SLJ's July 2017 Popular Picks

A little train peruses a tiny town, a young Wonder Woman finds a warbringer, girls learn to code, and bestselling fantasy authors continue exciting new series in this month's popular picks!

Picture Books

Elliott, David. Baabwaa and Wooliam. illus. by Melissa Sweet. 40p. Candlewick. Sept. 2017. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780763660741. POP

PreS-Gr 2 –Wooliam, a sheep who reads, and Baabwaa, a sheep who knits, live a quiet life together in their home in a walled-in field. One day, they decide that they need a little adventure in their lives and they set out to see what they can find. After they walk around their contained environment, a strange-looking sheep with dirty, sharp teeth and a filthy coat approaches them. This sheep is not very friendly and chases Wooliam and Baabwaa. It turns out that he is not a sheep after all but rather a wolf in sheep’s clothing, which Wooliam has read about in his books. When the wolf hears Wooliam and Baabwaa discussing this, he becomes contemplative. The chase stops, and the sheep realize that the wolf would like to learn to read. An unlikely friendship begins—one that is not free from an occasional romp around the field. With illustrations created in watercolor, gouache, and mixed media, this picture book is sure to hold the attention of early elementary children. Set in a luscious green field under a blue sky with singing birds, this upbeat story features sweet and relatable sheep and a wolf who is not evil but just rather rambunctious. VERDICT A fun modern take on the big bad wolf. The colorful visuals warmly convey the drama and excitement of the enjoyable text.–Amy Shepherd, St. Anne’s Episcopal School, Middleton, DE

Gall, Chris. The Littlest Train. illus. by Chris Gall. 40p. Little, Brown. Sept. 2017. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780316392860. POP

PreS-Gr 2 –Railway lovers will relish Gall’s latest offering. A little train, who has known only the “tiny town” he has spent his days circling, sees his world derailed when Mr. Fingers arrives, demolishing all he has ever known. After getting knocked over by a crane, he tumbles “down, down, down and into a brand-new world.” The little train meets a variety of big trains who take him on many exciting adventures with myriad new sights to take in. The digitally created artwork’s use of bold lines, bright colors, and expressive faces brings the trains to life, letting them burst with personality. A mix of oblong paneling and full spreads captures the energy of each train and the rich worlds they inhabit, propelling the narrative forward. Several spreads, with minimal to no text, of vast landscapes will absorb readers. The tale ends on a satisfying note as the little hero makes it home to find his tiny town is now an expanded world with new train friends and more tracks to explore. An author’s note with information about the trains will appease young train buffs. VERDICT A must-buy for all libraries where train books are in demand. A perfect choice for storytime or one-on-one sharing.–Danielle Jones, Multnomah County Library, OR

Litwin, Eric. Groovy Joe: Dance Party Countdown. illus. by Tom Lichtenheld. 40p. Orchard. Oct. 2017. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780545883795. POP

PreS-Gr 2 –In this second installment in the series, Groovy Joe, with guitar in paw and a tambourine on his tail, is preparing to rock when—“knock! knock!” In come more and more of his doggy friends with their own instruments, eager to join in. But with all these party crashers, “does Joe get upset? Goodness no!” Kindhearted Joe is happy to fill the room to bursting with his friends. Finally, with eight dogs crowded in, Joe insists that “there’s room for one more,” and this particular party guest actually has an invitation. It’s you, the reader! This title doesn’t skimp on the trademarks of classic Litwin prose—spare text, heavy on rhyme and repetition, with predictable patterns that younger children especially will find appealing. But for this new adventure, Litwin has added an explicitly mathematical element to the usual goofy fun. The author asks readers to add up all the canines arriving for Joe’s fabulous disco party. The endpapers feature Lichtenheld’s signature heavy pencil and show Joe and friends grooving among a variety of mathematical equations, and as each new dog arrives, Lichtenheld highlights the addition on a chalkboard backdrop. The accompanying downloadable song (“Disco Party BOW WOW!”) is also structured around counting—taking its listeners through an ascending count of three doggy guests who are “in the room” and “howling at the moon.” VERDICT A reliable crowd-pleaser, this book will easily slot into a storytime rotation with sure success.–Ann Santori, Cook Memorial Public Library, Libertyville, IL

