SLJ's February 2018 Popular Picks

A playful, pajama-clad addition to the "Bear Family" series; two women fight in a cosmic battle a thousand years apart in "Furyborn"; #1000BlackGirlsBooks creator Marley Dias shares some tips for young success; and much more in this month's Popular Picks!

Picture Books

Asch, Frank. Pancakes in Pajamas. illus. by Frank Asch. 32p. (A Frank Asch Bear Book). S. & S./Aladdin. Mar. 2018. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781481480604. POP PreS-Gr 1 –Asch adds a new title to his popular series. The Bear family is enjoying a pancake breakfast so much that Baby Bear suggests they spend the day in pajamas and “eat pancakes all day long!” His parents agree; and dressed just as they are, they read stories, nap, take a walk in the park, and ride bicycles. They have so much fun that they inspire the whole town to join them in a bicycle parade topped off by a Pancakes in Pajamas party. Asch’s trademark simple, flat paintings set in frames show the bears delighting in their day. The narrative is similarly straightforward with short sentences and easy-to-decipher vocabulary. VERDICT A welcome addition to a series that encourages family time and simple pleasures, with a little dose of “silliness.” Good for storytime and on-on-one reading.–Lisa Lehmuller, Paul Cuffee Maritime Charter School, Providence

Bunting, Eve. I’m a Duck. illus. by Will Hillenbrand. 32p. Farrar. Mar. 2018. Tr $15.99. ISBN 9780763680329. POP

PreS-Gr 1 –When Duck was still an egg, he rolled out of the nest and into the pond. His frightened mother quickly saved him, but now that he’s hatched into a duck, he’s afraid to go into the water. With encouragement from his mom, brothers, and his friends Big Frog and Owl, Duck decides to use a puddle to practice swimming. There he splashes bravely day and night until, feeling scared but prepared, he dives into the pond! All the animals are delighted to see him come to the realization that as a duck, he’s “perfectly designed” for swimming. “I do the backstroke. There are cheers/so loud they almost hurt my ears./The other ducks shout, “Way to go!”/as I’m backstroking to and fro.” Any child hesitant to try something new will recognize themselves in the story of this young duck. Hillebrand’s mixed media images beautifully depict the natural setting and enhance the delightful rhyming text. Simple, expressive animals of sizeable proportions are displayed against pastel backgrounds. ­VERDICT Rhyming text, a cheerful ending, and artwork well suited to sharing with a crowd make this a good choice for storytime. Recommended for most picture book collections.–Gaye Hinchliff, King County Library System, WA

Fox, Mem. Ducks Away! illus. by Judy Horacek. 32p. Scholastic. Jan. 2018. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781338185669. POP PreS-K –A duck’s walk across a bridge with her ducklings is interrupted by a gust of wind that brings about a chain reaction. The ducklings follow mom one by one until, just as the fifth one joins the group, a strong wind blows the little one into the river. “‘Oh no!’ quacked Mother Duck. What should I do? Where should I go, with four on the bridge and one below?’” As each duckling peers over the edge, it, too, falls into the water while Mother Duck repeats her lament, substituting different numbers as the amount of offspring on the bridge and below change. Finally, she dives into the water with her ducklings’ encouragement. All the number words, used as each duckling joins the walk and when Mother Duck speaks, are printed in orange, making them highly visible on white ground. The cartoon illustrations depict the ducks with simple shapes outlined in black and are filled with humor. VERDICT With visual and written cues that facilitate counting and simple addition and subtraction practice, and repetitive rhyming text that invites participation, this offering is an outstanding choice for group sharing.–Marianne Saccardi, Children’s Literature Consultant, Cambridge, MA

Jaramillo, Susie. Little Sunny Sunshine/Sol Solecito. illus. by Susie Jaramillo. 10p. Encantos. Mar. 2018. Board $14.99. ISBN 9781945635113. BL POP

