SLJ Reviews the 2019 Newbery, Caldecott, and Printz Award Winners

SLJ's reviews of the Youth Media Award winners (YMAs) announced at a press conference at the American Library Association’s midwinter conference in Seattle.

The Youth Media Awards (YMAs) winners were announced this morning at a press conference held at the American Library Association’s midwinter conference in Seattle. Below are SLJ’s reviews of titles that won medals or honors, in addition to past interviews with authors and illustrators. Many of our Best Books of 2018 were acclaimed by the various committees, and most of the winning titles received positive or even starred reviews. You'll find additional coverage on the Youth Media Awards here.

JOHN NEWBERY MEDAL

redstarMEDINA, Meg. Merci Suárez Changes Gears. 368p. Candlewick. Sept. 2018. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780763690496.
Gr 4-7–Eleven-year-old Merci Suárez is starting sixth grade and everything is changing. Not only do upper graders have to switch teachers throughout the day, but playing sports, like Merci loves to do, is seen as babyish and befriending boys is taboo. So when Merci is assigned to show new kid Michael Clark around as part of her scholarship package at Seaward Pines Academy, it’s a problem. Especially when the richest, smartest, most popular girl in school, Edna, who gets to write the sixth grade’s social rules and break them, too, seems to like Michael. Meanwhile, at home, Merci has to watch over her little twin cousins who live close by at Las Casitas, a row of houses belonging to Mami and Papi; Abuela and Lolo; and Tia, for free, so trying out for the school’s soccer team and earning money to buy her dream bike is almost impossible. What’s worse, Merci can’t even talk to her beloved Lolo about all her problems like she used to as he starts acting less and less like himself. The realistic portrayal of a complex young Latina’s life is one many readers will relate to as she discovers that change can be hard, but it’s the ride that matters. VERDICT Pura Belpré–winning author Medina cruises into readers’ hearts with this luminous middle grade novel. A winning addition to any library’s shelves.–Brittany Drehobl, Morton Grove Public Library, IL

Teaching ideas for Merci Suárez Changes Gears by Meg Medina

JOHN NEWBERY MEDAL HONORS

redstarHIRANANDANI, Veera. The Night Diary. 272p. glossary. Dial. Feb. 2018. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780735228511.
Gr 5-8
–Nisha writes to her Muslim mother, who died giving birth to her and her twin brother, Amil, in a diary she receives on their 12th birthday. Through her diary entries, Nisha documents the changes brought about by India’s independence from the British. Nisha and Amil live with their Hindu father, paternal grandmother, and the family’s Muslim chef, Kazi, and they must flee their city after independence. Hiranandani creates a world full of sensory experiences: “I ate a samosa. I ate it slowly, savoring the crispy outside tingling with the tart green chutney I dipped it in.” Readers see the depth of Hiranandani’s characters during the family’s walk to the border, particularly Nisha’s rarely affectionate father who gently cares for her brother and grandmother. Without contrivance, Hiranandani weaves parallels into Nisha’s story—Nisha cooking with Kazi and Rashid Uncle, and Rashid Uncle’s inability to speak along with Nisha’s extreme shyness. She evenly and powerfully communicates the themes of family, faith, humanity, and loss. In the back matter, Hiranandani includes information about how her Indian father’s experiences influenced this story and provides a glossary of Indian terms. VERDICT This rich, compelling story, which speaks to the turbulence surrounding India’s independence and to the plight of refugees, should be in all libraries serving middle grade readers.–Hilary Writt, Sullivan University, Lexington, KY

MURDOCK, Catherine Gilbert. The Book of Boy. 320p. HarperCollins/Greenwillow. Feb. 2018. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780062686206.
Gr 4-6
–Boy is the village outcast. A hunchbacked orphan with a mysterious past and a knack for talking to animals, he’s faced more than his share of abuse and mockery from those around him. Enter Secundus, a strange pilgrim impressed with Boy’s climbing and jumping skills. Secundus pulls Boy into a journey across Europe to gather the seven relics of Saint Peter. The journey, however, is not as innocent as Boy first assumes. Instead, they’re stealing relics, making enemies, and facing peril all the way to Rome. Set in the year 1350, this is a medieval tale that blends historical fiction with magical realism. Readers will enjoy the adventures of Boy and Secundus, rife with twists that give the story more depth than a straightforward historical novel. Boy is an admirable protagonist who deals with his differences with a mix of acceptance and self-consciousness. Secundus, too, is a character that has more depth to him than meets the eye. While the peril may seem light to some, younger readers will get a thrill with every narrow escape. The book is easy to read with clear prose, short chapters, and illustrations scattered throughout. VERDICT A good recommendation for readers not quite ready for Adam Gidwitz’s The Inquisitor’s Tale or for those who enjoyed Karen Cushman’s Catherine, Called Birdy but crave a bit more magic.–Paige Garrison, The Davis Academy, Sandy Springs, GA

RANDOLPH CALDECOTT MEDAL

redstar BLACKALL, Sophie. Hello Lighthouse. illus. by Sophie Blackall. 48p. Little, Brown. Apr. 2018. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9780316362382.
PreS-Gr 3–On the highest rock of a tiny island at the edge of the world stands a lighthouse. Every day and every night, the lighthouse guides the way for passing ships, as its keeper tends to the light and writes in his guidebook. Over time, the lighthouse becomes a constant fixture in the middle of the sea as endless waves, ships, winds, whales, fish, storms, and keepers come and go. Here, Blackall tells the story of a lighthouse and its keeper, and how they both serve the sea. In the end, a machine is able to tend the light and the keeper must move on. But he will be forever connected to his lighthouse. The keeper’s own light across the bay shines back at the lighthouse, saying “hello!” Gorgeous and appealing illustrations done in Chinese ink and watercolor make readers feel as though they are inside the lighthouse along with the keeper, surrounded by the beauty and drama of the ever-changing sea. A spread full of information about lighthouses for those who seek further knowledge is appended. VERDICT A lovely picture book, recommended for all libraries. A delightful bedtime read perfect for one on one sharing.–Elizabeth Blake, Brooklyn Public Library

RANDOLPH CALDECOTT MEDAL HONORS

redstar MARTINEZ-NEAL, Juana. Alma and How She Got Her Name. ISBN 9780763693558.
————. Alma y cómo obtuvo su nombre. Spanish ed. ISBN 9780763693589.
ea vol: illus. by Juana Martinez-Neal. 32p. Candlewick. Apr. 2018. Tr $15.99.
PreS-Gr 2
–It’s said there’s a story behind every name and Alma Sofia Esperanza José Pura Candela is surely a moniker worthy of six tales. After complaining that her name is so long that it “never fits,” Alma’s father shares stories with the girl about the people she’s been named after, including a book lover, an artist, and a deeply spiritual woman, among others. Martinez-Neal, the recipient of the 2018 Pura Belpré Illustrator Award for La Princesa and the Pea , works in print transfers with graphite and colored pencils for these images, limiting her palette to black, charcoal gray, and blushes of color. The round, stylized figure of the girl, dressed in pink striped pants and a white shirt, pops against the sepia pages (reminiscent of old, family photo albums). As Alma’s namesakes emerge from the shadows when they are introduced, they and their distinguishing items (books, plants, paintbrushes, etc.) are highlighted in a pale, gray-blue. The softly colored images and curvilinear shapes that embrace the figures evoke a sense of warmth and affection. At the story’s end, the only tale readers have not heard is Alma’s. “You will make your own story,” states her father. VERDICT A beautifully illustrated, tender story to be shared with all children, sure to evoke conversations about their names.–Daryl Grabarek, School Library Journal

Check out our interview with Juana Martinez-Neal.

redstarLIN, Grace. A Big Mooncake for Little Star. 40p. Little, Brown. Aug. 2018. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780316404488.
PreS-Gr 1
–Little Star’s mother admonishes her not to eat the giant mooncake, which she left cooling in the night sky, but Little Star has her own ideas. Little Star makes a mischievous choice. “Yum!” Each night, she wakes from her bed in the sky and nibbles from the giant mooncake. “ ‘Little Star!’ her mama said, shaking her head even though her mouth was curving. ‘ You ate the big mooncake again, didn’t you?’ ” Rather than scolding, Mama responds with a kind offer to bake a new mooncake. Observant eyes will recognize that the final pages showing Little Star and her mama baking a new mooncake are a repeat of the front papers—a purposeful hint that the ritual is repeated monthly as Little Star causes the phases of the moon. Artwork is gouache on watercolor paper. Each page has a glossy black background and small white font. Little Star and her mother have gentle countenances twinkling with merriment. Both wear star-studded black pajamas that are distinguishable from the inky sky only by their yellow stars and the occasional patch of Little Star’s exposed tummy. The cherubic Little Star floats through the darkness, her mooncake crumbs leaving a trail of stardust in the sky. VERDICT The relationship between Little Star and her mother offers a message of empowerment and reassurance. Lin’s loving homage to the Mid-Autumn Moon Festival is sure to become a bedtime favorite.–Lisa Taylor, Florida State College, Jacksonville

redstarLIES, Brian. The Rough Patch. 40p. HarperCollins/Greenwillow. Aug. 2018. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780062671271.
Gr 2-5–Lies taps into the powerful nature of love, loss, grief, and hope in his latest picture book. Evan, a fox, and his dog are best friends and in a series of acrylic, oil, and colored pencil vignettes, they are shown attending a fair, playing games, and, most important, working in Evan’s meticulously groomed garden. These loving scenes are abruptly cut short by a large spread of white space with spare text stating: “But one day, the unthinkable happened.” On the opposing page, white space surrounds a grieving Evan as he mourns the loss of his dog. In his grief, Evan destroys the garden that reminds him so much of his friend and weeds grow in its place. When a pumpkin vine sneaks into the garden, Evan allows it to take root and with it, hope returns. With lyrical figurative language, Evan transitions from being devastated by heartache to a being willing to step back into the world again. With his pumpkin, Evan rejoins his friends at the fair. Although it’s not the same without his best friend, he enjoys himself again and even wins a prize for his pumpkin. His prize and the hope of all those who suffer love’s loss is a chance to love again with a new puppy. While best suited for independent readers or shared moments during a loss, this poignant picture book provides an exquisite depiction of grief and hope. VERDICT A remarkable first selection for all libraries and a helpful guide for children and adults who are going through their own rough patches.–Rachel Zuffa, Racine Public Library, WI

redstarMORA, Oge. Thank You, Omu! ­illus. by Oge Mora. 40p. Little, Brown. Oct. 2018. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780316431248.
PreS-Gr 2
–In her apartment on the top floor, Omu (Igbo for queen) makes a tasty, thick red stew for her dinner. The smell wafts through her community, enticing neighbors to knock at her door to inquire about the delicious smell. A little boy is first, followed by a police officer, the hot dog vendor, and many other neighbors. Omu shares a bit of her stew with each person until she has none left for her dinner. When she hears the next knock, it is the visitors again, but this time with a feast to share with Omu. Even the little boy makes a contribution: a red envelope that conveys everyone’s sincere gratitude. The richly textured and expressive collage illustrations were created with patterned paper and old-book clippings using acrylic paint, pastels, and markers. Mora has crafted a memorable tale of community and the unexpected rewards of sharing. VERDICT Children will enjoy this fresh, engaging story of friendship and community building, perfect for any group gathering.–Maria B. Salvadore, formerly at District of Columbia Public Library

