit text-dense, the story will engage readers who will identify with Astrid as she deals with frustrations and disappointments. It will especially appeal to those whose aspirations fly in the face of convention. Offer this comic to fans of Telgemeier’s Smile (Scholastic, 2010) and Laura Lee Gulledge’s Page by Paige (Abrams, 2011).–Barbara M. Moon, Suffolk Cooperative Library System, Bellport, NY



Goodall, Jane. The Chimpanzee Children of Gombe. photos by Michael Neugebauer. 64p. Minedition. 2014. RTE $19.99. ISBN 9789888240838.

Gr 2-5 –Goodall has written other books for kids, but her latest focuses on children themselves: young chimps. Photos captured by Neugebauer over the 50 years that Goodall carried on her research offer lovely portraits of several chimp mothers and their offspring. These images, coupled with Goodall’s simple, conversational text (“I think we are all getting a bit weary after our day in the forest”), follow a single day in the Gombe jungle. Goodall parallels human and chimp behavior—kissing, hugging, spending time with family—to emphasize the similarities that we share and to illustrate her point that people need to learn from the life that surrounds them. The spread pairing photos of a young chimp and a boy using the same gestures is particularly heartwarming. Readers will enjoy the images of other animals—baboons, a skink, a grass finch—found here. Back matter includes information about Goodall’s Roots & Shoots program, which gives students of all ages the chance to make a difference. This charmingly designed, delightful book will inspire a new generation to look for the similarities that unite us, whether among humans or between people and other species.–Dorcas Hand, Annunciation Orthodox School, Houston, TX

Kwong-chiu, Chiu. In the Forbidden City. tr. from Chinese by Ben Wang. 52p. chron. illus. Tuttle. 2014. Tr $19.95. ISBN 9780989377607. LC 2014932006.

Gr 3-6–With the scope of David Macaulay’s architectural series (Houghton Harcourt) and the whimsy of Martin Handford’s “Where’s Waldo?” books (Candlewick), this attractive volume introduces readers to the architecture and history of China’s imperial compound and its inhabitants. Large line drawings show parts of the Forbidden City, the Chinese imperial palace from the Ming dynasty to the end of the Qing dynasty, located in Beijing, in great detail, with several folding out for multiple pages. The buildings and grounds are all heavily populated—interiors often feature people who would have lived there when the emperor did, and exteriors are filled with modern-day tourists. Readers will appreciate (but won’t require) a magnifying glass, which is included to help catch all the details. (Can you find the cat in each picture?) Paragraphs of text highlight architectural details and stories about imperial life under different reigns. Cartoon figures and captions help differentiate among different rulers and dynasties within the city. Kwong-chiu has made a potentially complicated and confusing subject accessible and fascinating without oversimplifying it. While the text is aimed at upper elementary students, readers of all ages will spend hours poring over the pages to make sure they catch it all. This is one of the first books from the We All Live in the Forbidden City program to be translated into English, and if this book is any indication, librarians and students will look forward to future titles. An excellent, exquisitely designed volume.–Jennifer Rothschild, Arlington County Public Libraries, VA

Paul, Miranda. One Plastic Bag: Isatou Ceesay and the Recycling Women of the Gambia. illus. by Elizabeth Zunon. 32p. chron. ebook available. further reading. glossary. illus. maps. Millbrook. Feb. 2015. RTE $19.99. ISBN 9781467716086. LC 2014009382.

Gr 1-4–The simple format of this picture book belies the strength of its content, a story lovingly supported by charming collage illustrations. As a girl, Ceesay realized that the goats on which her village relied were dying because they were eating plastic bags. She also saw that people were tossing the used bags on the ground just as they had always thrown away their baskets when no longer useful—except the plastic bags, unlike the baskets, weren’t biodegradable. So Ceesay figured out how to use crochet, a skill with which the villagers were already familiar, to make purses out of the plastic bags. Simple but lyrical text conveys this beautiful, thought-provoking tale of ecological awareness and recycling (“The basket tips. One fruit tumbles. Then two. Then ten.”). An inspiring account.–Dorcas Hand, Annunciation Orthodox School, Houston, TX

Scott, Traer. Nocturne: Creatures of the Night. photos by Traer Scott. 128p. websites. Princeton Architectural. 2014. Tr $19.95. ISBN 9781616892883. LC 2014006210.