Toddler-PreS –Sing, laugh, and play along with this interactive, bilingual board book that’s inspired by a traditional Colombian folk song. Each day of the week, Piggy loves to play outside with little sunny sunshine/sol solecito, and he loves admiring the moon when the day is done. Readers will learn the days of the week in English and Spanish, as well as activities for daytime and bedtime. The clever layout, which includes lift-the-flap surprises and a Spanish-English reversible design, is complemented by a playful, rhyming text in both languages. Bright, captivating yet simple illustrations and vibrant colors throughout the book make it ideal for very young readers and their caregivers. This is the sixth book in the series by the same author, including The Birthday Book/Las Mañanitas and Little Elephants/Elefantitos, and is equally deserving of space in any early literacy collection. The publisher has developed a sing-along app to accompany the book, which offers another opportunity for interaction. VERDICT Equal parts practical and playful, this sturdy board book is an ideal addition to any early literacy collection, and will engage speakers of both English and Spanish.–Natalie Romano, Denver Public Library

Maier, Brenda. The Little Red Fort. illus. by Sonia Sánchez. 40p. Scholastic. Mar. 2018. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780545859196. POP PreS-Gr 2 –This book begins with the line, “Ruby’s mind was always full of ideas.” When the child finds some old boards she decides that she wants to build something. So she asks her brothers for help. They tell her she doesn’t know how, but she says, “Then I’ll learn.” Each step of the way Ruby asks the boys to help, but every time they reply: “Not me,” said Oscar Lee; “I don’t think so,” said Rodrigo; and “No way” said José. So each time Ruby does everything herself. She draws the plans, gathers the supplies, cuts the boards (with her mom’s help), hammers the nails (with grandma’s help). Finally when the fort is complete, Ruby asked who wants to play in it. Her three brothers definitely want to do that. But Ruby tells them that they haven’t done anything to help her, so she will play in the fort by herself. The boys set about to make amends by fashioning a mailbox, planting flowers, and painting the fort fire-engine red. Ruby loves it! That evening she invites her brothers to a cookie feast, which they all enjoy in the fort. The bold and dynamic artwork captures the kids’ personalities and creative energy. VERDICT This delightful retelling of the old story of “The Little Red Hen” is perfect for storytime or one-on-one sharing. It also reminds girls that they can do whatever they set their minds to do.–Elaine Lesh Morgan, formerly at Multnomah County Library, Portland, OR Zommer, Yuval. Big Brown Bear’s Cave. ­illus. by Yuval Zommer. 32p. Candlewick. Mar. 2018. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780763696467. POP PreS-Gr 2 –Big Brown Bear has found a cave, but no matter where he lays in it, he feels like he is missing something. One day he notices a human cave; or as we know it, a garage. Human caves are full of stuff, so Big Brown Bear gathers up some of that stuff for his cave. Big Brown Bear loads up some boxes with his favorite stuff, including a vacuum, a rake, a clock, some pots and jugs, a clock, and a bike. When he gets it all into his cave there’s almost no room for him. He finds himself trapped in his cave and his friends can’t get him out. In the end, he returns the humans’ stuff and finds a better way to keep his cave from feeling empty by sharing it with his friends. VERDICT This delightful story is helped by illustrations that complement the text and are perfect for closer inspection. The sweet lesson about filling one’s life with friends rather than stuff is subtle and, in the end, stands out. A recommended purchase for most libraries.–Shana Morales, Windsor Public Library, CT


Berquist, Emma. Devils Unto Dust. 496p. HarperCollins/Greenwillow. Apr. 2018. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780062642783. POP Gr 9 Up –This debut novel is set in an alternate history of the American West. People live in fear of “shakes,” who become infected after getting sick and then feed on other humans and spread the infection. Sixteen-year-old Daisy “Willie” Wilcox and her family live in the relative safety of Glory, TX, where she cares for her three younger siblings after her mother dies. Glory, a fenced-in town, is ruled by The Judge—a much-feared figure who doesn’t care that his people are struggling to pay the monthly fee for his protection. When Willie’s drunk father steals money and flees, it becomes her responsibility to get the money back. This sets her off on an adventure with the Garrett brothers, shake hunters who also act as guides to track down her father. Hunters aren’t known to be trustworthy, often killing the very people they were paid to protect. Dark and gritty, this dystopian novel doesn’t shy away from death or danger. Berquist wonderfully balances the pace of the plot. The main characters are realistic and avoid pitfalls of instant love and abrupt personality changes; even when learning to trust one another, the protagonists stay true to themselves. Full of surprising twists and turns, this is a story of determination and perseverance as well as survival in hard times. ­VERDICT A great addition to any YA collection.–Rebecca Greer, Hillsborough County Public Library Cooperative, FL

redstarChoi, Mary H.K. Emergency Contact. 400p. S. & S. Mar. 2018. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781534408968. POP

