Luther College Student Reviews (December Supplement)

Reviews are sorted alphabetically by author’s last name.

Adoff, Arnold. Roots and blues: A celebration. (2011). Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (Clarion Books). [email protected], (800-597-6127). 96pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-0547235547. Illustrated by R. G. Christie.

This book is a collection of poems about African American history. Many of them are related to music, eventually progressing to poetry about the blues. All of the poems have a natural rhythm and are exciting to hear spoken out loud. The dark, vibrant colors in the illustrations give them depth and authenticity. This collection of poetry is excellent for students who enjoy music and will spark interested in them about poetry or history. (KAT)

Arnold, Ted, et al.. Manners mash-up: A goofy guide to good behavior. 2011. Penguin Group (USA), Inc. (Dial). [email protected], (212-366-2000). 32pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0-8037-3480-7.

The title is a great fit for this book! With fourteen different behavioral guides from fourteen different illustrators, the information on what is expected behavior in everyday places is shown through animals eating in the cafeteria, robots playing sports, and an octopus in the swimming pool. Kids can also learn what they should not do in these places by searching for characters in each guide who are breaking the list of manners. These humorous and unique illustrations engage the reader and make learning manners fun for kids! The last two pages include one goofy manner mishap that each of the illustrators has made showing kids that everyone makes mistakes sometimes. Recommended for kindergarten and up. (ALS)

Barron, T.A. Ghost hands. (2011). Penguin Group, Inc. (Philomel). [email protected], (212-366-2000). 40pp. $18.99. ISBN 978-0399250835 Illustrated by William Low.

Auki is a boy of the Tehuelche tribe whose name means “little hunter,” but his father tells him he is not yet strong or brave enough to go hunting with him. In order to hunt the guanacos, Auki must be able to face the puma without fear, so he goes looking for the puma’s den. When at last he encounters the puma, he falls down a dangerous canyon and stumbles upon the forbidden cave of the elders. Auki finds that the cave walls are covered in painted hands and wonders why they are there. Pajar, the painter, tells him to go away. As he leaves, Auki hears the puma about to attack the older man, so he goes back to save him. Pajar eventually reveals the secrets of the cave to Auki and paints the boy’s footprint among the hands. This book exposes children to the intriguing story of the Cueva de las Manos and presents one possible theory for its existence. (KAT)

Bishop, Nic. Butterflies. (2011). Scholastic Inc., (212-343-6100). 31pp. $3.99. ISBN 978-0-545-28434-9.

This informational book provides an up-close look at the captivating life of a butterfly. The clear yet richly informative text engages the reader and is a great introduction to this amazing insect. The life cycle of a butterfly as well as the function of butterflies’ eyes, antennae, wings, and tongue are described in a simple way with incredible corresponding photographs. The photo index and glossary at the back of the book are both great additions that help identify the variety of butterflies shown throughout the book. Recommended for early elementary grades. (ALS)

Block, Francesca Lia. House of dolls. (2010). HarperCollins Publishers (Harper). [email protected], (212-207-7000). 61pp. $15.99. ISBN 978-0-06-113094-6. Illustrated by Barbara McClintock.

House of Dolls follows the lives of the inhabitants of Madison Blackberry’s elaborate dollhouse. Madison Blackberry becomes jealous of her dolls’ lives and wishes her life was more like theirs, but the dolls end up bringing Madison and her grandmother closer together. While the short length of the story and the illustrations make this book accessible for grade school children, older readers will find deeper themes in this slim volume. (MC)

Blubaugh, Penny. Blood and flowers. (2011). HarperCollins Publishers (Harper Teen). [email protected], (212-207-7000). 344pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0-06-172862-4.

In a city where faeries live amongst humans, human teenager Persia works with an underground theater troupe called The Outlaws. Many humans regard faeries with suspicion due to an increasing exchange of dangerous faery dust and magical drinks. With a cast and crew of humans and faeries alike, The Outlaws are challenged by a dangerous critic named Major, who forces them to escape to the world of Faerie, where they encounter different kinds of political struggles. Blubaugh creates a fascinating and amusing world, but neither the concept nor the characters are explored deeply enough to create a lasting impression. (MC)

Bruchac, Joseph. Dragon castle. (2011). Penguin Group (USA), Inc. (Dial). [email protected], (212-366-2000). 346pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0-8037-3376-3.