Gr 2-6–Scott once again taps into her creativity and photographic genius, compiling remarkably intimate images. The book features 42 nocturnal creatures, many depicted through multiple shots, laid out on a black background, allowing the details and features of the subject to pop. Each image is accompanied by unique information written for a higher level reader than most photobooks. Some of the highlights are a capybara so lifelike that it begs to be touched, a raccoon staring into the camera soulfully, a little brown bat that seems to be coming right off the page, a charming fennec fox whose sweet expression will evoke squeals, and a hedgehog rolled up into a ball. The collection contains many mammals, but there are also plenty of birds, reptiles, amphibians, and insects, too. This selection will attract nonreaders with its gorgeous images but will also be of interest to older children, though students doing anything but the most basic research reports would need to supplement this book with additional materials. An excellent addition.–Jane Hebert, Glenside Public Library District, Glendale Heights, IL


Leeming, David A. The Handy Mythology Answer Book. 400p. bibliog. glossary. index. photos. Visible Ink. 2014. pap. $21.95. ISBN 9781578594757; ebk. ISBN 9781578595228. LC 2014013298.

Gr 6 Up –This guide to mythology is everything the title promises and more. After an introduction setting out the book’s goals and an initial chapter outlining a working definition of mythology, Leeming delves into the mythological traditions across the world (which include African, Asian, Polynesian, Cletiv, Greek, Roman, and Native American), one chapter at a time. These traditions are covered in great detail, and the author examines the geography, history, and culture associated with them and highlights important figures and tales. There is a great emphasis on the influence of psychology on the study of mythology. Early on, the author discusses the work of Sigmund Freud, Carl Jung, and Joseph Campbell and how they brought the importance of mythology into academic circles. Leeming concludes by discussing the idea of the monomyth, or Campbell’s concept that there are certain motifs and themes that are common to many traditions and that transcend individual cultures. The glossary, index, and bibliography make this volume an excellent reference source, and the appendix takes it further, offering lists of characters and stories that fall under categories such as “The Great Earth Mother Goddess” and “The Hero Quest” and the pages where readers can find them. This title is an ideal starting point for reports as well as an entertaining and informative read for interested students.–Heather Talty, formerly at Columbia Grammar & Preparatory School, New York City

From the Adult Books 4 Teens blog

APTOWICZ, Cristin O’Keefe. Dr. Mütter’s Marvels: A True Tale of Intrigue and Innovation at the Dawn of Modern Medicine. 371p. illus. index. notes. photos. Penguin/Gotham. 2014. Tr $27.50. ISBN 9781592408702. LC 2014014747.

You wouldn’t want to be a patient undergoing surgery in Philadelphia in the 1830s. Anesthesia hadn’t yet been invented, so a cup of wine would be used to dull your senses prior to the procedure. A crowd would watch in the operating theater, and the best you could hope for was a surgeon who was quick enough to lessen your stress and pain, but slow enough to do the job correctly. If you were really lucky, he might wash his hands. After the operation, you’d be promptly sent home in a carriage, bouncing on cobblestone streets. When Dr. Thomas Dent Mütter burst onto the scene, medicine was ripe for change. Aptowicz introduces readers to the pioneering young surgeon responsible for helping to lead a revolution. Mütter stood out in his field as much for his handsome good looks and colorful silk suits as his engaging, outsize personality. Known for his compassionate way with patients, he saw possibilities in the new field of plastic surgery for helping those with debilitating physical deformities. Informed by an abundance of research, Aptowicz’s crackling prose brings the surgeon to life, immersing readers in the shocking world of primitive medicine in the pre-Civil War era. She gives ample page time to his contemporaries, including those who held vastly opposing views on the best way to treat patients. Chock-full of fascinating facts and anecdotes, this page-turning biography will engage those teens who enjoy narrative nonfiction.—Paula J. Gallagher, Baltimore County Public Library, MD

MCCULLOCH, Derek. Displaced Persons. illus. by Anthony Peruzzo. 168p. Image Comics. 2014. pap. $17.99. ISBN 9781632151216.