Gr 9 Up –This debut novel examines modern relationships in the age of smart phones. Penny Lee leaves behind her humdrum high school years and meets her new college roommate Jude, who introduces Penny to her tattooed, mysterious, and sexy young uncle, Sam. After a strange chance encounter, Sam and Penny become each other’s emergency contact. Choi creates an up-to-date and realistic contemporary romance by upending the love story trope. Miscues and miscommunications, which often propel romantic plots forward, are replaced by open and constant screen-to-screen communication. The tension exists in the development of the relationship, starting with just texts, and evolving to a multi-platform, “in real life” friendship. In alternating chapters, Penny and Sam reveal their innermost thoughts. Choi explores love, family issues, identity, loneliness, and acceptance in the context of 24/7 social media. Despite the ever-present contact, deeply connecting with another human being remains remarkably difficult. Choi creates another layer of meaning by addressing the microaggressions that Penny, who is Korean American, faces. The protagonist’s response is handled deftly. An internal monologue includes a multiple-choice list of potential reactions to external situations that will ring true with readers and make them appreciate Penny’s wry sense of humor and direct approach. VERDICT A highly recommended purchase for the teens who enjoy realistic relationship fiction. Recommended for fans of Nicola Yoon’s Everything, Everything and Rainbow Rowell’s Eleanor & Park.–Eva ­Thaler-­Sroussi, Needham Free Public Library, MA

redstarClare, Gwendolyn. Ink, Iron, and Glass. 336p. Imprint. Feb. 2018. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781250112767. POP Gr 9 Up –Elsa is a scripted being. She was called into existence as subtext by a scriptologist, a maker of worlds who made Veldana, the place where she lives. Elsa’s mother is a scripted being who was trained to be a scriptologist herself. She continues the work of creating Veldana, and she has trained Elsa to do the same. When her mother gets kidnapped, however, Elsa’s life is thrown into chaos. She follows the trail of the kidnapping back to Earth, where she finds refuge with a secret society of pazzaerallone—people with gifts in scriptology, mechanics, alchemy, or all three. With their help, she eludes assassins, tracks down her mother, and stages a rescue that is successful in every way except for one. This entry is clearly the first in a series about a team of teenagers who have to save the world from greedy, wrongheaded adults. Set at the end of the 19th century, the novel samples historical figures the way a hip-hop album might sample a classic riff: it opens a window to European history, lets in fresh air, and sends facts flying. An author’s note sets the historical record straight. In the meantime, Clare spins an entertaining adventure tale that also addresses colonialism, inclusion, and musings on the nature of being. VERDICT This novel is a source of serious fun; a must-have choice for YA collections.–Sheri Reda, Wilmette Public Library, IL

Cohn, Rachel & David Levithan. Sam & Ilsa’s Last Hurrah. 224p. Knopf. Apr. 2018. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780399553844. POP

Gr 9 Up –Sam and Ilsa, twins in New York City about to graduate and head off into adulthood, plan one last delectable dinner party at their grandmother’s rent-controlled deluxe apartment (while she’s in Paris) before it is sold. Each is responsible for half of the guest list, and each has kept their half a secret. On each list are strangers, friends, exes, and more. Anxious Sam and rebellious Ilsa will come to terms with their plans for the future and for what might have been from the past. Should Sam push himself to leave his safe fortress in the city to pursue his musical dreams? Should Ilsa pass up on her chance at college to stay near home as a nanny? Teens will sympathize with the sensation of being on the brink of adulthood, and feeling as if the future hinges on the choices made in this one moment. Sam and Ilsa are well off, and their conversations and dinner parties seem a little pretentious. But the sincerity of the characters’ emotions elevates the story. While the guests at the party are easily distinguishable, we really learn the most about Sam and Ilsa; by the end of this short novel, readers will cheer for the difficult choices they make. VERDICT Fans of Cohn and Levithan’s previous collaborations will enjoy this one as well.–Kelly Jo Lasher, ­Middle Township High School, Cape May Court House, NJ

redstarColes, Jay. Tyler Johnson Was Here. 304p. Little, Brown. Mar. 2018. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780316440776. POP