Porter, Jane. Pink Lion. illus. by Jane Porter. 32p. Kane Miller. Sept. 2017. Tr $12.99. ISBN 9781610676113. POP

PreS-Gr 2 –Arnold, a pink lion, has an amazing life down by the water hole with a family of flamingos. One day, a pride of lions approach and tell Arnold that he actually belongs with them because he looks more similar to lions than to flamingos. Arnold admits that he does look a bit more like a lion and feels a tad confused. He decides to spend time with the lions, hunting, licking himself to wash, and roaring. After a busy day, Arnold isn’t sure he is very good at being a lion and returns to the water hole, only to find that a crocodile has taken over. Arnold uses what he has learned about being a lion to protect those he loves and gains a group of new family members in the process. This bold and bright picture book will promote discussions about identity and what makes a family. The illustrations are painted in intense shades of mostly pink, yellow, and green on crisp white pages. The font is large and easy to read. Young listeners will enjoy helping Arnold find his voice by roaring right along with him. VERDICT A terrific read-aloud, this is a story of courage, questioning, and belonging. Great for starting conversations with young children.–Amy Shepherd, St. Anne’s Episcopal School, Middleton, DE

Smythe, Richard. Toad Has Talent. illus. by Richard Smythe. 32p. Frances Lincoln. Sept. 2017. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781786030115. POP

PreS-Gr 2 –The forest animals gather for the Moonlight Pond talent contest, but Toad feels he doesn’t “have any amazing skills or tricks.” Digital and watercolor spreads capture the energy of the crowd of creatures who have congregated under the full moon while Toad finds “the loneliest, most secret corner of the pond” from which to watch the competition. Close-ups pop from the white page and highlight the animals and their abilities: for instance, Snake’s agility and Duck and her little ones’ teamwork. The text is comprised of a few sentences per page with a delightful variety of verbs. For example, during their performance, the mice “wiggled, jiggled, bounced and…jumped!” A predictable pattern emerges: Toad admires the other animals, then thinks of all the reasons he can’t do what they have just done. The pacing is perfect as Toad becomes more and more despondent until he is suddenly noticed. In contrast to the other animals, who are portrayed with color and movement, Toad sits spotlighted in a moonbeam amid blackness. Vignettes depicting Toad as he “slipped and tripped, stumbled and fumbled” adroitly capture the action. This story conveys the message that we all have something to contribute, even if our talents are not the same as others’. It will doubtless be a favorite that is requested often. ­VERDICT A great choice for a read-aloud, mentor text on action verbs, or guidance lesson on self-esteem and trying new things. Highly recommended.–Suzanne Costner, Fairview Elementary School, Maryville, TN

Staniszewski, Anna. Dogosaurus Rex. illus. by Kevin Hawkes. 40p. Holt. Aug. 2017. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780805097061. POP

PreS-Gr 2 –Ben visits the pound with his mother to adopt a puppy and ends up leaving with a dinosaur. Hilarity ensues as he tries to treat his new pet, Sadie, like a dog. Poor Sadie cannot perform anything she is asked to do. She obliterates cars, destroys fruit stands, and won’t even fit into her own house. Soon, the townsfolk turn on her and encourage Ben to take her back to the pound. One day, Sadie has the opportunity to prove her worth and chases a thief through the town and into the fields. Her dinosaur strength and speed render her more useful than any police officer. Could Sadie be helpful after all? Before long, Sadie charms her neighbors and is appreciated for the sweet pet she is. This upbeat and original story stresses the importance of compassion and giving everyone a second chance. Readers will learn how to look beyond appearances. Fans of Bob Shea’s “Dinosaur Versus” series will notice similarities, particularly the outrageous scenarios and witty dialogue. The narrative is perfectly complemented by Hawkes’s whimsical and colorful illustrations. VERDICT This is a delightful and funny read-aloud that will entice children of all ages.–Katherine Hickey, Metropolitan Library System, Oklahoma City