Intelligent but arrogant Prince Rashko must defend his castle when it is overtaken by an evil baron in this tale inspired by Slovakian legends and cultures. Young Rashko begins learning about his ancestor, Pavol the Great, and through the legends he learns how to defeat the baron. Bruchac does a remarkable job of creating a believable perspective of a teenage boy who sees his family as idiotic, yet still rendering Rashko as a likeable protagonist. The Slovak-influenced storytelling and humor makes this novel stand out among more generic fantasy tales. (MC)

Cantrell, C. & Wagner, Dr. R. A friend for Einstein: The smallest stallion. (2011). Disney Book Group (Hyperion). [email protected], (617-312-1230). 40pp. $16.99. ISBN 9781423145639.

Einstein is tiny, even for a miniature horse. He is too small to play with the other horses, so he is lonely. He tries finding other types of animal friends, but there is always a problem: the turtle is too slow, and the shy bunny is afraid of his quick movements. On his way back to his mother, Einstein finds Lily, a dog who is just his size and loves to play. The text is complimented by real pictures of Einstein so students can see just how small he actually is. This book is a heartwarming story of friendship that kids will really enjoy and be able to connect to their own lives. (KAT)

Claybourne, Anna. 100 most awesome things in the planet. (2011). Scholastic Inc., (212-343-6100). 111pp. $7.99. ISBN 978-0-545-26848-6.

Did you know that a blue whale’s heart is the size of a small car or that the tallest building in the world is 2,717 feet high? These are just two of the many facts readers will find in this fascinating book. From the top of Mount Everest to the dunes of the Namib Desert, this book will take you on a trip around the world making stops at places with facts that will astonish readers. The book is split up into two sections: awesome natural wonders and awesome human creations. Within these sections each wonder or creation is has a full-page spread packed with color photos, awesome facts, and a rating from 1 to 5 (cool to completely awesome). Recommended for upper elementary students. (ALS)

Dowswell, Paul. The Ausländer. (2011). Macmillan Publishing (Bloomsbury). [email protected], (646-307-5151). 304pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-1599906331.

Peter is a young boy living in Poland with his parents during Hitler’s reign in Germany. When his parents are killed one night, Peter is sent to an orphanage. Luckily, since he is of mostly German ancestry and appears to be the perfect example of the Aryan race, he is adopted by a prominent German family in Berlin. Peter is thrown into the Hitler-Jugend and, at first, he becomes engrossed in his duties and dreams of the day when he can join the military as a Luftwaffe pilot. Things start to go downhill as Peter learns some of the inside secrets and finds that he will be punished if he shows sympathy for Jewish people or the poor Polish workers. With his girlfriend, Anna, and her family, he starts down a rebellious path that could land them all in serious trouble with the government, not to mention his pro-Nazi adoptive parents. Through this book, students get to experience Nazi Germany from a very unique viewpoint. The plot is exciting and will inspire discussion within a classroom. The book does contain a few instances of strong language, so teachers should use caution before introducing it to a group of students. The Ausländer is most appropriate for high school age students. (KAT)

Dudley, David L. Caleb’s wars. (2011). Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (Clarion Books). [email protected], (800-597-6127). 272pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0547239972.

Caleb is a fifteen-year-old black boy living in Georgia in 1944. He likes getting into trouble with his two best friends, Nathan and Henry. However, Caleb and his father do not get along, and to make things worse his older brother Randall is serving in the army. For the summer, he works at a diner for a white man to spite his father. When Caleb gets baptized in order to please his mother, he hears God speaking to him. Throughout the novel, Caleb realizes what is most important to him and learns how to help people through prayer. This book is a good work of historical fiction for students to read, although it does contain religious elements. The characters and plot of the story are believable and students will want to follow them through the whole book. (KAT)

Dumon Tak, Bibi. Soldier bear. (2011). Eerdmans Publishing Company (Eerdmans Books for Young Readers). [email protected], (800-253-0102). 144pp. $13.00. ISBN 978-0802853752. Illustrated by Philip Hopman.