Gr 9 Up –Narrated by 17-year-old Marvin Johnson, this novel gives readers a glimpse into the life and the tragic death of his identical twin Tyler. Their family is headed by a single mother separated from her husband due to incarceration. It’s senior year and for the first time, the twins are growing apart. Tyler now prefers his friends over all else, forsaking academics and his curfew. Marvin, on the other hand, is questioning the change and feeling an imbalance in the relationship. Gang violence erupts in a party both twins attend and Tyler ends up dead from an unprovoked altercation with a police officer. Marvin, who was being scouted by MIT for a college scholarship, begins a downward spiral that could only end with the clearing of his deceased brother’s name as a wrongdoer. Social media, as in real life, plays a vital part in the advocacy for victims’ rights at the hands of police, as well as for the efforts needed to organize public protests and vigils in memory of Tyler. Tensions arise in the community between proponents of the Black Lives Matter movement and those who push for “All Lives Matter” in response. This well-written, fast-paced story eloquently addresses how to grieve, plan, and participate in the burial of a loved one, a sensitive subject for all youth. It also succeeds in not avoiding tough subjects, such as systemic racism. VERDICT For fans of All-American Boys and The Hate U Give, this emotion-filled title is a standout debut.–­Sabrina Carnesi, Crittenden Middle School, Newport News, VA

Gonsalves, Florence. Love & Other Carnivorous Plants. 352p. Little, Brown. May 2018. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780316436724. POP Gr 9 Up –Lots of friends have plans, but Danny and her BFF, Sara, had The Plan. It was cultivated for years, until Danny decides to enroll in Harvard and proceeds to have a less-than-perfect first semester. A drunken confession results in Danny spending her second semester in St. John’s receiving unwanted treatment for an eating disorder. She is determined to keep her time in recovery a secret from Sara, but when her crush shows up at one of Sara’s parties, Danny’s cover may be blown. She struggles to balance her changing relationship with Sara with her budding romance. A sudden tragedy triggers Danny, sending her back into a tumultuous struggle for control. Heavy topics, such as binge drinking, drug use, and body dysmorphia, are given a very real voice through Danny. She uses humor not as a means of devaluing her struggles, but as a way to cope with the very things that threaten to tear her apart. Readers are spared a neat and unrealistic ending as Danny grapples with trying to manage her demons rather than exorcise them forever. Wondering how she is going to handle all of the obstacles in her way will keep teens engaged. A list of resources is provided for those who have experience or know someone with similar illnesses. Fans of Sarah Dessen will appreciate Danny’s relatable and realistic journey. VERDICT A must-have sharp, powerful, and witty immersion into the complexities of sexual identity and mental health.–Carrie Finberg, South Park High School, PA

Legrand, Claire. Furyborn. 512p. Sourcebooks/Fire. May 2018. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781492656623. POP

Gr 10 Up –Set in the fantasy world of Aritas, this novel alternates between the stories of two dynamic young women. Rielle is forced to use her elemental magic in order to save her best friend, the Crown Prince, during a disastrous horse race. In response, the King forces her to undergo seven trials to discover if she is the Sun Queen, a long prophesied savior of their people, or the Blood Queen, bringer of destruction. One thousand years in the future, Eliana is a bounty hunter working to keep her family alive in a kingdom long conquered by the Undying Empire. When her mother disappears, she has to decide if joining the rebels or ingratiating herself to the Empire will give her a better chance of bringing her family back together. By the time Eliana is coming of age, the stories of magic, angels, and Saints are thought of as myths, but Eliana will learn that there is still a cosmic battle being waged that she and Rielle have both fought in their own ways. The book gets off to a slow start due to the large amount of world-building devoted to the planned trilogy. However, once the story truly gets underway, it quickly becomes a page-turner. Readers will find the complex and flawed characters immensely relatable. The two narratives are deftly interwoven, and plot twists will keep teens on the edge of their seats. Frank descriptions of masturbation and a graphic sex scene make this appropriate for older teens. VERDICT A good choice where Graceling by Kristin Cashore and Kate Elliott’s Court of Fives are popular.–Sunnie Scarpa, Wallingford Public Library, CT