MICHAEL L. PRINTZ AWARD

redstarACEVEDO, Elizabeth. The Poet X. 368p. HarperCollins/HarperTeen. Mar. 2018. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780062662804.
Gr 7 Up–Magnificently crafted, Acevedo’s bildungsroman in verse is a stunning account of a teen girl’s path to poetry. Sophomore Xiomara Batista is simultaneously invisible and hyper visible at home, school, and in her largely Dominican community in Harlem—her body is “unhide-able” she tells readers early on, yet she bristles at how others project their desires, insecurities, failures, patriarchal attitudes toward her. Though she is quick to battle and defend herself and her twin brother Xavier, Xiomara’s inner life sensitively grapples with these projections and the expectations of her strict, religious mother. Acevedo’s depiction of a faith in crisis is exceedingly relatable and teens, especially those going through the sacrament of Confirmation, will deeply appreciate Xiomara’s thoughtful questioning of the Church and how it treats women. Forbidden kisses with a crush and an impromptu performance at an open mic prove to be euphoric, affirming moments for Xiomara: “it’s beautiful and real and what I wanted.” Acevedo’s poetry is skillfully and gorgeously crafted, each verse can be savored on its own, but together they create a portrait of a young poet sure to resonate with readers long after the book’s end. ­VERDICT Truly a “lantern glowing in the dark” for aspiring poets everywhere. All YA collections will want to share and treasure this profoundly moving work.–Della Farrell, School Library Journal

Read: Getting To Know Elizabeth Acevedo, SLJTeen Live! 2018 Keynote Speaker

Watch: Elizabeth Acevedo Talks About Representation in YA Lit #

MICHAEL L. PRINTZ AWARD HONORS

redstarARNOLD, Elana K. Damsel. 320p. HarperCollins/Balzer + Bray. Oct. 2018. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780062742322.
Gr 9 Up
–Somewhere in medieval Europe, deep in a gray land by the gray sea, at the top of a craggy tower, a prince conquers a dragon and rescues a damsel. He names the woman Ama and delivers her to his castle where he will be made king and they will be married—for in this land, no king can exist without his damsel. Ama remembers nothing about herself, the world, or her experiences from before her rescue except flashes of bright color and a luscious, soothing heat. Her prince, however, is happy to teach her how to be a woman, and soon Ama learns to carve away at herself to fit neatly into her prince’s expectations. Art, exploration, and thinking are forbidden to her, and she is encouraged to take up as little space as possible. Inside, Ama rages and chafes against the physical and mental limitations imposed on her, and despite the warnings, Ama can’t stop wondering about the mystery of the dragons and who she was before. Graphic violence, sexuality, and rape are present on the page, though carefully presented to create a crucial juxtaposition to the lyrical writing. The characters’ roles, actions, and motivations are reflected through foils, revealing powerful symbolism and dramatic irony. All of this works to increase the tension, which comes to a dark but ultimately satisfying conclusion. VERDICT This incisively written allegory rips into a familiar story and sets it aflame. Highly recommended for high school libraries where literary feminist retellings are popular.–Leighanne Law, Scriber Lake High School, WA

CALETTI, Deb. A Heart in a Body in the World. 368p. S. & S./Simon Pulse. Sept. 2018. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781481415200.
Gr 9 Up–Seventeen-year-old Annabelle Agnelli needs to run away from tragedy. She starts in her hometown of Seattle with the intention to run 2,700 miles to Washington, D.C. As she crosses the vast and lonely terrain, she has flashbacks that gradually reveal what she is trying to flee. She runs to punish herself for the crime she thinks she has committed; she runs to feel the pain she thinks she deserves. Annabelle unwittingly becomes a spokesperson for a greater cause and a reluctant role model. Caletti tackles two big topics—gun violence and violence against women—with enormous skill. Annabelle’s story never seems forced or heavy-handed; Caletti realistically mines the gray areas of the teen’s conscience. Portrayals of complex, multifaceted secondary characters and vivid descriptions of the protagonist’s surroundings permeate this story and make it come to life. Readers can almost smell the pine trees, see the glimmering lake water, and feel the steamy heat rising off of the pavement as Annabelle runs across the country. They can also feel her confusion and pain, which makes her hard-won self-redemption most rewarding. ­VERDICT A moving novel centered on ­timely issues that deserves a place in all libraries serving young adults.–Melissa Kazan, Horace Mann School, NY

MCCOY, Mary. I, Claudia. 424p. Carolrhoda Lab. Oct. 2018. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781512448467.
Gr 8 Up–Claudia McCarthy is the (possibly unreliable) narrator of this modern take on I, Claudius. She leads readers through four years at the exclusive Los Angeles Imperial Day Academy. The teen is an amateur historian and an outsider who becomes more and more enmeshed in the inner political circle of the student senate and honor council. There are no friends at Imperial Day, only potential supporters and adversaries; alliances and allegiances shift constantly. Adults—both teachers and parents—are distant and mostly unimportant: the students determine who is popular, who is elected to office, and whose reputation will remain untarnished. This Lord of the Flies–like work is packed with political intrigue and maneuvering. Interspersed with Claudia’s commentary are conversations with her therapist, as well as transcripts of an Imperial Day Board of Commissioners hearing, both of which add insight and uncertainty. McCoy’s cast of schemers and sycophants is complex and finely detailed, and readers will never be quite sure of their motivations. The plot twists and expert foreshadowing will keep teens guessing. VERDICT A must-read for YA fans of political thrillers or school-based stories.–Suzanne Fondrie, University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh

CORETTA SCOTT KING (AUTHOR) BOOK AWARD

HARTFIELD, Claire. A Few Red Drops: The Chicago Race Riot of 1919. 208p. bibliog. notes. photos. Clarion. Jan. 2018. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9780544785137.
Gr 7 Up
–When 17-year-old Eugene Williams was murdered while rafting on the unofficially segregated beaches of Lake Michigan and a white police officer refused to arrest the murderer, Chicago became the site of a deadly race riot. Hartfield backtracks from that moment to explore how turn-of-the-century Chicago was a beacon for both African Americans from the South and European immigrants. However, with the end of World War I, the numerous job opportunities turned scarce and white gang activity against black residents increased. Powerful stories of resistance and inspiring profiles of John Jones, Ida B. Wells, and others who created libraries, hospitals, The Chicago Defender, and other initiatives balance the narratives of discrimination and violence. The stoning of Williams and the riots that followed are not the primary focus; rather, Chicago’s history as a destination in post-Reconstruction era United States, its labor movement, the Great Migration, and how all these factors were the underlying elements for the riots make up the bulk of the book. Under 200 pages, this is a relatively slim but powerful account of early 20th-century U.S. history. A plentiful amount of clear and intriguing photography, as well as primary source materials, is included. Back matter includes research citations, an extensive bibliography, and picture credits. VERDICT A worthy and gripping account of early 20th-century African American, immigrant, and labor history framed by the haunting murder of a young black man.– Jennifer Schultz, Fauquier County Public Library, Warrenton, VA

CORETTA SCOTT KING (AUTHOR) BOOK AWARD HONORS

redstarCLINE-RANSOME, Lesa. Finding Langston. 112p. Holiday House. Aug. 2018. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780823439607.
Gr 2-5
–It’s 1946 and 11-year-old Langston, named after Langston Hughes, has just moved from Alabama to Chicago with his father following the death of his mother. Langston feels isolated and is bullied at school, and every day he misses Alabama: the dirt roads, his Grandma and her cooking, and the sound of Mama’s voice. When Langston accidentally stumbles into the public library to ask for directions, he realizes that, unlike in Alabama, black people are allowed in the library, and portraits of esteemed black literary figures hang on the walls. Langston secretly visits the library daily and is pulled into the poetry of Langston Hughes, discovering his namesake. As the bullying at school intensifies and tragedy strikes his family, Langston finds solace with his neighbor, Miss Fulton, who reads Hughes’s poetry out loud to him in the evenings. Cline-Ransome presents a stunning story of a boy during the Great Migration who finds his longing for the South and his father’s fondness for the blues reflected in Hughes’s poetry. Langston’s observations about the world are astute, whether it’s his realization of the burdens his father carries or how men on the street look at women. Readers who have struggled with grief, identity, racism, bullying, or loneliness will find their experiences reflected in this beautifully written novel, which has a satisfying, but not-too-tidy ending. VERDICT Cline-Ransome’s novel is an engaging, quick, and relatable read that skillfully incorporates themes of race, class, post-war American life in the North and South, and a bit of Langston Hughes’ poetry. This is a story that will stay with readers long after they’ve finished it. A first purchase for all libraries.–Liz Anderson, DC Public Library

redstarJOHNSON, Varian. The Parker Inheritance. 352p. Scholastic/Arthur A. Levine Bks. Mar. 2018. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780545946179.
Gr 4-6–Part historical fiction, part critical problem-solving exercise, part suspenseful mystery, this story weaves through the past and present of one town’s struggle with hatred and racism. Candice and her mother have moved temporarily from Washington, D.C., to her mother’s hometown in Lambert, SC, while her parents finalize the plans of their amicable divorce. Candice is miserable until she meets Brandon and finds an old letter addressed to her from her deceased grandmother with a puzzle enclosed. Twenty years prior, her grandmother had tried unsuccessfully to solve the puzzle that would yield a great deal of money to the town and the person who solved it. Together, Candice and Brandon make their own attempt. Who were Enoch, Leanne, and Siobhan Washington? How does an illegal tennis match played in 1957 between the white Wallace School and African American Perkins School factor into the solution? The characters are varied, authentic, and well developed. The plot moves along quickly and seamlessly between the past and present, with chapters from the 1950s shaded in light gray for a smart visual effect. The present day isn’t sugarcoated, showing readers that racial equity is still an unresolved problem. Appended author notes offer additional context, making it an excellent link to social studies or history units. VERDICT A must-purchase for most libraries, especially where Johnson’s previous titles have fans.–Anne Jung-Mathews, Plymouth State University, NH

redstarMAGOON, Kekla. The Season of Styx Malone. 304p. Random/Wendy Lamb Bks. Oct. 2018. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781524715953.
Gr 4-7–Summertime in small-town Indiana only heightens 10-year-old Caleb’s frustrations with feeling ordinary. When he and his older brother, Bobby Gene, meet smooth-talking 16-year-old Styx Malone, a whole new world of excitement, and its frequent companion trouble, opens up. Enthralled by cool kid Styx, Caleb and Bobby Gene are roped into an “escalator trade,” whereby the boys attempt to trade small things for increasingly more valuable items in the hopes of eventually trading up to a shiny moped. The characters are magnetic; Styx in particular unfolds into a touchingly human young man withstanding the buffets of foster care. The themes of friendship, trust, rebellion, and safety strongly flavor the book without overpowering the easy fun. VERDICT A summertime romp filled with trouble-making, camaraderie, and substance. A solid purchase, especially for collections where realism circulates well.–Erin Reilly-Sanders, University of Wisconsin-Madison

CORETTA SCOTT KING (ILLUSTRATOR) BOOK AWARD

redstarBAUER, Marion. The Stuff of Stars. illus. by Ekua Holmes. 40p. Candlewick. Sept. 2018. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780763678838.
K-Gr 4
–Poetic language and dazzling illustrations link the big bang to a child’s birth in this striking picture book. Starting “in the deep, deep dark” where “a speck floated, invisible as thought, weighty as God,” lyrical language describes the big bang (“in a trillionth of a second…our universe was born),” then moves to the creation of stars, planets, and life. Hand-marbled paper and collage images brilliantly capture the movement and mystery of the words. Opening spreads of black and purple swirls dramatically shift to blasts of shapes and colors as the universe evolves. Reminders of what was not yet created are interspersed: “…no oceans, no mountains, no hippopotami,” while some of the specific life forms mentioned can be spotted within the shapes and lines of the collages. The dramatic conclusion features the birth of the listener, when “another speck floated, invisible as dreams, special as Love.” That speck is depicted as a white dot against black, visually mirroring the speck that started it all on the first page, but this time it’s placed within a long strip, suggesting a birth canal. The narrative ties neatly back to the evolution described earlier: “Your hair once the carbon in a leaf.” It also connects the child to other life forms: “You and the velvet moss, the caterpillars, the lions.” The triumphant final spread shows parent and child in silhouette, gazing at the vivid swoops of line and color that suggest planets, stars, and galaxies. VERDICT An inspiring match of writing and art. Perfect for one-on-one sharing.–Steven Engelfried, Wilsonville Public Library, OR