This graphic novel time travels through three generations of one family, whose connections are symbolized, and realized, by a house in the hills of San Francisco. The themes of politics, family, and crime are showcased in the intertwined narratives, changing through the years only in the details. During the Great Depression, a loving father, pressed by economic forces he’s unable to control, makes a shady deal to keep his loved ones together. Grandiose or ambitious, there’s a lot here to consume, and digest; readers may have to check the proffered time lines more than once to keep their bearings. The sins of the past destroy some characters and cast off others, leaving a faithful few to find their way home. Drug use and dealing cast a pall in the 1960s chapters, and César Chávez gets a mention through a well-meaning in-law as things fall apart in the 1990s. It seems a bit random, but in an interesting play-within-a-play conclusion, a friend writing a book and a time traveling relative find each other and some answers to the family saga. The work’s narrative held together by the art: Shaded in multiple sepia tones to signal different time periods, the drawings are roughly chiseled and remarkably detailed; whole rooms, complete with clues, appear in single frames. This part mystery, part sci-fi graphic novel was crafted over ten years.—Georgia Christgau, Middle College High School, Long Island City, NY

SCHROEDER, Karl. Lockstep. 352p. 2014. Tor. Tr $26.99. ISBN 9780765337269.

For the last few years, young Toby McGonigal and his family have been homesteading on a small, icy exo-planet just outside of the Solar System. In order to maintain a monopoly, the family must claim stake to any orbiting moon they find. On his way to claim one such moon, Toby’s ship’s hull is breached, placing him into emergency deep hibernation. And there he sleeps, lost in space until his ship is pulled into orbit around a planet that appears dead. Luckily for Toby, the world below is not dead, frozen yes, but thriving nonetheless because it is part of the greatest and largest human civilization to ever exist, the Lockstep. The Lockstep has endured and thrived by institutionalizing a rigorous cycle of hibernation in which every member of the civilization lives together in 360 months of hibernation for every one month awake. Toby is shocked to discover that while he has been asleep for over 14,000 years, the Lockstep has been ruled by a single family since its creation: his own. Lockstep is one of the year’s best works of hard science fiction, based around an intergalactic civilization bound by the Speed of Light. Against the backdrop of Toby’s fight to rectify the sins of his family, Schroeder explores complicated topics such as the administration and economics of great empires, the effects of cultural diffusion, the relationship between governance and institutionalized religion, relativistic time, and the complications caused by functional immortality. This title will be especially appealing to advanced readers of science fiction, who will appreciate the opportunity to move out of the worlds of the “Force” and Warp Drives, and into a thriving empire that is well within the theoretical possibilities of human achievement.—Ryan Paulsen, New Rochelle High School, New Rochelle, NY



Mr. Civil Rights: Thurgood Marshall & the NAACP. 60 min. Dist. by PBS. 2014. $24.99. ISBN 9781627890861.

Gr 7 Up –Considered one of the greatest lawyers of the 20th century, Thurgood Marshall changed the landscape of the American legal system through his tireless efforts fighting segregation and eradicating Jim Crow laws. He also paved the way for such civil rights activists as Martin Luther King, Jr. Mick Caouette’s powerful documentary focuses on Marshall’s early career as a promising attorney under the tutelage of the NAACP’s Charles Hamilton Houston, the mastermind behind using the “separate but equal” doctrine to address and change inequalities in public education, culminating in the landmark Brown v. Board of Education decision. The film employs archival footage and audio clips of the gravelly voiced Marshall interspersed with video commentary from legal experts and scholars, depicting Marshall as a heroic figure who, despite continually putting himself in harm’s way, was determined to make the country better for all citizens. As one of Houston’s “social engineers,” lawyers whose aim was to build a strong society, he gained notoriety as a defender of civil rights through his precedent-setting court cases. Caouette downplays this larger-than-life persona in favor of showcasing Marshall’s groundbreaking achievements, and by doing so, he thoughtfully describes a man whose passion for social justice continues to resonate today. The DVD’s bonus features are limited—a 12-minute reflection piece by Supreme Court Justices Elena Kagan and John Paul Stevens (retired) and the film’s trailer—but the strength of the documentary is enough for libraries to add this to their collections.–Audrey Sumser, Cuyahoga County Public Library, Mayfield, OH