Tullet, Hervé. Say Zoop! tr. from French by Christopher Franceschelli. illus. by Hervé Tullet. 64p. Chronicle. Aug. 2017. Tr $15.99. ISBN 9781452164731. POP

PreS-Gr 2 –Tullet’s latest interactive offering encourages readers to experiment with sound. The author/illustrator tells children to say “oh!” each time they see a blue dot. The size of the dots changes: a large one prompts kids to let out a loud “oh!”; a tiny one, a soft “oh.” Tullet spreads the dots far apart on the page to slow things down and groups them together to speed things up. When a red dot enters the mix (“say ‘ah!’ ”), the words and illustrations become wonderfully wacky. What would it sound like if the blue dot had a conversation with the red dot? Or if they were tickled? Blending elegance and whimsy, Tullet artfully places simple shapes against a white background, letting the images turn delightfully chaotic at times. An argument between the two circles has a frantic, Jackson Pollock–esque feel, while a scene in which the narrator asks readers to pretend that the dots are jumping on a trampoline evokes the joyful energy of Keith Haring’s graffiti. Visible smears on the spots add a painterly charm. The enthusiastic text matches the lively ­visuals. VERDICT Whether shared in a group or one-on-one, this dynamic selection will make a boisterous read-aloud. Consider using it to introduce youngsters to the ­concept of musical notation. Pure fun.–Mahnaz Dar, School Library Journal

Chapter Books

Warner, Sally. Absolutely Alfie & the Furry, Purry Secret. illus. by Shearry Malone. 144p. Viking. Aug. 2017. Tr $14.99. ISBN 9781101999868; pap. $5.99. ISBN 9781101999882. POP

Gr 2-5 –EllRay Jakes’s fanciful little sister, Alfie, now has her own series. Alfie thinks that her last three weeks of summer before second grade will be boring, until her mom sets up a two-girl day care club. Alfie will be spending the next few days with Hanni, a soon-to-be second grader whom she barely knows. Summer camp turns out to be more exciting than expected, and Alfie falls in love with Hanni’s kittens and becomes pretty close friends with Hanni, too. She decides to take a cat home, even though she knows very well that pets aren’t allowed at her house, because of allergies. On day three, Alfie and Princess are discovered. Will the Jakes decide to let Princess become part of their family? Young readers will enjoy this accessible story with sprightly characters who remind us that sometimes rules need to be broken. ­VERDICT Fans of Junie B. Jones and Kylie Jean will not be disappointed. A solid addition to chapter book shelves.–Martha Rico, El Paso ISD, TX

Middle Grade

Cowell, Cressida. The Wizards of Once. illus. by Cressida Cowell. 384p. Little, Brown. Oct. 2017. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780316508339. POP

Gr 4-6 –Readers of “How To Train Your Dragon” will be ecstatic to get their hands on this first volume in Cowell’s new series. Thirteen-year-olds Xar (a wizard prince whose magic hasn’t kicked in yet) and Wish (a warrior princess who is anything but warriorlike) meet in the wildwood as enemies. When they discover the return of witches, thought to be extinct, they must rise above the prejudices of their parents and work together to fight the bad magic. Cowell crafts two believable and lovable main characters, each with their own story arc, who change just enough in this installment so that readers will want to follow them in upcoming entries. Kids will snicker at the creative swearing (“By mistletoe and leafmould and the ginger sideburns of the Great Grim Ogre”) and delight in fantastical details, such as traveling by door. The author’s hallmark sketches are sprinkled throughout, and full-page illustrations every few pages of text will help younger readers make it through this hefty tome. While this is a less emotionally compelling and original tale than Cowell’s previous work, the author’s fans will be quite satisfied with this fast-paced novel. VERDICT A strong new series starter by a best-selling author; buy multiple copies wherever ­possible.–Hillary Perelyubskiy, Los Angeles Public Library