During World War II, five Polish soldiers traded some food and money to a young boy for his bear cub. Upon seeing the bear, they immediately fell in love and wanted to save him from his eventual fate of belonging to a circus. Peter takes responsibility for the bear and names him Voytek. Somehow, he gets the commanding officer to approve of Voytek staying in the army camp with them, and the bear even becomes an honorary member of the force. Peter teaches Voytek to be gentle, and the only trouble he really gets into is stealing food and using up all the water for showers. He even learns to handle explosives carefully. When the war is over, Peter and the others have to leave Voytek in a zoo in Scotland because they cannot take him home to Poland. Although the story seems completely unbelievable, the author’s note at the end tells that Voytek really did exist. Students will love following all of Voytek’s antics, even though some may be exaggerated a bit, and will be inspired by the way he helps the soldiers “bear” the harshness of war. (KAT)

Greenfield, Eloise. The Great Migration: Journey to the north. (2011). HarperCollins (Amistad). [email protected], (212-207-7000). 30pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0-06128921-0. Illustrated by Jan Spivey Gilchrist.

Although author Elise Greenfield was not aware of it at the time, she later learned that she had been part of the one million African Americans who left the South, a place they called home, and traveled to the North. This journey was later called the “Great Migration.” This book of passionate poems wonderfully captures the courage of the families who made this move. In one of the poems, a young girl explains her sadness of having to say goodbye to good friends but also her happiness in knowing that her life would be better with this change. The collage artwork adds depth to the stories and does a great job of capturing the mood of the families. Some historical background would be needed in order for the book to fully make sense: the book is therefore recommended for middle to upper elementary students. (ALS)

Hardinge, Frances. Fly trap. (2011). HarperCollins Publishers (Harper). [email protected], (212-207-7000). 584pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0-06-088044-6.

12-year-old Mosca Mye and the fast-talking poet Eponymous Clent are back in Fly Trap, which winds a tangled and twisting yarn to rival the first novel. Mandelion, Mosca and Clent find themselves in the gated town of Toll. Readers who enjoyed the first novel will appreciate the new, memorable characters and the town that becomes an entirely different and dangerous place at night. The story reaches a satisfying conclusion but leaves threads open for a third installment. Recommended for ambitious readers in junior high and high school. (MC)

Hole, Stian. Garmann’s street. (2008). Eerdmans Publishing Company (Eerdmans Books for Young Readers). [email protected], (800-253-0102). 44pp. $17.00. ISBN 978-0802853578.

Garmann is a young boy who is tormented by a fourth grade bully, Roy. He needs to collect flowers for a school project, and he knows that “the Stamp Man” has the ones he needs in his yard. When Garmann gets there, Roy makes him light a match, and he drops it into the Stamp Man’s grass, causing it to catch fire. A few days after the fire is put out, Garmann goes back for the flowers and starts a friendship with the older man. By the end of the story, he is no longer afraid of Roy. The plot of the book might be somewhat strange for kids to follow, but the underlying message of the story is sweet. (KAT)

Gourley, Robbin. First garden: The White House garden and how it grew. (2011). Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (Clarion Books). [email protected], (800-597-6127). 36pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0-547-48224-8.

The eighteen acres of land that surround the White House have and continue to be used for many different purposes. Over the years president Wilson grazed sheep and Thomas Jefferson planted fruit trees. Started in 2009 by First Lady Michelle Obama, a kitchen garden filled with fruits and vegetables was planted on this land with the help of local elementary students. These fruits and vegetables are used for dinners when guests visit the White house and also for daily meals. This book is a good way to introduce gardening and healthy eating. The gardening benefits and the recipes from the White House listed in the back are also great additions to the book. Recommended for elementary grades and up. (ALS)

Jalali, R. Moon watchers: Shirin’s Ramadan miracle. (2010). Tilbury House Publishers.
[email protected], (800-582-1899). 32pp. $16.95. ISBN 978-0884483212. Illustrated by A. Sibley O’Brien.

Shirin’s family is getting ready for Ramadan, and she asks them questions about the traditions. Because she is only nine, they say she cannot fast with them, and her brother makes fun of her for being too young. Disappointed, Shirin tries to find some other way to show her respect for the time of Ramadan. Her parents tell her that she should do good deeds, which include her not tattling when her brother sneaks food during the daytime. Shirin keeps complaining about not being able to fast, so her parents finally let her fast for part of the day and she discovers it is harder than she originally thought it would be. During the Eid ul-Fitur celebration, Shirin’s brother gives her a present for keeping his secret, and she calls this her Ramadan miracle. For students, this book will be a good introduction to Ramadan and Muslim culture. The warm colors in the illustrations show a sense of happiness and family togetherness. (KAT)

Johnson, Tony. Levi Strauss gets a bright idea: A fairly fabricated story of a pair of pants. (2011). Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (Harcourt Children’s Books). [email protected], (800-597-6127). 32pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0152061456. Illustrated by Stacy Innerst.