CORETTA SCOTT KING (ILLUSTRATOR) BOOK AWARD HONORS

SHETTERLY, Margot Lee with Winifred Conkling. Hidden Figures: The True Story of Four Black Women and the Space Race. illus. by Laura Freeman. 40p. chron. diags. glossary. HarperCollins/Harper. Jan. 2018. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780062742469.
K-Gr 2
–Shetterly introduces young readers to the inspirational and groundbreaking stories of Dorothy Vaughan, Mary Jackson, Katherine Johnson, and Christine Darden, and their once-hidden contributions to science, aeronautics, and space exploration. Shetterly expertly puts these women’s achievements in their historical context: segregation, blatant sexism and racism in the workplace, the civil rights movement, and the space race. Despite the challenges these women faced, they persisted, worked hard, and put a man on the moon. In this picture book take, the text, at times, reads a bit clinical and it’s occasionally difficult to distinguish one woman’s characteristics from another’s while reading. This is remedied with the handy time line of short profiles in the back matter. Freeman’s full-color illustrations are stunning and chock-full of details, incorporating diagrams, mathematical formulas, and space motifs throughout (including the women’s clothing and jewelry), enhancing the whole book. VERDICT An essential purchase for elementary school and public libraries.–Megan Kilgallen, Packer Collegiate ­Institute, Brooklyn

redstarCLARK-ROBINSON, Monica. Let the Children March. illus. by Frank Morrison. 40p. bibliog. chron. notes. HMH. Jan. 2018. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780544704527.
K-Gr 3
–The youth of the Birmingham civil rights movement take center stage in this historical picture book. Clark-Robinson narrates from the voice of an unnamed girl, using simple language to tell the story of the momentous events surrounding the arrest and jailing of hundreds of children protesting racial segregation. The narrator states bluntly, “There were so many things I couldn’t do.” Much of the text will provoke questions and important conversations between children and adult readers. The experiences of segregation are sensitively depicted by Morrison. A playground behind a tall sharp fence sets the stage, while portrait-quality oil paintings of the children and civil rights leaders such as Martin Luther King Jr. fill the rest of the pages. The defiance, determination, and passion comes through clearly on the faces of the figures. An afterword and author’s and illustrator’s notes provide additional information, as does a cleverly illustrated time line on the endpapers. VERDICT A highly readable historical account which deserves a place on picture book and nonfiction shelves alike.–Clara Hendricks, Cambridge Public Library, MA

redstarDUNCAN, Alice Faye. Memphis, Martin, and the Mountaintop: The Sanitation Strike of 1968. illus. by R. Gregory ­Christie. 40p. bibliog. chron. notes. Calkins Creek. Aug. 2018. Tr $17.95. ISBN 9781629797182.
Gr 2-5
–Duncan tells the story of the 1968 Memphis Sanitation Strike and the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. through the voice of Lorraine Jackson, an invented character who looks back on her childhood as the nine-year-old daughter of a sanitation worker. The book opens with a poem, beginning simply, “I remember Memphis,” and continues mostly in prose, with several pages of poetry in different formats interspersed. The haiku “Omen” is striking amid the longer pages: “Yellow Daffodils. Sixteen inches under snow. King canceled his march.” The language throughout is powerful. Christie’s Acryla gouache paintings are breathtaking, from the wide white brush strokes in the snowy background of the aforementioned haiku, to the impeccable rendering of Coretta Scott King marching in a widow’s veil four days after her husband’s assassination. Lorraine is depicted earnestly with braids in bows, and bobby socks. Warm yellows and oranges and cool blues alternate as backgrounds to most full-bleed pages. The text is fully researched, with cited sources, and draws many details from interviews with a Memphis teacher who experienced this moment in history as a child. VERDICT A superbly written and illustrated work. A first purchase for public and school libraries.–Clara Hendricks, Cambridge Public Library, MA

CORETTA SCOTT KING/JOHN STEPTOE NEW TALENT AUTHOR AWARD

redstarJACKSON, Tiffany D. Monday’s Not ­Coming. 448p. HarperCollins/Katherine Tegen Bks. May 2018. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780062422675.
Gr 9 Up–Galvanized by real-life accounts of black girls whose disappearances went unnoticed, the author depicts a young African American teen unwilling to let her best friend fall through the cracks. Claudia frets when Monday misses the first day of eighth grade, and her worries increase when weeks, and then months, go by with no sign of the girl. Both outsiders, the two have always tried to protect each other: academically gifted Monday keeps teachers from realizing that Claudia has learning disabilities, and Claudia’s stable family gives Monday a respite from her often erratic home life. Monday’s mother and older sister offer conflicting stories about where she is, and even sympathetic adults are little help—Claudia alone becomes Monday’s champion. Just as Jackson’s suspenseful debut, Allegedly, explored the corrupt justice system, this thought-provoking thriller examines issues such as abuse, gentrification, and the marginalization of people of color with nuance and sensitivity. The narrative deftly moves back and forth between past and present, building to a devastating conclusion. The Washington, DC, setting is superbly rendered, and the author presents a rich portrayal of the girls’ bond, displaying an intuitive understanding of adolescent friendship. VERDICT A spellbinding, profoundly moving choice for YA collections.–Mahnaz Dar, School Library Journal

CORETTA SCOTT KING/JOHN STEPTOE NEW TALENT ILLUSTRATOR AWARD

redstarMORA, Oge. Thank You, Omu! ­illus. by Oge Mora. 40p. Little, Brown. Oct. 2018. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780316431248.
PreS-Gr 2
–In her apartment on the top floor, Omu (Igbo for queen) makes a tasty, thick red stew for her dinner. The smell wafts through her community, enticing neighbors to knock at her door to inquire about the delicious smell. A little boy is first, followed by a police officer, the hot dog vendor, and many other neighbors. Omu shares a bit of her stew with each person until she has none left for her dinner. When she hears the next knock, it is the visitors again, but this time with a feast to share with Omu. Even the little boy makes a contribution: a red envelope that conveys everyone’s sincere gratitude. The richly textured and expressive collage illustrations were created with patterned paper and old-book clippings using acrylic paint, pastels, and markers. Mora has crafted a memorable tale of community and the unexpected rewards of sharing. VERDICT Children will enjoy this fresh, engaging story of friendship and community building, perfect for any group gathering.–Maria B. Salvadore, formerly at District of Columbia Public Library

PURA BELPRÉ (ILLUSTRATOR) AWARD

redstarMORALES, Yuyi. Dreamers. illus. by Yuyi Morales. 40p. further reading. Holiday House. Sept. 2018. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9780823440559.
PreS-Gr 3
–The acclaimed creator of Niño Wrestles the World and Viva Frida has crafted another masterpiece in this autobiographical picture book. From her son’s birth to their move to the United States from Mexico in the mid-1990s to their often fraught- and barrier-filled life, the tale highlights the many obstacles immigrants face while trying to survive in a new country that doesn’t readily welcome non–English-speaking people of color. The pair encounters respite at the library where, with the help of librarians, they find a home in the children’s section. The dreamlike, lyrical text captures the wonder of childhood, learning, and discovery through books. The magical art marries the succinct and powerful narrative in a resplendent celebration of literacy, language, and the transformative power of the picture book form. Readers will delight in finding Morales’s tributes to kid lit classics, new and old, throughout the spreads. The majestic illustrations often incorporate Mexican traditions and mythology and they resound with mythic imagery, speaking volumes about the love and dreams shared between mother and child. Morales explains in an author’s note that she and her son are not “Dreamers” in the modern sense—“young undocumented immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children”—but dreamers in the sense of all immigrants who come to a new country. Also appended are a thorough list of the books referenced in the artwork and a fascinating note on the materials used in the creation of this work, including a nib pen that once belonged to Maurice Sendak, scanned images of Morales’s studio floor, her and her son’s childhood drawings, and more. VERDICT­ This excellent memoir encapsulates the fears, hopes, and dreams that come along with immigrating to a new place and building a new life in an unfamiliar and often hostile landscape. A timely and much-needed selection.–Shelley M. Diaz, School Library Journal

PURA BELPRÉ (ILLUSTRATOR) AWARD HONORS

redstarDIAZ, Junot. Islandborn. ISBN 9780735229860.

––––. Lola. tr. from English by Teresa Mlawer. ISBN 9780525552819.

ea vol: illus. by Leo Espinosa. 48p. Dial. Mar. 2018. Tr $17.99.
K-Gr 3
–When Ms. Obi asks her students to draw a picture of the country they are originally from, the children are excited. All except for Lola, “What if you left before you could start remembering?” As Lola talks to some of her neighbors from the Island to draw from their memories, she learns of bats as big as blankets; a love of music and dancing; coconut water and sweet mangoes. And an island where “Even the people are like a rainbow—every shade ever made.” With a place so beautiful, Lola wonders, why did people leave? Reluctantly, Mr. Mir, the building superintendent, tells her of a Monster that fell upon their Island and did as he pleased for 30 years. Though never mentioned by name, the country in question is the Dominican Republic. The Monster refers to the dictator Rafael Leónidas Trujillo. Lola learns from her assignment that “Just because you don’t remember a place doesn’t mean it’s not in you.” Espinosa’s gloriously vibrant mixed-media illustrations portray a thriving community living under the shadow of the George Washington Bridge in Manhattan. As Lola learns more about her Island, the illustrations cleverly incorporate a plethora of tropical plants and color, bringing to life both Lola’s neighborhood and La Isla. Lola, a Spanish language edition, is ably translated by Mlawer and publishes simultaneously. VERDICT A sensitive and beautiful story of culture, identity, and belonging—a superb picture book outing for Díaz and one to be shared broadly in a variety of settings.–Lucia Acosta, Children’s Literature Specialist, Princeton, NJ

PURA BELPRÉ (AUTHOR) AWARD

redstarACEVEDO, Elizabeth. The Poet X. 368p. HarperCollins/HarperTeen. Mar. 2018. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780062662804.
Gr 7 Up–Magnificently crafted, Acevedo’s bildungsroman in verse is a stunning account of a teen girl’s path to poetry. Sophomore Xiomara Batista is simultaneously invisible and hyper visible at home, school, and in her largely Dominican community in Harlem—her body is “unhide-able” she tells readers early on, yet she bristles at how others project their desires, insecurities, failures, patriarchal attitudes toward her. Though she is quick to battle and defend herself and her twin brother Xavier, Xiomara’s inner life sensitively grapples with these projections and the expectations of her strict, religious mother. Acevedo’s depiction of a faith in crisis is exceedingly relatable and teens, especially those going through the sacrament of Confirmation, will deeply appreciate Xiomara’s thoughtful questioning of the Church and how it treats women. Forbidden kisses with a crush and an impromptu performance at an open mic prove to be euphoric, affirming moments for Xiomara: “it’s beautiful and real and what I wanted.” Acevedo’s poetry is skillfully and gorgeously crafted, each verse can be savored on its own, but together they create a portrait of a young poet sure to resonate with readers long after the book’s end. ­VERDICT Truly a “lantern glowing in the dark” for aspiring poets everywhere. All YA collections will want to share and treasure this profoundly moving work.–Della Farrell, School Library Journal

PURA BELPRÉ (AUTHOR) HONORS

redstarBOWLES, David. They Call Me Güero: A Border Kid’s Poems. 160p. glossary. Cinco Puntos. Sept. 2018. Tr ISBN 9781947627062.
Gr 5-8
–Güero is a Mexican American border kid with nerdy tastes, pale skin, and red hair. Wishing he had been born with a darker complexion so no one would question his Mexican American heritage, Güero’s family tell him to be grateful for the advantages his lighter hair and skin afford him and to use it to open doors for the rest of his family. And what a family it is! While Güero’s wise, resourceful, and often hilarious family provides a buoy through the turbulent waters of seventh grade, so too, do influential educators and “Los Bobbys,” Güero’s liked-minded, bookish friends. The tuned-in school librarian fuels Güero’s passion for reading with his diverse literature collection, and his transformational English teacher helps him discover his voice through poetry. Güero’s voice carries this novel through a playful array of poetic forms, from sonnets to raps, free verse to haiku. A Spanish-to-English glossary at the back of the book aids the non-Spanish reader’s understanding of the text, while it simultaneously, and perhaps more significantly, communicates the beauty of the language and of Güero’s heritage. Readers come away with two worthy takeaways: firstly, that life is challenging for a child of immigrants on the southern U.S. border, and, secondly—triumphantly—a deep appreciation for the richness of Güero’s culture. VERDICT Vibrant and unforgettable, this is a must-have for all middle grade collections. Pair with both fiction and nonfiction books on immigration, forced cultural assimilation, and stories about contemporary Mexican American life.–Melissa ­Williams, Berwick Academy, ME