Years of Living Dangerously: The Complete Series. 540 min. Dist. by FilmRise. 2014. $55.99. UPC 887936951893.

Gr 9 Up –This excellent Emmy Award–winning series, which originally aired on Showtime, takes viewers on an in-depth tour of climate change’s effects on planet Earth. Familiar Hollywood and television stars, along with journalists and scientific experts, travel the globe to present, explain, and seek possible solutions to climate change. Political, religious, economic, social, environmental, agricultural, and educational aspects are discussed. Various locations are featured as the impact of climate change is explored, from drought- and fire-stricken areas of the United States (and those ravaged by Hurricane Katrina and Superstorm Sandy) to Bangladesh, Syria, Indonesia, Belgium, Greenland, Yemen, and Chile. Displacement of people by rising sea levels, struggles over fresh water, years-long drought conditions, insect invasions, deforestation, floods, and political unrest and instability are detailed. Additionally, surprising links between various events happening all over the world and climate change are made apparent. There is a tremendous amount of information presented and wonderful human connections made between the big scientific phenomena discussed and the very real people being adversely impacted by the many aspects of climate change. The famous faces will catch viewers’ attention, but the exceptional presentation will draw them in, keep them watching, and get them thinking. Sociology, history, science, math, and health classes could use this series as part of their studies. Students will have many questions answered, and many more questions for discussion will be sparked.–Cynthia Ortiz, Hackensack High School, NJ


Gaiman, Neil. The Graveyard Book. 7 CDs. 8:30 hrs. Harper Audio. 2014. $27.99. ISBN 9780062364463. digital download.

Gr 5 Up –Gaiman’s beloved novel gets the full-cast treatment in this new audio edition. Due to ghastly circumstances, the ghosts of a graveyard take in a young toddler whom they name Nobody, or Bod for short. The enigmatic Silas becomes Bod’s guardian and makes it his duty to protect the boy from those who intend harm. Bod grows up in the graveyard, and although he is still alive, the Freedom of the Graveyard allows him to see in darkness, fade from view, and slide through walls. As he matures, Bod encounters ghouls, a werewolf, and a witch, but none as terrifying as the man who killed his family and now wishes him dead—Jack. For the first time, listeners can hear the music of the Danse Macabre, the slithering echo of the Sleer, and the transformation of Bod from inquisitive child to self-assured young man. The full cast, including Gaiman, skillfully depicts each character’s unique traits and idiosyncrasies. Listeners will also hear some background on the book, read by the author himself, and music by Béla Fleck. A must-have for fans of the original novel and anyone who enjoys engaging fantasy.–Amanda Spino, Ocean County Library, NJ

Hagen, George. Gabriel Finley and the Raven’s Riddle. 7 CDs. 8:51 hrs. Listening Library. 2014. $45. ISBN 9780553396911. digital download.

Gr 3-6 –As Gabriel Finley nears his 12th birthday, he learns that his long-missing father could communicate with ravens. Gabriel realizes that he is destined to join with the ravens to find a dangerous necklace, called a torc, that may be able to save his father—or destroy the world. Gabriel delivers a young raven named Paladin from the evil valravens and together they set off to find the torc and rescue Gabriel’s father. He soon discovers that he must travel to an underground world called Aviopolis and face the terrible Corax, a half-man, half-raven who is also Gabriel’s uncle. Along his journey, Gabriel teams up with new friends and potential traitors. Narrator Michael Goldstrom does an excellent job capturing the eerie, fantastical quality of the tale while providing recognizable voices for each of the main characters. The differences between voices are subtle but convincing. Goldstrom’s voice only serves to enhance the pacing and tone of an already excellent story. Fantasy lovers will find themselves captivated by this presentation.–Deanna Romriell, Salt Lake City Public Library, UT

Holm, Jennifer L. The Fourteenth Goldfish. 3 CDs. 3:04 hrs. Listening Library. 2014. $30. ISBN 9780804193825. digital download.