As the title suggests, this book expands upon the legend of Levi Strauss creating blue jeans. The story begins during the California Gold Rush and describes the miners who worked while wearing barrels or nothing at all because their pants “disintegrated” from the hard work. Levi Strauss then comes to the realization that the miners need pants made out of a stronger material. He eventually discovers that if he uses the canvas from his tent, he can make these aforementioned pants. Everyone is ecstatic and decides to name the pants after Levi himself. The book ends with Levi building the city of San Francisco out of the miners’ discarded barrels. An author’s note at the end describes how the jeans were created and dispels the myths. The story is interesting and would keep children’s attention, but if using this book in a classroom, teachers should be sure to include the facts. The illustrations inspire both positive and negative responses. Innerst’s use of actual denim jeans as the canvas for his paintings is creative. However, the miners are depicted with gaps in their teeth and an overall unintelligent demeanor while Levi has perfectly coiffed hair and seems very well-to-do. The implication could follow that those who do manual labor are less intelligent, which is a negative view that teachers should not promote to children. Overall, the use of this book in a school environment would require a lot of extra discussion, some of which may go above the heads of its intended readers. (KAT)

Jones, Allan and Gary Chalk. The six crowns: Trundle’s quest. (2011). HarperCollins Publishers (Greenwillow Books). [email protected], (212-207-7000). 151pp. $15.99. 978-0-06-200623-3.

The last thing the cautious hedgehog Trundle wants is an adventure, but the magical and mischievous Esmeralda is convinced that Trundle is destined to help her find six lost crowns. He is dragged along on an adventure involving a floating city, pirates on skyboats, and a mine full of slaves. If readers are looking for a quick adventure, this story is decently entertaining, although it ends on a cliffhanger leading into the rest of the series. Late elementary students and middle school students who enjoy the Redwall books might be interested in Trundle’s Quest. (MC)

Kay, Verla. Hornbooks and inkwells. (2011). Penguin Group, Inc. (G.P. Putnam’s Sons).
[email protected], (212-366-2000). 32pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0399238703. Illustrated by S.D. Schindler.

Even though the schools of eighteenth century Pennsylvania looked different from those of today, readers will be able to find similarities between themselves and the students of that time. Mischievous brothers Peter and John Paul carry this story’s plot, which goes through some of the ups and downs of a school year. The illustrations clearly depict the unfamiliar environment and assist in explaining new terminology, like when Peter and John Paul are punished with neck yokes. The story is told entirely in rhyming poetic verse. Students will enjoy the rhythm of the text, and the coherent story makes poetry more accessible to young children. (KAT)

Krull, K. Big wig: A little history of hair. (2011). Scholastic Inc. (Arthur A. Levine)., (212-343-6100). 48pp. $18.99. ISBN 978-0439676403. Illustrated by P. Malone.

This book explains the history of different hairstyles throughout the world. It starts in Africa in prehistoric times, goes through many different places and years, and ends up in 2007 in Europe. Students will learn a lot of new historical information, such as where the term Mohawk originated. The language is easily understood by elementary age students and uses humor to connect with them. Malone’s illustrations are also comical and aid in understanding of the text. In the back, Krull includes a more formal explanation for each of the time periods of hair. This book is a new way to look at history and will spark conversations about why people may have had certain hairstyles during different time periods. (KAT)

La Fevers, R.L. Nathaniel Fludd beastologist: The unicorn’s tale. (2011). Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (Houghton Mifflin Books for Children). [email protected], (800-597-6127). 153pp. $14.99. ISBN 978-0-547-48277-4. Illustrated by Kelly Murphy.

As beastologists, young Nathaniel and his Aunt Phil must do everything they can to help mythical beasts. In this installment in the series, Nate and Phil head to France to help a pregnant unicorn, but Nate finds it difficult to focus since he wants more than anything to find his missing parents, especially when an old villain Obediah comes threatening the unicorn. Students in late elementary school will enjoy this sweet story, even if they have not read the other books in the series. (MC)

Lunde, Darrin. Hello, baby beluga. (2011). Charlesbridge. [email protected],
(800-225-3214). 24pp. $6.95. ISBN 978-1-57091-740-0. Illustrated by Patricia J. Wynne.