ROBERT F. SIBERT INFORMATIONAL BOOK AWARD

redstarSIDMAN, Joyce. The Girl Who Drew Butterflies: How Maria Merian’s Art Changed Science. 160p. bibliog. chron. further reading. index. photos. reprods. websites. HMH. Feb. 2018. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780544717138.
Gr 5-8
–Under the tutelage of her stepfather, artist Jacob Marrel, young teen Maria Sibylla Merian developed her artistic talent and found ways to combine it with her interest and careful observation of caterpillars, moths, and butterflies. In Germany, the Netherlands, and Suriname, from about 1660 to 1710, Merian (some paintings use her married name of Graff) moved from more traditional “lady artist” subjects such as flowers, to depicting the life cycles and habitats of caterpillars, moths, butterflies, spiders, insects, and the natural struggle for survival. At a time when many believed in the spontaneous generation of flying insects, Merian’s meticulous observations allowed her to document that eggs became caterpillars which then transformed into butterflies or moths. Sidman starts each chapter with a verse, otherwise telling the story through narrative with ample photographs, etchings, maps, paintings, and reproductions of Merian’s botanical art throughout. In pages of boxed text, readers learn a bit about topics that influenced Merian’s life, such as printing processes, religion in the 1600s, and slavery in Suriname. The butterfly life cycle, from egg to maturity, was an endless source of inspiration, and is at the center of many of her paintings. The thorough back matter will aid in classroom use. VERDICT An excellent choice for young artists, budding scientists, fledgling entomologists, and fans of biography.–Maggie Knapp, Trinity ­Valley Sch., Fort Worth, TX

ROBERT F. SIBERT INFORMATIONAL HONORS

redstarTHIMMESH, Catherine. Camp Panda: Helping Cubs Return to the Wild. 64p. filmog. glossary. index. notes. photos. websites. HMH. Apr. 2018. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780544818910.
Gr 5-7
–Many have seen videos of humans in panda suits tending to the needs of smaller, actual pandas, and they may have asked, why are they dressed that way? Thimmesh’s new book answers that and more as she delves in the conservation efforts of various groups in China, including the China Conservation and Research Center for the Giant Panda, also known as Camp Panda. The Sibert Medal–winning author begins with an overview of pandas and explains why they are at risk of becoming extinct. Readers learn that just as humans have played an important role in endangering the species, they’re playing a significant role in helping to protect the panda and other animals, too. The costumes, by the way, help to limit a young panda’s exposure to humans so that the animal will more easily adapt to the wild and be wary of people, which is key to their survival. The text is well written with age-appropriate vocabulary, though quotes set in italics are a bit jarring. Every spread includes at least one full-color photo, and the eye-catching panda photos are primarily from the conservation groups. The back matter includes a page inviting readers to learn more about and to take part in conservation efforts. VERDICT Animal conservation is always a welcome subject in libraries, and the depth and breadth of this book make it a first purchase.–Marie Drucker, Hewlett-Woodmere Public Library, NY

redstarJARROW, Gail. Spooked!: How a Radio Broadcast and the War of the Worlds Sparked the 1938 Invasion of America. 144p. bibliog. chron. index. notes. photos. reprods. websites. Calkins Creek. Aug. 2018. Tr $18.95. ISBN 9781629797762.
Gr 7 Up
–With a succinct and engaging story, Jarrow informs readers about the 1938 The War of the Worlds broadcast and why it became so famous. Opening on Halloween Eve, with details about the geopolitical tensions and the growing influence of radio, Jarrow contextualizes the climate in which the program aired. By using short chapters, varied font sizes, quotes, photographs, and illustrations from the source material—H.G. Wells’s novel—she keeps readers involved in the fact-packed story. The chapter on the live broadcast is masterfully written in a style similar to an annotated transcript, with unobtrusive interjections that reveal clues for listeners that the radio show is a fictional narrative. The unvarnished profiles of the major contributors to the production humanize them, and it is illuminating to see the efforts of the team, which included two women. Jarrow effectively uses full-page spreads with excerpts of letters written to the Federal Communications Commission and Orson Welles that communicate the divided reactions to the broadcast. A discussion of the show’s legacy, journalism, and noted hoaxes allows readers to evaluate current events in light of this notorious event. Jarrow concludes with a well-organized list of online resources. VERDICT A skillfully written title that deserves space in middle and high school libraries.–Hilary Writt, Sullivan University, Lexington, KY

BROWN, Don. The Unwanted: Stories of the Syrian Refugees. illus. by Don Brown. 112p. bibliog. maps. notes. HMH. Sept. 2018. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781328810151.
Gr 8 Up
–In the spring of 2011, a group of teenage boys are imprisoned and tortured for spray-painting “Down with the regime” on a Syrian wall. Thousands of citizens who rise up in protest are met by tanks and snipers. The demonstrations and violence escalate, and civil war breaks out in Syria. Unsure of their chances for survival but certain of the dangers at home, thousands of refugees flee to surrounding areas. Blocks of text provide context about Syria’s civil war, as well as commentary on the international response, with supporting maps and charts seamlessly incorporated into the story. The loose linework reflects the chaos, and the full-color art depicts a muted sepia and blue gray palette, with touches of brighter hues for effect. Violence is freely but not gratuitously shown, and death is depicted only rarely. The back matter includes an extensive bibliography, with citations for the numerous quotes used in the dialogue, as well as a journal summary of Brown’s 2017 trip to Syrian camps in Greece, complete with pictures and source notes. VERDICT This accessible and heartbreaking primer, with its stirring simplicity and a note of hope, should be required reading for all teens hoping to be empathetic and engaged world citizens.–Alea Perez, Westmont Public Library, IL

Check out SLJ's interview with Don Brown

redstarSORELL, Traci. We Are Grateful: Otsaliheliga. illus. by Frané Lessac. 32p. Charlesbridge. Sept. 2018. Tr $17.95. ISBN 9781580897723.
K-Gr 2
–Sorell, a citizen of the Cherokee Nation, offers readers a look at contemporary Cherokee life as she follows a family through the seasons of the year as they take part in ceremonies and festivals. The book opens, “Cherokee people say otsaliheliga to express gratitude. It is a reminder to celebrate our blessings and reflect on struggles—daily, throughout the year….” Beginning in the fall (uligohvsdi) with the Cherokee New Year, a variety of rituals and cultural symbols are introduced, all in spare, lyrical, accessible language. Traditional foods, crafts, and songs are part of the engaging narrative, as is the refrain, “we say otsaliheliga.” Once through the calendar, Sorell circles back to the Cherokee National Holiday (Labor Day weekend), “when we recall the ancestors’ sacrifices to preserve our way of life…. to celebrate nulistanidolv, history, and listen to our tribal leaders speak.” Cherokee words are presented both phonetically and written in the Cherokee syllabary. Lessac’s lovely gouache folk-art style paintings bring the scenes to life. Back matter includes a description of the various ceremonies, notes, and a page devoted to the Cherokee ­syllabary. VERDICT This informative and authentic introduction to a thriving ancestral and ceremonial way of life is perfect for holiday and family sharing.–Luann Toth, School Library Journal

STONEWALL BOOK AWARD

redstarLOVE, Jessica. Julian Is a Mermaid. illus. by Jessica Love. 40p. Candlewick. May 2018. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780763690458.
PreS-Gr 2–Young Julian lives with his abuela and is obsessed with mermaids. He imagines taking off his clothes, growing a tail, and swimming freely through the blue-tinted water with swirls of fish and stingrays. After spying some women on a train dressed as mermaids, Julian later tells his abuela, “I am also a mermaid,” then proceeds to wrap a curtain around his waist as a “tail.” Ferns in his hair complete the fantastical look, and when his grandmother catches him —is he in trouble? Not at all! In fact, she takes Julian to a festival where people are dressed as fantastically as Julian. Love couples the spare narrative with vivid, imaginative, and breathtaking illustrations. VERDICT A heartwarming must-have for one-on-one and small group sharing.–Amanda C. Buschmann, Carroll Elementary School, Houston

redstarCallender, Kheryn. Hurricane Child. 224p. Scholastic. Mar. 2018. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781338129304.
Gr 4-6
–Twelve-year-old Caroline and her father live on Water Island in the U.S. Virgin Islands. Caroline, known as a “Hurricane Child,” since she was born during a hurricane, is plagued with bad luck. She sees a spirit—the woman in black—that no one else can see. She is bullied daily at school by both children and her teachers who make cruel remarks about her dark skin tone. Her feelings of loneliness are compounded by the fact that her mother left and never returned. When a new student from Barbados named Kalinda joins her class, Caroline is drawn to Kalinda’s confidence and disinterest in befriending the bullies. The two girls soon become close friends. Caroline realizes her feelings for Kalinda are more than platonic and when she expresses them to Kalinda, they are unfortunately met with resistance. Nevertheless, Kalinda agrees to help Caroline find her mother in the midst of a terrible storm. By the end, the protagonist is able to feel more at peace with herself, her family, and her complex relationship with Kalinda. The novel moves at a substantial pace and contains intermittent flashbacks. Told solely from Caroline’s perspective, readers get an in-depth understanding of her experiences and feelings. Lush descriptions bring the Caribbean environment to vivid life. VERDICT An excellent and nuanced coming-of-age tale with a dash of magical realism for readers who enjoy character-driven novels, especially those with middle grade LGBTQ+ characterizations.–Jess Gafkowitz, Brooklyn Public Library

STONEWALL HONORS

redstarBLAKE, Ashley Herring. Ivy Aberdeen’s Letter to the World. 320p. Little, Brown. Mar. 2018. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780316515467.
Gr 4-6
–A sweet story of a first crush and being stuck in the middle. In the aftermath of a tornado, Ivy and her family find themselves without a home and dependent upon the kindness of others. Already often overlooked as the middle child, Ivy feels even more invisible now that her family of six shares a small hotel room. What’s worse, Ivy is developing feelings for another girl at school; but after hearing the way her older sister reacted when her best friend came out, Ivy doesn’t know who to talk to. Filling a much-needed gap in middle grade literature, this story addresses not just the topic of a first crush, but also the invisibility frequently felt by middle children. The protagonist struggles with the disappearance of a beloved journal after a tornado and a lack of privacy while sharing one room with her entire family. She is too young to help care for her twin brothers but old enough that she is often forgotten about. Ivy doesn’t feel comfortable discussing her blossoming romantic feelings with her family but is able to find a trusted adult in whom to confide. Young readers will find Ivy’s challenges very real and will sympathize with her choices, both good and bad. Give to fans of Tim Federle’s Better Nate than Ever or Barbara Dee’s Star-Crossed. VERDICT Relatable and engaging. A first purchase for public and school libraries.–Jenni Frencham, Columbus Public Library, WI

redstarGILBERT, Kelly Loy. Picture Us in the Light. 368p. Disney-Hyperion. Apr. 2018. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781484726020.
Gr 9 Up
–A glimpse into the lives of teens who are dealing with issues surrounding academic excellence and parental pressure. This offering by the author of Conviction tackles topics such as suicide, sexual identity, and loss. Danny Cheng and his friends attend one of Cupertino’s privileged public high schools and future success is almost certain. Danny’s artistic talent has been recognized by his dream school, RISD, and no one is more proud of his full scholarship than his first-generation Chinese American parents. When Danny accidentally discovers a box of his father’s papers containing copies of names, photos, and public records of a powerful Silicon Valley family, he wonders if his parents are involved in something illegal with ties to their former life in China. On the cusp of adulthood yet under consistent parental watch, Danny is determined to unravel the mystery of his family’s painful past while navigating increasingly complicated personal relationships and school life. The strength of this novel lies in the ambitious main character’s simultaneous snark and vulnerability, which sways readers’ loyalty between him and his well-meaning parents. Uncomfortable feelings are communicated through smart, acerbic exchanges and Danny’s inner monologues. Dreamlike flashbacks smoothly weave the past’s secrets into present-day plotlines. Despite their obvious wealth and sheltered upbringings, the characters are a likable complement to the strange but plausible underlying mystery. The author demonstrates exquisite facility with tech-savvy teen-speak in every scenario and balances the authentic dialogue with elegant prose. VERDICT An excellent choice for YA collections.–Jane Miller, Nashville Public Library