Strand, Jeff. How You Ruined My Life. 310p. Sourcebooks/Fire. Apr. 2018. pap. $10.99. ISBN 978-1492662020. POP

Gr 7 Up –A clever, relatable novel about teen competition, chaste romance, pranks, jealousy, and kindness. Rod, lead singer in a pretty awful high school punk rock band called Fanged Grapefruit, has an awesome life for the most part, with a beautiful, supportive girlfriend, a few tight friends, and a terrific, hardworking mom. Everything changes, though, when odious cousin Blake moves in for three months and begins to deliberately and sneakily destroy everything good in Rod’s life. He seems to have everyone fooled about his true nature. Rod responds: game on, and may the best man win. Witty dialogue, ridiculous yet believable situations, and just the right note of self-deprecating introspection make this a perfect book for reluctant readers as well as those who are just not in the mood for angsty YA novels. VERDICT Sure to fly off the shelves, this delightful addition to the minuscule shelf of truly funny books for teens will be eagerly snatched up and passed hand to hand.–Susan Riley, Mamaroneck Public Library, NY

Graphic Novels

Rivera, Gabby. America Vol. 1: The Life and Times of America Chavez. illus. by Joe Quinones. 136p. Marvel. Oct. 2017. pap. $17.99. ISBN 9781302908812. POP Gr 9 Up –America Chavez, aka Ms. America, previously highlighted in Marvel’s “The Avengers” and “The Ultimates,” gets her own solo comic in this rollicking, high-energy offering from Gabby Rivera (Juliet Takes a Breath). In this volume, which collects issues #1–6, the frosh at Sotomayor University battles aliens, heartbreak, uber-fans, and her past with attitude, a galaxy-bending fist, and the help of her close friends Hawkeye and Prodigy. Marvel readers will be intrigued by the many adventures of the Latinx superheroine and will chuckle at the cameos made by Captain Marvel, Peggy Carter, the X-Men, Moon Girl, and many more. The tale is powered by themes of unity, girl power, friendship, and family. Sometimes the dialogue is a bit on the nose and the action sequences feel slightly haphazard, but America’s search for her identity and roots will resonate with many teens. The vivid art accentuates the frenetic pace of the narrative and truly packs a punch. The Spanish phrases sprinkled throughout add another layer of authenticity and nuance. VERDICT A strong choice for most collections. Purchase where there’s a devoted comics following. –Shelley M. Diaz, School Library Journal Sutherland, Tui T. The Dragonet ­Prophecy: The Graphic Novel. illus. by Mike Holmes. 224p. (Wings of Fire: Bk. 1). Scholastic/Graphix. Jan. 2018. Tr $24.99. ISBN 9780545942164; pap. $12.99. ISBN 9780545942157. POP Gr 4-7 –This graphic novel adaptation of the first “Wings of Fire” installment centers on five young “dragonets” who are being trained to save the dragon world from war and destruction as they rebel against their handlers and strike out to discover their own destiny. They encounter a wicked queen who takes them captive, and the dragonets must work together with the help of a new friend to escape death and destruction in the gladiator-style fighting ring. The full-color illustrations bring the dragons and their surroundings to life, and the fast-paced, plot-driven story translates well to the graphic novel format. One of the dragons, Glory, can alter her appearance, which may be confusing, as her colors sometimes change without explanation. The text bubbles are occasionally hard to follow, such as when multiple dragons speak at once. However, readers comfortable with the comic format or familiar with the first book will be able to understand. VERDICT Fans of the series will be drawn to this visual representation of their favorite characters, as will those who enjoy epic, animal-based fantasies.–Ellen Conlin, Naperville Public Library, IL

Varon, Sara. New Shoes. illus. by Sara Varon. 208p. First Second. Mar. 2018. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781596439207. POP