Grabenstein, Chris. Mr. Lemoncello’s Great Library Race. 288p. Random. Oct. 2017. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780553536065. POP

Gr 3-6 –Eccentric billionaire game maker Luigi Lemoncello is back with all-new games and contraptions. In his ultramodern, high-tech library, Lemoncello unveils his newest creation, the Nonfictionator, which is capable of generating historical holograms, including Abraham Lincoln and Eleanor Roosevelt, who then converse with library patrons. Kyle Keeley, Akimi, and the other young contestants are back in this third installment facing their greatest challenge yet—the Great Library Race. Teams of contestants must travel by bookmobile and Mr. Lemoncello’s private jet as they discover clues about historical figures such as Thomas Edison and the Wright brothers. When Kyle’s team unearths evidence that suggests that the title character is a fraud who stole the ideas for his blockbuster games, it is up to the young sleuths to learn the truth before Lemoncello’s empire and library are ruined. Lemoncello’s nemesis game rivals, the Krinkle brothers, along with a slew of other nefarious characters, try to mastermind an evil takeover. Fans will embrace this new entry, which, like the previous books, features lightning-fast pacing and zany plotlines. Educators will be pleased by the emphasis on careful research and fact-checking. VERDICT Chock-full of literary references, this title will have readers racing to pick up the next volume in this popular series.–Michele Shaw, Quail Run Elementary School, San Ramon, CA


Bardugo, Leigh. Wonder Woman: Warbringer. 384p. Random. Aug. 2017. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9780399549731. POP

Gr 9 Up –Before she was Wonder Woman, she was Diana, daughter of Hippolyta—and desperate for her mother’s approval. When Diana witnesses a shipwreck, she decides she cannot let the sole survivor drown. But when disease begins to afflict Diana’s Amazon sisters, and earthquakes shake the island of Themyscira, it becomes clear that Diana’s choice to rescue Alia has consequences she never could have imagined. Alia is no ordinary girl—she is a descendant of Helen of Troy, the woman whose face “launched a thousand ships.” But it wasn’t Helen’s beauty that drove men to war—Helen was a Warbringer, a deadly legacy Alia has inherited. Diana, Alia, and a motley crew of New York teenagers must find a way to end Alia’s potentially destructive power and prevent global war. But there are both human and mythological forces that stand in their way. This book is cinematic in its presentation—fans of the Wonder Woman movie or comics will be satisfied by the fight sequences and the sidekick characters. And the plot about the world on the brink of war feels timely. This book will also appeal to fans of James Patterson’s “Maximum Ride” series. ­VERDICT Not very nuanced, but full of heart and good fun. A strong choice for collections needing female-powered titles for reluctant readers.–Heather M. Campbell, formerly at Philip S. Miller Library, Castle Rock, CO

Bruchac, Joseph. Arrow of Lightning. 400p. (Killer of Enemies). Lee & Low/Tu Bks. May 2017. Tr $19.95. ISBN 9781620143308. POP

Gr 7 Up –One year after Lozen escaped The Haven, her life has changed dramatically. No longer under the tyrannical rule of The Ones, she has created a community in Valley Where First Light Paints the Cliffs with her band of family and friends. But Lozen is still Killer of Enemies, and while the “gemod” creatures in the surrounding desert are easily dispatched, powerful adversaries from her past refuse to leave her in peace. It will take the full extent of Lozen’s abilities, including those she is only beginning to understand, to bring down The Haven and liberate those held captive within. As in the previous volumes, Lozen’s strong relationships and deep-rooted Apache heritage form the emotional heart of the story. The action-packed plot moves swiftly from one battle to the next while still allowing plenty of space for readers to ponder complex questions of life, death, and duty along with Lozen. Indeed, it is the heroine’s thoughtful consideration of her place in the world and the consequences of her decisions that sets her apart from so many other literary teenage assassins. The ending is surprisingly quiet, powerful, and hopeful, even as Bruchac makes it clear that the future for Lozen and her community is far from certain or easy. VERDICT A thrilling final chapter for a memorable teen heroine and a satisfying conclusion to a refreshingly original dystopian trilogy.–Chelsea Couillard-Smith, Hennepin County Library, MN