READ: Kelly Loy Gilbert Talks About Representation, “Picture Us in the Light,” & More

THEODOR SEUSS GEISEL AWARD

TABOR, Corey R. Fox the Tiger. illus. by Corey R. Tabor. 32p. (My First I Can Read). HarperCollins. Aug. 2018. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780062398697; pap. $4.99. ISBN 9780062398673.
PreS-Gr 1–Fox yearns to be a tiger. “Tigers are big. Tigers are fast…Tigers are the best.” Fox and his friends, Turtle and Rabbit, spend the day pretending until a rainstorm washes away their disguises. Tabor uses pencil, watercolor, and crayon in a bright, but earthy palette. Most pages have a single illustration which provides context for one or two sentences. After Fox paints himself to look like a tiger, he admires his new stripes in a full-length mirror, can of paint nearby: “There. Now I am a tiger,” says Tiger.” The three friends have simple, but expressive cartoon features that add emotion to the story. Limited background details, creamy white pages, and an uncomplicated font are a perfect combination for an emerging reader. A humorous ending provides a positive message of self-acceptance that would have more power if Fox’s epiphany came from within, rather than from the affirmation of others. VERDICT This is Fox’s first appearance in an easy reader and it will surely be popular with children who enjoyed him in picture book format.–Lisa Taylor, Florida State College, Jacksonville

THEODOR SEUSS GEISEL HONORS

redstarRUZZIER, Sergio. Fox & Chick: The Party: and Other Stories. 56p. Chronicle. Apr. 2018. Tr $14.99. ISBN 9781452152882.
PreS-Gr 2
–This easy reader–style picture book is actually three stories in one and stars two lovable and very different best friends. In “The Party,” Fox is trying to read while Chick repeatedly interrupts him and requests to use his bathroom, where he proceeds to throw a raucous shindig with some other party animals. In “Good Soup,” Fox digs in his garden accompanied by an indignant Chick who reminds Fox at each turn that he is supposed to be a carnivore, not a veggie-lover. In a fun twist, Chick eventually remembers that foxes are also “supposed” to eat little birds, and is glad that his friend breaks the norm. Finally in “Sit Still,” Fox is painting a landscape when Chick buzzes by and offers to sit for a portrait. Chick has a long list of needs that prevent him from being able to pose, so Fox happily paints the landscape after all. In each story, Chick is the comic relief to Fox’s straight man. Chick takes everything literally, while Fox plays the role of grumpy, but secretly genial, next-door neighbor. Pleasant and cartoonish pastel panels add to this enjoyable read. In the tradition of Frog and Toad and Elephant and Piggie, Fox and Chick will feel right at home in company of these other friendship tales. VERDICT Simple vocabulary, dialogue-only text, and situational comedy make this a winning choice as a confidence booster for children just learning to read. Recommended for picture book collections.–Lauren Younger, formerly at NYPL

redstarTETRI, Emily. Tiger vs. Nightmare. illus. by Emily Tetri. 64p. First Second. Nov. 2018. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781626725355.
Gr 1-3–In this endearing graphic novel, an anthropomorphic tiger cub’s best friend is the monster under her bed. Tiger’s parents think Monster is imaginary, but every evening, they let Tiger bring Monster dinner. Monster eats, the two of them play games, and when Tiger goes to sleep, Monster scares the nightmares away and makes sure the little cub gets a good night’s rest. But when a nightmare that even Monster can’t handle appears, Tiger has to learn to face her fears herself. The characters are adorable, and Tiger’s world is original and futuristic, with flying vehicles and industrial-style buildings. The graphics are in gorgeous full color, with an almost blurred watercolor effect, beautifully conveying both delightfully creepy nightmare scenes and vibrant daytime illustrations. An image of intrepid little Tiger staring up at the nightmare, a creature with a shadowy body and a horned skull, is especially striking. The use of panels of a multitude of sizes enriches the narrative. The speech balloons are particularly well done, adding dimension to every mood or situation. The vocabulary is approachable—kids will enjoy reading this on their own or with an adult. VERDICT Tetri has crafted a sweet, uplifting tale of best friends, imagination, bravery, and teamwork. Highly recommended for fans of Lorena Alvarez’s Nightlights and anyone who has, or remembers having, nighttime terrors.–Kelley Gile, Cheshire Public Library, CT

WILLIAM C. MORRIS AWARD

redstarKHORRAM, Adib. Darius the Great Is Not Okay. 320p. Dial. Aug. 2018. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780525552963.
Gr 8 Up–Darius is a bullied American teenager dealing with numerous stigmas. His mom is Persian and his “Übermensch” dad is white. He is overweight. He takes medication for depression. He is a devotee of artisanal tea, Star Trek (all seasons), and Tolkien. And there is an unspoken awareness that Darius is gay. He is certain that he is a constant disappointment to his father who also takes antidepressants, which they both consider a weakness. When his family travels to Iran to see his mother’s parents because his grandfather (Babou) is dying, Darius experiences shifting perceptions about the country, his extended family, and himself. Debut author Khorram presents meticulous descriptions and explanations of food, geography, religion, architecture, and English translations of Farsi for readers unfamiliar with Persian culture through characters’ dialogue and Darius’s observations. References to Tolkien, Star Trek, and astronomy minutiae, on the other hand, may be unclear for uninitiated readers. Despite the sometimes overly didactic message about the importance of chronic depression treatment, Darius is a well-crafted, awkward but endearing character, and his cross-cultural story will inspire reflection about identity and belonging. VERDICT A strong choice for YA shelves. Give this to fans for Adam Silvera and John Corey Whaley.–Elaine Fultz, Madison Jr. Sr. High School, Middletown, OH

WILLIAM C. MORRIS FINALISTS

redstarMCCULLOUGH, Joy. Blood Water Paint. 304p. Dutton. Mar. 2018. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780735232112.
Gr 8 Up
–Artemisia Gentileschi, 17-year-old daughter of a mediocre Renaissance painter, assists her choleric father Orazio in his studio, mixing colors but, moreso, trying to save face for him by finishing paintings that he is incapable of completing. Remembering the stories of strong biblical women which her now-deceased mother recounted to her—stories meant to strengthen her womanly resolve in a society that valued only men—Artemisia is determined to be the painter her father will never be; thus, when her father hires Agostino Tassi (Tino) to teach her perspective, she is thrilled to have someone who can help her achieve new artistic heights. As she paints Susanna and the Elders, her relationship with Tino changes, and he finally seduces her. At first she is emboldened by his “love,” but, when she realizes that he has simply used her, she is determined to bring him to court in an effort to save her honor. Using free verse for Artemisia’s words and prose for her mother’s stories, McCullough’s beautifully crafted text will inspire upper-middle/high school readers to research the true story upon which this powerful piece of historical fiction is based. The poetry is clear and revelatory, exploring Artemisia’s passion for both art and life. The expression of her intense feelings is gripping and her complexity of character make her a force to be reckoned with, both in her times and in ours. VERDICT A thrilling portrait of a woman of character who refused to be dismissed; this belongs on every YA shelf.–Nancy Menaldi-Scanlan, formerly at LaSalle Academy, Providence

redstarUKAZU, Ngozi. Check, Please!: #Hockey. illus. by Ngozi Ukazu. 288p. First Second. Sept. 2018. pap. $16.99. ISBN 9781250177964.
Gr 10 Up
–Originally created as a webcomic, this tale follows junior champion figure skater and small-town Georgia boy Eric “Bitty” Bittle as he begins freshman year on the Samwell University varsity hockey team. An avid video blogger, recipe fanatic, and pie baker extraordinaire, Bitty is bewildered by his new world of bros, kegsters, and aggressive “checking”—roughness that wasn’t allowed in his coed hockey league back home. In addition, he is still unsure how to tell his tough guy team members that he’s gay. However, despite some disheartening setbacks, eternal optimist Bitty is determined to overcome his checking anxiety, work his heart out, and win over the guys—and his handsome team captain—even if it means bribing everyone with homemade pecan pie. Although this appears to be a simple sports comic at first glance, it is far more complex. Through a combination of hilarious team banter, foodie humor, and a lovable main character, Ukazu has crafted a compelling story about acceptance, identity, and confidence. She expertly uses bold colors and exaggerated facial expressions, such as Bitty’s large eyes, to convey emotion. ­VERDICT Although casual profanity, a few crass jokes, and some alcohol use make this a comic best suited for mature teens, this endearing volume is a must-have for YA graphic novel collections. Sure to resonate with hockey fans and sports newbies alike.–Lara ­Goldstein, Orange County Public Libraries, NC

redstarADEYEMI, Tomi. Children of Blood and Bone. 544p. Holt. Mar. 2018. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781250170972.
Gr 9 Up
–Zélie Adebola, 17, remembers the night of the raid in her village 11 years earlier. Her mama was chained by her neck and lynched with other maji by the forces of ruthless King Saran of Orisha. King Saran hates magic and considers it the source of all evil, so he targets and exterminates the maji, who worship ancestors and practice magic. Now, they live hopelessly as servants, slaves, stockers, and prisoners. Zélie strives to bring back magic in Orisha, so she becomes the main target of King Saran’s maji cleansing campaign. She sets out on her spiritual journey with her athletic brother Tzain and pet lioness Nailah. They encounter an unexpected ally. Princess Amari of Orisha escapes from her estate of Lagose after witnessing the murder of Binta, her maji best friend and handmaiden, at her father’s merciless hands. Zélie, Tzain, and Amari go on the run to restore magic in Orisha. Adeyemi’s debut and series opener is a revelation. She has brilliantly woven the Yoruba language and culture into a complex and epic tale. Readers will appreciate the intergenerational cast. Teens won’t feel lost in this lengthy tome because of the excellent use of flashbacks and backstories. The violence can be extreme at times, but it doesn’t feel exploitative, and themes of female empowerment make this especially relevant. VERDICT This extraordinary literary work offers a refreshing YA fantasy with an all–West African cast of characters that should be on every shelf.–Donald Peebles, Brooklyn Public Library

redstarSTAMPER, Vesper. What the Night Sings. illus. by Vesper Stamper. 272p. Knopf. Feb. 2018. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781524700386.
Gr 7 Up
–Fifteen-year-old Gerta Rausch did not know she was Jewish until the day she was picked up by the Nazis and taken to a concentration camp. She lived in Germany with her musician father and was sheltered from the reality outside her home, spending all of her time training in viola and opera. Gerta’s father reveals the truth as they are crammed into a train car. Gerta struggles to accept this news; she knows nothing of Jewish traditions and her only experience with her religion is tied up with hatred, abuse, and slaughter. Being allowed to play in orchestras keeps her alive in both Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen. Although the narrative describes life before liberation, much of it focuses on the postwar experience: life in concentration camps–turned–“displaced persons camps,” lingering hostility toward Jews, as well as the grueling journey many Jews made from Europe to Palestine. The illustration style and muted color palette work beautifully with the text, managing to communicate both despair and hope. The narrative is spare but powerful as it depicts the daily horrors of the camps and the struggle to survive, hold on to humanity and, once freed, understand how to live again. ­VERDICT This powerful story is an excellent choice for any library.—Carla Riemer, Claremont Middle School, Oakland