This book is a fun and unique way to introduce the life and habitat of beluga babies. The baby beluga will engage readers by answering basic questions about what beluga whales eat, where they live, and what they look like. The illustrations are well done and invite readers to explore the Arctic Ocean with the beluga whales. Recommended for pre-school and kindergarten read-aloud. (ALS)

Malaspina, Anna. Yasmin’s hammer. (2011). Lee & Low Books. [email protected], (212-799-4400). 40pp. $18.95. ISBN 978-1600603594. Illustrated by Doug Chayka.

The quiet, rural home of Yasmin and her family was destroyed by a cyclone, forcing them to live in the city of Dhaka. They struggle to make ends meet, so every member of the family must work hard. This includes the two young girls, who consequently cannot attend school. Yasmin longs for an education so she can do something more with her life than be a maid for rich people. Once she shows her parents the importance of literacy everyone works even more diligently so the girls can attend school. Children will benefit from this book for many reasons. It introduces them to a different culture and even has a description and glossary in the back. Also, it places a renewed value on education. The vibrant colors and textures in the illustrations make the city come to life and will give students a realistic environment in which to place the characters. (KAT)

Mason, M.H. These hands. (2011). Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (Houghton Mifflin Books for Children). [email protected], (800-597-6127). 32pp. $16.99. ISBN 9780547215662. Illustrated by F. Cooper.

Joseph’s grandfather teaches him many things with his hands, like how to tie his shoes and play the piano. He tells the young boy that at one time, there was something he could not do with his hands. When he worked in the Wonder Bread factory, he was not allowed to touch the bread dough because he is black. He tells Joseph about the protests and petitions that made it so anyone can mix bread dough now. The illustrations are realistic, and students can see the emotions in the characters’ facial expressions. The ending is especially nice because it shows the hope for Joseph’s future. (KAT)

Markle, S. Family pack. (2011). Charlesbridge. [email protected], (800-225-3214). 32pp. $15.95. ISBN 9781580892179. Illustrated by A. Marks.

A young female wolf separates from her mother and goes out to live on her own. Without a pack to provide her with food, she must learn how to hunt for herself. She finds it difficult at first, but soon learns good hunting strategies and eats her fill. A year later, the wolf comes across the scent of another one of her kind, a single male wolf. Together, these two start a family and the young wolf now has a pack of her own. This story follows the journey of an animal in its natural environment without giving it human characteristics, so it is a good informational tool for students. The illustrations, with their fabulous textures and natural colors, add to the realism of the text. (KAT)

Markle, Sandra. Race the wild wind: A story of the Sable Island horses. (2011). Macmillan Publishing (Walker). [email protected], (646-307-5151). 40pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-0802797667. Illustrated by Layne Johnson.

A herd of wild horses lives on Sable Island, but no one is fully certain how they come to be there. In this book, Markle explores common beliefs about these horses. The story explains how the horses transitioned from their domesticated past to life in the wild, particularly focusing on one young stallion. As the herd faces an intense winter with powerful storms, the stallion becomes a leader and helps them all to survive. With vivid illustrations that mirror the harshness of the environment described in the text, this book is sure to interest young readers in the mystery of the Sable Island horses. (KAT)

Mull, Brandon. Beyonders: A world without heroes. (2011). Simon and Schuster (Aladdin). [email protected], (800-223-2336). 454pp. $19.99. ISBN 978-1-4169-9792-4.

Middle school student Jason leads a normal life until he is unwittingly pulled into the fantastic world known as Lyrian, ruled by a manipulative and dangerous wizard named Maldor. Jason and Rachel, who was also pulled into Lyrian, must try to defeat the leader in their attempt to return home. The book sets a protagonist willing to do the right thing regardless of the cost to himself against a villain who avoids the clichés and pitfalls of most fantasy villains. Both middle school and high school fantasy lovers will enjoy being pulled into Lyrian along with Jason, and can look forward to two sequels the author has planned. (MC)

Napoli, D.J. The crossing. (2011). Simon and Schuster (Atheneum).
[email protected], (800-223-2336). 40pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-1416994749 Illustrated by J. Madsen.

This book is the story of Lewis and Clark’s westward journey across the United States, told from the point of view of Sacagawea’s baby. He rides the whole way on his mother’s back and sees the huge world rise up in front of him. The baby takes in all of the sights and is fascinated by nature. Then at night, he dreams of what he saw that day. Once they get home, he can finally run free. It is interesting to see this well-known adventure through a new pair of eyes. The illustrations have a lot of texture and organic lines to represent all of the natural environments that the baby sees. (KAT)

Norworth, Jack. Take me out to the ball game. (2011). Charlesbridge (Imagine!).
[email protected], (800-225-3214). 26 pp. $17.95. ISBN 978-1936140268. Illustrated by Amiko Hirao.