Graudin, Ryan. Invictus. 464p. Little, Brown. Sept. 2017. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780316503075. POP

Gr 9 Up –Farway Gaius McCarthy was born out of time; his mother was a time traveler from the 24th century, his father a gladiator from the year 95 AD. Far was born in The Grid, a place where time doesn’t exist, and because of his special birth, he always considered himself destined for greatness, dancing from time to time, recording history as a member of the Corps of Central Time Travelers. His dreams disappear, however, when he fails his all-or-nothing finals simulation, the victim of a sabotage no one else believes happened. Now Far and his friends must work for the dangerous Lux Julio, gathering precious items from the past for Lux to sell on the black market. It’s on a mission to grab a book from the ill-fated Titanic that Far comes face-to-face with the girl who sabotaged his life and discovers a destiny far greater and more dangerous than he could ever imagine. This part sci-fi and part historical fiction novel has a solid dose of YA romance as well. The intriguing plot would be even more engaging without quite so many romantic side trips, but these digressions offer a good deal of characterization. The characters are all well developed and compelling; Far resembles a teenage Captain Kirk. As with most time-travel stories, things can sometimes be a bit confusing, but teens will appreciate this title and its well-rounded characters and satisfying ending that hits all the right notes. ­VERDICT An appealing sci-fi romp; purchase where the author is popular.–Erik Knapp, Davis Library, Plano, TX

Oakes, Stephanie. The Arsonist. 496p. Dial. Aug. 2017. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780803740716. POP

Gr 8 Up –Molly’s 17th summer does not have an auspicious beginning. With her foot in a cast after a run-in with a train and multiple surgeries, her father’s execution for committing arson scheduled in a few weeks, and her disbelief that her mother committed suicide three years ago, the teen decides that this is the summer to discover the truth about the enigmatic German dissident Ava Dreyman, whom she studied in school, and to find her mother. If Pepper Al-Yusef wants to graduate from high school, he must write a series of essays over the summer as well as deal with his epilepsy, his eccentric father, and Petra, the girl of his dreams. Molly receives a mysterious message that directs her to Pepper with the words, “He has all the answers,” and Pepper decides to join her in her quest. Their odyssey to resolve Molly’s questions results in Molly and Pepper learning truths about their family histories and mysteries—and a serious head injury that puts Pepper in a coma. Their stories are told through letters from Molly to Pepper as he lies in a coma, the essays Pepper writes so he can graduate, and Ava’s diary. The complex plot is fraught with unlikely coincidences; dangerous confrontations, lies and secrets, and leaps back and forth in time. The unique characters and compelling stories intertwine, sometimes seamlessly and sometimes awkwardly. The lengthy volume is a page-turner with frequent surprises and a little romance. Those willing to suspend disbelief will find this an exciting read. VERDICT A strong choice for suspense and thriller collections.–Janet ­Hilbun, University of North Texas, Denton

Reck, Jared. A Short History of the Girl Next Door. 272p. Knopf. Sept. 2017. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781524716073. POP