YALSA AWARD FOR EXCELLENCE IN NONFICTION FOR YOUNG ADULTS

BROWN, Don. The Unwanted: Stories of the Syrian Refugees. illus. by Don Brown. 112p. bibliog. maps. notes. HMH. Sept. 2018. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781328810151.
Gr 8 Up–
In the spring of 2011, a group of teenage boys are imprisoned and tortured for spray-painting “Down with the regime” on a Syrian wall. Thousands of citizens who rise up in protest are met by tanks and snipers. The demonstrations and violence escalate, and civil war breaks out in Syria. Unsure of their chances for survival but certain of the dangers at home, thousands of refugees flee to surrounding areas. Blocks of text provide context about Syria’s civil war, as well as commentary on the international response, with supporting maps and charts seamlessly incorporated into the story. The loose linework reflects the chaos, and the full-color art depicts a muted sepia and blue gray palette, with touches of brighter hues for effect. Violence is freely but not gratuitously shown, and death is depicted only rarely. The back matter includes an extensive bibliography, with citations for the numerous quotes used in the dialogue, as well as a journal summary of Brown’s 2017 trip to Syrian camps in Greece, complete with pictures and source notes. VERDICT This accessible and heartbreaking primer, with its stirring simplicity and a note of hope, should be required reading for all teens hoping to be empathetic and engaged world citizens.–Alea Perez, Westmont Public Library, IL

YALSA AWARD FOR EXCELLENCE IN NONFICTION FOR YOUNG ADULTS FINALISTS

SOTOMAYOR, Sonia. The Beloved World of Sonia Sotomayor. 352p. glossary. Delacorte. Sept. 2018. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781524771140.
Gr 4-7–
Adapted from Sotomayor’s memoir, My Beloved World, this edition brings the childhood and early adulthood of the Supreme Court justice to younger readers. Her reflections on her childhood are perceptive and poignant. She hides nothing from readers, confiding in them about her insecurities, sadnesses, and challenges in her journey from adolescence in New York City to college at Princeton University and beyond. Furthermore, she writes about her life in an immigrant family with humor and honesty. Sotomayor often references her logical mind-set, which propelled her success in school and law practice. This also comes through in her experience with juvenile diabetes, her observation of her parents’ difficult marriage, the death of her father, her grief over losing her grandmother, and her experience as a Puerto Rican American straddling two cultures. Ultimately, this is a work that is infused with warmth and encouragement. VERDICT A good choice for any juvenile biography collection, especially those where autobiographies and memoirs are popular.– Chelsea Woods, New Brunswick Free Public Library, NJ

PARTRIDGE, Elizabeth. Boots on the Ground: America’s War in Vietnam. 224p. bibliog. index. maps. notes. photos. reprods. websites. Viking. Apr. 2018. Tr $22.99. ISBN 9780670785063.
Gr 7 Up
–Rather than offering a history of the causes and effects of the Vietnam War, Partridge brings the conflict to a personal level, with accounts of eight men, two women, four U.S. presidents, Martin Luther King Jr., and Maya Lin. Chapter by chapter, the author introduces an unseasoned Marine tasked with life or death decisions, a nonviolent follower of King who fires at the enemy until his machine gun is red hot, and an 18-year-old South Vietnamese woman who must flee the encroaching North Vietnamese Army. Partridge’s interviewees all survived their year in-country, but what they saw and participated in haunted them long after. Late chapters on the Vietnam Veterans War Memorial and an epilogue provide closure. Photos of exhausted soldiers, pensive presidents, a helicopter evacuating the wounded, and stacks of coffins add visual immediacy to the emotional stories of young people at war and the protests stateside. Occasional racial slurs and strong language fit the circumstances of their use. VERDICT A stirring choice. Pair with DK/Smithsonian’s The Vietnam War: The Definitive Illustrated or portions of the documentary The Vietnam War: A Film by Ken Burns & Lynn Novick for a more complete picture of the war and its surrounding circumstances.– Maggie Knapp, Trinity ­Valley School, Fort Worth, TX

READ: Good Morning, USA: A Guest Post by ‘Boots on the Ground’ author Elizabeth Partridge | Teen Librarian Toolbox

READ: Teen Librarian Toolbox Reviews ‘Boots on the Ground: America’s War in Vietnam’

redstarHENDRIX, John. The Faithful Spy: Dietrich Bonhoeffer and the Plot To Kill Hitler. illus. by John Hendrix. 176p. bibliog. notes. Abrams/Amulet. Sept. 2018. Tr $24.99. ISBN 9781419728389; pap. $16.99. ISBN 9781419732652.
Gr 7 Up
–Combining drawings and text, Hendrix presents a contemplative look at German martyr Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Readers learn of Bonhoeffer’s lifelong interest in theology and his search for God. As Hitler and Nazism came to power, he asked whether it is moral to assassinate a tyrant. Ultimately, his decision to plot with other conspirators to kill Hitler cost him his life. The author provides a fascinating examination of the man and his commitment to his Christian faith. The narrative deftly moves between Bonhoeffer’s struggles and Hitler’s ascent. Hendrix’s dynamic images complement the text, using green and red to indicate good and evil. The dense text may turn off some readers, but the illustrations are bound to entice many others. Those seeking a more traditional biography should also look to Patricia McCormick’s The Plot To Kill Hitler: Dietrich Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Spy, Unlikely Hero. ­VERDICT The bold visuals will attract graphic novel fans. An excellent introduction to a great man and his fight for justice.–Margaret Nunes, ­Gw innett County Public Library, GA

redstarKROSOCZKA, Jarrett J. Hey, Kiddo: How I Lost My Mother, Found My Father, and Dealt with Family Addiction. illus. by Jarrett J. Krosoczka. 320p. Scholastic/Graphix. Oct. 2018. Tr $24.99. ISBN 9780545902472.
Gr 7 Up–
In this intimate graphic memoir, Krosoczka looks back on his childhood and adolescence. His mother was a heroin addict, who was incarcerated or in rehab for much of his young life, and his father wasn’t around—until Krosoczka was in the sixth grade, he didn’t even know the man’s first name. The author/illustrator was raised by his loving but often amusingly coarse maternal grandparents, who were well past their child-rearing days. Though growing up without his biological parents was painful, Krosoczka had a supportive network of extended family and friends, and his art became both his passion and his salvation. The visuals beautifully re-create his early memories, with fluid lines depicting the figures and hand-painted washes of gray with burnt orange highlights in the backgrounds. Borderless panels and word balloons deftly draw readers into the action. Artifacts from the Krosoczka family’s past are inserted into the story, such as artwork and letters, and even the pineapple wallpaper from his grandparents’ home is included between chapters. VERDICT A compelling, sometimes raw look at how addiction can affect families. A must-have, this book will empower readers, especially those who feel alone in difficult situations.–Kelley Gile, Cheshire Public Library, CT

READ: “This Was a Book I Needed To Write” | Jarrett J. Krosoczka On “Hey, Kiddo

READ: ‘Hey, Kiddo’ | Good Comics for Kids

LISTEN: Jarrett J. Krosoczka talks Hey, Kiddo on The Yarn


SYDNEY TAYLOR BOOK AWARDS

YOUNGER READERS

redstarJENKINS, Emily. All-of-a-Kind Family Hanukkah. illus. by Paul O. Zelinsky. 40p. Random/Schwartz & Wade. Sept. 2018. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780399554193.
PreS-Gr 3–Four-year-old Gertie, the youngest of five sisters growing up on the Lower East Side of New York City in the beginning of the 20th century, is frustrated that she can’t help prepare the potato latkes for the first night of Hanukkah. Charlotte gets to peel the potatoes and Sarah grates them; Henny chops the onions; and Mama cracks the eggs and adds the salt and matzo meal. Big sister Ella picks up Gertie so she can see the two big frying pans hiss and smoke on the stove, but Mama is afraid that the grease will spit and burn her and sends Gertie to her room. Discouraged and angry, Gertie hides under the bed until Papa comes home and lures her out with gingersnaps. Though she isn’t old enough to help make the latkes, she is old enough to help Papa light the menorah. And at dinner, Mama gives Gertie the first latke to try and it tastes “of history and freedom, of love and crispy potato.” Zelinsky’s expressive and textured illustrations done in yellow, blue, and red earth tones with thick, bold lines perfectly capture the love and warmth of a large family despite the modest and overcrowded living quarters. The back matter also provides information about Sydney Taylor, the author of the original All-of-a-Kind Family (first published in 1951), life on the Lower East Side, and additional background about Hanukkah. VERDICT While readers need not be familiar with the classic series, generations of parents who grew up with this unforgettable immigrant family will certainly welcome this new picture book as the perfect way to introduce these memorable characters to the next generation of readers.–Rachel Kamin, North Suburban Synagogue Beth El, Highland Park, IL

OLDER READERS

AUXIER, Jonathan. Sweep: The Story of a Girl and Her Monster. 368p. Abrams/Amulet. Sept. 2018. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781419731402.
Gr 5-8
–A stunning historical fantasy novel about the power of friendship, our potential for courage, and the beauty of remembering loved ones, set in Victorian England. Nan is one of the many child sweeps who have the dangerous job of cleaning chimneys. She wakes one morning to find her beloved father figure, the Sweep, gone, a lump of char in his place. Years later, Nan gets caught in a chimney fire and is rescued by the char, who springs to life as a Golem named Charlie. Nan soon befriends a young teacher named Miss Bloom, from whom she learns that Golems no longer live after their purpose is served. When a young sweep dies, Nan, her fellow sweeps, and Miss Bloom organize a protest on May Day to reveal the dangers of their job to the general public. Meanwhile, Nan realizes the Golem’s true purpose and with it, the difficulty of letting go. Auxier phenomenally weaves historical facts and fantasy. While the feats of these child sweeps seem incredible, Auxier provides back matter in the form of historical notes to clarify fact from fiction. Nan’s strong yet vulnerable personality will appeal to readers, and a realistic set of secondary characters add depth to the plot. The novel’s structure is a nod to William Blake and will delight teachers and librarians. VERDICT Excellent writing and skillful integration of historical fact with compelling characters make this a must-buy where middle grade fantasy is in demand.– Amy McInerney, Falmouth Elementary School, ME

TEEN READERS

redstarSTAMPER, Vesper. What the Night Sings. illus. by Vesper Stamper. 272p. Knopf. Feb. 2018. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781524700386.
Gr 7 Up
–Fifteen-year-old Gerta Rausch did not know she was Jewish until the day she was picked up by the Nazis and taken to a concentration camp. She lived in Germany with her musician father and was sheltered from the reality outside her home, spending all of her time training in viola and opera. Gerta’s father reveals the truth as they are crammed into a train car. Gerta struggles to accept this news; she knows nothing of Jewish traditions and her only experience with her religion is tied up with hatred, abuse, and slaughter. Being allowed to play in orchestras keeps her alive in both Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen. Although the narrative describes life before liberation, much of it focuses on the postwar experience: life in concentration camps–turned–“displaced persons camps,” lingering hostility toward Jews, as well as the grueling journey many Jews made from Europe to Palestine. The illustration style and muted color palette work beautifully with the text, managing to communicate both despair and hope. The narrative is spare but powerful as it depicts the daily horrors of the camps and the struggle to survive, hold on to humanity and, once freed, understand how to live again. ­VERDICT This powerful story is an excellent choice for any library.—Carla Riemer, Claremont Middle School, Oakland

APA AWARD FOR LITERATURE

PICTURE BOOK

redstarLê, Minh. Drawn Together. illus. by Dan Santat. 40p. Disney-Hyperion. Jun. 2018. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781484767603.
PreS-Gr 2
–An American-born child tells about his visit to his grandfather. Their meeting is awkward at first since the boy doesn’t speak Vietnamese; the older man doesn’t speak English. The reluctant narrator’s entrance into his grandfather’s home begins before the title page and continues wordlessly in a series of panels. Different foods and television programs exacerbate their inability to communicate verbally, all depicted in spare text and panels of translucent illustrations. The boy gives up talking, instead opening his backpack to pull out a sketch of a superhero. He is surprised when his grandfather’s sketchbook reveals another superhero, which leads them to discover “a world beyond words.” The boy and his grandfather connect when creating an artful world: one colorful, childlike; the other in sophisticated black-and-white line drawings. When the magic seems to dissipate, a dragon enters and appears to separate them—but once again the pair is drawn together in a satisfying conclusion that requires few if any words.VERDICT This handsomely illustrated book is perfectly paced to express universal emotions that connect generations separated by time, experience, and even language. It is sure to appeal widely on many levels.– Maria B. Salvadore, formerly at ­District of Columbia Public Library