Gr 3-7 –Ellie’s amicably divorced parents found their passion in the “thee-a-tah.” Her previous best friend found hers in sports. Ellie doubts she’ll ever find anything she’s passionate about, but then her mother brings home Melvin, Ellie’s cranky scientist grandfather. He’s found the fountain of youth in the compound of a newly discovered species of jellyfish, the T. melvinus. His proof? Melvin now resides in the body of a sullen 13-year-old boy. He insists a Nobel Prize is imminent and enlists Ellie’s help in recovering the T. melvinus from the research lab. In the course of their (mis)adventures, Ellie discovers a passion for science, meets a new friend, and finds life is full of opportunities to make the impossible possible. Holm provides a humorous view into the ever-evolving cycle of relationships and the importance of the wonder of science. Narrator Georgette Perna is exceptional, especially as cankerous, trying-to-maintain-his-dignity Melvin. The well-constructed mix of historical nonfiction and age transformation is a little bit Blue Balliett’s The Calder Game and a little bit Mary Rogers’s Freaky Friday. A top pick.–Cheryl Preisendorfer, Twinsburg City Schools, OH

MYERS, Walter Dean. Somewhere in the Darkness. 5 CDs. 5:15 hrs. Recorded Bks. 2014. $51.75. ISBN 9781470393922. Playaway, digital download.

Gr 7 Up –Jimmy is 14 years old. His biological mother is dead and his father has been incarcerated for the past nine years. As the story opens, Jimmy is living with Mama Jean in a rundown New York neighborhood. One day he returns home to find a stranger claiming to be his father. Crab, as Jimmy’s father is called, has been released from prison, and a condition of his release is that he has to get a job. He claims that one is waiting for him in Chicago, and he wants to take his son with him. Mama Jean reluctantly agrees, and an equally reluctant Jimmy begins his journey with Crab. It becomes evident to Jimmy that Crab’s story about the job is a lie. Meanwhile, Crab is determined to prove to Jimmy that he did not kill the person he was convicted of murdering. This is a bittersweet story of a father trying to make up for lost time with the son he barely knows. The story does not have a feel-good, happy resolution, but it ends on a hopeful note for Jimmy’s future. The degree to which J.D. Jackson is able to capture the essence of the story is wonderful. His narration is even toned yet full of expression and feeling. This is a remarkable yet sad story made even better by a stellar audio performance.–Mary Oluonye, Shaker Heights Public Library, OH

redstarWoodson, Jacqueline. Brown Girl Dreaming. 4 CDs. 3:56 hrs. Listening Library. $28. ISBN 9780553397260. digital download.

Gr 4-7 –Free verse is an effective writing style for describing dreams. Woodson’s text is particularly compelling when detailing the small moments of life, such as the “Saturday night smells of biscuits and burning hair” or bemoaning the “hair ribbons that anchor (her) to childhood.” And while poetry is sometimes difficult to follow on audio, this author is a masterful narrator. The sounds of the words and the rhythm expressed by her thoughtful intonation, careful pacing, and deliberate emphasis make clear the poetic form: “a country caught” (sharp c’s and t, pause) “between black and white.” Themes include the iconic search for identity in changing times: for example, Woodson’s Southern cousins say she speaks too quickly, while in New York, “coming back home isn’t really coming back home at all.” Yet throughout her interestingly complicated childhood, young Jackie tells stories until she grows to understand that “stories are like air to me and I know now that words are…my brilliance.” A personal memoir and a child’s eye view of the nascent civil rights movement, this work confirms Woodson’s brilliance as a writer for children and for adults, too.–Toby Rajput, National Louis University, Skokie, IL

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