Katie Casey loves baseball. She goes to all the local games that she can and cheers on the team energetically. Katie gets the whole stadium to sing with her. The song “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” is interwoven throughout the plot of the story. A CD is included with the book. This story could be used in a music classroom to promote literacy. Most students already know the song, so they will be more comfortable with the singing and can focus on reading the unfamiliar parts of the story. (KAT)

Pheffer, Susan Beth. This world we live in. (2010). Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (Graphia). [email protected], (800-597-6127). 239pp. $8.99. ISBN 978-0-547-55028-2.
One year prior, a meteor collided with the moon and altered the earth’s climate. Teenager Miranda and her family do their best to survive in the ruins of their town, living with no sunlight and very little food. Things grow more complicated, however, when Miranda’s father and stepmother arrive with strangers in tow, including a young man who Miranda develops romantic feelings for. Written in journal form, this book is the third in a series, but can be read as a standalone. Pheffer effectively balances the struggle and despair of trying to survive with family tensions and acts of kindness. While the book does not have a very hopeful ending, it’s a post-apocalyptic novel worth reading. (MC)

Polacco, Patricia. Just in time, Abraham Lincoln. (2011). Penguin Group, Inc. (G.P. Putnam’s Sons). [email protected], (212-366-2000). 48pp. $17.99. ISBN 978-0399254710.
Michael and Derek are going on a trip to Washington, D.C. with their grandmother. They meet Mr. Portufoy, a Civil War expert, but they are slightly bored with all of his pictures and old artifacts. To get them more involved, Mr. Portufoy sends the boys through a door, telling them they cannot speak to anyone about where they are actually from. Confused, Michael and Derek go through the door and find themselves in what they believe is a realistic Civil War reenactment. The boys meet a famous photographer and Abraham Lincoln himself, and throughout the day, they begin to question whether it is a game or if it is really happening. Even though some of the facts have been altered to comply with the story, this book is a good introduction to the Civil War for students. The author does a good job of suspending disbelief, and kids will feel like this could possibly happen to them. The book will spark their imaginations as well as an interest in historical events. (KAT)

Purdie Salas, L. Book Speak! Poems about books. (2011). Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (Clarion). [email protected], (800-597-6127). 32pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0547223001. Illustrated by J. Bisaillon.

This collection of poetry is very interesting because all of the poems are about books. They explore the different parts of a book, like the cover, beginning/middle/end of plot, and index. These poems also give a new view on the importance of reading. For example, one poem tells students that they must read a book because that is the only way its characters can come alive. Students who already love to read will enjoy this collection, while reluctant readers will be drawn in by the collage illustrations and hopefully gain a new appreciation for books. (KAT)

Rosenburg, Aaron. The Civil War. (2011). Scholastic Inc., (212 343-6100). 160pp. $6.99. ISBN 978-0-545-23756-7.

Abraham Lincoln, Frederick Douglass, Clara Barton, George McClellan, Robert E. Lee, and Mathew Brady: these are the names of six key figures of the Civil War. In this book, readers will find a profile of each key figure. Each profile includes information about the key figure’s childhood, role during the war, and accomplishments. The author is able to effectively show how the six people’s lives were similar, how they differed, and how they were connected. Because of this set up, the color pictures, the maps and diagrams, and the amount of text, this book is most appropriate for upper elementary students. (ALS)

Roth, Susan L. & Trumbore, Cindy. The mangrove tree: Planting trees to feed families. (2011). Lee & Low Books. [email protected], (212-779-4400). 40pp. $19.95. ISBN 978-1-60060-459-1. Illustrated by Susan L. Roth.

Through alternating verse and prose passages, this book tells the incredible story of how planting trees helped reshape a small African village in need. After scientist Dr. Gordon Sato discovered that mangrove trees could live in salt water, he started his planting project. Once local women planted the trees, the new plants started to grow and things began to change. The trees attracted small fish, crabs, and other sea creatures which fed the village. The leaves of the trees fed the hungry village animals which were then able to gain weight and multiply, and dry branches were used as fuel to cook food. The success of this project led Dr. Gordon Sato to start two more similar projects. The collage artwork complements the text very well. The afterword explains the project in more depth and is a great addition to this book. Recommended for first grade and up. (ALS)

TenNapel, Doug. Bad island. (2011). Scholastic, Inc. (Graphix)., (212-343-6100). 218pp. $10.99. ISBN 978-0-545-31480-0.