CHILDREN'S

redstarYANG, Kelly. Front Desk. 304p. Scholastic. May 2018. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781338157796.
Gr 4-6
–Mia Tang and her parents expected to work hard when they came to the United States, but they had no idea how difficult things would be. After a year or two struggling to make ends meet, they find themselves managing a motel for a cruel and exploitive owner. The work is exhausting and the problems are many, but the Tangs approach their new responsibility with determination, creativity, and compassion, making friends everywhere and sheltering a trickle of immigrants in worse straits than themselves. Ten-year-old Mia takes over the front desk, and makes it her own, while dreaming of a future as a writer. Based on Yang’s own experiences as a new immigrant in the 1980s and 1990s, her novel speaks openly of hardship, poverty, assault, racism, and bullying, but keeps a light, positive tone throughout. Mia herself is an irresistible protagonist, and it is a pleasure to see both her writing and her power grow through a series of letters that she sends to remedy injustices. The hefty and satisfying dose of wish fulfillment that closes the story feels fully earned by the specificity and detailed warmth of Yang’s setup. Many young readers will see themselves in Mia and her friends. ­VERDICT A swiftly moving plot and a winsome protagonist make this a first purchase for any collection, especially where realistic fiction is in demand.–Katya Schapiro, Brooklyn Public Library

YOUNG ADULT

redstarKHORRAM, Adib. Darius the Great Is Not Okay. 320p. Dial. Aug. 2018. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780525552963.
Gr 8 Up–Darius is a bullied American teenager dealing with numerous stigmas. His mom is Persian and his “Übermensch” dad is white. He is overweight. He takes medication for depression. He is a devotee of artisanal tea, Star Trek (all seasons), and Tolkien. And there is an unspoken awareness that Darius is gay. He is certain that he is a constant disappointment to his father who also takes antidepressants, which they both consider a weakness. When his family travels to Iran to see his mother’s parents because his grandfather (Babou) is dying, Darius experiences shifting perceptions about the country, his extended family, and himself. Debut author Khorram presents meticulous descriptions and explanations of food, geography, religion, architecture, and English translations of Farsi for readers unfamiliar with Persian culture through characters’ dialogue and Darius’s observations. References to Tolkien, Star Trek, and astronomy minutiae, on the other hand, may be unclear for uninitiated readers. Despite the sometimes overly didactic message about the importance of chronic depression treatment, Darius is a well-crafted, awkward but endearing character, and his cross-cultural story will inspire reflection about identity and belonging. VERDICT A strong choice for YA shelves. Give this to fans for Adam Silvera and John Corey Whaley.–Elaine Fultz, Madison Jr. Sr. High School, Middletown, OH
 

MILDRED L. BATCHELDER HONORS

GANDOLFI, Silvana. Run for Your Life. tr. from Italian by Lynne Sharon Schwartz. 224p. Restless. Jun. 2018. pap. $15.99. ISBN 9781632061652.
Gr 6 Up
–Santino and Lucio live in different parts of Italy but are tied together by one thing: the Mafia and its control over them. Santino is a talented runner and a faithful son from Palermo, Sicily. When his father and grandfather are caught committing theft to pay for Santino’s first communion celebration, the young boy finds himself wandering through a ghost town and witnessing things no child should see. Lucio is 12 and lives in northern Italy, where he acts as a caretaker to his ailing mother and sister. When his mother goes missing, Lucio finds a mysterious text that sends him to Palermo. Readers may wonder how the parallel threads align, but the author adeptly entwines the two boys’ stories. However, this import feels like it loses some of its impact in translation; the language feels a bit choppy at times, and the characters come off as younger than they actually are, which may make it difficult for the target audience to connect. Footnotes throughout define Italian slang words, which is helpful and may draw in budding linguists. Overall, it falls a little flat and fails to deliver. VERDICT An additional purchase for middle school collections.–Carli Sauer, Carmel Middle School, IN

JUN, Nie. My Beijing: Four Stories of Everyday Wonder. tr. from Chinese by Edward Gauvin. illus. by Nie Jun. 128p. Graphic Universe. Sept. 2018. Tr $30.65. ISBN 9781512445909; pap. $9.99. ISBN 9781541526426.
Gr 2-4–Four slice-of-life stories about a young girl and her grandfather in a hutong neighborhood of Beijing make up this quiet graphic novel. In the first, Yu’er, who has limited use of one of her legs, dreams of swimming in the Special Olympics, but none of the pools will let her in to train, so her grandfather devises a way to swim without water. The middle two tales are steeped in magical realism. In one, Yu’er meets a boy who protects her from bullies and takes her to a one-of-a-kind concert. In the other, hearing about her grandparents’ courtship leads Yu’er to write a magical letter. In the final entry, Yu’er studies painting with a grumpy neighbor who laments his inability to act on his dreams when he was younger. Delicate full-color watercolors add to the gentle, dreamy atmosphere of the neighborhood as Yu’er, her friends, and readers discover the simple magic and wonder in everyday life. The translation occasionally hits an odd note but does not distract from the warm tone. VERDICT Recommended for most graphic novel collections.– Jennifer Rothschild, Arlington County Public Libraries, VA

redstarKUHLMANN, Torben. Edison: The Mystery of the Missing Mouse Treasure. illus. by Torben Kuhlmann. 112p. NorthSouth. Oct. 2018. Tr $19.95. ISBN 9780735843226.
Gr 2-5–A young mouse named Pete recruits a professor mouse from the University of Mice to help him find the treasure his ancestor mentions in a letter—a treasure lost at sea. Together, the two visit a library and a museum to figure out where the treasure may have been lost. Using the information they gather, the two mice create a mouse-size submarine and set off on their adventure. As in Kuhlmann’s previous titles, Armstrong: The Adventurous Journey of a Mouse to the Moon and Lindbergh: The Tale of a Flying Mouse, the gorgeous illustrations tell most of the tale. The large trim size allows the art to include plenty of fascinating details that young readers will want to pore over. VERDICT Kuhlmann has created another science-based adventure full of delightful details. A first purchase for most libraries.– Heidi Grange, Summit Elementary School, Smithfield, UT

SCOTTO, Thomas. Jerome By Heart. tr. from French by Claudia Zoe Bedrick & Karin Snelson. illus. by Olivier Tallec. 32p. Enchanted Lion. Apr. 2018. Tr $16.95. ISBN 9781592702503.
Gr 1-3–Raphael narrates his affection for his friend Jerome, opening with the line “He always holds my hand./It’s true.” He goes on to describe Jerome’s kindness and charm before introducing his parents’ perspective on Jerome and their friendship. Tallec’s watercolor illustrations feature Jerome and Rafael holding hands while riding bicycles, admiring butterflies during a soccer practice, and sharing a snack in the park. The translations from the original French are often poetic, filled with both the innocence and intensity of a first love. Raphael is aware of his parents’ disapproval—“Dad’s voice is like sharp fish bones in my hot chocolate”—which readers can interpret as their discomfort with the appearance of Raphael being gay, but this is left ambiguous. Raphael returns to feeling confident at the end, dismissing their displeasure (“It’s not like Jerome is a bad word”) and coming back to the certainty that “Raphael loves Jerome./I can say it./It’s easy.” VERDICT While relevant to readers experiencing the intensity of new love or recalling it, this book will appeal particularly to readers seeking sweet, tender depictions of same-sex affection.–Amanda Foulk, Sacramento Public Library

ODYSSEY AWARD (audio)

SUMMERS, Courtney. Sadie. Macmillan Audio. Gr 9 Up. Read by Various.
Audio is the natural format for Summers’s latest, which alternates between Sadie’s first-person perspective as she searches for the man she believes murdered her 13-year-old sister, Mattie, and a serialized podcast called The Girls. The podcast, set in the future after Sadie’s car has been found abandoned with her belongings inside, details a New York City radio host’s search for her, addressing themes of revenge, abuse, ineffective policing, poverty, and addiction. Rebecca Soler, Fred Berman, Dan Bittner, Gabra Zackman, and others do an exceptional job of bringing the book to life.

ODYSSEY HONORS (audio)

redstarELLIS, Carson. Du Iz Tak? 11 min. Weston Woods. 2018. $59.95. ISBN 9781338242997.
PreS-Gr 5
–A small community of insects discover something new in their midst. They speak an invented language as they explore a growing object they’ve never seen before. “Du iz tak?!” one of them asks (meaning, “What is that?!”), thinking it is a big tree. When it blossoms into a sturdy flower, the industrious bugs build a fort together that they all enjoy. Nine different narrators—including kids—whistle, hum, and even sing an original song. Background music changes fittingly along with the scenes, with jarring piano discord as a spider covers the fort with a sticky web. The tale is imaginatively animated as a hilarious assortment of bugs walk, climb, and slide. (One plays the violin while tapping its tiny foot to the beat.) The passing of the seasons is marked as the dying flower becomes part of the soil and the wind howls with the first snow. The story line comes full circle when another plant pops up in the spring. Animator/director Galen Fott has deftly adapted Carson Ellis’s Caldecott Honor picture book, infusing it with meaning and conveying the joy of discovery. Includes pre- and postviewing questions and activities. VERDICT This multilayered and beautifully and thoughtfully designed adaptation encourages inference, creativity, and teamwork and will delight audiences of all ages.–Lonna Pierce, formerly at the Binghamton City School District, NY

redstarWOOD, Susan. Esquivel!: Space-Age Sound Artist. 1 CD w/tr book. 30 min. Live Oak Media. Mar. 2018. $30.95. ISBN 9781430127895.
Gr 2-6–Juan Esquivel is no longer a household name, but in the 1950s and 1960s, his innovative lounge music was ­pervasive. As a child in Mexico, Esquivel began his musical career by playing piano and soon started matching sound to ­situations. He was a musical artist, using sound like paint, and he recorded many records in Mexico and in the United States. This audiobook version of the picture book biography is magical. Sound effects, mariachi band music, and unusual instruments perfectly blend to support Wood’s text. Listeners are introduced to a theremin, a buzzimba, and an ondioline. Esquivel played with stereo sound and the CD includes original songs performed by Esquivel. Duncan Tonatiuh’s distinctive illustrations inspired by the Mixtec codex capture Esquivel’s humor and accessibility. The author’s and illustrator’s notes provide more detailed background information for older students. VERDICT Paired with the print book and the online resources found at esquivelbook.com, this is a highly recommended addition to audiobook biography collections everywhere.–Terri Perper, Olney Elementary School, MD

redstarJOHNSON, Varian. The Parker Inheritance. 352p. Scholastic/Arthur A. Levine Bks. Mar. 2018. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780545946179.
Gr 4-6–Part historical fiction, part critical problem-solving exercise, part suspenseful mystery, this story weaves through the past and present of one town’s struggle with hatred and racism. Candice and her mother have moved temporarily from Washington, D.C., to her mother’s hometown in Lambert, SC, while her parents finalize the plans of their amicable divorce. Candice is miserable until she meets Brandon and finds an old letter addressed to her from her deceased grandmother with a puzzle enclosed. Twenty years prior, her grandmother had tried unsuccessfully to solve the puzzle that would yield a great deal of money to the town and the person who solved it. Together, Candice and Brandon make their own attempt. Who were Enoch, Leanne, and Siobhan Washington? How does an illegal tennis match played in 1957 between the white Wallace School and African American Perkins School factor into the solution? The characters are varied, authentic, and well developed. The plot moves along quickly and seamlessly between the past and present, with chapters from the 1950s shaded in light gray for a smart visual effect. The present day isn’t sugarcoated, showing readers that racial equity is still an unresolved problem. Appended author notes offer additional context, making it an excellent link to social studies or history units. VERDICT A must-purchase for most libraries, especially where Johnson’s previous titles have fans.–Anne Jung-Mathews, Plymouth State University, NH

redstarACEVEDO, Elizabeth. The Poet X. 3 CDs. 3:30 hrs. Harper Audio. Mar. 2018. $22.99. ISBN 9781538500231. digital download.
Gr 7 Up
–That Acevedo narrates her debut novel in verse is a sublime gift. She’s undoubtedly the ideal aural arbiter of her spectacular coming-of-age tale about a Harlem teen whose generational, cultural, religious, and emotional conflicts coalesce to teach her “to believe in the power of [her] own words.” Not yet 16, Xiomara is unlike her brilliant, never-gets-in-trouble twin brother: “He is an award-winning bound book,/Where I am loose and blank pages.” She fills those pages with everything she can’t say, revealing doubts, aches, secrets: “It almost feels like/the more I bruise the page/the quicker something inside me heals.” She’s not devout like her immigrant mother or her best friend, and she’s hidden her maturing body for years, until that first kiss: “He is not elegant enough for a sonnet /too well-thought-out for a free write,/taking too much space in my thoughts/to ever be a haiku.” Encouraged by her English teacher to claim her voice, Xiomara’s performance of her verses will be “the most freeing experience of [her] life.” VERDICT Libraries should prepare for eager audiences requesting multiple formats. Patrons who opt for the audio format can access Acevedo’s additional explanatory track about a final contrapuntal poem.–Terry Hong, Smithsonian BookDragon, Washington, DC