Gr 9 Up –Awkward high school freshman Matt Wainwright has two goals in life. He wants to join the varsity basketball team as a sophomore (he’s already on JV) and get the girl: his longtime next-door neighbor and best friend Tabby. Unfortunately, Matt’s life refuses to follow the script, with his inner monologue personified as an incompetent movie director who causes him to choke under pressure. This results in error after error during Matt’s JV games and prevents him from telling Tabby how he really feels. It’s not just here that his life-as-a-movie veers away from a picture-perfect script: a school tragedy leaves Matt reeling as he risks losing everything important to him. While this title doesn’t pack the same emotional punch as a John Green novel, or contain Green’s artistic turn of phrase, it is heartrending in its emotional authenticity, and its portrayal of loss and heartbreak in the second half is particularly poignant. In exploring Matt’s grief-induced selfishness, self-pity, and occasional outright cruelty, Reck takes the story to sarcastic and bitingly dark places without plunging into the abyss. Matt’s warm relationship with his grandfather and the surprisingly in-depth descriptions of basketball further enhance the book. Although the ending hits an anticlimactic note, it offers readers reason to believe that Matt will rebound. VERDICT The informal writing style, short chapters, and connections to basketball will help this tragi-romance find appeal with reluctant readers. A strong purchase for YA collections.–Alea Perez, Westmont Public Library, IL

Schwab, Victoria. Our Dark Duet. 528p. (Monsters of Verity: Bk. 2). HarperCollins/Greenwillow. Jun. 2017. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780062380883; pap. $12. ISBN 9780062672032. POP

Gr 9 Up –Six months after This Savage Song, Kate Harker is now in the town of Prosperity, hunting monsters with an underground group of humans. August Flynn, on the other hand, has reluctantly risen in the ranks of fighters in their hometown of Verity, where the humans are locked in a bloody stalemate with the monsters on the other side of the seam. When Kate is infected by a new and troubling kind of monster, she tracks it back to Verity with the intention of killing it herself. However, she must work with August and the rest of the Flynn family to stop the new monster and keep the city safe for humans. In the course of fighting for Verity, Kate must also confront Sloan, her father’s former henchman, and Alice, the shadow created by Kate’s own act of violence. The first few chapters of this dark fantasy contain artful reminders of what happened in the first volume. Lyrical verse is also strategically woven throughout, giving readers a peek behind the eyes of a monsters and adding to the darkly beautiful atmosphere. Creating a world where “violence begets violence” and monstrous acts literally create monsters gives the author lots of room to explore interesting issues such as guilt, sin, and forgiveness, which she does to great effect. Masterly writing, a fast-moving plot, and just the right amount of bittersweet romance make this book hard to put down. VERDICT A necessary first purchase for all teen collections.–Sunnie Scarpa, Wallingford Public Library, CT

Thomas, Kara. Little Monsters. 336p. Delacorte. Jul. 2017. Tr 17.99. ISBN 9780553521498. POP

Gr 10 Up –An eerie and masterly psychological thriller. Shattered from living with her unstable mother for years, Kacey arrives in Broken Falls, WI, to live with her father. She rebuilds her life, surrounding herself with new family and tight-knit friends Bailey and Jade. One night, in the deep of winter, the girls and Kacey’s half sister, Lauren, hold a séance to summon the spirit of the legendary ghost rumored to lurk in the forest. Their botched ritual precedes the sudden disappearance of Bailey, who fails to return home from a party the next night. As the investigation ramps up and clues are found, secrets about the girls seep into the town’s rumor mill. Excerpts from Bailey’s journal reveal a consuming jealousy and deceit she disguised as friendship, further shrouding her disappearance in mystery. Blame shifts from person to person to ghost and culminates in a shocking and disturbing ending. Thomas expertly captures the pointed nuances and the fickle, manipulative bonds of adolescent girls’ friendships. A fast-paced plot develops characters just enough to pique readers’ suspicions. The book is descriptive yet concise, deftly folding in layers of mystery, a ghost story, and realistic dialogue to propel the narrative forward. VERDICT A compelling and vivid thriller that even the most reluctant of readers will devour.–Amy Reddy, Lewiston High School, ME

Graphic Novels

Martin, Ann M. Dawn and the Impossible Three. adapted by Gale Galligan. illus. by Gale Galligan. 160p. (BSC Graphix: Bk. 5). Scholastic/Graphix. Sept. 2017. Tr $24.99. ISBN 9781338067309; pap. $10.99. ISBN 9781338067118. POP