In this graphic novel, teenager Reese is hardly thrilled at the prospect of a boating trip with his family. When a vicious storm forces them to take refuge on a mysterious island, the family encounters dangerous, alien creatures. The island itself, however, ends up being a goodhearted gigantic robot. While the art offers some unique science fiction visuals, the character development and dialogue is stale, with an altogether forgettable storyline. (MC)

Thimmesh, Catherine. Friends: True stories of extraordinary animal friendships.
(2011). Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. [email protected], (800-597-6127).
30pp. $16.99. ISBN 978-0-547-39010-9.

Friendship is powerful and can have a profound impact on someone’s life. From a tabby cat providing comfort to an old orangutan to a frog giving a mouse a ride on his back when a city floods, these animals prove that in the end it doesn’t matter what a friend looks like on the outside, but who they are on the inside. This book shows us some of the incredible friendships that have been formed all over the world between animals you would never expect. The incredible full-page photos bring the stories to life. With short poems about being a friend on each page as well as paragraphs describing the true story and history of the unique friendship between the animals this book sends a wonderful message of what friendship means and is a great read for ages elementary and up. (ALS)

Tocher, Timothy. Odd ball: Hilarious, unusual, and bizarre baseball moments. (2011).
Marshall Cavendish (Cavendish Children’s Books). [email protected], (914-332-8888). 64pp. $15.99. ISBN 978-07614-5813-5. Illustrated by Stacy Curtis.

Baseball fan readers will not want to miss this book. Readers will discover that relief pitcher Antonio Alfonseca was born with twelve fingers and twelve toes or that on May 31, 1964 when the New York Mets hosted a doubleheader against the San Francisco Giants, a record of 264 baseballs were used. These are just two of the many weird and wacky baseball facts readers will find in this book. Each weird and wacky fact has either a picture or a comic strip describing the information in more detail. Recommended for baseball fans ages 8 and up. (ALS)

Vaughn Zimmer, Tracie. Cousins of clouds: Elephant poems. (2011). Houghton Mifflin
Harcourt (Clarion Books). [email protected], (800-597-6127). 32 pp.$16.99. ISBN 978-0618903498. Illustrated by Megan Halsey & Sean Addy.

The magnificent elephant is the subject of the poems in Cousins of Clouds. Each page or set of pages has a specific theme, from elephant anatomy to the Hindu god Ganesh, who has the head of an elephant. The poems also contain factual information about elephants that students will find very helpful and interesting. The book includes poetry of many different types and lengths, all with creative imagery fitting to the theme of the page. All of the illustrations compliment the poem or poems with which they coincide. The pictures are soft and child-friendly; they will grab children’s attention and draw them into the author’s words. This book will introduce students to poetry in an appealing manner and is truly a united effort for author and illustrators. (KAT)

Weeks, Sarah. Pie. (2011). Scholastic, Inc., (212-343-6100). 183pp. $16.99. 978-0-545-27011-3.

Polly made Ipswitch, Pennsylvania famous with her award-winning pies, but after she dies, her niece Alice is left with Polly’s fat cat Lardo, who Polly apparently left her piecrust recipe to. Soon Alice and her friend Charlie are wrapped in a mystery to find the stolen cat. Set in the 1950s, the town comes alive with funny characters and a zippy plot full of genuine sweetness, save for the saccharine epilogue. Every chapter features a pie recipe, and readers may be tempted to bake a pie of their own once they finish this book! (MC)

Yep, Lawrence. The star maker. (2011). HarperCollins Publishers (Harper). [email protected], (212-207-7000). 100pp. $15.99. ISBN 978-0-06-025315-8.

Chinatown is preparing for the Chinese New Year in 1950s San Francisco, and Artie is tired of being picked on by his older cousins. He makes a promise that he can’t live up to when he vows to give them all fireworks for New Year, and he enlists his uncle Chester to help him. However, Chester has problems of his own and he and Artie end up helping each other. This short novel gives a vivid look at what Chinatown in San Francisco was like in the 1950s and tells a touching tale about friendship. (MC)