ALEX AWARDS (Adult Books for Young Adults)

CLARK, P. Djèlí. The Black God’s Drums. 128p. Tor. Aug. 2018. pap. $11.99. ISBN 9781250294715.
Clark combines historical fiction with sci-fi, creating a futuristic and Civil War–era setting of New Orleans. Creeper, a young girl, lives in a part of the city that is a free and an open port. In Confederate territory, slavery is legal. Creeper works with airship captain Ann-Marie to save Doctor Duval, a Haitian scientist, who has been taken hostage by powerful groups. Doctor Duval has knowledge of a weapon called the Black God’s Drums that can create hurricanes. Creeper knows that unleashing this weapon on her beloved city would be the end of her people. The short novel is brimming with suspense. Creole dialogue is used throughout. The two protagonists are expertly crafted, and their religious beliefs inform and add nuance to the storytelling. Both Creeper and the captain have spirits who guide and speak to them as well as provide them with mystical powers at times. (Creeper’s is Oya, the Yoruba orisha of wind and storm.) The author adeptly interweaves different threads around empathetic and complex characters to create an intricate, exciting page-turner. VERDICT Readers of science fiction will appreciate this ride through New Orleans.–April Sanders, Spring Hill College, Mobile, AL

redstarMILLER, Madeline. Circe. 400p. Little, Brown. Apr. 2018. Tr $27. ISBN 9780316556347.
Circe, daughter of the sun god Helios, mightiest of the Titans, was a peculiar child who had few of the gifts the demigods enjoyed, and she was despised by her parents and numerous sisters for her deficits. What she lacked in godlike ability, though, she compensated for with a gift for herbology and witchcraft. When she is rejected by her first love, the mortal Glaucos—who pines instead for the beautiful nymph Scylla—Circe casts a spell that turns Scylla into a hideous sea creature. For her transgression, Circe is banished by Zeus to an island, where she survives alone until Odysseus, “son of Laertes, the great traveler, prince of wiles and tricks,” lands upon her shores and is seduced by her. Drawing on the mythology of the classical world, Miller deftly weaves episodes of war, treachery, monsters, gods, demigods, heroes, and mortals into her second novel of the ancient world (after the Orange Prize–winning The Song of Achilles). Prometheus and Medea are among those who also make an appearance here. VERDICT This absorbing and atmospheric read will appeal to lovers of Greek mythology.–Jane Henriksen Baird, formerly at Anchorage Public Library, AK

redstarWESTOVER, Tara. Educated: A Memoir. 352p. Random. Feb. 2018. Tr $28. ISBN 9780399590504.
Raised in an alternative Mormon home in rural Idaho, Westover worked as an assistant midwife to her mother and labored in her father’s junkyard. Formal schooling wasn’t a priority, because her parents believed that public education was government indoctrination and that Westover’s future role would be to support her husband. But her older brother’s violence and their family’s refusal to acknowledge problems at home resulted in the teen contemplating escape through education. Admittance to Brigham Young University was difficult. Westover taught herself enough to receive a decent score on the ACT, but because of her upbringing, she didn’t understand rudimentary concepts of sanitation and etiquette, and her learning curve was steep. However, she eventually thrived, earning scholarships to Harvard and Cambridge—though she grappled with whether to include her toxic family in her new life. Born in 1986, Westover interviewed family members to help her write the first half. Her well-crafted account of her early years will intrigue teens, but the memoir’s second part, covering her undergraduate and graduate experiences in the “real world,” will stun them. VERDICT A gripping, intimate, sometimes shocking, yet ultimately inspiring work. Perfect for fans of memoirs about overcoming traumatic childhoods or escaping from fundamentalist religious communities, such as Jeannette Walls’s The Glass Castle and Ruth Wariner’s The Sound of Gravel.–Sarah Hill, Lake Land College, Mattoon, IL

redstarNOVIK, Naomi. Spinning Silver. 480p. Ballantine/Del Rey. Jul. 2018. Tr $28. ISBN 9780399180989.
Although he’s a moneylender, Miryem’s compassionate father has allowed the villagers to avoid paying their debts while his own family starves in the cold. With her mother sick in bed, Miryem steels herself and travels door to door demanding payment. Though she faces prejudice and anger because of her gender and Jewish faith, tenacious Miryem soon takes over as town moneylender, earning a reputation as a shrewd businesswoman who can turn silver into gold. Hearing of her skill, a Staryk (cruel, fairylike creatures from the winter realm) lord visits Miryem and demands that she turn his silver into gold. If she succeeds, he will make her his queen, but if she fails, an icy death awaits. What starts as a quest to survive soon morphs into a mission to save the human and winter kingdoms. As with Uprooted, Novik infuses a fairy-tale concept with Eastern European traditions and weaves everything into a comfortingly familiar yet stunningly unique work. This magical tale is a story of strong women overcoming hardship through perseverance, intelligence, family, and faith. With each chapter told from a different perspective, this masterly work pulls readers into the characters’ world, making it impossible not to root for them. VERDICT Recommended for teens who love fairy tales and readers who appreciate complex, character-driven narratives that build slowly to a satisfying conclusion.– Lara Goldstein, Orange ­County Public Libraries, NC

SCHNEIDER FAMILY BOOK AWARDS

KENSKY, Jessica & Patrick Downes. Rescue and Jessica: A Life-Changing Friendship. illus. by Scott Magoon. 32p. photos. Candlewick. Apr. 2018. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780763696047.
K-Gr 3
–The author’s true story of her friendship with her service dog. Rescue, a young pup is training to become a service dog, learning to fetch things, to open doors, and even to turn on lights. Jessica is recovering from an injury to both of her legs and is getting acclimated to using prosthetics and walking again. Each is worried about their skills and their futures, but when they are eventually paired, it is an instant connection and realization that they can do so much together. The power of their relationship is made quite clear throughout the book. Kensky, and her coauthor and husband Downes, were both injured in the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing and have chosen to leave that particular detail out of the primary narrative. Instead, they focus on the work that Rescue does to aid Jessica every day and the intensity of their relationship. Magoon’s digital illustrations are a lovely accompaniment to the text, providing rich detail to the spare story, and the scenes of Jessica and Rescue playing and working with the Boston skyline as a backdrop only add to the poignancy. ­VERDICT This is a strong selection for any collection, and stories about working dogs never get old; this will be appreciated and enjoyed by a wide variety of young people.–Jody Kopple, Shady Hill School, Cambridge, MA

SCHNEIDER FAMILY MIDDLE GRADE BOOK AWARD

redstarCONNOR, Leslie. The Truth as Told by Mason Buttle. 336p. HarperCollins/Katherine Tegen Bks. Jan. 2018. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780062491435.
Gr 5-7
–Calvin Chumsky, a brilliant seventh grader and the only friend of Mason Buttle, says, “The Universe is amazing. It knows what we want. And sometimes... it hands it over like a gift.” Maybe so, but the Universe isn’t kind to Mason Buttle. He is a large boy who has severe dyslexia and overactive sweat glands. He is plagued by two neighborhood boys who call Mason stupid and pelt him with lacrosse balls and mushy apples. One boy, Matt, not only mistreats Mason but beats up his own dog, who prefers Mason. Worse than the constant ragging is the memory of a tragedy that happened two years ago: Mason’s best friend fell off a broken ladder to his death. Lieutenant Laird has hounded Mason ever since to remember more about the accident. Mason finds his comfort in his broken-down house, the secret hideout he and Calvin create, and a school room monitored by a caring social worker. Mason’s family and friends have their own misdeeds and insecurities. Uncle Drum has sold off many acres of the family’s apple orchards. Instead of working, he spends his days in a diner. Shayleen, a runaway, tries to fill her life with stuff bought on a shopping network. Connor expertly captures the camaraderie of Calvin and Mason, the overly permissive parenting of Matt’s mother, and the suspicious attitudes of the townspeople toward Matt after the accident. The final line in the books says it all: “Knowing what you love is smart.” VERDICT A poignant underdog tale that will resonate with many young readers.–Lillian Hecker, Town of ­Pelham Public Library, NY

SCHNEIDER FAMILY TEEN BOOK AWARD

redstarOSHIRO, Mark. Anger Is a Gift. 464p. Tor/Tor Teen. May 2018. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781250167026.
Gr 8 Up–High schooler Moss is a survivor. He’s witnessed his father’s death at the hands of the police and has anxiety, but his friends and mother help him through panic attacks. He struggles with self-consciousness and body image, and his dating life as a large, gay, African American male teen has been nonexistent—until he meets Javier, an undocumented immigrant from a different school, and begins to fall in love. As Moss starts his junior year, metal detectors and random locker searches arrive at West Oakland High. Both new policies cause immediate issues for innocent students. Moss’s group of friends is affected and they begin organizing. Tragedy strikes during a planned school walk out, and Moss must stand up and fight for what is right. The heartbreaking last lines are a call to action; there is no resolved, happy ending. Part sweet love story, part social justice commentary, this title begs to be read and discussed. There are no good models of white ally-ship, and the title is stronger for this fact. In the same vein, the diversity of this title also makes it shine: sexual orientation, gender identity, religion, race, and ethnicity are all portrayed in Oshiro’s inner-city Oakland setting. This timely title will provoke much-needed discussion. VERDICT A strong addition to the current wave of excellent social justice–themed contemporary realistic titles. Give this to fans of Angie Thomas’s The Hate U Give.– Kristin Lee Anderson, Jackson County Library Services, OR

SCHNEIDER FAMILY TEEN HONOR BOOK AWARD

redstarJENSEN, Kelly, ed. (Don’t) Call Me Crazy: 33 Voices Start the Conversation About Mental Health. 240p. filmog. further reading. websites. Algonquin. Oct. 2018. pap. $16.95. ISBN 9781616207816.
Gr 7 Up
–Opening up about mental health is difficult but necessary, asserts the editor of this thought-provoking anthology. Libba Bray personifies her obsessive-compulsive disorder and anxiety, while Stephanie Kuehn describes life with misophonia. Adam Silvera dispels the myth that successful or cheerful individuals don’t experience depression; Emery Lord seethes at the ignorant remarks about suicide she overhears at a Vincent van Gogh exhibit. Contributors also examine gender, sexuality, and ethnicity, as in Hannah Bae’s exploration of her Korean family’s reluctance to seek help for her mother’s schizophrenia. The rare lackluster entry never detracts from the whole. As in Jensen’s Here We Are: Feminism for the Real World, illustrations and a peppy design enhance this scrapbooklike volume. VERDICT Misconceptions about mental health still abound, making this honest yet hopeful title a vital selection for libraries.–Mahnaz Dar, School Library Journal

 

See also SLJ's additional coverage of the 2019 Youth Media Awards.

 

 

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