Gr 3-5 –Galligan translates the fifth volume in this long-running series, which focuses on a group of teens who run a babysitting business, into a graphic novel. Dawn, the newest member of the Baby-sitters Club, has just moved from California to Connecticut with her recently divorced mother and her brother and has more than enough on her plate. She’s become close with her fellow club member Mary Anne, but Mary Anne’s best friend, Kristy, feels threatened by the girls’ bond. Plus, the club’s new clients, the Barretts, are keeping Dawn busy: there are mountains of chores to do, the kids (the “Impossible Three”) are still reeling after their parents’ divorce, and frazzled Mrs. Barrett is too distracted to be much help. Relying on a bright palette and close-ups of the expressive, large-eyed characters, Galligan easily shifts between giggles with friends and more emotional scenes, always retaining the upbeat, earnest tone of the original. Judiciously used first-person narration, interspersed among the speech bubbles, injects a poignant touch into this light, breezy read. The winsome illustrations are reminiscent of the artwork of Raina Telgemeier, who adapted the first four installments in the series into graphic novels, but with a charm of their own. VERDICT While this title is bound to attract fans of the series, newcomers will eagerly dive right in. Recommended for readers seeking friendship tales in the vein of Telgemeier’s books.–Mahnaz Dar, School Library JournalNonfiction

Albee, Sarah. Poison: Deadly Deeds, Perilous Professions, and Murderous Medicines. 192p. bibliog. chron. further reading. glossary. index. notes. photos. websites. Crown. Sept. 2017. Tr $23.99. ISBN 9781101932247; pap. $17.99. ISBN 9781101932230. POP

Gr 5-8 –The author of Poop Happened and Bugged: How Insects Changed History delves into the torrid history of poisons both accidental and purposeful. Albee explains early on that she has chosen to sidestep warfare and genocide and focus primarily on the Western cultures with which she is most familiar, though she doesn’t mention how freely she has speculated about historical deaths that occurred before toxicology screens could corroborate suspicions. The author provides a varied and engrossing exploration of toxic substances and their use and misuse throughout millennia. Chapters are roughly in chronological order and overflow with sidebars, photos, and “Tox Boxes,” which each highlight a single poison and its properties. The author avoids diving too deeply into chemical and biological minutiae, and the format and content combine for a quick pace. Touching on hazardous occupations, political intrigue, personal vendettas, and tainted food, among many other gruesome situations, Albee tracks the halting scientific advancements that have improved protections and saved lives, often as a result of hideous setbacks. The rapid-fire style and punny captions impose a certain levity, even when death and injury are covered, which may not suit more sensitive readers. But the extensive back matter will surely win the hearts of librarians and other fact-minded folks. VERDICT Ideal for readers, including reluctant ones, who delight in the science and scare factor of poisons or grotesque medicine.–Robbin E. Friedman, Chappaqua Library, NY

redstarGantos, Jack. Writing Radar: Using Your Journal To Snoop Out and Craft Great Stories. illus. by Jack Gantos. 224p. Farrar. Aug. 2017. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780374304560. POP

Gr 4-8 –You might expect that the writing method of the author of such no-holds-barred tales as Joey Pigza Swallowed the Key, The Love Curse of the Rumbaughs, and the Newbery Award–winning Dead End in Norvelt would be chaotic. You might picture him plucking bizarre anecdotes from his own frenzied noggin and slapping them together in a blind delirium of inspiration. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth. Gantos has taught writing for almost as long as he has been a published author, and it shows in this entertaining yet disciplined guide to the writing process. He takes a true craftsman’s approach—sketching inspirations and taking notes, assembling the work piecemeal before fitting it together, and then going over the whole in multiple passes like a carpenter embellishing, sanding, and varnishing his work. The author’s explanations of these steps, illustrated by his goofy cartoons and exemplified by captivating pieces of short fiction, are sensible and straightforward. “Don’t be that writer who waits all day for the perfect first sentence,” he advises, “or you will grow old while learning to hate yourself and writing.” Readers as well as writers will benefit from this structured approach. Being able to identify story elements is essential for critique: If characters don’t ring true, is it the result of inadequate exposition of their interior life, or is it the dialogue that doesn’t work? Even experienced reviewers will learn a thing or two. VERDICT A must for aspiring writers.–Paula Willey, Baltimore County Public Library, Towson