Gr 1-4 –Francis the donkey loves to make shoes for his animal friends and neighbors, but he doesn’t do it alone. The goats down the road provide wool, Nigel the squirrel monkey collects the grass that is woven into fabric, and the chickens from downstairs weave it. When Francis is approached to make new shoes for the famous singer Miss Manatee, he is over the moon until he realizes Nigel has yet to return from a supply trip. Francis embarks on his first journey into the formidable jungle to find Nigel and the grass he needs to make an unforgettable pair of shoes for his favorite entertainer. With its seamless intermingling of earth tones and lush tropical colors, and its smooth, heavy linework, this graphic novel strongly evokes picture books owing to its numerous full-page bleeds and frequent use of nonpaneled pages. The text is large and the vocabulary mostly simple. However, some pages become overcrowded as Varon squeezes in related facts. Dialogue contains elevated, undefined vocabulary such as provincial and embellishment. Realistic images of jungle animals are worked into the pages via Francis’s guidebook, and the story acts as something of a guidebook itself. Plants and animals are labeled throughout, together with local naming conventions when applicable (e.g., jaguars are called “tigers” in Guyana). The spare back matter includes reference photos that inspired the story’s imagery. VERDICT This simple yet fun tale will help newly independent readers make the transition to full-blown graphic novels, stoke curiosity about the jungle ecosystem, and teach about teamwork, respect, and kindness.–Alea Perez, Westmont Public Library, IL


redstarDias, Marley. Marley Dias Gets It Done: And So Can You. 208p. charts. further reading. photos. Scholastic. Jan. 2018. pap. $14.99. ISBN 9781338136890. POP

Gr 5 Up –Dias pens an eminently readable and nuanced personal narrative of her #1000BlackGirlsBooks campaign and her tips, tools, and strategies for effecting positive change in the representation of Black girls in children’s literature and beyond. The work opens with Dias’s poignant recollection of how Jacqueline Woodson’s Brown Girl Dreaming raised questions about why the award-winning title, and other selections by Black authors, weren’t a part of her school’s assigned reading. Dias’s effervescent personality and style shine as she discusses her family, love of sushi, trip to Ghana, relationship to social media, and more—never underestimating the audience (“For the record, just this once, let me say: Hard things come and go, but it seems like racism always stays. There, I said it. And I’m doing all I can to change it.”). The text encourages readers to find and pursue their interests, provides valuable advice on activism (including how charity and activism are not the same thing), and strongly recommends reading for knowledge and pleasure. Dias’s beloved list of 1,000 books is included at the end. The eye-catching photos, empowering pull quotes, and bright pastel page borders make for a thoughtful design and will have readers returning to the book again and again. VERDICT An invaluable selection for any public and school library collection.–Jess Gafkowitz, Brooklyn Public Library

Joubert, Beverly & Dereck Joubert. A Leap for Legadema: The True Story of a Little Leopard in a Big World. 32p. further reading. maps. photos. National Geographic. Feb. 2018. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781426329739. POP Gr 1-4 –Legadema is a young leopard who must learn to survive in the Okavango Delta, in Botswana, Africa. Award-winning filmmakers, photographers, and authors, the Jouberts watched Legadema for four and a half years as she grew from a days-old leopard cub into a full-grown adult who must live and survive on her own. On the very first page, the authors tell readers to look for a certain unique spot right next to Legadema’s nose to help distinguish her among multiple leopards. The narrative progresses through the early years of Legadema’s life, with mini-stories about a close call with some lions and her love of chasing squirrels. Stunning photographs laid out over a bold color palette of oranges and greens will entertain readers and have them gushing about the beautiful big cats. At the end of the book, the authors provide kid-friendly fun facts about leopards and various resources for learning more. However, the suggested reading is mostly aimed at an older audience. VERDICT A strong addition for any children’s collection, especially where Deborah Lee Rose and Susan Kelly’s Jimmy the Joey: The True Story of an Amazing Koala Rescue and Lucy Cooke’s A Little Book of Sloth are popular.–Kristin Unruh, Siersma Elementary School, Warren, MI

redstarSaedi, Sara. Americanized: Rebel Without a Green Card. 288p. Knopf. Feb. 2018. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781524717797. POP

Gr 9 Up –Readers will laugh, cry, and empathize with Saedi’s adolescent journey as an undocumented Iranian immigrant living in the United States. Her memoir recounts the discovery of her undcoumented status as a teen and the naturalization process in her early adulthood. Saedi paints a clear picture of the financial hurdles her family faced as they rebuilt a life in a new country, the legal implications of not having a Social Security number, and the sharp contrast between her mother’s teenage years and her own. Readers will laugh at the author’s honest portrayals of awkward high school experiences and understand the anxiety that comes with the constant fear of deportation. The memoir tackles complex topics of immigration, sex, alcohol, cultural stereotypes, and what it means to navigate life between two cultures. Filled with pop culture references, journal excerpts, photographs, and relatable coming-of-age content, this book will keep readers fully entertained while pushing them to deeper cultural understandings. VERDICT A must-purchase for memoir collections.–Monica Cabarcas, Albemarle High School, Charlottesville, VA