Gramling, Gary. The Football Fanbook: Everything You Need To Become a Gridiron Know-It-All. 192p. photos. Time/Liberty Street. Aug. 2017. Tr $19.99. ISBN 9781683300076. POP

Gr 5 Up –This browsable, trivia-filled title is full of useful factoids for football fans. Right from the get-go, Gramling dives into the stats and figures of the NFL, from most career touchdowns (Jerry Rice at 208) to most career rushing yards (Emmitt Smith at 18,355). Subsequent chapters cover coaching strategies, recipes for snacks, tips on how to play and/or start a fantasy team, and the history behind the Heisman Trophy, referees’ striped shirts, and more. A “Team Tidbits” section dedicates a page to each NFL team’s history and additional stats. The final chapter doubles as a football dictionary, going over game-related terms from A to Z. The bright, clean layout is visually pleasing, and the detailed, reader-friendly text effectively covers the intricacies of the sport. Unlike other volumes on the subject, the book does not rely on flashy gimmicks or graphics to hook readers, just solid information and fantastic photography. VERDICT A must-have for football fans or communities where the game is popular.–Joanne Albano, Commack Public Library, NY

redstarSaujani, Reshma. Girls Who Code: Learn To Code and Change the World. illus. by Andrea Tsurumi. 176p. chart. diag. glossary. index. Viking. Aug. 2017. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780425287538. POP

Gr 6 Up –The creator of the nationwide coding club phenomenon Girls Who Code provides a top-down look into the world of computer science and women in the field. The author takes a step-by-step approach to teaching the intricacies of coding while keeping the content relevant to the audience (a smart analogy involving a peanut butter and jelly sandwich effectively demonstrates computational thinking). Aided by Tsurumi’s humorous cartoon drawings that feature a reoccurring group of five girls, the text takes students through the entire process of a coding project. Saujani stresses the importance of planning, critical thinking, implementation, and debugging. Readers will enjoy the creative freedom the work offers, as sample projects refreshingly don’t rely on specific programs. The author concisely explains different subject areas within computer science. A highlight of the book is the sidebar profiles that feature real-life women developing the world of coding, from Pixar’s Danielle Feinberg to professor and roboticist Ayanna Howard. VERDICT This timely, well-written title is an excellent resource for budding coders; it bridges the wide gap between simple how-to guidebooks and complex coding textbooks.–Lisa Bosarge, Enoch Pratt Free Library, Baltimore


redstarFriendshape. 7 min. Weston Woods. 2017. $59.95. ISBN 9781338184501. POP

PreS-Gr 1 –Never have circles, triangles, squares, and rectangles had such personality! Author Amy Krouse Rosenthal and illustrator Tom Lichtenheld’s picture book has become a fully animated, joyfully scored video. Rosenthal narrates, but children voice the shapes, who bounce and wiggle adorably when they laugh. Their outlines give and bend, suggesting a wide range of movement, and their simple facial features move expressively. They wrinkle when they have a disagreement and straighten when it’s over. In fact, the shapes never stop moving, and sound effects and upbeat whistling and woodwind music enhance the action. This production makes a charming title sparkle with life. It’s heartwarming when the shapes form the word love and humorous when, as the credits roll, the shapes make amusing comments. Even parents will chuckle when Michael Bacon is credited for his music and one of the shapes says, “We’re only two degrees of separation from Kevin Bacon!” VERDICT This excellent production is a must-purchase for public and school libraries and preschool classrooms.–Constance Dickerson, Cleveland Heights-University Heights Public Library, OH

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Kids are using VR to explore worlds and create new ones


Kids are using VR to explore worlds and create new ones


Kids are using VR to explore worlds and create new ones

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