Stone, Tanya Lee. Who Says Women Can’t Be Computer Programmers?: The Story of Ada Lovelace. illus. by Marjorie Priceman. 40p. bibliog. notes. Holt. Feb. 2018. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781627792998. POP Gr 3-5 –Joining the growing collection of biographies highlighting women in STEM careers, this charming, informative picture book provides young readers with a brief, lively introduction to Ada Byron Lovelace, whose interests and complex ideas were ahead of her 19th century reality. Lovelace was the child of gifted but scandalous English poet, Lord Byron, and his high society, mathematician wife. When Lord Byron abandoned the family, Lovelace’s determined, educated mother made sure the child was well-tutored in science, math and social norms rather than imagination and fancy. But, Lovelace’s creativity and passion were irrepressible. She befriended polymath, Charles Babbage, whose inventions intrigued her. Babbage envisioned an Analytical Engine, modeled on the Jacquard Loom for textiles, using punch cards for processing numbers instead of threads. Lovelace devised additional Analytic Engine algorithms that could also create pictures and music, “just as computers do today!” An addendum provides more historical details on Lovelace’s marriage, her fragile health, her connection with leading scientists of the time, her long friendship with Babbage, and her name changes. On every page, the gouache and India ink artwork offers a vivid, energetic depiction of people, events, and swirling ideas. The art meshes smoothly with the conversational storytelling, capturing the exuberance, elegance, and giftedness of this exceptional woman. VERDICT This appealing picture book will spark immense pride and prompt readers to do their own investigations into the world of mathematics and computers.–Gerry Larson, formerly at Durham School of the Arts, NC


PBS Kids: Happy Birthday. 170 min. PBS. 2017. $12.99. ISBN 9781531701543. POP

PreS-Gr 2 –This DVD packs 10 episodes featuring popular PBS characters, from Arthur and Daniel Tiger to the Wild Kratts and the Odd Squad and several more. Each segment focuses on birthdays and how to celebrate them with meaningful activities and gestures. For example, the Kratt brothers learn about porcupines while searching for the perfect gift for biomechanical engineer Aviva. Dog (WordWorld) is saddened that no one remembers his birthday, but unbeknownst to Dog, his friends are planning an exciting party for him back at his house. Among the subjects visited in these stories are teamwork, math (counting, addition, patterns), science, and positive thinking. The disc also includes a past episode from Reading Rainbow in which several library patrons plan a surprise birthday party for LeVar Burton at the local bookstore. VERDICT All in all, the DVD will bring smiles to many young faces, and viewers will surely rehash their fondest memories of past birthdays while looking forward to their next one.–Martha Rico, El Paso ISD, TX

redstarStories for Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. 30 min. Weston Woods. 2017. $59.95. ISBN 9781338091151. POP K-Gr 5 –This DVD contains two picture book adaptations that highlight the contributions of Martin Luther King Jr. to the civil rights movement: March On! The Day My Brother Martin Changed the World by Dr. Christine King Farris and Martin’s Big Words: The Life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. by Doreen Rappaport, with art by Bryan Collier. The first is fervently and emotionally narrated by Lynn Whitfield and is told in the first person by King’s sister. While there is some information on other aspects of the activist’s life, the focus here is the March on Washington, those who attended, and the “I Have a Dream” speech. Some of London Ladd’s illustrations are scanned, and historical black-and-white artwork has been included. Mahalia Jackson’s voice soars with the music of the time. In the second segment, Collier’s exquisite watercolor and cut-paper collage art beautifully augment the story of King’s life and his role in changing our nation, as Michael Clarke Duncan’s deep rich voice narrates. Background music is made up of mostly singing, emphasizing the fact that King’s mission was all about people. Included, as a bonus, is an interview with Farris, who provides further information about her brother and the civil rights movement. VERDICT This is an exceptional DVD that would be a valuable addition to school collections year-round.–Teresa Bateman, Brigadoon Elementary School, Federal Way, WA

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